Thursday, December 30, 2010


got a wonderful package from home yesterday.

full of favorites throughout my lifetime, including:

Town House Crackers

Useless Fact Book

Non-Pareils (large sno-cap chocolates)

Dumbo Books

Ping Pong & Mini Golf Desk Games

Perry the Platypus (from Disney's Phineas & Ferb show) keychain

Thanks Mom!

Of course, she sent a wonderful card for my birthday, which is in less than 2 weeks now.

And I got this all-too-adorable picture from my baby sister which I could file under "Perks of My Parents' Accident" but I love her too much to do that.

Anyway, today was my last day of teaching for the semester (tomorrow is Closing Ceremonies, etc).

Course, I have Winter Camp teaching for the next two weeks but that's not officially school I suppose.

It was a great semester - my first teaching ever - and I learned enough about myself and the art of teaching to realize how good of a fit the job is for me. If it ends up being my career in the future, I think I could be quite happy - if not, well, it's always there as a backup.

Perhaps my next blogpost will be listing some memories from the semester, but I gotta prepare that.

So that's it for now - New Years' Eve festivities are coming soon and then my birthday follows quickly.

I'll be partaking in what I'll call my "Birthday Week" (because why should it relegated to only one day) that I learned from my college roommate John Collins. Updates on that pending as well.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

miscellaneous monday

Pearl Jam played the final concert played at the old Chicago Stadium on March 10, 1994.

Each book in Dante’s Divine Comedy ends with the word stars.

Dorothy Parker was 4'11".

“Of all the noises known to man, opera is the most expensive.” — Moliere

The word "murcous" is an adjective to describe someone/something lacking a thumb

“All my best thoughts were stolen by the ancients.” — Emerson (he also said, "i hate quotations" - supposedly)

En route to a training camp in Quebec during World War I, Canadian army lieutenant Harry Colebourn bought a bear cub for $20 from a hunter in White River, Ontario.
He named her Winnipeg, after his hometown, and smuggled her to England, where “Winnie” became the mascot of his militia regiment.
Eventually he donated her to the London Zoo, where she became a great favorite of Christopher Robin Milne, the son of a local playwright.

Perhaps you know the rest.

“Only one man in a thousand is a leader of men. The other 999 follow women.” — Groucho Marx

Miles Davis credited Jimi Hendrix as being an influence on his 1970 album Bitches Brew, which became a landmark feat in Jazz music - challenging notions of the past. Perhaps the most intelligible of these influences is on this track called Miles Runs the Voodoo Down - (this is part 1 or 2). For any fan of jazz, funk or what can unquestionable be called talented music - it's a helluva song.


I had a chance to talk to some friends from home this weekend. If any of them happen to read this, it was a great pleasure to see everyone.

And a personal shoutout to Aaron Zucker, who even 7,000 miles away has the uncanny ability to make me laugh as hard as I did when we were 10.

i'll write something up about my Christmas weekend soon.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Guri Times: A New Beacon of Journalism

This month marks the arrival of a new wind upon the international journalism scene. The very first English newspaper publication of my highschool was published.

The Guri Times (see future wikipedia entry: Debut, The Greatest Ever Newspaper) promises a once-a-semester publication detailing the lives of its namesakes students, faculty and cultural climate.

Its writing, well, it's something to be seen.

Okay. I'll stop that there. I am actually really proud of the students for putting the whole thing together. It was not easy - and I would know since I edited each draft. The newspaper is the work of about 8 students and one of my co-teachers and they really did put a lot of work into it.

And the English really isn't that bad.

So, for your disclosure, these are the features of the inaugural issue of The Guri Times:

- Letter from the school Principal - translated, of course, into English

- Interview with the new President and Vice-President of the Student Body

- An Interview with Eric (me) and a short essay I wrote about my first two months at school

- Science Specials ( Guri High School becoming Science Specialized; Water Found on the Moon; The Life of Isaac Newton; and my favorite, an article entitled: "Food, the Main Cause of Korean's Pimple")

- a foldout information sheet about the G20 Summit in Seoul

- Four Essays by Students about School Life

- 13 Question Mind Test (which will be repeated in its entirety below)

- "Successful Top 10 Movies In The World" - a short review of the top ten grossing movies ever (example: #4 Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest: "It feels the lack of something. Compare the original work and this, the original work is better"..... the entire write-up for The Lord of The Rings: The Return of the King": This movie leaves a message like this 'Though someone is very small, weak and worthless, if someone has brave, belief and hope, he/she can change the world.'))

- Write-up about the 4 most famous Korean Soccer Playes

- Write-up about the Korean Boom in Japan

- impossibly hard/scientific crossword puzzle that I couldn't even complete.......(not touting my crossword skils - am touting my English skills)

Here's the 13-part mind quiz. Some are quite interesting.


1) You are going to decorate your room with roses from the flower garden. How many roses do you want to pick from?

2) You enter a room which has nothing but four white walls. How would you feel in it?

3) You are going to cross a desert. How many pairs of shoes do you want to bring with you?

4) The angel of death came to you. The merciful angel will give you one more day of life before he takes you with him. How are you going to spend the last day?

5) You are walking on the street then something quickly passes you by. What was it?

6) You design your own house. Are you going to make the roof high or low?

7) You happen to open the cupboard. How many cups are in there?

8) When you pass by a street, you find a deserted house. Is the door of the house open or closed?

9) You fly in an airplane for the first time in your life. How would it feel when the plane takes off the ground?

10) What part of Mona Lisa's portrait do you want to change?

11) On a rainy day, you are walking in the street. Suddenly, a car passes by you and splashes mud on you. Where on your body would the car splash the mud?

12) You are lost in the woods. Finally you find an old castle. You enter inside, there is a candle strand on the table. How many candles are on the candle stand?

13) Your baby is crying, the doorbell is ringing and the water is boiling in the pot. In what order are you going to handle them?


1) The number of people you love.

2) The feeling when you die.

3) The number of people you would love before you marry.

4) The thing you want to do right now.

5) Your before life.

6) The height of your self-esteem.

7) The number of your true friends.

8) The door is your mind toward other people.

9) The feeling of your first kiss.

10) The part you are proud of in your own face.

11) The part you want to change on your body.

12) The number of boys/girls you will go out with in your whole life.

13) The things you are looking for on a date. The baby symbolizes his/her personality, door-bell means their appearance and water is their property.

So there you have it. Korean-translated into English personality test.

Anyway, once again, proud of the kids (all first-year high school students) for putting it together.

I even got cover credit as a proofreader. Awesome.

Can't wait for issue number 2.

AND next time you think All The News Thats Fit to Print is a good tagline, just remember the motto of the one and only Guri Times:

We study hard.
We keep a clean school.
We respect others.


"Atticus told me to delete the adjectives and I’d have the facts."

(i'll let you all attribute that one)


Monday, December 20, 2010

miscellaneous monday

There are only 17 countries larger than Alaska.

"I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six. Mother took me to see him in a department store and he asked for my autograph" - Shirley Temple

1961's "The Visit" - a slideshow collage of pictures taken from an afternoon Marilyn Monroe and Carl Sandburg spent together. The famous poet was 61, the celebrity actress was 35. She would die within a year- he 5 years after that.

