Striking a balance.

The boys are getting better and better at actually speaking English. I had several actual conversations today. Now that I'm doing after school classes, and the weather is nice, the little bastards are absolutely everywhere on my walk home. Always stuffing their faces with something. Can't swing a stick without hitting fifteen of my students eating something that's... well, on a stick.

The Nightmare Class. It's slowly getting better. Today we had a talk called, "Do I Really Have To Be Like The Other Teachers?" Which resulted in....

... this. After my I-hate-banging-on-the-podium demonstration.

I also took up my first cell phone. It was only because I couldn't resist -- it was Deadpan's. I was standing at the front of the room lecturing when I noticed a little glint in his eye. He's the definition of a negative attention seeker, and he had the thing up his sleeve, pressed to his ear listening to music, and was staring me dead in the face, smirking. I haven't been giving him enough attention lately.

It started playing a song while it was up on the podium and it was my turn to get glinty-eyed. The prospect of me answering the phone in front of the class absolutely thrilled every last one of the boys. "GREEN BUTTON! TEACHER GREEN BUTTON!" Too bad it wasn't actually a phone call, but some malfunction of the mp3 player.

Had a strange moment with a student who's given me a bit of attitude since last year. He was sleeping when it came time to do the worksheet, and when I woke him up, he looked really out of it. I asked if he was okay, if he was sick, and felt his forehead. For some reason, this really threw him off. "I'm okay..." I came around not two minutes later to find he has answered every single question, with almost no mistakes. I said, you are really smart. I didn't know that. You act bad in class sometimes so I didn't know how smart you are, but you are one of the smartest in the class. You answered really fast. It's perfect.

He stared at his paper and wouldn't look at me. I'm not sure he understood what I was saying, but I think he got the gist of it. Later, while I was walking around answering questions, I caught his eye from across the room. He was sitting at his desk quietly and patiently waiting for everyone else to finish their papers. I made the motion of going to sleep and winked at him. Big, big smile and he shook his head -- the first time this student has ever smiled at me.

Working as a teacher, particularly a native English teacher, you're really faced day in and day out with the vulnerability of the individual, versus the brutality of the pack. And it's something you have to learn to work with. Last week, a third grader was kicking off in the back of the class, distracting loads of people and making no effort at his assignment. I harassed him loudly in front of the others, drawing the whole class's attention: "Are you on vacation? Are you taking a rest? You're a very funny guy, huh?" All smiles and bravado.

Then I knelt down beside his desk, putting my body between him and the rest of the class. I pressed my head against his and quietly showed him how to do the assignment. After each part, I whispered, "Understand?" and he quietly whispered back, "Neh."

It's a delicate balance. I'm still learning how to strike it.


My obsession with being a man: part 983.

I'm famous.

I don't know why that photo's so huge, but you don't really mind. Do you?

Somewhere between the Ho Bar touring, the street stall food and any number of cabs (2) last night, Kel and I managed to get down to the nitty gritty of our mutual obsessions with all things Korean.

This led to me admitting something that has slowly been dawning on me over the course of the last few weeks, namely that I am completely obsessed with becoming a Korean man.

Now, I know there are problems with this plan, mainly in the form of various aspects of anatomy (not to mention culture, language, etc., but that's not really the important part, and some of that is fixable, anyway....).

It started innocently enough with the fact that I am, being larger than a US size 8, entirely incapable of shopping in the women's section in Korea, even if I was so inclined. But why would I be, when the men are the true stars of the show here, as far as I'm concerned?

No, I haven't developed a sudden inclination toward purses, high heels and glitter. Ha ha ha, very funny. But fuck if I don't find a well-dressed man to be one of the few things in life that can make me pause and give thanks to God, the Universe, whatever. And the real problem is that I've never had the ability to separate that which I want to be from that which I want to fuck. If we're going to be totally honest. And why not?

I've always fancied myself somewhat of a gentleman, but in all reality, my outward appearance has run more along the lines of near-to-homeless. I've been inspired, in recent months, by the fact that I actually give a shit about my job for once, and part of that (as far as coworkers and higher-ups are concerned) is not wearing flannel and/or thermal shirts with holes in them, that were probably ten years old when I bought them, to begin with.

Ties are sexy, people. I want to be part of that sexy.

All in all, I predicted this would happen. Just a while before I left Texas for SK, I distinctly remember sitting on Stephanie's back porch, smoking a cigarette and discussing the future. I made the declaration then and there that I had a feeling the ROK would bring an abrupt end to my general not giving a fuck about how I present myself. In short, I knew it would make me just ever so slightly more vain.

Well. Vain at all, really.

