Sunday, January 28, 2007

Tube to the City

Tube to the City
Originally uploaded by karmking1111.
Meet the highway of the future, the driving tube.

Hip Hop?

Hip Hop?
Originally uploaded by karmking1111.
Korea has adopted hip hop as a musical form with disasterous consequences.

Samurai Ken

Samuri Ken
Originally uploaded by karmking1111.
Allison left her gumdo sword under my care until she returns in a few weeks to retrieve it. Don't worry Al, it's in good hands. The funny thing is, her name is engraved on the sword so anyone who sees it thinks that I chose an extremely feminine name for my sword. This is a picture of Ken showing us how things are done as he hears, not for the first time, "Put that thing away!"

Friday, January 26, 2007

Obey the Laws

This post has been a long time coming and it's theme is one that everyone can't help but notice when they first arrive in Korea: the Korean driving style. Traffic rules are more guidelines here and horns blare frequently in the ironically named, Land of the Morning Calm. After intensive study and observation, I believe that I actually understand Korean traffic rules. They're like English grammar rules, there's more exceptions to the rules than actual applications of the rules:
1. You are required to stop at all red lights.
a) You are a bus driver.
b) You are late.
c) You are a late bus driver.
d) You just don't feel like stopping.
e) You are Korean

2. You should allow pedestrians the right of way.
a) They look like fast nimble pedestrians.

3. You should park in designated parking areas.
a) There are no designated parking areas within five feet of where you want to park.

4. You should not use your horn.
a) You are running a red light and you want to notify the pedestrians in the intersection that you are running the red light.
b) The driver in front of you has foolishly stopped at a red light and you want them to move so you can run the red light.
c) You are an asshole.

5. You should not operate a vehicle on the sidewalk.
a) You are on a scooter.
b) You are on a motorcycle.
c) You are in a car.
d) Traffic in the street is backed up, but the sidewalk is relatively clear.

6. You should use the pedestrine walk way when walking on the trails by the river and keep the bike path clear.
a) You want to pretend you are riding a bicycle.
b) You want to pretend you are a bicycle.
c) You are Korean.

Because of these hazardous driving styles, I am constantly on guard when I'm walking around. When I cross the street, I generally let a Korean go first and then use them as a screen, ready to do the old pick and roll should anything disastrous occur. The craziest thing here is I witnessed ten times more accidents in The States than over here. My theory on this is in The States, when the light changes, we just go and then we're surprised when an absent-minded driver T-bones us. Over here there's a much more distinct possibility that a late bus driver is charging through a red light so everyone looks around before they dash out into the intersection.

Having said all of that, the first thing I'm going to do when I get back to the states is drive for a week straight.

Having said that, I hate cars.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Culture Shock Recovery

A few days ago I passed the one year mark of my sojourn from the States and my arrival to South Korea. I wasn't quite sure if I was going to make it this far but I was pretty sure I could. What are my plans for this next year? I'll be damned (that's an expression, not a plan). Every time I come up with a definitive plan, something changes. Listed are my previous plans that have fallen in chronological order:

1. Stay with Avalon school for an extra month and then visit the states in March before returning to Korea.
2. Teach public school in March. Come home for a month in February.
3. ?
4. Stay at Avalon school until May, come home for two months during the summer and return to Korea in August.

As to date, that last plan stands, but we'll see. I've always said that I never know what I'm going to do until I do it, so I don't have the best planning skills in the world. I would say that I'm a free spirit that can't be chained down, but I think it's more fair to say that I'm terribly indecisive and unbelievably unorganized. You say ta-may-to, I say tom-ah-to.

I have been a little more homesick as of late. It hasn't been the homesick when you're crying on the phone to mom about how much you hate kimchi and can't wait to come back home. It's just been a yearning to see friends and family that has slowly become stronger and stronger. Below is other things I miss from the states other than friends and family.

1. The cat. I know he probably goes under both friends and family but he will be recognized here as well.
2. American food. Please send turkey, tacos, mash potatoes and gravy.
3. Sunflower Seeds. Mom and dad, my wintertime Christmas stash is almost gone. Please send more.
4. Bowling. They have bowling here but the alleys don't serve beer and you have to cheer for everyone who gets a strike. I'm not cheering unless there's beer.
5. Snowboarding. I know there's snowboarding here, but I'm a Salt Lake snob, who turns up his nose at the prospect of renting gear. I know I'll eventually cave on this one.
6. Frisbee Golf. Frisbees are kind of foreign here, let alone golfing with one.
7. My Car. The first thing I'm going to do when I get home is drive to the middle nowhere, hop out and spin around in circles marveling at the wide open spaces and the lack of smog.
8. American Bars. It's kind of nice to go out and play pool or darts or foosball, rather than just drink and stare at my friends (no offense friends).

