Your Daily Shot of Soju: I’d rather be finger painting

“Your Daily Shot of Soju” is 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.

The responsibilities of a 11 year old include; shoveling the driveway, raking the lawn, and shutting the hell up:

It was the last day of winter camp. It was supermarket day. As a final party we had gifts and snacks that the students could buy using fake money that we gave them. Our only expectation was that they use some English phrases in the transaction process.

It was with a grimace that she gave me the fake money and said “This is too expensive.” On one hand I was glad she was using English but with my other hand I wanted to smack her upside the head. You could have said something like “I’ll buy it,” or “I would like to have 3 pencils.” My classroom is not a bargaining culture. So I looked at her and told her that if she’d like I would give back all her fake money and she could give me back all the real snacks and school supplies she had bought with it. I doubt the point I was trying to make hit home, in fact she laughed.

This has been a hallmark of my interactions with the students at my school. The phrase I hear most often, more than any phrase I taught in any of my classes is “give me candy.” I have gotten used to the lack of please and thank you, culturally they are not usually included unless there’s a strong feeling attached to it. What bothers me though is that the students expect me to simply give them something for nothing.


I wonder if this behavior is indicative of the culture in general, just my school, just my class or just a few noticeable students? After all, I remember the ones that piss me off much more than the ones who don’t. I have to remember that just because a few students act like jack asses this does not mean the entire culture is like this. However, as most empirical or philosophical evidence explaining Korea’s culture is written in Korean, I am left with only anecdotal evidence to draw my conclusions. Actually when I think about it, this type of behavior is probably indicative of most children, of any culture, in general…at least those who have been born with some sort of entitlement.

“Matt, go out back and pick up sticks so I can mow the lawn” – My Dad

“Will you pay me?” – 9 year old me

“No.” – My Dad

The students drew me a picture of myself. It was a goofy picture. I had the body of a world class wrestler and the face of a monkey. My nose shaped like a pig at the bottom. Above all, my head was huge, it alone took up 3/4 of the picture. Three students worked throughout their break time as a joke. A girl, who was not involved in the creation came over, took a look at it, and drew a big X through the middle. She wanted to draw me a picture that actually looked like me. selfport.jpg

I’m reminded of a time in elementary school when I knocked down a building of blocks that another student had built. I laughed for a moment, then spent the next 20 minutes in time out while the other students finger painted…holy crap I loved finger painting. I made it a point not to break others creations from then on out.

1997: 6:30 in the morning, it was snowing outside. I had just walked back from finishing my paper route. I slung my gloves and hat on the floor and was getting ready for breakfast. Dad walked right past me towards the garage, picked up a shovel and handed it to me. He went back inside to eat breakfast and read the newspaper. When I got back in I had earned the right to read the comics section. Oh Calvin…that tiger isn’t real…but Calvinball sure seemed like lots of fun.

Students here do not have jobs until they get their career. Until they get married children live with their parents, living off their parents income. My co-teacher has a job yet, since she has no husband, still spends no money on rent, food or any other necessity. Every penny she makes on her own is her spending money. As someone who’s had their own job since they were 12, this is difficult for me to accept.

True, I didn’t study as much. I suck at science and math, but damnit, I know what sustaining myself feels like. I know that when someone gives you something for free you don’t complain. And I sure as hell know that when someone else makes a building out of blocks you don’t knock it down.

I wonder if it’s part of my responsibility here to teach lessons such as this. I know that teaching in America I’m not only encourage to give these sort of life lessons in my spare moments but it’s almost required, as it seems many parents want their children to learn it but are too afraid to teach it themselves. Here though I’m not so sure. One of the first instructions I was given by my new school is “never get mad at your students.” Not that I’m an angry teacher, and in fact I hate even raising my voice and my teacher voice comes off like a 16 year old boy who just broke up with his girl friend and is trying not to cry, but what if the students deserve some scolding or life lesson? On the flip side all of the Korean teachers carry sticks and are allowed corporal punishment. I’m confused.

I guess I’m becoming just like my father. Maybe next I’ll make them go out back and pick up sticks so I can mow the lawn. Except they don’t have lawns…or a driveway to shovel…no wonder homework is such a big deal.

Visual Stimulation:


It’s a sculpture of a giant hand. Did you expect something else?

Piece of pop culture I’m diggin on today:

Winter camp is done. Winter camp is done. Winter camp is done. Winter camp is done. Winter camp is done.

Normal school starts tomorrow…dookie poop pants on a stick 😦

Piece of pop culture I miss today:

Concerts. I know Seoul has them but not any of the type I like. Where’s my Bonaroo? Where’s my Lollapalooza? I want to camp and lay out on a dirty ass lawn, surrounded by hippies while I chug down the liquor I snuck into the show and chase it with my 5th beer of the day…at 11 in the morning.

News and links of the day:

Seoul is making it easier to be a foreigner living in Seoul. They are opening a one stop building that will help you get credit cards, insurance, drivers license, etc. You know, all that stuff your school/co-teacher was supposed to help you with but probably didn’t? They are going to have a homepage up soon. The moment they do I will prominently link to it on this site.

Want plastic surgery? Come to South Korea! Seriously, they want you to come here and get plastic surgery. I’d talk more about this but I feel this deserves it’s own post. Expect one hopefully this weekend.

Yah it sucks, but it’s comforting to know that it’s not only the United States that sucks at disaster relief for it’s citizens.

The Korean version of YouTube…owned by…um…YouTube. (guess where the video below came from)

Ninja Vs. Breakdancers…kind of like “You Got Served” but if it was an actual fight one side would definitely quarter and disembowel the other side:

Does this remind anybody else of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers?


That it’s for the Daily Shot til Monday. Check back, before then, though for a new “Events” page, for sure, and maybe some other random posts, depending on how I feel.


1 Comment

Filed under Culture, Narratives, Things to Entertain You, Videos

One response to “Your Daily Shot of Soju: I’d rather be finger painting

  1. Betsy

    First of all, that sculpture looks like a hand spider, that’s what I thought of.
    Second, that is so strange about the lack of politeness over there. You are so correct, apparently it is a teacher’s job to raise children, in this culture it’s expected. I would hope that morals such as politeness, etc are instilled at school since most of a child’s day is spent there but it should not be the teacher’s responsibility alone. Parents do need to step up a bit in this country.
    Finally, I would love to be a mooch of my parents! Stupid parents preparing us for real life by making us earn things..

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