Monthly Archives: October 2007

The NBA is a Class of South Korean 5th Graders

How do you enjoy your favorite sport when your half a world away and get no television coverage?

Let me tell you…

The Plan:

I am the David Stern of my classroom.

I have 30 students per class and coincidentally there are 30 teams in the NBA. I entered into a hat the names of every team and had a student choose one team. Based on the team they choose I will treat the student accordingly. I have set the students intro groups based on division and put them into “educational” competitions as a way to satisfy my competitive desires. They just finished their pre-season. Through this plan I have come up with my preview of the 2007-2008 NBA Basketball Season.

The Preview:

This preview will be based on:

1. The perceived fortunes of the team for the coming year

2. The way different teams interact with one another

3. The way a particular student acts

4. How they fared in the “pre-season”

5. And how I feel personally about every team

So without further ado, or unnecessary diction here is my South Korean NBA preview based around my 5th grade English students.

Eastern Conference: (In no particular order)

Atlantic Division:

Toronto: I teach them the phrase, “but I’m le tired.” Culture is important.

Boston: They are forced to eat reuben sandwiches everyday and talk about how great their life was a decade ago. This will teach them past tense.

New York: They have a crush on the ugliest girl in the room and offer to buy her six after-school lunches and a wacky wall walker. In exchange she will sit next to him in class. She decides to take the wall walker, rub it in the dirt, wash it with water and then throw it at him when he’s not looking

New Jersey: Will steal New Yorks ugly girl friend.

Philadelphia: sucks

Central Division:

Cleveland: Gets kicked in the shins by Detroit.

Milwaukee: Never shows up for a single class. Nobody cares or even notices.

Chicago: Gets to lick the floor clean every morning.

Detroit: Kicks people in the shins without repercussion from the teacher (me). Cries about how their toes hurt afterwards.

Indiana: Sucks more than Philadelphia. I teach them the importance of not trading for somebody named Mike Dunleavy Jr.

Southeast Division:

Miami: Gets all the girls attention at first but then ruins it by farting constantly

Atlanta: At first they knew absolutely nothing in English. But then they finally hired a private tutor after years of wasting all their allowance on cans of aerosol and imported bologna. They are finally getting kind of smart, but could be smarter if it wasn’t for all the aerosol.

Orlando: Wishes they were Miami

Washington: Gets to watch Sponge Bob Square Pants all day long.

Charlotte: Finally bought the textbook for the class, only to watch their pencil break…oh wait, they have like 20 more and the one they broke was dull anyways? Then who cares…good luck.

Western Conference: (In no particular order)

NorthWest Division:

Denver: Learns to count to 10,000 by doing 10,000 jumping jacks.

Minnesota: Just gave Boston their reuben sandwich in exchange for a mini bag of Doritos and some grapes that fell on the floor. This teaches them about food.

Portland: Has been held back a year…they will be masters of 4th grade English when next years fifth grade rolls around

Seattle: They get to eat ice cream every class. I also make them sit in the corner and face the wall.

Utah: Gets smacked in the hand with my teacher stick every time they mis-pronounce a word. (Did I mention that they gave me a teacher stick!?)

Pacific Division:

L.A. Clippers: Learns the parts of the body through lessons on the ACL and an oral description of monsters.

L.A. Lakers: Has huge feet and hands, but no hair.

Sacramento: Watches the same episode of Hang Time over and over again. That way they will always hear the same jokes.

Phoenix: Drinks Gasoline

Golden State: Uses rubber bands to shoot paper clips at the back of Dallas’s head all year. When Dallas turns around to look Golden State looks away innocently and scratches its balls.

Southwest Division:

New Orleans: Takes 3 months to learn the alphabet but by the end of the year is reading “Everybody Poops.”

Dallas: Sits and stews all year long while Golden State pegs them with paper clips from three desks back.

San Antonio: I secretly teach them improper grammar and embarrassing Kongligh phrases such as: “English makes me hard,” and “So many gay times come ahead.”

Houston: Trips every time they enter the room.

Memphis: Doesn’t elicit any response from me whatsoever beyond “Wow, this class would be much better if it only had 29 students.”

Conclusion:

I really wish I could watch the NBA this year.

