Friday, June 29, 2012


I taught, I got a cake and happy birthdays from students and coworkers alike, I came home and cleaned in anticipation of a visitor tomorrow, and then the SCOTUS upheld Obamacare. With just an hour to go before midnight KST, so it happened on the calendar date of my birthday on both continents.

I don't like to get political here, but that last one pretty much made my day. I don't think I've been this stoked about American goings-on while in Korea since the Phils won game 1 in the World Series back in 2009. Incidentally, that was also a Thursday.

I don't think I'll drink quite so heavily this time around, but I will have a little makgeolli to celebrate. And some of my cake.

It's also another weird expat thing, how much more deeply you feel about news and goings-on at home while you're living abroad. I was at home when Obama won in 2008, which was AWESOME but also sort of like....yeah, okay, whatever. I don't know if it's the distance, or the shift in medium (I found out about Obamacare via Facebook), but something is different and you get so AMPED. You want to call and text and Skype all of the other American expats you know (either in rage or glee), you feel a particular surge of pride to represent your homeland even though you simultaneously know that most people around you don't know or care about it.

It's a good feeling.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

You Encounter: Men Behaving Well

I would be remiss if I only complained about (what I think is) awful behavior from people without ever noting the good behavior. Consider this entry part of my attempt to be fair and balanced. (Har.)

My friend Max's father was stationed in Korea during the Vietnam War, up at Camp Casey. Two weeks ago, Max, along with his fiancee (Kirsten) and another one of our mutual friends (Frank), came up to visit me at Uijeongbu. It was a two-birds-one-stone trip, since they hadn't seen me for a few weeks and they had been meaning to see Camp Casey since they got to Korea, anyway.

The trip to Dongducheon and the walk around the weird Americatown in Bosan is worth another entry on its own (I'm waiting for Kirsten to upload the pictures), but I didn't want to forget the ride back. It was substantive enough to warrant its own entry, anyway.

While we were waiting for the subway back to Uijeongbu, another foreign guy asked us if this was the train back to Seoul. He had a Southern accent, hair too long and face too scruffy for either the army or a hagwon. We said yes, it was, and then he got to talking.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I'm the queen of the socially awkward penguins. Among other things, unexpected conversations on the subway (or anywhere) stress me out. I end up just kind of standing there, mouth hanging open, grasping for follow-up questions or responses, so hung up about "doing it wrong" that I end up...doing it wrong.

 This is seriously a thing I have to do.

Fortunately, my company that day was all much better at these things than I am, so they drew out the conversation much more easily and naturally than I would have been able to do on my own.

It turns out our interlocutor had been stationed in Korea in the mid-80s. He was here on vacation. Before this trip, he had spent seven years trucking in the states, saving up money to buy a bar. I do have to say, he would make an excellent bartender, as he never ran out of interesting conversation fodder. Before he wanted to buy the bar, he said, he decided to come back to Korea on vacation to see how much had changed (the answer is: a lot). I think he was even considering buying a bar somewhere in Seoul. He also got to talking about army stuff with the military couple next to us, about the hoops you had to jump through to get your spouse over, life on the base, and so forth.

There were two things about the conversation that struck me. First, you wouldn't think it when you first looked or talked to him, but he displayed an incredibly remarkable level of self-reflection and self-awareness, aware of the ambassadorship he held for whatever category he happened to be representing at the time: army, American, trucker, etc.

"When you're a trucker, those big truck stops will offer you a free shower if you fill up the tank there. Since the company's paying for the fuel, it's like a free shower. Well, one of these I was at there was a waiting list. The girl told the guy in front of me he'd have to wait, and he freaked out. 'I'm gonna have to wait how long? Aw man, I haven't had a shower in a week!' And I took him aside and I was like, 'Jesus, man, did you even think before you talked? You haven't showered in a week? When you say something like that, it makes all of us look bad.'" He shook his head.  "Didn't even think, man. No wonder people think truckers are the scum of the earth."

The second thing that struck me was twofold: the extent to which the government and also private enterprise will go to fuck over anyone, as well as the depth and strength of my own hang-ups about American servicemen and women. I have met some really cool and decent officers, but my instinct when I'm sharing space with someone with a military aura is to get the hell away. My first thought is: Nuisance. Is this good or fair? No. Absolutely not. I forget that they're someone's son, brother, uncle, father, what have you: both the ones that are behaving badly, and the ones that have adapted well.

