Sound of Vitality

Blowin up Haengsin-dong. Holla!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Classroom tales

Korean kids say some damn funny things in English. In my class yesterday one kid said to me 'Teacher there is USA man in my house. He is (gestures a huge stomach) fat and grandpa.' They love calling anyone older than them grandpa. They really don't like having that thrown back at them though. A kid in another one of my classes, who is kind of a brat, really needs glasses. He can never see the board. He's one of the kids who loves to try to ddongchim me (Korean shocker, literally 'shit needle') so I don't feel bad teasing him a little. I told him 'You have grandpa eyes' and mimed walking around with a hunched back and a cane. He came back with 'teacher you are bad. you you you...' then went into his cell phone dictionary and came up with 'tease, rib, make fun of'. I laughed and said, 'Yep, that's what I did!'

You really have a lot more latitude with the kids here though. For example you can tell them 'I'll kill you' and that's perfectly fine. In a couple classes I constantly threaten to throw them out the 5th floor window. If any of the kids are a little chubby the other kids will call them a pig all the time, with impunity. The pressure to conform is pretty crazy.

Anyhow, time to get to class. Here's a shot of 'World Express King of Hotel Game' I spotted in a toy store. It was right next to Monopoly:

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

5 months!

I'll have been in Korea for 5 months in a couple days, if you can believe it. That means my contract is nearly half over, which is awesome. I like my job, don't get me wrong, but I don't get time off really at all. I keep asking the director when I get time off in the summer, and she always replies 'Maybe at the end of July.' That is a very Korean thing to say, I've learned. Everything is 'maybe' and the waeguks are largely kept in the dark.

I'm trying to coordinate when my brother will come visit, so 'maybe' kind of sucks. So I asked my co-teacher Joanne Teacher when we'll get time off. 'Maybe at the end of July.' 'But when will we know for sure?' I asked. 'Maybe in July.' AAAAAH! We only get one week too! It's like working a contract job in America. The recruiting company promised me 2 weeks but I've also learned that things change here, and the contracts don't really seem to mean shit to the schools. Oh well, the pay is good, I'm saving money and my wardrobe is about 300% fresher than it was in the US already. Skinny everything!

I rode my bike to Ilsan on a Sunday. It was a beautiful day - sunny and about 65. I went to the Lake Park there where there was a flower festival going on. I've never seen a park so full of people. There were Koreans everywhere walking super slow in the wrong lane on the path, stopping for no reason right in front of me, taking photos of everything, and clumped under every spot of shade hanging out. I pulled up a spot in the sun next to the lake, parked the bike, balled up my sweatshirt for a pillow and lay in the sun reading. Beautiful.

After about an hour a group of waeguks pulled up chatting loudly in American accents and sitting in a little circle picnicking. A thought flashed across my mind that I ought to ask if I could join them. I couldn't find a single friend to hang out with that day, so why not make some more friends, right? Instead I got up, brushed the grass off myself, put my stuff in my bag and stared at them as I walked off, as a couple of them stared back. Yeah, I'm getting real weird.

I walked to the big plaza by Lafesta in Ilsan, Lafesta being this big shopping area. The cats from Falun Gong were protesting Chinese torture of members with their usual array of horrifying pictures of corpses and buttholes burned by cattle prods and the like. They were also meditating en masse in the plaza listening to creepy music, so I took a picture of them with a MTB biker wandering in the foreground for good measure:

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Flowers/I'm a hero

The weather is really starting to get nice here, at last. It's sunny and close to 70 degrees right now and I've taken 6 miles of walks today. I wish I didn't have to go to class now, but you gotta work. The flowers are blooming and as threatened, I will now be posting pictures of them:

Classic cherry blossoms:

I don't know what these yellow ones are, but they're purty:

Finally, every week the Pine Tree Club has a 'Who Column' in the paper where they name this week's hero. Well my friend Seul-Ki named me this week. The first foreigner to be named the hero in 30 years! So yeah, I'm kind of a big deal. I recommend you click on the image to see it full size. Now I have to name a heroine for next week, and I think I'm going to name this Chinese girl Chong-Oh to be heroine, to keep the foreigner love going:

