Posts Tagged With: Co-Teachers

Birth of a Snapshot

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Heh heh heh

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From the notebook:

As I look over the stone schoolhouse, Korean flag waving in the light 35 degree wind, I imagine exactly where I’m going to be in one month’s time. . .

Los Angeles, preparing for a festival to blow minds off in record time. Heading with a troupe of characters that will be setting up the kind of amazing spectacle that can only be seen intentionally.

But right now, I have a view, as I’ve had every Thursday and Friday for the last two years, that will remain the same for years to come. Nothing in this image will change. The building in the window has been there for 50 years and will likely be there 50 more. The sky is wide and void of other buildings. The area doesn’t require buildings higher than two or three stories. Why should it? There’s plenty of space. Plenty of time to walk from one to another. So much stillness…

It’s 10:30am and I’ve already had a liter of water. Already sweated through my shirt twice and am tasked with exactly nothing for this afternoon’s activities. After work, I will go home, clean up my apartment, and have a house-sale and dinner with friends as I prepare for my departure.

There are times that I remember with clarity, others are lost. My thoughts are on writing, but not here. Not in this box. I must use a pen.

And so I did…

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The systematic overflow of the population is a residual of the medical and social advancement in the last few generations, but it’s worth wondering if it can peak like any other graph that gets pegged. That being said, I don’t think it’s a bad thing per se, more of an interesting balancing act.
Considering the fluctuation has me thinking about the cities that are so crammed full of people, together with the rural elements, it seems that there will always be a balance.

Right now is simply the product of an extremely prosperous time. I think our greatest void is our self-esteem ~ both micro and macro-scopically ~ in a sense that every day, people couple successes with self-depreciating ideas and comments habitually, ritualistically, and we (as a species) tend to look at foreign cultures as adversaries rather than neighbors on the same path. The cultural prejudices that inspire people to belittle achievements or to accentuate the faults of others (so as to look or seem superior) have got to be checked. The self-depreciating commentary I witness among peers is tantamount to the equivalent of abuse if it were coming from somebody else. Yikes! If we’re headed to Hell in a hand basket, we don’t need to paddle down stream. It would seem to me that we would do well with a little of the opposite. We have come so far. Even if it is not your fault personally, you should feel proud for the achievements that other people outside your family, town, country have done. You should use their successes as inspiration, to prove that anything really can happen. The world certainly has surprised before.

7-12-2013

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7-13-2013

Philo of an Expat:   See, once a body has made it out of the bubble, it’s clear the world has got to be seen, felt, experienced, walked through, smelled, sensationed beyond description, beyond imagination, beyond the expectations, abandoned years ago having noticed their inapplicability to the world at large, along with common sense when it became obvious that such constructs are simply more appropriately termed cultural or regional norms, rather than any inherent human reflex of the wise.

And once that happens, the method of travel, of financial stability while living on the road has got to be figured out. I have chosen English teaching for now. Maybe one day, I could be a buyer for somebody who runs a shop in the states, maybe another profession completely ie: writing for travel mags or something. But the business is rather competitive and I’m not a big fan of being competitive in formats like that most of the time.

Theoretically, once the loans are paid, I can dive into the world with even more reckless abandon. Spending instead on the best possible health insurance plan or diving from place to place. I could see the whole planet and write about it as I pass through.

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Today’s Snapshot:

Woke up late and laden heavily with a properly earned headache from a bit of dehydration created from sleeping in the heat of my room after having a gloriously successful party just last night. I had about a dozen people at my place for gnocchi and a house sale where we visited and hung out, had dinner, picked through some of my old gear and decided to keep on to a norae bang or singing room, afterwards.

So, of course everyone left all the things they wanted from me at my house in little piles for themselves to get later, and we went out to sing. I went to sleep looking at 4am on my telephone’s clock and checked out for the night.

As I woke this morning, the hangover combined with the small mountain of dishes in the sink led to a slow venture into my day. Finally, put the house and my head into order, to where I could leave the house around noon. Got to the station to find that the next train to Seoul was leaving in over an hour!! I had some time to kill.

The train station is very close to one of the schools that I teach at, so I figured it would be a good plan to walk to it to gather some sunshine, keep myself occupied and otherwise bring a smile to the situation.

It’s a beautifully hot and sunny day today, so it was good I had my water, and was pleased to find shade now and then. The school is a couple kilometers away, so I had more than a few nice moments with my camera, and eventually burned about 45 minutes on the walk. I still had 45 minutes to wait, so I figured on a slow stroll through the station to bide my time.

It’s a small place. Only two tracks. One sitting room with two cafes, one restaurant and a convenience store, and in the main walkway there is an area that has pictures of the buildings that are being built in the area as part of a massive infrastructural installation that is featured around the station. So I walked slowly and looked at each one of the artistic representations of what is to come.

While doing so, I have to say, I was brought to laughter by a simple oversight that the artists/planners showed in their pictures. A few of them had shadows pointing in three different directions! Always within the same 90 degree quadrant, but as much as, wait, no, there was one that could have been 140 degrees off. Seriously, just a funny thing to see on what was surely an expensive and otherwise thoughtful image.

So I had my fun with that and yes, I snapped a few photos, but soon I was done there and had to go sit down.

***A few of those shots***

Consider the shading. Notice where the shadow from the tree in the foreground lays almost at 20 degrees west of north, then the ones from the railing in the left look like they are heading 85 degrees west of north, then with the building, the smaller wing that comes off on the right, the shadow lays coming towards us, as if the sun is now off to the right and the shadow is now coming in at us.

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Now for a few from the walk.

The path from the station from two angles.

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A couple shots of my school during the walk up to it.

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Some locals just below my school.

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Up close.

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Back at the station:

The wooden benches weren’t exactly built for comfort, but nobody seemed to mind. More of a Zombie-limbo-parking-lot-for-the-digitally-inclined vibe than anything else. So I sat, and I waited between the tv seething garble and the friendly texter.

When it came time for the train to come, I went up to the outdoor platform, enjoying the warm air that welcomed me as I stepped up from the climate controlled zone I’d been in. Found yet another flat wooden bench to sit on and copped a squat.

