Wednesday, April 30, 2008


I was thinking of a totally different blog entry I was thinking of writing and I stumbled across this website about how easily read something is. Basically, what I write falls between the TV Guides/The Bible/Mark Twain and Reader's Digest in terms of difficulty of reading. The average forth grader ought to be able to follow along. Here's what it said about my blog:

Readability Results
The following table contains the readability results for

Reading Level Results Summary Value
Total sentences 342
Total words 1884
Average words per Sentence 5.51
Words with 1 Syllable 1250
Words with 2 Syllables 408
Words with 3 Syllables 165
Words with 4 or more Syllables 61
Percentage of word with three or more syllables 12.00%
Average Syllables per Word 1.49
Gunning Fog Index 7.00
Flesch Reading Ease 75.29
Flesch-Kincaid Grade 4.13

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

April Witch

So, I turned 30, being something of an April witch myself, but this post is actually about a book I recently read by Majgull Axelsson. I bought it back in Canada in one of Chapter's lovely sales - only $5 for a Swedish bestseller? What a deal!

Right after I arrived in Hwajung, I tried to start it but didn't make it past the first chapter. Can't recall what the problem was, but it just didn't suck me in. This time round, however, I quickly got drawn into the story and was curious to see how it was all going to play out. The basic premise is that there are three "sisters", girls raised by a foster mother, whose biological daughter (the primary narrator) has been institutionalized with CP. All of this is tied up in the fact that the primary narrator, Desiree, is an April witch who is able to leave her own body at will and travel in the bodies of birds or people or raindrops. In this way, Desiree spies on and affects the lives of her sisters.

It's got one of those Reader's Guide thingies at the back. I find these things interesting - there's been the odd book where the author interview was more interesting to me than the book itself. That wasn't the case with this one, but one question I found intriguing - when the author was asked if she identified strongly with any of the characters, she said she identified with Desiree, having written the book after experiences when her parents and sister had been very ill. That struck me, as there is no character I identified less with. Desiree says towards the beginning of the novel that she is looking to figure out which of her sisters stole the life that was rightfully hers. Her character had quite an emotional impact on me and left me feeling an anger-tinged guilt.

I didn't especially identify with any of the other sisters either, granted. What I did notice was the real lack of male characters - most of them barely exist in the novel. Two of the sisters have husbands/lovers who are away for the most part on trips. The other has a dead lover/pimp and a son in foster care. The only man who plays any real role is that of Desiree's doctor, who also lived with the other sisters at one point, and who has diabetes that he neglects. The female characters are fascinating - all dealing with broken families, a foster home, and the aftermath of a life once their foster mother becomes ill and they are all sent off on their own. Desiree's back story is equally fascinating, as it traces her life and the Swedish welfare state's policies surrounding disability care.

"This is the most human of predicaments... We know nothing about our origins. God abandoned us in a laundry room and went away."

"Every day she's promised herself that tomorrow will be the first day of her new, better life. The life in which she'll stop smoking and start the day with morning exercise and breakfast; she'll put up kitchen curtains... But not today, today she has lots to do and if she doesn't do it right now death will catch up with her and it will never get done."

"He's childish in the best sense of the word; the world still amazes him. At some point in early puberty, most men stop being surprised by the world, and sepnd the rest of their lives trying to vanquish it. But Erik is still curious. He's fighting not for glory but for knowledge."

There May Be Weird Side Effects

Nope, I haven't started taking any odd prescription medicines recently, but my fun, new "let's go to the gym in the early a.m." has resulted in some slightly weird side effects.

First, I go to bed earlier. This is a good thing. I'm not 16 anymore and staying up all night to finish a gripping novel now leaves me virtually non-functional the next day. How did I ever learn anything in high school? I have to have been sleep-deprived for the majority of my 5 years.

Second, this means I have to be a bit more organized. I role out of bed and pull on my conveniently-laid out gym clothes and go. No stopping to brush my teeth or brush my hair. I leave, buy a chocolate milk at the 7-11 with my eyes half-open and drink it on my way to the gym.

That all seems fairly normal so far, yes?

Third, I am suddenly obsessed with tidying. I tidy every fucking night! If there aren't enough little cleaning chores to do, I organize a cupboard or something. This is not a big place I live in. I don't have many cupboards. And they weren't especially unorganized to begin with. It's madness.

Forth, I lay out my work clothes the night before, in spite of the fact that I have tons of time to do that in the morning after I shower.