Couple this with a sudden first-time cash flow that exceeds my rent (which is now non-existent, anyway) and suddenly, my bathroom is filling up with products. I've mocked that person my entire life. But let's face it -- I'm not getting any younger, and neither is my skin.

I just love the general coolness of it all, in the same way I've loved the generally coolness of the just-rolled-out-of-bed, had-a-glass-of-whiskey-and-a-cigarette-for-breakfast look in years gone by. I can't get enough of the parade of men dressed to the nines, sporting vests, ties, hats, and immaculately fiddled-with hair. The clean, crisp scent of expensive cologne, as men pass you on the street, lean over to serve you your drink, etc. etc. etc.

It's a chronic dysfunction of the expat community in the ROK to turn on their brethren of the West after a few months, and declare entire nations as full to the brim with disgusting slobs. I still get my slack on -- that's never going to change. And my hair always has been, always will be a complete and utter shock of disarray. But for the time being, I'm riding the wave. And if someday I manage to be even a fraction as suave as Lee Byun Hun, or any of thousands (millions?) of his countrymen, well. That'd be alright by me.


My glasses are gone.

Don't ask. I don't actually know where they went, except that one minute they were on the table, surrounded by Korean guys. The next minute, the lovely Kel made it clear she was not going home with the birthday boy, and the table of Korean guys were gone -- as were my glasses. And my pack of cigarettes. Fuckers.

It started at the Ho Bar. Ho Bar II, to be exact. Later, there was Ho Bar I, but nothing much happened there. Other than Fritz, who, despite having a fantastic view of the back of my head the entire night, came over to tell Kel that I was very beautiful. I made a sarcastic comment about his hat, but ultimately it was Kel's impressive glare that sent him packing. Ho Bar III was where things got interesting. For some reason, the glare didn't work this time. Neither did telling the guy to basically fuck off.

That's when we met Dion and everything changed.

Not A-on, not B-on, not C-on.....


Dion and Ken(t?). Who aren't actually named that. Well, apparently Dion's Korean name is Dion, but that's too hard for Westerners to say, so we can call him Dion.


It was funny to finally be the target of the extremely awkward (to Western eyes) Korean bar approach. It happened just the way I told Kel I'd seen earlier in the night -- one ambassador came over to negotiate the situation. And because we didn't immediately look away, soon we were joined.

Eventually there was a cab ride, another bar, good music, dancing. Something about Kent being a hyena. A random ajumma dancing with all the boys. Somehow moved to a table full of younger Korean men, where Kel got her groove on with the birthday boy, while one of the others kept repeating that they were leaving soon, and were we leaving soon?

Literally the most determined people I've ever met.

It was a good night. As Kel said, dancing with Korean men is possibly one of the best ways to spend your time ever. And we're both a little bitchy, so turning them down afterward is fun as well.

Roll on, further weekend shenanigans. It's all good, clean fun.


A "Yes" Person in a "No" World.

I reached a level of intoxication I rarely allow, and never enjoy, last night. Funny enough, it wasn't the fault of my decision, post-soju, to meet Small Town at the regular, just around midnight. It happened because of Mike, who was remaining firm in his anti-bar aspirations, but nonetheless dragged me back to his place to feed me entirely too much soju, rattling on about cabs and whatnot.


I do vaguely remember doing something like dashing out across what we call the judgment call jaywalking street, which normally sees me holding Mike back by the collar, insisting we wait for the light, which never changes. And when he expressed his surprise, I also vaguely remember saying something about being a "yes" person in a "no" world.

I also remember hitting him in the stomach at least once. And some arm-tugging as well. I'm sorry.

Being the individual that I am, I decided I would go to the bar to sober up. There was a slight overlap between soju guzzling and beer sipping that led to me barely being able to focus my eyes, but nonetheless maintaining a decent enough grasp of/level of participation in the conversation that Small Town, who had just gotten off work and was 100% stone cold sober, had no clue I was trying not to fall over. It was getting to the point where I honestly thought I was going to have cut the night short and climb into a cab with my tail tucked between my legs. I never go home because I'm too drunk. Ever. I don't get too drunk.

But the company was nice, and I had taken my shoes off and pulled my feet up in the chair. I remember putting them back on at least twice, as I prepared to say my goodbyes, but then the conversation would draw me back in, and I'd slip them back off again.

Eventually I sobered up and got back to the lovely gentle buzzy feeling I usually maintain with master quality on evenings out.

This led to us being the last people in the bar again, at 4 am.

I excused myself to go to the bathroom, at one point, and from inside the stall could hear someone shouting in a Canadian accent: "NORAEBANG! ........ NOR-RAE-BANG!" Christ. What had the fucking tide rolled out and left behind this time? And was it talking to Small Town? Because if it was, especially about noraebong, I was going home....

