Thursday, November 30, 2006

The other day I was teaching the kids in my Beauty and the Beast class what the term "bent down" means. I did this by bending down to pick up something off the floor. Well, the kids went nuts. I thought maybe my pants had ripped or I was drooling. Turns out there was a perfectly good explanation. The word "bent" has a very similar sounding counterpart in the Korean language and the meaning of bent in Korean: panties. Yeah, so when I kept saying bent down over and over again in class, the students all heard "panties down, panties down, panties down." It took them a while to explain this to me, but when one of them went to the board, drew a pair of underwear and wrote "Lion" across them, I got the point. And then that lesson ended immediately.

I went bowling last night with my co-workers and it was awesome. There's actually two bowling alleys within a half mile of my apartment. The one we went to had 16 lanes. When I handed the cashier my sneaker, which is 10.5 American, her eyes opened wide. Well, they still weren't open because she is Asian, you know. But, um, they weren't as closed as usual? There was no one else there, really, so when I kept running down the lane and kicking things, my co-workers had to scold me. I don't what it is about bowling, but it always get me really juiced up. Maybe it's just all the horrible memories from Sparks Bowling Nights at home, where things (see Rob and see teenage girls on the lane next to us) happened that should never be spoken of again. All I know is I'm going to force Bender to bowl with me all the time, and he's gonna love it.

Tomorrow is the last day of work for three teachers in the office, including Erika. Erika's replacement is a 55-year-old American guy who seems like a decent guy, but there's always something creepy when you're 55 with no family and you've been teaching English in Asia for 12 years. My mom actually told me to take make sure he doesn't touch me inappropriately. Thanks for the advice, Mom. This guy also called me last week as I was getting on a train and he tells me he has a stock certificate that he needs mailed to a U.S. address and then sent here. Um, OK, so you'll get someone you know, a friend, a relative to take care of that, right? Yeah, no. He's now mailing this thing to my parents. My dad will probably throw it out.

I know people are worried about Bender, mainly because I said he died in my last post and because he has neglected his own blog. But let me clear this up: Bender is fine. He was never sick. He just wanted a story for his blog. So anything you read about him feeling sick or being ready to die or thinking about going home is complete b.s.

Something else I like about Korea: restaurant bills. You never need to ask for one. They are always already on the table. Whenever you order something they just add it to the bill. It eliminates the whole ask for the bill and then wait a half hour to get it nightmare. Most places also dish out free ice cream with your meal, and that is a big plus in my book.

Something weird: apparently they are no American-style parking garages in Korea. They have garages but you don't drive up them. You take an elevator. You drive your car into the elevator and it takes you up the garage. I mean, I guess I can see the point. Forget it, I can't. The elevator only fits one car at a time so if you're ever in a full garage and some concert has just ended, you're basically screwed. You might as well sleep in your car and head out the next morning.

(Photos- Erika and Lina at a bar and the city.)

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Bender died this weekend. I'm not certain about this, but it's the only legitimate excuse for him not sleeping on my couch. We were supposed to meet up with this Korean girl my friend Elliot from home knew from work. This was Friday night. I was pretty excited because it was Club Night and as everyone knows, I'm a huge clubber. Club Night it once a month in Hongdae, downtown where, um, all the clubs are located. It costs 15 bucks to get into a bunch of clubs and you get a free drink. Bender never made it because he was "sick". I get to the subway station at 11 and this girl, Lizzy, is already at a club. I give her a call, say I'm at the station, I need directions to the club. "Can't you just ask someone?" she says. Ok, sure. Only problem is I couldn't really hear her on the phone, she said she was at Club M?. I think there's a bunch of clubs that begin with M down there so I'm already off to a great start. I finally found a couple guys who spoke English who directed me to M2 and it then took me a good 20 minutes to get there. I'm standing outside and give Lizzy a call again, "Hey I'm outside M2, is this the right place?" "Noo, it's M-something inaudible." "Ok, I really can't hear you." At this point, I'm pretty sure she hung up on me. I send her a text message asking for the location. No response. So things were going splendidly. It's now 12:30am. The subway is closed, I'm a $20 cab ride from home and I'm by myself. So I did the obvious thing: I bought a bottle of soju and a can of pepsi from the convenience store and drank it out front. Now it's legal to walk around with alcohol in Seoul, but I learned that standing outside the mini-mart at midnight pounding a bottle of soju is not normal behavior. Everyone who walked by was laughing at me. This stopped bothering me after a few minutes, mainly because I put a dent in the soju. When I finished being weird, I walked into the nearest club. And then I danced until 5:30 a.m. I knew I was there too long when the same songs had been played three times already. Oh, I also met a German guy who makes Bender look like Gary Coleman. He was 6-7 and he could have palmed my entire body.