Fifth, while I am still procrastinating on some things I have been meaning to do for yonks, I have become slightly more likely to run errands and run them in a timely fashion.

Since when did going to the gym have the side effect of making you organized? And shouldn't they have mandatory exercising at university if this is the case?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Happy Earth Day!

Photo taken in Taipei in a subway station.

Good Article


Thanks to Bomb for telling me about it.

Fuckin' Report Cards

Are finished. I am starving, but there's 10 more minutes before the Chinese food meet-up...

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Weekend birthday trip has left me tired and sunburnt, but it was great. Details when I can keep my eyes open.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Travelling During a Full Moon

Was bound to lead to this sort of randomness. Now I'm off to get drunk on some sort of alcoholic bamboo.

Enjoy the Sunshine

I am away in Gwangju area for the weekend!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Gym + Field Trip = Tired

Lake Park with the kindergarten kids totally wore me out. We saw some lakes (unsurprisingly), had a picnic, played tug-of-war, had a relay race, ran around after a soccer ball, and I swung children around and piggybacked them and just generally became exhausted.

God, can't wait until Friday is over!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Such A Sweet Smell

I'm wandering around my apartment packing/cleaning. This is because the only way I know to pack is basically to tidy every nook and cranny and pick up anything I think I might need. Basically, I suck at packing. I'm sure my parents have been astounded to see my randomness ever results in things in suitcases over the years.

In my hunt for tiny toiletries I opened up the shampoo/conditioner minis in the same brand that I used in the Philippines and suddenly that whole fantastic week came flooding back at me.

God, I miss the beach.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Monkey Butlers

Did you ever go through a period in highschool where everyone joked about wanting a monkey butler to do all your chores for you? I was reading an expert in the 1st grade textbook yesterday called "Animals Have Special Jobs." In addition to monkeys that help people in wheelchairs, there were dogs that help children practice reading (by listening to them), and tiny horses used like seeing-eye dogs.

I'm ready to put my order in. I wonder where I get one of these house-cleaning monkeys?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

This Is How Much I Hate Mornings

I've started going to the gym in the morning. After work I'm too tired, but I do hate dragging my ass out of bed early.

This morning when the alarm went off I spent the four minutes of one snooze cycle feeling really angry about how cheerful the beeping sound is and contemplating finding an alarm that plays some sort of funeral dirge.

Getting up early may well drive me 'round the bend.

Kickin' It In Geumchon

Too funny.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Couples Meme

This meme has been wandering around the internets. I saw it on Frog and Bomboniera's blogs and thought it would be amusing to answer the questions as a single person.

1. How long have you been together?

Me, myself and I have been hanging around the planet for 29 years and 51 weeks.

2. Who pursued who?

Well, I've been trying to figure out who I am and what I want to do with my life for many years. So, I guess I am actively pursuing myself.

3. Do you wear any type of wedding/commitment ring?

No, obviously. The only jewellery I wear regularly is my watch. I have a favourite necklace right now that reminds me of Van Gogh's Starry Night. I wear lots of silver earrings, but only on the weekends.

4. What was the hardest thing about learning to live together?

Balancing my need to get things done with being basically the biggest procrastinator on the planet has definitely been the hardest thing about learning to live with myself as an adult. That and attempts to ever be on time.

5. Who takes longer to get ready in the morning?

I take either ages to get ready or 20 minutes. Before work I've basically been rolling out of bed with no time for anything but a basic shower and stopping by the 7-11 for two minutes to grab some chocolate milk. On the weekends, I like to laze around and read in bed, make myself something good for breakfast, and then finally, eventually, get showered and dressed. Sometimes that's not until after I clean my place, too.

6. Do you usually eat breakfast together?

I only like eating breakfast once I've been awake for awhile, and even then I'm not fond. I usually have chocolate milk once I get to work and then I wait for lunch for actual food. On the weekend, I am more likely to have breakfast, but I do sometimes skip it.

7. Do you ever share clothes?

Not often. Most recently with Kari/Lindsay when we were going out in Toronto.

8. Who does most of the cooking?

I know y'all think I have to say me, but the true answer is the ajumma's working in little Korean restaurants within a 5 minute walk of my building. I eat out a lot.

9. Who usually takes out the trash?

I do, though I once stuck it outside my door to take out the next morning and I'm guessing the cleaner came along, or I have really sweet neighbours, because it disappeared.

