Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Student Profile: Min-ji

One of the things that's been interesting as a teacher is the necessary role-reversal involved (because after all, I had teachers once) and wondering back to my own experiences and pet peeves.

The biggest pet peeve I had as far as school and learning went, which extended all the way through college, was the teacher's expectation that we "participate in class discussion" or otherwise give signs that we were sparkling examples of wit and charm and panache. I am not really any of those things and always resented this (perceived) demand that I somehow perform or prove my worth as a student; it irked me that peers who I knew were less intelligent and less worthy of accolade nonetheless always seemed to be singled out for merit just because they couldn't shut up.

I may or may not have been an asshole. I may or may not still be an asshole.

Now I find myself in the teaching position, and face to face with this reality of "students who don't talk" scenario. Of course, there are significant differences: I'm not teaching in the students' native language, nor do I see them every day (and for hours on end, in the case of the little ones). And the very subject I'm teaching is based, a lot, in verbal communication and, y'know, talking.

Needless to say, I always feel a little guilty about how much I like Min-ji because I feel like she is the kind of student I would have greatly resented when I was her age. She is like a domineering whirlwind of ideas and opinions, and she volunteers so many answers that when I occasionally make a point of calling on other, quieter students, she gets incredibly impatient.

"Teacher, why Angela? Me, me!"

As a grown, adult version of myself, though, I like her. She is bossy, sometimes, but it's an exuberant sort of "I think this will be fun!" bossy rather than a "I like getting my way no matter what" bossy. She's a good student and ultimately defers to whatever I decide to do, should it conflict with her suggestion (which is invariably, "Let's play a game!"). She's also not above playing harmless jokes on her friends, to get a laugh out of both parties involved, and quick to apologize if it goes awry.

In elementary school, Korean girls are (generally) just as feisty and aggressive and un-self conscious as the boys; somehow, by the time they get to middle school, many of them morph into these wilting, passive, giggling things. (Maybe this is true for American girls as well, but I haven't worked with enough of them over the long term to make any worthwhile observations.) The body image issues and self-loathing also seem to start then, which puts Korean girls right in step with their American peers. Even a tad behind (or ahead?), when you read stories about American elementary school girls on diets or with eating disorders.

Min-ji, however, gives no shits. For example, compare and contrast the following two conversations I had right after the new year:

Conversation Number One
Me: "How was your new year? Did you eat a lot of ddeok guk?"

Emma: "No."

Me: "Why not?"

Emma: "Diet."

Conversation Number Two

Me: "How was your new year? Did you eat a lot of ddeok guk?"

Min-ji: "It was very good! I ate lots of ddeok guk, and [enumerates the vast menu of food she consumed over the weekend]. I am having a growth period, so I eat a lot. One weekend, I grow two centimeters!"

I also admit that I have a soft spot in my heart for Korean kids who don't go for the whole "English name" bullshit (because it is bullshit), and who are good at English. Min-ji is both of these things. She also just joined a class that is typically dominated by a spoiled and sullen boy student, so I'm looking forward to her (hopefully) taking the piss out of him.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Multimedia Monday: Tron

This one is definitely a bit of a stretch, I'll be the first to admit. Mostly I'm posting it because it got an overwhelmingly positive reaction in my most cynical, hard-to-please class. I really wasn't expecting that at all when I showed it; I went into it thinking it would be a dud. Mostly I just showed it because I figured they had never seen or heard of Tron (which they hadn't) and because I thought they might at least be amused by how different it looks from computer animation now. But no, we actually watched it twice.

If you're wondering why I'm showing scenes from Tron in class, it's because the chapter in their textbook is on CGI and movie special effects. There's not really much you can do with this scene ESL-wise; you can probably play Twenty Questions about where they think the guy is and who he's racing. Otherwise, I think it's best saved for an end-of-class time filler or mid-class "brain break."

If you want to save this or any YouTube video offline, I recommend YouTube Downloader HD. For other (and honestly, better) videos, there's always my other Multimedia Monday posts.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Help Save North Korean Refugees From Repatriation

China is stonewalling but there's a chance that these people's lives—sadly, even if only some—of them may be saved. The Korean has all you need to know about it, including a link to an online petition. It might do nothing, but it might also save lives. Check it out, take a second to click the link, spread the word.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Take a Look, It's In a Book!

