Sound of Vitality

Blowin up Haengsin-dong. Holla!

Friday, September 17, 2010


I had a couple semi-funny incidents yesterday at school. One was in a class with 9 students, which is my biggest class size. Now that might not seem like a lot to you, especially you real teachers at public school, but when you're in a very small room and those 9 kids are like 11 years old it can get loud. Really loud.

We have these textbooks where they have vocab words and I will look up the word in the English-Korean dictionary and they write the Korean for the word to help learn it. So I'm looking up the word 'sheet' as in 'sheet of paper' for one kid while like 6 others are yelling at me 'Teacher! Teacher!' for me to check their work on another part of the day's assignment. One end of the room is shouting 'Teacher Teacher! Check! Check!' while this other kid is yelling 'Teacher what is sheet?' which sounds like 'what is shit?' while I'm bouncing around the room, dictionary in hand, trying to do all things at once. Finally I find sheet and show it to the kid and he starts laughing. 'What is it in Korean?' I asked. 'Sheet-uh.' It's a borrowed in English word. We all had a laugh.

In another class one of my favorite students, a 10-year old English name Clara, asked me if I know A-Girl or something. I asked 'Is that a singer.'

'Yes' she said.

'Is she good?' I asked.

'Yes, very good!' Clara said.

'Is she cute?' I asked.

'Cute and sexy,' Clara answered. Clara is 10. I had no response.

Here are some photos from a walk I took today. You can usually see a mountain from here but it was way misty this morning:

The typhoon a couple weeks ago took down hundreds of trees on this hill, and revealed that it's essentially a huge cemetery. Here is sort of a neat grave that was revealed:

This is the weirdest building around me. It's like a bunch of clowns built a shoddy mosque amidst a bunch of mushroom growing greenhouses:

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Edward student: 'Girl is Aprican! Aprican!'

Friday, September 3, 2010

It's official - I'm staying at current job another year

Me: John, do you have your homework?
John: No.
Me: Why?
John: No.
Me: Why?
John: No.
Me: Why?
John: No
Me: Why?
John: (In song) No why know my ABCs next time won't you sing with me!

Above: photographic non sequitur

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


I told my hagwon that I wasn't going to re-sign and the director got teary eyed. It wasn't fun. Then she sat me down the next day and said they'd give me two months furlough and I could come back. I will talk to her at some point this week and ask for a raise on top of the furlough, and if they can do that then I'll likely be staying at my same job. That also means I'll be back home this winter!

One of my students, Ben, came into class really late last Thursday. 'How are you today?' I asked him as he walked in. 'Terrible, teacher,' he responded. I asked him why. 'Bird ddong (poop) on ME!' he told me, indicating a large wet spot on his pants where he'd obviously been scrubbing poop out of his jeans. 'And my tooth!' and he opened his mouth and showed me a molar hanging by a thread, covered in blood. That's a legit bad day!

From another one of my classes, here is a lovely phone charm a middle school student of mine has:

Here are some of my students sharing tripe - yum tripe:

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Bad Blogger

Well it was bound to happen. It happens with every blog in the universe - I didn't post for a really long time. My brother Joe came to visit and we had a blast partying it up around Seoul. We only had one fight - that was when I wanted to run his stinky rancid shoes through the washing machine a second time, and he wanted me to run them through the dryer cycle. I was arguing with him when I realized, 'Wait, he doesn't know what I'm doing on a Korean washing machine' and I ran them through wash again, saying I was running the dry cycle.

Wait, we had a second fight about a quote in Pulp Fiction. I thought the lady holding up the cafe was saying 'I'll electrocute every motherfucking last one of you...' and Joe thought it was 'I'll execute every...' Joe was dead right, dammit. Electrocute! What was I thinking? Hear that again Joe: YOU WERE RIGHT. I owe you some drinks back stateside.

By and large it was smooth sailing having Joe here, and wouldn't you know it, I missed him when he was gone. I was so used to living alone that it was a little bit of a strain having someone around, but then when he was gone I remembered again how it's kind of lonely living alone. That's okay, I'll live.

So today is the day that I'm telling my school that I'm not re-signing my contract for a second year. I'm in the process of finding a public school job currently, which if things go according to plan will start in either January or February. That gives me a delightful 2 month winter vacation. Basically I'm gonna tell my school that I want to go back to America for awhile, which is true. I'm not looking forward to telling them though.

That's about it. I have a good student story but it's for another day - I've already written too much. Here is my new go-to Korean meal: chamchee kimbap - that's kimbap with tuna and sesame leaves, with kimchi and a little onion broth:

This is one of my favorite students - Spiderman:

Monday, July 19, 2010

My brother is coming!

Joe is scheduled to arrive here in Korea on Thursday and I'm pretty excited. The consensus amongst people living in Korea is that it's impossible to explain to people who haven't been here what it's really like. I'm looking forward to Joe getting a little insight to where I've been living for nearly 8 months now, and likely living for at least another year. I've got a very loose itinerary mostly consisting of eating awesome food, creeping around Seoul checking out the sights, shopping, eating more, drinking boozes and then a little jaunt to a Korean island for some R&R.