If you have even the slightest hint of love for the city of Chicago - this video is every kind of wonderful. It was a project for our terrifically failed 2016 Olympic bid but it's well done. The words move a bit fast, but their newly conceived line breaks add a new element to the famous poet's most famous poem.

"here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the little soft cities"

The inventor of the Pringles can was buried in a Pringles can.

"Everything that deceives may be said to enchant" - Plato

"What happens to the hole when the cheese is gone?" - Brecht

and on a Korea note: "Coffice" - a term used in South Korea to refer to the using of coffee shops as offices - thanks to their space, free internet and privacy - has made New York Times' "The Words of The Year" list.

i'll make these weekly.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

partaking in tradition #2: PC Bong

When I decided to start a blog, one of the ideas I had was to call it "Hitting the Bongs". I chose not to. You're welcome Mom.

There was a reason, of course.

"Bong" (often spelled "Bang") as well, is how to say "room" in Korean. This is important. Why? Koreans love Bongs.

Now, a quick note, by "room" they do not refer to their bedrooms, or living rooms, or kitchens - just as the Italian word "stanza" means room but does not refer to a specific "room" as Americans have come to denote them.

"Bong"/"Bang" refers to a space once can visit. Korea features PCBongs (computer rooms), DVDBangs (movie watching rooms) and Noraebongs (private karaoke rooms).....Hotel rooms are called "bongs" as well.

There are many others - for instance, the man who runs the hostel that my friends & I frequent often - Moon - who will, deservingly, get his own post here someday - calls his hostel our "saranbang" which translates to "love room" but means more an open space where loved ones are invited.

Or, atleast, that's what he told me. I needed to scan a document to send to someone (to that someone, if you are reading this - MANY HUGE thank you's) so they can help secure me a visa for my visit to Vietnam. Online, apparently, you can only secure a visa if you are flying into the country. Instead, we are "manning the Mekong" as I've coined it and sailing down the river. So sweet!

Anyway, my school told me I might be able to use their scanner - but by the time I asked, the people in the copy room/office had already left. Add to this that fact that it would probably not be open tomorrow (this is what they told me at school - I just found out a bit ago I don't have to go in tomorrow. (see aforementioned: "so sweet!")))

So, I headed out of my apartment to find a PCBong.

For those that don't know - these are EVERYWHERE. Literally, I counted passing 16 one time on my way home from work. Since Koreans are efficient and utilize ALL floors of some buildings for business, they are usually small spaces up on the 3rd of 4th floors, or the basements and. again, are EVERYWHERE.


Now, these little gems are a favorite of my students. During my first week, I asked the students individually their hobbies and most common came a split between soccer & computer games (each probably 45% of the student population - with the other 10% going to studying, art, piano, classical guitar, reading, etc).

Koreans are famous for loving their computer games. This is the LAND OF STARCRAFT after all. They f***ing love it here. And that expletive is not meant for drama - it's meant to prove just how much they love it.

It's ridiculous. Kids ditch my class to go to the PCBong - facing torment from me the next day if I happen to find out. Even the cool kids at my school play computer games. Even the one with girlfriends!

There's a kid in my after school class who picked Wooks as his English name. It's much like one of his Hangul names. He's a tall, goofy kid thats actually pretty good at basketball. But, he ditches my class often to go the bong and smoke (you knew a joke was coming). I tease him constantly. Every time I see him I ask him about the PCBong and he of course denies it because officially he has to tell me he is going to his academy every day after school. Anyway, we got to talking one day and I jokingly asked him if he takes his girlfriend to the PCBong. His reply "only once" - as if that was honorable. As if he were a poster boyfriend because he held the temptation of computer games off while he was with his girlfriend. I laughed quite hard.

Now, not all PCBong's have scanners. I walked out my building maybe one half block and went into the first one . I showed them a note I scribbled of "scanner" in Korean.

First: "aniyo" (no)
Second: aniyo"
Third: dae (yes)

These three PC Bongs were maybe 35 feet from each other.

So I scanned what I needed to scan.

Then I thought, hey why the hell not play for a bit.

My kids talk about Fifa like its a religion. Starcraft, Warcraft, Sudden Attack - these are common, common, common things I use to express examples of new words in English.

example from teaching........."If your friend calls you and tells you he just played Sudden Attack for four hours and didn't die, you say 'SICK!'

bad example. but you get my point. girls, soccer & computer games are the three cards I play every deal (metaphor for new material) because it's what gets their attention.

So, at the PCBong, after some help getting set up, I played FIFA Online for a little over a while. Surprisingly, I did pretty well.

Full disclosure: I've played quite a bit of FIFA (remember freshman year, Spinuzza?). Never on the computer though. took a while to get used to the controls - using "A" "S" and D" as the main controls, but hey....

I still got it.

(in case you didn't know - the guy in this picture is Wayne Rooney - who a group of student all unanimously agreed I resembled. ehhhh)

My next challenge: the students!

Anyway, proud of myself for partaking in another tradition that one does not consider immediately. Can't wait to tell the kids.


Any dictionary can call itself "Webster's". The names been in the public domain since the 19th century.


“People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us.” — Iris Murdoch


Monday, December 13, 2010


Alrighty. Hello there. Finals week is approaching and with the students wanting to study, the middle-schoolers taking high-school entrance exams (not sure about these) and the exams themselves, I'll be having quite a bit of free time from teaching.

Expect some blog posts.

First up, Korean High School Jocks.

I remember reading Friday Night Lights in high school (going into sophomore year? is that right? that would make it paired with The Catcher in The Rye - joke.) Anyway, it was supposed to unveil the genre of non-fiction to our young selves. To be honest, I didn't think much of the book - still don't, but it certainly illuminated West Texas' obsession with football.

Then it illumniated Hollywood's eyes bright enough to make a mediocre, falsified version. Then for a overdramatic TV show that hooked me in for a season and a half (damn you Lyla Garrity).

Well, I thought that the book, the movie and the TV show would be my last draw with overcrazed high school sports programs. Until now.

Guri High School (apparently) has a terrific soccer team. I would verify this, except that whenever I'm walking out of the school and they are playing in our front field, I can't tell which is my high school and which is the other. Either they change colors every other game, or other high schools use our field.

I'd stay and watch but by 5pm, after spending 9 hours at school, I feel a great impetus to get out of the place.

And, again, I don't even know which team we are. There's no scoreboard. I've only seen our team's coach once in the school and was told he is the second highest revered male in the school (after the glorified principal - whose lifestyle certainly warrants its own blogpost.)

I can't recognize the soccer players, even though I have each of the first grade members in my classes.

The question then, why am I not able to recognize them?

I assume some's immediate response is that it's hard to tell Koreans apart.

This was especially true at home - where Americans so uber-pleasantly hold true to their self-devised maxim that all Asians look alike. (don't worry - they think the same about us).

But having been here for four months - this theory is certainly not true. Certainly not. And I teach these kids anyway, I am able to tell (most) of my students apart.

Here's the thing though: I can't tell them apart because THEY ALL SLEEP THROUGH EVERY CLASS!

My first day teaching, in my first class, I remember it clear, as I was going around and having the kids introduce themselves. There was a particular group of four students in the back, none of whom spoke a world of English. I was told by my co-teacher that they were "representatives of the Guri High School Soccer Team" and was implicitly told, as I have been reminded since, that they are essentially excused from any and all activities during class.