Last night I continued my explore Seoul on my own weekend. I went to the DragonBar around the block, where they were having a second anniversary party. Five seconds after I walked in, I was deep in conversation with three Koreans about how great video games are. In many ways, walking into parties or bars here reminds me of college. In college, everyone looked because I was that obnoxious newspaper guy who wrote about bodily functions. Here, they look because of my skin color. And just as it was in college, I have a love-hate attitude to the attention. Sometimes I revel in it and other times, I just want to be part of the crowd. Anyway, this DragonBar is like many of the bars here. It's not a normal come in order a drink and sit down kind of place. It's more of a freak show with bottles being thrown everywhere, fireworks (sparklers) being passed around, fire coming out of glasses. It's all good, except for when the bartenders are putting on this show for a half hour and it's next to impossible to get a drink. At some point during this mayhem last night, one of the bartenders put this blue drink in front of me and then everyone in the bar started looking at me and clapping. Some dude with a microphone said something about taking the drink as shot and then I'd get a prize or something. Even though the guy who had made the drink had definitely put the lemon that was now in the drink in his mouth, I couldn't turn down the challenge. So I pounded the thing, but someone said I didn't it Korean style, so I didn't get a prize, oh well. One of the Korean guys I met there kept asking me if I wanted to have a threesome. That was strange. Eventually I went to another bar with an American guy I had also met at Dragon. He came to Korea on vacation to visit his Japanese girlfriend. But when he got here, he found out she had a new job: prostitute.

(Photos- top- the bartenders at Dragon and a shot from Club Night)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

That's me on Monday night. There's a story to it, but it won't make it any less gay.

I have one class that has some sick fascination with the hair on my arms. They always come up to me and stroke my arm and alright, that's fine, they've never seen body hair before. But yesterday, a girl in the class starts rubbing her face on my arm as if I'm some kind of stuffed animal. This went on for a good two minutes. I'm not sure how I'm supposed to react in that situation.

I learned again today that taking pictures of Korean girls, even if they seem to be posing for them, is an awful idea. I broke out a few pictures from this club the other night while I was at work today. Two of the Korean teachers came to the club so they were in a bunch of them. The second I opened up the pictures folder, all hell broke loose. The two Koreans went nuts, yelling for me to delete them. "Oh no! My face is fat!" This girl weighs about 80 pounds. The other girl ran over to my computer and held her hand over the computer screen so no one else in the office could see them. It's so retarded. Hey, guess what, a photo captures what you look like. Everyone knows what you look like already. This isn't breaking news. I didn't run their photos through some morphing software and make them look like two-headed fat monsters. Stupid girls.

I continue to suffer traumatic abuse at the hands of preteen girls. One girl never pays attention and draws pictures all class. Of course, all of these pictures are of me. When she finishes one, she shows the class, they all laugh and then she gives it to me. Last week, she drew a picture of a girl and labeled it "Ryan's Imaginary Girlfriend." Now she's gotten even more clever and has begun writing Korean words next to the picture. This causes further anguish for me as I then must bring the picture into the office and have the Korean teachers tell me what it says. One of them today had a photo of me and some alien looking female with the words "Blind Date" written on it. Another girl in that same class said to me today, "Teacher, you're a lesbian." I'm pretty sure she doesn't understand the full meaning of that word. I told her that wasn't possible. Maybe I'll make it our discussion topic on Thursday. Can't get much worse than last week.

