Monday, May 31, 2010

Here we go again...

After a brief respite, it's time for another open class here at Beomil Elementary. Conveniently placed two days before my co-teacher's wedding I'm sure this one will be completely stress free becuase bride's are totally not uptight and anal, right?

In preparation I had another look at the teacher guide's 'Cultural Tips' section. Behold, things about yourself you never even knew...

*spelling and grammatical mistakes are copied and pasted directly from the online textbook.*

"When we take a trip and meet a foreigner, we need to he aware of the cultural differences associated with individual questions. This individualism in Western people has been ingrained since their childhood. They especially regard questions concerning the condition of the body as rude and personal. Avoid questions such as; "How tall are you?", to a short person, or "How much do you weight?" to a fat person."

Above all else, do not ask "How much do you weight?" to a fat person who hates bad grammer.

In Western cultural the family is referred to as immediate,(husband, wife, children), and extended, (grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins). Prior to the migration movement, the family unit was similar to the Korean structure, the eldest child (son or daughter) took care of all family members. It was not unusual for several adult family members, with children, lived together in the same house. Due to the distances between family groups following migration and war, the unification, responsibility, and intimacy began to dissipate and eventually vanish. Now a days, many people, especially the elderly, live alone, away from their family. To fill the void of family a dog or cat became the companion of choice. The animal is considered a family member and regarded with affection, love and respect. Therefore the role of a pet animal is very important. Accordingly, the emotion associated with the words; cat or dog, is totally different from that of Koreans.

"Mommy, I miss Grandpa. Can we get a puppy??"
"No Johnny, not until we get rid of your Grandma too. Now help me drag her onto this ice floe so we can put her out to sea."
"Yay!!! Animals are my companion of choice! I'm so glad our family intimacy has vanished!"

My name is Minsu. I don't mean to be culturally insensitive, but it's been ingrained in me since childhood.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

An Island in Japan

This is a condensed version of several conversations regarding a vacation. There were actually three people and everything is paraphrased, which is a nice way of saying I made it up to sound better, but the gist is the same. Doesn't 'gist' sound like a combination of jizz and mist? Like his penis-hole sprinkler is stuck on the wrong setting. For example, 'Ugh, that dude gisted all over my glasses! Now they're all smudgy!' Off topic. Back to making things up about my vacation:

Person A: Hey, this picture looks nice, let's go there.

Person B: Hey, yeah, cool, let's do it.

Exit stage right, towards Japan.

*Off topic again: this makes sense but only in my mind because when we covered directions in grade two north just happened to be the direction I was facing at that small point in time. My eight year old brain, however, thought this meant north was always in front of me no matter what, like even if I turned or spun in a circle. Therefore, east was always on my right. Not that I knew right and left then, clearly I wasn't a scholar. My mom told me to think about which hand I ate soup with, which is a strange way to describe it, plus if I picked up my spoon with my other hand did it become my right hand? Looking back I might say I was exploring the relativity of my small world, but at the time I think they thought I was an ass, or slow, or both. Back on topic:

Arrive in Japan.

Person A: Oh hey, do you remember the name of that place we're trying to get to?

Person B: Oh, It's cool though, we have a map right?

A: Yeah, totally!

B: Is it in English?

A: Ahh, no.

B: Do you speak Japanese?

A: Domo arigato, Senor Roboto.

*Off topic, again. I just think that this song sets a dangerous precedant. I mean at first it's like, sure we should be nice to the robots. You know, be polite, thank them in their native tongue, yadda yadda yadda, but next thing you know they're going to be all 'We don't want to ride in the cargo part of the plane, we demand seats up top!' and we'll be like 'Greyhound!' and they'll say 'First class!' and we'll settle on coach with an in-flight movie. I guess what I'm really angry about is the ATMs that charge extra for after-hours service. ROBOTS DON'T HAVE AFTER-HOURS! THEY'RE ROBOTS! There are children in Coochybekistan that pose as tables for three cents a day because it's cheaper than buying a real table. DON'T GIVE ROBOTS RIGHTS! Okay, deep breath, back on topic:

B: Okay, okay, I know, let's have a quick game of charades with some locals and hop on a bus.

A: Yeah, cool.

Arrive at destination.

B: Hey, we made it!

A: Uh, of course. What could possibly have gone wrong? Now let's make these locals do charades again until they give us a place to sleep.

B: Cool!