Friday, April 16, 2010

Some of the bicycles of Goyang

I know it's annoying when people tell you about their dreams. It might be the most annoying thing in the world - right up there with saliva at the corner of your mouth when you talk or whistling when you say your s's, but I've been having the weirdest dreams lately. I dreamed my awesome orange folding bike got stolen and then I found it on the street being wheeled by a dude. I explained the situation to him and offered to buy it back from him for 50,000 won, the price he told me he'd paid for it. I know Korea has gotten to me when I'm talking won in my dreams instead of dollars. He wouldn't budge because he wanted the bike to destroy in this big clamp machine he had. He explained it was some kind of catharsis. It was pretty much like Pee Wee Herman's nightmare in Pee Wee's Big Adventure.

So I woke up with a start like from a nightmare, thinking my bike had been crushed in this bicycle sadist's machine, but much relieved to know I was in bed and it was in the hallway waiting for me to ride. Phew! Then I thought, I ought to tell people about this and post pictures of bikes in Goyang with it. Then I thought it was dumb, but then later I decided to do it anyway. So without further ado, some of the two wheeled wonders of Goyang-dong. Oh funny side note, 'dong' means 'city' but 'ddong' means 'poop'.

Goyang's bike sharing program, brand new, called 'Let's Fifteen!' I have no idea what that means:

I pass this bike every day on my daily constitutional and just love it. I'm pretty sure it belongs to the guy that sells ddokkboki at that corner (ddokkboki: spicy rice and pepper stuff):

Alright, this one is just a motorcycle without an engine:

Assorted parked bikes:

Finally a bike shop in Haengsin:

Enjoy - and warning - the next post is probably going to be about flowers. They're all blooming here and I've been taking mad photos.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sokcho II

Here are a few more pictures from my trip to Sokcho a week and a half ago. Here's the gift shop and cafe by the 38th Parallel Cafe, full of weird Korean tchotchkes:

I bought and assembled a little toy airplane:

The crab looked mighty good, and a vendor was giving free barbequed legs out which were delish:

Yum - dried sea skate! That's my friend Taylor next to the horror fish:

Jun and Min-Oh, our kindly driver and host:

Sea squirt - scary looking but mad delicious raw:

Jun with our super fresh sushi:

The fish heads were used to make fish head stew for dinner. I impressed the Koreans by plucking out the eyes and eating them:

Finally a view from the flat we stayed at. 'It looks like Grandpa's house!' Jun commented. We went to a casino on Saturday night and didn't get home till 5:30 am which was about 15 minutes before the roosters started crowing from these tenement farm houses:

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Sokcho to Surf

My friend Taylor knows this bartender in Ilsan who invited him to go surfing. Taylor said they had an open seat and so last Saturday morning we took the bus to Ilsan and met up with Jun and Min Oh for a road trip East for surfing. We drove through the mountainous middle of Korea to the other side on the east coast near the northern border. It was cold and there weren't any waves, but we did stay in Min Oh's company's kickass apartment. The highlight was definitely the fish market. It was utter chaos - mongers getting out in front of you and throwing live octopi on the ground for you to gape at. Tons of crabs, live fish and pretty much anything you can imagine scooped from the ocean for your consumption. I didn't see another waeguk (foreign teacher) the whole time.

We ate some super spicy soup here at the 38th Parallel cafe:

The restaurant was empty but the food was great and the view was incredible:

I decided against drinking the wiener tea:

Fishing boats adjacent to the market:

This lady was selling taffy, crying out 'Taffy! Taffy!' in Korean. Taffy in Korean also means 'fuck you!'

Brutal knife collection by the lady slicing up our sushi:

More to come - I have to get to class.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

I Like Head

I have a class that just loves wordplay. It's delightful. We had a lesson on what you like to eat, and the kids were supposed to be reading a dialogue 'I like this' or 'I don't like that'. The kids love to change all the dialogue. If it says 'I like' they'll say 'I hate', or 'I don't like', then laugh their asses off. A lot of times they'll make up their own funny thing like 'I like poison teacher!' 'I like kill teacher!' One kid today said 'I like head!' with the brightest, most earnest smile. I nearly died laughing. 'I like eat head!' He meant eating a human head, but that didn't make it better, kid.

My name in Hangul, by the students:

Photo of me, thanks to Ken student: