Sound of Vitality

Blowin up Haengsin-dong. Holla!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Welcome to my classroom

Before I get to what the title is about, let me fill you in a bit about last weekend. I went out with the Pine Tree Club again and met some of the elders of the club. The club has been around since the 50's and some senior members dropped in to speechify and the like. I was given a big glimpse into Korean age deference. The eldest fellow joined the club in 1960 and was given carte blanche to silence the room and speak when he felt like, and boy he did. I've never seen so much effusive bowing in my life. The club headed out to a bar where they surprised the senior members. Us juniors, me age-inappropriately part of that group, got there early to put up banners and blow up balloons to rub on our hair and stick to the ceiling. They were all impressed at my ability to stick staticky balloons on the 7 1/2 foot high ceiling.

It was a brilliant night though. The king was back, and I reminded him about his violence last weekend. 'I show lovely through (punching gesture)' he said. His English isn't so hot. I should say that the king's name is Tae Eun - he nearly killed me for forgetting. 'I don't even remember American names!' I pleaded. 'You in Korea now - you do like us!' I'm trying to get better with the names, Tae Eun, believe me.

I finally snapped some pictures of my classroom. Here is one of my younger classes. I like how the girl on the left is menacing another with a fist:

We play a lot of hangman - and one day when I got tired of coming up with English words the kids might know I decided to have them host. It's one of my teaching moves now. Here's Anna with a cold and face mask hosting hangman:

Here's my next class - hard at work and one girl in her hapkido outfit:

Same class, except the boy side of the room. I don't divide them up - I guess kids at that age stick to their own gender:

Friday, March 26, 2010

Pocari Sweat

My older students are fond of English-language profanity, which I have to officially decry. I'm secretly delighted because at least they're using English. One gesture loved by all is the middle finger. I've caught many a student giving another the finger behind my back. One day a plucky student asked me 'Teacher, what it means?' I usually would say 'It's bad,' but I was in a good mood, so I decided to explain the origin of the middle finger.

Okay, so supposedly the middle finger gesture is from the Hundred Years' War between England and France. The longbow was the primary weapon used then, and archers would draw back the bow with their index and middle finger to launch arrows. When captured by their foes they would have their index and middle fingers chopped off insuring they can't shoot their longbows anymore. So, when they got close to their enemies they'd triumphantly hold up their middle and index finger like 'Ha! Haven't got me yet!'

So I explained this to the students mostly through mime. I was drawing back an imaginary arrow, using an imaginary hatchet to chop off my fingers, and then holding up my finger saying 'Ha!' to imaginary enemies. The classes are usually quite chatty during anything that's going on, but my explanation of the origins of the middle finger had them in rapt silence. The story is probably apocryphal, but 'probably apocryphal' is beyond my powers of mime and explanation for Korean teenagers.

I took a risk on the subway and bought myself a can of 'Pocary Sweat' Ion replenishing drink. It sounds unappetizing but it's delicious.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

I'm famous

I went to the Pine Tree Club yesterday and let me tell you - it was a blast. I got paired with an awesome group for discussion where I had to explain to the Koreans what 'chemical castration' is. One guy in the group, during the discussion, said 'Korea must be like heaven for sexual predators'. Real talk.

Chuck's brother came to town and I had a good old time talking to him at the tavern we went to after PTC. He was quite a hit - the Koreans were mad impressed that he's in law school. I'm now officially part of the club which means I can write for their newsletter, so I'm thinking about preparing an article for them. I need to cook up something sufficiently weird and interesting, but also written in plain plain plain English so it's understood. Suggestions invited.

One dude in the club is known as the king. He's older and thus gets all his drinks poured for him and 'gets it done'. He enjoys Maek-so, which is soju poured into beer. When I tried to leave to catch my train home he grabbed me and would not let go. He kept motioning that he wanted to tell me a secret and then yelled in Korean in my ear. When I finally broke away he punched and kicked me! Luckily I'm mad strong and resilient and he was drunk and weak. The awkwardness was compounded because I was pinky swearing with a Korean girl that I'd see her again as this assault occurred.

I picked a Korean baseball team to root for - the LG Twins. My friend In Hwan from the club told me 'They have a big following, but usually rank quite poorly.' 'Just like the Cubs!' I replied. So In Hwan and I will be catching some LG Twins games soon.