The sun was shining and I put on my shades and just leaned back. Arms behind me just relaxing, when up lumbers a fella who’s obviously drunk and totally interested in my tattoos. Now, I’m kind of used to the attention that they get now and then as a lot of Korean folk don’t get tattoos so they’re a bit of a spectacle but this guy was something else. He leaned in like he couldn’t see’m ‘less he could smell’m. Head about 3-4 inches from my arm, totally bent at the waist to do it. I let him stare like a mentally challenged fella, but then he reaches in for my other arm and I calmly make like I’m gonna pour my water on his shoes to let him understand he is no longer welcome.

He gets it. So he’s traveling with two other fellas who don’t seem as drunk, but they are there, so he wanders over to them then plops down on the bench I’m on. Now, there’s another guy between us, but he gets up on account of the other dude’s smell and the way he just dropped down on the bench. Just read of trouble. So then it’s just him and me. I ignored him until I felt his hand on my arm which I instinctively and quickly swat away ~ telling him “That’s twice” and go back to chillin’. He’s obviously shaken, his friends come in closer, but I continued to enjoy the sunshine. No bugger like that’s takin’ my sun-time away from me. Hah! Good times.

Then it was time for the train we got on at different doors. While walking on the train later to find a coke, I saw him passed out – (at noon mind you!) in his seat. Heh.

The train ride was good. Quick. It got me to Seoul in about one and a half hours.  Seoul is a known variable. I needed to get to Insadong for some gift-shopping, burned a hundred bucks there or so and am now on the subway to the south end of the city to meet a buddy for a pizza before a poi jam.

Damn fine day~ Hmm. 6 more stops. Let me share a little bit of what Insadong is with you.

So, it’s this overly marketing-filled arts district that actually has a bunch of great restaurants, galleries, tea shops and nice things for gifts if all the redundancy of bookmarks and fans don’t get in the way. I bought myself my first watch in many years, a cool leather banded piece, simple, inexpensive, $20, but cool style. For gifts, I bought 3 business card holders that are inlaid with abalone, a pair of fans, some Korean paper to wrap things in, a stash of masks for burners, some more of these crazy-comic all-so-Korea anime socks and a collection of note cards with pressed flowers that will come in handy when the time is right to use them.

My stop is soon and this paper is valuable and almost filled, so I’ll call it for the day’s snapshot. Almost at Maebong to meet Seoul-Hunter on our way to Manshigan Studios.

July 13, 2013.

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Back from London~ Part 1

On the bus from Incheon~ Finally.

My flight was delayed last night, resulting in a wonderfully long conversation with a lady from GuangXi who told me many things about her area that make me reconsider my plans of location. See, I was just in London for an interview with a Saudi oil conglomerate, and simply didn’t get the job. No big deal to that effect. I had no expectations, just a glimmer of hope and in the interview, I did in fact fail at one or two of the grammar questions in a way that resulted in me being denied the 4-5000 dollar a month salary that I otherwise could have enjoyed. Maybe some other time. Not to worry.

So the delay also made me miss my bus home. As a result, I’m missing a day of work that I otherwise would have disliked as it is with a teacher who has recently changed her attitude towards me and is getting increasingly argumentative with her interaction. As such, I don’t mind in the slightest the fact that I missed her school’s day. And ultimately, it wasn’t my fault at all. I had the ticket to make the trip, and simply wasn’t able to do so on account of my flight being delayed for a full two hours coming out of Guangzhou, China.

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The hotel that I was given was really nice. It had a giant room that was basically a small apartment. It was complete with a full-sized refrigerator, a washing machine and stove. Not the normal hotel room. They even gave me a meal ticket for the restaurant next door and covered my taxi on the way there (there was a free shuttle to get back to the airport in the morning anyway). So now I’m on a bus at 2:45 in the afternoon instead of landing back at my home 12 hours earlier. I had a great night’s sleep and am ready for work tomorrow. Should be good.

So London!!!  Omagahd!

What a wild ride! First thing I noticed was that all the signage was purely in English~ I know, that may sound silly as a concept, but I’m used to English being a secondary language, if available at all. So that was super cool. I got off the plane, walked with the bunch through the corridors and eventually arrived at the queue for getting my passport stamped. About ten minutes into waiting, I realized that I had forgotten my duty-free bag that had all the things from Amsterdam that I had bought during my layover there! Of course, I consulted the nearest person, and decided to go back. The thing is, these corridors aren’t marked with numbers or names, as they’ve been created for one-way access, with no effort given to people’s needs on the way back. So I worked my way back through the winding halls to the final passageway to my airplane where a bloke was sitting with a newspaper. As I headed down the passageway, he called to me and I explained my sitch~ He said it was no problem, that he’d go and get it. So I wrote him a thank-you card on a Cambodian post card and felt the joy of reconnecting with my giant block of cheese and other random trinkets I’d picked up while wandering the Amsterdam airport.DSCN5790

Headed back to the customs line, I was a bit behind schedule. Maybe burned a half hour on it. So I was the absolute last soul to pass through the line, and made my way down the escalators into the Tube and on my way to my friend’s place in North London. The fare was a surprising seven quid and some change, which comes out to about ten US dollars for the international reader who hasn’t opened XE.com in the last few weeks. So, it was quite a lot to me, coming from Seoul where all trips, no matter how long are usually under three dollars worth  of Korean won.  But whatever, I had known coming into the visit that all  things met would have price-tags larger than I would expect, that I should just pay them and move on with my day. And so I did.

Into the Tube! It was a treat to see such an old and legendary tunnel system. It was celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, not that I saw much more than the occasional note on a signboard with a 150 on it, but none the less, that is an old system!

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It had stops that were war memorials reminding folks how the tubes had been used as bomb shelters in WW2. Others had interesting old-school wood-paneled doors that seemed to be interesting entryways that surely were cut off to the general public, but had served as something of a passage to authorized people. There were ads completely in English…  Oh, what a treat to not have to try and translate!

