Friday, October 30, 2009

Work

Here is what my workday looks like:
9:10-12:20 I go to class with my co-teacher where I read verbatim from the teachers manual, discussing ridiculous scenes like this:



And this:




Don't miss this:


I don't blame Peter at all for not wanting to sing with Jinho. What kind of freak enjoys playing the piano and singing? And did you notice Nami's weird pronounciation of 'th'? She annoys me with her 'dat' and 'dank you'. I don't bother with correcting any of dat dough. De kids wouldn't know what I was talking about anyway. And don't get me started on Ann and her violin playing! I don't know who that other kid is. He's not around enough for me to bother with.
I replay these little scenes three or four times per class, four classes in a row, picking apart every sentence.

Even worse though, are the songs. We listen, then listen and repeat line by line, and then the boys must ask the question and the girls must answer. Then, just when I don't think it could get anymore exciting, the girls do the asking and the boys do the answering! The first time I taught a song my co-teacher asked, "Why you don't sing with the children?"
Me, "I was singing."
Him, "You must hab uh duh big boise."
Me, "Sigh."

So I sing songs much like this one loudly:



Then I usually go eat lunch in the cafeteria, just to avoid the questions about why I don't eat lunch in the cafeteria. Everyone sits there looking uncomfortable while sneaking glances at the weird foreigner and her weird food.
After that, from about 12:40 to 4:40, I sit and do nothing. I have no tasks, but I am still required to stay at work and get paid for sitting here doing nothing. Doing nothing. Getting paid. Its a hard concept for an American to grasp. It took me about a month to get used to it and now it is something I never want to give up. So, even with the hokey songs and stilted dialog, I'd say it's a pretty good gig and dats a lot to be dankful for.

I Don't Keh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh

When I was living in the US, I was obsessed with the latest example of duplicity and corruption (although that seems much to light a word for what passes for politics in America) in the government. I was astonished at what went on. I was even more astonished by how nobody gave a shit. It was expected. We accepted our role as the one's who will continuously get shat upon by the ones living in the shimmering pink castles in the sky. I accepted it. I was outraged and horrified, but I wasn't going to do anything about it. Except link to it on FaceBook or blog about it. Essentially all that accomplished was getting other people depressed.
Now that I am in Korea, I don't give a shit. I don't even bother with Democracy Now, which I followed to religulously when I was back home. I watch Korean news, about Korean things which I don't understand and don't make sense and that is enough for me. All those shennanigans going on back home just make it easier to stay away.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Fuck Bitches, Get Money.

That's my new motto. Actually, I was watching the 6th grade talent show at school when suddenly a girl appeared onstage wearing a shirt with that quote on it. My jaw dropped and I looked at the English speaking teacher next to me in horror. She didn't seem bothered and I was amazingly disappointed. I was in need of entertaining drama. Can you imagine seeing a little girl wearing such a shirt in America?! The furor it would cause! Haha!! It was definitely the highlight of my day. Fuck Bitches, Get Money, indeed.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Pouring Like An Avalanche Coming Down The Mountain

I'm on the mend. The hike was not nearly as bad as riding there with the music teacher. She nearly hit someone, she went the wrong way in a one way, and she ran a red light. Believe it or not, that was just getting out of the parking lot.
From there, we stopped on the freeway (not on the shoulder, mind you, in the middle of the freeway), she ran over huge chunks of rubble left over when some other Korean smashed into a merge divider, she got distracted by her navigation system (which all Koreans have because it would be impossible to find your own ass in Korea without one) and veered into oncoming traffic. Luckily, all Koreans drive like this, so they expected as much and were prepared for it and we survived.
After the hike, which really was rather momentous, we had dinner. I sat on the floor at a table about 8 inches off the ground. My legs instantly fell asleep. At least I didn't have to worry about them anymore.
We had buckwheat pancakes with kimchi in them and iced buckwheat noodle soup. I was suspicious of the broth so I only ate the noodles. There were also some non vegetarian things not worth mentioning
At the beginning of the meal, I was offered the traditional Korean rice wine called makkori. It didn't seem very strong so I had two more. Then I felt a little floaty. Weirdly, my chopstick handling greatly improved. My conversational skills did not. I pretended to be immensely interested in my surroundings and avoided eye contact, lest anyone attempt yet another discussion about how tall I am or if I've tried kimchee. I was halfway through the third makkori when the first and second hit me.
My co-teacher gave me a funny look when I stopped drinking it and said, "It's ok. You not dliving. You dlink."
I not want dlink. I thought, feeling that it was too late. I've lived up to the stereotype. From now on, they'll all think of me as the Waygook Engrish teacher who drinks too much makkori. Sigh.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Aching