10. If you have pets who usually does litter box or poop patrol?

I have a plant that needs watering. Usually no one does it. Then I notice that it's been a month and the leaves are drooping and I feel horribly guilty. What I need is a cactus.

11. Which one of you is more likely to answer the phone when it rings?

I do, but I am all about the caller ID. Sometimes I just let it go, especially if I am still sleeping and can't be arsed waking up to answer.

12. Who’s in charge of the remote if you're watching TV together?

My TV is basically there to hold up the stuff I've put on top of it. The remote is stored in the side of the couch. I am supremely in charge of what I download and watch, though my selections are also guided by what Jen has to give me.

13. Who usually drives when you go out together?

I can't drive. Whoever is with me, the ajoshi driving the taxi, whoever drives the subway... Most of the time I walk; it's only on weekends that I use transportation. Aren't I kind to the environment?

14. Which one of you takes care of spiders and bugs that get into the house?

Me, though I'm not fond. However, I'm a lot less squeamish than I used to be.

15. Facing the bed, who sleeps on which side?

I sleep on the right side, unless I've left the computer in bed with me, in which case I move to the leftish bit of the middle. It's a giant bed. I often have the computer, a stack of books, and a bottle of water in it with me while I sleep.

16. Who usually checks the (postal) mailbox?

The front desk staff - I use my work address. At home, all I get is bills, so I only look around bill time.

17. If something breaks or goes wrong in the house, which one of you is more likely to either fix it or call someone to fix it?

Since moving to Korea I have fixed my own plumbing and rewired something, only because the building standards do seem to be that dodgy. When I accidentally managed to flush the cap to my shaving cream down the toilet, the front desk called a plumber for me.

18. Who is generally the neater of you?

I am pretty neat. I have a fairly high tolerance for my own clutter (and absolutely no tolerance for other people's, so it's a good thing I live alone.) I have been pretty neat this year, since I tend to clean in tiny spurts, which means it's usually pretty tidy, though seldom spotless. Right now the only thing needing doing is the floors.

19. Who handles the checkbook/pays the bills?

That's all me.

20. What was your last fight/disagreement about?

My last disagreement with myself was likely over how late I stayed up on a school night.

21. When you slow dance together, who leads?

Ha! I'm more into the hiphop.

22. What do you love the most about your other half?

My sense of adventure and interest in living an unusual life.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

I Should Rename This Blog

Since I've been doing a lot more posts about adorable student things than travelling ones.

However, here are some cute quotes from my students:

"My name is Max. I look like a big acorn." Grade 2

"I tired, but I think play and not tired feel." Ariel, kindergarten

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Friday Night In Hongdae

We went for the purpose of watching Jen play the flute at Oi. It was cool, though I am getting a bit creaky to be sitting on the floor for that long!

Went down some very random alleyways on our way over to Gogos, where I saw this.

Me, Vanessa and Orin at Gogos. The Long Island Ice Tea crew in effect!

And yep, lately this blog seems to have turned into something of a photo journal. I was apparently so inspired by the theme of letters in NaBloPoMo this month that I... stopped using them? Dunno, just don't have a whole lot to say!

Friday, April 11, 2008

It's Not Just Me Pushing the Homework

"My family has many members. My mom works in office. She is very scary. She always says to me "Work!!! Study!!! Fast!!! Study!!! Work!!!" So I always study and work. I am always hard at studying and working. I want to play sometimes!"

Poor poppets.

Reppin' The Short I Vowel

Art Class Is My New Fav

Sharks class painting (giraffes in their habitats this week.)

Teacher gets to have fun too. Unlike my last school, where I was told that I was no Picasso, here my students appear to be in awe of my "skills".

Spring Has Sprung

It's cherry blossom time!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

You Know You've Been To Costco When...

... your fridge looks like that.

... you need to use the correct lift position so you don't throw out your back.

... you have to reorganize your shelves to fit it all in.

... you eat the most amazingly delicious steak fajitas. Yum.

In other Costco news, I now know where to get $500 worth of parmesan in Korea. Just in case any of you are ever wondering...

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Dear Garfield,

I like it better without you.


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The English-learning Experience, Summed up by a Kindie Student

Hello, everyone!
My name is James Lee.

I was very happy past 2 years.
When I started Poly school 2 years ago, I was very shiny boy.
I couldn't see foreign teachers directly. Their eyes were blue and hairs were gold.
Everything was strange for me.