I'm still eating a solid two ham and cheese sandwiches a day from Mini-Stop. I have no ability to walk into a Korean restaurant and order anything unless there are well-detailed photos or English translations that make sense. Erika heads back to the US next week and that is going to force me to learn a lot more. I've done a terrible job learning Korean since I got here. I paid $40 for this software right before I came and the only thing I ever do with it is open it at work and make the Korean teachers tell me the answers to the test questions. I can't see how this is providing any benefit to me whatsoever.

Alright, I've got to get off this thing and do some research for the upcoming Christmas vacation. We get a Monday off! Bender and I are going somewhere on a hotmandatevacation and he cannot be trusted to figure out these kinds of details on his own otherwise I'm going to spend Christmas singing karaoke about 100 feet from my apartment.

Monday, November 20, 2006

I wonder if this place will ever cease to amaze me. In five months? Maybe nine? Cause as of now, it continues to offer enough excitement every single day to keep my head spinning. Yesterday as Bender and I were walking around town looking for some food, a herd of middle school girls came storming out of Lotteria, the Korean food version of McDonalds. They all surrounded us. Bender managed to escape and now thinking back on it, I had no idea what was going on. This one girl kept screaming and pulling my arm. The others were all laughing. I got away eventually, but for the rest of the day, I had to keep asking myself, Um what the hell happened before?

I've pretty much gotten used to the stares on the streets now, although there's still that occasional drunk guy who will be walking along and then just stop. Right in front of you. It usually takes him a few seconds and then he says "Nice to meet you." They all say that. From across the room in a restaurant. While waiting to cross a street. It's weird to me because I view nice to meet you as something I would say as I'm shaking someone's hand and telling them my name. Here I guess if you exchange some sort of sketchy eye contact, you've "met." It's all good, though. Last week was the first week without the old boss and man, it was downright glorious. While before I was always trying to be quiet and avoid getting into any conversation in the office for fear that she might join it, things opened up quite nicely last week. Hmm good yeah, but I can also see myself getting into trouble if I fail too far into a casual carefree mode at work.

I made my first trip to E-Mart today. As you can guess, it's Korea's version of Walmart and after walking around for a few hours, I was able to find someone to point me in the right direction. Once inside, the place was an absolute madhouse. I felt like I was at the circus. It seriously took me about an hour to find my bearings in the store. Several times I put down my basket and considered just walking out and going home. I got a grip eventually, although I really couldn't buy any food since I didn't know what anything was. I got some noodles and some drinks, it was a sad effort. Once I got home I immediately realized I had completely forgotten to buy what I had meant to. Socks. I think I'm going to try to snag some from a street vendor tomorrow. Oh and the subway today, I saw this: a woman walking her dog. The dog was wearing some sort of sweater. It was also wearing.....wait for it......a diaper. A FREAKIN DIAPER. A DOG. AHHHHHHHH.

For my discussion class with the genius girls this week, I made a terrible choice. Since I knew one of the girls was in love with the Harry Potter kid, Daniel Radcliffe, I found a story online about him. Only problem was the story was about how Radcliffe was going to be starring in a new controversial role where he would be naked. Not only would he be naked, he would be naked and riding around on horses for sexual thrills. Hey, those are the words from the news article. So we read the thing in class and I break up the class into two groups, one side to argue that it's a good idea to take the role and the other to argue that it's not. The girl with the crush, yeah, I put her in the group arguing good idea. Stupid teacher. The first reason she gives for why it's a good role: "He has a shapely body." This girl is 11 years old. She then went into a monologue about how in five years, when she's 16, she is going to find Daniel Radcliffe and they are going to start their life together. As if this wasn't horrendous enough, the debate quickly turned into the girls playing their favorite game where they decide if they like how lI ook on whatever particular day it is. Radcliffe crushgirl, after telling me Daniel also has a six-pack, poked me in the stomach and said I have no muscles. Then discussion moved to my glasses. "You shouldn't wear glasses. You look weird." "No, no, he looks better with glasses." Can you imagine American students having these kinds of discussions in class, especially with the teacher in the room? It's one of the biggest differences between the cultures. In Korea, looks are everything.

