Thursday, June 26, 2008

I Have A Cold

And I'm none too happy about that. It's summer, for fuck's sake! If only my students woudln't come to school so bloody ill all the time - the other day Maddie was running such a high fever, she was crying in class and I had to send her out to sleep on the couch. Why did her mother send her to school??? Now I have what Maddie had and unlike Maddie, I don't get to wander out of class and sleep.

Since I wasn't feeling well, last night consisted of watching No Reservations - not bad, but nothing special, an episode of Desperate Housewives, and reading a couple of chapters of my book. Which is what I plan for tonight too, along with a very early bedtime.

I also have so far had no water stoppage during the water shut-off. I guess the reserves are going to hold out the two days. It seemed at first that people were really attempting to conserve water, but last night I heard someone turn on their washing machine.

I have very exciting plans for tomorrow!

Monday, June 23, 2008

What, in God's Name, to Say?

On our field trip to Imjingak, we saw a lot of tourists, it being a standard stop on the DMZ tours (and all Canadians will be appalled to hear that in my head I just thought dee-em-zee.) One of the kindie kids, Patrick, said rather loudly, "Those people scare me." Jenn told him he could hold her hand if he was scared, but he couldn't say it out loud because it would hurt people's feelings.

Last semester a forth grader, in response to the essay topic "If you were Ban Ki Moon and the leader of the UN, what three problems in the world would you fix and how?" suggested as problem number two, the Japanese, with the solution being that the UN bomb them! Historically, the anti-Japanese sentiment here is very understandable. I recently went to Sharing House (which I fully intend to blog about properly asap) and I do see how the issues with the Japanese do not rest in the past only and that this is a nation that needs to learn to apologise and acknowledge their actions, and yet... Bombing by the UN, not an acceptable solution. We had a chat after class about why it was an inappropriate response to the question and he rewrote that paragraph.

Then, somehow in one of those diversions from the topic that looking back you can't figure out quite how you got to, on Friday my forth graders all professed a strong belief that Chinese people eat babies. I was startled to say the least, and a bit of quick googling brought up info on the urban legend. After appealing to their knowledge of technology with the statement, "With a good enough Photoshop program, I could make it look like all of you eat babies," I had the class agreeing with me that, okay, Chinese people don't eat babies. But... they come to our country and make expensive phone calls and are not very nice.

Sometimes it's like banging your head against a brick wall in the classroom. Is it progress that they now think that Chinese people are bad, but not baby-eaters? I wish there was more time to deal with these kinds of issues - certainly, the textbook allows for a lot of jumping off points into discussions about diversity and tolerance, which I encourage as much as possible. It's just too bad that we have to move so quickly.

Ahhhh, Wonderbread

I would have prefered to have been there and lacked the clear head, but since I have no choice in the matter, this is pretty fucking funny!

Mildly Evil Comment

I think my ex and his parents were "early uptakers".

Only in Korea

I almost got run over INSIDE a building by a motorcycle. More amusingly, someone had to point out to me that it was not the sort of thing that happens at home.

Also, I've never lived in a country before with doorway flies. Every morning, I walk out of my apartment building through a wall of buzzing flies. Once I've cleared the doorway, it's all good again. They aren't inside the lobby either. So bizarre.

You've got to be kidding... right???

The students tell us there will be no water in Hwajung-dong on Thursday and Friday.

It can't really be the case that a developed nation would choose to turn off all the water at the same time for two days running in hot, sweaty weather, can it???

Friday, June 20, 2008


I have an odd love of today's pigtail braids. Very odd love. Feel like I ought to start doing it daily... Realistically that's never gonna happen, since I'd have to get up a good 10 minutes earlier every morning.

The kids' reactions were fascinating. I mean, I get that I've spent 10 months with my hair down. And I get that it's a childish hairstyle. However, not a single student of mine could refrain from commenting, loud and long, and I heard a number of students I don't even know talking about it. Apparently, I also have a small face, young hair but an adult S-line body, and a apple face.

That last one confused me until I looked in the mirror and finally got the full effect of today's sunburn. My nose is very red and the rest of my face isn't far behind it.

It's like I've got a face the color of Pippi Longstocking's hair and the braids to match.

Land of the Morning Calm

I've been doing some themed reading recently - it didn't start out particularly intentionally, but that's what seems to have happened. The most significant has been the incredible number of books I've read about Korea recently.