I like reading. A lot. Admittedly I read less now than I did as a kid (thanks to the prevalence of the Internet), but I still would say I read a lot. Long subway ride? Crack open a book. Desk warming? Knock off another chapter. Waiting to meet a friend? You can squeeze a few pages in!

Since I also have the lofty goal of reading all of the books on TIME magazine's "Top 100 Novels of the Twentieth Century" list, there is also a level of aggressive list-item-checking going on that drives me onward. The only problem is, accomplishing this goal in Korea means, by default, acquiring lots of books. At home, I'm a big fan of the library. Obviously in Korea, there's not really any English language libraries, and even if the Korean ones have English books, I don't know how I could go around finding a library or getting a library card or whatever else.

Acquiring lots of books isn't even necessarily a bad thing (aside from the inherent expense), but the problem is that most foreigners here in Korea (myself included, kind of unfortunately) are here only temporarily. What do you do with those books once you have to go home? Sell some back to What The Book, give them away, leave them for your replacement, and schlepping them back home are basically your only options. No matter how you slice it, having a thousand books to worry about while you're packing and getting your pension settled and whatever else is  a pain in the tuchas. The less you have to worry about, the better.

This is all a long-winded rambly way to say that I am a lazy cheapskate who likes to read, and these three factors combined led to a brilliant insight on my part: book exchange! Though to be fair, I really kind of stole the idea from the great people at TheYeogiyo, who host one at the expat bar in Bundang, but I probably would have thought of it anyway.

I hosted one last Saturday (advertised entirely through the Uijeongbu Crew Facebook group) and though it was small, it went over quite well and everyone went home happy. My friend Yousef unloaded a huge number of books to make his move from Dobongsan to Uijeongbu easier and most everyone else went home with some new reading material. Plus, because I hosted it, all the surplus books are still in my apartment! Mwuahaha.

And while for me there's always something magical and therapeutic about going proper book-shopping, sometimes I really just need something (anything) new to read and I need it now. There was a nice (and unexpected) social perk too, as half of the people who showed up were people I hadn't met before. Despite being an introverted and somewhat asocial weirdo, it was a lot of fun for me and really one of the best circumstances under which I could imagine meeting new people. We had snacks, we chatted about the books and other things, it was nice. I hope to soon move it out of my apartment into a converted retail space that one of the foreigners here recently purchased with the aim to make it a workshop/learning/social space, if only to make more room for people.

It seems like a patently obvious thing to do, but in all the years I've spent in the Uijeongbu Crew Facebook group I had never seen anyone suggest such a thing before. If there's not a book exchange in your neighborhood, set one up! It's a fun, no-pressure social event that declutters your apartment space and gets you new reading material on the cheap. The only catch is, you need a quick and easy way to advertise to people in your neighborhood: you might have to set up a Facebook group for your particular locale first, before you can get to book-swapping.

Now, to close out with some tips! Not to be condescending, but I guess because it feels like a post like this should have tips?

  1. Use the hell out of Facebook! Make the event a month in advance and regularly post reminders in the relevant group and on your wall to remind people, especially for the first few times. I posted a reminder once a week, and then in the week right before once every few days. Make the event open and allow other people to invite people.
  2. Use a central, easy-to-find location. My first apartment in Uijeongbu would have been a terrible place, requiring a change to a bus and convoluted directions about which stop to get off on and which way to go. Fortunately, I now live very close to Uijeongbu downtown so my apartment was pretty easy for people to find. If you're off the beaten track, see if someone else could host, or maybe ask at the favorite Western watering hole (if there is one), or wait for nice weather and have it somewhere outside!
  3. Have a fair amount of books yourself. While you should always be optimistic, of course, it really helps a lot if you have at least a modest sampling to start out with. If your library is pretty scanty, then enlist the help of a friend or co-worker to either definitely show up, or to at least donate their books beforehand.
  4. Be organized. I had a "give away forever" pile and a "loan/borrow only" pile. Either keep the books very separate, or encourage people to take their books back home with them at the end if they're "loan/borrow only" to avoid miscategorization.
  5. Have some snacks. Not really essential, but chatting and socializing is easier when there's food involved. I just ran out to the local market and got some apples, strawberries, and Pringles for people to nibble on, and people sure did nibble!
I think that about covers it. Anyway, back to reading!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Teaching Outfit Two

(Crossposted from my jewelry blog.)

