Monday, April 24, 2006


My apologies everybody. In an attempt to make the blog even cooler than it already is, I enabled comment moderation. That means that I, Nazi of the blog, would make sure every ones' comments were worthy of going on the blog; however, I was unaware that I made this change. The Orris gave me a heads up on this and put me back in my place.

I believe I have changed the page back to its original settings so comment away. You know those people who are constantly begging for attention and recognition? I'm one of them, so the comments mean a lot to me. They're kind of like the fuel that feeds this blogging frenzy.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Worthwhile or Wasted?

I am writing to you, fresh off the bus from the Avalon School annual weekend workshop. I'm going to salvage what I can of the 21 hours I have left before I have to go into work tomorrow. Basically I'm going to lay in bed and watch movies.

This weekend I see-sawed between having a lot of fun and mourning my lost weekend. I knew that this retreat/ convention thing was coming up. It was written into my contract that I specifically had to attend this thing, and I've been dreading it ever since I came to this land. The thing is I'm not a retreat sort of guy. I think I would rather chew glass than role play and present in front of a group. Plus a weekend was sucked up by this thing. That's just torture.

So at the beginning of this shindig we had to listen to six hours of presentations. This is not what I would normally plan to do on a weekend. One presentation was on speaking tests, which we do with the kids every month, and we watched an hour of the kids performing the speaking tests on video. I have done so many speaking tests that I'm sick of them, but to drag me away on a Saturday and make me watch recorded speaking tests, that's a human rights abuse. Wait till the U.N. hears about this.

Just when I had written this event off as pure suck, we had dinner on the soccer field. It was kalbi (grill boneless pork ribs), all the side dishes with beer and soju for desert. I'll give the Koreans one thing, they know how to party. There was a bonfire and a big stage where karaoke took place. I spent my time wandering from soju toast to soju toast until it seemed like a good idea to grace these Koreans with my natural singing ability. Yes, I was that drunk. A couple of us requested Bohemian Rhapsody to karaoke to; however, the Korean karaoke Nazi shot down most of the waygooks karaoke songs and only allowed the natives to sign. As annoying as this may be I should probably write the guy and thank him for saving me from a what could have been a socially scarring event.

Morning exercises were slated for six a.m. What sort of cruel race provides liquor and beer for people and then schedules mandatory exercises for six in the morning? Luckily the Koreans were not as hardcore as I thought they might be and scrapped the sun-rise callesthetics as they felt the repercussions of the previous night's festivities as much as the waygooks did.

The challenge course was scheduled for the later part of the morning, and despite not feeling tip-top, I was excited to run around and do some outdoor activities. I should have curbed my enthusiasm. An hour and a half was eaten up by alternately standing up, sitting down (mostly sitting down), clapping and chanting to different speakers. The only problem is they all spoke in Korean. Now I know I'm in Korea, but Avalon is a big chain of English schools. Can't we speak in English. The guy could be telling us the meaning of life, but when you have the equivalent foreign language ability of a two year old (and a very dumb two year old at that) it doesn't really matter what he says. Once again I was pissed that I was wasting my weekend.

We finally got to the obstacle course, where upon we listened to the obstacle instructors shout more Korean at us. We performed some nominal tasks and then scurried off to the next community bonding experience. Funny thing though, once we started doing the obstacle course, I actually had some fun. We joked around, displayed team spirit and generally took everything in good stride. We moved onto the ropes challenge course, a high flying playground that's supposed to display one's ability to make an ass out of themselves. Undeniably the image that will be forever imprinted in my mind from this weekend is coworker Nick, suspended by ropes in midair above a bunch of the Koreans, with his harness tightly strapped around his pelvic area in a manner that accentuated his gonads, with him yelling, "Camel toe! Camel toe!" It's an image that makes me laugh and will haunt my nightmares for years.

At the end prizes were given out for the different campuses that performed the best at the workshop. I don't really know who won (once again the ceremony was in Korean) except that the bus drivers took second. Talk about crashing the party. The night before they were definitely the drunkest out of the drunk. I remember them stumbling over each other, leading one another by the hand from soju toast to soju toast. I had never seen these guys before and then they come out and grab second? That's great; honestly, it is.

And just when I thought I was having a good time, the bus (that took an hour and a half on arrival) took four hours to get back on account of the traffic. Really, retreats are like most things in life- you get what you put into them. At first I was really upset that I had to give up my weekend, but I'll be damned if I didn't meet a lot of new people, made some new friends and had a couple of laughs. However, what's the best thing about the Avalon retreat? The fact that it's over.

BBQ time!. I don't think the organizers forsaw the fact that forty, separate, blazing BBQs would make it difficult to see because of all the smoke. Posted by Picasa

Nick toasts the ladies. Posted by Picasa

Grilling goodness. Posted by Picasa

Scott cooks like a madman. Posted by Picasa

This moment brought to you by Cham-ee-seul Soju. Posted by Picasa

Co-teacher Judy and yours truly.  Posted by Picasa

View of the stage while an Avalon employee spontaneously combusts.  Posted by Picasa

Photographic evidence of the mysterious, ghost-like, Korean, big, white hand.  Posted by Picasa

Korean teacher power! Posted by Picasa

Men in black.  Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

I threw some more scuba and flower pictures on the site for fun. I actually stole the additional scuba photos from scuba instructor and beer inspector Nic Hofberg. Since I stole his photos, it's only fair that I cite his website. Check out for more crazy Korean scuba diving action.