Our interlocuter's son—his only child, from the sound of it—served in Afghanistan. He was killed in an attack on his unit. That's already heartbreaking and awful. "No father should have to bury his son," to paraphrase Theoden in Lord of the Rings. What takes this to an awful, and previously unknown, level of fuckery, is that the private insurance company that's the de facto (maybe only) option for soldiers initially refused to pay out benefits to his surviving father because they didn't have proof that he had worn his helmet. No matter what happens, apparently, if you are not in full combat gear and you die during an attack, you get squat. The other military guy on the train with us relayed a story about a guy whose family had been denied benefits because he wasn't wearing kneepads.

I'm sorry, but a helmet or kneepads is not going to save you from enemy mortars.

It took some amount of paperwork (not sure how much, but honestly any paperwork in this situation is too much), but the company eventually conceded that he had indeed been wearing his helmet and paid up the money owed. One of his son's friends, fuming with rage and grief at the death of his friend, made sure to help him fight the good fight.

"When I went to collect this things, lots of the generals shook my and told me how sorry they were. My son's friend was with me, and he looked pissed. Later when we were alone, he said, 'They don't give a fuck about your son. They don't care about anyone here.'" The other military guy with us nodded his head in assent.

"I've got his dog tags tattooed here." He rolled up his t-shirt sleeve to show us. "It was hell over there. I'd talk to him on Skype a couple days a week, and ask how it was. And he'd just say, 'Applebee's.' Like, 'I'll tell you when I get home and we have dinner at Applebee's.'"

The extent to which people will go to make money, including trying to screw over grieving families, set a a hard little ball of nausea in my stomach. Why isn't this a huge news story? Why did I hear about it by chance on a subway trip back home?

Safe travels to you, Mr. Carolina-raised Hoosier. If I could, I'd stop by for a few drinks at your bar, wherever it ends up being.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Multimedia Monday: Yellow Dust

The last topic in the textbook this semester is Yellow Dust. Obviously, the kids already know about Yellow Dust and how annoying it is (though this year wasn't so bad), so I can't really blow their minds with any new information on it. Plus, on YouTube, the top hits for Yellow Dust are all foreigner vloggers which is a whole bunch of self-absorbed navel-gazing I don't want to encourage. Apparently, Yellow Dust makes colds worse. In other news, the Pope is Catholic and the sky is blue.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Foreigners and Pets

I am an animal person, kind of. I love visiting my boyfriend's family's farm, where I can help tend to the sheep or play with the two mouser cats (who are good at their jobs, sometimes too good: "Here's a dead shrew for you! I put it in your bed!") or just sit and watch the birds at the feeder outside the kitchen window. When my boyfriend and I get proper jobs and a proper apartment, getting a Norwegian forest cat or a bunny (or both) is at the top of the list.

Blåtand and Björn, the dread mousers of Johannisberg.

Note the conditions in that last sentence: proper jobs. A proper apartment. Getting settled into a stable, adult life. Taking care of another living, sentient creature is a pretty significant responsibility, and not one to be taken haphazardly.

A trend I've seen a lot among hagwon teachers (and, I hate to make gender-based generalizations, but it seems to be among a certain breed of maladjusted and neurotic female teachers) is to get a pet, whether it's a hedgehog from LotteMart or the neighborhood feral cat. Inevitably, the time comes when they have to leave Korea for good, and so the last few months of their stay is a mad scramble to find someone to either adopt the animal from them or to help them shuttle the creature back to the US. Two posts (by the same person) that appeared in the Uijeongbu Facebook group yesterday:
I am looking for a permanent or foster home for a kitten I found the other day. It is pretty urgent as I am leaving Korea very soon and have three cats that I am taking with me already. Please consider this loving baby.