I met a Korean guy at a bar last night who was fluent in English because he had gone to NYU before he got kicked out for smoking pot in his dorm room. He brought Bender and I a tray of fish skin. That's right. Skin. No meat. Not wanting to offend him, and in Korea, if someone gives you something to eat, there is no refusing, I stuffed most of the fish skins in my pocket when he wasn't looking. Bender was disgusted by this, but I still contend that it was the only option at the time. So anyway, this Korean guy who goes by the name Wilson, calls me today from the airport. He's heading to Australia for a week. He's also been in Korea for six months just "hanging out." I talked to him for about 10 minutes, about nine of which were about how he's going to call all these hot Korean girls and get them to hang out with us. But that other minute he spent telling me about how liked my nose and my eyes. I was baffled for a second and then ahh, that's right, no GayDar. During a middle school class the other day, while the kids were eating pizza, I turned around and I did a triple-take, there it was, one of the boys was sitting on another boy's lap. Not in a wrestling or fooling around type way. More in the way a couple would sit together on a couch and watch a movie. I had to leave the room for a minute. Once again, just too much.

Every week at work gets easier as far as classes go. I've pretty much found ways to keep control of every class. During my last class on Friday, I let the middle schoolers teach me Korean. They absolutely love this. Of course, they just teach me words like nosebleed, punch and stupid. But I still plan on making it a regular activity as even the troublemakers in class are mesmerized when I try to pronounce something properly in Korean. Sometimes I even have trouble with English. Not really, but during a listening class, the kids wanted to know how to spell "irritated" and I made the grave mistake of turning back to look in the book after I had written "irr" on the board. They had a real field day with that one.

(Photos- top- Bender and a couple natives at a bar, and me pretending I'm Korean.)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Last night I drank soju. I woke up this morning, make that 12:30 p.m. When I got to work, I bought two packs of mentos and a bottle of coke. And then I taught seven classes. By the end of the day, I felt like I didn't know where I was or if I would ever eat again. My last class really got short-changed. I decided to let one of the students be the teacher. Great idea, right? Her idea of teaching was to play hangman all class. But hey, she makes the rules, I was just a student. All of the answers were either computer games or robots I had never heard of. Well, the last one was Death Note. That was cute.

Back to mentos for a minute. They are called "the freshmaker," but they should really be classified as a narcotic. I've never tried heroin, but I gotta imagine it's nothing compared to these little pills of happiness. I go through four packs in about 20 minutes. I think I'm actually physically addicted to them. If I stop cold taking them, my heartbeat would probably go through the roof and I'd be dead within a couple days. Yeah yeah, it's just a candy, you're just joking around, that's what you're saying. No. Wrong. I have a serious problem. This is my cry for help. PLEASE SAVE ME.

I love it when I say thank you to someone in Korean "gamsa hamnida" and they say it back in English. It feels like some big cultural exchange. Or when something funny happens and it doesn't matter if you speak English, Korean or Alien, everyone laughs. Like tonight when I went into Mini-Stop and handed the cashier 2000 won and pointed to a 500 coin. He knew I was asking for change, but he mistakenly reached into the pile of 5000 won bills and pulled out a handful. He was about to hand them over before I started cracking up and well, the other cashier was also looking at him like he had four heads. Point is these guys look forward to seeing me each day. And I don't say that just because I spend most of my paycheck at the store. I do, but that's not important. I am the only white guy who goes into their store each day, I guarantee it. In fact, it wouldn't surprise if there haven't been more than 2 or 3 white people in the store in the past year. Soooo, when we do get to share a laugh, something that bridges that massive language gap, it's immensely gratifying. It sounds gay and I know this is what Bender is talking about when he says to read my blog for the sappy stuff, but hey, I've been known to swing both ways. If my grandmother is reading this: No, Grandma, I'm not really gay. I know you've always thought that. But it's just a joke. I promise.