Truth be told, they sleep the entire class. Once, just once, during my super-fun, amazingly awesome, kick-ass Halloween game, I got one soccer player to play. For one minute. Then he slept.

Now, I certainly don't have four of these kids in each class. Most classes have none - but my first class was the lowest level, and unsurprisingly, the glorified athletes haven't made much way in their English advancement.

And so it goes. For each of my "D" level classes, I have a nice group of four or five students who sleep during class. Any other kid sleeps and I have the option to let them sleep or wake them. (I toil between these, depending on how I feel about the kid - but it's a nice power to have).

This is a picture from the internet - not mine - but it tells the story.....

Other advantages soccer stars enjoy at Guri High School:

7th period off. All periods after 7th (some kids do 11 and then some) OFF. (if you don't know the Korean high school system - this is WAY BIGGER than you can imagine)

Separate lunch. (not sure if this means they eat separately, or if that actually get different/better food)

Sweet clothes (typical of most sports programs)

Decent grades (this has been hinted at - and I'm assuming they are getting some help because I've seen the kids sleeping in some other classes too)

Recess dominance.

(my observation: there are 2 real soccer nets on the giant field. there are 2 extra ones in the corner. 1500 kids (although less now that the 3rd graders are effectively DONE with school. all have the same lunch. lets say between going into the gym for basketball/badminton & studying, only 50% of the kids come out to the soccer fields for lunch. that's 500 kids sharing 4 nets. 1 goes to the soccer team. always. the other 475 kids split three nets if they want to play.)

so that's my thoughts on that. i am still very much an outsider on the manner. but these are the noticeable things to someone that hardly has efficient tools of discovery. (language)

and before I leave, I realize fully that this is not on the level of West Texas football. But it is still pretty laughable. And if H.G. Bissinger and Peter Berg can dance in the hyperbole, so can I.


"It is a curious thought, but it is only when you see people looking ridiculous that you realize just how much you love them."
-Agatha Christie

"I want this adventure that is the context of my life to go on without an end"
-Simone de Beauvoir


Joni Mitchell - River (live Royal Albert Hall)

haunting. christmas.

Hans' Rosling "The Joy of Stats"


Thursday, December 9, 2010

the pearl is the oyster's autobiography

- federico fellini

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


in an attempt to make this blog more non-conventional, as I promised myself, I am posting a riddle here.

Though a great American, Wendell Willkie nevertheless lacked one of the four necessary requirements for becoming President of the United States. One must be at least 35, a native-born American, and a resident of the U.S.A. for at least 14 years. Name the fourth requirement which Willkie also lacked?

twice in 25 minutes?

2 jehovah's witnesses in 25 minutes. thats gotta be some kind of record.

one at the train station. the other, a group of 3, at my door as I'm tearing apart my apartment looking for a list of secret santa names I picked for my friends.

perhaps it's always like this - the witnesses being infamous for bearing witness to their own personal invasions. maybe in the states, they can sense my jew-ey-ness. here, just another could-be-christian.


Monday, December 6, 2010

partaking in tradition # 1 : virtual golf

this will be the very last time you see these words in this blog: "when in Rome". I hate that phrase.

I didn't always hate it. But after studying abroad, and hearing it ubiquitously echo off the lips of my fellow study abroad peers (for situations as banal as sipping a smaller cup of coffee) you learn to cringe at the mere mention of the three words. And don't even get me started on Anchorman.

Seriously, don't.

It's important to partake in a culture you are entering in to. It's important for both parties concerned, as it is through this avenue that one showers off bigotry and prejudice. (see: Twain, Mark The Innocents Abroad).

I try my hardest to do these things openly and with as little ethnocentrism as one can allow.

Eating Kimchi - on it.

Chopsticks - better & better each day.

Sitting on the floor - bring

Using wet napkins before every meal (when not a single meal here involves finger-usage): hell ****ing no.

So, most things.

Enter Virtual Golf.

Some background:

Koreans love golf. Much like any other activity that requires accessorizing,golf is as popular as a sport here as it is a fashion department. The Lotte next to me has quite the array of golf clothes, bags, clubs, balls, the works. All overpriced.

So naturally, you would assume that Koreans love to golf.

This is the country who produced Michelle Wie - female golf prodigy. Who, by the by, is YOUNGER than me? Sickening.

Your assumption would be correct. Only, they don't love golfing as we picture golfing.

Instead of getting out on the greens, throwing a bag over their shoulder and toughing out nature's best & worst elements, Koreans prefer their golfing inside. Equipped with couches, complimentary green tea and hangers for their jackets.

Korea has 200 outdoor golf courses. Their sizable comparison, Indiana has 527. Of course, Americans are mad for golf courses, but still, thats less than 40%.

And you should SEE how many golf stores there are.

Koreans get their links fix in the safety of Virtual Golf courses. These "GolfZon" places are everywhere. I've noticed at least 2 or 3 in Guri and I knew a few friends have visited. So I decided to check out the one closest to my school today.

$20 bucks for 18 holes. Not bad.

Free rental clubs. A whole set. Free shoes. Free golfing glove.

Yes, I wore golf shoes indoors.

There are 100 golf courses to choose from - all but 5 are Korean and the international ones cost extra money.

You get 10 minutes of driving range practice before the course. Nice of them to let a guy warm up.

There's a camera that records your swing and plays it back to you after each ball hit. Really brought some attention to my back leg. Too much movement.

So, yeah, you whack a ball toward a giant wall which is also the screen and it records distance, angle, height, everything. shows your ball going. I wondered if it accounted for spin.

There's a button to automatically tee up and there are all sorts of suggestions going on for club usage and directions. Yes, the computer doubles as a caddy too.

It felt like a video game. An awesome video game. Because it was me. Forget Tiger Woods Wii. This is where it's at.

And then I realized one thing quickly.

I am not good at golf. Suddenly, it was less a video game and more of the same old frustrations I face on the fairways - duffed shots, bunkers, OB's (HATED the voice).

Got caught in some rough I couldn't get out of. Took me a few times getting stuck to figure out a good way to get out of the sand. Putting was difficult - so it goes.


It was sweet and I will go back - as the 18 holes took a bit over an hour and I was fiddling around with my camera for part of it. I can get nine in after school before I get dinner and it wouldn't even throw my schedule off.

All in all it was a great time. Look forward to doing it with friends. The room next to me was a foursome. I wondered if they came together or got paired up.


Alright, a couple more pictures....

oh, yeah. forgot to tell. how'd I do?

103. +31. but I'd be lying if I said I would have done better in person. Guess all that's left to do is work on my Korean Handicap. (incidently, a great name for a band - "korean handicap")

better than Giraffe's Ashes? doubt it.

what i am listening to and you should follow suit:

everything involving Jim/Yim James/Yames and John Prine. specifically this cover and this duet performance.

My Morning Jacket - All The Best

John Prine and Yim James - All The Best (live on letterman)


"thought is only a flash in the middle of a long night, but the flash that means everything" - henri poincare

and he had his own eponymous Conjecture. how much more badass can you get?

and, as an added bonus, it was in the proving of this conjecture (done only about 7 years ago) that led the science community to determine that "a rabbit is a sphere" or more correctly, a rabbit's head is a sphere. it may be the most poetic scientific wording choice of the early century.

this entry is longer than it needed to be.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010


everywhere once in a while I decide to carry around a small notebook and document the days happenings. hoping, naturally, that the day would be filled with anecdotes that I could use to describe my experience as a whole.

