Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Korea's Hawaii

The last summer vacation I had was sprung on me without much notice, so I stayed in Seoul. This time around, I'm definitely ready to get the heck out of Dodge, so I have tickets booked to see Jeju—a destination that's been on my Korean bucket list since forever. Most people go for the hilariously obscene Love Land, but for me the biggest attraction is:


That's an aside, though. 

I am a schizophrenic traveler. I hate traveling alone but socializing at hostels freaks me out. I need to know where and when I am going nearly years in advance, but I'll gladly make up my itinerary as I go along. An ideal vacation for me is one where I could somehow read on the beach and explore the entire city at the same time.

I leave on Thursday for my vacation. In no particular order, here are my goals:

  • Lava tubes!
  • At least one good beach day.
  • A black pork dinner.
  • A jjimjilbang (another Korean bucket list item is to visit as many of these as possible).
  • Udo Island.
  • Love Land.
We'll see how many I accomplish. The weather is supposed to be beautiful the whole time I'm there, so even if I don't accomplish anything on the list, I'll probably have a great time.

Multimedia Monday (On Tuesday): How to Get a Korean Boyfriend

There's been a string of mediocre topics in my advanced textbook ("favorites"? traffic?), so here's some awful K-vlog dross to fill in:

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Is this how I come off?

Came across this article at Three Wise Monkeys: Drunk and Stupid: How Debauched Foreigners Feed Korean Prejudices. (NB the original title was the much less sensational "A Korean Conservative's Perspective on MBC's Infamous Report." Great yellow journalism there, 3WM!)

Despite the author's call to action sounding incredibly similar to one I gave a while ago regarding men behaving badly, something about it doesn't have me nodding in agreement so much as wanting to punch him in the face. As the expression goes, 내 주먹이 운어요. ("My fists are crying.") (I just bought a book on Korean idiomatic expressions and I'm getting a kick out of using them whenever possible!)

Yeah, there are terrible foreigners here. I've complained about them before. The terrible ones need to grow up and realize that Korea isn't their playground. But despite how much I complain, I don't think most of us are terrible. Maybe it's because I have a self-selecting sort of group (I don't hang out with people who suck), but it seems to me most of us are pretty okay. I'd argue that most of us are pretty awesome, or at least tolerable.*

The other thing that bugs me is that it isn't only drunk and stupid foreigners feeding Korean prejudices. Even if it's dying out, there's a streak of racism feeding Korean prejudices as well. I'm not going to cry about being victimized by it, because that's a whole bunch of horseshit; rather I mean to say that there's a small-but-vocal minority that would gladly lob mud at white Anglophone foreigners even if every last weiguk saram was utterly blameless.

And never mind the hate and barbs slung at Filippinos and other Southeast Asians. If you're arguing that they also somehow perpetuate the stereotypes or bring the hate they get upon themselves, you're an asshole. Like every country ever, Korea still has race relations issues to work out. There's no way they're not a factor when it comes to Anglophone foreigner-Korean relations. Granted, white Anglophone foreigners definitely inhabit a certain level of privilege and advantage in Korea. It's a delicate line to toe when you're one of that privileged class pointing out that another, less-privileged class can be racist, but still. It's there.

Also, Mr. Smith, I don't know what kind of drinking culture in which your alcohol testicles descended, but mine was totally different from what you described:
In the revelrous corner of Western culture, if you can vomit over someone, have a fight, have a one-night stand, spend the night in a police cell, pick up an injury by doing something dangerous, offend a vulnerable minority, and/or lose control of your bowels or bladder, it has been a successful night and you will be rewarded for it with the fame and popularity your story of the evening will bring (though you may regret it later).
Fame? Popularity? Successful? That's a pretty nice way to spin "notoriety" and "public humiliation." Any time I've done something stupid while drunk (happily, nothing nearly as stupid as mentioned here), I don't think: "Hey, that was awesome!" I think: "Oh my God, I'm an idiot." I have to retire from the world for a day, receding into a cocoon of Star Trek and Mystery Science Theater 3000 to take the edge off.

Likewise for most people I drink with: blacking out and shitting your pants isn't a point of a pride, it's a point never to be talked about ever again. It's something to be avoided if at all possible; it's why I sometimes leave parties early because I can sense that things will get way too crazy way too quickly. In the same vein, I don't give my friends high-fives when they're drunk idiots. I don't encourage what I know they'll regret later. And after the fact, I never mention it because they're guaranteed to be absolutely mortified at their own behavior. They don't need reminding or reprimanding.

There's a great Swedish word, for which I don't know if there's a Korean equivalent: salongsberusad.  "Salong" is "salon," as in the intellectual Parisian kind. "Berusad" is drunk. (Though, not anything like "hammered" or "wasted." That would be full  in Swedish.) Salon-drunk, then, is the nice kind of more-than-tipsy, less-than-schmasted drunk you get with your friends. You don't want to paint the town red, you just want to take the edge off. That's my goal when I drink, though obviously I can't speak for anyone else but myself.

Coming from someone who's told other foreigners to shape up, quit whinging, and go eat a dick: get off your high horse, Mr. Smith.

*Except that most of the time, unless I'm out with someone on a short list of three people, out of all the foreigners sitting at the table I'm the one with the most passable Korean. This is a travesty. My Korean is terrible. I love you guys, but step up your game!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Multimedia Monday (On Tuesday): North Korea's Moranbong Band

The topic in my book this week is "favorites," which is pretty useless.

Instead, have this video that popped up on my Facebook news feed. It's a North Korean pops orchestra (in the tradition of Trans-Siberian Orchestra) performing "Gonna Fly Now:"

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Student Profiles: Beckham

I've been at this job for eight months now and I still don't know how I feel about Beckham.* Most days he is not at all interested in English, but he recently (and in my opinion, prematurely) switched to an advanced class. I wasn't happy about this at first, since he switched into my absolute favorite class. The class I use to take the edge off teaching his old class, actually.