In other news, well, there's not much other news. I've just been teaching, grading essays and pedalling the Eagle around town. The poor thing got a flat today; I'm referring to the bike.

The kids recently had the essay topic: "If you could live in any other country besides Korea, where would you go." It was interesting to read what the kids thought of other countries. With respect to the states they seemed equally divided between believing that they would get shot the minute they stepped off the plane (because America is such a violent place) and thinking that all North Americans are rich and intelligent. I don't have the heart to tell them they are mistaken in both instances.

One girl said she wanted to go to the United States of America to, "eat the big pizza and hamburger in the western fashion." Besides being very poetic, this phrase made me wonder what is the "western fashion" of eating. Since she was referring to hand foods, pizza and hamburgers, I think it's discarding the chopsticks (and even simple utensils like a fork and knife), picking up the food, and mashing it into ones face in hopes that it might reasonably get close to ones mouth. I've worked in many restaurants and this is not far off the mark. In fact of got a hankering to eat "the big hamburger in the western fashion" right about now. Believe it or not, there's a TGI Fridays right across the street. I never corrected the girl's sentence. To me it was perfect.

Attack of the giant Korean flowers! (Where's Mothra?) Posted by Picasa

Reading the fine print.  Posted by Picasa

The sea was angry that day.  Posted by Picasa

Waygook washing machine.  Posted by Picasa

Quick, lets steal the equipment and run.  Posted by Picasa

The bad kids.  Posted by Picasa

We've found sunken treasure! Posted by Picasa

The scuba salute. Posted by Picasa

Don't be fooled. They're terrified.  Posted by Picasa

Bright green brings out my eyes. Posted by Picasa

Group photo. Don't worry, scuba instructor Nick was wearing some shorts, I'm pretty sure. Wait, they're on his head! Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

I've taken some time off from the blog mines. My weekends (the usual blogging time) were eaten in pursuit of my scuba diving certification. One weekend was spent in a very cold pool in Suwon, the old capital of Korea, and the other weekend was spent in a very cold Korean sea. Some people come here thinking Korea is comparable to Thailand and end up very surprised when instead of spicy, Thai chicken and palm trees, they instead get kimchi and dried cabagge fields (at least in the winter). We've taken it one step further at Avalon school. We know Korea is not Thailand, but we're going to pretend like it is. We will scuba dive and we will enjoy it!

Actually last weekend was an adventure. We planned to leave Friday night, and after a very chaotic and hectic taxi ride, we barely made it to the bus station in time... in time to find out that all the seats were sold out on the buss. One stranded, and extremely nice lady going to Sokcho bargained a four hour cab ride that cost thirty bucks each. Not bad, except four of us were crammed in the back of a cab for four hours. It was a community bonding experience.

On Saturday we got our first taste of the sea and it was nasty. The sea was angry that day my friends! It actually was, very rough and very unforgiving. Once all of us were in, it was like a waygook washing machine set on high agitation with cold water. I bumped into rocks, scuba instructors, and other scuba students. I would have felt bad and apologized (to instructors and students, not rocks) but I hoped that the friction from bouncing into things might warm me up.

When one attempts to earn scuba certification there are certain tasks that one has to perform: clear the mask of water, retrieve a lost regulator, try not to freak out. These can be difficult tasks in a pool, but when you're getting jostled to and fro, they can be down right impossible. When you're freezing and jostled, forget about it.

We canned the rest of the dives that day in hopes that the weather would be more forgiving the next day. We took our written tests at the hotel, ordered pizza, and then performed additional scuba tasks; namely clearing our masks and snorkels of beer. Scuba Instructor Nick swore that this was part of training and that we will get super scuba merit badges for successfully performing these tasks. We all drank out of my mask and my snorkel which explained the funny, bar-like scent I kept smelling while diving the next day.

So the next day it rained; however, we found a nicer and cuddlier dive spot. We still froze our asses off, but we managed to pull out all the tasks, and, more importantly, no one drowned; which I've learned is a pretty important thing in scuba diving. That's kind of like the king of the scuba tasks: Do Not Drown.

Would I repeat my experience this last weekend? Probably not. Would I trade it for anything? Not a thing. It's strange how I can put myself in a compromising situation and hate it and love it at the same time. Comparable to dating.

So now I am Nathan: novice scuba diver, teacher of small Koreans, and the terror of the Asian bike path. I wonder what other titles I'll accumulate. I'm sure the people who know me well can think up a few less-than-spectacular ones.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Long walk on, well, a long plank. Posted by Picasa

Alison wonders, "Which device do I breath out of?" while Sarah looks on skeptically.  Posted by Picasa

Super Waygooks! Posted by Picasa

We need to comandeer your vessle! Posted by Picasa