Unfortunately, today was not one of those days. It was, however, filled with a lot of laughs and fun. I'll quickly go over some of what I remember.

1) JibJab.

I decided it'd be a nice/funny gesture to JibJab some of the teachers I sit next to and eat lunch with. If you are not familiar with this website, it allows you to insert friends/anyone's face into a video and make it seem as though they are performing. It's harder to explain than that. You can check out their website. I doubted Korea might have an equivalent service and I was right. I was also correct in my assumption that they would enjoy it. And LOVE IT they did - we must have watched 5x in a row and then I had to e-mail it around for everyone to keep.

Oh, and we were a Holiday Themed Metal Band. 4 Korean teachers & I. awesome!

2) Homer Simpson.

a student in first period told me he thinks I look like Homer Simpson. This was meant as a compliment. I know - how? I don't know. I've chalked it up to my theory that those who think all Asians look the same works the other way around. Other white people I have told I look like: Justin Timberlake (although "chubby"), Russell Crowe, Wayne Rooney, my dad, Stephen Colbert......

ps - is homer even white???

3) Lunch/Recess

The lunch period at my school goes something like this for the students (all boys). Eat as fast as you can. Play soccer or basketball for the remaining time. The period is 50 minutes long - I'd say each student gets in a good 40 minutes of sport. I call this "recess" naturally - although students did not understand. Anyway, every so often I venture out - to challenge a student in basketball or just to hang with them. The teachers really like it when I do this (at least one told me this) because it makes the students speak English OUT of class. I just want to play sports. Today, I played goalkeeper for a few minutes and got OWNED. Then I played a three-on-three basketball game outside - on a completely wet court and in my work "slippers". so slippery. i still put up some decent numbers, though.

and just to set the scene - the percentages break down to this: 85% of students play soccer, 10% play basketball, 3% watch, 1-1.2% frolic while holding hands/combing each other's hair, <1%>

4) PCbong Dating

Pronounced PeeShee Bong - this refers to the ever ubiquitous Computer Rooms here in Korea. They are EVERYWHERE. Most are large rooms with 20 or more computers, stocked with the latest games and filled with students killing some precious time between their 9.5-hour study sessions. Needless to say, Korean boys LOVE their rooms.

One student in my after-school class, a nice but goofy kid, tends to skip my class with some excuse.

(note: in order to miss my after-school class, students have to run an excuse by me and I have to say OKAY. no one told me this for the first four weeks so everytime a student told me he wanted to go home and rest or go to the hospital for some medicine I said okay, even knowing they were going to the PCBong. They had it SO easy).

I know he is going to the PCroom because every tells me. So, when he does show up, I let him have it. Every joke is about his obsession with the room, the games, etc....I do this one for good fun and two because PCBONG is one of the few korean words I can say flawlessly and they GET my jokes!

Today, I ask Wooks, his "english" name, if he has a girlfriend.

He says yes.

I ask, jokingly, if he takes her on dates to the PC-Room.

In complete seriousness, he says "only once".

Says it as if it's a huge accomplishment on his part to not be tempted to take his girlfriend to a room where she can watch him play videogames.

Now I know there are some girlfriends out there who have spent time watching their boyfriends play video games. I've made mine watch. But to TAKE them there, well that's another thing.

I laughed for a while.

5) Dinner.

I found an awesome galbi (korean BBQ - the glory of which will have to be served by another blog post) place near my house. Not used to megooks (americans) in their place - the waitresses found it necessary to wait on me hand & foot. This included, but was not limited to; cutting my meat (on the grill), pouring my water, adding a pillow under my butt.

I ate too much.

i'd leave you with a quotation or a song or something written, but I think this picture says so much. I just don't know what.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

DMZ & North Korea

this. will. be. lengthy.

prepare yourselves accordingly.

(for instance - if Lindsey decides she wants to read this, Mom, inform her it may well be of "chapter book" length - the prospect of which I hope she is finding less daunting everyday. Tell her I say to keep up the good work.)

For you of ages above 7, here we go.

North Korea attacked a South Korean island (which on a map certainly looks like it should belong to North Korea). This came after the SK army performed military training drills on the island that NK claimed provoked them.

The attack was with an estimated 100 shells and, for a small island, caused quite of destruction. 4 people have been declared dead, 2 soldiers and 2 civilians, and the island was evacuated of civilian presence.

This, if you read any form of American news, you probably know. Now I'll give you the personal perspective you, more or less, asked for by coming to this blog.

First, I will, at length, describe my trip to the DMZ last weekend and then talk about the North Korean attack. If you are only interested in hearing my thoughts on the second of these, skip down to past the picture of me standing on a block and being pointed at by a South Korean soldier.........although merely that description should warrant enough curiosity to at least read a bit of this post.

For me, the attack came with curious timing. The attack was on Wednesday and just 4 days prior, I had made my visit to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) - the 4kilometer border that separates the two Koreas. It has been estimated to be the most militarized and guarded strip of land in the world and the tour certainly did little to disprove this point.

Everything at the DMZ is hyper-intense. Everything.

Down to when you can and cannot take pictures. Why can't you at certain points? Because they worry that North Korea may happen across your measly Facebook album and discover unknown military checkpoints/bases/locations, etc.

You cannot stray from your tour guide. Not even for one second. You are accounting for while you are in the DMZ. After going "in" you get to explore some things on the south Korean side where you have a bit more freedom and are, thus, more touristy - but I'll get to that.

I paid a little extra money for my DMZ trip. There are several options open for foreigners to take a tour up there. Since I only did one and many of my friends here have not gone yet - I cannot compare the options to know what the extra money bought.....

We left from the USO base in Seoul at 7:30 or so and arrived at the JSA base (Joint Security Area) at around 9pm. In a place called Panmunjong - we first visited the US/South Korean military camp (featuring the world's most dangerous golf course, a one-hole green surrounded by a potentially live mine field).

This is at the 38th parallel, the 2.5 mile WIDE border the divides the two Koreas.

The JSA was (and really still is) the only part of the DMZ that both North & South Korea patrol. It is the only part with buildings and in the middle has sort of a campus that represents the point where the countries come together. Even this, though, is heavily segregated. With buildings having different color roofs and walls to designate as SK/US democracy and NK/.... Communism.

We had a tour guide on the bus - a Korean woman - but when we got to the base we got a new guide JSA in the DMZ . Below is a picture of him (American soldier) and me.

While in the JSA area, we were given strict instructions to follow every order and not stray from the group. We also were forbidden from doing any actions that might either provoke or inspire a North Korean response. In fact, this is the attitude that the South Korean military takes - one of no emotion - because they do not want to elicit any sort of response from their enemy. And according to the stories we were told, the North Korean soldiers LOVE to provoke their neighbors. They have a building that has been called the "monkey house" because soldiers go in there and dance around trying to taunt and tease the ultra-stern South Koreans.

Each soldier wears thick sunglasses and stands with his fists closed.