I wore a shirt to work today that has a small hole in it on the right shoulder. No big deal, right? I'd worn it in America dozens of times. Maybe two people pointed it out. If the hole happened to be unfortunately placed over my right nipple, then OK, I understand the hysteria. But man oh man, Korean Rule #485- Never ever ever wear a shirt with a hole in it, no matter how small it is. I felt like I had just walked into work wearing nothing but a tie covering my sensitive areas. All of the students went crazy. It was like the funniest they had ever seen in their lives. During one class, one girl said to me, "Nice watch." Almost immediately, someone from across the room yells out "Bad Shirt!" The laughter subsided after about five minutes. When I went into one of the faculty rooms and one of teachers I'm pretty close with saw me and the beatup shirt, he turned pale and he may have thrown up a bit in his mouth. He actually may never speak to me again. I wonder what would happen if I ever forgot to button my fly before class. I think all of their heads would explode.

Bender and I went to visit this palace on Sunday. It was all pretty cool, except that a lot of it had been rebuilt. And not rebuilt in 1900. More like rebuilt in 2004. It's like, dude, my house has more history than this palace.

I'll tell you what, the "fat kid" at school really makes work quite enjoyable sometimes. As I think I've mentioned, he's easily double the size of the next biggest kid at the school and he always wears the same pair of sweatpants and sweatshirt everyday. He always needs to stay after class to take makeup tests and he never passes them, except for that one I offered him an American dollar if he passed and he was out of there in 15 minutes. But anyway, everyday this kid is off the wall. He learned some kind of chant at his public school that goes "What did you do yesterday? I went to ..........." That damn thing gets in my head everyday. The Korean teachers in the office probably want to kill me. Last night during the makeup test, I asked the fat kid if he wanted to just move his bed into the school since he spends so much time there. He goes, "Teacher, if my bed is here, will you sleep in the bed with me?" I almost died. Whenever I look out into the hall, someone is tackling the fat kid. The front desk guy. The school director. Basically you go into the hall at anytime when fat kid doesn't have class, he will be on the floor. Today, out of nowhere, he walks into the faculty room with a roll of toilet paper around his arm. I could seriously start an entire new blog just about the fat kid, but I think I'll be content with him just being a regular feature on this blog. Now I just have to get a photo of fat kid. But I'm a bit afraid if I try to take one, I'll also be in the photo and he'll be doing something inappropriate to me. And that will just be embarrassing.

(Photos- top-Gyeongbokgung Palace and me with some of the guards, I guess. Remember you can click on the photos to make them bigger.)

Monday, November 13, 2006

So remember how I was going to cut back on my spending habits and realize I'm an English teacher and not a CEO? Here are the facts. I got my first paycheck on Friday, right on time, since I had one dollar left in my pocket. I withdrew $200 after work. I woke up on Saturday morning with $20 in my wallet. Sure, there were multiple bottles of liquor involved, but jesus, JESUS. That's it, this week, there are going to be some serious changes. I'm only eating ham and cheese sandwiches from Mini-Stop from now on.

I'm a big fan of what I call the Korean Height Adjustment. In America, I'm about 5-9. Here, I'm six-foot. That's right, if you're white, you add three inches to your current height when you get to Korea. I'm taller than I'd say about 75 percent of the people here. I'm 100 percent more white, though.

November 11 is Pepero Day in Korea. Pepero is basically a long thin cracker covered in chocolate. It's on 11/11 because um, the date looks like sticks? I think it's similar to Valentine's Day in America and all of the kids brought this stuff into school on Thursday and Friday. The only weird thing was a few of the kids would give me a box of it and then five minutes later come running into the office yelling "Pepero! Give me Pepero!" I was confused. They give it to me and then I just hand it back to them? I obviously did not give them anything.