I came out to be introduced to two stumbling asshats, one of whom began by thoroughly insulting the place where I'm from, and when chastised for this honorably by Small Town, began to immediately renege. I, being more than a little socially lubricated, decided I would like to continue on course, however. As is usually the case in these situations, by remaining calm, if more than a little challenging, I managed to see him admit the reason he hated Texas was because he'd trained for the military there and had rarely even left the base.

So, really, you hate the military. Good job signing up, then. You probably hate Korea as well. Yet, here you are. God, I love people like that.

He moved to the other end of the bar, at that point, to pursue a less complicated conversation with the Korean barmaid, about, "What..... did.... you..... stu-dy.... at..... university? Did.... you.... GO.... university?" (She's Korean -- not deaf and retarded. Why do expats talk to people like that?).

At which point, I really had started inching toward the door, explaining that, although noraebang with these two gentlemen sounded lovely -- it really did -- I was terribly exhausted from work and needed to get at least some sleep. "You serious?" Small Town enquired. Oh, you have no idea how serious. Then the other cretin launched into a monologue about how easy public school teachers have it compared to hagwon teachers. Fascinating, novel, and well-researched, as you can imagine.

Insult my home all you would like. Do not insult my line of work, especially when you readily admit you don't really care about the job you, yourself, are doing. And definitely do not do so straight to my face after I've been drinking.

My job would be dead easy, in some senses, if I didn't give a shit about it, my students, or my own abilities as a teacher. As it stands, it's one of the most challenging situations I've ever been in. Small Town jumped in, eventually, seeing a flicker of flame in my eyes I'm sure made him realize it wasn't a good idea to let the conversation continue on the current course, and tried to make my case for me -- again, honorable. But unnecessary. I don't need to defend myself to someone who has absolutely no idea what he's talking about. I prefer, instead, to stick to asking a series of questions that reveals, step by step, that said person has absolutely no idea what he's talking about. And is a gigantic shit-face, to boot.

Eventually seeing that he was going to be unable to, as with a dog who has attacked and won't let go, persuade me to set my attention elsewhere, he turned to the tactic of pointing out that we weren't there to compare who had it harder -- public school or hagwon teachers.

That wasn't really the issue, though. I openly admit that I could never work at a hagwon -- I think they are, from what I have heard, terrible places with life-destroying hours and motivating factors. I would 1000% recommend public schools to anyone, hand over fist, compared to hagwons. The point was that this mongoloid had the nerve to compare the job he, personally, was doing in this country to the job I am doing, and somehow, in his own mind, come out on top.

Meanwhile, it's people like him who are causing the most damage not only to the reputation of Native English teachers in Korea, but also to the English education system here, as a whole. Which happens to be something that I actually care about.

You're absolutely right, was what I had to say. And anyway, I love my job. I love my students. I love living in Korea. That's why I'm here. I would never go to a place I hate to do a job I hate and then drunkenly stumble around sexually harassing the local citizens and slamming everything I could about the country I chose to live in, and the people I chose to be around. I have nothing to complain about. Thanks for reminding me.

An uncomfortable silence settled in at that point.

I put my coat on and the drunk idiot reached to shake my hand. "I'll see you again, then?"

"If you come here enough."

"If I'm lucky enough?"

"No. I said, if you come here enough. I'm not that cocky. But almost."

I took Small Town's hand, as he stood there looking a little bewildered and worried that I was leaving the situation less than pleased with everyone involved. "[Small Town]." A genuine smile. "It was truly a pleasure, as always. Have fun and good night."

And now I'm running ridiculously late for all the things I wanted to get done before meeting the lovely Kel in Sinchon. So I gotta shake a leg.


Reasons why I love Mike:

Random Koreans on the street: "Blah blah blah random English blah!"

Mike: "Fuckers. Enjoy your country. You're never leaving it."

That's kept me laughing to myself all week.

I'm tired!

As our co-teachers are fond of saying, for no apparent reason, "TGIF Friday!"


I like to movie movie.

Today should've been more boring than it was, considering I only had three classes. But for the portion of it when I wasn't trying not to drool on myself as I nodded off in my cubicle while refreshing Facebook, it was alright.

The most important thing to remember as an EFL teacher, or indeed someone living in a foreign country, or whatever, is that really elementary English speakers have absolutely no idea what they sound like to you when they speak your language.

Today, the handsome PE teacher came over to the table where me and New Coteacher were having lunch and started talking to NC, and, indeed, me -- not that I could understand. At this point, it's second nature to me to immediately size up someone's English speaking ability and adjust my speech to the appropriate level. But since word has started circulating that I'm studying Korean, and can speak and understand some, people don't really know what to do with me anymore. Some stick to the pre-Korean gesturing and bits of English, and some address me full on in fluent Korean. Since Handsome PE Teacher's English is next to nil, he goes with the latter.