I think it's time for another Polyvore Post! Another outfit I wear a lot:

Teaching Outfit Two
Teaching Outfit Two by kokoba

What's the same:
  • The white tank top is absolutely identical.
  • The shape of the frames.
  • The shape of the stone in the bolo tie (30 mm x 40 mm cabochon).
  • The shade of blue in the t-shirt.
  • The color of the cardigan.
  • The watch,

What's different:
  • The corduroys actually have a faint and faided paisley pattern in orange and olive green. All of the paisley corduroy pants on the Internet you can share on Polyvore are hideous, while the ones that look exactly the same can't be shared. D'oh!
  • My shoes aren't actually Pumas, and they are very light brown in some spots.
  • The blue shirt is a Ben Folds concert t-shirt, but again: all of the ones I could find online were either completely different-looking, or unable to share on Polyvore. Mine actually has "Ben Folds" written on the front in yellow cursive text.
  • The shape of the cardigan. I never button mine up, and it only has three buttons at the bottom, anyway. Honestly, I think they're mostly just decoration. Also, it has pockets.
  • The glasses frames are green and brown in color, not black.
  • The stone in the bolo isn't tiger eye, but rather a very green unakite. It looks like this:

What did you wear today?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Multimedia Monday (on Tuesday!): Vaccines and the Gates Foundation

Whoa, have I really gone a week without posting here? For some reason I feel like I've been busy, but I haven't really.

The topic in my advanced class this week is "Giving Away Billions," aka philanthropy. How to make it interesting? An impressive doodle to a short talk by Bill Gates on the importance of vaccines, that's how!

My oldest class declared this video "not funny," while my youngest class thought it was awesome. "Wow, he is really good at drawing!" and "So fast!!" were comments I heard a lot. So, your mileage may vary.

Before I played the video, I explained that this was Bill Gates talking about how to help children in places like India and Africa. I asked them to tell me what he thought was the best way to do that.

It's worth it for you, the teacher, to watch, just to get a handle on the amazing things vaccinations can do. Since this video was produced, Polio has now been eradicated in India (in that in 2011, there were no new cases): that leaves only Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

With science, we've already eliminated smallpox and we're well on the way to eliminate polio. That's pretty heavy. 

As always, you can find other neat videos (for classroom or personal consumption) on my Multimedia Monday tag. You can download them with YouTube Downloader HD.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Multimedia Monday: Cannes Winners

The topic for this week in my advanced classes is the Cannes Film Festival. Naturally, I went to town as far as watching stuff in class goes!

It's a Russian short that won some award or other at Cannes (in 1993, I think). And even though it's Russian, there's almost no dialogue so it's perfect even for extremely low level speakers. This one was really popular all around, and I don't really get tired of watching it. Because it's a short (just three and a half minutes long), it's nice to use either for a proper speaking activity or just as "brain break" in a longer class. 

This one is much more serious, and to be honest I find it a bit depressing. Again, though, no dialogue, and it also seemed to capture everyone's attention, even my more apathetic students. Always audible gasps of confusion when she starts cutting her hair. Maybe not so good as a "brain break" though, considering the gravity of the material.

I only showed about three minutes of this one in class (the whole scene is about twenty minutes long, I don't have that kind of time). I figured it would go over like a lead balloon, but I got a surprising mix of reactions. My youngest advanced class, who are super enthusiastic and love everything, thought it was hilarious. The girls in my oldest intermediate class were all rather nonplussed by it. Other classes' reactions fell somewhere on a spectrum between the two. The youngest advanced class was at first overwhelmed by the English introduction ("Teacher! I can't understand!") but fortunately Gilliam is a brilliant director and his surreal little story about an insurance company mutiny is easy to understand even if your English isn't that great. The first five minutes, at least. Of course, Korean students probably don't have the pop culture background to pick up on the genre reference to old-timey pirate and seafaring adventure movies, but that's not really necessary to enjoy watching a bunch of old guys beat up their young, heartless overlords.