The trip ultimately took about an hour and a half, including the bus from the station to the neighborhood that my friends lived in and the walk from where I got off the bus to their house.

When I arrived, my friend was just walking in from a friend of his having come by and was just leaving, so I was able to call out to him to leave open the gate. He was of course surprised someone would call to him, but when he saw me it was all smiles. He and his lady-friend live in a lovely abode in the back-garden of the home of her parents, who clearly built this space with their children in mind. The building was covered in camouflage and on the inside was absolutely a treat! The door opens into a large sitting room with thick, plush couches, covered in giant pillows of all sorts, walls covered in well-framed art of all styles and a thin but sturdy table six people could sit for dinner at, including the ends. Off from the living room was the kitchen, bathroom and their bedroom, which reached even further to an additional bedroom for guests like myself, and then on into a small office where they had a computer under a window overlooking the yard we’d walked through to get in, in the first place.

Staying with them added such a wonderful dimension to my visit; it’s hard to imagine what my trip would have been like without their pleasurable company and physical presence. That being said, we began our collective adventure by heading out to a classic English pub, as that is on my short-list of things needed from my life’s first foray into the island’s life. So they took me to a spot that was in the neighborhood of 400 years old as a pub, and had a kind of draft-beer I’d never seen before, and I don’t just mean the brand. The way it was taken from the keg was by a pumping that reminded me of a hand-pump that brings water from the ground. It was that. There was no secondary gas providing the pressure to bring it up, just the pump. I thought that was cool. So we sat down in the old seats provided at tables that looked like they’d come from the middle-ages, only well-thickened by years of polishing. It was cool, definitely cool. But alas, British pubs close early in North London, and we only had time for one pint before the house was ready to see us out. None-the-less, achievement unlocked! A pint of local beer in a 400 year-old English pub~ hell yea!

We weren’t done though. We stopped by a store on the way, grabbed a few more and headed back their lush pad for the remainder of our evening. We proceeded to crack out the bottles of soju that I’d brought as a house-gift and we proceeded to play games and share life-goals and chat whimsically into the wee hours when we fell into our respective beds, I waking in exactly what I’d worn the day before, and none the worse for wear for it. Rather a nice factor. So, hangover-free, I began to sift my real logistics about the project of being in London. I isolated my clothes to wear, text-messaged my second friend in the city, and dove into my email where a spot of information was waiting for me to help prepare me for my interview the next morning. By three o’clock I was ready to leap into the city and agreed to meet up with my hosts later in the evening with the help of my second friend whom I planned on meeting at 5:30 that same day. As I ventured out, I felt the mist. It was a pleasant, mild mist that hung in the air not falling or rising, just keeping all things ever so slightly damp for the English ambiance that it allowed. My trek to the train station was a good 15 minute walk and I had a plan to stop in on a computer shop on the way to print a few documents that were needed for the meeting in the morning. Otherwise, I was all about just checking out the little bits around me, like the markets that had bowls of fruit for a pound and the folks waiting for double-decker buses on the left side of the street. At the computer shop, I read an email that shared there was no need for the printing, so that simplified my bits a bit. Then I stepped up and finished my tromp to the station. In I went, and down I sat to watch the walls buzz by me. I was to sit in the tube for just a few bits, maybe 20 minutes, then shift to another line and travel one or two stops up to where my second friend would be meeting me.

During the transfer, I was able to again enjoy the unique architecture of the London Tube. Its walls were old, red, laid-brick that showed its age yet was certainly not going anywhere soon. Its solidity was surely tested a generation ago when the German bombs echoed above, and it stood through that, so no summer breeze was going to chip that last crumble, that’s for sure. So as I popped into the second train, and then out into the sunlight above, I was taken by a sight of great achievement. In front of me was an open-air atrium-like area that was a vast expanse and was clearly a newly redesigned space. Directly in front of where I stood was a building that was likely a hundred years old or more. A straight-bricked, cream-painted large jut from the ground who’s upper floors were hidden by the new-age wide, rolling roof over the square that was constructed of round tube-steel and was twisting and curving all around. I took a quality panorama-shot of it. The photograph almost looks fake, but isn’t at all. Maybe I’ll be able to attach it here for posterity.DSCN5798

Ah, okay. There it is. It does fit nicely here in the writing. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, then I’m up to nearly 3,000 for this (really only 1,878).

I decided to head directly for my friend’s location as I figured it would take plenty of time to find and I could just mill about for a bit. So that’s what I did. To the left from where I stood at the point of the photograph, there was an information booth where a fellow was able to look up the name of the hotel and point me in the right direction. I was only about three blocks from where I needed to be. So I thanked him, told him that my students were super big-fans of his and explained that I was honored to meet the famous Simon from the legendary Simon-Says game. He laughed and I headed out.

Eventually, I found the hotel, a modest but elegant one located across from a park with questionable occupants, but a tall fence, and I noted the time. It was five o’clock, which gave me 30 minutes to burn before our planned meeting. Remembering a pub around the corner, I headed that way, bought a pint and sat at a window booth in the mid-afternoon sun to go over some of the notes that were sent to me the previous day regarding my interview in the morning. As my clock ticked on, and my notes grew longer, I finished my pint, shut the lid of my laptop and set out to meet my friend. When I arrived, I found him sleeping in a large leather couch with the look of a fellow who’d just finished a large holiday meal and has fallen asleep during the football match following it. There he was, feet up on the table, mouth and arms open for the world and quiet rested in the room. My greeting was laughter at the sight and we began to catch up.

From here, I will begin again later as my computer’s battery is about to fail. A good day it was.

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There’s this other blog see…

And I’ve started messing around with some sort of an online portfolio…

I’m kinda new to it as a concept, but if you’re into “language-learning worksheets” then buddy, you wanna go to http://graphicallyteaching.wordpress.com/ to see what that is.

If somehow, that doesn’t seem like the most interesting thing, you can sit this one out and wait until my next post about life in general…

They are some pretty awesome worksheets though.

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How to be totally tied up with nothing to do.