I made the great decision on Thursday to start spreading office gossip to my classes. I told class of genius girls that my new boss was going to be Claire and that she was the niece of the school director. Yeah, so apparently the girls did not know about that relation so they got all "Oh but Claire is so young! Blah blah, so-and-so is older!"It's ALL about age here. Words such as "skills" and "talent" do not exist here. Anyway, I realized my mistake immediately, but it was too late. One of the girls called Claire to find out if it was true. Mind you, she called her DURING class. When I got back to the office after class, Claire asked to speak with me for a minute. Saw that one coming. I think I successfully pleaded ignorance by saying I thought all the students already knew she was the director's niece. But the whole having a student making a phone call during class, that's not good for business. Make that sign #267 that I'm a terrible teacher. Oh, and yeah, when the student asked Claire if it was true, she said no.

Ahh, that damn peace sign. If a Korean is posing for a photo, you can bet your life that if they have hands, that will be making it in some form or fashion. It makes me so angry. I don't know why, but I just want to go up to these people and go, "No, no one EVER does that in America." And trust me, that's the only reason they do it. Today, and you can't make this up, Bender and I walked past two girls who were taking pictures of each other while making the peace sign with one hand and holding a pair of tongs in the other. That's right, TONGS. The kitchen utensil. They didn't even have just one pair. They had one big pair and one small one. The worst part was they were walking faster than us so they'd always get ahead to a new location and we'd end up passing them as they continued with their photographic circus. You have to give Korea that: everyday, you are guaranteed to see something absolutely ridiculous.

The most ridiculous scenes usually involve drunk people. And I know, you're saying "Whatever, I've seen plenty of trashed people, nothing new." No, no you haven't seen anything. Koreans don't drink to get drunk. They drink to get annihilated, destroyed, comatose. In fact, I'm pretty sure they don't stop drinking until they stop breathing. Go out on a weekend, hell, any night really and you'll see at least a half dozen people getting sick on the street. The worst was when I saw a girl curled up in the fetal position on a street corner and her boyfriend was sitting over her with a smile on his face. Oh yeah, it was Sunday at 1pm.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

So I made my first student cry today. Really, I didn't see it coming and it was a bit weird. It happened in one of my nightmare classes, the ones that make me question for 45 minutes why I ever signed that teaching contract. Many of the kids have these electronic korean-english dictionaries, which obviously can be quite useful, but usually the kids just fool around with them all class. I told James A to put this gadget away a bunch of times, until it got to the point where I told him if he took it out once again, I would take it away. Clearly he took it out again and then showdown was on. He tried to shove the thing in his bag real quick, as though I wouldn't be able to find it. At this point, I was locked in. There was no way I could back down, especially not in such a bad class. They already walk all over me. I demanded that James give me the dictionary and when he refused, I gave him a choice: either give me the damn thing or go sit in the hallway the rest of class. This went on for a good five minutes and he refused to say a word, he just buried his head on his lap. Eventually the tears came. For such a pain-in-the-ass student, he really wussed out when push came to shove. At the point, it was all awkward and I felt bad continuing to yell at him so I just told him if he ever brought the dictionary out in class again, I would take it away for good. I obviously don't have that kind of authority, but it seemed to work. He was quiet and I guess a bit traumatized the rest of the class.

My biggest problem with teaching continues to be my mentality, namely that it doesn't not even approach professional. I still feel much more like a student than some figure that is supposed to enrich young minds. For example, today during a middle school class, during a listening exercise where the students had to take notes on a lecture, I walked around the class to make sure everyone was writing. And this one kid, who is actually quite funny, had written on the top of his paper "F-you" and he also utilized the present continuous form of the verb elsewhere. It wasn't directly towards me and he was just fooling around, but still, the only response from a teacher in that situation is a serious one. I laughed. As terrible as it is, I just couldn't help it. I picture myself being in the class and watching a teacher discover profanities all over someone's paper, I would be rolling on the floor. And so goes my problem. I have not yet made that mental switch from carefree student to take-no-prisoners teacher. Everyday it becomes easier and easier for me to make it through the day and I'm now quite comfortable with the actual teaching stuff, I just need that occasional slap to remind me that I'm 24 every once in a while.