While in the JSA - we were able to spot a North Korean military man spying on us through his binoculars. This picture isn't great but you can see him. He was maybe 75-100 yards from us at the North Korean main building on the campus.

So we got to go in one of the buildings (where I took the picture with the SK soldier) and I got to step on the North Korean "side" of the JSA - which is pretty much the closest you can get to the country without some crazy propaganda travel visa. It was pretty cool.

But again, the whole scene up there is wrought with the air of tension and seriousness.

This is a picture that has some of the campus in it. The blue buildings are the SK/democracy ones. White ones are communist. The large building in the background is the "headquarters" (I guess you could call it that) building for North Korea. In front of me is the SK equivalent, a nice glass building called "Peace Tower", but we were, for some reason, not permitted to take photographs of it.

After this main part of the JSA, we went to a tall hill and had a great view for miles. Unfortunately, it was a foggy day so the views weren't as good as usual, but still interested. At the certain point we were brought, we were surrounded by North Korea in 3 directions. Just an odd twist in the land but we could see into it. Besides a few guard towers, there was nothing there. Just pristine landscape, nice rolling hills and trees. It was, in short, quite beautiful.

The one thing you did see was a small village with an absolutely, ridiculously enormous flag pole. This has been deemed "Propaganda Village" - because as of a few years ago it had a loud microphone system that would, for all hours of the day, loudly broadcast propaganda touting Kim Jong-Il and North Korea. It also had quite disparaging remarks about South Korea.

Every report has informed South Korean intelligence that Propaganda Village is a faux village. No one lives there. There are houses, storefronts and the works, but it is just for show. They are nice houses too, but for naught. The only people ever seen in the village are people for the raising and lowering of the flag - which is estimated to weight 600 pounds. Yikes.

I'm going to link to a random site for my information on the village/flag and for its pictures because they are a lot better than mine.

and yes, it is considered the tallest flagpole in the world. they told us that it was once very tall but South Korea decided to build a taller one and did. Not to be outdone, North Korea made theirs even taller just to make the statement. Now there are two giant flagpoles facing each other from across the DMZ - sort of symbolically. Also, the NK flag is so large that they cannot put it up during inclimate weather for fear that it will crumble from its own weight in wind or rain.

Our last stop at the JSA was The Bridge of No Return. A crickety-old thing that separates the "sides" of the JSA, the bridge got its name from the end of the Korean War. After the armistice was signed, all the captured POWs and personnel were given the option to cross back to their respective sides, with the distinct resignation that they would NEVER be able to return back. Thus, the moniker. It certainly has a haunting feeling that hangs over it.

korean name: 돌아올 수 없는 다리

From there we left the JSA and said goodbye to our American leader.

We visited the 3rd tunnel next. Sitting safely (I say that, of course, relatively) in South Korea, the 3rd tunnel site has become sort of the touristy focal point of the DMZ.

The history would eponymously (word?) point out that this was the 3rd tunnel in a series of tunnels. And indeed, starting in the 1970s and continuing through the 1990s, South Korea discovered a series of infiltrating underground tunnels coming in from the North. The discoveries were made mostly from information given by detractors. These tunnels all sort of head toward Seoul but from all different directions. North Korea claims, officially, that they were used for "mining" or "resources" but it was/is pretty clear that at one point they were meant for a planned attack.

Anyway, we took a very long descent down and then quickly toward a part of the tunnel itself. It's way down there! And the tour sort of explained how it was found, how it was effectively made useless by South Korea and details of that sort.

As I said, the area has been done up by the local city for tourists. Here's a picture of me with the more-than-half ironic large letters denoted the DMZ area.

At the tunnel is a large theater showing a film about the DMZ and then a museum that discussed various historical points and references. It included a few quarrels that have taken place along the border in the nearly 60 years of its existence.

After the 3rd tunnel we ate lunch and then our last stop was at Dorosan Station. This is a now defunct train station. At one time, though, train travel was allowed through North Korea and so South Korea could connect, by land, to the rest of the Eurasian continent. No longer.

But the station is still preserved how it was and it still features a platform to Pyongyang. That and they have stamps of the old ticket design from Dorosan to the North Korean capital. Pretty interesting.

And that concluded my tour of the DMZ. I took many more pictures - some of which you can find on facebook, some may show up on a google pictures account I make when I get around to it. I've really only detailed the most important parts of the tour and didn't do much with the intangibles of it - feelings, smells, aura, etc. I'll just reiterate how serious the whole affair has become - even if it is a guided tour. The South Korean military takes extra security measures to make sure there are no attacks on tour groups as that might cause a large international outcry and just isn't something they'd want to deal with.

I'll leave you on this picture - of a South Korean soldier telling me I could not take a picture. We were at a second observation place - one with a wide-spanning view into NK. There was a line about 30 feet behind the edge of the observation deck. The line was a photo line and no one was allowed to snap a picture from in front of it. They had binocular stands you could use (if you paid) to peer into the northern country but they couldn't risk you taking pictures. Not realizing the gravity - I grabbed one of the child platforms from the binocular stands and brought it behind the line for a better picture. A serious no-no of which I was alerted by this (actually extremely polite) soldier. His job is to inform tourists they cannot take pictures. All day.

Alright, now North Korea situation.

I will first say that the media has blown this out of proportion. All my friends here have acknowledged this just the same and many have already focused blog posts on it.

CNN, my god.

They ran a story today about how Seoul is in a state of crisis.

Certainly there were some riots. Some bad ones. But to suggest that a city as wide-waisted as Seoul is shut-down or chaotic is to be a fool. I was in Seoul last night - things ran on the usual.

CNN makes it seem as though war may be imminent, that Koreans are clutching rosaries praying for some divine intervention to stop what may be inevitable war.

Sure, war is a possibility. But not a likely one.

(for the record, the BBC has much better coverage)

(of everything)

I've talked to teachers and students. Certainly they are a bit scared about the situation. But they are living their life as they always do. The American media, even before this, seemed content to focus on a sort of haunted feeling that they assumed Koreans must carry with them every second with North Korea so close. They don't. They are happy and advanced people living happy and advanced lives.

They go about their occupations, their relationships and appointments not in a state of chaos/recklessness, they live a life worth living and will continue to.

If anything, from what I gathered, they are just very sad that 4 of their countrymen died in the attack. The 2 soldiers were aged 20 and 22.

(sidenote: within 2 days of the attack, 435 people died in a Cambodian human stampede and 29 miners died in a New Zealand cave. Still, the Korean peninsula got coverage as though these were common occurrences)

(I don't mean to suggest that news volume should be based on death toll but the Am. media seemed almost cold to these catastrophes because the Korea affair made more intriguing coverage)

Anyway, for now, people monitor the situation but keep moving as they'd like. Seoul thrives. The suburbs remain kept.

The Koreans are thankful that the US is standing strongly by them; and for that I am proud of my country. The situation certainly warrants more intervention than the other two wars we are fighting.

(sidenote: new report says that something like 86% of Afghani's do not know about 9/11)

Alright, I'm not going to say much more. I am hopeful that things will subside and return back to the normalcy which I have grown quite fond of these 3 months. If you have questions you can ask me.'s Big Picture just did their showcase on the whole affair. It's potentially the best photojournalism site on the internet (professionally) anyway and I've been looking at it since freshman year of college. It gets updated every few days and is quick to cover major stories. Really interesting. Check it out.


a quotation.