At one point, he turned and addressed me directly. Something that started with "miahni" -- "I'm sorry". He got to a point in his sentence and turned to look at NC for help. She said, "Same apartments."

He turned back to me: "Same apartments!" and smiled.

Fucking hell. Is that code for something? Why do I hear that from someone new every four days? And why has he, himself, told me at least three times, even after he's driven me home and knows for a fact that I know we live in the same fucking apartments? And what does that have to do with whatever it was he was saying?

After he left, NC confirmed my suspicions that he is a religious man -- no drinking, no smoking. He also apparently was saying something about how he feels uncomfortable at work, and has a hard time. She said he doesn't show it outwardly, because I was surprised -- the PE teachers seem to be an impenetrable group of close-knit friends. But she explained that he is very old-fashioned, and to him, being mannered means being very gentle. Gentle is exactly the way I would describe him. But apparently he misses companions he can joke around and be himself with.

I still have no idea what he actually said to me. But NC told me that although she and he are good friends, it is his religious nature that keeps her from dating him.

I had my second grade boyfriend's class today. That class is really good, but super distracting. I told them today, listen -- you are a smart class. Thank you! But you don't pay attention sometimes and then you do dumb things. Ooooh, no! Laughter.

Well, it's true.

They aren't used to having me with no translation, and as a matter of habit, they assume they can't/don't need to understand what I'm saying. So when I veer off from the book at any point, it goes a little something like this:

"Now I want you to make your own example. In your book, write 'A' and 'B' and make your own example. Do you understand?"


Blink blink.

"Okay.... go! Do it!"


Blink blink.

"Listen, guys. In your book. You write 'A: Can I ______?', 'B: No, you must not ____.' Then fill in the blanks. FILL. IN. THE. BLANKS. Do you understand?"


Blink blink.

"..... Are you sure you understand?"

Blink blink.

"Oh my God...."

I'm also pretty sure my boyfriend shouted out, "Can I sleep with you?" when I was asking for examples, while trying once again to explain what they should be doing. I missed it the first time, and asked him to repeat it. He said, "Sorry!" instead. Then he shouted out, "Can I love you?"

"No. You must not love me."

"Can I marry you?"

"No. You must not marry me."

English class comedy routines. I should get paid extra.

Then, when I was walking around trying to explain individually what failed in front of the class while there were things like open windows, shoes, and pencil cases to focus on instead, his buddy suddenly grabbed my arm.

"I loveeeeee Englisheeeeeeeee!"

"Oh, really?"

"Yesuh. My girlfriend is American."

"Is that so?"

"Yesuh. Her name is.................................. Elizabeth!"

"I don't think so."

"Oh, no."

"Yeah. Oh, no. Now do your work."

NC said something today that I've been thinking a lot, and trying to express to Mike. She said that the problem with working at a boys' school, as a woman, is that you start to realize that boys simply get bigger, and that's it. When she goes out on dates now, all she can think is, you're just like my students. I told her I've been noticing the exact same thing. When you spend all your time around boys, you start to notice that facial expressions, gestures, inter-species social interactions -- even a kind of disconnect in patterns of reasoning and thinking... it all gets to be just a little too familiar. She said, "I used to think men were... sort of manly. Now when I look at them, all I think about is young boys. That is why I don't want to marry."

Sitting in the dead silent office this afternoon, after school had been out for a good hour, suddenly we see a silhouette moving past the frosted windows: "I like to movie movie!..... I like to movie movie!.... I like to movie movie!.... Movie!.... Yeah! .... I like to movie movie!"

I was apparently the only one who found that funny.

Speaking of, I'm going to bed so early tonight, it's not even funny.

P.S. -- Whoever put "You must not watch this video," as an example in a middle school English book owes me money for overtime. It takes me at least ten minutes to get the class's attention back after that one....




Fucking A, do they ever take their baseball seriously. Or beating Japan at anything. I can't decide which it is. At any rate, it led to another nightmare manic day at work, and me, with another six classes. While the game was going on, they were all practically vibrating in their seats. Then, after the pre-lunch high precipitating in a climax of sudden death overtime, and Korea, once again, losing, fifth period was like a goddamn funeral. The kind where someone really old died and the attendees are geriatric and mostly having trouble staying awake.

Some little wanker in one of my third grade classes gave me my first "ET" today. "ET" stands for English teacher, and what the little punk doesn't know I know (because all foreigners are clueless idiots) is that it's commonly used in the phrase, "ET go home". It's clever, in a middle school kind of way. But we get the last laugh -- know why, boys? The joke only works in English.