I have been playing a lot more games in class lately. Not so much to make learning English fun, but to give these kids a bit of a breather. Many of them are in school from 8am to 8pm everyday. They go to public school and then they head to the hogwans, private schools such as mine, for more studying. It's actually quite ridiculous. Some of them get home from school at 10pm and then they have homework from 10 classes to do. When I asked one class of 11-12 year olds what time they went to bed at night, the responses were all: 1am, 1:30am, 2am, a few were even 3am. Sure a bunch of these kids are really smart and they might go on to make a lot of money someday, but hello, a childhood? That's a big thing to miss out on and sadly, many of them are trapped under a mountain of schoolwork that obscures all those other important things. And you wonder why Korea has the fastest growing suicide rate in the world. No, no you don't.

I'm not sure if I mentioned this already, but Koreans eat what's called kimchi at every meal. Doesn't matter when it is. 6am, 10pm, probably in the shower, everywhere all the time. It's basically this mixture of cabbage, radish and chili peppers. I had never tried it before I came here and when I first did, I was, well, revolted. It made my taste buds rise up in revolt and scream "please, god, never do that to us again." Needless to say, I threw the towel in a kimchi pretty quickly. Well, last night my whole world turned around. Usually kimchi is served in a little dish, but last night at dinner, Erika ordered what can only be described as a kimchi pancake. Man, I destroyed that thing. I think the change in texture (it's usually dripping wet) really did something for me. Hopefully this is a milestone for me. Because come on, the leading cause of English teachers breaking their contract early is an inability to love the almighty kimchi. One month in. I can't even imagine the person I'm going to be in Oct. 2007 when I board that plane back to NY.

(Photo: Outside the Yongsan Electronics Market)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

One month, baby! I made it. Just eleven more to go in this grand adventure. I think I'll consider myself completely settled in once I get a TV that actually works and a bank account with a real Korean debit card! The front desk guy, whom Erika and David refer to as my boyfriend because he seems to invent reasons to come over to my apartment all the time after work, said he would get me a TV "sooner or later." Who knows that means, especially from a Korean.

I have spent a ridiculous amount of money and now I'm suffering. I have what amounts to $30 that needs to last me until Friday when I'll get my big envelope of won. It'll cost me about $10 the rest of the week for the cab to work, so that leaves me $20 for food over the next three days. Usually I drop at least that much in one day, sometimes one meal, so the ole budget is about to get a real tightening. It'd be nice if this country, which considers itself quite advanced, actually had ATM machines that accepted foreign cards. Of course, I could just borrow a few bucks from Erika to hold me over, but I feel this is just lesson I need to learn. I'm not living at freakin Disney World. I have a real job. And I want to save real money. Too bad there's so much real beer here.

I tried playing Heads Up 7-Up with my classes on Friday since it seems all Bender does in class is play games. I thought I'd give it a try. It was a disaster. First off, they all cheat. All the little bastards were totally looking when they got picked. But it's kind of understandable because they were not getting tapped on the head. They were getting smacked. Punched. Pretty much beat the hell up. The middle school kids insisted on turning the lights off during the game and guess what? Yeah, bad teacher. Should not have let that happen. It turned into WrestleMania XXV.

I got my computer plug, by the way. I was quite pleased with the turn around. It really only took a week for Dell to ship the thing to NY and then for it to arrive here today. The United States Postal Service, I love you guys. I will miss the Internet cafes though and their cushy seats and of course, all those people playing computer games at 5am.

It looks like one of the foreign teachers, David, is staying on board after all. He got a promotion of sorts and he'll now be my supervisor. That should be, well, great. Still waiting for my boss to officially get the boot though. She was touching me way too much today. And then tonight, she's like "Ryan, even after I leave, you can still call me whenever you want if you need anything." I ignored that and continued to wonder how it got so damn cold here today. Seriously, 70 on Saturday and damn snow today. The ondol (the heated floor system) is saving my ass right now. Check off that one as another of my favorite Korean traditions.

