In my part-time hagwon job this week, in a stroke of English teaching genius, I’ve been having the kids invent their own restaurant. We started by brainstorming names for the restaurant (best name: “Mosquito Eyeball Spaghetti”), the we decided what we would serve (best dishes: “Jef’s Hair”, “Apple Juice with Eyeball”, and “Toys”), and finally we figured out how much we would charge for everything (“Jef’s Hair” = $ .10 per strand). I had them write down the whole menu on a piece of paper, and yesterday we improvised the restaurant — two people played customers, one person played the waiter, and they acted out (in English, of course) a dinner scene from the restaurant.
The improvisations were funny, if only because of the extent that the kids were willing to throw themselves into it. There was lots of complaining about the imaginary food (“This human meat is too hard! I told you soft!”), and another consistent theme of drunkenness (“I want one-thousand soju! Bwahahaha!”), and the waiters were usually angry and curt (customer: “I didn’t order any chicken.” waiter: “Be quiet! Eat it!”). After one customer kept complaining that the barbeque pork was too small, a student stepped in to the scene and said “I am barbeque pork.” I actually played a customer in one class, and I was surprised at how good these kids were at improvising — lots of “yes, and”, very little negation, and they always stayed in the scene. Strange that the rules we need to be re-taught are ones that are unspoken when we are younger — when do we forget how to pretend?
Making my way through a subway station here yesterday, I noticed a Korean woman holding something in a bag with a distinct “Ziploc” logo on it. I remember thinking “Wow, they have Ziploc bags here.” It wasn’t me thinking that though, it was the people that I left in America to come here.
People in America generally have no idea what it’s like in South Korea — I had no idea what to expect before I arrived — so when I told people I was moving here their reactions were usually of the “Are you going to live in a hut?” and “Don’t they eat dog over there?” variety. South Korea is one of the many countries that Americans just don’t consider, and I’m willing to bet that most Americans (although nobody I know, I hope) would be hard pressed to locate it on a map.
I remember when a friend of mine asked “What are you going to eat over there?” and I told him that there was an Outback Steakhouse here. “Really?” he said. He could have very easily have said “What are you going to store your frozen foods in over there?”
A very partial list of Western products and establishments that I have seen in South Korea:
McDonalds (of course)
Oral B Toothbrushes
Must go now — I have to start the tribal campfire to cook up the breakfast dog.
Two things that drive me crazy here:
1.) The complete disregard Koreans have for those they don’t know. I understand that this is a cultural difference, but it’s really easy to mistake for rudeness. This is most apparent when one is trying to get on or off a subway train. On a subway in London or France or NYC, the train doors slide open and you wait for the people to get off the train before you get on. In Seoul, the train doors slide open and (more often than not) everyone moves at the same time, which expectedly results in lots of people running into other people and pushing others out of the way. It’s almost absurd to watch sometimes, and it makes me angry when I am in the middle of it. This disregard for strangers also manifests itself in lots of haphazard cutting in line — the banks and movie theatres have a “take a number” system, but it is often broken by someone who just walks up to the counter without even taking a number. I’m not one to tolerate cutting, so I’ve been known to step in front of a Korean if they try to cut in front of me — they don’t like this, but it is effective.
2.) The public hacking and spitting. For some reason, Koreans have collectively decided that it’s ok to hack up the contents of one’s throat and spit it out into the street. I’m not just talking about clearing one’s throat, I’m talking about drawn out hacking (of “hacking a lugie” fame) and then a loud spit into the street. I can’t tell you how often I hear this sound while just sitting in my apartment, let alone while walking down the street, or how often I can look at the sidewalks and see spit remnants drying in the sun. Once again, I understand that this is a cultural difference, but it’s still disgusting.
I’m not sure what the story is here, but my assumption would be that they sell animal medication. I’ve never seen an animal pharmacy in America, or anywhere for that matter… perhaps animals get sick more often in South Korea, or perhaps it is trendy to needlessly medicate one’s pets.
Things are coming together for me here. I found this woman — Mrs. Lim — who has been lining me up with private students nonstop for the last two weeks. She’s already providing more than half my current income, and she keeps telling me that she can get me more work. My schedule is getting close to ideal — I work about twenty hours per week, I don’t have to get up early, and I’m making more money that I’ve ever made (which isn’t saying much, but it is saying something) with the possibilty for more. Most importantly, I’m relaxed, which is something that I rarely was at ____’s. Finally I am comfortable with the fact that I made the right choice back in January, as after a bit of strife things seem to have worked out right nicely.
Here is a picture of Becky (and me) on her birthday yesterday…
…we were talking on NetMeeting, which is actually quite amazing (and free) technology, but which Becky & I use so often it has gotten to be fairly normal.
Today is wonderful Becky’s birthday — be sure to send her happy birthday prayers or vibes or etc. I don’t care if you don’t know her, send em anyways! I’ll find out if you don’t — I know people, important people — and then I will have you banned from reading my site.
Happy Birthday, Rebecca. You are my favorite person.
I didn’t have any classes today, so I spent a couple hours uploading some Seoul photos — some old, some new — into a brand-new “Seoul” photo album on this very website. I’ve got more photos than these, but I am familiar with the law of diminishing returns so I shall save the rest for another workless day or sleepless night. Click on the photo below, or down and to your right.
I passed my six-month mark in South Korea a few days ago (the sixteenth) without even noticing. This, if anything, seems to be an indication that my life in Seoul is better than it was in Incheon — no way would I have overlooked a half-year anniversary there. I’ve been living in South Korea for six months — this is a sentence that I couldn’t have anticipated (until recently, of course).
Ahh… I am once again connected. I’ve actually got the fastest internet connection I’ve ever had, which is really pretty cool as far as I’m concerned. Hopefully this will lead to more regular postings, and will inspire me to finally upload the many photos of Seoul I’ve been meaning to upload for many weeks now. Not having the internet for so long made me realize that I really don’t like not having the internet for so long — let’s all pray that this never happens again.
I started a new job at a elementary school hogwan this afternoon — a Monday/Wednesday/Friday job for about three hours each day. The school is tragically disorganized, but this is something that I’ve come to accept in the Korean hogwan system. I’ve decided that I can deal with disorganization for eight hours a week and lots of money, just not for thirty hours a week and relatively little money.
The students in my first class told me that Chinese people eat mosquito eyeballs mixed with bat shit. I asked them how they get the eyeballs out of the mosquitos, and they told me that they squeeze them with tweezers. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I believed them for a bit, as they all corroborated one another remarkably well and played me like a damn fiddle. I suppose I was also fooled by the brilliant abstractness of mosquito eyeballs mixed with bat shit — unusual, certainly, but completely implausible? The Chinese have been known to eat live monkey brains and rat embryos, who’s to say they wouldn’t eat mosquito eyeballs mixed with bat shit?
We’re finally getting the internet hooked up in our apartment on Monday (or possibly Tuesday), so no more of this smoky and slightly depressing PC room. Yay. You have no idea how happy this makes me.
Becky took a short trip to Jordan last week, then she wrote about it here. When I return to Israel in November, I plan to return Becky to Jordan for my 100 camels.
Interesting South Korean fact: 18 holes of golf costs approximately $150.00. I learned this from my new, and very rich, private students that I taught yesterday. I’d hardly call it teaching, though, as they basically just want to hang out and play cards and board games with me for an hour and a half every Friday. I get paid for this — I get paid quite well for this. They are university students, and two of them are brother and sister living in their parents swanky apartment with a huge lcd television and an amazing view. It’s classes like this that reassure me about my decision to leave ____’s.