It started when I decided to finally read The Koreans: Who They Are, What They Want, Where Their Future Lies by Michael Breen. How it's taken me the best part of three contracts to get around to reading the book that everyone reads, I don't know, except that if you've spent any time around me or reading this blog, my distaste for being told what to read or feel any compulsion to read things is strong. It was an interesting book - it's one of those books that people say explains Korean people for them. As someone who had already been around a fair amount of time, I found that it basically just repeated an awful lot of truisms, in a fairly easy read, that could I can see be useful for Newbies. I thought the most thought-provoking comment was on the fact that Korean people who lived through the horrors of WWII and the Korean War almost never talk about it and when they do, it is in a fairly emotionally-detached way. That hadn't occurred to me, but in my experience it has been fairly true. Something that really is so recent in history, that has such an impact on the reality of Korea today and yet it is so seldom spoken of - to foreigners anyway.

I then moved on to The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag by Kang Chol-Hwan and Pierre Rigoulot which tells the life story of a young man whose family repatriated to North Korea from Japan and after a fairly privileged childhood, gets sent to a labour camp. He is released and then flees North Korea via China when he thinks he's going to be sent back for listening to banned radio. It was fascinating - who knew how functionally-capitalist the North Korean communism was? This book interested me a lot as I'm pretty sure it was after reading this that my ex-coworkers made the rather extreme statement that they'd never visit North Korea and hence support the regime there in any financial sense. Considering that two of the three involved in that particular discussion had worked in China previously, I had assumed it would be an extremely horrifying read - perhaps I read far too many depressing books about this sort of subject, but I didn't find the story exceptionally horrifying. I don't mean to make light of it, but I have read accounts of Siberia aimed at children (The Endless Steppe by Esther Hautzig) that were as affecting and more than a few Holocaust books that were far more indescribably awful.

I moved on next to a couple of novellas/short stories: The Snowy Road by Yi Chong-jun and Three Days in That Autumn by Pak Wanseo. The Snowy Road is about a son's strained relationship with his mother, told through two visits, one present and one past. The family lost a beautiful house due to the gambling of an older brother and his mother stayed behind to give her son one last night in his childhood home and then walked him to the bus back to the city. In the present, the son visits his mother and immediately wants to return to Seoul:
"I had told my wife the history of this dresser several times. If my wife understood it's meaning, I was confident she would understand how I felt about it. Moreover, if she knew I could overhear their conversation near the room, she would surely be even more sympathetic to my feelings. Even so, I found myself so tense that I nearly resorted to my old habit of picking my nose to calm myself. I was seized with tension. I was afraid of suddenly encountering a debt popping out of nowhere. My mother might attack in her shameful way, cornering me with the dilemma of admitting this old debt.
The son feels that he has no debt of assistance to his mother, which is well illustrated in this quote, though to be honest what struck me about it was the nose picking, which happens on a level amongst my students that I feel in unparalleled in North America. Three Days in That Autumn was disappointing. I had hoped the subject matter, a woman raped during the war who becomes an abortion doctor, would make it a fairly feminist read, but as the doctor is actively judgemental about the women she serves, it wasn't at all.
What would be the point of constructing a nice villa in a seamy shantytown? Nobody feels enough of an attachment to the neighborhood to do something so foolish. And so, in this neighborhood, talk of the affluence and abundance of the rest of Korea is little more than hearsay. But how fortunate to be able to hear such rumors.

Outwardly, everyone appears to be living a comfortable enough life. Having heard the hearsay, each knows how to simulate a life of comfort. Just as Mandeok justifies his lavish spending by quoting his company's export revenues, and just as some people dance at the first sound of a drumbeat without caring why it is beating, they all live well with no practical worries. First and foremost, just noticing the the underclothes an private pars of housewives have become as clean as those of prostitutes makes me realize how much the standard of living has improved over the years.
I had great hopes. It was still fascinating and well worth a read, just wasn't quite what I was hoping for.

Next up was Contradictions by Yang Gui-ja and it was odd. Just odd. It's about a young woman with a father who is, well, odd and a brother who is some sort of low-level gangster/wannabe and two men she is dating and trying to choose.
Still, not everyone in their twenties, no matter how sparkling they are, has a dramatic tale of love to tell. Especially someone like me, unexcitable and sarcastic about everything. Even if a moemtn of drama came hunting for me, I 'd probably kick it away and grumblea bout it afterwards: "I didn't expect this sort of childish stuff to happen."...