I showed up at work today with my worksheets already printed and ready to copy. First two periods of the day were scheduled as two of the three that I would teach all day. I rode in on my motorbike a 14 km ride through the winding country roads on a warming spring day feeling like I was going to accomplish tons today! I had 15 tabs open in my Mozilla browser, ready to hit and work with~ Jobs to apply for, for January 2014 when I plan to re-enter the work-force, Articles to read and consider to comment about for the ongoing conversation that is the sociological paradox of lots of noise but little shift, and Arabic on my mind, as I had printed some worksheets out yesterday to practice my handwriting. I was feelin’ good!

I rolled into the office, made my copies, made a coffee with a hint of chocolate and went upstairs 5 minutes early to get the Powerpoint ready to show… And then it began… The saga that was to engulf the entirety of my free-time for the rest of the day…
Korea’s schools have created a security firewall that won’t let me use my flash drive, but I can offer it to the system if I don’t ever want to use it in my own computer……
Now don’t get me wrong, I understand that security in a school (read: government office) is a reasonable and useful thing… However, there is a purpose for the USB flashdrive, and that is the transfer of files from one computer to another. See, here’s the thing… That is no longer an option… As of today, my flash drive will only work on computers within the system, and will also require three passwords on the way in and two on the way out. Seriously?
Wow, okay. So, gone are the days that I could just pop my flash drive in with the new work I’d built on my computer at home and have the kids actually dig on their learning experience…
Ultimately, there is a work-around. I can email things to myself and then capture them in the system. Then move them around otherwise… Which kind of defeats the purpose of the whole system if you think about it. If I can just upload and download, there’s no actual security. So that’s fun.
I guess it’s all about monitoring. What else could it be?
Well, whatever. At least I deal well in analogue too. With the worksheets I printed out, I was able to have interactive classroom experiences and the kids had a good time practicing their English.
Funny!

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Photos + It’s Getting Better All the Ti-ii-ime~

I almost wrote an entry talking about how nice it was to have a lovely Monday this week, but found myself busy with so many time-sensitive things that I never found my moment for writing about it.
Garfield would have been confused…  Sure that it was some sort of trick and would likely have had to walk away, fully convinced that somehow he had slept completely through a day, landing on Tuesday, or maybe that it was a dream, for no Monday could ever be so clean and easy.

First thing of the day, every day is that I walk to the bus station~ which, mind you is 15 minutes away, and this week the temperature has leveled on freezing and just stayed there, or gone up or down depending on the wind-factor~ suffice to say it has been cold lately and I do not like walking to the bus station in this weather…  So on my way, it’s about ten-till eight, and I’m walking on the left-hand side of the road’s sidewalk.  Passing, going in the same direction is a car that looks familiar~ looks like an SUV that a co-teacher drives that I used to ride with until her schedule changed…  So the car does an illegal u-turn about twenty meters up and comes to a stop next to me~ but it’s to let out a passenger~ her father~ it is her.  Jimmer did not have to ride the bus that morning… Got to work half an hour early, had a nice chat with a nice lady on the way and landed with ease 50 minutes before the bell.

I teach three classes on Mondays, all of them before lunch which lately, has equated to sitting in the English room all afternoon working on personal projects and such, but that day, my co-teacher wished me well and allowed me to leave at twenty after one so that I could do some banking~ Super-cool~ Then off to the bank to pick up an envelope full of cash for my holiday at the end of the month so that I can sew hundreds into my thigh and have two dollar bills ready for the rickshaws.

That was awesome~ I spent the afternoon editing my work and work by another fellow who is completing an amazing novel soon, and was finally able to start reading about the location that I’d be landing for the second half of this ubiquitous vacation I’ve alluded to.

And today is Wednesday, which means that somewhere in there I was able to have a Tuesday-experience~ which is true.  Another score: Photos for a Christmas calendar have been isolated from a year’s worth of pictures and a great beginning on a graphics project that has been beckoning for my time.
By the way~ I have reinvigorated my Flickr account and a whole new patch of photos (14 sets!!!) can be found there now.  Feel free to take your time there~
The are the photos, here.

Ahhh, Wednesday, how I do loathe you~ It is the only day of the week where my co-teacher is less-than-reasonable. (The following comment has been censored for the viewing public’s lack of interest.) But it’s cool, because today is test day and I don’t have to deal with her even slightly.  And I get to go home at noon.  Not so bad at all.

Well, I think it’s about time that I get back into working on some of these time-sensitive projects in my hands…
To give a list, I’ve got one book for a friend that I’m editing, 600 of 750 pages through.  My own short story edit~ still have to write a keen introduction for it, needs to be released to the 20 waiting draft-readers that are looking for it by the end of the week. An infographic about entering a specific website as a second-language-user, catered to the foreign language so that the user can enter into the program. And then I’ve got to finish editing photos for the calendar I’m  giving folks for Christmas, but of course, I’ve got to finish getting it done this week so that the printer can send them out on time.

~Oh, and I did end up having that coffee, and it was good.

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Life just gets weirder

 

My life just seems to add layer upon layer of weird to it.

Not a complaint, actually, today is quite a nice one.  What do your school lunches have?  Mine was sliced duck with white rice, sides of cucumber, freshly picked hot pepper, pickled cabbage (kimchi), seaweed soup, and fishcakes. The sauce that went with the duck was a lightly spicy but robust thick reddish sauce that really worked well with the pepper and duck.  After finishing, I entered the teachers’ lounge where I was invited to join everyone in a batch of giant, plump, fresh and local deep-purple grapes that were sweet as a body could hope. After enjoying my fill, I stood, realizing that there was no hope for conversation with these nice people, said may thanks and bowed out of the lounge.
So here I sit at my desk, listening to an animated conversation under the window between two teachers. One a man, the other a lady. They are clearly talking about costs of something and weights thereof, but I can’t get any further into the conversation about what they are talking about.

