No, I haven’t forgotten about this thing. I’ve just had my butt kicked up the street and around the corner teaching 38 hours a week. More for the list:

51) Unnamed person who lives at the Hyperion Apartments, no matter how high up your apartment is, no matter how opaque you think your door is, the fact remains that you still shouldn’t walk around naked when your apartment faces one of your city’s major thoroughfares. If I, sitting in a cab at ground level, can see you in your birthday suit in your sixth-floor apartment, I’d invest in some curtains.

52) There are some things that transcend language barriers. Fart jokes are one. Pokemon is another. Coloring books are a third.

53) Don’t let small Korean children yell loudly for a fork. It sounds like they’re all screaming “FUCK JUSAYO (PLEASE)!”. It’s really inappropriate, not to mention it makes all the foreigners around snort their beverage up their nose.

54) Canadian bars are where it’s at in Korea. They have the best food, best atmosphere, and best mix of Koreans and foreigners. The Holy Grill near Samduk, especially, is rather awesome.

55) Note to self, all the streets north of Dongdaegu Station are full of brothels and seedy Korean food places. Was very happy to have an Emily with me to ward off creepy people.

56) Small Korean children are fascinated by foreigners wearing skirts. So much so that they will pull up your skirt in public to see what you have on under it. While I was mostly-safe in pantyhose and boy-short underwear, one has to feel bad for the Australian girl in EMart who was only wearing a thong and had it exposed in front of an entire storeful of people.

57) The dry-cleaning people up the street from me are beyond-awesome. Two-dollar discount, a perfectly cleaned and folded comforter, and a note in half-decent English asking me up for coffee sometime.

58) The reaction of kindergarden girls to Mary Poppins is roughly equivalent to a full-grown adult’s: amusement giving way to dawning creepification when you realize Mary Poppins is kind of scary. Though Bert remains hilarious no matter what age you are.

59) When at a loss for things to fill class time, Magic School Bus and improvised Bingo games will do the trick. Unfortunately, I’m still not cool enough to have my students nickname me “Ms. Frizzle”.

60) One should probably not be listening to Zagreus when it is 1 am, pitch-black in one’s apartment, and one is alone in a strange country. A car starting will scare you out of your wits, and then, just as you think you’re getting to sleep, you keep hearing the titular rhyme over and over and over. “Zagreus sits inside your head/Zagreus lives among the dead/Zagreus sees you in your bed/And eats you while you’re sleeping“, indeed. THANKS, BIG FINISH.

61) In a similar, Doctor Who-related vein, it’s very, very hard to explain to your coworkers why you jump six feet in the air upon hearing one of your kindergardeners read from a book the line, “Are you my mommy?”. I’m just lucky no one’s mentioned me having something on my back.

62) It rather sucks when you run into the woman who runs your second-favorite convenience store at the coffee shop, and she tells you to stop buying buns and coffee because it’s going to make you even more fat. She then suggests a run, and cutting down on the grape soda, too. Unfortunately, I haven’t learned to say “fuck off and die” in Korean yet.

63) Arboretums in Korea are even more boring than ones in the States – you can’t even read the names of the boring trees you’re looking at. Yes, it’s pretty. Yes, the mosquito larvae in the ponds are awesome. No, Leo, we’re not having lunch yet. No, Lucy, you just got water. Can I go home and shower now?

64) Getting four ten year old boys through “Cinderella” is tough, but letting them rewrite the endings to where Cinderella commits suicide or takes out everyone with a rocket launcher will get you a chat with your director. Look, it’s not my fault they’re violent, irreverent ten year old boys.

65) Contrary to my most fervent wish, lesson plans do not, in fact, write themselves.

66) Still haven’t had decent sushi in Asia, despite going to two Japanese restaurants. The Italian food continues to be spectacular.

67) Mom’s meatball recipe doesn’t work unless you have an oven, bread crumbs, and hot sauce. Guess which 2 ingredients I forgot, not to mention that I only possess a stove. Yuck.

68) Korean drivers still scare the hell out of me, even when they’re friends of mine. Hayley’s an awesome person, but her driving makes Elwood Blues look law-abiding.

70) One can manage to have strep throat for around two weeks and still teach. It hits you with laryngitis and a bitch of a headache when it finally manifests, but wow. I feel slightly accomplished. Luckily, the clinic on Hwanggeum by the Paris Baguette has the good drugs, and they’re good about dispensing them.