And that, friends, is basically how we made it to Japan.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

News Flash

I bolted out of my white collar prison at exactly 4:30 yesterday and headed for the boot racks outside the classroom where everyone keeps their shoes. It was raining tigers and wolves yesterday so I was sporting my new rain boots even though the rest of the faculty still found it appropriate to wear 4" heels. Not the point. The point is I go to reach for my size extra-largeee boots and oh, wait, what's this... The little fuckers stole my boot! Boot, singular, because there's still one left. Those evil little shits, those pint sized pieces of crap, took my god damned left boot.

As I stood fuming next to the nearly empty bootrack the only comforting thought in my mind was, 'they're going to be in so much trouble.' At that moment I thought of how satisfying it would be to see the little shits squirm because everyone knows that hell hath no fury like a tiny Korean woman in slippers. I even thought how nice it might be if I too got to take part in the festivities. There would be no need for explaining to the little ingrates their misdeeds, just yelling and cursing and bears, oh my! Muah-ah-ah-ah!

Update: Arrived at school this morning and told my teachers about the incident (they had left before me yesterday, so they were unaware). I explained the story and then waited for something like, but not necessarily indignation. Something...rage-y. What I got was giggles. Giggles! "Oh, that happened to me last year. I got it back" co-teacher said flippantly and then turned back to her cell phone. My other teacher said she'd ask her classes about it. End of conversation. So now I'm out a boot and I didn't even get to see heads roll for it. What. a. rip.

Tomatoes Stuffed with Crabby Mashed Potatoes

I've been feeling under the weather for what seems like forever. I'm not fully sick, but it does feel like maybe there are knives in my throat and some sort of roadblock in my sinuses. When I feel like this I want comfort food and nothing says comfort like not having to chew. Enter mashed potatoes, my old friend.

We were eating these while watching the new episode of The Office, as you do, and all of a sudden Kyle said, "Wait, pause it, pause it. ... This is so good. Why is this so good?" I explained that it was moderatly to extremely unhealthy, hence the delisciousness. But don't let that put you off, you can always work out later, right? Right?

Tomatoes Stuffed with Crabby Mashed Potatoes
4 or 5 smallish potatoes
half a medium onion
3 cloves of garlic
crab meat, however much you like
1 individual sized yoghurt
a squeeze or spoonful of mayonnaise
parmesan cheese, as much as you can afford.
4 large tomatoes

Peel, boil and mash the potatoes. While they're doing their thing cut the tops off of the tomatoes and scoop out most of the insides (save this for pasta sauce or scrambled eggs or what have you). Sprinkle some salt inside and turn them upside down to drain some of the moisture. Next, fry the onions and garlic in butter or oil until soft and then add them to potatoe mixture. Add the rest of the ingredients, stirring to combine and then carefully fill the tomatoes up to the brim.

In lieu of an oven I cooked these in a water bath. Fill a large pot up with 2-3 inches of water. Carefully wrap each tomatoe in tin foil, making sure the edges or seams of the foil will stay above the water or this will all be soup. Settle them into gently boiling water for a few minutes until the tomatoe has softened. Unwrap and enjoy not having to chew!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Teacher's Day

Teacher's Day was Saturday, which is the best kind of Teacher's Day becuase I wasn't in school, but I returned Monday to several notes from students on my desk. They were folded ornately in origami shapes and most were perfectly legible becuase my students are really good at English, but the best ones are from the low levels. Enjoy.

Hello! Do you know me? I'm Kee Gyeong Kim and English nme is Jasmine in Grade 5-2. Are class is very noisy isn't it? I like english class...and I'm pretty well!!! I went to Phillipines when I was Grade 2 and come back in Grade 4 and half. I like you very much ~ when I first saw you I was happy to see you and you looked pretty either. Isn't it hard when the class are noisy and your thrut hurts. Teacher Brittney than you for teaching us and I love you teacher Brittney. Have a good time in Teacher's day. - Lee Gyeong Kim.

Hello teahcer Brittney. I'm Se Rin from 5-2 class. Thank you for teaching us with a kind heart. And I should tell you HAPPY TEACHER'S DAY! I think teacher, you are very beautiful and clever. So I like you teacher. I think Brittney teacher is a very good teacher and lastly really have a good week and happy teacher's day! Bye bye teacher. - Se Rin.

Hello, teacher? I'm Hyun dong Lee. Today is Teacher's day! You teaches every Tuesday. And your lesson is funny. But I usually talk and it is I'm sorry to you. I decide I don't make noise your lesson. Have to nice Saturday and Teacher's day. Good bye teacher. - Hyun dong Lee.

