Hello! Here I am, in one piece, after a crazy few weeks. My new job began and I’ve been consumed with teaching. It feels strange to go from writing professionally to guiding a group of children in language learning. I miss some things about my newspaper job – frequent writing, learning about new subjects (EPA’s limit for lead in drinking water, anyone?) and producing such a tangible product. And then there are lots of things I don’t miss.
It’s been three years since I last taught, and I forgot how much fun it can be to work with students. The ups and downs of teaching and kids’ emotions are so pronounced. You know immediately if something works well and if it doesn’t. After my second week, I saw progress in my students, and it felt like personal progress because in a way, my work helped my students go from point A to point B. I have a lot to learn before I feel that sense of accomplishment in my teaching all of the time, though.
Just as I’ve been warming up to teaching again, Austin and I have gotten a little more comfortable with Korea. We’re all about the Korean food, almost all of the time, (Austin’s hotdog run notwithstanding!) and even have kimchi in our fridge. We’ve also found some fantastic folks to hang out with in this huge city.
We’re learning Korean slowly, word by word. Yesterday someone said something a little rude to me, but I was so thrilled to have actually understood what he said that I smiled in reply. (I tried to buy Tylenol from a little convenience store, and the dude behind the counter said “yakkuk anieyo,” which means, “it’s not a drugstore”). My insomnia has been fantastic for language learning, turns out. If you’re ever up super late at night unable to sleep, just grab the foreign language flashcards – it really does the trick for both bringing on sleep and new vocabulary.
As Austin wrote, it’s the Korean holiday Chusok this weekend, and we’ve had a few days off. Here’s a few photos of stuff we did:
This is an evening river cruise that didn’t have the best view of the city, which you can see even less of in my crappy photo:
Here are a few photos of a hike in the far southeastern part of Seoul; part of the hike was along an old fortress wall. There’s also one of me with my Korean friend, Jume.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Monday, September 15, 2008
If you've been following the blog, you're familiar with this series. If not, see previous posts Part I and Part II.
Anyway, so I ran into an American guy named Luke Martin this past weekend who seems to have the same problem. But he has expressed his HUGEness a little more artistically than I.
Technically, the title to this blog entry should be "Luke's HUGE in Korea."
Luke is an EFL teacher/cartoonist who's trying to get his new comic ROKetship off the ground. We're all hoping his new "cultural comic about foreign life in South Korea" really takes off.
For all of you back home who may be less familiar with the language and acronyms from this corner of the world, "Annyeong Haseo" is the typical Korean greeting, and ROK stands for the Republic of Korea: i.e. South Korea.
He's got a few other fun single-frame teaser comics at his site: www.ROKetship.com . Check 'em out! Or become a Facebook fan. I did.
Friday, September 12, 2008
“A head of state, notorious for his womanizing, is gunned down during a night of carousing by his director of central intelligence. In Hollywood this scenario would be a screenwriter's fantasy. In South Korea it's a true story, which Im Sang-soo has transformed into a curious, gripping movie that is part tense political thriller, part chaotic and bloody black comedy.”
So begins the New York Times movie review of “그때 그사람들” (The President’s Last Bang), a film that Victoria and I took in last weekend at the Chungmuro International Film Festival.
The President's Last Bang, though it did not win any awards, was an official selection at the Cannes, New York, and Toronto Film Festivals.
And, yes, you read the review correctly. It’s based on a true story. In 1979, the director of the Korean CIA shot President Park Chun-Hee at point-blank range, over dinner.
Director Im Sang-Soo – often referred to as the Martin Scorcese of Korea – was present at the screening and introduced the film with a few harsh words of criticism for the current Korean president, Lee Myung-Bak.
Im Sang-Soo explained that his film came out during the previous president’s term and claimed that under Lee’s censorship-happy administration, it wouldn’t even have been possible to produce such a film.
Particularly riveting are the film's sometimes minutes-long shots and the scenes shot from inside a number of government offices and residences. And, as has been historically documented, at the time of his murder, the president was being personally serenaded by a famous young starlet, so the film also features some great music.
Admittedly, The President's Last Bang has more than its fair share of graphic, disturbing scenes. However, for those of you who would not be put off by a little violence, I recommend you check out this film. You can view the trailer via a link from the online New York Times review, and it’s available (with English subtitles) on Netflix.
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In other news, this week is Chusok, often called Korean Thanksgiving, as it is something of a harvest holiday. Because of the holiday, Victoria and I have 5- and 4-day weekends, respectively. Nice!
Saturday, September 6, 2008
Austin here again.
OK, so now that Vic and I have been in Seoul for about six weeks, I feel that we're starting to move out of the honeymoon phase somewhat. And although we have, for the most part, really enjoyed the food here (as Victoria has so dutifully chronicled), there have been times when we've gotten the urge for some good ol' American grub.
So with only a little shame, I'm going to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed my order of chicken quesadillas at TGIFridays last weekend and that last night Victoria and I stopped in for dessert at a 1950s-style American diner. (I hate to be a complainer, but for the $6.50 we paid for our chocolate milkshake, I was expecting something pretty fabulous. What we got wasn’t much thicker than a glass of Yoohoo.)
And don’t get me started about the time we ordered pizza and it came with kimchi on it! Now believe you me, I love a good bowl of kimchi as much as the next guy. But on pizza?! (Yeah, yeah, yeah. All you Kyrgyzstan RPCVs are just saying I should be happy that we can get pizza!)
Anyway, as I was saying, I’ve been keeping an eye out for tastes of home. So when I saw this little New York Hot Dog stand…
…I got a little excited.
Sure, I rarely eat hot dogs back in the States, except for at baseball games. Or on camping trips to Shenandoah NP or Cooper’s Rock. Oh, and except for those delicious half-smokes from Ben’s Chili Bowl in DC, all slathered in chili and onions… You can see how that little sign got my hopes up. But I digress.
So anyway, I was tempted enough to at least take a closer look. And what goodies did I find?
- A menu in English. (Always helpful.)
- A friendly server (Common, but not to be taken for granted.)
- And...oh yeah...MY NEW FAVORITE QUOTE OF ALL TIME!
I didn’t have the heart to tell the friendly guy that he way overpaid whoever he hired to translate his sign for him! I just ordered my hotdog and walked away, wishing it was a Ben’s half-smoke.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Aren't they adorable? This is half of the first-grade class. If you look closely, you'll see in the left-hand corner of this picture a boy hiding behind a desk. I guess he didn't want to be in the picture!
More soon on teaching...