If you need it, here's the YouTube DownloaderHD program, and if you need inspiration, here's my collection of Multimedia Monday posts.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Student Profile: Minsoo

This is one I've been meaning to write up for a while, but I've always put it off for whatever reason. Which is silly, because Minsoo is a student I want to remember forever. Of course, I think I'd have a hard time forgetting him, but it's surprising and scary what you can forget, so here goes.

Minsoo is not a student I have now. He was in my kindergarten homeroom when I worked at Cassandra Academy, and my first day was his first or second day in the school, so we both were kind of flying blind at the same time.

At first, I had no idea what to do with him because he was so fantastically hyperactive compared to the other children in the class. My foreign partner teacher and I both agreed he was a bit weird. This is the same class as Jaymon and everyone who taught this class agreed that they were the best ever. But Minsoo is definitely the most high-strung of the bunch, forever out of his seat and sometimes incredibly temperamental. Early on I handed back work the rest of the class had done with their old homeroom teacher. Naturally, Minsoo wasn't there, so he didn't get a paper back, and this brought him to tears. Even when I let the kids break the cardinal rule of  "No Korean at Cassandra" to explain to him that this was work they did before he joined, he still wasn't okay.

The next day, of course, he had completely forgotten.

I can't say exactly when I hit a turning point, but eventually he rose to be my favorite in the class (though they were all an adorable bunch that I miss dearly even now). Beneath the spastic energy there was a very sharp and perceptive mind going on. They were all pretty smart kids and, for the most part, quick learners, but Minsoo was easily the quickest. He'd pick up on new vocabulary words almost instantly, or even words I just used a lot. ("Clever boy!" he especially liked to repeat.) He and Jaymon used to have discussions, in English, about dinosaurs. Which one were the biggest, which ones could fly, and so forth. He eventually got to be pages ahead of his classmates in their math textbook and was always the first to finish worksheets—this I dealt with by having him copy his work over again neatly, or just having him flip papers over and draw dinosaurs.

"That's awesome work, Minsoo! Can you draw me a dinosaur now?"


 Dinosaurs were Minsoo's favorite thing, and he absolutely loved drawing pictures of them and labeling them and telling me all about them. I kept one of those drawings, laminated it (company time and resources, natch), and I have it taped on the wall of my new apartment.

Yeah, sometimes I'm a lazy teacher.

Or sometimes he'd jump out of his seat and, while I was squatting and helping another student with their work, latch himself on to my back.

"Back hug!"

My Korean partner teacher came to me towards the end of my tenure and said I might have to be a little more strict with Minsoo, as parent teacher conferences were coming up and neither of us wanted a breakdown or anything like he sometimes had (in his other class, he hit his teacher with a pencil and then refused to apologize, meaning a conference with the Korean teacher).

"He likes you a lot, maybe too much. He thinks you are like his mother."

(Aside: just goes to show how great the communication is at Cassandra: this was mere days before I was leaving and my Korean partner teacher HAD NO IDEA I had quit. I managed to get away without having any parent teacher conferences at all, mwuahaha.)

The last day with my kindergarten kids was fun, though a bit sad. Minsoo didn't really process that I was leaving until his other foreign kindergarten teacher showed up, and then (according to her) his face just fell. During the break before the last kindergarten class of the day, he came to the teacher's room to bring me a pencil I had forgotten in class. For a moment, he didn't move: he just stood in the doorway and started sniffling. Everyone's heart broke a little bit, seeing that.

"Aw, Minsoo my boy, come here." He bolted and almost knocked me over with the force of his hug. I gave him a good squeeze.

"Shh, I'll come visit you guys during lunchtime, I'm not gone yet."

I came to visit and sing and play with them one last time, before they left for the day and a new teacher took over on Monday.

The whole class and I, being silly on my last day.

And the man himself.

The teacher who replaced me also is leaving early, but she waited until "graduation" so that she could see this class off until the end. She also got really attached to them, which is easy because they're sweet and smart and adorable. I hope she had as much fun with them as I did.