Today was a special day~ I guess…  We all received an annual gift from our principal. It’s the run-up week to Chuseok, so gifts are being given as if it were Christmas in the states.  Only, Chuseok is a different kind of holiday. Sometimes called Korean Thanksgiving~ it isn’t that at all. It is actually the annual remembrance of ancestors. People visit graves and tend them, mowing the waist-high grasses that have grown on the hillside mounds and visit with the elders of the living family where they have elaborate meals that are created by intense labor by the women and enjoyed in lazy repose by the men. And in tribute to this time of harvest, this festival of ancestors and food, I have been given (exactly the same gift as last year!) a giant box of two bottles of shampoo, two bottles of conditioner and four tubes of toothpaste. Long live the harvest festival! Um… yea…

So here I sit at my desk with some time on my hands. So far, I’ve taught two 45 minute classes and I have one more to go. Granted, my first two class periods before them were in fact used for lesson planning, I’m pretty much done for the week after that effort.   So as it stands, I can sit and reflect a bit.

Recently I’ve been more busy than normal with working on the project of the Korea Burn as we called our Burning Man-like event that happened a couple weeks ago.   Just last night I sent in my final AfterBurn Report and spent the weekend up in Seoul in order to have a series of meetings that helped get some plans on the table.

Being in Seoul is always interesting. I was able to do some gift shopping and visit with friends, and most importantly, enjoy pancakes.

As far as I can recollect, it’s the first plate of pancakes I’ve had since a midnight stop with a dozen friends in the summer of 2010 right by Boeing.  That’s over two years since pancakes.  I’m not sure that’s legal.  So I took care of that.  They were twice the price I’ve ever paid, but what the hell, I was on the roof-top patio of a restaurant in Seoul, South Korea on a beautiful sunny Sunday morning with great company and I couldn’t deny the pull of a brilliant plate of the steaming wondrous goodness that is pancakes with cinnamon apple topping with half a liter of syrup on the side with bacon together with a bottomless cup of drip coffee (for those who don’t know, drip coffee is actually extremely rare in Korea. Even at the boutique cafes that are everywhere, you will always get an americano as opposed to drip  coffee. To me, pancakes require the latter.)  Really, that was nice.

On the other side of the coin, we had a major flood recently that totally washed out tons of stuff. check these two photos out to appreciate how much water was in the river that day.

The one on the left is full of water, and the one on the right is the next day after it all went away.  Look at the post in the background to get how high it was. In the foreground of the photo on the right, what you see are two roads that were totally covered the day before. Under the grasses in the pile was the remnant of a reflective mirror, the kind that stand like signposts so that people can see around sharp curves. It was totally bent over and gathered the debris in the flood.  It was a lot of water.

Of course, because “as Koreans, we work hard” even though there was an historic storm overhead and children were kept from school for their safety, we as teachers were still required to come in during the typhoon. At lunchtime they were evacuating the building because the surrounding roads were becoming flooded and getting home would have been impossible. ~ They actually wanted me to fill out forms to use a vacation day in the process of leaving.  I laughed and explained that just wasn’t going to happen.  We all left the building together. Some of the roads that we made it through at noon would have been completely impassible later in the afternoon. Good thing we left. I gotta wonder about that request though. Humans are a weird bunch.

Cute though.

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Expo and more

It’s been a while since my last post, but with contract re-negotiations and events filling me to the brim with considerations, I’ve had little time to sit and think calmly like it takes to write a settled entry.  So I’ve got Adele melting my ears and the day off to work with today ~ you get a post.

Things have been good, if hectic.  Contract renegotiation has been a bit odd, due to a personality mixed in the middle.  One of my co-teachers took issue with my holidays and how they were set up and structured to the point of calling me a liar and getting rather angry over the matter.  Ultimately I pulled out my contract to point to the spot that read what I was saying (twice as the first time didn’t stick for some reason) and pointed out that her number was the article title, and my number was the context in the paragraph, big difference there.
For example: Article 14 states you get 18 days vacation – she was insisting on the 14 as the number of days. She has been angry ever since.  Luckily, her boss and all the other co-teachers of which there are three, love having me and we have good relationships.  It was a weird few days though as she was in charge of taking care of my paperwork and wasn’t having anything to do with me in regards to information sharing etc.

At this point, I have a meeting with the person who is replacing her tomorrow to take care of all the documents that she didn’t want to touch, and I look forward to that meeting.  Teaching here has been an amazing experience that I anticipate another productive year with.

That being said; there was another thing that I said has been taking my time up. Events.

Last weekend was The World Expo in Yeosu, Jeollabuk-do, and a few weeks before that was the Jeonju International Film Festival in Jenonju.  Wow~ two great weekends!
At the film festival, I saw films from all over the world, and from many different years. For example, one of my favorites was one that was brought from China, and from the 1960’s to boot.  It was a tale about The Monkey King in animation. Well done stuff for the 1960’s, the Chinese had a way different style than what American cartoons from the same time were doing.  It looked like paper-cuts for a large part, but at the same time, that might have had something to do with the fact that it was digitally remastered into 3-D, and it actually was pulled off.

Another was from France which told the story of a hard-up young mother and her son living near a rich ski resort in the Alps where they live as if brother and sister because she was so young when she had him and life is so hard for them. The boy is about 12 and works as a thief in the resort, and she does what she can between lousy jobs and lousy boyfriends.  It was a really rich tale coupled with amazing cinematography.