That's the age to be swept away by something: love, work - as long as somthing captivates you, your life will be suddenly richer.
I just couldn't wrap my mind around anything this novel was about and couldn't decide if it was a cultural gap, the fact that I am so far from the perspective of a life that is about choosing between two men to marry, or what exactly, but the whole thing felt incomprehensible and rather juvenile. And that might just be it. Perhaps I am too old for stories about 25 year olds finding themselves. Certainy any substantive discussions with Orin leave me shaking my head and feeling that the age gap between us, him at 24 and me at 30, is of such importance.

Months ago, I read the Tower of Ants by Choi In-ho. Like The Snowy Road, it was part of an airport buy - I was in Incheon airport, far too early, waiting for my sister. They are in the same series, The Hollym Modern Korean Short Stories series, and contain both English and Korean text and a series of artwork that are at least a significant part of the charm of the books.
He just could not understand why these ants, which should be outside gathering dirt to block the entrance of their nest at the approcach of a storm or storing sap, dead insects, or crumbs from a picnic in the maze they formed below the earth, were in his new apartment. The had not intruded by accident, but were making his living space the very site from their struggle for existence and harassing him by forming pakcs and targeting the fragrant, sweet juice of the half-eaten apple.

Although this was the first time that he sensed the existence of the ants, they may well have been crawling all over his aprtment, discovering fodd and using their collective srength to move it into their own quarters somewhere deep. The very thought made him uncomfortable.
What an interesting articulation of the way modern society draws such a firm line in its collective notion of wilderness and civilization, of outside and inside. We really do feel like the one should just not intrude upon the other. From a feminist standpoint, very annoying: "Women have this inexplicable tendaency to take pleasure in doing household chores for men, even for those they have just met. For example, even at first aquaintance, they instrinctively enjoy washing a man's socks or shirt, or get excited about cooking a meal or making coffee." Um, no? I may well have a bit too much of myself intwined in the notion of being thought of as a person with a clean, pleasant living space, but I can tell ya right now, you won't find me cleaning other people's places! Anyway, the narrator starts to feel that the ants are invading his apartment on purpose, which is amusing. Certainly, it can be easy to take an insect infestation personally.

Somehow my first apartment with the cockroaches bothered me so little that I couldn't even be bothered looking into roach motels, but I am presently engaged in some sort of battle with fruit flies that I most certainly have become emotionally involved in. All of this is tied to his job in advertising, which he sees as a war to trigger people to do basic things. Apparently I was supposed to have connected the ants with modern society, which I admit I didn't do, though the afterward about it was fascinating. Apparently the protaganist trying to rid his world of ants was about resisting the modern human culture and being chained to a job, existing only to work. Whatever - I was too concerned with the insects to be interested in symbolism.

The final book I read was by Margaret Drabble, The Red Queen. It was interesting, but the parts just did not work together for me. The first part tells the story of a princess whose husband, the Crown Prince, whose behavior is increasingly erratic until he is left in a rice chest to starve to death by his father. The second part is about an academic who goes to Seoul for a conference and reads the book. She does indeed visit some of the locations she has read about, but the focus of the story for me was her affair and her past history. Then there is a short third part, where the wife of the man she slept with adopts a Chinese child and she acts as a sort of second mother to the child. This all seemed a lot less bizarre when I was reading it, actually. Anyway, the individual parts were fine, interesting enough, but the book as a whole didn't really work for me.
Bab's mother is an intelligent woman, born in a generation that thout it smart to dissimulate intelligence. Her daughter Barbara is an intelligent woman, born in a competitive generation that needs to display and exaggerate intellgence.
I found the insights into the academic world more interesting than anything else, really. I vaguely recalled that Drabble was the sister? half sister? of A. S. Byatt, whose Possession really entranced me. I found this article about their sibling rivalry. Little sisters are just so annoying sometimes, aren't they?

Sister act

They are two of our most celebrated novelists, but for 50 years they have also been bitter rivals. Now Margaret Drabble is writing a novel about their family life, and A S Byatt doesn't like it one bit...

By John Walsh
Friday, 7 April 2000

In 1850, Charlotte Bronte contributed a curious introduction to a new edition of Wuthering Heights. She had just re-read the book, she said, and, for the first time, had a clear grasp of its "faults". To people who didn't know her late sister Emily, she observed, the novel "must appear a rude and strange production". She wouldn't be surprised, she went on, if the manners and language and behaviour of the characters were, to most readers, "unintelligible and - where intelligible - repulsive". Charlotte felt she should explain that Emily knew about the outside world only through tragic myths and terrible events. "I am bound to avow that she had scarcely more practical knowledge of the peasantry among whom she lived, than a nun has of the country people who sometimes pass her convent gate..."