However, I already know the things I'll miss when I leave here:
1. The food. Restaurants here are great for the following reasons: the food is hot and spicy, service is prompt and there's no tipping. I'll be a terrible customer when I get back to the states and get all indignant when I have to leave more money than the bill says I do.
2. Public Transportation. I get pissed when I have to wait for longer than 10 minutes for a bus here.
3. The Ease of my Job. If you think teaching is tough in Korea, try and teach in the states.
4. The Security of this Land. Crime is rare and very infrequent. I can't think of another huge city where people leave their cars running when they dash into convenience stores and children still wander around at 12 at night.
5. The Language. It's not like I'm an expert at Korean language, in fact the opposite is true, but it's kind of nice to walk around ignorant to what people are saying around me.
6. Convenience. Despite the language barrier and the traffic, Korea is very convenient. Case in point, there's a twenty-four hour convenience store in my apartment building.

There's more to these list but it would take too much writing and thinking to get it all down and I'm feeling tired and lazy. I'll leave you with one last story that I hope illustrates a point. When I was getting my TESOL Certification, the TESOL instructor was describing culture shock to us. She said, "Some symptoms are listlessness, loneliness, apathy, depression, social anxiety and a feeling of isolation." My one classmate looked at our instructor and said, "Oh hell, I've had culture shock for the last six years here in America." Here's to getting over culture shock where ever you may be.

Because I can't post without leaving some pictures, below are some stolen pics taken awhile ago.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Rockin out with the Care Bear

Kerry is leaving soon to go to school in Australia. What's up with that? Giving up teaching small Asian children to party with the Ozzies? Anywhoo-the following pics are old ones taken with Scott and Al's camera. I've posted them in an attempt to relive the glory days.

Hold On, I'm Not Sure If I Can Drive This Thing

This Guy, This Guy Right Here

Nick showed up in Korea two days before myself and will be leaving soon for a bit. He is ecstatic.

Mentor Wendy

Mentor Wendy
Originally uploaded by karmking1111.
Wendy, the girl in the middle, was my mentor when I first got here. She showed me around, got me good and lost and then left me for dead. I owe lots to Wendy.

Big Shooters

Big Shooters
Originally uploaded by karmking1111.
Korean Kowboys and their funny hats.

Me and my Winnings

Me and my Winnings
Originally uploaded by karmking1111.
This pic was taken during the mud festival. I had just played a bunch of skill games and won a roman candle, a pink fuzzy pillow and a bottle of vodka.

Arthur Attacks

Arthur Attacks
Originally uploaded by karmking1111.
Amanda's dog Arthur going to town on his tomato. He look much more vicious than he really is.

Say Cheese

Say Cheese
Originally uploaded by karmking1111.
The goal of these photos is to loosen your jowls and shake your head back and forth until you get the 'I've just been hit by a right hook' look.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Kids Say the Darnedest Things

One of the first things I noticed when I stepped into a classroom in good old Korea, was how much English the kids already knew. There would be some kids that it seemed could barely speak a word and then I'd say, "Show me the homework," and they would yell back, "Show me the money!" Not only is show me the money a pretty trendy thing to say (or at least it was a few years ago), it's also grammatically complex; especially for an eight year old that has a hard time saying "May I go to the bathroom." At first I thought that Jerry McGuire might be a cultural hit over here. A kid would say, "Show me the money!" and I would point and say, "Jerry McGuire!" This would only confuse the child who would then say something like, "No teacher. I'm Sussie." To make a long story short I found out that "Show me the money," is a cheat code for a popular video game over here. The kids seem to have picked up a lot of slangish idioms through American pop culture such as songs, video games and movies. Listed are some phrases that have surprised me:

- Head shot (video game reference)
- Wave your hands in the air!
-Final Round!
-I'm loving it.
-It's in the game.
-Oh my God!
-Oh Shit!

I believe the kids learn these last two from watching uncensored American movies on Korean television. It's a kind of shocking when little Cindy forgets her homework and busts out with "Oh shit." I then have to explain to the child why this is wrong and naturally the other kids get interested.

Kyle: "What did she say?"
Tom: "She said, Oh shit."
Sarah: "Teacher what is Oh shit?"
Me: "It is a very bad word that children should not say."
Jenny: "What is the bad word? Oh shit?"
Paul: "Teacher, what is Oh shit?"

Before I know it the whole class is saying "Oh shit" like they've come down with Tourettes. Still if they want to go to America I can only think that I am teaching them valuable skills, inadvertently or not.

Below are pics from New Years and such. Happy late New Years y'all.

Bright, Spastic and Chaotic Fury

This is the ice skating rink in the basement of Lotte World. For those of you who are unaware Lotte is monsterous chain of department stores in South Korea. They're so big they have a Disneyland like amusement park in Seoul. Imagine if Wal-Mart tried to create Wal-Mart World in the states. Unfortunately Lotte World has had to shut down for four months because of safety concerns. Inspectors found, "a ceiling on the verge of collapse and six rides that needed immediate attention." The ice skating rink seemed fine at the time.

Happy Skaters

Happy Skaters
Originally uploaded by karmking1111.
Kat and Misty in the foreground while the mob lingers in the background.


Originally uploaded by karmking1111.
Welcome to Suji. This lamppost says hi.

Bench Press Study

Bench Press Study
Originally uploaded by karmking1111.
Just in case you were hiking along and felt the sudden need to bench press something.