Monthly Archives: December 2007

Thailand

I’m gonna be in Thailand for a week or so. This means no updates for you til I get back, sometime around January 6th or 7th, depending on how I feel.

In the meantime check out this link below. I won’t throw many causes at you, but this one I think is an actual good idea. Africa doesn’t need us to keep handing it food or medicine, and it sure as hell does not need us to keep joining a million facebook groups. What it needs is serious reform and monetary investment…be one of those investments.

http://kiva.org

Also, here are a couple of posts from the past if you want to catch up on what you’ve missed or simply want to revisit all these magical moments…think of this as my greatest hits album

Numerous ways I can die in Korea

How Fan Death Works

The NBA is a class of South Korean Fifth Graders

I get drunk and do things

I roll with Korean Ballas

Culture Shock

South Korea in Haiku form

Happy New Year

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O’ Little town of “I can’t understand what you’re saying”

In a raffle at dinner last night I won a bottle of Vodka. I like to call it liquid-inspiration.

Last night, I went with Rachel and her friends to a restaurant on the outskirts of Seoul. For those uninformed Rachel is Korean, her friends are Korean, the people working at the restaurant are Korean, I am not Korean. When we got to the restaurant I was easily the only foreigner within a ten mile radius. I was also the only person who was not fluent in Korean. MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!

Driving along the back roads of a small community outside of Seoul the GPS told us to turn left. Since I was not driving this did not concern me so much but I felt it was a nice lead in to this next sentence.

We turned left and came face to face with another car on it’s way out. The two drivers sized each other up and the other car, who was comprised of older Koreans, immediately gained the right of way. It was not enough for us to simply back up however. The car of older Koreans laid on their horn, letting us know of our age inferiority. The driver of our car in turn leaned out his window and bowed. MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!

The contrast of the parking lot was startling. Lamborghini’s sat on an illuminated stage. A small river gurgled next to and along a foot path. A statue of Elvis playing a guitar with only 3 strings sat on a bench along the path. Traditional Korean style gardens littered the landscape. Statues of the Blue’s Brothers guarded the entrance. The irresistible force of American culture met the immovable object of Koreans past as they beat each other into a beautifully beleaguered mess of culture shock; stage 3.

Off to the right, in the distance, we heard the Neigh of a horse.

“Hay, Horse,” said one of Rachel’s friends. I doubt she picked up on the pun, but I started laughing anyway, which led to a one sided staring contest between Rachel’s friends and I. I kept looking at the horse. MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!

With all the contrast surrounding me, the most startling was the air. Only a few miles outside the core of the city and air was crisp and fresh. It tasted of foliage and farms and a brief hint of diesel fuel. It tasted like something I once remembered.

But this was still the outside and I was becoming hungry. We snuck past the Blue’s Brothers and made our way into the restaurant. Music played. Music played very loudly. I recognize this song?

A video of the music played. I recognized the video of this song?

In a million scenarios you would not guess that the Saturday Night Live performance of Hanson’s ‘MMM Bop,’ would be the soundtrack to this restaurant. Which, like the gardens outside was traditional…except for Hanson of course. Would you guess the next video would be Santana and Rob Thomas singing ‘Smooth?’ Would you guess that after that they played the 20 minute video of Michael Jackson’s ‘Is It Scary?‘ One of the people I was with commented how lucky I was that I could understand everything that was being said. If only she knew.

um…MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!

We drank Bud Light. We ate noodles mixed with Octopus.

As if it happened when I was lost in a thought the music changed. The music was no longer recognizable by lyrics, but only by sound. The jealousy felt towards me and my English soon took a U-turn back as my fellow diners began to clap and sing along with the songs that they grew up with. I can smile. I can try to enjoy myself as much as the next. But then there is this, my ego, that prevents me from looking like the stupid foreigner and really involving myself.

Sitting back, I sipped on my Bud light. I listened for any words I recognized and I smiled when Rachel started to sing into her spoon.

I let her lean on my shoulder when she became tired of singing into her spoon. I nudged her when it was time for us to leave the restaurant.

Not to head home, but to cook sweet potatoes wrapped in tin foil, around a fire pit that was previously unseen outside the restaurant.  Snuggled between Elvis and open air, we laid our potatoes onto the burning embers. Sweet potatoes are something relatively foreign to me. I know what they are but I am not used to grilling them over an open fire like a marshmallow. But I do know fires. Fires are calming for me. The embers dance and the conversation muddles it’s way around me.

And I notice…

Korean doesn’t have fill-in words like we do in English. There is no “um…like” here. They don’t have them because they do not feel the need to fill in every bit of silence with words. When I talk in the States, if I lost my place in my train of thought someone will quickly take it from me and I am left silent. Here, if someone stops in the middle of their sentence nobody is going to steal the spotlight from them. American’s speak loud so we can be heard. Korean’s speak quietly so others can listen.