In 1850, Charlotte Brontë contributed a curious introduction to a new edition of Wuthering Heights. She had just re-read the book, she said, and, for the first time, had a clear grasp of its "faults". To people who didn't know her late sister Emily, she observed, the novel "must appear a rude and strange production". She wouldn't be surprised, she went on, if the manners and language and behaviour of the characters were, to most readers, "unintelligible and - where intelligible - repulsive". Charlotte felt she should explain that Emily knew about the outside world only through tragic myths and terrible events. "I am bound to avow that she had scarcely more practical knowledge of the peasantry among whom she lived, than a nun has of the country people who sometimes pass her convent gate..."

Well, thanks a bunch, sister dear, you can hear Emily seething from her last home under the heath and the hare-bells; and we are surprised to read such a silken posthumous sisterly put-down from one fine novelist to another. Where would you find such a delicate piece of literary sororicide today?

One answer is: somewhere between Dame Antonia (A S) Byatt CBE and her sister Margaret Drabble. The two writers have rarely commented on one another's work, but there seems to exist between them a constant, low-level hum of irritation. In a century full of sisterly spats - Virginia and Vanessa Bell, Joan Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland, Jackie and Joan Collins, Jane and Anna Campion - their dispute, whatever the exact nature of its provenance, outclasses the rest. It has become, in one commentator's words, "a sibling rivalry which over the years has taken on the dimensions of a public contest".

This week, the contest moved into a higher gear when Ms Drabble announced that a three-year project was nearing completion: a new novel, her first since The Witch of Exmoor in 1996, will be published early next year. It's called The Peppered Moth and will amount to a fictionalised life of her mother, Kathleen Marie Bloor, a tragic and domineering figure. Ms Drabble said her novel was an attempt "to exorcise all the old ghosts which have festered inside. It's a very difficult therapy, but through it I hope to put the past to rest and find some sort of peace."

Antonia Byatt was put out. She feared, she said, that Margaret's account would be "one-sided", adding, "I would rather people didn't read someone else's version of my mother... That is her [Drabble's] experience. Mine belongs to me. I wish her every good luck with it."

Back to Ms Drabble: "It's got nothing to do with her," she retorted. "I don't read my sister's books, and for all I know she's written about my mother herself. She's got nothing to worry about." Note the combination of politesse and irritation; the way your sister is called "someone else", and the mother you share becomes "my mother"; the insistence that your experience "belongs" to you, as if someone were trying to take it away; and the suggestion that a work of fiction might be "one-sided" and so untrue, when, of course, all fiction is a calculated untruth.

The sisters' dispute has been going on for more than half a century. They grew up in Sheffield during the war. Antonia is the elder; she was born in 1936, Margaret in 1939. Their father, John, was a barrister who became a circuit judge and instilled into them a sense of life's seriousness. What their mother, Kathleen, gave them, by contrast, was a sense of trauma, an expectation of unhappiness. She had a Cambridge degree and was able to teach during the war (when the rules that forbade married women to teach were relaxed) but after it she went back to housework and hated the waste of her talents. Her husband filled the kitchen with labour-saving devices. She cooked pies, cakes and spaghetti dishes and seethed with frustration.

When the family moved to Sevenoaks, Kent, the mother's pent-up storms burst out. "She'd get out of her mind with rage, always about nothing," Drabble recalled. "I realised it wasn't us she was shouting about, but it was a torrent of unhappiness. We were constantly living with uncertainty, not knowing when it was going to happen." In such an atmosphere, the asthmatic Antonia spent much of her early life in bed, reading classic works of literature. Margaret remembers being allowed to wander the Sheffield streets alone, aged seven, where she was pinched by dirty old men in Woolworths. Her mother alternated between neglecting the children and requiring them to be brilliant. She praised their cleverness but expected great things of them, the kind of achievements she couldn't have herself. Margaret was left, she said later, with a chronic fear of letting people down.

Her mother also fostered a growing rivalry between the girls. "She displaced a competitiveness on to us," Margaret reported. "I felt everything Antonia did I had to do better."