So Chuck and I are the only old people in the club, and more notably the only white people. They just printed a poster for the club and Chuck and I figure prominently in it. Pictures follow:

Up close:

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Classroom tales

I walked into one of my classes today to find one kid crying - bummer. The other kids explained to me that a kid 'James' had bent the other kids finger back till he cried. I grabbed the wronged kid and marched him to the director for some ice or something. Well they didn't have ice, so instead the director came in my classroom and asked for James. He was out for a few minutes in which time the other kids explained to me, in so many words, that James is a bully and because I busted him they were all going to catch hell from the little bastard. Except one kid, who laughed and said he wouldn't get any problem because he had an older brother at the school that reserved exclusive beating rights for himself. James came back crying from what I was fairly certain was a beating by the director.

Last week during a game of hangman in a class I let one of the students be the hangman-master. He was laughing to himself as he set it up, and I found out why when the board read D_NG and a girl shouted 'DUNG!' Then two girls rushed the kid and rapped him on the back for choosing that word. I was delighted.

Here is another in my series of Korean notebooks:

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Classroom tales

Sometimes the classroom can get very uncomfortable. Yesterday in one of my very young classes there was an exercise where you had to match the word and image 'pants' with a little cartoon boy only wearing a t-shirt and underwear, and 'skirt' with a little cartoon girl wearing a t-shirt and underwear. The children were scandalized. The boys especially. They were mortified/laughing while desperately covering the image on their own workbook, and trying to knock the other boys covering theirs to force them to look. I rushed through that one so we could turn the page and get on with it. The only word I understood amidst the hysterical Korean was 'panty'.

This incident made me recall an incident a couple weeks ago I'd blocked out. A particularly precocious little girl asked me, 'Teacher, what kind of panty you?' I wasn't sure I heard her right. 'Teacher I have flower, what kind of panty you?' Oh my god. I was like, 'Listen kid, I can't begin to tell you how wrong this is.' She was confused. 'Ahniyah! (NO!)'

The kids here have the best notebooks. The covers are insane and often plastered with disparate bright images, out of context English quotes and then just downright bizarre English. I finally bought a bunch of them today. I present to you my first installment of Korean notebooks, 2 side by side. Chocolate bong bong! Um ~ Smell ~

I urge you to click on the above image and explore closer.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Friend from home

I went out for dinner with my friend Keri from Hinsdale last night. It was a blast catching up on friend gossip and discussing the magic, wonder and utterly perplexing land of Korea. Keri has a year's experience already so a much better insight into this place than I. We went out to Myung-dong in Seoul - an area thick with restaurants and high-end shopping. We had this noodle, chicken, potato and carrot spicy dish that was very tasty:

Then we snapped a touristy long-arm on a brightly lit Myung-dong street:

And finally enjoyed a couple Cafri beers at a strange little 3rd floor bar packed with couches but no people:

Welcome back Keri! Good luck at school.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Updates updates

I've got a whole new crop of kids because it's a new school year. That starts in March around here. I have kids I don't know, and the kids I do are all shuffled around into different classes. I have one class where there are two kids with English name 'Jack' and another with two 'James'. Now I haven't quite figured out the James situation, but the Jack class I have 'New Jack' and 'Old Jack'. It's gone over pretty well with both kids, and it's really fun saying 'New Jack' all class long.

I finally got a haircut today. Of course, they speak no English at the 'Men's Beauty Salon' I visited. He asked in Korean what I wanted (I think) and I just whipped out my Alien Registration Card and said 'Make it like that, or whatever.' He did a pretty good job, I must say. There was a catalog of haircuts in front of me, like you'd find at any barber shops. The haircut names included 'Max', 'Basic', 'Super Basic' and 'Metrosexual'. There is no banter required with a Korean haircut, though my co-teacher informed me that they talk plenty when you speak Korean. The best part is that the whole thing was under $6, no tip.

I'm trying to be less annoying to the people I know here, so I bought a phone. It's pretty sweet - it's a Samsung made 'Anycall' phone. Interesting side note - the Samsung made cars here are branded 'Anycar'. It has free TV build in, along with a subway map and a 2 megapixel camera. The baffling thing about buying a cell phone here - it didn't come with a charger. What?

Here's my new phone with Korean TV playing and antennae in full force: