Friday, March 18, 2011


hey readers - I'm just kind of killing some time before I meet some friends so I figured I'd update this. Nothing special, just some highlights from the previous few weeks.


Sometime last week I was heading over to get some dinner at my favorite Chinese restaurant for JaJaMyeong - a noodle and bean sauce dish that costs 3,000won (less than $3) and is delicious and filling. I usually top the meal off with a fat kimchi mandu (dumpling) from next door.

Anyway,I stopped at the ATM and to avoid some extra walking I just jaywalked across the street. As it happened, a car pulled up and happened to be a Korean police car.

Now, a bit of background.....Korean police is not much like American police. For one thing, there is no crime here. They are less needed, less seen and less relevant. They don't carry guns and, as we found out playing our scavenger hunt, they also do not carry handcuffs. Some carry BB guns, some carry those twist ties - most don't. They are there for traffic and civilian unrest.

But I had no idea what kind of penalty jaywalking involved so when they stopped and slowed down next to me I was a bit nervous.

I bowed and did my annyong haseoyo. The cop driving looked at me, insanely puzzled, and just said, "megook?" ("american?").

I nodded. They left.

Crisis averted.


So I started my new classes. I'm 2 weeks in now - the first week being introductions. This week has me teaching them a bit of slang (so they can now say "what's up?" to me) and playing a certain kick-ass soccer game that I invented that has new teachers abuzz. (parents also, since today was an open day - parents could come in - and apparently many had good things to say about me. understandably so, I wore my best blue shirt!)

Anyways, the introduction lessons are always fun, since the kids don't always know what they are saying and some are willing to say anything that comes into their minds. So, some observations and funny sentences put together in the last week....

First, the new grade of Korean boys are still perverted. Less than last year, but still so. Most classes had at least one student tell me his hobby was "adult movies".

Many classes asked how I old I was for my first kiss. I told them. Many of them haven't had theirs. Shucks. One student had enough bravado to ask "When This" as he simultaneously did the round squeezing motion with both his hands.

I didn't answer that one.

During the game this week, one student got up and said,

"I'm happy because I have a girlfriend" (he had to make a sentence with "because" - it's what the book has them practicing this lesson)

The very next student got up and said, "I'm sad because I am not the girlfriend" co-teacher and I got a big kick out of that and no one else even laughed. He meant to said he didn't have one - but the slip, mixed with the timing, was priceless.


My buddies and I have been as active as ever on the (simulated) links. Quinn and I are on an average of nearly once during the schoolweek and most weekends don't escape without a round. We now found out we can just play 3 or 6 holes, which could change everything - I'm sure much to the dismay of the girls in the group, who hate it when we aren't around (though they won't admit it).

I've gotten my handicap down, shooting somewhere in the range of 85-90, which hopefully will translate to the real thing once I get back to that. If they decide to start some operations in North america I may just have to jump on the corporate bandwagon.

As it happens, I am currently taking any and all suggestions for what to do when I am done with Korea. My cousin Neal was so kind as to provide me with 26 options which I am currently considering. So thank you.

But serious, send some suggestions my way. Anything but "get a job" will probably be met with consideration.

Okay. That's all for now. St. Patrick's Day celebration in Seoul this weekend. A bar has all-you-can-drink Guinness for about 40 bucks. If that's not bliss, I don't want to know what is.



Sunday, March 6, 2011

Teacher's Dinner Pictures

In Korea, it's tradition that, with some regularity, all of the teachers at a school go out for dinner and drinking. Usually this is once a month - but this month marked the leaving of some teachers and the incoming of new ones - both causes for teacher's dinners.

These dinners tend to be long, awkward and drunken. Very, very drunken. The reason is that this is sort of the social time for teachers and to loosen up they all drink soju, makkeoli or beer and insist that you do the same with them. Over and over again.

If the principal wants to take a shot with you, you take one. If an older teacher (see: any other teacher at my school) wants to take a shot with you, you take one. No questions asked. You don't even get to pour your own drinks - someone does that for you and strips you of any remaining control of sobriety.

My group of friends - most of whom left my school for other schools - tend to go to the dinners and then do our own thing after. This means drinking - sometimes singing rooms, sometimes sweet Korean foods and embarrassing pictures. I'll put up pictures of the big group to give you an idea and then some of the funnier ones that I took from the "goodbye" teacher's dinner event two weeks ago.

first.....from the actual dinner - with the whole school staff

next, just a few of my friends and I at a bar afterward....


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Slow Times at Guri High

I returned from Southeast Asia on Feburary 6th. It's March 4th now - and today (Friday) is the final day of my 4th week back at school.

Here, in as complete of a list as my memory will allow, is the nothingness accrued in these 4 weeks (during school hours).

- taught 6 classes (over the span of three days)

- watched Senior Graduation, Goodbye Ceremony for leaving teachers, Welcoming Ceremony for new teachers

- moved offices (from center first floor to the new wing on the 3rd floor; like going from first row first base side above the dugout to $4 bleacher seats in left field)

- gotten sick, faked sick, taken naps, woken up with drool on my face

- written something like 45,00 words (seriously) in the form of stories, blogposts, tumblr posts, emails and letters

- read: the 1926 Letters of Boris Pasternak, Marina Tsetayeava and Rainer Maria Rilke, Lorrie Moore Birds in America, Studs' Terkel's Working, Henry Miller's Tropic of Capricorn, a few dozen poets and a few hundred online blogs of various components, the BBC and New York Times daily, and anything anyone posts remotely interesting on Reddit.

