Saturday, September 29, 2012

Speech Contest Lulz

Anna (of the Anna and Lina I mentioned earlier) is participating in an upcoming English speech contest. I've been helping her and the other students practice during my down time at work.

Anna's speech is about Dokdo. Yesterday she had a massive memory fail and closed her speech with these words:

"I want to let the world know clearly: Dokdo is Japanese territory!"

The resulting giggle fits could not be stopped for the next five or six minutes.

Happy Chuseok, everyone. I'm not going on any awesome trips because I work (half a day) on Tuesday. Off to see the Suwon fortress am I.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Obligatory Korean Tourist Spot #7: Take Me Out To The Ball Game

Korean baseball games are things of legend among American (and I guess Canadian) foreigners over here. Most people you talk to here have been to at least one ball game. "They're so much better than at home," is something you hear a lot.

Which is probably true. I haven't been to a ball game in the states since I went to see the Reading Phillies and left my copy of Foundation  under my seat (that's all I remember about the game), so I'm not the best person to compare the two. What's different? In a nutshell:

  • Cheerleaders.
  • Loads of potential IP infringement with reappropriated songs from Lady Gaga, Chubby Checker, The Beach Boys, DJ DOC, whoever wrote "It's a Small World After All," and probably others.
  • Extremely organized cheering.
  • I mean extremely organized cheering. Old news to people in Korea reading this, but for family back home: each player has his own cheer, which is some famous song with the lyrics altered and the player's name thrown in. There are speakers and a guy leading the hand motions and everything. You also only cheer (for the most part) when your team is at bat.
  • (From what I could tell from the Koreans around us) a lot less hate on the umpires.

Half the fun for me was watching everyone else in the stadium, less so the game. That said, we had pretty decent seats along the third base line so there was a good view of the action if I wanted to watch.

I'd go again—with a camera this time—but we'll see if I have the chance before I go home!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Division of Labor

INP has an interesting little write-up about Chuseok and men and food preparation, which got me to thinking about my own Busan (the Boy).

When we live together, the cooking gets divided more or less evenly, because the Boy is (praise be to the homemaking gods) competent in the kitchen. If anything, the Boy cooks dinner more often than I do. We each have our "signature" dishes, and whoever cooks is (well, partially) determined by what we feel like eating. Whoever doesn't cook does the dishes. Plus I gladly go on dessert-making binges that last us for weeks. Balance is maintained.

Of course, the Boy doesn't live in a country that expects its men to be the only breadwinners and works them 60 hours a week, so he has plenty of time and energy to learn how to cook. Also, I don't think his mom ever threatened to make a eunuch out of him if he set foot in the kitchen (a threat some of my male Korean acquaintances have gotten from their grandmothers wielding big fuck-off knives).

My running joke that if Sweden and the Boy don't work out, I'll come back to Korea, enter into a marriage-of-F6-visa-convenience, and open a 24 hour breakfast place. A marriage-of-visa-convenience only, note; the prospect of shifting from the kind of relationship I've had for approximately a million years to the kind I could expect with most Korean guys is a depressing one.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Multimedia Monday: Culture Shock

Usually foreigner-in-Korea blogs/"vlogs" make me cringe (like Eat Your Kimchi...seriously? seriously you guys?), but this girl doesn't make me crawl the walls, so that's a point in her favor.

Anyway, the topic in the book this week is "culture shock," which is a good one for conversation fodder. There were also a whole lot of foreigner-in-Korea videos about it, and all the assorted little things that are different when you come to Korea.

Speaking of "little things," it's too bad that I couldn't show them the infamous "Royale with cheese" dialogue from Pulp Fiction, but so it goes.

It seems Expat Kerri has a whole series of videos on this very topic. Normally I would write this off as an egregious and self-indulgent exercise in nihilism, but hey, it was good listening practice for my kids, so thanks Kerri!

Before I played this for them, I asked them two things:

1. What was confusing for her?

2. Why was it confusing?

This particular entry happens to be about the Korean expression, "밥 먹었어요?" but as I said, she has some other entries too.

It segued into a short little lesson about how in English we say "What's up?" or "How are you?" as a similar greeting: people don't say it because they necessarily care about the answer, but because it's become a convention among greetings. Likewise, I pointed out, if you're doing really bad, you still tend to say, "I'm okay" or "I'm fine" because you understand the person is just asking to be polite, not because they really want to know your sob story.

If you want to download this or other videos to use in class, I recommend using YouTube downloader HD. For other videos (some useful, some not), please check out my Multimedia Monday tag.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Student Profile: Lina and Anna

I haven't done one of these in a while, and as the end of my contract draws near I realize there's so many students I haven't talked about!

Lina and Anna go together because they are sisters. Because of the similarity of their English names, and Korean naming conventions, I assumed they were the rare case where the English name more or less resembles the Korean name. Wrong!

Anna is the older sister, by about a year. From what I can gather she is also the favored child: the one who will get perfect grades and be prom queen and basically be a flawless daughter. Anna is at the point where she's dropped a lot of baby fat, while Lina still has a bit of chub, especially in the face. I have no doubt that this is a sticking point with Lina and her parents (mostly her mother). Anna wants to be a doctor and cure Alzheimer's; Lina I have no idea.

Towards the beginning of my career here, Lina had issues with the other girls in class, mostly about feeling like they were excluding her. There were near constant complaints from her mom, and I tried to handle it the best I could, though I kind of rolled my eyes and thought Lina was being a bit more self-centered than was necessary. This was before I knew Lina and Anna were sisters.

There's no problems now (as far as I know), mostly because with a new semester the classes all got shifted around. After ten months of teaching, I've come to realize that Lina must play second fiddle most of the time—I get the impression she hears, "Why can't you be more like your sister?" a lot.  I go out of my way to give her some extra attention and affection because it seems like she doesn't have many chances to feel good about herself.

Lina and Anna were the sisters I met on the beach in Jeju, They are both cutie pies, and also just about the sweetest girls any parent could ask for. I had a blast playing with them in the water. It was all the fun parts of teaching without any of the stress—though meeting their parents was a bit awkward. They're both at a very high level of English, especially Anna, so I get to have some real conversations with them.

I've been thinking about these student profiles, and how there's so many more I want to write. Under normal circumstances, students like Lina and Anna would be my favorites, but their peers are just as interesting and funny and endearing as they are. This batch of kids has been outstanding, and I'll remember them all, but these two do stand out in particular.