I worry about Minsoo, and what will happen to him: whether his hyperactive and highly-sensitive nature is just him being young, or if it's something more permanent to his psyche. He's obviously incredibly smart, but—like Travis, though perhaps not as severely—very sensitive and just different as well. I hope he's always as curious and as unflappable for his future teachers as he was for me.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Going to the Gym

A few months ago, I decided to start training for a 5K. I don't want to actually run in one, so don't ask me when my race is; I just want to be able to do it. I'm a firm believer in rule number one:

 Because it's winter, and the sidewalk pavement is uneven and awful to the point of being dangerous, and running in the dirty air is basically the same as getting a punch right in the lungs, I did the unthinkable: I coughed up money for a gym membership.

For a while I had been using the health room at my favorite jjimjilbang, but once I figured out the gym near my work was charging W130,000 for three months instead of just one, the gym quickly became the more economically viable option. I bit the bullet and signed up last week, and it was the MOST TRAUMATIZING THING I'VE EVER DONE IN SOUTH KOREA OH MY GOD.

Protip: 8:30 in the evening is THE WORST POSSIBLE TIME to go to the gym. Unfortunately, that's when I decided to go be an adult and sign up. As I walked in the door, I could hear the record needle scratch in the soundtrack of my life. Half of the weight machines face the door, and they were just crammed full of ajosshis who didn't seem to care that they were staring at the fat white girl.

(Lots of my friends complain a lot about being stared at, but honestly I think a lot of them exaggerate, are paranoid, or legitimately draw more stares than I do, because normally I never notice it or really care. Not this time, though.)

The guy at the desk spoke some English, not that signing up was particularly hard: name, cell phone number, and hand over your credit card, please. I didn't get any kind of membership card or anything so I'm not sure how they keep track of me. Of course, I am pretty easy to keep track of.

After I filled out the paperwork, I followed the guy at the desk around for the grand tour: shoe lockers, locker room, jjimjilbang, finished.  Eyes followed me the whole time. The only respite from them was in the locker room, but I didn't just pay good money to stand around naked and eventually take a shower. I put my gym clothes on (gyms in Korea typically provide you with jjimjilbang/sauna-like shorts and shirts, but I didn't want to risk not fitting into their clothes so I brought my own) and returned to the fray. Still the stares. They got better by the time I left, but the damage was done: I felt immensely self-conscious, moreso than I ever did at the jjimjilbang or the other gym I used to go to when I worked at Sherlock Academy. The whole time I was working out, I wanted to melt into the floor.

And, of course, what I really wanted—the treadmills—were all taken, so I made do with the weight machines I could recognize and use instead. Just to be annoying, they were set at slightly different weight increments than the ones at the jjimjilbang (increments of 5 until 15 kg, when it switches to 10 kg increments; the machines at the gym I had been at used 5 kg increments the whole time and I had been doing quite well at 20 kg) and had either lost the helpful little stickers that demonstrate how to use the machine, or had simply never had them in the first place. Some were complicated to the point where they lookd like Medieval torture devices, and even the ones I did recognize and know well had some kind of secondary pin you can adjust in addition to the weight. I think it adjusts the resistance without changing how heavy the weight is? I have no idea, I'd never seen a weight machine like that ever before.

I was also terrified that one of the trainer guys would feel obligated to come over and try to help me with the machines which is so mortifying in so many ways that I can't even begin to enumerate, so I didn't even bother to investigate the torture devices to see if I could figure them out on my own. Eventually, though, I finished up my strength training and could no longer put off my cardio.

Except, of course, the treadmills were still all taken, twenty minutes later.

The other issue at stake was that I was working under a time limit: in about ninety minutes I was meeting a friend for beers and language exchange. I needed at least half an hour on the treadmill, plus time to shower and change my clothes. Disgruntled, I settled for one of the ellipticals, figuring cardio without the actual 5K training was still better than no cardio at all.

But good Lord do I hate ellipticals. They are awkward and there seemed to be no way to account for my short legs that didn't force my beer gut and fat ass off the seat. Once my butt was comfortable, I couldn't really pedal properly.