Is anyone flying to Illinois (O’Hare or Midway Airports) anywhere between July and September? I ask because I would like for someone to take one of my cats in cabin with them and then my family would pick the cat up at either one of those airports. I will pay all of the airline fees, health certificate and anything else related to the cat. I would like to know what airline you will be flying so that I can figure out how much they charge, I honestly cannot afford anything over 250$ (just for the cats “ticket”, not including other charges). I am asking this because while I have been here in Korea I have rescued numerous cats and ended up keeping three, when I fly back I am taking two (together) in cargo but I would like the third to go ahead of us just to make it easier on me and the others . I will pay a small sum (all of my money now will be going to getting all the cats home) to whoever decided to take the kitty with them. 
Look, I don't care how much you love cats, do the animal and yourself a favor and don't fucking take one in if you know you're making a transpacific move in the near future. Animals aren't just some cute animated fluffballs that live to cheer up your day. They can experience pain, confusion, distress, and everything about changing owners or going on a long haul flight involves at least two of those three. It's the height of selfishness to take an animal into such a highly transient home just because it makes you feel good.

If the neighborhood feral cat breaks your heart, fine. Take it to a shelter. Pay for its shots and neutering. But deciding to adopt it yourself belies an incredible amount of immaturity; an inability to think in terms of the long term; an assumption that the other people around you will step in and help you clean up your mess. In other words: it's fucking stupid. And cruel to boot. A classic case of exactly how the road to hell is paved.

I guess I'm inadvertently signal-boosting this request, so if you can help this girl out, let me know and I'll give you the details in private.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Gochujang: Some Uses

I haven't been posting as much as I would like. I do have a lot on my mind (my day trip to Dongducheon and the "Special Foreigner Tourism Zone" in Bosan; introversion and Korea; the chicken delivery shop down the street) but I don't have the mental wherewithal to focus and write those pieces.

Part of that is because I've been stepping up my cooking game a notch. It's arguable whether or not that's a "poor skill" in Korea, where eating out is so cheap, but it's a useful skill and I like it. It also doesn't help that everyone in the world keeps posting delicious-looking recipes to Pinterest.

Of course, available ingredients in Korea are different than back home, so alterations must sometimes be made. You can experiment, too. My favorite thing to experiment with is the seminal Korean ingredient gochujang. Here are three non-Korean dishes that, I think, are vastly improved by red chili pepper paste.

1. Omelettes

Fry up your egg; before adding your stuffing, add some gochujang.

2. Shakshouksa

This was a Pinterest find: The Shiksa in the Kitchen's shakshuka recipe. As soon as I saw it, I knew I had to try it. Lacking tomato paste, I used gochujang instead. Mmm, flavorful. 

3. Quesadillas

Same principle as the omelette: before you load up your tortilla with ingredients (mine were peppers, onions, and cheese), spread a dollop of gochujang on it. 

4. Bonus, Non-Culinary Use

It makes great fake blood!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Multimedia Monday (On Wednesday): Ben Folds

Here it's Wednesday (for those of you playing along in Korea, anyway), and I'm just now posting Multimedia Monday.

Truth be told, I was having a hard time for this week. The book topic is "in pursuit of perfection" which does not lend itself easily to videos.

Then, I got the idea to find songs with my students' English names. Just, you know, for fun.

I have two girls named Annie, one new and quiet and one old and chatty. It was the older, chatty one I had in mind when I decided to bring in Ben Folds' "Annie Waits:"


And so
Annie waits, Annie waits, Annie waits
for a call
from a friend.
The same,
it's the same, was it always the same?
Annie waits for the last time. 
The clock
Never stops, never stops, never waits.
She's growing old,
it's getting late.
And so
he forgot, he forgot!
Maybe not.
Maybe he's been seriously hurt.
Would that be worse? 
Headlights crest the hill.
Shadows pass her by and out of sight.
Annie sees her dreams:
Friday bingo, pigeons in the park.
Annie waits for the last time.
Just the same as the last time.
Annie says,
“You see
this is why I'd rather be

And so
Annie waits, Annie waits, Annie waits
for a call
from a friend.
The same.
It's the same, was it always the same? 
Annie waits as the last
headlights crest the hill.
Who will be the one for ever more?
Annie, I could be,
if we're both still lonely when we're old. 
Annie waits for the last time.
Just the same as the last time.
Annie waits for the last time.
Just the same as the last time. 
Annie waits,
but not for me.

Which then got me to thinking: Ben Folds' lyrics are really good for ESL, aren't they?