Another called Free Land was told from the perspective of a woman from the First People of what are now the American States.  Telling the tale through a personalized account with the voices of her older family members talking about things that aren’t often talked about. Things like how there was actually free land in the United States for anyone but the natives periodically until the 1970’s.  From land allotted to settlers to the land given to freed slaves to the land given to WWII vets to land offered otherwise until Carter ended the system.  But all the land was once somebody else’s, and it was stolen.  And this was a story about what it felt like to be on that side of the coin. It was a strong film and reminded me of my core disagreements with modern political realities in the USA. It may have been the first time tears rolled from my eyes in many years.  Gross hypocrisy is one of the things that bothers me most about humans.  Living a modern life requires it sometimes though…

For example: As I type on this box of electronics and wires, I consider the “rare-earth elements” that are required to make the screen light up and the processor run.  These are sourced from mines that are some of the dirtiest spots our species has left our footprint, and yet I use this box in order to type for a nicer today.  Where is the balance?  We look to live more efficiently by building apartment blocks and office towers to reduce our area-footprint, but the steel required to make it happen is created in smelters and due to mines that sop gunk into our water and air.  I guess all a brother can do is work with good intention and do what can be done when given options that make grades of difference, while considering the profound leaps that our species is making.  There are some Wired on Rare Earth that are clear.  1966, Curtis Mayfield said “Keep on pushin’!”  Might as well.  🙂

The other two films I saw were A Simple Life, and The Ascension of Han-ne.  The first was a story about a man who does well by the woman who had taken care of him his whole life.  Coming from a wealthy Chinese family, the woman employed to care for him since his infancy gets old eventually, and he does really well by her.  Nice tale of a nice story.  Genuinely moving at times, I’m not quite doing it justice.  The other was from 1977.  A Korean film that started with a 25 minute translated lecture about the director and the movie-making context of Korea at the time.  I was impressed as much by it as I was the film, which did not slouch when it came to getting a message across.  The film was set even further back in time, when village life in Korea was the rule, and it was just turning into the modern age, per the Japanese (we deduced, though there are no real clear signs of it.).  So the tale is about a woman who leaps from a waterfall to kill herself, but is found by a simpleton who ultimately was deeply wronged by the town chief into his state many years before, and the tale wraps itself around topics like the sex-trade and how villages cover their elders over the greater good sometimes.  It was a real indictment while also being a sweet love tale.  We were lucky to see it.  A really well-made piece of film.

Being in Jeonju was a good time too.  It’s on the other side of Korea, so took some effort to get there. We couch-surfed and had a great springtime weekend where the flowers and bushes were in bloom, and the wind was warm.  Truly a good time.

Then last weekend, I got to a spot that I had been thinking about for two years. Back then, I lived in Yeosu, South Korea, and the whole town was abuzz with the building efforts to get ready for this thing…  And now it’s there.
The Yeosu Expo.

World’s largest pipe organ anybody?

It was amazing.  The installations that have been placed there are lasting tributes to architectural creativity and a new way of thinking when it comes to use of space in Korea.  Very impressive permanence.

Then there was the whimsical…

I could go on at length about how amazing all the different countries’ installations were, but to be honest, I need to have the rest of my day happen, So I’m gonna stroll off with these 1300 words as my most recent gift of thought out here into Dataland for your perusal and enjoyment.

Life doesn’t always offer up cherries, sometimes there’s some really boring and bothersome crap, but when it’s good, it can be really good.  Two more…

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What the teaching is really like

I would like to write about the experience of teaching in the four schools that I am in the employ of. I don’t think that that is something that I have quite done here in this forum yet.

There are four. One is my primary place, the other three are secondary. That is to say, that at the one, they take care of my paperwork etc. as well as having me in their halls two days of the week as opposed to the others which only get one. Their names are Eumo, Nongnam, Gaeryoung, and Gammun. They are all middle schools, so I teach the three grades of what the American system would call seventh, eighth and ninth grades, but are called first, second, and third here. In each school, may it be elementary level, middle or high, each level gets a new numbering. It’s just how it’s done.

I am writing this recollection during the winter break. As such, we are about to begin, not just a new term, but a new year. The calendar year from the lunar cycle is what the school’s calender is created from. So, come March second, the new year will begin. I tell you this, so that you not only understand the cycle, but also, because I will be making reference to numbers of students in certain grades, and my schedule from one day to the next, and I would have it understood they refer to the year that has just passed, not the one that will begin in about a week’s time.

With that, I would like to begin sketching for you what my days are like at these schools. Every Monday, I go to Eumo. As with the other schools, I am given a ride by my co-teacher. It is a courtesy they extend to me, that I understand to be so, as other teachers in the district have not reported similarly. So I meet my co-teacher at an agreed location nearby, and we set off to the school. The ride takes about 20 minutes, and is really a beautiful one. I live in a fairly rural area. The town is surrounded by farmland. Grapes, mushrooms and pears are the strongest crops beyond the ever-present rice paddies that stretch into the distances. But there is also industry. Right now, there is a large, sprawling complex that is being expanded upon that will give rise to an extension of the chemical company that claims credit for the construction on the walls that border the project. It is truly a giant campus, and must employ thousands of people. But the ride, the ride to school only sees this tumor of man for an instant as we speed past it into the hills where the school is located.

Eumo is a fairly small school compared to my experience, but it is the largest of the four at which I teach. It has only 62 students and close to 15 staff including all the teachers, admin. And the man who takes care of things otherwise. He’s more the handyman than a janitor. In fact, in Korea, it is the students who clean the schools. Every day they will pull out the brooms, pull out the mops, and go to it for about half an hour. Every day. Every student.

So Eumo begins at 9:00. We arrive at about 8:00 so that we can get our things together, and start into thinking about our days. I will often not need all the time for preparation, so I often have a book or something else to keep busy with. More on “desk-warming” soon. And as 9:00 rolls around, well, I keep sitting there, because I don’t have a class until fourth period. Yea, between the hours of 9:00 and 11:45, there is absolutely nothing required of me other than my kind patience. So here is where desk-warming comes in. Desk warming is the term that is given to this situation where I as a foreign teacher am asked to simply sit still, and watch the clock turn until the class that they have set for me arrives, and the right tone is struck in the chimes.