I sit at my desk, lulled into forgetfulness. 9:00 rolls around and I stand up, and am instantly jarred back to reality. I contemplate the task before me: Walk down the hallway, across the skywalk, up two flights of stairs and into the classroom. Under normal circumstances, this would be a menial talk. Today, however, every step is daunting.
It all started a few days ago, I decided to jump start (literally) my exercise routine. As I haven't found a gym and I'm avoiding running at the moment, I decided to give jumping rope a try. The first day went well. The next day I was a little sore, but I pushed through. The third day I was really sore and I pushed through again.
Now I am paying a debilitating price. The mere act of taking a step sends stabbing, burning pain up my legs. My calves are sore in muscles I didn't realize existed. It is all I can do to not gasp and wince with every step.
Down the hallway I hobble. There is no masking my discomfort, I simply can't walk normally right now. I wonder who is watching and if they notice that the foreigner is walking like a drunk old lady. I could almost conjure up mortification, if I could focus on anything except making it up the stairs.
My co-teacher, in his late fifties, races ahead of me, looking over his shoulder every once in a while to make sure I'm still there. I reach the stairs, preparing myself for the thrashing my legs are about to receive. My face twists up and I'm glad my co-teacher isn't there to see.
Several kids wave and greet me, "Hello teacher!!"
I force a wan smile, but I can't trust myself to open my mouth without unleashing a barrage of expletives. So, not the lesson I was planning on giving today. I finish with my classes, during which I either stand perfectly still or sit down. I am sorry to hear the bell (or rather song) signaling the end of class. It means motion.
I hobble out of class and descend the stairs which is even worse than walking. I am momentarily stupefied by the sheer agony. I freeze on the third step. My co-teacher pauses, looks up at me.
"What is mattuh?"
"Oh, nothing . . ."
I can't bother with explaining this right now. It would take too much effort. I take a few quick steps to catch up to him and realize it's much better that way. Like ripping off a bandaid.
To make matters ever so much worse, today is 'School Social Club Activity Day.' I politely refused admittance to the school 'Social Club' last week, and my refusal was soundly, yet, politely refused. Today's activity? A hike. *Shudder*
Not only that, but I've heard the word, 'mountain' more than once in reference to today's excursion. Oh please, please, let them be mistranslating.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Where's Atreyu When You Need Him!

I need a new name. My current blogger name is tired and outdated. I am an expat. Hopefully I will remain an expat.
Right before I moved to Korea, I was really hoping I would hate it so I could move right back. I wanted the kids to stay in their bi-lingual schools, I wanted my gym, I wanted my grocery stores. Now that I'm here and the dreadful packing is over with, I hope I never go back.
So today while I was 'working', I was looking at where I want to move to after Korea. If I stay in Korea another year, I'd like to live in Busan, cause it's slightly warmer and beachy there. If not, I've been looking at Spanish classes in Alicante, Spain. Extra warm and beachy there. I would also like to learn French and give France another try. First impressions can sometimes be wrong, after all.
Mr. AwesomeCool has his sights set on New Zealand or Australia. He's thinking about making this teaching thing a career at a University. And the kids are thinking Japan.
So many choices!! And all I had to do was take that first leap!!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Seoul

A week ago, we went to Seoul and had delicious food at Purely Decadent, Sticky Finger's Bakery and The Loving Hut.

We went to Purely Decadent, and ate soy ice cream from RainTown. How weird is that? Actually they had a graphic on the wall with a truck that said Monaco Coach on it!!

The Loving Hut!! YAY!!




Here's soft tofu stew with side dishes. It was incredibly spicy.


Fried noodles


This is the mushroom soup which everyone agreed was the best dish we got.


Soy cutlet.


Look at all the people!!