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The Horseman of My Apocalypse

In a brief moment of unencumbered energy I have accomplished nearly 3 productive things this afternoon since school ended. None of these things were especially difficult, but with my penchant for doing absolutely nothing, I am impressed with myself. You should be too.

I suppose this is a reaction to the frustrations that have overcome me at work. I am an English teacher in Seoul, South Korea. Additionally I have been a teacher back in the United States and despite the occasional misstep I feel fairly confident in my ability to create an engaging lesson.

This ability hinges on the slightest of floss however, as anybody who has ever taught can attest…many things can and do go wrong.

And it’s never my fault…

Story 1.

Three weeks ago I was using a slide presentation, that featured famous characters in movies and entertainment to work on the phrase “who is this.” Students would identify the picture and then were required to describe the person in a few phrases. It was going quite swimmingly when the door opened.

A man who I had never seen before strolled into my classroom carrying a brand new, flat screen computer monitor. I like flatscreens, and had actually been expecting to get one soon. I used some broken korean, and pointed to a corner in an attempt to get the man to place the screen there so that it could be hooked up after I was done with my presentation, which was hinging on the use of a computer. He did not listen to me.

He proceed to dismantle my computer right there, in the middle of class. I asked him in perfect Korean if he could do this later. I know it was perfect because every student in the class gasped when I used the phrase. (this has become my general indication of when I say something correctly, a wrongly pronounced phrase will result in quizzical looks) Again, he did not listen.

There goes my presentation. There goes the student’s attention. There goes 15 minutes of my lesson.

I don’t know enough Korean to call him an inconsiderate asshole, and even if I did it would be in bad taste since you know, I am a teacher in a classroom full of students…so I resort to angry looks.

Story 2.

The students had been progressively going on a field trip to a nearby ice skating rink. They don’t call it a field trip though, they call it “ice training.” I think it’s a cultural thing. Everything has to have a practical application. Fun, for the sake of fun, is not practical. Hence, “ice training.”

Every class in the school had been going, and the event had been planned for weeks. The 4th graders were set to go on the same day that they were scheduled to see me. I knew this and was planning accordingly. The day before though the 4th grade teacher approached me and asked if she could reschedule all of her classes to another day. This would result in a different class coming to see me tomorrow.

Um, no…maybe if you had asked me more than a day before I could have done this, but I have materials planned for tomorrow according to the schedule that I knew about for four weeks now. It discombobulates me to no end, how this person is able to work, and progress in her profession as she is completely unorganized.

She does not know enough English to call me an inconsiderate asshole and resorts to dirty looks.

Story 3.

Today. I was presenting material to my class using Microsofts PowerPoint. I had flash cards, and vocab words that I was using to stimulate conversation throughout the class on this PowerPoint.

A drill sounds, the lights flicker, and my computer as well as all the electricity in my room goes out. In the next classroom over they had been doing some re-modeling. I understand the remodeling, and if a mistake was made then I understand the power going out.

A mistake was not made. They had planned to shut off the power for about a week now and neglected to tell me. It’s not like I needed those materials or anything…I enjoy winging the rest of my lessons for the rest of the day. Really, I do. How about coming to my class and punching me in the throat while your at it so I can’t speak either.

I don’t know enough Korean to call them inconsiderate assholes, but by now I realize that the students don’t know enough English to know what I’m saying.

I yell at them through the walls.

I feel a little bit better.

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There are those who might read my earlier post about culture shock and say that I am simply mis-understanding the culture. I would disagree. I am understanding stupidity.

I was frustrated last year, in America, when the head teachers sent me on a series of errands to plan a 6th grade activity literally 20 minutes before it was supposed to happen. Was that culture shock? No, that was stupidity.

_________________________________________

Admittedly, I think efficiency is overrated. At it’s most basic form efficiency is the belief that we can do more with less. An efficient use of time means that we can read more books, create more art, change the world just a little bit more. However, over efficiency results in stress and a belief that we should always be doing something. Gay marriage doesn’t ruin families…efficiency does.

I believe that sleeping and doing absolutely nothing are efficient uses of time.

So with this I understand the non-efficient nature to an extent. But damn, they couldn’t of waited til the afternoon to mess with my electricity when I have nothing to do but screw around on facebook?