So I listened and shared a fire roasted sweet potato with Rachel. She nibbled on it and I gulped. She asked me, in slowed down Korean, if I was having fun. I answered, in butchered Korean, that yes I was having lots of fun. I like fires. I like Rachel. I like Christmas, even when it’s half a world away.

Have a Merry One.

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If Jesus was never born…do I still get presents?

Paul, from England writes and wants to know:

Do they know that it’s Christmas?

Even though it’s only Christmas Eve back home it is Christmas here in Seoul. But based on the students playing soccer outside my window, the lack of snow, and the television programming today I would have to answer that “No, in fact they do not know it is Christmas.” Unless of course ‘Alien 4,’ ‘Mr. Bean,’ and that movie they made about the Oklahoma City bombing are traditional Christmas fare. Where’s ‘Charlie Brown’s Christmas,’ or my James Bond marathon…it’s just not Christmas without these.

And please, all I really want for Christmas is to be able to watch The Suns vs. The Lakers.

I always thought the song was rather silly though. “Do they know that it’s Christmas?”

On Christmas day, when you are opening your hoards of gifts and throwing out your left over Christmas ham, do you really want starving children in the Sudan to know about it? Do they know that on this single day America dedicates more money than most African countries entire yearly GDP?

“You know, we could help you with that AID’s thing but Suzy really needs a talking Cabbage Patch doll…she won’t shut up about it.”

So, if it’s all the same I’d prefer they not know that it’s Christmas. I’d rather keep my over indulgences and minor hedonisms to myself, thank you very much.

With that said, I really like Christmas.

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Only 23…

23

In all honesty, I think I could take on more

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Your Daily Shot of Soju: The Substantial Style of Teaching and How to Fight a Bear

Introducing “Your Daily Shot of Soju” This is going to be my daily format for sharing random cultural thoughts, pictures and basically anything I want to in an easy to digest and read format. Expect to be updated Monday-Thursday, and probably once on the weekend. Yes, I changed the name. I like this one better.

Something for you to read:

In a survey circulated through the classrooms of my sixth graders I was rated as one of the students favorite teachers. On one hand I feel pretty excited about this. However on the other I have to question what are the characteristics of a sixth graders favorite teacher.

Sixth graders typically don’t like homework. I don’t give them any.

They typically don’t like grades. I generally don’t do that either.

Compared to my competition, who has to squeeze in ten different subjects areas per day, my tasks are fairly mundane. I get to play games with the kids. My class is the one where speaking and making jokes is encouraged. I am essentially a 40 minute Barney episode, and honestly, I have taken my general teaching philosophy this year from the makers of ‘Blue’s Clues.’ So much so that, on days that I teach 3rd graders, I make sure to wear a horizontally striped polo shirt and speak to a green puppet frog named “Froggy the Frog” at least twice per class.

My style is unmatched.

But this is where my professional development breaks down. While I suppose I am doing the best I can with the amount of time and resources I have been given, professionally this job doesn’t not allow me to develop a substance to my teaching. Tom Robbins once wrote something about style being the basis of essence but I bet he also was never charged with teaching over 1,000 Korean students English every week. In fact I suspect he would disparage the job I am doing. He would call it “imperialistic” and “arrogant” to assume our language and culture needs to be transported to the other side of the world…the number one export of America, after all, is it’s culture.

Perhaps it is arrogant in some regard, but really, substance wise how much culture and language can I really force upon these kids. I am resigned. Resigned to the fact that in the short amount of time I have to teach I can really not impart any significant, substantial knowledge to these students. So instead I act excited. I act energetic and fun. I do this to try and trick students into wanting to learn English on their own. I am not an English teacher so much as I am an English salesman.

Here, I can not really teach the substance of Western culture but I can teach it’s style. Besides, I’ll be damned if those kids don’t crack up at the “silly foreigner” when I talk to that green puppet frog.

Visual Stimulation:

I showed this video to Rachel and she said that this sort of thing is actually kind of common in Korean politics. I was surprised.

About yesterday’s election:

The mayor (former) of Seoul is the president (new) of South Korea. Really, no shocker. He had been the front runner for months now and not even a split in his party or a video released earlier this week, linking him to stock market manipulation, could change his eventual win.

The election system here calls for a run off vote if the first place nominee gains less than 50 percent of the vote. Because of this, 3rd parties receive a larger share of the vote. Despite this, Lee won handily.

Piece of pop culture I’m diggin on today:

Winter Break…school doesn’t start again til the end of January.

Piece of pop culture I miss today:

Winter break that is really a winter break. Even though school is off for a month I still need to come in for a few hours each day, otherwise this month off counts against my days off that I can take. This rule applies only to me since I’m not counted as a normal teacher, who is a life long employee of the government. Additionally, I am expected to lead an English winter camp for a few weeks.