Fortunately, he's now separated from his other two musketeers, so on his own he's much less disruptive.   I have no idea how this is going to work in the long term, though. The first class was an unmitigated train wreck, but that could just be first class of the semester jitters. The second class is worth documenting.

As soon as I walked in the door, he announced, "Teacher! Couple shirts!"

A spontaneous greeting from Beckham? Unprecedented.

We were both wearing gray shirts, you see. Except mine was a light, semi-sheer t-shirt over a tank top, and his was a dark gray long sleeve thing.

"What? But they're very different!"

"Color is same."

"Well, that's true. Okay, couples shirt."


After some small talk about their recently-finished exams ("Every subject easy, I am genius."), we got down to brass tacks. I had Beckham and Kristin (the only two students that day) use the mind map in the book to think of ways to describe their best friend.

The next ten minutes of class was dedicated to the biggest whopper I have ever heard a student tell. Beckham told me that his best friend was Park Ji-sung, and then from there it exploded into a ridiculous tale of how he was going to fly to England the next day to visit and play for Manchester United. Oh, and his dad is his own private pilot. And his mom comes with them and cooks food for everyone. And his friends are going, too. And I can come, if I want. His plane is so big it can fit everyone in England. It's the size of South Korea; in fact it's so big that when it takes off and lands, sometimes people die.

"But I am always survivor," Beckham explained, "Because Jesus is my father."

Apparently Jesus is his pilot, not his copilot.

Also, Barack Obama calls and asks him to dinner all the time, but he is too busy studying. And Beyonce is head over heels in love with him, but he rebuffs her advances because "she is not my style."

Hopefully I have more classes like this and less like stony silence.

*Yes, the name references what you think it references.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Multimedia Monday (On Tuesday): Infomercials

The topic in my advanced textbook this week is inventions. We're going to rate these infomercial inventions and talk about which ones are good inventions, which ones are bad, and why.

RIP Billy Mays

To download these or any other videos for use, I recommend YouTubeDownloaderHD. Check out the Multimedia Monday tag for other videos and activity ideas.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Best Engrish Moment Ever

Spotting and collecting awful English slogans—often just strings of related words in a grammatical relationship best described as "vague"—from clothing and apparel is one of the anglophone foreigner's favorite past times. I was guilty of it myself during my first few months, though now I mostly don't give a hoot.


I was pawing through shirts outside a boutique in Bundang when I came across this:

Sorry for the typical Ebay clothing shot. I didn't
feel up to modeling it.

At first blush, it's unremarkable, really. A random image with some bedazzled bits and random English text: par for the course as far as Korean fashion goes. Yes, it is indeed way ~girlier~ than anything else in my wardrobe, for those of you playing along at home. Not only that, but it is not the most flattering of fits or colors for me.

Why did I buy it, then?

Because while I was processing the English text, I realized: This is familiar. I could a hear a man's voice singing these words in my memory, and after another ten seconds to let the song play out to the chorus, I had it pinned.

Alternative, Baby
Reel Big Fish

Well, I see you up on stage and I
don't know just what you're sayin',
But you're my hero.
Whoa, oh oh.
But a guy just kicked me in the head,
a little girl just passed out dead,
I'm in between a big jock and a sweaty skinhead,
but I love you.
Whatever that means.

But I don't wanna talk to you,
'cause I know I'd just say something stupid and
I know you've got
better things to do.

Hey, little alternative girl,
so don't you wanna be my friend?
You know I'm singin' all my songs to you.
It's all right if you don't understand.

Well, maybe I shouldn't be so serious, 
Tellin' you that everything sucks, 'cause I don't wanna 
bring you down.
But it never never works out right. 
I'm gonna lose, give up the fight. I won't get what I want,
won't get anything, but I love you.
Whatever that means.

And they don't wanna talk to me 'cause they know what I'll turn out to be.
 I said I was cool,
but I can't lie to you. 

Hey, little alternative girl, don't you wanna be my friend?
You know I'm singin' all my songs to you.
It's all right if you don't understand.

And I don't wanna start again
'cause I know it'll be the same in the end.
I didn't like it the first time anyway.

Hey, little alternative girl, so don't you wanna be my friend?
You know I'm singin' all my songs to you.
It's all right if you don't understand.

If you aren't familiar with Reel Big Fish, it makes it even more hilarious to realize that this is an amped-up poppy ska song from their 1996 album Turn the Radio Off. Have some YouTube. And don't worry: despite the parental advisory warning, this song is perfectly inoffensive.

Listen to that, and then go back and look at the first picture.

You see why I had to buy it, then.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Multimedia Monday: You've Got a Friend in Me

The first topic in the new textbook is "Friendship." And is there a better song about friendship than Brian Wilson singing Randy Newman? No. No there is not. And I really like using these typography videos in class, so bonus points for that.

I'm doing a simple gap fill with the lyrics beforehand, though listening again I realized it's really needlessly repetitive at the end. What the heck, Brian? Usually you're a masterful arranger but why did you add a whole bunch of nothing to the end? Randy Newman ain't no slouch, son.

Of course, I would be remiss in my Internet geekiness if I didn't also include a choice clip from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, but I think it's a mediocre show so I can't be bothered to sort through the awful fanvids and brony nonsense on YouTube to find something for class. Remiss I shall be!

If you were interested, though, someone has subbed most of the episodes in Korean. I give you: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (and Korean).

Check out the other Multimedia Monday entries for short lesson ideas; you can use YouTubeDownloaderHD to save them to your computer.