I fought with my mom every morning. I couldn't want to go Poly school.
But, my mom pushed me to go classroom.

After 3 months, I started to like Poly life.
Teachers were very kind like my dad.
The lunch food was very delicious.
Filed trip was also fun.
The most important thing is I made friend with very beautiful gril.

Although I am not still good at English, Poly school gave me self-confidence.
I love teachers and my classmates.
I want to study English hear in Poly school forever.

Thank you so much.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Dear Blogger,

Apparently, you may be killing me.

A Blogging Addict

Why don't we have Wednesday off?

So, my students ask me if we have classes on Wednesday. It being an election day, you could see they were all eagerly anticipating a hearty, "No!"

It wouldn't be kosher to say that we don't because my school is nowhere near nice enough to give us an unnecessary day off, in spite of the fact that there are two less days of statutory holidays this year than last, and that in Korea, if a holiday falls on a weekend when you already aren't working, well, tough shit for you. They certainly aren't going to cater to your lazy ass and give you the Monday instead.

So, I pointed out to them that as they can't vote and I can't vote, there is no reason we can't all continue on in our pursuit of knowledge and excellence on Wednesday, rather than sleep in and go out and frivolously enjoy some lovely spring weather (the damn monsoon and the nasty humidity that follows it is now basically right around the damn corner, so we need to get hopping with our weather appreciation.) It is far more important to have a grammar class. We might even have finally moved on past nouns, after all.

To which my forth graders looked confused.

"You can't vote teacher? But you're old!"

"Thanks, kids! My 30th birthday is indeed two weeks from today, so I am old, for sure. But I'm not Korean and you have to be Korean to vote."

"Couldn't you just tell them you are Korean, teacher?"

"I'm not sure that would work, really. Do you think it would work?"

"Oh, no teacher, you're right. You're too fat to be Korean."

Hahahahahaha. I really did think that I might die laughing. Which would be a pity, as I'm so close to 30!

On other amusing educational notes (and near death-by-laughing), I told a student to "get 'er done" today. She has not been doing her homework and has not quite connected in the past 31 days that this teacher she has now will just keep checking up on the old, incomplete homework until the cows come home and start flying with the pigs (eventually, I find it results in such remarkable homework compliance for the majority of students that I don't actually have to do much work to continue it happening, after about the first two months.)

Her response was basically, "Teeeeeeeeeechuuuuuuuuuuuur." (insert whining, which if you've ever taught in Korea you are well familiar with.) And I said, in my charming East-coast way ( I'm not really anywhere near that East coast, to anyone but people from Vancouver, and, come to think of it, maybe this isn't an East coast thing, though I certainly identify it as such) "Just get 'er done." And then nearly died laughing, to the complete bewilderment of my students.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Lovely Weekend

I had a great weekend, for all that I think we ended up tying for last place at trivia tonight. Will have to post details later, as I stayed out waaaaaaay too late for a school night! Teacher tired!

Friday, April 04, 2008

Yo Momma

Postcards From Yo Momma has some priceless emails.

Now my mother, when she first started emailing, she'd send them in bunches, because she always typed in the subject line and then hit send immediately.

Love ya, Mom!

Cheaper Than Massages

Painting dinosaurs with kindergarten kids. So relaxing.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

I Hate Beer, Part Deux

My burps taste like bugs. Damn you, lager, for being so bubbly.

I Hate Beer

First off, it makes me feel unpleasanly full. Secondly, I only had two and I've peed like ten times. And thirdly, it gave me the stupid courage to eat this:

Cozy is modelling them, as the pic with me actually eating them is very blurry, but that is not a taste I am willing to experience again for the sake of a better picture.

Beondegi are a popular snack food in Korean cuisine. Literally meaning "chrysalis" or "pupa" in Korean, Beondegi are steamed or boiled silkworm pupae which are seasoned and eaten as a snack. Beondegi are often served by street vendors, as well as in restaurants and drinking establishments. They are also sold in cans in grocery stores and convenience stores.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

And So It Goes...

So, this:

leads to this:

and then this:

I loved that first one. The second was still funny, but I thought they started to get a bit more... questionable. The last I would love, but there were a few quotes in there that I thought were odd choices, and potentially not kosher choices.

Also, I am soooo fucking out of the loop. I was sent the Clinton-Obama one and had to google around to understand what was going on and why it might be funny...

What's In A Name?