71) Speaking of medicine, Korean health care is made of awesome. A doctor’s visit is $2.50. A prescription for Tylenol ER, some high-grade antihistamines, and a throat spray is $3.50. Had to have a chaperone to translate, but believe me, am NOT complaining.

72) Haggling a pair of shoes from 58,000 won to 45,000 won is an awesome feeling. Wearing them out salsa dancing for three hours straight and not getting any blisters? EVEN MORE AWESOME.

73) Koreans are actually kind of racist. You find this out when your second-grade boys get to stories like Jafta, which is about an African boy who pretends to be different animals, and make fun of him for “wearing a diaper” and “looking like a monkey”. It’s reinforced when your fifth-grade girls tell you all Japanese women are “ugly” because “they have bad teeth”. It’s really scary when you see a couple teenagers spitting after a black soldier walks by.

74) The TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), which every Korean student has to take before graduating high school, is tougher than the flipping MCATs. The subject matter is stuff I barely got into in university-level courses (a lot of the scenarios involve common things that happen/are taught/heard in or around an American college or university), which is tough to get when you haven’t grown up speaking the language or being exposed to the culture. I think 3/4ths of native English speakers would probably fail it. Teaching TOEFL courses is challenging as hell, but really rather fun if you’ve got a good group. At the very least, I brushed up on my vocabulary.

75) I seem to have “good chopstick days” and “bad chopstick days”. On the good days, I can eat pretty much anything with chopsticks, keep them relatively clean, cut things using them, and eat like a civilized person. On the bad days? Well, I once managed to completely unravel an entire roll of kimbap and drip soup all over the table.

76) A 20-minute cab ride or 1 hour walk to Camp Walker’s Gate 4 to get Taco Bell from on post? Totally worth it when you haven’t had chicken quesadillas or nachos or bean burritos for months.

77) The first time you get sick in Korea, it’s the “Korean Crud” because it’s mostly mucus. The second time, it’s the “Korean Punching Bag” because your entire body feels like it just went ten rounds with Ali. The third time, it’s the “Korean Death Flu”, because you use up a box of tissues a day, all the Advil you can find, and do NyQuil shots on the weekends, but you still feel like crap on toast. None of this, of course, gets you out of teaching.

78) Possibly TMI, but Korea apparently cures menstrual cramps. I’ve had them once since I’ve been here (month #2), and they weren’t anywhere near as bad as I’ve been used to having them. Previously, I’d gotten used to waiting tables while feeling like my uterus was being spit-roasted, and having to curl up in bed with lots of painkillers on the worst days because I couldn’t sit up. It’s been kind of nice not to have that.

79) Took me four months, but I finally found the paper towels. They’re labeled “kitchen napkins” and are otherwise indistinguishable package-wise from toilet paper. I bought them by mistake when I ran out of TP.

80) Marshmallow Peeps sent by one’s parents via FedEx are just as yummy as they would be in the States. Your students will still look at you like they’re frog eggs . . . until they try them and figure out they’re 3x the sugar of most candy.


How goes it, gang? We’ve just started our winter break schedule – all the kids are off from their regular schools for an entire month and need to be kept occupied, so we’ve got morning classes in addition to our usual afternoon classes. So I’ve been really ridiculously tired, crashing into bed every night when I get home from work. I haven’t been killed by the kindergardeners yet, which is probably a good sign. When they’re engaged in what we’re doing and not wrestling each other all over the classroom or screaming their heads off, I like them quite a bit. But when James and Fred are engaged in a kickfight, Emily and Nicole are coloring on the table, Kelly and Elly and Alice are chattering about what I think might be a television show, and Mark and Donna are the only ones paying attention, it’s insane

Then I have some additional one-on-one classes, with my older students. Princess Flora is my 10 am girl, and I’m getting pretty good results when I dispense with the board-writing and recitation and let her braid my hair and play with my bracelets during the lesson. She read an entire two pages with only one mistake (on the word “university”, which would stump most English-speaking students, let alone a Korean second-grader) yesterday, so I’m hoping to continue that this week. My 11 am gang are Susie (fourth grader, and pretty smart when she stops being so shy and opens her mouth), Steven (who it is like pulling teeth to get him to even respond, let alone speak and comprehend), and Crystal (who is one of my very favorites and is reading Harry Potter in Korean to me after lessons). I also get Daisy (one of my very-awesome sixth-graders) at 7 pm one day a week for listening comp, which is awesome because it’s music-based, and I let her listen to examples of the music styles the book discusses.