Fortunately I only had to endure a couple minutes of elliptical hell before someone relinquished one of the treadmills. I squeezed myself between the ellipticals and triumphantly commandeered the treadmill.



I left the gym not feeling invigorated and renewed, but awkward, judged, and just generally miserable. What little good I felt about accomplishing a grown-up thing like signing up for a gym membership and working out was negated by how awfully out of place I felt. I regretted my membership and wondered if I should cancel it, or if I even could.

The mornings, I've found, are infinitely better. I go before work and I share the space with three or four other people at maximum. I still have all kinds of anxiety about the weight machines and about the trainers coming over to have an awkward conversation I won't entirely understand in pidgin English/pidgin Korean about how to use the machine, and I still fuck things up (shoes get complicated), but at least I don't have a gym full of people as my audience.

Moral of the story? A gym in Korea at 8:30 on a weeknight is a special kind of hell, and you should avoid it if at all possible.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Teaching Outfit One

(Repeat content from my other jewelry and Etsy blog, because it's actually relevant to the stuff here, too.)

Because I'm too lazy to do any fashion self-portraiture, and because I'm already in my PJs, here's a Polyvore collection of what I wore today. This is an outfit I probably wear once a week, at least. (I packed pretty light coming over to Korea, so I repeat my outfits a lot.)

What's the same:

  • The cut and color of the gaucho trousers.
  • The color of the sneakers.
  • The shape of the cardigan.
  • The shape of the watch face and the mechanics of the cuff.
  • The t-shirt is the same shade of yellow.

What's different:

  • My glasses aren't sunglasses, of course, but Polyvore doesn't seem to understand the sheer cuteness of regular glasses so there you have it. They're also greener in the frames.
  • The cardigan I have is far more drab green than bright forest green.
  • My trousers are ankle-length. They also have an elastic waistband, without buttons or fasteners.
  • My shoes aren't Pumas.
  • My bolo tie is a piece of unakite my boss' husband set for me, but again—difficult to find bolo ties on Polyvore! The color family is close, though.
  • Instead of the adorable peanut butter and jelly hug graphic, my t-shirt (a discount find at BangBang) has a brown print of a camera and some random Engrishee text.

I think I might make this kind of post a regular deal. What people wear is interesting, right? I think it is, at least. Also I like the challenge of trying to match items on Polyvore to the items in my wardrobe.

What did you wear today?

Multimedia Monday: "Careless Whispers" Interpretative Dance

To download this and other clips off of YouTube, I recommend, as always, the YouTube Downloader HD program. For other videos I've used and the skeletal lesson/activity plans I've built around them, check out the Multimedia Monday tag.

David Armand is one of the funniest comedians I've seen in a while. He's done a whole bunch of "interpretative dances," and while they're all hilarious, unfortunately only this one is unequivocally appropriate for a young class. (The others either have references to sex, genitalia, or both.) Any time I have a chance to show something in class that I like watching? Everyone wins.

You can print out the lyrics before, if you want—that's probably helpful for lower-level classes. With more advanced students, you could easily make this a game. It'll take a bit of advanced planning, though. Write "I'm never gonna dance again" on the board, cue the video up to the chorus (with sound), and hit play. In this video, it's at about 40 seconds in. It helps if you point along to the words: once I did that, my kids sussed out right away what Armand was trying to convey.

Then, back to the beginning, and kill the sound. Maybe watch it twice. Have the students write what they think the lyrics are based on Armand's mime routine, and then pass out the lyrics so they can see how close they got it. (I admit, I haven't done this part yet, as I don't really have the time for it in my advanced classes. But I've got it ready, just in case I ever do.) If you have the time, you can play the video one more time with the lyrics so they can try to match the mimes to the real words—have students circle the words at parts where they didn't understand the mime, and so forth. Considering how damn popular George Michael's Last Christmas is in Korea, I'm sure Korean students will take to Careless Whispers fairly readily.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

How to Improve Your "외dar": Some Preliminary Thoughts

I'm about two months late to the bandwagon, but here, have this post on "외dar."