He's a songwriter I admire for not only excellent musicianship (though, let's be honest, his singing is kind of eh) but genius lyricism. Despite linguistic simplicity and straightforwardness—as if you couldn't guess, I'm not a big fan of grandiose-sounding poetic nonsense in either my reading or my listening—he accomplishes a lot: biting satire to profound loss to everything in between. The only complaint I have is that he swears about as much as I do, so many of my favorite songs are in no way appropriate for a hagwon classroom. Here are a couple gems that are totally appropriate, though.

Learn to Live With What You Are
I know that you're in there,
I can see you.
You're saying you're okay.
I don't believe you. 
And now that the gig is off,
the spell is broken.
The fat lady sung,
The president has spoken.
These days that you were waiting for
will come and go
like any day.
Just another day. 
There's never gonna be a moment of truth for you
while the world is watching.
All you need is the thing you forgotten,
and that's to learn to live with what you are. 
So freak out if you wanna
and I'll still be here.
Don't call me for years and when you do,
yeah, I'll still be here. 
I'm not saying the effort is a waste of time,
but I
just love you for the things you couldn't change,
though you've tried.
These hours of confusion, they will soon expire,
like everything
There's never gonna be a moment of truth for you
while the world is watching.
All you need is the thing you've forgotten,
and that's to learn to live with what you are. 
everything you've ever wanted
floats above.
He's sticking out his tongue and laughing,
while everything
anyone can ever need
is down below,
waiting for you
to know this. 
There's never gonna be a moment of truth for you
while the world is watching.
All you need is the thing you've forgotten,
and that's to learn to live with what you are. 
You got to learn to live with what you are.

Rockin' the Suburbs (the clean version from Over the Hedge)
Let me tell y'all what it's like,
watching "Idol" on a Friday night
in a house built safe and sound
on Indian burial grounds.
Sham on! 
We drive our cars every day
to and from work both ways,
so we make just enough to pay
to drive our cars to work each day.
Hey, hey! 
We're rockin' the suburbs,
around the block just one more time.
We're rockin' the suburbs,
'cause I can't tell which house is mine.
We're rockin' the suburbs,
we part the shades and face the facts:
they've got better lookin' fescue
right across the cul-de-sac. 
Hot real estate, rising stars,
"get rich quick" seminars,
soap opera magazines
40 thousand watt nativity scenes.
Don't freak about the smoke alarm,
Mom left the TV dinner on. 
We're rockin' the suburbs,
from Family Feud to Chevy Chase.
We're rockin' the suburbs,
numb the muscles in our face.
We're rockin' the suburbs
We feed the dog and mow the lawn,
watching Mommy bounce the checks
while Daddy juggles credit cards.

We're rockin' the suburbs,
everything we need is here.
We're rockin' the suburbs,
But it wasn't here last year.
We're rockin' the suburbs,
You'll never know when we are gone
because the timer lights the front
and turns the cricket noises on
each night. 
Yeah, yeah.
We're rockin' the suburbs.

Arguably these don't lend themselves to a clear-cut grammar objective the way some other songs I've posted do, but they would make nice low-key "reward" classes. The very prose-like nature of his lyrics (check it out, most everything is a complete and grammatically correct sentence) makes it pretty straightforward for English learners to follow. Not only that, I think each song presents a pretty clear theme/picture/element: a chain of unrequited love; advice to a friend; social commentary.

Beyond that, I think it's worth it to take time out from teach teach teach to present confidence-building exercises in proper context. Or whatever. By which I mean: my favorite method of language study is to pick pop songs and disassemble the lyrics, mostly because it's incredibly rewarding when I "get it." Barring that, whenever I hear a new song in a target language and immediately understand any of it, I also feel pretty good about myself.

Part of me also just wants to indoctrinate my students with my musical preferences, too. Not gonna lie.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


Great blog entry about attachments and being an expat.