Those looking for the key reason behind the sisters' disaffection often locate it in the girls' teenage years, when Margaret worshipped her elder sister, envied her boyfriends and high heels and lipstick and tried to be just like her. Some look further back, to the nursery, where the toddler Maggie would trail whiningly after Antonia, demanding she play with her. It was when they hit university, however, that the competition became intense.

As the press has never been able to let Antonia forget, she gained a first-class English degree, while Maggie, three years later, got a starred first. Springing to fame like a whippet from the traps, Margaret Drabble published her first novel in 1963, was reviewed with enthusiasm and instantly became a Sixties face at 21. The book was A Summer Bird-Cage; it opens with the bright, sassy Sarah and her "lovely, shiny, useless new degree" returning from Paris for the wedding of her sister Louise. "My sister, I should say, is an absolute knock-out beauty," confesses Sarah. "Louise has a real old aristocratic, predatory grandeur. As tags go, she is grande dame while I am jeune fille."

The book was about their rivalry. At the time, the real grande dame was teaching in London, raising children and writing her own fiction. Her debut, Shadow of a Sun, came out in 1964, followed three years later by an extraordinary follow-up, The Game, in which Cassandra, an Oxford don, and Julia her sister, a best-selling novelist, are thrust into remembering their peculiar childhood and their rivalry. It ends with Cassandra killing herself after being satirised in one of Julia's novels.

Antonia returned to academe, teaching at the Central School of Art and Design, then at University College London, until the Eighties. Margaret's novelistic star rose and rose, but took a dive with the publication of her "social conscience" trilogy, The Radiant Way, A Natural Curiosity and The Gates of Ivory - the right-wing press had her down as a typical chattering-class complaining leftie. Meanwhile, Byatt's reputation was growing as the nation's foremost exponent of the densely charged novel of ideas. The Virgin in the Garden and its sequels, Still Life and Babel Tower, investigated the old theme of sibling hostility through Byatt's alter ego, Frederica Potter. The sisters were now competing (though neither would admit it, just as neither admits to reading the other's books) for fiction's highest prizes - Margaret as politically engagée social anatomist, Antonia as intellectual polymath and subtle symbolist. (You could see them as competing in literary criticism, too, when Margaret published her Oxford Companion to English Literature in 1985.) Then Antonia won the Booker Prize in 1990 for Possession, sold 75,000 copies in hardback alone and spent her prize money, triumphantly, on swimming pools for her homes in Putney and Provence.

And that was that. Antonia had won, hadn't she? The older sibling, the teenage fighter for her rights, the brilliant academic, the "difficult" novelist, she was triumphantly vindicated. Margaret had had the more striking début, sure, and got marginally the better degree, but she hadn't had the stamina for the long haul...

Ten years after the Booker, is that how it stands? Think again. The prospective publication of The Peppered Moth has opened up a whole new vat of snakes. Look at the words the sisters used when they talked about incorporating the mother into a novel; then cut to a similar discussion, four years ago, when Margaret told an interviewer that she had put off reading Antonia's Possession for six years. She was glad she hadn't read it before, because Byatt "uses a great deal of the place we used to go for our childhood holidays, which I'd never have been able to use if she used it". She was also afraid of reading Antonia's short-story collection, Sugar, because one story described their father's last illness - and "I just didn't want to read about my father's illness unless it had been written by me - and I wasn't going to write about it".

The lifelong dispute between two supremely talented and competitive sisters is being rekindled over the flesh-and-blood equivalent of "intellectual copyright". After the academic striving and the creative brinkmanship, they are locked in a final, terminal dispute about the biggest things of all - about who owns the rights to their father's death, their holiday pony-rides in Filey, their mother's howling misery. Margaret and Antonia are not just competing to be Top Literary Brain. They are fighting for possession of the life they once shared.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

These Things Could Only Happen to Me

I opened a pack of frozen shrimp and they exploded and scattered all over my floor. Do you have any idea how annoying it is to chase frozen shrimp around the room and then wash them all??? However, last night's pasta was incredibly yummy.

Then, I had a unexpected guest, so I decided to tidy up. I wanted to take out my recycling and garbage and decided I'd pop down in my pjs and then clean myself up after. Naturally, in my low-cut tanktop, I bumped into an entire elevator of middle school boys in uniform on the way down and an elevator full of intoxicated salarymen on my way up.

I have a lot to update, but it will have to wait, because my over-tired ass has to go and stare at North Korea with 6 classes of pre/kindie kids.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Hangul doesn't make me happy...

...when I accidentally change my phone into Korean. Gah.