I read other K-blogs here and there, but a lot of times I cannot be arsed because the writing is twee as fuck, or there's little to no actual content involved. Sometimes both.

This particular article at least avoids being twee but I think Mr. Boothe really missed out on a chance to start an actual discussion or at least impart some useful knowledge by just dropping the term "외dar" out there without any context. Okay, we should improve our 외dar, but how? What should ping? What has pinged yours? Because otherwise it's just like high school all over again: avoiding the weird kids just because they're weird. (More on that in a second...maybe.)

I do agree that there are foreigners over here who immediately (or even after a time) ping on my 외dar as "whoa, this guy is bad news, stay away," yet they fail to really register with other people (usually Koreans but other foreigners as well) as a bad idea. Is it just different cultural norms? Is it, as Michael suggests, Koreans trying extra hard to be inclusive? Is it because foreigners act differently around other foreigners than they do around Koreans? It's probably all three.

Thinking back to the few "weirdos"/unsavory types I've met in Korea, I've come up with things that I believe should ping on your 외dar.

I should preface this by saying I tend to prefer avoid douchebags and just generally immature people, not necessarily people who are just "weird." I'm awkward as fuck most times (or at least I feel like I am) so I like hanging out with weird people because they probably won't notice or give a shit if I'm awkward. Which means I should rephrase: these are things that ping on my 외dar. Your mileage may vary.

Danger, Will Robinson!: The Checklist

  1. An obsession with finding a Korean girl/boyfriend.
  2. Related to the above, saying, "Korean girls/women..." or "Korean guys/men..." a lot.
  3. Spending an inordinate amount of time in Itaewon.
  4. Likewise, spending an inordinate amount of time in Hongdae.
  5. Probably Apgujeong, too, but I haven't run into this personally.
  6. Wide-eyed, naive wonderment at the marvel that is South Korea that lasts for more than their first two months.

Any other traits in foreigners that raise your eyebrows?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


I have two rounds of presentations within the next month.  The first I just finished up today, with the students in my Winter Intensives course. It was pretty hands-off and I just ate Pringles and judged their performances. Second only to sitting on a couch while slave labor fanned me and fed me fruit.

rome decadence grape couch feed
For the record, finding this image was way more difficult than I expected it to be.

I have another round at the end of February with my regular course advanced students, and with this group I'm helping them a bit along the way (mostly with correcting the English in their PowerPoint presentations). This whole week, I've been bombarded with .pptx files and stilted English malapropisms. What's really fascinating about this particular round is that both groups were given free rein over the topics. In no particular order, here's what I've heard or will hear about:

  • Korean TV programs (Running Man and 2 Day 1 Night)
  • K-Pop groups (Beast and Infinite)
  • World food
  • Kim Yuna (of course...)
  • Korean MLB
  • Korean basketball
  • Soccer
  • Minecraft
  • Yiruma
  • Family
  • Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium (This from an intensive student who spent all of January studying this movie, I suspect he didn't really make anything else in time and he/his mom/his teacher threw this together in a panic.)
The girl who presented on her family, Hanna, made an old-school poster instead of a ho-hum PowerPoint, with photos and everything.  She has a great little personality, as evidenced by this selection:

"My second aunt majored in voice at University, but I don't think she is a very good singer. She has two children. The daughter is in seventh grade.  She is very good at English speaking. She likes watching basketball game. The son is in fourth grade. When he was younger, he was very cute, but now I think he is a little bit ugly. He likes soccer, baseball, and basketball."

Note well that Hanna's little cousin, Roy (the ugly one), was also in the same intensive course and was in the audience when she was giving this presentation. He took it well and just suffered from giggle fits the whole time, even when she called him ugly.  I suppose insults sting less when they're not in your native language?

I'm looking forward to the Minecraft presentation especially. I'm tempted to see if I can whip up a hanok in game, screen cap it, and show it to my students in class, but really I'm too lazy to be bothered. Yiruma I'm looking forward to a lot as well, because popular Korean musicians who aren't K-pop groups always interest me. 

 But the best part about all of these are a little peek under the lid of my students' heads. Teaching is a lot more fun when you get to know your students as people outside what you do in the classroom.  I can't wait to see what they come up with.