We brought home a beautiful vegan cake for K-dog's birthday. She's 12! Can you believe it?? I cannot.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Working Girl

For the first time in over a year, I find myself disdainfully, gainfully employed. Tomorrow I'll have been here a week. The first three days I went along with Co-teacher and watched. He works off a book that comes with a CD that sings and counts and is delightfully interactive. The whole lesson is scripted, which was a relief because on Friday of last week he informed me that I would be teaching solo on Tuesday because he had to officiate testing. Nerve wracking!
Tuesday came and I was sent off to class. All the homeroom teachers stayed, just in case pandemonium ensued. None did, but my first lesson went terribly as I couldn't figure out the CD. I kept turning the program off to the delight of the third graders who would shout, "Oh my gaw!!" and "Oh no!!" gleefully every time I did it.
They also helped me get back on track yelling, "Cleek! Cleek!" So I did and the program would come back up. Classes two through four went much more smoothly, although I finished five or more minutes early every time. I'm sure someone is going to be vely angly about that.
Since all the English classes are over at lunch time, the rest of the day is spent not working, but being here and getting paid, a concept that is mind boggling to an American who is accustomed to clocking out for my pittance of a lunch break back in the states. Today co-teacher is officiating tests for the whole school, so guess what I'm doing?? Absolutely nothing. But I still must come to work. It is my duty.
In other news, some of the other teachers have taken a shine to me. Or rather my English speaking ability. Tuesday after lunch, I was abducted by the music teacher, Calliope, who took me to her classroom and played the recorder for me. She played very well, but still, what was that about? Then she decided she was going to teach me Korean in exchange for me helping her with English. Yesterday she came and wrote the Korean alphabet and told me to study it. I have been, but it's still inscrutable. I'm sure I must try harder, as Co-teacher keeps insisting, "It's vely easy!!"
Now for some school weirdness. We take our shoes off at school and wear slippers all day. The children take theirs off immediately upon entering the building and have either pink or blue rubber soled slippers with a strap. The teachers take theirs off at their desk. Speaking of which, I have forgotten to take mine off! Oh my gaw! After lunch everyone brushes their teeth. Speaking of which, I have forgotten to bring a toothbrush! On no!! The teacher's bathrooms have hi-tech toilet seats, I have no idea what the buttons do and since Mr. AwesomeCool had an unfortunate encounter with the bidet button, I won't mess with them. Also, there is no toilet paper in the stall, you must collect it before you go in, something I find maddening as I forget every time. We are supposed to greet the vice principal upon arriving and say goodbye upon leaving. Everyone bows in greeting.
Now for some general weirdness, not related to the school. Bus drivers are maniacs. I get a full ab workout every time I ride the bus, just trying to stay upright with their constant screeching to a halt and accelerating like they're in Fast and Furious 6: Bus rides From Hell. They also view red lights and picking up/letting off passengers as optional. There are only single seats on either side of the bus, so most people end up standing and it doesn't matter what time you take the bus, those seats will always be full and more likely, the whole bus will be packed.
Our apartment has key less entry, which, if you remember the forgotten key fiasco in Spain, you'll know I appreciate immensely. You just enter the code and the door magically opens. Every Korean apartment, I'm told has the same fake wood looking linoleum. We are no exception. They also have a thing about dish dryers. They look like convection ovens and you put your dishes in to dry instead of letting them air dry.
I'm sure I'll think of more later and I'll soon be posting about our trip to Seoul which took place on Saturday! Oh my gaw!! Oh no!!

Friday, October 9, 2009

First Week of Work!

It was only two days since I started on Thursday, but still, I'm reporting as if it were a momentous occasion. Here's how it went. Class until lunchtime, then we sit in our giant office at our respective desks doing nothing until it's time to go home. Even though we're doing nothing for four hours, we can't leave a minute early as I discovered yesterday when I thought I got done at 4:30, when I actually get done at 4:40.
"You have to stay here until 4:40. That is when it's time to go. It is your duty to stay until then."
So I sat back down and got an extra ten minutes of doing nothing in. I feel like I'm playing hookie at work and am going to get caught. I'm sure eventually, someone's going to figure out that they're paying me too much to sit around and I'll actually have to do something to prove that I've got bang for the buck, but until then I'm keeping my mouth shut.
Koreans are overly nice. They bought me a new computer to use for work. They bought us a bed for our kids and Nanny Jane. When we got to the store they give us things for free. I'm not sure what it means. I feel disconcerted. Just today, someone knocked 100 won of something I was buying. It's only about 10 cents, but still. Nobody does that kind of stuff in America. Everybody's got to worry about balancing their till. Not that I did.
Tonight what I assume was an insecticide truck blasted a siren and released noxious gas into the streets. The masses went on as if they weren't being gassed with toxic chemicals. I knew better and went tearing down the street in the opposite direction, but then the truck cut me off, still spewing thick white smoke. I gave up and went into a grocery store where I saw my first expat, other than the herd I brought with me. I was ready for excited greetings and exchangings of stories, but he totally ignored me. I've heard about these aloof expats, but it's hard to believe such douchery exists.
"Don't look at him!" I hissed at everyone, cause I knew that's exactly what he wanted us to do. Why you gotta act like it's not cool to see another whitie (or half whitie in my case) in a sea of Koreans? I mean, he's the first one I've seen since I got here! I still haven't seen a cat by the way. He was buying ground beef and had a disgusting pony tail, so it's not like I would have given him the time of day under any other circumstances. We are so much cooler than him anyway cause we devour the strange Korean greens, the grocery store ladies stuff extra leafs in our bags after weighing them and give us tangerines and gold plastic pigs! We should be ignoring you! So go suck on your bitter beef, aloof expat, and wonder why you're such a lonely loser.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Better Blog