Try again.

Also, I had my other after school class today. There's approximately a million of them, at last count, but I have mostly no problems keeping them under control. To go back to the dog analogy, you've just got to keep moving, keep calling their attention, so they don't get distracted by anything else. One kid decided to throw his backpack out the window and then ask to go to the bathroom, thinking for some reason that I wouldn't notice when he didn't come back. I don't know why Korean students try to get away with that shit, considering their friends will rat them out in a fucking heartbeat. They willingly dished out his full name when I asked, and then made the helpful suggestion that I might need his class number as well.


When I gave the information to my co-teacher, so she could notify his homeroom teacher, she said, "You must have been embarrassed."

Uh. No. Why? You know, Ms. Park, we have a saying in English: Don't get mad; get even.

I do feel kind of like a traitor, it has to be said. Skipping class was my specialty for most of my educational career. But for me, it all comes back to the fact that they wouldn't pull this shit with a Korean teacher. And at an all boys middle school in South Korea, the pack mentality reigns supreme. If the boys see one kid get away with something, it's nothing but a giant waving flag for the rest of them. It's survival of the fittest, my dears. So I had to take down a hookie comrade today, in the name of dog-eat-dog. It's just the way that it is.

In other news, my students finally succeeded in making me blush today. They've been trying different attempts for ages, but I'm practically unshakable. However, a strange thing has been happening during the "Do you know who ___ is?" exercises: they keep writing in the name of the handsome PE teacher, for the portion where they ask me if I know who ____ is.

Today's was a bit too much. One extremely tall kid, with a penchant for English, eagerly raised his hand to read his question: "Sem! Do you know who Lee Byeong Moon is?"

"No, I don't. Who is he?"

"Oh, Sem. He is PE teacher very handsome man. He is very strong, but he is shorter than me. He lives in your apartment."

"My... he.... he doesn't live..."


"No... he doesn't.... he doesn't live in my apartment.... he lives in my apartments.... how do you... how do you know that?"

Loads of shouting in Korean. I was officially not being listened to.




For the last week or so, I've had a new name at school that's been confusing me a bit. I'd heard other teachers being called "Sem!" but it's never been directed at me before. Suddenly, amongst the third graders, I'm Sem. I finally asked New Coteacher what it's about -- she says it's just a shortened version of sunsengnim, and it just means the boys are getting more familiar with me.

This week we're working on, "Do you know who ____ is?" The chapter in the book is completely bizarre, so I told the boys, look -- if you can listen and pay attention well enough, we can forget the book, because I don't really want to talk about this guy:

And I'm pretty sure you don't either.

So we talked about Rain, Big Bang, David Beckham, Gamblerz Crew and Chris Metzen instead.

Then, when it came time for them to do their own examples, I offered it up as a chance to teach their stupid American teacher a thing or two.

"Sem! Do you know who Lee Myeong Bak is?"

"Yes, I do. Isn't he the Korean president?"


"Sem! Do you know who Goo Joon Pyo is?"

"Yes, I do. Isn't he one of the F4?"


"Teacher, me! Goo Joon Pyo! Me!"

"Mmmm.... I don't know about that."

"Sem! You Korean language speaking!"

"Ahni. Hangookmal muteyo."


Today's classic moment came in the form of:

"Sem. Do you know who Mahatma Gandhi is?"

"Yes, I do."

Kid points to the other side of the room. My eyes follow his finger to find a kid who is the spitting image of Gandhi. God help me, I nearly died. I tried to make up for it by explaining that Gandhi is one of my biggest heroes....

Things are coming along okay with the Nightmare Class. I still haven't worked out the perfect formula to keep them all the way under control, but I did remind myself fervently throughout the day that the most important thing is to never, ever lose your cool (which is exactly what I did last week). Instead, I did my utmost to keep my sense of humor about me. Today, when the main culprit started to kick off, another more sympathetic student shouted from the back, "Teacher! He handicapped!"

To which I responded, "I know."

It took the badass kid a second to catch on, but then he busted out laughing and said, "'I know?!'" and put his head down on his desk.

I have to try my best to remember that what comes across as super aggressive sometimes to me, because I can't understand exactly what's being said, and because our boys are not exactly well-versed in the more polite ways to speak English, is sometimes much more innocent than it seems. I've got to learn to give the boys the benefit of the doubt. It's just that it's a pretty threatening situation, when you're supposed to be in charge, but you don't speak the primary language. I wish there was a way to make them understand what it's like.

Anyway, we're getting there.


Bad day/good boys.

Somehow I let yesterday turn into a massive shithole of suck, all down to three students in my afternoon class. The rest of the day was absolutely lovely. But I'm a shuddering, insecure excuse for a person. What can I say?