"Investigate what IS and not what PLEASES"


Monday, November 22, 2010

Lotte Department Store Adventure

I owe this blog a lengthy post about my recent trip to the DMZ - the zone that separates South Korea from North - but for now, I'm going to relay a quick anecdote that occurred in the last half hour or so.

Near my apartment is the 9-story deluxe department store called Lotte. It has a park on the roof - a whole floors dedicated to top-shelf men's fashion (and one for women). A home/living floor. A floor with restaurants and swanky coffee shop.

This picture isn't the one by me - but it looks very similar - just to give you an idea.

At the bottom is a floor of take-out restaurant booths (a favorite amongst my friends & I.....Lotte Dept Stores and similar ones of its ilk are scattered throughout suburban Seoul and most of my friends' suburbs have something just like it) - and a rather large grocery section.

Since the Mega-store is only a block and a half away - its the closest real grocery store to me. It has also features like 10-15 different types of food so it's nice to go there and get a variety. I try to limit my visits there, if only to avoid the large corporate trap, but also because its quite impersonal and glitzy and just a bit uncomfortable to roll through in a dirty flannel and jeans.

I digress.

I went there tonight.

Lessons learned:

1) Uniqlo ALWAYS has sales. They also ALWAYS have awesome clothes. Be cautious, else you'll come home with 17 different button-up sweater vests and 15 micro-fleeces (pictured below)

2) If you are going to go LeAnn's Bagels - or possible Lotte at all - to grab food, go after 7:30. They are desperate to give away food and the deals are mindbending (this causing me to come home tonight with popcorn chicken, 2 bagel sandwiches and a half dozen onion bagels....all for about $10)

and now, for the best part of my evening.....

As I'm swerving out of the LeAnn's Bagels area - a Korean girl approaches me. She had overheard me speak some English to the bagel lady (who had good enough English to dissuade me from even considering the garlic bagels "ooooo too smelly"...).

We'll call the girl "Relatively Cute Korean Girl" and below is a sampling of our conversation. I'll put my then-present thoughts in italics. (....and for the record, korean girls are very beautiful - the "relatively" here is not cultural/national but rather to the enigmatic and Plutonic concept of "cute".........and yes, i know, i sound like an authorial a-hole saying all that in those terms).

RCKG: Hello! I heard you speak English over there, my name is -----"

hmmm. a relatively cute korean girl.

Me: Ah, my name's Eric nice to meet you.

RCKG: Are you married?

oddly forward yes - but koreans don't waste time with that question.

Me: No.

RCKG: What are you doing in Guri, then?

Me: I am a teacher. Guri Boys High School.

RCKG: Oh, that's great. I am an English teacher too at [insert meaningless Korean school name]

Me: Oh, great. It's terrific to meet you.

[we chat for a little bit. She compliments my eyes, I compliment her bangs]
this is going very smoothly. she is definitely flirting. am i being picked up by a korean chick?

[5-10 minutes pass. I am holding all my food. She laughed at how much I had, even though I insisted I was saving most for the next few days...]

RCKG: Well, I think I should go home now. Can I have your phone number?

yes. awesome.

Me: Sure.

[phone numbers exchanged - without asking she entered my name as "Arrick"]

(note: mom, how did you not thing of that one?)

RCKG: It was very nice to meet you. I very much enjoy talking to American people. I hope to see you soon.

[I nod and smile and return the sentiment]

RCKG: Oh, before I leave, I want to give you something.

hmmm, interesting, a gift already.....this girl is -----





[RCKG pulls something out of her purse]









So there you have it. Just when it looks like someone is kind of into you, turns out they're FAR more into God.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

after school names part 2

My first round of afterschool classes finished last week with an exciting day of trading in their earned class points for Chicago souvenirs and Korean snacks/candies. Fun day.

Gave away my Michael Jordan jersey to the top points earner. The jersey was an "imitation" as the kids called it (not knowing that a real MJ jersey goes for hundreds in the states) and I had gotten it in Itaewon (the "international part of Seoul - which is to say it's for English speakers) for about $25 bucks. The kids were impressed I was giving it away. The teachers were impressed I was giving it away. But I had realized a while ago that I got paid more for one after school class than the jersey. I'll get another one soon. I'll have to take a picture of the jersey shops there - cool "retro" ones.

anyway, so my new round of after school class started with many new students. As now is my tradition, I asked the kids to pick English names. I gave them three options:

1) English-size your Korean name: so one could be Park Joon Woo

2) Pick a famous persons name: so one coul be Ronaldo or Obama

3) Pick any random English name you know: so one could be Steven or John

Here, listed, are the names my students picked.

Hot Cheol
Mu Mu
Chicken Mu
Bong Bong
Jic So
New Chim


Puck - see: Shakespeare, William "A Midsummer Night's Dream"

Desouphe - pronounced "day-sue-fay".....french word for something???

Smobs - ????

Lie - has no idea the English translation of that word

Muscle - skinniest kid in the class. and note, it's not "muscles" just a singular, one muscle

Jose - when I told him that this was a common Mexican name, spelled with an accent, he was upset. He wanted me to confirm that his name was American and not Mexican.

Reges - pronounced more like "reggae" than "regis" but I still haven't gotten it completely how he wants it.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

health care

i wanted to make an entry about my sick day. it's coming a week late.

so last wednesday I took my first sick day. I had no idea what to expect. Supposedly we get something like 10 or 12 sick days while we are here. However, it was made well known that the Korean "sick day" is not standard.

for one, korean teachers almost NEVER take sick days. their job dedication leads them to come to school whether snot rains from their noise or not. anything short of decrippling SARS, they are showing up for classes.

this is in conjuction with the idea their national idea that korean people hardly get sick. thanks to the "miracle" of kimchi - they are loaded on nutriets all the time. and if they do feel the slightest pollutant of disease creeping toward them - off to the hospital for a shot in the bum. i envy them.

anyway, by the end of school tuesday it was pretty clear that i was not feeling well. my co-teacher gave me a few packets of cough drops, full of some chemicalized name I had never heard but she insisted was good for battling coughs and colds.

wednesday I woke up and wasn't feeling great. could i have gone to school? sure. would i have been miserable there? absolutely.

i called my co-teachers cell. she was worried. i promised her i'd go to the hospital later (note: their non-emergency doctors are located at the hospital as well as ICU's and the works. every "doctor's office" is a hospital).

I slept until about noon. Then I went to the hospital.

Now, I had been waiting for the day where I would get sick and need to cash in on my FREE, GOVERNMENT-SPONSORED health care because well, the United States could use the taunting. don't get me wrong, this way was MUCH preferable to the US but it wasn't as easy as going in and telling them my throat hurt and taking home some AFFORDABLE medicine.

i went in, after a bit of confusion and walking around, I found a "guide" of sorts, one who spoke enough English to take me where I needed. I paid about $7 for a hospital membership card (one-time cost), saw a throat doctor who said I had "tonsilitis" about as casually as you would inform someone that their hat looked nice, and then paid $9.50 for my medicine. the whole endeavor took about 35 minutes.

now, 2 factors proabably made this longer than it could have been:

1) I don't speak Korean.
2) I went to the biggest hospital in Guri, my city. It's the closest (or one of) to my house and the only one I had been to before (for my pre-work physical and drug test). A smaller hospital would have been more easy to traverse and might have made the interactions quicker. Couldn't say for sure though.