Here's a picture of Joe I drew on the chalkboard in class as an example for an assignment. You had to draw you sibling, tell their age and favorite food. I put 'Maekju' as Joe's favorite food. That's Korean for beer:

And here's a little gem I espied on my nightly constitutional. I think it's an ad for a gym:

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Photo Roundup

I've been a bad blogger again - but it's the summer and it's hot and that makes it hard to be productive. Classes have been good, hanging out on the weekend has been good, the weather's been good - pretty much good all around. Here's a great quote from one of my students recently - I was grading one of the 9 year old's homework at the front of the classroom and I usually ask the kids 'How are you today?' Generally the response you get is 'bad' or 'so-so', but she answers 'I don't know'. So I peppered her with questions: 'Are you sad?' 'No' Are you happy?' 'No' 'Are you angry?' 'No'. Finally I asked 'Are you crazy?' She answered, 'Teacher, maybe everyone little crazy.' Brilliant!

We have snacks every day after my fourth class. Sometimes it's something good like meat pies from Paris Baguette bakery or kimbap, which is like a Korean style California roll. Sometimes it really sucks, like these multi-colored rice cakes with like honey flavored water inside of them:

Or this green tea cake with like sugary butter as the filling inside:

See how many copyright violations you can spot on this cover of one of our textbooks:

You might have to click and zoom to really appreciate this next one. It's from another textbook with a little section at the back touting all the great features of our academy's learning programs. Note the picture on the right of a poor kid LISTENING TO ENGLISH LESSONS IN HER SLEEP!

One more anecdote before I wrap it up today. I had my first puker in class yesterday. This little girl Selena, who is usually so wound up with energy she is hopping around the classroom when I get in there. Well yesterday she was considerably more subdued, despite having a delicious looking chocolate popsicle to nosh on. She finished the popsicle and was definitely in distress. Another student informed me Selena's stomach hurt, then with her handphone dictionary showed me a translation that said 'stomach cancer'. 'She has!' Sally said, about Selena. Then she showed Selena this bad joke stomach cancer translation and Selena started crying. So far a bad first class on Monday. Well a little while after she was done crying all the sudden the kids were all saying 'Obite! Obite!' which is Korean for puke, and sure enough that's what went down.

The next few classes complained to me of 'bad smell' but by the end of the day no one really knew anyone had puked in the classroom. So I told my last class 'Today - my class - OBITE!' They wanted to know which desk it was. I told them I'd let them know at the end of the class. I made a game of it - had them all guess which desk was the obite desk (which was actually an empty desk in this classroom) then told them right at the end, grossing out the two poor kids sitting next to it. I just laughed and laughed.

Friday, July 2, 2010

More student art

Hello all. Wow - it's July already. Incredible how quickly time flies here in Korea. I have 5 more months left on my contract - soon it'll be time to try to find a new gig here, hopefully at a public school and hopefully in Bundang. If any of my readers have any good info for me please let me know. Also if you know of any university jobs ANYWHERE I'm interested (and I'm an English major - bonus).

One of my favorite parts of class is when the students draw. They come up with some pretty funny stuff. The girls tend to draw way better stuff - the boys' art is usually messy and violent or wholesale copied from the book. Boring!

Here is one girl's rendition of a couple dreams that a mouse is having - one nightmare where a lion is threatening to eat her while another little animal ddongchims him. A good dream (?) where the mouse stabs someone, and another good dream where the mouse hangs out happily with a monkey:

Here's another one of my student at breakfast. That's the student on the left, the mother in the middle, and her brother on the right. The best part is the speech box coming from offscreen requesting breakfast - that's dad:

That's it for now - congrats to my friends Joe and Mora on their wedding! Sorry I missed it guys - holla!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Hiking the hill

First of all let me apologize for not posting in a long time. This has been my longest hiatus since I got to Korea. I don't want to become one of those dead blogs that you check and you're like 'Aw man, no new posts since 2009'. The summer in Korea is just awesome. It's hot and beautiful outside. Aside from that I have, like, friends now! So I've been hanging with friends and doing all sorts of stuff and the blog just fell out of my mind a bit.

Every morning I was in the habit of taking a walk around the area here just to exercise a little and people-watch and the like. A couple weeks ago my friend Taylor had some of his buddies in town and our English friend Allie recommended hiking this hill by us. So Taylor's friends and I hit it up and I liked it so much I've been back nearly every day since. It's a little hill with 4 peaks that's stitched through and through with trenches and bunkers from the war. Well from the war and beyond - the trenches are maintained by the military that has a base on a nearby hill. Let's hope we don't need to use them.