Today we had the messiest art class so far - using Indian ink. It is still under my fingernails and highlighting my finger prints. The kids were a mess, I am a mess, the table was a gigantic mess.

But I had forgotten the power of art to make me really love the kindie kids, even after a rough reading class.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

My Rubicon

The big road the subway is on. It's mine. I can count on one hand the number of times I've crossed it and once was merely a drunken mistake.

It means big things, I tell ya.

However, I'm about to turn into a pumpkin - I've given myself a bedtime because I anticipate a big weekend and the first three days of this week were very, very lacking in sleep. I need to be prepared and I was once a Boy Scout*.

*Well, a Scout anyway. Obviously it was co-ed by then. Looking back, I guess my manliness started young ;)

Manliness 'R Us

I am also a better 1930s husband than wife. I'd post my actual results, except that I didn't even score much above zero on the manly one, so I thought better of it.

31% Manly Man*

To be a real man though, I'd have to have been to the Great Wall. Granted, only Samarra and Brian will understand that joke.

From AO, I discovered that someone has compiled a list of books the manly must read, "100 Must-Read Books: The Essential Man's Library." I own rather a lot more (as per usual) and a handful of them I even have here in Korea with me, notably The Master and Margarita, Another Roadside Attraction, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (which I have technically even started reading), and Confederacy of Dunces. I've not actually finished many - The Bible, The Iliad and Odyssey, Nietzsche, To Kill a Mockingbird (God, I hated that book. I hated most things they made me read in school, though, and mostly on principle), perhaps Plutarch. Swiss Family Robinson was the most horribly annoying book ever. All they do is either kill or catch the wild animals - fitting for a manly man's book list? That certainly says a lot, doesn't it? Jack London and Gary Paulsen as boys' books - well, I must say, that means I was quite the tomboy, I guess. I loved those books as a teenager. I should reread some, as we have them in our school library.

I look forward to reading the women's list!

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
1984 by George Orwell
The Republic by Plato
Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
How To Win Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Call of the Wild by Jack London
The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris
Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss
Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac
The Iliad and Odyssey of Homer
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Walden by Henry David Thoreau
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
The Master and Margarita by by Mikhail Bulgakov
Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins
White Noise by Don Delillo
Ulysses by James Joyce
The Young Man's Guide by William Alcott
Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy
Seek: Reports from the Edges of America & Beyond by Denis Johnson
Crime And Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse

The Book of Deeds of Arms and of Chivalry by Christine De Pizan
The Art of Warfare by Sun Tzu
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
The Rough Riders by Theodore Roosevelt
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes
The Thin Red Line by James Jones
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
The Politics by Aristotle
First Edition of the The Boy Scout Handbook
Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand
Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
The Crisis by Winston Churchill
The Naked and The Dead by Norman Mailer
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
Animal Farm by George Orwell

Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Beyond Good and Evil by Freidrich Nietzsche
The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Essential Manners for Men by Peter Post
Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly
Hamlet by Shakespeare
The Boys of Summer by Roger Kahn
A Separate Peace by John Knowles
A Farewell To Arms by Ernest Hemingway
The Stranger by Albert Camus
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Dafoe
The Pearl by John Steinbeck
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco
The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux
Fear and Trembling by Soren Kierkegaard
Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose
Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
American Boys' Handy Book
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard
The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky
A River Runs Through It by Norman F. Maclean
The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells
Malcolm X: The Autobiography
Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
All Quiet on The Western Front by Erich Maria Remarq
The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans by Plutarch

The Strenuous Life by Theodore Roosevelt
The Bible
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn and Hal Iggulden
The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
The Histories by Herodotus
From Here to Eternity by James Jones
The Frontier in American History by Frederick Jackson Turner
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig
Self Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Beer + Movie + My Bladder

All this means that it's best that I saw Prince Caspian on my laptop!

I had forgotten that there was a reason that the only time in my life that I've liked beer was in Scotland - I'm simply not a lager fan. I had 3 Hello Kitty coupons for a Chinese black beer and it was great, alongside my tuna melt and dill pickles.

Caspian was fine. I've read the book relatively recently - just after one of my Thailand trips, I think. It was interesting enough, though I admit to getting a wee bit bored at one point.

One more day until the weekend.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

40 More Working Days

As of tomorrow I have two more months until my contract is up and I've hit a wall. I'm done with the 11 hour days, completely done.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Long O Longings

We're doing long vowel spelling words this week and I've been singing "Downtown" by Petula Clark all week. Finally I thought I'd youtube it and show the kids that the song I sing so badly is real. They laughed their heads off at the dancing.