I’m also exploring the city more – been to Beomeo (the nearest subway stop, which is like, six blocks from my house) and up near Suseong Lake. Still haven’t found the Thai place, but I’ve found three more Italian places and a really, really good Japanese place. And to Steve’s everlasting shock when I IMed him about it, I ate an entire roll of sushi and liked it. \o/

More Things for the List!

16) Threatening the four wrestling-obsessed eleven year olds who speak almost no English and wouldn’t pay attention to you even if they did with powerbombs if they don’t stop throwing cookies and spitting coffee at each other only works if you can physically back up the threat. While they don’t frown on corporal punishment (i.e. you won’t get fired for smacking a kid upside the head if he’s being rude), you cannot seriously maim them.

17) Just because your kindergardeners poke your stomach and call you fat doesn’t mean they don’t love you. They will still hug you and smile at you and take goofy pictures of you and give you presents on Christmas. Your size is just a novelty to them.

18 ) Your Korean co-workers will believe, despite any and all protests to the contrary, that any pictures on your computer of the opposite sex is proof that they are your past or current significant other. This is how you inexplicably find yourself having dated Anderson Cooper, Hugh Laurie, Randy Orton, Matt Damon, Stephen Colbert, and John Simm. Clearly, I am doing rather well for myself. 😛

19) Try a little patience. Things move much slower in Korea, whether it’s paperwork or food preparation or traffic patterns. Your coffee is going to take longer than a few seconds. Your transaction at the grocery store is dependent on who the clerk sees walking down the street while he/she’s ringing you up. Green lights may or may not be meant for your particular lane of traffic on any given day. Just chill – the world is going to continue spinning no matter how long you have to wait.

20) No matter where you go in the world, Outback is still overrated.

21) Kindergardeners are scarier than armed soldiers near your apartment, because most likely, the soldiers will not actually hurt you. The soldiers are polite, intelligent, and speak very good English (informing you that they’re just off-duty, waiting for their buddy, who lives down the street). The kindergardeners are shrieking, howling savages – Recess does not lie.

22) The worst possible feeling in the world is being confronted with a crying child who literally cannot tell you why they are crying. This is because they do not have the English words, and furthermore, the “waaaaaah paaaain hurt!” overrides any listening comprehension they have. You are therefore stuck with holding said child on your hip while she calms down and continuing to teach the other seven little monsters who are running around.

23) When the pointing and mime and Konglish have deserted you and you still cannot convey to the woman at the corner store that you want napkins/paper towels, all is not lost. You’ll get a free cookie because she feels bad about not having been able to help.

24) Incidentally enough, they don’t have paper towels in Korea, and napkins are a restaurant-only thing. For everyday eating, they use tissues. This is why you ask your Korean coworkers things before you make yourself look like a nutcase.

25) Yes, pulling out your laptop and playing Kanye West, Britney Spears, Mozart, and Eric Clapton does constitute an actual lesson, in English listening comp classes. Don’t count on it too much, no matter how blindingly awesome it may be.

Five more for the file:

11) Invest in a pair of flipflops for your apartment and keep them by you at all times. That way, at 4 am, when you stumble out of bed to go to the bathroom, your feet don’t freeze off on the unheated bathroom floor.

12) Speaking of bathrooms – do not play with the buttons on the side of the heated toilets, and if you do, remember that none of them are the “flush” button. Especially not that one that looks like a spray of water. Just, don’t.

13) The men on Korean television wear more makeup than the women, and they all seem to be sporting sparkly hairspray. I have yet to hear an explanation for this.

14) No, really, don’t try to bring the Korean unless you’re very sure what you’re saying. Luckily, the boy with cute emo hair at the pcbang will not take offense when you tell him to have intercourse with a pork dumpling, as he speaks very good English and will just ask you in English what you meant to say.

15) Utilizing the bastardized Mandarin you learned from Firefly will actually get your students to quiet down. Maybe it’s the novelty of the mi-gook (American) teacher speaking an Asian language at them, but one should not care, as it gets results. One does not tempt the wrath of the whatever from high atop the thing.

In other news, I have some Christmas pics up on my Facebook, here:

Hopefully, that’s visible to everyone. If not, I’ll try and figure out how to post it to here. And now I am off on an attempt to actually find the Thai place up by Suseong Lake on the first try instead of stumbling around going “wait, I know it’s just past the bend in the boulevard, and there’s the Daewoo dealership which means it should be across the next street – aaaand, no. Huh. Where the hell did it go?”

Much love, guys!