Now, what medicine did $9.50 buy me?

1) 150 pills. 5 pills 3x a day for 10 days. 150 pills. For a sore throat. 150 pills. No explanation of what any of them do. 150 pills. All 5 different colors, sizes and shapes. 150 pills. What did they give you for typhoid fever - a four-course meal of medication?

2) black liquid to be mixed with water, gurgled and spit out. tastes like M&M's. If M&M's were soaked in acid, dragged through mud and had already done a once-through your family pet. Yikes.

The sweetest part? At 4:00pm, when the school day ended, 3 teachers from my school came over with food for me: a huge tub of pouridge, 15 tangerines, a box of cereal, chocolate cake snacks, 2 giant pears, a little kimchi, and cheesy spam.

I'll have to talk about spam some other time. some of you know. some of you don't. it's got a whoooooole different cultural effect here than in the U.S.

anyway, the teachers had pooled money together to get me some food to feel better. very sweet. i really have a great staff at my school.

well, that was my sick day.

what i'm listening to (and you should be too):

Elizabeth & The Catapult - Everybody Knows

(leonard cohen cover).......(nevermind the video, it's an interesting concept, but ehhhhhh)

"i dream of giving birth to a child who will ask, "Mother, what was war?"

- poet Eve Merriam


Tuesday, November 16, 2010


of late, these compliments have stayed in my mind for their hilarity:

- earlier today, during my first class, a student mumbled some korean for a while. the teacher in the room translated this to "he says you're concept of appearance if special." I asked if this meant "style" and she not quite and we moved on.

- the teachers at the lunch table unanimously agreed that I looked like a "physics doctor". Of this, I could not gauge if that meant "physicist" or "medical doctor (one who might study physicality)" no avail.

- four korean girls guessed my age at 32 this weekend. to be fair, 32 in korea is 31 in america. but really?

(i do have a two and a half week beard growing, which I'm sure is at the root of many of these "compliments" (all 3 were meant as compliments in their own ways).


Monday, November 15, 2010


just finished reading East of Eden and I could write a novel as good if I were given all the years ahead of me. i suppose we'll see.

this weekend I picked up a book on Korean Slang and old Korean Folk Tales so I should have some interesting things to report - on the literary front, anyway, soon.

"when a child first catches adults out - when it first walks into his grave little head that adults do not have divine intelligence, that their judgments are not always wise, their thinking true, their sentences just - his worlds fall into panic and desolation. The gods are fallen and all safety gone. And there is one sure thing about the fall of gods: they do not fall a little; they crash and shatter or sink deeply into green muck. It is a tedious job to build them up again; they never quite shine. And the child's world is never quite whole again. It is an aching kind of growing."

- Steinbeck (bolding is mine; E.G.)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

this little ajumma goes to hongdae

as i've told some of you - the popularity I incurred during school on Friday was nothing compared to amount of attention my friends and I got on Saturday night.

I have to thank my friend Quinn before anything else, for his genius brainstorming and coming up with the idea of a collective group of ajummas doning the moniker "ajummania". excellent work pal.

and before I tell the story, Hongdae = the are around Hongik University, a large and top-rated art school in Seoul. It has become a major area of partying and night clubs, as well as interesting art boutiques and coffee houses. Obviously, one gets more attention under the moon.

so, even despite the success of my costume at school on friday, we were all a bit apprehensive about bringing 8 ajummas out into the public. Again, I reiterate, KOREANS DO NOT CELEBRATE HALLOWEEN. And even though Hongdae has its fair share of foreigners, and several bars/clubs having halloween parties - the majority of the area's onlookers were koreans. non-costumed koreans.

so we worried about how we might be taken to.

up top I've included a picture of us getting ready. at that point, we had the laughter of each other to share but no idea if we would be laughed AT or WITH or illicit any reaction at all.

turns out, we had nothing to worry about.

quinn, mo and I stepped out of the hostel first. we had on full garb. we were just going to the convenience store down the street to stock up on Soju *** (see future post) *** and come back to the hostel to continue drinking before we went out.

It was immediate. Like a comet had crashed in hongdae still flaming and had three interesting aliens riding on its top. pictures were taken within seconds. groups of koreans around us. we started posing. we started taking it in. we became celebrities within a second.

we called our friends. "no way we're coming back - it's all grand out here - you come meet us" we said.

(you can drink on the streets here. as we did)

the rest of our group came. we sat on a storefront stoop all together. some of us drank. some of us posed for pictures with the various groups that passed by. koreans LOVED the costumes, loved that we embraced part of their culture. loved the attitude we brought with it.

i must have posed for 100 pictures that night. and smiled radioactively in each one. ear-to-ear.

it rivaled a many Madison Halloween nights just for sheer randomness. who knew we'd be such a hit. and not just a hit, but a HIT.

that was just the first part of the evening. the rest was more a blur but featured: dancing on a stage at the front of a club after being kicked off a half dozen times, noraebonging *** (see future post) *** as a group of ajummas, silent disco (everyone dances with just headphones in their eyes, no music played out loud just binaural solitutude)......

alright i'll wrap this up.

Bruce Springsteen - City At Night

(from Darkness On The Edge of Town sessions)

tell me that this doesn't have a wonderful tint of Lou Reed in it. guitar first, vocal style second.

and i'll finish with a quotation.......

"laughter is a fife-and-drum flourish"

-malcolm de chazal


Friday, November 5, 2010

this ajumma goes to school

okay. so i need to tell about halloween. but im going to have to do it in parts.

this post will be about school on friday.

i made the mistake early on of promising my kids that I would wear a costume to school the Friday before Halloween. I did this because I had to teach them the word "costume" and it always just seem to filter in my teaching.

So I prepared by going shopping at Seoul's largest clothing market - an ajumma paradise. For those I have not told already an "ajumma" is a korean grandmother/ old lady. They have a distinct style of clothing that includes, but is not limited to, gloves, sun visor, flower-patterened shirt, vest....

i got most of the essentials. as you can see. enough to confidently be an ajumma.

so friday started approaching and I began to grow more nervous. No one else would be dressing up - as Koreans don't celebrate Halloween. Chances are, before Friday, most of the teachers had never heard of it. Would I be laughed at? Ridiculed? Would I offend the older ladies at my school - some only a small step away from ajumma status themselves?

With some prying by my co-teacher, who had been excited about the idea ever since I told her a week before, I came to school Friday morning with my costume in a bag. I got there early and so did my co-teacher (who awesomely dressed up as a witch to maybe not make me feel so alone in my endeavor - or maybe because she's totally in to Western tomfoolery) and I threw the ajumma on.

The reaction was instantaneous. All my fears and worries were for naught. The costume was a MAJOR success. Everyone in the room loved it. Everyone that came in the room loved it. I took pictures with most of the teachers, and if not with, then they took a picture of me because they were too embarassed to be a part of my happening.