No. The little shits just hit a nerve when they decided to take advantage of the fact that there is no Korean co-teacher for these classes and rub it in my face that I'm a foreigner who doesn't speak Korean, which basically resulted in me totally losing my shit and giving a lecture called, "Why Treating Foreigners Like Shit Is Not Okay".

I actually feel a little bad, in the bright sunshine of a Friday afternoon on a day that consisted of my students being nothing but positively lovely. Most of the kids in that class are great, and really do want to be there and be learning. It's just amazing to me how far south a class can go if you get even one bad egg (for you, Mags) in the mix. They were dead silent and looked horrified during the entire lecture. I guess it really came through how upset I was, which wasn't necessarily my intention. After class ended, several students came up and congregated around the podium, while I straightened my papers and packed my stuff. They're second graders, so they can't say much of anything in English, but they tried their hardest to say what they wanted to, by all repeating rounds of, "Teacher..... how are you?" with big, wet, concerned eyes. And today, three students from that class came by to find me, specifically to ask things like, "Teacher... okay? Okay?"

Deadpan had me for his regular class today, and although he tends to act like a bit of a shit sometimes, he knows that I know and like him, and he goes out of his way to keep his shit on the respectful side of nonsense. He too went out of his way to ask me specifically how I was. Then, when I was walking around checking exercises, he revived a game we used to play with each other during winter camps.

I saw him eyeing me up as I moved toward his direction. "Oh SHIT!" For no apparent reason.

"Ya.... Seung-jik-uh.... how many times have we had this talk? That's a BAD WORD. Don't say it in class. Ya.... listen.... outside of school? Okay. Inside of school? NO." Of course, I can't keep myself from grinning every time I give him this lecture, every word of which he understands at this point. He just gave me his big, charming, dimpled smile in response. Ah, that kid.

I had my deadbeat class today, but actually managed to breathe a little life into those boys. I think the problem really is that I'm just not used to a well-behaved class, as my co-teacher pointed out last week. If there's not at least some level of pandemonium, I feel really uncomfortable, as the target of quiet stares standing at the front of the room. They got a bit cheeky toward the end, after I got them talking. We were working on "what do you want to be?" and there were a few shouts of "fly boy", "street fighter" and "playboy!" They were, as I suspected they would be, reprimanded by the uncomfortable co-teacher for this, but I just laughed and said I think those are probably more hobbies than jobs.

Ah. They're mostly amazing. I guess three shitfuckers out of 1,500 ain't bad. Still, I'm tempted to get some of my most loyal third graders to catch these three little shits on their walk home one day....

Meh. It's just a dream.


Further adventures from the fourth dimension.

Good golly, Miss Molly.

Well. I never imagined my life would be this funny, consistently, on a daily basis.

Someone forgot to inform me that there is no locker room at the school, and if the lights are off in the classroom, even if the bell has already rung, it means the boys still haven't managed to finish changing back into their uniforms from their gym clothes. Hence, I've now seen a fair few of my students in their skivvies.

It didn't seem to embarrass them nearly as much as my new-found approach of dealing with English swears in the classroom, which is to calmly, and in detail, explain what each word, and then the phrase as a whole, means precisely. I don't think it's going over too well with the co-teachers, but the boys turn positively purple with shame and look as though they want to crawl under their desks. I think it's probably not a problem I'll have much longer. I would feel like a total hypocrite if I simply told them not to use the words/phrases, or punished them for it, anyway. Either way, I see it as a totally valid part of teaching English. If you're going to speak English, particularly around native English speakers, you better be damn sure of the exact nuances of the four letter word combinations you choose to deploy. They're starting to get the idea that their native English teacher is in no way to be outdone, upset, or rattled in the crudeness department.

I've become a quite a strange person, in mindset and daily concerns, I think. I realized this as I walked around my apartment getting ready for work this morning. Towel-drying my hair, brushing my teeth, and muttering to myself over and over....

"Vvvvvvvuh. Ffffffffffuh. Ffffffffivvvvvve. Five. Fffffuhiiiivvvve. Fucking..... vvvvvvvvuh!"

I have become an absolute master at describing what teeth, lips and tongues need to be doing to make certain sounds. It's also the all-time most super-fun part of Reejah Teacher's English Class -- when she tells and shows you how to move your tongue and teeth, and then we all do it together over and over and over.

But "f" and "v" have had me stuck all week. I managed to get the boys away from making a "b" sound for "v", but it's simply turned into an "f" instead. Which is particularly hard for me to handle, since the offending "v" sound in this week's exercise comes in the form of the sentence, "I broke my father's vase."