Taylor's friends Ryan and Mike on the hill. Solid dudes:

Mike's getting ready for war:

Another line of trenches near the first peak:

Here's the view from the first peak - shrubbery in the foreground and Haengsin (my hood) in the distance:

The path to the second peak:

The second peak features an abandoned little military box thing:

Between the second and third peak you have exercise equipment next to trenches:

Mike had a little workout - note the trench directly behind him:

The third peak has a bunker built into the hill. This is the top part that peaks out of the hilltop - when I was there last week there were soldiers there doing maintenance on it:

Ryan is at the door to the bunker, which Mike tried to jimmy open:

Here's another view of Haengsin from the third hilltop:

This is the path to the final hilltop with some random graves thrown in on the left of the path for good measure. This hill is truly multi-purpose:

The little hut at the top of the final peak - you will find many old Korean people up there hanging out. Like OLD old - people in their 70s throw on their hiking outfits, gigantic visors and facemasks and climb up 30% grade hills - it's nuts:

Here's a view of the cemetery, which is on the other side of the 4th peak, in the foreground and the river and Seoul in the distance:

Here's a bridge across the Han river and part of the megalopolis that is Seoul. You can get an idea of the ever-present haze that is the air in Korea. Much spirited debate goes on between my friends and I whether it is pollution or just how the air is here, what with humidity and all. It's likely a combination:

So that's it for now - I know that post was kind of massive which really violates my blog posting rules ('Keep it short and light' - Dad). I swear I'll post more. Time to go hike the hill - holla!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Glasses day

One of the lessons I taught recently featured some stickers that you were supposed to stick like cellophane to and make sunglasses. Well I wasn't prepared and didn't have any cellophane, but that didn't stop the kids from just sticking it to their face anyway. The kid on the left here is the quietest kid ever. His English name is Charles but he said it so softly that I thought it was 'Hars'. Well I'd never heard that name but I called him 'Hars' for like 3 months until I found out he's 'Charles:

This girl is really funny. She's younger than all the other kids in the class - like 6 I think, but she speaks English well and is brave enough to try to talk. Cool girl:

This kid didn't know I was taking his picture:

'Teacher wear glasses!' Ok:

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Student Depictions of ME

One of my favorite things teaching is when the students draw pictures of me. They're often pretty unkind, but funny nonetheless. Here's a depiction of me I found on the chalkboard walking in to class one day:

One of my favorite students regularly depicts me with devil's horns menacing her with a weapon:

Every once in a while I get a kind depiction, like this one I found in Suzanne's homework book. Notice the pen behind my ear. The kids find that hilarious for some reason:

Monday, May 24, 2010

Awesome weekend pt. II, the retreat

On Saturday Taylor and I headed to Seoul to meet up with the Pine Tree Club for their mini retreat. We took a bus 1 1/2 hours out to the country somewhere east of Seoul. I snagged the last seat on a bus packed with people, which left Taylor standing in the aisle. This was particularly infuriating because the guy sitting behind me had a seat next to him just full of a big box of soju and snacks.

By the by we arrived to a place with little cottages along a river surrounded by hills. We put our stuff in the cottage and proceeded with team building exercises. We played a game where we divided in teams of 20, formed giant conga lines and chased each other. We had a scavenger hung, a 3-legged type race where there were 3 of us tied together, then a race where there were ten of us tied together. Then we went inside and had some ramen and a samgyeupseul (bacon) and kimchi dish. This is Hyun cooking it up in the main room:

There were charades games and song games, then came the violence games. This one was where you had a balloon tied to your foot and the other people were trying to pop it. This is the all girls' game:

I really didn't want to play but I was forced to. The guys had to play sitting down because the standing up game was way too dangerous, we soon found out. So you're supposed to shuffle around the floor without using your hands and kick and pop the balloons from a sitting position. It was impossible - I lost quickly:

There were many other games, including one where three teammates and I had to get a letter written on our foot, then put on a big woolen sock and then four dudes fought us to get the sock off and see the letter. I fared a bit better at that game, but didn't get any pictures of it. This game next is a two man game. It's called 'shim shim shim'. So you say 'shim shim shim' then one guy with his hand tries to guess if you'll turn your head left, right or not at all. If he guesses right he picks up the big squeaky mallet as fast as he can to whack the other guy in the head, while the other guy tries to grab the tray to defend himself as fast as possible:

After seriously like 6 hours of straight games the drinking finally began. We headed outside and barbequed samgeupseol and drank soju for quite a long time. I didn't take any pictures outside, but snapped a few once we got back inside the big room again. This is Insub, the former president, and I:

Here's Taylor hanging with some folks late night:

A couple random shots:

This girl in the middle was the champion of the party. At like 10 she was complaining of being 'dizzy' and seemed down for the count. This photo is taken at nearly 5 am, right before I went to bed after conceding there was no chance I'll be able to stay up as late as everyone around me:

Then while I slept her, Insub and some others tagged me and many other people. They just laughed and said 'You got tattoo!':

I didn't get it as bad as this guy though:

It was an awesome time. Taylor and I were the only non-Koreans there, so it was a really cool glimpse into the world of Korea without foreigners around. Thanks PTC!