For the past month and two days, I've been using the first edition of a Poly written grammar textbook, while my students have been using the 3rd edition. Along the way the differences had not been hard to work around, but today the pages numbers all stopped corresponding and I demanded an up-to-date book.

The edits between the 1st and 3rd editions are interesting, because 99% of them have been name changes. The original was written with all of the proper nouns being Korean names, places, and things. In the 3rd edition, the proper nouns are Western. And not just any Western, WASP Western.

What does it mean that they changed Tae to Tim? Two little letters move us from one culture to the next. I wonder how the kids would react to the texts differently? And what was the thought process behind this change?

I have always been anti-name change. Sometimes the kids just get it into their head that they want to be called, I dunno, Princess or something equally bizarre. Barring a parent calling in an making a stink about it, it ain't happening. (Can you tell I just watched two episodes of Lost in which Sawyer was heavily featured?)

My one allowance is for changing to use their Korean names in class, because I'm kind of ambivalent about them having English names in the first place. The younger students seem to find it fun. I can even see that it might help in the process of setting up a completely English environment - a different name to respond to might well just be the click a kid needs to slip between the two languages. And certainly, it helps newbie teachers. ESL teachers in Korea usually have a lot of students. Right now, I actually teach the fewest I ever have, due to a stint doing some vocabulary test writing and teaching 2 blocks worth of students who come ever day. At most, I used to teach 10 different classes, all full of kids. Memorizing that many names is hard to begin with, so adding in names you are unfamiliar with and names that tend to involve the same syllables in different orders, well. Not easy.

However, I taught older, middle school grades in my first contract here and the kids often felt quite strongly about the issue of English names and generally they came out against it. Several of my students in Mokdong just went with their own names, romanized. I suspect there were more of them in Mokdong only because that's where I've taught the most returnee students (students who have lived overseas for a minimum of a year.)

I totally get it. You won't find me ever changing my name. That name is who I am and for all my numerous faults, I like me.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

An End To Belated Emails

Gmail Custom Time

How do I use it?
Just click "Set custom time" from the Compose view. Any email you send to the past appears in the proper chronological order in your recipient's inbox. You can opt for it to show up read or unread by selecting the appropriate option.

Is there a limit to how far back I can send email?
Yes. You'll only be able to send email back until April 1, 2004, the day we launched Gmail. If we were to let you send an email from Gmail before Gmail existed, well, that would be like hanging out with your parents before you were born -- crazy talk.

How does it work?
Gmail utilizes an e-flux capacitor to resolve issues of causality (see Grandfather Paradox).

How come I only get ten?
Our researchers have concluded that allowing each person more than ten pre-dated emails per year would cause people to lose faith in the accuracy of time, thus rendering the feature useless.

Their findings:

N = Total emails sent
P = Probability that user believes the time stamp
φ = The Golden Ratio
L = Average life expectancy

Dear Diary,

My S2 students this semester are keeping journals, at the instruction of their present writing textbook. It's something I know they had done in kindergarten (picture diaries) and the first half of first grade, but with the textbook I got stuck teaching them, there was already more than enough homework between the regularly scheduled pages and the monthly writing assignments. Not only would they have been burdened with work, but since we are expected to red mark the shit out of everything the students do, I would have been drowning in paper - not that I wasn't anyway.

However, this textbook seems a little less onerous, so I figured we go with the journal thing. If nothing else, it saves me having to think up creative assignments every Friday for homework. I can just have them finish off some pages and write a journal entry. As of yet, I have no intention of assigning them topics, as long as they continue to write enough that I feel they are doing as much homework as I think they should.

However, I think the kids have lit on this as a fantastic method of making Teacher feel guilty - notably to write entries all about how they have so much homework and can never play. I don't lack sympathy in the slightest - I personally would have crashed and burnt in the Korean education system. It requires a lot of work. I tend to think an awful lot of it is busy work, or at least work that moves so quickly it allows no time for digestion of new ideas. Instead of teaching a concept slowly and scaffolding it, we just teach it really quickly over and over and hope they get it by the third or forth go round.

So my students have taken to writing all about how much homework they have to do. One second grader, Max, wrote: "We had so many homework to do so, we named that Hell-training." I teach both Max and his younger brother (admittedly one of my absolute favorites, Peter) and they are adorable. I know they don't have tutors and their parents don't speak English, so the homework they do is struggled through on their own.

Teacher hears, kids. She'll do her best. After all, she's none too fond of the pile of marking that results from all your efforts either. However, it's good for you, dammit!