So I am able to do many things with this time. For example, this is the time that I can study the language of Korean, or work on my graphics design studies, or read a book that has been waiting on a shelf for too long. The time spent at my desk is also often spent researching class methodology as well. From one end of the internet to the other, I have gazed into styles and systems that other ESL teachers have been using, and am able to grow from that time to some measure. But it is a lot of time spent in front of a screen, and it does seem quite comic sometimes. Though I must say, it does suit me for now. I have been able to stride forward with my studies in graphic design, the Korean language and becoming a better teacher due to these hours spent there. I have been able to use this desk warming time to quite some efficiency. And I’m quite pleased with it

So that is my first three and three quarter hours – then I teach. For one 45 minute session I will share what the sound of the English language really sounds like to these children who have been set in front of me. Sometimes I teach out of the book, sometimes I’ll have an activity. It depends on how far they have come, or what they need. So 45 minutes, and then lunch.
Lunch is served in the cafeteria. Teachers are given line cutting privileges, and so I’ll grab a tray and go on in. The first scoop is always rice, one big pile on the left, and then the side dishes. I never know what I’m going to get before hand, and sometimes after I get it, I still don’t know what I got. Usually I can grok it. Maybe it’s hash browns, or fish, maybe it’s deep fried squid or spam. Bus sometimes, I just don’t know that plant, or maybe the meat is just too peculiarly prepared to pick out. These things happen. There are always vegetables, sometimes steamed, sometimes steeped in a traditional sauce similar to soy sauce or even kimchi. Then there is a soup or a topping for the rice. The soups vary from one day to the next, and can be quite good at times. And of course, there is always kimchi to be had. I have become quite accustomed to it, and rather like it for the most part. Though as with anything, sometimes it ain’t so good, but those days I blame the chef not the recipe.

Smorked, yes, smorked.

With lunch over, I find yet more free time. I will not teach another class of students until 7th period which begins about 3:15. I might however teach other teachers at this time.

One of the things I get to do here is teach other adults. Teachers and admin alike are able to study with me at this time. I will usually gather my lessons from texts or from the internet. There are so many resources available, it’s amazing. I often teach about sayings. Because they’ve had so much training in the language that has been formal and distinctly literal, I bring euphemisms so that they understand things like “quit pulling my leg.” Seriously, think about it.

So that’s good use of my time as well. Sometimes they are too busy to study with me, so I’ll get back into whatever studies or reading I was doing, and whittle my time away with it. Then comes 7th period, I will again step up in front of a classroom of children, demonstrate my stunning ability to speak a language not French, have them mimic as many times as can be done while still keeping their attention, and call it good 45 minutes later. At that point, I’ll go back down to my desk in the office, burn the last moments of the day doing more of the same desk-warming things that I was doing, and wait until 4:30 or 5:00, whenever the co-teacher is ready, to go.

That has been my Monday.

I can only hope that my bosses see fit to retain me for such service, while at the same time, recognizing that it is not actually that easy to do on another level completely. What I doubt they understand is the mental stretch it takes to be so far from the people that I love and miss. Being here must be a mission for me, or it would not work. If I didn’t have the time to grow personally, such that my return will be that much smoother, I could not stay doing what I’m doing. I would not want to teach at a hagwon (a private school which schedules full days of teaching) again. Without a time structure that allows me to do the things that I’m doing, I would leave this country as fast as I came. I’m glad they enjoy me. I’m glad to be here. They are nice people, and my service does help their children, so it is a good trade off. Taxing on both ends, rewarding on both as well.

Getting into the other schools, I should say that my expectations are largely similar, as are the lunches with the exception of Gaeryoung, they always get fruit with their lunches. Hmm.

Tuesday is though, another thing completely, while it is much more of the same to be sure. Tuesdays are spent at Gammun. I teach three 45 minute classes in the day here. Gammun is an interesting school, very old looking buildings. It has about 43 students, I think, and the largest English library of them all. It actually has two whole rooms in the building set aside for teaching English, one a classroom, one a library. They both have large, touchscreen, interactive boards that can be used for presentations, and the library is made more interactive by the seating. There are four couches with tables between pairs, and three large tables, each with six seats around them. Additionally, there is a series of short colorful soft stools that line the walls. That being said, we could seat every single student of the school in that library, and teach them all at once. But we never did during regular classes. I was able to use it during the week-long winter course, and the kids really enjoyed it. I’m glad to’ve had that time there.

This school was staffed by one of the most uninteresting teachers I’ve ever met. He was an older man and really had no interest in teaching these kids English. His language ability was so poor that when talking with me, I often didn’t understand what he was trying to say. Oh sure, it was better than most of the students, but not actually good. Teaching with him was such that he asked me to teach directly from the book, and nothing else, then he would go sit in the back of the room and look out the window, so distracted, that if I were to ask him a question, he would normally be unaware that I was speaking to him. And the library wasn’t to be used at all. He just kept it locked and let it get dusty. I shared as much with the principal of my lead school, and now he’s gone. Later dude. Some of us really enjoy teaching. And I do, I just don’t see students all that much because of the scheduling. Well that’s all right. As is stands, a new teacher will be there, with something of a mandate to become more involved with the teaching process. Should be interesting.

Wendesday- Gaeryoung. Fun school, again, about 43 students there. The teachers are primarily women, mostly young, and among them are three very capable English speakers, so their company is quite enjoyed. I have very few friends around here, so it’s nice to be able to chat about random things with people. This is also the only school that uses a different text, so the teacher has given me a pass on preparation and just asks that I interact with the students. That works fine for me. My co-teacher uses the time to instigate  small talk – which is actually a great use of a foreigner in the classroom. Other times, we will read from the text, and do some speaking from it, and the kids will reply, and we’ll mix it up. They’re good kids, and a lot of them really enjoy learning. So it makes it worth the time.

On Thursdays, I go to Nongnam. My co-teacher was at first rather distant, but I’ll chalk that up to not really knowing what to do with this foreigner she’d been handed. The students at this school are a bit surlier, but decent in class. This school has a bit of a problem with boys smoking in the bathroom, and lack of attention in class, but the kids are still okay. They do not show malice, and they are willing to participate, even the ones that clearly have no love for it.