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Snowflakes were never special

Recently I have met someone who has just come to Korea. They seem enamored and entertained by the smallest detail. The same details I was enamored and entertained with when I first got here. I guess this means I’m not special.

It’s kind of like making a joke about someone with the last name Partridge. You think you are being original, but you aren’t.

That is how I feel now about all my observations when I first got here. I was not the first and I will not be the last.

Just one more piece of popcorn in a really long popcorn necklace.

This is who we are…

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I am a piece of paper, ready for origami

The roads look different in Seoul than they do in America. People walk and talk differently. You never see anybody eating alone.

Motorcycles can hit you when you walk on sidewalks and they don’t stop for red lights.

It takes 5 minutes for me to sound out what a sign says, and once I do there’s a better than decent chance that I won’t know what it means anyways.

The other day, as I had a few hours at the end of school to burn, my Co-teacher started talking to me about culture shock.

She drew a squiggled line and placed an X on it. She told me, this is where I think you are as she pointed to the X.

She then labeled each area of the line according to some stage of culture shock: Honeymoon phase, Disintegration Phase, Reintegration Phase, Autonomy Phase, and the Interdependence Stage.

The line she drew looked something like this.

cultureshock.gif

Apparently she believes I am just about to leave the Honeymoon Stage and enter into the Disintegration Stage.

The Honeymoon Stage is a period of excitement about a new culture. People in this stage are generally spectators.

The Disintegration Stage usually begins when a person no longer becomes a spectator, either by force or by choice. It is usually characterized by depression, anger, and a confusion as to who you are in this new culture.

I told her that I might get depressed soon, but I bet it will be because of winter and not culture shock. She didn’t believe me. People here usually don’t.

I did some research and found some links about culture shock. Here is the best one I think.

Essentially what happens is people go through periods where they have to re-discover who they are as people in order to survive in this new culture. It involves anger at yourself, anger at others, and an acceptance followed by a period of rapid swings back and forth as the person attempts to rationalize their two cultural personalities with each other. From what I have heard, many people lose themselves in one of these early stages and eventually fall away from the new culture and isolate themselves. If you can get past these four stages however, you become a newly re-defined person. Two cultures living within yourself.

I am not so sure about this. I have never wanted to definitively define myself as a person and spent lots of time back in the States trying to figure out how to avoid this.  Definitions are limitations and I hate being boxed in.

If one never has a defined personality to adapt, can one experience a personality crisis? I guess we will find out.

I asked Rachel about this and she had also heard about the stages of culture shock. She promised she will be nice to me when I enter my Disintegration Phase.

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Mike Miller…Seriously?

About a week ago I did a run down of what search hits brought people to this blog. At the time I began to notice a large number of search hits coming in for the basketball player, Mike Miller, of the Memphis Grizzlies. This seemed odd to me. Although Mike Miller is a fairly decent basketball player, even good enough to make the Team USA squad last year, he is hardly famous. I find this even more odd considering that I mentioned Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony and other much more famous basketball players in this same post.

So why Mike Miller?

Because of this

mikemiller.jpg

This lone picture, that I didn’t even directly post on the site, but just a link to has brought in over 50 hits in just the past week alone. Amazing.

Anyways, even more amazing is his hair. I made a crack about it then, and I would love to now. But instead I’ll just ask for someone, anyone to find me a recent picture of Robert Swift. I have heard amazing things about his new hairstyle and would love to see it.

Other then that, not much. In the honor of Mike Miller though here are more pictures of him that will hopefully bring wide acclaim to this little piece of the internet…Mike Miller is so hot right now.

This is Mike Miller

This is Mike Miller

This is Mike Miller with breasts.

This is also Mike Miller

This is Mike Miller with a bird?

And this is Lebron James…otherwise known as TRAFFIC

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Myanmar: Shades of Kwangju

2007 looks a lot like 1980 in some parts. I suppose every year kind of looks the same when you put it in to a broad perspective. Some people die. Some people are born. Some people get rich (er), some people get poor (er). There are some fads, and some jumps in technology. There are some social breakthroughs and there are some social back steps. Probably some wars and probably some demonstrations against tyranny, and those within the power structure keeping those against them down…all in all nothing ever really changes that much.

But for my purposes, lets just say that 2007 looks a lot like 1980 and not go much further than that.

