Monday, February 27, 2006

One of my duties as a foreign teacher is to grade the kids’ essays. They have to write about certain topics: My Wish, My Holiday, My Hobbies, etc. We get quite a few interesting responses. One girl wrote that her hobby was eating food and touching her face. Three thoughts came to mind when I read this: does she do both at the same time, maybe we should explain again what hobbies were, and maybe we should get her some help. Then again, I think I could list reading books and scratching myself as a hobby so maybe the girl isn’t so strange.

One kid wrote that his wish was to be smart but he couldn’t be smart because, “I stoobid (stupid).” On one hand I would argue with the kid and tell him to give himself more credit. On the other hand he did terribly misspell stupid. Is that irony or an oxymoron? (Yes, and I know I can’t get on anybody for misspelling.)

I feel that I can laugh at these people’s mistakes, if only because my own mistakes in Spanish have given many people in Mexico and Central America much amusement. Once I said I was able to fly when I was actually trying to reflect that birds had that ability. I asked a man why he bit my hand when I was trying to explain that I was stung on the hand by some insect. I heard a girl tell her host family that the next day she was going to mount a gentleman, mistaking the word horse for gentleman. I wonder if the family thought, “Well, at least it’s going to be a gentleman.” The scary thing is I wonder how much I’ve said in Spanish that was incomprehensible or insulting, and I never even realized it. I guess this is all part of learning. Wish me luck with my Korean.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Oh- hum, Friday is here. On the last day of the work week I only teach one class, but all the teachers have to be here from 2:30 until 9:30. That gives me a lot of time to read essays, do some crosswords, type on the blog, and space out for hours. One of the teachers is leaving next week so we're having a soju and jello party tonight. That could get messy.

My cultural realization of the week is that things are not always as they seem, especially in foreign lands. Take barber shops for example. When I first arrived here I noticed that there seemed to be an obscene amount of barbers. It seems that every block has two three of those red and blue spinning poles outside certain buildings. Here's the deal, those spinning poles mean something different than they do in the states. They signify a massage parlor, an oriental massage parlor (nudge, nudge, wink, wink). If you went into one of those places expecting a haircut you'd end up being very surprised, "So, this is how they cut hair in Korea."

But that's not it, coffee shops are not coffee shops, at least not when they are downstairs. If they are upstairs they're legit, but if you go to a basement coffee shop you'll be offered to buy something more than coffee. On Saturday nights I like to go out for a haircut and some coffee. Kidding, I heard about all of this from the veteran teachers, and I would think that they were trying to pull one over on the new guy, but this seems to be comunal knowledge. I'm just glad they let me know instead of sending me out to pick up coffee.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Happy Olympics Everybody! I’ve been watching those things pretty religiously, especially since I can cheer for more than country. My allegiances still lie with the U.S. however; I just opened a Korean bank account so now I think I’m officially ½ Korean. I also work with a bunch of Canadians and last week they made me an honorary Canadian in a ceremony that involved drinking a lot of beer so I can cheer for the crazy knanucks as well.
Other than watching the Torino games I’ve been finding other ways to keep me busy. I opened an account at the video store last week, and when I get tired of staring at the electronic box, I head out to the YMCA. Opening the bank account and obtaining a video membership were really quite easy. I just threw down my passport and alien registration card and Viola! I was set. Getting into the YMCA was a bit of a challenge. First I had no idea where to go and I almost walked into the women’s locker room. Did you know that there’s a universal sign that is easily comprehensible in an language when your about to walk into the wrong restroom? It’s usually involves a lot of loud yelling and a general flailing of arms. I finally found a person who spoke barely comprehensible English to show me the way to the weight room.
In Korea I’m a stud. You won’t see any Koreans throwing weight plate after weight plate on the bench press while their training partner goads them on by yelling, “Big pecs! C’mon, big pecs!” (This a distinctly American gym trait that I’m glad to have escaped from.) I can top off the weight machines here and ask for more. No, what the Koreans lack in actual lifting inclination, they make up for in energy. The aerobics room is a hypersonic flurry of activity. I find myself just gawking at the amount of sweat and movement that goes on in this room, however, the weight room isn’t much different. The music is god-awfully loud and, well, just god-awful. I’m not the biggest dance-techno music conisuer, but this sounds like chipmunks on crack. For a person who likes to lift heavy things and listen to punk or obnoxious death metal, I might be in the wrong place.
Then again I think the gym is a form of societal neurosis to begin with. Lift heavy stuff and run on machines that keep you in place for no financial or societal gain? Doesn’t make much sense, and I’ll admit that I’m one of the guiltiest of the guilty. I want to create a gym that has all the machines hooked up to generators so the gym powers itself. When the lights start to dim I could hop on the PA and yell at everyone to step it up. Alas, many of my friends have shot down what I believe is a perfectly legitimate idea (no stealing this one anybody). Maybe Korea could use an idea like this.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Right now I'm at war with my bank. They've recently denied me access to my checking account because they recieved a transaction from South Korea of all places. Gee I wonder who could have done that. The thing that peives me is I called a month ago, told them I would be traveling abroad, and asked them not to block my account when they receive withdrawls from foreign ATMs. I guess they thought I was joking.

This last weekend I walked around Gyeonbukgung, a Josean dynasty temple, and I learned a bit about Korean history. The poor Koreans. They would build up this major palace just in time for Japan to attack and destroy the thing. It reminds me of building snow forts in grade school and then the sixth graders would come over and knock the thing down. Mean Japanesse sixth graders.

I also went to the large mega mart on Saturday for groceries. It's great to see all the little oddities of this country, things that I'm sure are normal to all the Koreans, but border on the absurd by American standards such as the butchers at the grocery store that yell at the customers as they go by. You can definately tell where the meat department is at the Lotte Mart, just follow the noise. I only wonder what the butchers are yelling, "Hey fatty, I know you want some meat!" Really, I have to wonder how well this marketting campaign works, then again the Lotte Mart was packed.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Good news everybody! The wind started blowing here. It's taken the smog away. The sun is shining, the sky is blue.

Bad news too-- the wind is blowing. It is so butt-ass cold here that's it unbelievable. I had heard that it was cold here, but holy hell, today's a little rough. Being from Wyoming, I thought I could tough it out here, and WY is comparible, but here I have to walk everywhere and catch busses. Waiting for a bus today a gust hit me in the face and I said "Jesus!" quite loudly in disbelief. All the Koreans looked at me. I guess they are familiar with Jesus as well, but I have to wonder if they thought that I was swearing or just a very religious person.

To top things off, I couldn't figure out how to run the heating in my apartment and so spent my first two nights there huddled like an Amercan refugee under my covers. I now have a cold, however, I have figured out the heating system and it's really neat. The hot water pipes are in the floor so the floor heats up. No cold feet. Neat! Now I'll move on to the washing machine and see what mysteries that thing contains.

I made coffee the other day, another first. Believe it or not, tea is very popular here. I bought a french press, some overpriced ground coffee and went to town. I kind of feel like a person who has gone through a disabilitating accident, and now must learn to perform basic functions all over again. Every little step and minor accomplishment brings me great joy. Yesterday, I announced with glee to one of my other coworkers that I had sucessfully made coffee. She was not as impressed as I had hoped she would be.

I'm still attempting to get the internet at my apartment. That will be a major accomplishment that will probably call for a celebration. Until then you just have my dry comentary. Pics will come later.