So you look at your life, and the two countries that hold it, and realize that you are now two distinct people. As much as your countries represent and fulfill different parts of you and what you enjoy about life, as much as you have formed unbreakable bonds with people you love in both places, as much as you feel truly at home in either one, so you are divided in two. For the rest of your life, or at least it feels this way, you will spend your time in one naggingly longing for the other, and waiting until you can get back for at least a few weeks and dive back into the person you were back there. It takes so much to carve out a new life for yourself somewhere new, and it can’t die simply because you’ve moved over a few time zones. The people that took you into their country and became your new family, they aren’t going to mean any less to you when you’re far away.
This.  This is pretty much the story of my life. Part of me never wants to leave Korea, or at least not for a long, long time.  Part of me never wants to leave my job at home. Part of me never wants to be away from  The Boy again. Wherever I go, something's missing. It's incredibly schizophrenic.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Men Behaving Badly: A Call to Action

A few assorted things have gone wrong enough this week (goofed up some assignments for work, boyfriend apparently has some serious sleep apnea so now I worry about him DYING IN HIS SLEEP HALF THE WORLD AWAY FROM ME, dinner plans canceled) that I'm going to put on my Piss And Moan hat. However, I'm going to try to productively channel my frustration and take it above and beyond My Life Is So Hard into Have Some Constructive Criticism. Also, with the Piss And Moan hat come the Feminist goggles, so if that's not your thing, well, fair warning.

I like to think of my Feminist goggles as sexy cateye glasses.

The Incident

Last Saturday was kind of a whole parade of Men (And An Ajumma) Behaving Badly. You should bear in mind that because of said parade, this particular incident struck a rawer nerve than it might have otherwise. (In other words: psychologists would say I was "prepped" for FEMINIST HULK RAGE mode.) However, those other incidents are boring and personal, while this one has implications for way more people. Hence my sharing it (and my reaction) here.

It was a nice night out, so my friend Yousef1 and I decided to take some air and enjoy a street performance by two high school guys with a guitar and bongos in Uijeongbu's attractive new downtown pedestrian mall. A small crowd had gathered, including two very American military looking guys who were working their way through an assortment of Cass and soju bottles (and who had already struck me as douchecanoes for entirely unrelated reasons2). After a while, they decided to try and get a couple of Korean girls to drink with them (and, in my cynical and somewhat misandrist viewpoint that particular night, to later sleep with them, but in the interest of fairness neither of them mentioned or indicated anything sexual, as far as I could hear).

When I say "Korean girls," I don't mean "Korean women in their 20s." I mean, "girls who are definitely still in high school." Yousef was convinced they were still middle schoolers. So yes, I mean actual, literal, pubescent girls. Girls with whom it would be sketchy and inappropriate for men in their twenties (if not older, though I am a poor judge of age) to be socializing with, especially with alcohol present.

Naturally the girls declined, and after some more back-and-forthing as best could be had considering neither party had a fluent common language, they got up and left. Not surprising, since it was around or after midnight. The men who had been pestering them immediately turned resentful. "Well, fuck you, then. Bitches."

Interlude: An Outside Resource

Now, take a break and have this article: Five Ways Modern Men Are Trained to Hate Women. It's not really directly relevant, but I think it does a lot to explain (to me at least) the venom and resentment in the end of that above exchange, in the deployment of  the words "fuck" and "bitches." I mean really, all you need to read is the first point alone and you don't need any more explanation than that.

Call To Action

So what am I getting at? Aside from "SHIT LIKE THIS PISSES ME OFF," I mean. Good question! Here are my theses:

1. I'd like to live in a world—in any country—where a woman's refusal to join a man for drinks and/or sexytimes would be met with nothing more the same silent chagrin I feel every time I try to speak passable Korean or introduce myself to a new co-worker. No resentment, no misdirected rage ("How dare she not want to hang out with me!"), no name-calling: just feeling that small sting of rejection or awkwardness and then moving on.

In some ways I already do live in that world because (drunk) men typically don't invite me for drinks and/or sexytimes because the women I drink with are invariably prettier than me, more outgoing than me, or both. But I'd like everyone to have that experience, regardless of personality or sex appeal.

2. I'd like to live in a Korea without people perpetuating the awful stereotypes about foreign men and their douchey, lecherous behavior. I get to dodge this one a bit by being a foreign woman (thereby making it harder for me to be a lecherous douche), but it still bugs me. It bugs me because it still kind of follows me around, and it bugs me more because I know plenty of foreign guys who don't play into those awful stereotypes—let's be real, most of you don't, even if I don't know you—and who knows what kind of crap they get nonetheless.

So, my call to action is this: if you're a guy, and you see a guy being a lecherous douche, tell him to knock it off. This goes doubly-so if you're a foreigner and so is the lecherous douche.