And while we've worked very hard on the difference between "l" and "r" in the past, this week we've gone backwards ages due to an added "t". And the results have found me exacting unintentional revenge for all the times a student ever muttered something to me in Korean that I didn't understand, only for me to be instantly surrounded by laughter.

You see, it all goes back to the fact that, this week, dear readers, my class is practicing the phrase, "It's all my fault."

Watching their innocent little oblivious faces, confused as to why it is their teacher appears to be barely preventing herself from collapsing onto the floor in a fit of giggles and tears, as the following takes place:

"Okay. Listen and repeat: Fault!"






"It's all my fault!"

"It's all my fart!"

"Oh, good God...."


My name is not Cute.

Ah. Exhausted.

I only got sang to once today, in Korean. By students, of course. My first period class is getting fucking changed. They are so not into English first thing on a Monday morning. They need to be swapped with my class last period on Friday afternoon, who are completely out of fucking control.

I love, love, love having classes all day. I cannot stand sitting in my cubicle, twiddling my thumbs. And the fact that I'm getting paid extra to do something I much prefer doing anyway, well.... bonus.

My third graders have figured out that I can read Korean and have started mobbing me in the hallway to read their name badges. Trouble is, the badges are in some sort of funky font that I still have trouble making out a bit. Your teacher is retarded, guys. I'm sorry. In the meantime, the second graders think it makes me a fucking genius and have started writing their answers solely in Korean and asking me to translate. And when I somehow occasionally manage it, then I'm really the top of the tops.

Deadpan is in my after school class, which pleases me no end. Today, for the person he looks up to, he wrote, "Lionel Richie". I want that kid to be my new best friend.

I've got some creepy stare-ers in another second grade class. I was getting myself sorted out before I left today, and they crowded around the podium, just standing there. Finally, one of them decided to ask what my name was. Honestly. Guys. It's not that hard, is it? I know I don't know all of your names, but there are a thousand of you -- there's only one of me. "Guys.... what is my name? Huh? What is it?"

"Uh....... Cute?"

No. Nice try.

Speaking of, today was Cute Coteacher's official last day. As I was making my way out the door, I saw her and a man coming down the hall. She called after me, and introduced him as her replacement. He said his name is Gil. I highly doubt that. I dunno... the whole taking-an-English-name thing kind of freaks me out. He also "shook" my hand, aka held it, and then wouldn't let go. Even after I turned my eyes off of him and went back to wishing Cute Coteacher safe travels and telling her to use my email address anytime she needs to, while she's in the US. Not a good sign. But he seems nice enough. And anyway, I won't have to deal with him really until next semester, when I have the first graders.

In other news, some of my students have figured out exactly where I live. I'm getting curtains soon.

I'm old.

I think my birthday last year was one of the lowest points in my life.

This year, I can't think of a single thing to complain about. Finally, a birthday where I don't feel disappointed about where another year's passing has left me. Or where I've left myself, after another year.

Still doesn't mean I want anyone in my face about it. There better not be any cake and/or singing at work.

I'm always at a bit of a loss for what to do on my birthday. I prefer to spend them mostly on my own, since I really don't care for the cheesy, fake attention. But this year, I don't even have to think about it. I'll spend it doing my very first load of six classes (did I forget to mention I've been offered and accepted an after school program?). Well, that suits me just fine kiddies. Can't think of better idea, to be honest, than to spend my birthday with my fantastic students.

Last year, all I wanted to do was lay in bed and try not to think about all the things I'd lost, fallen behind on, all the progress that absolutely had not been made. This year I'm again struck by the difference a year can make, but in the right direction, this time.


Teacher Mode.

I've noticed that at the end of the working week, when I have my inevitable Friday meeting with Mags, it's a little hard at first to turn off Teacher Mode. This irritates Mags to no end. So tonight, I vow to do my best to stay away from the phrases, "Stop!", "Where are you going?", and "What are you doing?", anytime Mike moves, breathes, or walks in an unexpected direction.

You've got my word, Kachi. And my balls and my word is alls I have. And I don't break 'em for nobody.

Happy Five Months, by the way.

Today I had the only two classes that didnt' go so well last week. The first one were like a cluster of statues, and I couldn't get them to budge for the life of me. Had lunch afterward and my coteacher asked if I was upset about that class -- I guess I went a bit moody afterward. She said, you know they are just good students -- they sit and listen quietly. Yeah, I know, and that would be great if I were teaching them algebra or not me, but a. I need them to communicate with me so that I know they are understanding what I'm saying and b. I'm a big insecure attention whore at heart, and when my classes don't end up being super fun time, with everyone chattering and shouting out their English, I feel really shit about it. I can't help it.