Brittney teacher! Today is teachers day. Today is very very important today. Teacher today is happy? Teacher I'm happy. Teacher today I go to ever rand. I feel so good! Teacher do you like music I very like the music class. Teacher I love to english class. -Choi Jin Myoung.

Too cute!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Oh Dear

Situation: I opened the cupboard that normally contains plates, cups, bowls and the like only to find a bottle of soy sauce where cup no.2 should be (I have 3 cups).

Additional Facts: My soy sauce bottle is quite large. Specifically, my soy sauce bottle is taller than the height of my cupboard shelf. Said bottle had to be wedged at an angle in order to fit on said shelf in said cupboard. One might imagine this took at least 2 attempts, up to a maximum of 4. Said soy sauce bottle does not belong there.

Assessment: I have no idea how it got there. Boyfriend claims innocence in this regard and I am inclined to believe him because a) he does not have red hair, an obvious sign of a liar, and b) well, why would he lie about soy sauce?

Conclusion: The marbles, they are falling fast. As the thin plastic sticks are removed they fall, ever rapidly, into the abyss. Kerplunk...kerplunk...kerplunk...

Monday, May 10, 2010

Am I a terrible person?


Oh shut up, is your name McJudgerson comma Judgey? I'm telling you, everyone eats expried deli meat straight from the package in the flickering blue glow of the television while wearing extra large sweatpants with a hole in the crotch.

I'm a vegan, among other things...

Okay, so stale tofu-eese or you know..rancid veganaise straight from the jar with a dirty spoon!


Okay so you're on the couch, scratching a bit of dry, crusty black bean sauce off the couch with your fingernail. The million dollar question: what show is on tv?

I don't watch tv, I read.

Oh for fuck's sake.

Lot's of people read you know, you should really-

Save it, your douch membership isn't valid here. If you were even 17% human you'd know that the only possible thing on your television is a documentary-

-Oh I love documentaries!

-about messed up people. I'm talking fat people, super fat people, super mobidly fat people, dude with fucking tree bark for skin, dude's whose arm's exploded from all the roids, elephantitus anything, and primordial dwarves. Oh I love me some primordial dwarves.'re a terrible person.

You're a terrible person! You're terrible at being a person beucase all people love other people who happen to be teeny tiny people. Have you heard them speak? It's like if a chipmunk could talk, but looked like a doll. If 'cute' were an audible sound, that would be it. That or a hampster giggling.

Hampster's don't giggle.

Save it for the fact checkers honey. I love it when they talk about regular shit too, like how they love karate. Karate! They're just like us, only tiny and with more health problems.


I love it when opposites meet too, like the world's tallest man meets the world's smallest man and they shake hands and you totally think the giant is going to crush the midget.

You can't say midget!

Yes you can, it just depends on the context. Like, I wouldn't say 'midget porn', I'd say 'little people erotica', or else the p.c-ers would be all up in my business. You know once I wantched 1000 Pound Man, 600 Pound Mom and 800 Pound Virgin all in one day. It was awesome. They just make me feel better about myself, you know?

Not only are you a terrible person, but you are quite possibly the worst person.

As a wise person on the Maury Povich Show once said, "You don't know me." Now if you'll excuse me, Born Without a Face is on again.


Sunday, May 9, 2010

It's Too Early for This Shit

Monday morning 9:30am conversation with co-teacher:

Co-Teacher: We will have teaching teachers class this afternoon.

Me: Oh, but that's not what the schedule says.

C-T: Yes, but we missed last week so now we'll have it this week. You must have a worksheet ready for this afternoon.

Me: Okay, sure, no problem.

C-T: Also, you need to have your previous worksheets signed by principal, vice-principal and head teacher.

Me: I don't have previous worksheets. You told me not to make a worksheet for the first class and the rest were canceled.

C-T: Yes, but the worksheet is the proof that we've done the previous classes.

Me: But we haven't done the previous classes, they were all canceled.

C-T: Yes, so you must make the worksheets now.


So now I'll spend my day making worksheets to "prove" that the classes did happen, even though they did not. They will be shown to the principal, vice-principal and head teacher, none of whom speak English, to be stamped and signed by each and never seen again. I had thought that cancelling classes meant they would just be bumped down, so we'd still get a chance to do the basic, intro classes. No, no, logic must not prevail when there is jumping through hoops to be done. Since those classes have already been done* (*wink, wink) I should just move straight on. Meaning we'll never get to do the lesson on shopping, which would have been a good and useful lesson but no, satiating the demand for unnecessary paperwork must prevail. Long live red tape!