oh, and damn near a dozen of Charlie Sheen interview transcripts

- watched: movies: A Single Man, The Visitor, The King's Speech, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Louis C.K's Hilarious, In The Loop; documentaries on, Westboro Baptist Church, Bill Hicks, Lenny Bruce....and more

tv shows: Portlandia (all 6 episodes), Bob's Burgers (all 5 episodes), all current episodes of How I Met Your Mother, The Office, 30 rock, The Big Bang Theory, Archer, Modern Family, Californication....and more

- eaten: loads of bibimbop and donkatsu - the two easiest things for koreans to order me....and since for 3 of these 4 weeks we had no students we have ordered in lunch everyday.

classes start tomorrow. this has to be the single most boring blog post you've ever read - if indeed you did read it all.

i'm sorry - but content equals sentiment, and I'm losing my mind with all this internet-ing.

a quotation:

"Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'"
— Isaac Asimov

(which is non-coincidentally how I've been feeling about america lately)

next: pictures from the various teacher dinner's I've gone on lately, those will be good. much better than this, yes, much better.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011


as promised, the long awaited conclusion to my southeast asian adventure.

and it only comes to you a month late - which in the scheme of grander things, is nothing.

so, then, as the koreans say "be-it-nom"

our foray into vietnam began with a boat ride - from Phnom Penh, Cambodia into Chau Doc, Vietnam. we went through both countries immigration stations, riverside (Mekong-side) and soon we were coasting into Vietnam by sunset. The same sunset one has come to expect from VIetnam - bloody and sunken, kind of low-hung and ancient.

In Chau Doc we got dropped off at a restaurant, where a group of mosquitoes must also have gotten dropped off since a group of ten dozen of them were circling a light above us.

We left to find a hostel - which Lisa (i think) had looked up before we got there. Well, we arrived at the (only) busy time in Chau Doc, as the market vendors screamed and the streets were stuffed with pedestrians and sale items. We found an older couple who recommended a cheap hotel but we decided to keep our adventure, big bags on our back and all.

We found the place we were looking for and it was booked. We asked for a different hotel, found that and checked in. I think we each paid 10 dollars for the night.

Chau Doc was small - right on the border and riverside. It also shuts down sometime around 9:30 and by the time we got dinner, the city was dead. No drinking life, not even a soul to speak wtih along the streets. We went back to the hotel and drank a bit and enjoyed each other's company.

The next time we woke up and got breakfast at a travel agency-ish type sort of place next to our hotel, who had a sign for englihs breakfast. we each paid liek 2 dollars and ordered an egg dish and an iced coffee. We grew a bit concerned about the eggs after taking some time and then a motorbike showed up wiht a few of the orders....they had ordered the egg dish from a restaurant nearby!

Well, half of us ate and hte other half waited. Somewhere along the line - either fromt he malted milk in the iced coffee or hte malaria pill I took on an empty stomach, I got sick. I had to throw up int eh hotel bathroom after we had checked out. And when the grew took bikes up the famous mountain in Chau Doc and got to ride sweet moped bikes up there, I had to stay at the hotel adn clutch my stomach and wait until I puked the sickness out. Glorious, huh?

We then hired a van to drive the 8 of us to Saigon, the final place on my vacation.

While, in the past, 8 people was enough to rent an entire van - here was different. We paid for seats on a larger van and along our way picked up some various Vietnamese, none of whom spoke English. Sometimes theyd stay for hours, sometimes only 20 minutes. We also picked up a large amount of boxes of pills adn piled them into the van (in hidden spots) and nothing was ever explained but they were deposited somewhere, thank goodness.

We arrived to Saigon without even realizing it. At some point they just pulled off the street to a smaller street and made us get out. "Saigon?" We asked. They nodded. It didn't look like a city. It didn't smell like a city. There was no one anywhere.

After some more confusion, we got the driver to drive us to a hotel we had found the name of. The hotel was booked - even though we had made reservations, but she was more than willing to take us to her "cousin's hotel" and walked us there. She found me quite attractive (a 60 year old vietnamese lady) and had no reluctance to let the whole group know about it. Solid ego boost, I guess?

We arrived in Saigon during the heart of Tet - the celebration of the (lunar) new year. the first and second night were the biggest celebrations, with fireworks and people taking the streets.

We had a blast during the festivities. Every person we met made sure to wish us a happy new year. People were joyous, the city was in a constant celebration and it was terrific to be a part of.

The only down side was that many things were closed during the day. We would read about things to see and get there and it would be closed. The city's giant market was closed the whole time we were there. Our friend who knows Vietnam quite well tried to take us to his favorite restaurant and it was closed (we settled for the "copycat" of it).

We got to see a few museums and the main independence palace and those were great, but we never truly got a feel for the real city since it was a holiday. It's hard to gauge how much Tet affected our stay in Saigon but it had an impact. I still wouldn't trade it for anything - it was a great time.

Our hotel had a nice balcony on the 4th floor and we spent time up there just listening to music and looking at the city skyline. We went up the tallest building in Saigon, on the world's second fastest elevator, and got another view there. MOstly, though, Saigon appears as itself from the vantage point of our hotel's balcony. Again, no complaints.

I have more to say about Saigon but they are just notes adn observations. Tons of wires. Tons of motorbikes. Beautiful city. Nicer to Americans than you would ever expect after we ravaged their country. Many things. But it's almost saddening to have to write about such an enjoyable time when it seems so long ago now.

Korea will have to keep its hold on my curiosities for now.

Next blog post will update you all on my new school semester which began today.


"We are here on earth to do good for others. What the others are for, I don't know."

- W. H. Auden


Patti Smith - Gloria


- oh, post script - i got myself one of those famous vietnamese conical hats. keep yourself on guard, america, it's coming home!