Another Piece of pop culture I’m diggin on:

Even though I need to be at school during parts of the break I can use this to my advantage. If I stay longer than 4 hours I can get over time pay. So I doubled up on my winter camp. Basically, I teach the winter camp once in the morning and then teach the exact same lesson in the afternoon and get paid twice…I’ll be able to make another 1 to 2 thousand dollars next month doing this.

Wayne and Garth say…SCHWINGGGG!

Because South Korea is Infested with them:

How to kill a bear.

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Your Daily Shot of Soju: I don’t feel like writing today

and coincidentally it’s the 10 year anniversary of the death of Chris Farley .

There’s really no tribute stronger than the fact that I still routinely quote his stuff on an almost daily basis (hey, you remember when you were with the Beatles).  I even pulled the “fat guy in a little coat” routine with my co-teacher and she about coughed up her kim-chi.

Anyways, in honor here’s a Chris Farley video that pretty much describes how I feel here every second of every day

Enjoy

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Your Daily Shot of Soju: Korean Music Week – Hip Hop

Introducing “Your Daily Shot of Soju” This is going to be my daily format for sharing random cultural thoughts, pictures and basically anything I want to in an easy to digest and read format. Expect to be updated Monday-Thursday, and probably once on the weekend. Yes, I changed the name. I like this one better.

Something for you to read:

As a privileged, upper-middle class, white American male it is only natural that I embraced Hip-Hop at the age of 12 and have since thought of myself as kind of gangster.

I tried to feel sad when Tupac died, even though I only knew like 2 of his songs. When Biggie died I tried to feel angry as it was retribution for Tupac’s death even though I knew like 3 of his songs. I wore my pants down around my knees. I rocked flannels with only the top button buttoned and was pretty much the definition of a w-w-w-wigga

…middle school was weird for all of us.

With that said, I am still a fan of hip-hop for life. It taught me things like how to dance and how to write. I’m not sure which of these skills is more beneficial, but one of these two has helped me meet girls while the other has merely taken up lots of my free time. I think that last sentence can be described as a digression.

As I have mentioned before, Hip Hop culture is one that is fairly respected in South Korea. And while it is still commercialized by companies the art form seems to maintain a certain dignity among higher social classes that seems to be pushed to the side so easily in the States. B-boys are still called B-boys and not “breakdancers.” Dj’s perform with classical ensembles and graffiti is viewed as a viable form of art (provided it’s legal).

Perhaps I could see these types of things in larger cities, particularly New York City which is the birthplace of Hip-Hop. But as a mid-westerner from a medium sized town I really haven’t seen the culture respected on as wide a scale as I do here. And since I can only bring my unique perspective to the table I will omit New York from my discussion…besides, it would probably invalidate my point, and that would really piss me off.

Hip-Hop also taught me how to speak really fast…a skill which is not useful in Korea

Visual Stimulation:

Korean traditional instruments play Cannon and are accompanied by the Korean Biz Markie and B-Boys.

This really reminds me of a Sprite commercial.

More Visual Stimuli:

Dynamic Duo – Insomnia

A pretty cool video. I suggest watching the whole thing. Also, if you want to get a sense of what my apartment looks like, the mouse has pretty much the exact same set up I do.

Anyways, Dynamic Duo has been around in Korea for a pretty long time. They’re videos seem to remind me of the Beastie Boys in that they always have fun and never really take themselves too seriously. Try checking them out on YouTube.

Pretty much the rest of the post is videos:

ChopD – Dear Friend

The song is pretty cool, but for true entertainment fast forward to about the 2 minute.

Also, I originally was going to post this video by ChopD but decided for the other one at the last second…another pretty cool song.
It just feels like the DJ is more important to Korean Hip Hop than it is to it’s American counterpart.

The rapper who takes himself way too seriously…and so of course he’s my favorite:

He also has a cool name:

Drunken Tiger

Here’s another video of his I really like.

And this one too.

I recognize this beat from some Camp Lo song…ol’ skool Drunken Tiger.

I suggest that if you really enjoy Hip Hop and don’t mind not understanding all the words checking out some of these videos…they’re pretty nice.

Sorry…one more thing to read:

The word “Nehga” here is essentially a reference to oneself, kind of like saying “I am” (more or less)

Lots of songs use the word and it stands out in my mind as it is pre-conditioned to react to any word that sounds like N!&&@.

Anyways, I promise Korean people don’t hate black people…they just stare at them and hold their purses extra tight when they’re around

A few more video links then I’m going to get drunk:

DJ shine…the former DJ for Drunken Tiger is coming out with his solo album pretty soon…he advertises by rapping to House of Pain…makes sense

The girl in this video is one screwed up piece of work…”If he doesn’t love me, the whole world will pay…thank god I have this degree in advanced nuclear physics”

Seriously though, Korean girls are insane

just one last song…yep…my beer is cracked open and I’m gettin crunked

Election tomorrow…maybe I’ll talk about it…maybe I won’t

Planning ahead is not one of my strengths

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