Update: Half hour before teacher class is scheduled to start.....cancelled! Yet another lesson plan that will be stamped and signed and flushed down the drain!

Friday, May 7, 2010

I had another meat accident recently. It started innocently enough, it always does. I pointed to some pieces of pork in the grocery store and gestured the number two to the butcher. Simple enough, right? Of course not. He assumed I meant two stacks of pork, for a total of about 15 slices, otherwise known as 13 too many. Stellar. So now my freezer is full of pork slices that are unfortunately not quite pork chops or sam gyup sal or anything I recognize other than fatty. Fatty they are indeed.

I tried to mask this small fact with an apple, onion and thyme topping, but it was only a marginal success. I'd suggest trying this with a proper piece of pork, like a chop or even as a side with a roast.

Unfortunate Pieces of Pork with Apple, Onion and Thyme

- proper pieces of pork
- half an onion, roughly chopped
- about the same amount of apple
- few sprigs of thyme
- splash or two of chicken stock
- salt and pepper

Fry the pork in a pan with a little bit of oil. The length of time necessary will depend on the thickness of your meat (ooh, isn't that the truth?) Mine took about 15 seconds on each side.

Remove from the pan and drain the excess fat if necessary. Throw in the onion and cook until translucent. Add the apple and thyme and cook until they soften a bit. Add the chicken stock and scrape the bottom of the pan to get all those favour bits from the bottom. Add the meat back to the pan and when the stock reduces a bit you're done and done.

I ate this with some coleslaw as part of my 12 step plan to become better friends with cabbage. We're currently at'tolerate' and working towards 'frenemies.'

Monday, May 3, 2010

Vietnamese Two Ways

Before I got here I assumed that there would be more crossover foods in Korean. There's so many countries nearby I figured there would naturally be give and take between them. Kimchi pad thai, why not? Sadly no, Korean food is pretty steadfastly Korean and I've yet to even see a Thai restaurant. That doesn't mean it's impossible though, it just requires a bit of looking.

In the import aisle of Dong-A department store I found all of the fixings for Vietnamese rice bowls. I think they're actually imported from North America becuase there's English writing on them which kind of blows my mind and makes them a little more expensive but nevertheless, they're there.

I marinated a couple of chicken breasts in soy sauce, ginger and garlic and then grilled them while I chopped up the cucumber, carrots and lettuce and softned the noodles. Vermicelli is great food for small kitchens because it doesn't need a burner. Just pour boiling water in a bowl and let them soak. Then strain, throw everything in a bowl and douse with fish sauce. The bottle I found had chilies and onions in it already so it had a nice kick.

The next night I took the leftovers, added some grilled shrimp and made spring rolls. Just dip the rice paper in hot water until it's softened and then fill, roll and dunk in peanut sauce. I'm pretty bad at rolling them so they looked ugly but tasted good, which is really all that matters.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Krazy Korea and Dental Hygiene

Yesterday I was doing some investigation into a rumour that Korean toothpaste has sugar in it. I couldn't find conclusive evidence either way but I did come across some interesting information about 2080, the most common brand of toothpaste on the peninsula. I hadn't noticed it before, but sure enough the slogan for 2080 is "Keep the 20 healthy teeth till 80 years old."

I sure do hope it's the front 20 teeth we're keeping healthy, I don't care as much about the back 12. What happens if I live past 80 though? I guess nothing really matters once you're that old.

Next up:

Grade Five, Lesson 4: What a Nice Day!

In this unit students will learn how to use exclamatory sentences to describe events in their daily lives. This lesson will be taught by emphasizing cultural differences and will use value judgements to subtly promote superiority. Vocabulary words for this lesson include: city, elephant, elevator, bird, rock and tall.

The following is an exact transcription of a section of the teacher guide.

The culture of exclamation

Western people show exclamation even over trifles. This phenomenon isn't found an oriental culture that appreciates people who control their feeling and taciturn. We can usually see Americans who are moved so easily by things that Koreans aren't effected by. This means they are accustomed to expressing feeling freely and frankly.

In western culture, they start a conversation about the weather when they meet someone for the first time: 'It's a lovely day, isn't it?'. This is referenced to the inclement weather in England.

The people who live in an area with nice weather like Korea aren't touched by this kind of thing but Englishmen can be impressed.

Suck on that England. Maybe if your weather wasn't so shitty you wouldn't be moved so easily by trifles and you could taciturn a little more. In Korea 'taciturn' is a verb, but 'offend' is not.