HEADLINE!:

Protests Against Government Official Results in Martial Law, Riots, Arrests, Deaths and Media Filtering!

Myanmar? Recently…

Kwangju? South Korea?

1980

Pro-Democracy advocates were suppressed in the Southern city of Kwangju for demonstrating. The students rioted and the town was shut down. Martial law was initiated and over the next few days numbers say that 192 students/demonstrators were gunned down or beaten to death.

The military came in with tanks and night vision to use on their own citizens.

The students were voicing their dissatisfaction with the South Korean government which had been ruled more as a military dictatorship for the past 18 years until a coup ousted (killed) the former leader, Gen. Park Chung Hee. The coup occurred before the riots in Kwangju.

Now try to stay with me. The assassination occurred on October 26th, 1979. It was carried out by the head of the Korean CIA, Kim Jae Kyu.

This brought about the relatively liberalizing leadership of Choi Kyu Hah. He freed many who had been jailed for dissenting against the previous government regime, including the most vocal leader, Kim Dae Jung.

A few months later the person, Chun Doo-Hwan, set to investigate the coup jailed the ROK Army Chief of Staff after a violent shoot out in the countries Ministry of Defense. This is like a shoot out happening in the Pentagon.

After this Chun Doo-Hwan somehow reinstates military control of South Korea and puts back into jail Kim Dae-Jung, the anti-government leader. Kim Dae-Jung is sentenced to death.

Students are not happy, riots ensue.

The government is not happy, they kill rioters.

Why does this all sound so familiar?

Maybe because something incredibly similar happened 2 weeks ago in Myanmar.

And in 2006 and in 20052004199819921984

_______________________________________________

FOLLOW UP:

Kim Dae-Jung is not killed. America intervenes on the behalf of democracy and Kim is simply exiled. He returns in 1987 and wins the presidency in 1997.

Chun Doo-Hwan is president of South Korea till 1988 when he hands it over to his Major General Roh Tae-Woo who was also a commander of the armies who held back student the student protesters.

In 1996, then President Kim Young Sam called for the imprisonment of the two previous presidents, Roh and Chun for crimes such as treason and embezzlement. They were both convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

In a twist of morality only found in the sappiest Hollywood movies both of the two convicted presidents are pardoned by none other then newly elected President, Kim Dae-Jung. The very man they tried to kill and lock up.

Other links:

One reporter snuck into Kwangu. Here is his account.

A brief history of South Korea. That mentions the riots and the Coups.

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Self Discovery is SooOoo Three Days Ago

I was looking through old pictures today and she asked me if I ever missed my friends or my home. I said that sometimes I do.

Looking through old pictures doesn’t make me miss home so much as it makes me miss the times those pictures were taken. I wondered recently if I had made a mistake and if I would rather be at home, or with my friends. Perhaps I would have been happier with those I have known rather than those who are unknown.

People who pine over what could have been amuse me (this includes myself). It seems that if something would have been then it would be…there is no knowledge, or accounting for those things that never existed…except in our imagination. This is what separates us from the gorillas, the ability to pine over the non-existent.

The only things we know are what have happened, and what is happening. We can make guesses as to the future, and we can imagine everything but the present, and that’s it. The past has already happened and can not be changed…only re-imagined. The future can only be guessed at. What is happening now…this exact moment…now this one…this…this…now…that one…really, it’s too short to do anything but ride it towards the next moment. Why worry, we can’t control anything…only try to react as fast as we can.

I attempted to step out of my life, take a break and re-assess everything I thought I was supposed to be doing. I thought my life would pause while I left and that when I came back I would simply have to hit the start button and everything would continue as it had been. But life is not a game of Mario and there is no pause. Instead of stepping out of life I instead set it upon a different course. And if I was unsure where I would end up before I came here then I am even more so now…my ability to guess the future has been thrown out the window (the window, the second story window, a heave a ho a mighty throw I threw it out the window).

Would I have been happier staying home?

Of course not. If I was home I would be imagining non-existent events still, just as I am now. I know now that new locations and adventures don’t change who you are, but it is only your perspective and contentedness. I will only be as happy with my life as I determine it to be, regardless of the circumstances. Maybe this means I have learned something, but I would rather think of it as simply discovering something about myself I never knew.

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