This school has a rather odd collection of wall-art. I am forced to look at seriously bad translations on a wall every day. Maybe next year, with the new teacher, I’ll be able to fix them. We just got a big printer, so it might just happen. It looks like what happened was that someone took something from the internet, descriptions of famous places that pictures affixed represent, and then scanned those descriptions into a computer program that saw letters as images, and occasionally mixed them up with similar letters. The letter ‘c’ could become an ‘o’, and letter ‘h’ could become a ‘b’, things like that. But these are descriptions of places like Harvard University, Oxford, The Statue of Liberty, and other big things that really smart people have made, it’s supposed to be inspirational, you know? So then we have about 35 serious editing mistakes. I almost want to make it a contest with the students, to see who can find the most errors. On the other hand, I wouldn’t want to sully the reputation of the school to the students for having had such errors for so much time. You can give them a pass, as they are clearly making great strides when viewed from a distance. So when does it get fixed? Do they get fixed? I’ll try again next year. Heh, good times.

Fridays, I’m back at Eumo, and actually have a busy time. This day I’ll teach five sessions, and they will consist of three student classes and two teacher sessions. One for a group of interested adults, the other, a private class for my co-teacher. Her English is quite good, so I’ve been using some prepared lessons from Breaking News English for her lessons. They use current events as material, and discuss them with well built lesson plans, from which I pick and choose parts to use. Still though, five out of eight classes, leaves me three to use in my own ways, may it be professional development for my current job, or my future one, or just reading a good book.

Teaching with the public school system is an interesting time. I’m glad to have it. But I’ll be more glad when I return home.

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Believe it!

( if you want to maximize any of the photos – just click on them.  Cheers.)

Jik Ji Sa

I’m writing again!

Long-neglected is this blog. Hopefully, this lil’ note’ll make it feel better a bit.
Where to start? Well, I”m still here in Gimcheon – doing my best to stay as isolated as possible for the sake of my guitar skills. I actually sound like a mediocre player these days – that’s exciting. It’s been 6 months, half of which doesn’t count. Listening to such a diversity of music that I don’t know where to start for picking one or six to focus on – so I have focused on the circle of fifths. Working on how the tones work together, rather than putting myself into someone else’s song just yet. So this is where my brain is. My fingertips have changed to where I can either barely feel with them, or they hurt. But just the tips.

It’s kind of a nice place to be doing this.

Teaching – I”m actually teaching. It’s nice – every day I have a different set of kids except for the set that repeats on Mondays and Fridays. I’m even on the verge of trying to remember three of the kid’s names. What a surge that is – huh? I like being a teacher that they both like and that makes them work. I can do that as a once-a-week’er more easily I think than I’m used to. Usually, students get a sense of regularity with a teacher where the balance is hard to find. But because I teach the same lesson to different groups, I can focus on it for one, then I can refine it as I pass through it. It’s cool like that.  Lots of teachers that aren’t my co-teachers are fun.  Some really go out and try to be friendly.  Here’s a science teacher who can speak about 24 words of English – but always kind.

I found a huge collection of educational games today that I’m going to start integrating. I’ve been keeping it to the lesson for the whole trip – but the 3rd graders (of the middle school) just took their finals, and they’re actually finished and will start high school in February, after a month off in January. I’ve no idea what we’re expected to teach them for December, so I’m getting ready for anything.
Recently we had an expo of the kid’s art and such.  That’s where I took that picture from above.  Here are a few more.

I’ll warn you that this site is not for your kids to peruse.  It is peppered with comically-engineered material that is as they say “not suitable for children” at times.  That being said – That link is here: https://sites.google.com/site/englishdroid2/teaching-tips/not-hangman-again

Grading is different here – in a big way. Kids don’t need to pass to pass. They just get promoted, no matter what they did on their exams. Wow. So if anything – the ones that are inspired to do well, are genuinely inspired – not just because of pressure to do well on tests. I’m sure that involved parents have a lot to do with it as well. I saw the final – it was 25 questions. 25. Some kids were done in five minutes. Seriously. Weird.

As far as it goes though – the classes are still on par with what I would expect in a country town in the states – I mean – seriously, my experience is very skewed. I teach at four schools that all have 60 kids or less. I have classes with five kids. It’s kind of ridiculous, in a nice way. My time here is more academic than anything else. I’m forced to focus more on myself than I ever remember being able to do, much less not having the option otherwise. There are a few Westerners here to hang out with, but I really only see them on the weekends, and so between Monday and Friday, it’s just me and the co-teachers for company. To be fair, two of them are genuinely interesting. That’s three of my days. So that’s cool. I can’t sit and talk stuff on the others, they’re lifers in the gig, and set in their ways – ways that I neither understand nor find reasonable for spending my time getting to know. But they aren’t trouble. They keep to themselves pretty directly, and that serves me fine. I hope I don’t come off like that.   Trying to focus on my guitar and all.

Meh – whatever.  I’m having a fine time, if not for the isolation that spins the brain a bit now and then.  Like right now – I just went for a walk to this cafe – took 20 minutes to get here, been sitting in the window for for nearly an hour in the busy, walking district of town, not one foreigner has passed by.  Some high school boys tried to talk to me – got as far as hello, and that was it.  They seemed pretty proud of themselves for getting there – got uncomfortable and left.  Heh.  I did kinda vibe privacy for the sake of this note, but still, one word in the last three hours, and that’s more than normal.   Thank god for headphones.

And I hike.  I’ve been able to get out and see some amazing places for sure.  Sculptors, check this out:

Then there’s

Which as situated somewhere near this…

… in this amazing scene…

,,, which leads to a 15oo year old temple called Jik Ji Sa.

Jik Ji is one of the oldest temples in Korea, and has some fun hiking around it too.  I’ve been through it a few times now, and it’s still a good time.  The following picture is of the main building – now, mind you – the compound is something like 40 buildings, but this is the center one, the main one – inside are three giant paintings that are about 600 years old – the structure is about 400 years old, and the stone pieces in front are at least 800 years old.  Dig:


Then there was this time that one of my schools took me up to a mountain to check it out and have dinner under it….

Tell me it ain’t a good-lookin’ spot.

Then there was this…

and these…

So it’s understandable why I stay I think.  I have time to practice at arts that I’m trying to master, and am surrounded by all this weird coolness – and I’m fed fairly well.  All that’s missing is you.  I’ll get back when I can…  And you know I can.  But it’ll be a minute.

Peace!!!

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