"But Katherine!" you cry. "Isn't that asking the menfolk to stand up for the weak, useless women? Or the white savior to stand up for the Eroticized Other? What kind of feminist are you? And telling people to go stick their noses in other people's business? Really?"  But hear me out.

First of all, I don't advocate White Knighting. Especially if it's for the sake of getting into someone else's pants. I'm definitely not endorsing the "Say honey, is this guy bothering you?" trope.3 Rather, my intent is that if we as a society or a people or a community or whatever word start etiquette-policing against scumbaggery, it'll become less viable an option.

Likewise I am not calling for an end to drunken bar-flirting or hookup culture. Whatever consenting grown-ups want to do with each other, awesome. But the above scenario was not two consenting adults, it was two belligerent and drunk adults on one side and two sober, clearly not interested  and clearly uncomfortable teenagers on the other.

Nor do I think women are inherently incapable of diffusing these situations on their own. We can be clever enough, gracious enough, classy enough, whatever enough, to be sure. Sometimes, though, other factors outside of sex and gender (in this case, there was a clear language barrier) make it hard to summon those traits. Other times, it's nice to know there's some kind of vocal and active support from the vast majority of men who aren't gross scumbags.

In a nutshell: my focus isn't on "saving the (non-white) woman," here. My focus is on, "Men receiving censure from fellow men." It's on: "Someone telling someone they're behaving poorly." I mean, how else do we learn how to function in society? A lot of things we intuit, sure, based on what seem to be inherent a priori rules: causing other things pain is bad, helping them is good, and so forth. But other things we need to be told; what's more, what one person can intuit another person needs an explicit explanation for.

And the truth is, sometimes it takes someone "of your kind" to meaningfully communicate that explanation. (Hence why Tim Wise, a white guy, is such an effective speaker against racism.) I'd like to think that if the guys in question here had enough straight, cisgendered men tell them, "Hey, I think you're being really creepy, why don't you lay off because she's clearly not interested and it's making you/the rest of us look really bad." every time they tried to drunkenly pick up disinterested women4, they'd get the idea. They'd stop. Maybe. 5

Of course we don't live in a perfect world and if anyone took this call to action as seriously as I think it should be taken, they'd no doubt end up in at least a few fights and other unfortunate scenarios. That's why I realize it's a pipe dream. But hey, a girl can dream, right?

1. Yousef is never a Man Behaving Badly. In case you were wondering.

2. "Freebird!"

3.  In fact, confronting these kinds of douchebags with the intent to show off to the lady how much of a Nice Guy you are is even worse than the initial scumbaggery, in my book.

4. I know I am making an assumption here about these guys'  consistent behavior over time, but I don't think it's so much of a stretch.

5. I realize that this is a method that deals only with surface level behaviors and not underlying thought patterns (ie treating the symptoms instead of the disease) but that's a discussion for another day.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A Thousand Times Yes

Since I can't comment over at Scroozle's post on "Why Stay in Korea?", a quick hit and run post here:

This is one of the things my family in Canada doesn't often think about. Chumming around with an international crowd opens a whole new perspective on things. Attending events or meet-ups means getting together with a hodgepodge crowd of different nationalities. Being part of an expat community is something “regular” folks don’t take into consideration, and it’s empowering in a sense. Traveling back to one’s native land all of a sudden you encounter people who have never ventured outside the confines of their culture and have no interest in doing so. It’s a little dull once you’ve lived the other life.

I had this same reaction when I went back home after my first contract in Korea: the peer group I used to hang out with seemed different, somehow. Less glamorous, less exciting. That transformation was really bizarre, and it's one of the reasons I know that I can never permanently live in the States. It's not really fault of their own, and I still like my peer group back home in the Valley...I just know I could never permanently settle in that location or with that crowd. And I'm sure they were tired of my stories of: "One time in Korea..."

Does anyone else know/understand what Scroozle and I are talking about?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Multimedia Monday: Brush Up Your Shakespeare

The topic in my advanced classes' textbook this week is on the evolution of English as a language. Obviously it's hard to pack a whole linguistic history into a one-page essay, so the article in the book can be boiled down to: "Lots of people invaded England, so lots of languages are in English, and it's changed a lot over time." (Aside, I'm currently reading Globish, which is about essentially this story, as well as tracing its trajectory as a lingua franca. Good stuff so far.)