Here's a bad tradition. SITTING ON THE FREAKIN FLOOR. There's a reason why most societies sit on chairs while eating. The floor is hard! It's uncomfortable. If you're a dog, fine, sit on the floor. But my body just isn't in any condition to be sitting on a floor Indian style for a couple hours. Luckily most restaurants here have a chair option and yeah, those are the only ones we go into. The chair, man, never take it for granted.

I'd love to keep writing, but I need watch my illegally downloaded copy of Borat now. I like.

(Photos- a couple shots of the new, and much nicer, apartment)

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Man, all day I've been wondering why this Korean girl we hung out with last night said to me "So you really don't seem to like Korea." Then I just read Bender's updated blog and it all came back to me. We were at a bar late night and she was eating pieces of seaweed. I told her it was gross or something and probably said other inappropriate things. You know, I've tried this seaweed and it's not that bad, but hey, it's seaweed. You don't eat it. Leave it on the beach.

As you can clearly see from the photos, the horse head made a huge appearance last night at this Halloween party at a club in Hongik. We had been drinking soju before we got there and I'm telling you, it tastes horrible, but there's something magic in that green bottle. When we got to the club and I put the horse head on, something took ahold of me. I was out in the middle of the dance floor gyrating and shaking that head all over the place. It was so hot in there and I think I passed out for a few seconds when I couldn't breathe anymore, but I got lost in the moment. People were chanting "Horse! Horse! Horse!" I'm almost sure that happened, but it could have just been my delusional state of mind. Either way, it was awesome. Best 17,000 won I've ever spent.
Work has been a freakin circus lately. Not only have both of the other foreign teachers quit along with my boss getting fired, but this week, two of the Korean teachers also quit. So basically of the nine teachers in my office, five of them have quit in the past week. I think McDonalds has got less turnover than that. I'm just hoping I don't get screwed at the end of the month when everyone leaves. If they don't replace all those positions in time, I have to imagine I'll be teaching a lot more. And not enjoying it.
It's the heart of the weekend now and I really can't be spending it all in the internet cafe playing with my blog. Bender and I have a romantic dinner to attend, with each other at the Thai restaurant. I'm so excited!
(Photos- top- me as horse with a random guy and bender doing the shopping cart dance)

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

First up, let me take care of any rumors out there so that I can stop recieving emails from Mom saying "Are you OK? Are you coming home tomorrow?" And yeah, I can understand how some people would think from reading recent blogs that I'm ready to pack it in, but look, I'm here for the experience, good or bad. I already know full well coming to Korea was one of the best decisions I've made in my life. If I left today, I'd have enough stories from three weeks here to last the next three decades. That much has happened.

Work has been ridiculously full of drama over the last week. Not only have the other two foreign teachers quit, my boss also quit today. I think she gave notice for one month, but the head director of the school is rumored to be so pissed at her that she's going to be fired by the end of the week. I can't explain how great that would be. My boss makes Satan look like Mother Teresa. If she leaves, the next 11 months may just be the most awesome of my life. She is the only thing holding me back. I'm really enjoying the teaching and I'm not taking any shit anymore. A few kids were being annoying yesterday and I just threw them out in the hall for the whole class. It's so much easier when I can just focus on the students who actually have some desire to learn.

I do need to cut back on my spending habits soon. I've spent the first few weeks here pretending I'm on vacation and throwing won around like it's candy. It's not tasting nearly as sweet now that I'm running out of it. I've already blown through nearly all of the airfare money. I came here to save money and if I continue on this pace, I'll be sleeping in a nice dark alley when I get home.

I've been mooching computer power off Erika the past few days so I have to use my Internet time wisely and I need at least a half hour to get my always fair and balanced news report from FoxNews. Until next time, as I've been asking my reading students for the past week, "What does the cock say?" Cock-a-doodle-doo.

(Photo- Bender with the eggs at a bar in Sinchon)