Here's a weirdly hilarious blog I have found by an American expat, married to a Korean. The title speaks for itself:
An Idiot's Tale

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Health Check!

Today Mr. AwesomeCool's co teacher took us to the hospital for our HIV etc test. First we had our blood pressure, weight and height measured. Then our eyes checked along with our ears. Next I was asked to become shirtless in a little changing room where there was already a shirtless little old lady. I was a little thrown off, but if they don't care, then I won't care. I got my chest x-ray and was able to re-shirt myself. Next we went to another building to give pee and blood samples. Instead of the fully protected, tamper proof plastic cups with lids we get in the US, we got dixie cups with a line drawn on by the technician. Not only that, but the pee collecting bathroom is co-ed. So I was able to pee in a public bathroom next to Mr. AwesomeCool for the first time. Ahhhh, the memories.
Mr. AwesomeCool and I weren't sure what to do with our pee cups, feeling carrying it around was a little dangerous and unhygienic, we put it on a little shelf that opened up into the testing room. That was wrong. What we were supposed to do, was carry the cup from the bathroom, to the testing room and place it on the technician's desk (!). She laughed with her co-workers when we motioned to the cupboard. Sirry Amelicans!
Lastly, the technician took our blood right at her desk, with our pee right next to us, with a bench full of waiting Koreans as an audience. She didn't bother with the gloves either, so I made very sure she was switching out her needles before I bared my veins.
After that Mr. AwesomeCool's co-teacher took us to Mr. AwesomeCool's school where, after a screaming "Hi! Hi!" and maniacal double handed waving session from the students, we met the principal. He thanked us for helping South Korea during the Korean war.
Oh . . . Hmmm . . . I wasn't born for another twenty years, but . . . you're welcome?
They also asked us if we knew about Samsung electronics and were delighted to hear us spout off a litany of appliances back home that were Samsung.
"Samsung makes good TVs." We concluded.
"Thank you bery much." They answered solemnly, as if they had anything to do with it.
The principal also said, "Mr. AwesomeCool gives a good impression. He has a very kind face."
Which is the most true thing I've ever heard anyone say about him. Koreans have freaky insight into the soul.
Mr. AwesomeCool starts teaching tomorrow! I start Thursday. NERVOUS!!
When we got home we were harassed by Christians! Can you believe it? A Korean and Chinese missionary came to our door and attempted to convert us. They were really into the heavenly mother, whatever that is. I told them emphatically, "No, no, no, no, no." But they were persistent, not letting a little thing like not knowing each other's language get in the way of soul saving, or whatever they were trying to do. They found an English pamphlet and pointed out various bible verses. I shook my head. They pointed to Jesus. "No, no Jesus!"
"Why?" They asked.
"No." I said.
"Oh!" They murmured among themselves, then found a picture of DaVinci's Last Supper, only they called it passover.
"No. Last Supper!" I pointed at the picture, "DaVinci! Last Supper, not Passover!"
They didn't give a crap and pointed to a pamphlet that said since Jesus rose on a Sunday, the sabbath is actually on Saturday. This along with the heavenly mother seemed very important to them.
Finally they called their friend who spoke English. He wanted to prosthelytize to me, "Did I have some time right now?"
"No." I said, adding, "Bye!"
I gave back the phone, "Bye!" I waved enthusiastically at them and moved to shut the door. That, they seemed to understand.