Sex In The City

That was the funniest, most predictable movie I've seen in some time. Seeing it in Korea was amusing, as sometimes everyone else was laughing before Jenn and I because the subtitles were a bit ahead of the words and other times we were the only people laughing - I guess all humour can't be translated.

When I got home, just before midnight, I wanted to have a cosmo in honour of the night, but I live in Hwajung and I wasn't willing to walk any further than the 7-11. In case you don't recall the ingredients of a cosmo, here is what I would have needed:

Cosmopolitan Martini Recipe


4 parts Citron Vodka
2 parts Cointreau or Triple Sec
2 parts Cranberry Juice
1 part Lime Fresh Juice

Shake all four ingredients together in cool unique martini glasses!
What I had was some gin (it was that or rum), some raspberry juice to make it the right colour, with a dash of cider (Korean Sprite), presented in a red wine glass. However, it is quite yummy.

Also, note my new favourite t-shirt. It says "In Tacos We Trust", which unfortunately you can't actually read while I'm wearing it as it is on the underside of my boobs, however I think it is the best thing ever. I am starting to get into this whole internet shopping thing.

Irreverant much?

Monday, June 09, 2008

Indie for $2

Can it get any better?

I thought the movie was fantastic. I may be more than a bit partial to the dashing archaeologist theme, granted, but I loved it. Exactly the same feel as the oldies - obvious special effects, ridiculous humour, the requisite lecturing scene, betrayal, nasty insects... What more could you ask for?

And Indie is right - V. Gordon Childe is well worth a read, preferably on a visit to Scara Brae.

What makes it so damn good is that I picked up 10 movies for $20 on the street today.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Vampire Teacher

Andy to Ariel: If you were that (he points at my coffee), the teacher would drink you and recycle you.

Ariel giggles.

Andy: Teacher, Ariel's drink is just blood.

Ahhhh, kindergarten.

Vampire Bugs

I got my first mosquito bite of the year.

And so it begins.


I got 'em all and it was an empty victory, for what shall I entertain myself with during the workday now?

Then, I had a three day weekend, which was just fine, lovely even, but has also left me feeling very meh. It started with a ridiculously drunken Thursday night: at the bar in Ilsan for Will's birthday until maybe 1 a.m. and then we spent the rest of the night drinking out of convience stores and playing the claw, that soccer ball-kicking game, the one where you hit a button with a mallet, and the batting cages. We ended the evening in McDonald's, where Orin ordered absolutely everything on the breakfast menu as usual, after an odd night with time spent with a Korean guy in a Mickey Mouse t-shirt and a couple of Russian dudes who appeared out of nowhere. Since when have there been Russian dudes in Hwajung???

Sheila and I sacked out with the sun already well on its way into the sky and once we woke up, puttered around my place. Her computer has broken, so she updated her iPod from my iTunes and then we Facebooked the photos and just generally lazed around all day. The next day I had to clean and go buy vegetables, because Jamar came over for dinner. How amusing that I own all the ingredients for steak fajitas except for any vegetables. I now have an incredible amount of tomatoes, having bought them off of a truck.

I had an odd experience in Lotte while veggie shopping. I was bellowing directions into my cellphone to Jamar's cabdriver and a child of about 10 came up and started attempting to grab my shopping basket. I did my best to ignore him whilst yelling over the Lotte speakers belting out the deals: "Yobeseyo. Hwajung yok, Goyanshi? Anyo. Mahjeong, anyo. HWAjung, Goyangshi. Near Ilsan. Neh, neh, neh. Hwajung, ok! Neh! Kamsamida." Finally, I'm off the phone and I step onto escalator and the boy follows me, chatting away in Korean. I tell him I don't speak Korean, then that I don't understand (in Korean, I do have some skills), and finally just speed off to the check-out as the whole time he was making attempts to grab my basket. He follows me to the check-out and tries to grab my bags and then follows me right up to the doors of the store. So, so odd.

Today, I've mostly farted around again. Spent my Teacher's Day gift of Outback certificates with Jamar, watched The Children of Men, which was great, and a couple of episodes of Desparate Housewives. Really the only productive thing I've done is to wash my sheets. It rained and was nasty, so I don't feel at all bad about spending most of my day inside.