Because I'm an English (Creative Writing) major, I think it'll be great word-nerdy fun to play with some Shakespearian insults—if nothing else, to demonstrate in a clearer way than the book provides just how much English has changed. I printed out a worksheet/word list as soon as I got a chance to flip through the new text book, but just now I also found this TED Ed video. I haven't decided if I'm going to use it or not, but it's interesting nonetheless. At least for me, since I haven't studied any Shakespeare since high school. (I opted for Milton courses in university instead.)

Also for bonus points, here's what I was referencing to in the title (if you didn't catch it on your own). Why doesn't anyone write musicals like this anymore?

Friday, June 1, 2012

Student Profile: Kristin

Towards the end of my Tuesdays and Thursdays, I have a double dose of middle schoolers. The first dose is the worst part of my week. It's a class of three girls and three boys: two of the boys are too cool for studying, and the third is a good student but succumbs to the peer pressure of dicking around with his friends rather than, you know, trying to learn.

The girls are all quiet. One of them is new—just started today new—so I can't blame her much. One of the girls seems to have a questionable grasp of English compared to her classmates, so again, I can't find it in my heart to get pissed off about her. And the last one speaks really good English and makes an effort, but I think the atmosphere of the boys' indifference and the other girl's inability is just so soporific that she can't even be bothered.

But this isn't a post about that class, except to say it's physically and mentally exhausting and every time I leave I wish I had some soju to take the edge off.*

Contrast this with the class immediately following, which is thankfully twice as long.

There are just two students** in this one: Annie and Kristin, both of whom are sweethearts. Annie will get a profile entry later on, as well. I ask them how their weekends were (on Tuesdays) or what they'll do on the weekend (on Thursdays) and they give me answers. If they're not doing anything special, they'll at least complain in English about how they have to do homework.

Kristin's English is at a higher level than Annie's. They are both in the advanced class, but Kristin graduated because she did well on the level test. Annie is in the advanced class because her mother mother complained to the hagwon that she's been at the school so long, she SHOULD be in the advanced class.

She is quiet and exceedingly curious. At least, she is really good at thinking up questions to ask me to avoid studying—and I'm all too happy to field them and go off on a tangent because as far as I'm concerned, they're in my class to practice speaking, not to mindlessly plow through their book. Sometimes the textbook has really great discussion topics (CSI! organic food! New York City!); sometimes they're awful (franchises! India's economy! aging populations!). So we've talked about American food and how it's different from Korean food, popular English names, movies, and so forth.

Aside about the names: I looked up the popular baby names on the Internet (their classroom has Internet connectivity) and topping of the boy and girl lists were Jacob and Isabella, respectively. I died a little on the inside, but then asked her why these names were popular.

"Is it a movie?"

"A movie, and a book. You definitely know it. They're very popular in Korea."

"....Ah! Twilight! 'Isabella' is 'Bella'?"

"You got it."

"Where is Edward?"

Edward did not place anywhere in the top, thank God. I double checked.

"Nope, no Edward."

"Why no Edward?"

"I guess...Edward is a very old name. It sounds like a grandfather name. So, even if everyone loves Edward, the name is still too old to use."


Aside over.

Whenever I show videos in class, Kristin (and Annie, as well) is interested and entertained. She laughs and verbally reacts to things: "Oh, wow!" "Ah!!" "Oh my God!" I show the same video in the middle school class just to break up the monotony and I'm lucky if I even get an appreciative "huh."

 I guess the best way to put it is that Kristin doesn't seem to have acquired the world-weary teenagerly cynicism that middle and high school students all over the world are famous for. There's still things in the world that hold wonder and amazement and humor for her. It's refreshing to talk to someone over the age of ten with that kind of attitude. That's why Tuesdays and Thursdays, while in some ways are my most stressful days, are also my favorite.

*And I don't know, maybe it makes me a bad teacher, but I go in every class smiling and cheerful and asking about weekends and I'm met with dead air. It's not like I'm not trying, or that I don't care. Maybe I'm just an awful teacher who doesn't realize she's awful.

**If it sounds like my classes are ridiculously small, this two-student class is a weird aberration and the only one of its kind. I also have classes near the typical hagwon maximum of twelve or thirteen, so it's really all over the board.  Offhand I would say the average is about six.