I had told students they could come trick or treat at my desk if they could remember the old rhyme (trick or treat/smell my feet/give me something good to eat/........and for the advanced students the "if you don't/i don't care/ i'll pull down your underwear" part earned you extra candy), so students were in and out of the office all day. They loved it. Some called me Mrs. Eric for the day and got a huge kick out of it.

I scored major points with the teachers for it. And of course with the students too - many of whom begged for a five minute slot at teh end of class to take pictures of me. So i stood there as htey all took their cell phones out of their pockets and shot away. Some took pics with me. I'll post one or two of those.

So, yeah, the ajumma at school was a total success and I'm glad I was convinced to do it.

Lastly, and maybe most surprisingly - on Tuesday after the weekend I came to school to find a small box on my desk. No note. I opened it and it was a small mug that said "Happy Eric" twice on it with big painted hearts. No idea who it was from. Asked my co-teacher and the women that sit around me and nothing. Found out hours later it was from the art teacher who told my co-teacher that my costume had given her so much laughter she wanted to repay with a mug. She was embarassed about it all though so when I thanked her she practically hid from me.

also, for anyone keeping score at home. the top picture features (from left to right): Bong Bong, Ferdi and Ace. awesome guys. the best students in my after school class.



got my first experience in pick-up basketball today after school. i had to stay around for some Guri High School recruiting assembly (for parents of incoming high-schoolers) so I had some time to kill

game : 3 on 3

baskets made: 11 (they counted for me)

times called "kobe bryant": 11

yes, after each time i scored.


Monday, November 1, 2010

ajumma fame!

there's much more to come about halloween, but let this serve as an introduction. credits to Olivia Darmali for the photograph.


over the last week, I've learned that Koreans use different noises to refer to:

a dog barking: something that sounded like "womb womb"

a cat's call : "yeow"

a heartbeat: "chung, chung"

and Beethoven's "Fur Elise" is recognizable to most of the student population due to the fact that many Korean automobiles made before 10 years ago would play the song as that car reversed. If the song is played, the kids all make motions as if turning a steering wheel. Odd.

Their doorbell noise is not the "ding dong" we are used to, but I can't exactly describe what theirs is. More complex.

what i'm listening to:

Lenka - Gravity Rides Everything

what you should be listening to:

The Libertines - Don't Look Back Into The Sun

"all angels bring terror" - rilke

a glass of papaya juice
and back to work. My heart is in my


Friday, October 29, 2010

after school class names

the first day of my after-school class I asked the kids (who actually showed up the first day) to come up with their own English names. Eventually, each kid got one. The following is the list of their chosen names

(note: many are just Englishized versions of their korean names - but some are surprising)

Sec Sec
Min Soo
Kim Sum Min
Hyun Woo
Joon Woo
Hun Seok
Bong Bong (personal favorite)
Chicken Mu (second favorite)
Min Ho Kim

happy halloween.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

costume is finished!

ajumma costume is geared up. tried it on today. shirts a bit tight but I think it fits the look. pictures pending...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


assorted prices of the day:

in won

today's exchange rate: 1USD = 1118.56won

4 parts of an ajumma costume:

gloves - 4,000won

purple stretchy (maternity?) pants - 12,000won

Floral shirt ("of good quality" no less) - 15,000won

pink/sunflowered ascot - 1,000won

still on hunt for a visor!!

6 shirts of drycleaning : 10,000 won
-conveniently left off and picked up at front security desk of my building. ( i gave an orange to the man that helped).

10 wings in itaewon on tuesday nights: 3,000 won

grape jelly (medium size?) at local mart: 6,500 won

5 slices of (??) cheese at local mart - 2,300 won

Japanese tea and cookies after lunchtime with Guri High School crew - free (paid for by "hyong" my department leader/big brother (translation of "hyong"))

many pounds of candy to keep promises of "much candy for Halloween week!!" made hastily - 17,000 won

in other Korea-related news, the G20 summit is not far away. Their tagline should be:

The world's G20 - so important we only invited 19 countries!

and i'll top that sweet sweet desert off with a quotation:

"live with yourself; get to know how poorly furnished you are"



Monday, October 25, 2010

korean billiards

I've been debated whether or not to retrograde this blog. Since I started this a bit late into my journey, should I go back and recount those old stories. I am still throwing the idea back and forth in the orbits of my mind.

This is an event of the past but it's easy and quick, so I figured it'd be a good place to start.

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to play billiards with three male teachers at my school. They play nearly every Friday and their expertise in the game showed. As for me, I have never been so disappointed with my ability to pick up a game. I wasn't bad; I was downright awful. After 2 games I had amassed four points for my team (out of about 50 - although I came DANGEROUSLY close to winning the game for us. Twice.).

No matter, Korean pool is still pretty wild - and requires a different set of skills than what I've become used to.

To begin with, the table has no pockets.

You play the whole game with four balls - one white, one yellow and two red.

The game is simple for the most part. There are more complicated games that we sampled but my kindergarten skill level prevented any of those from taking place.

Your goal is to have your ball (white is one team, yellow the other) hit both red balls without hitting the other teams. You can play with certain minimum wall touches, but we didn't.

Essentially, the game boils down to English (a word, which unfortunately, I was never able to communicate properly to my Korean counterparts. For obvious reasons. They just thought I was translating. I can't blame them though - the double meaning of the word is strange and they are not English teachers in the school. Our most complicated conversation came about discussing major league baseball and was more a listing of players we both knew....)

And as I mentioned, I sucked. But I will play with them again soon and hopefully avenge myself. As it gets colder I may want to take refuge in the indoors and practicing my game couldn't hurt.

They have no problems with people playing by themselves. And since each table has a timer (for pay rates) I noticed that many men stay there for quite some time (one was over 5 hours).

So that was my Korean pool experience and detailing. Quick and easy.

Side note: Koreans pronounced "Phillies" very much like "Police" - so much so that when my teammate asked if I liked the Phillies, I responded yes and starting to sing "roxanne". Massive confusion.

Lastly, 23% of American adults cannot name a single scientist when asked.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

teaching pictures

my co-teacher has been snapping some photos of me teaching throughout the week. Here are a few of the keepers.

first post

alright, you got me. I caved. Here, nearly two months after arriving in Korea, I have started a blog.

This, I suppose, will be my first foray into blogging - having, in the past, only used them to back-up my writing online. So, I will, no doubt, be rusty and misguided in my explaining, posting and altogether summing up my life in this country.

Yet, you reading this, so who cares?

Lastly, in an attempt to savor some creativity in this endeavor, this will not be a straightforward blog of day-to-day recounting. In fact, for my very first post I will tell you absolutely nothing of a story, anecdote or explanation. Instead, I offer this terrific female smackdown article Maureen Dowd wrote for the New York Times yesterday.

For a few of those who know me - you may remember that I am fond of "who would you rather be....." questions - especially with famed historical figures and current celebrities.

Well, there is a reason I have never, and will never, ask: "who would you rather be, Marilyn Monroe or Sarah Palin?"

(if there are laughs to this - I can only say that I am sure there are more than a few young females who would pick the latter.......sadly)

This is that reason.

Making Ignorance Chic (Maureen Dawd, NYT, Oct 19, 2010)

......personal stories to come.....

and i suppose i'll always end with a quotation?

"everything exists to end up in a book"
-Stéphane Mallarmé

(trans. William Rees)