While trying to figure out how to spell the Korean for ok (impossible apparently, so I gave up and left it out), I stumbled across this website, which looks normal until you read the last translated phrase...

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Shit is Such a Multipurpose Word

*Use the 1st letter of your last name to answer each of the following*....they have to be real places, names, things...nothing made up!

First initial of Last Name: S

1. Color: ........................... sepia
2. 4 letter word..................... shit
3. Vehicle: ......................... slow boat (to China)
4. City / Neighborhood:.............. Sinchon, Seoul
5. Boy Name: ........................ Stephen
6. Girl Name: ....................... Sally
7. Occupation: ...................... skydiving instructor
8. Something you wear:............... sheets at a toga party
9. Food: ............................ spaghetti with shrimp
10. Found in a bathroom.............. shit
11. Reason for Being Late............ shin splints made me walk slower
12. Something you shout:............. shit!
13. Animal:.......................... sea turtle
14. Body part:....................... shin
15. Word to describe you............. sarcastic
16. Activity......................... sign stealing

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Communications Normal

Kid dropped the class.

All the students knew before I did.

My AC is an ass.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

A Bunch of Moms Yelling Their Heads Off in Korea?

Fun! Even more fun that's it's about one of my students, though I can't imagine I can be dragged into it in any way.

Willie is a second-grader. He's that kid - the kid who notably sticks out and gets teased. It's hard to pinpoint what to do about it exactly, because a bunch of different factors all play into him being that kid.

There's the slight speech impediment, which to be honest I barely notice, but maybe the students do. Certainly, doesn't make life easy when you are studying a subject that does involve attempting to master correct pronunciation. I tend to feel this isn't much of a factor, but I don't know.

Then, he's gross. Children, after all, are just little people, and like all people, some of them have questionable hygeine. God knows, he isn't the only one. However, for me to say he's gross is saying quite a lot, because I generally have few problems with general kid dirtiness and will eat random things they hand to me that have undoubtably been in their pockets for days and gotten covered in every germ known to man before I pop it in my mouth. He's the kind of kid who sneezes all over the place and himself and who will not make any attempt to clean himself up, to mention just the most recent occurance.

And he doesn't fit in that classroom academically. There seems little I can do about it because while my classes are leveled, anyone who has hung around for more than a month or so ought to have twigged to the fact that the only thing that matters is the standardized test scores and that teacher input is about as respected as some nasty gum you might find on your shoe. Sure, the kid scores well on reading and vocabulary and grammar - exceptionally well, even. However, he can't put a single sentence together to save his life - though most of the time I can't read any of his writing, so I'm at least saved from having to correct it. He had at least 5 times as many red marks on his writing test as any other student in that class - in fact, more than many of the lowest grade two class, who I also teach. His written homework is always illegible and ripped or stained and what little I can decipher is often completely off topic or at the least and undescriptive grammatical mess. It is obvious he doesn't make any effort at doing a good job.

I send homework notes home and receive them back about this stuff all the time. His homework is not done, or so sloppy it might as well not be done, or late, or completely off topic, or whatever. If the parents are concerned, I certainly can't tell. He's in a class of huge over-achievers, the kids who work their asses off and study and have taken to the idea of respecting their work and books in the sense of keeping them neat and clean and demonstrating huge amounts of effort. He is incapable of keeping up with them in any way, except when it comes to those monthly fill-in-the-bubble tests, and those I generally have to have him do those 3 times before it is all sufficiently neat for the computer to read.

I am at a loss of what to do. I can keep the kids in line during class without much of a problem. Any negative comments I need to make I do only privately, even though I wouldn't go to that level of effort for the other kids. I do my damnedest to comment on every positive thing he does. I don't allow the kids to pick partners (there isn't the space in the classroom for moving around, really), so he's never left out that way.

But I can't make them like him and I can't make him more of the kind of student the rest are. I can't monitor their breaks and my attempts to make the new AC take any of the issues with him at all seriously have met with failure. Whether moving him down would help with the teasing/social issues, I have no idea, but it is certainly meritted by what I see of his work. In fact, I asked the AC to intervene and discover in Korean what was going on with them all today, but he chose not to. Teachers are just not supported by the rest of the staff at my school, which is what it is. I have two months left and can continue to deal with any problems to the best of my ability on my own, but I can tell you that that sort of thing is certainly part of the problem.

So, three moms were yelling. A couple of kids were pulled into the fray. I guess I'll hear the translated/edited version tomorrow.

Monday, June 02, 2008