Anyway, after lunch I had to face an even worse class. I made up my mind, in my off period, that I was going to turn it around, come hell or high water. If you don't get a class on your side early on, you've more than likely lost them for good.

We got started in class, and it was the same ol', same ol': heads down on desks, mutter mutter mutter.

That's when I decided it was time to have a little conversation called, "Me too".

"Hey guys. Look at me. Look at me! Listen.... are you tired?"


"Are you cold?"


"Do you want to go home?"


"Guess what? Me too. I'm tired. I'm cold. I want to go home. It's Friday. We have all been here five days. We all want the weekend. We have two hours to go. All together, right? All the same, right?"


"Okay. So, listen. We will work together, okay? We will finish and then we will go home. Okay?"


Guess what? It fucking worked. They sat up, cheered up and bucked up. We ended class a little early, skipping over the part where they have to read their exercises in front of the class, and talked about what we wanted to do with the weekend instead. I wanted to make sure I sealed the deal, though, so before I went, I told them, "Look, guys. I know you are tired today. But you did a good job. Thank you very much. I'm proud of you."

"Thank you, Teacher!"

No, guys. Thank you.



Obama: Please think of the expats, next time.

Thanks a lot, President Obama. I do not want to hear about this for the next three months, nonstop. You had to have "South Korea" come out of your mouth at that particular moment....

The worst part is not having all of my coworkers asking me all day if I heard that President Obama said that the American public education system should be more like South Korea's, but trying to control the look on my face when they do. I'm the first one to stand up and cry out about a number of very, very serious, atrocious problems with the American public school system. However, I do not think quantity is the issue, at all. As most foreign teachers here have immediately pointed out, since we've all undoubtedly been buried under a deluge of comments all day long, the U.S. needs to first very seriously address the issue of quality. More of something that's shit is just more shit -- that's the long and the short of it, kiddies. Forty hours a week should be more than a sufficient amount of time to properly educate young people -- it's improving the resources, tactics and approaches for doing so that most needs to be addressed.


And as for tying teachers' pay to student performance... fuck off. Apparently some aide of some sort tried to cover over that afterward by claiming it would not be solely based on test scores, but would also include factors such as certification and training, as well as teachers who were willing to work in challenging environments. But then I guess it came out later that that isn't what he meant at all. That, my dear ones, will just end up being yet another form of institutionalized ghettoization. Obama: what the hell are you thinking? He's got the ass-end of this cause-effect relationship, if you ask me. Take the small pool of individuals who are willing to wake up every morning and go to work in an environment that is not only mentally and emotionally challenging beyond what most of us can even imagine, but is also, in many cases, possibly even life-threatening, and then tell them they're going to be offered less money for their efforts? That's brilliant.

No child left behind, my ass.

I am glad that he is at least engaging the subject, though, and giving it some of the time, attention, and funding it deserves. I just hope he means it when he says he wants to work with teachers on these issues, and give them a say in the area that they, and they alone, know the most about.

In the meantime, if we're able to somehow construct a learning environment that is not mostly akin to free daycare/lessons on how to be most acceptable to society by finding the "right" answer via only one of many incredibly valuable possible ways of learning, then, cool. Send our kids to school for however many hours a day you want.

I don't see that happening anytime in the near future, though.

One side note from today: Walking around, checking exercises and I hear a little discussion going on about how to say something, and somebody drops the F bomb.

"Hey! Who said that?"

Lots of guilty looks.

"Teacher. He give to me the fuck!"


That is certainly a new one. "He... he what?"

"He give to me the fuck!"

Are you fucking kidding me? What are you even .... ?

The kid points to his middle finger.

"Okay. You need to really listen to me. Okay? He gave you the finger. The finger. Understand?"



Lord of the Flies.

Today my first class was almost entirely canceled, due to a forty-five minute "education" the Student Disciplinary Department (aka the PE teachers) were giving the third graders. I didn't think they were going to just let yesterday's total chaos slide. Man, were the boys ever enthusiastic about class after that. English mwuh?

My other classes for the day were second graders. I'm starting to think this whole new wing thing is a strategic move. I found out today that I'm not the only one who would rather not encounter our current second grade class -- apparently they're rather infamous. Now they're shoved out in these cracker jack classrooms, nowhere near the teachers' offices or any other classrooms. It's as if the principal and teachers had a meeting and decided the best way to handle them was to put them as far away from everyone else as possible. As a result, the building is like Lord of the Fucking Flies. Students diving in and out of windows, running across the top of desks, taking their clothes off. No wonder that other new English teacher looks so terrified all the time.

Anyway, they've mostly been cake. I don't know what the hell is up. Today I even had a couple of students from last year that I had absolutely sworn there was no way of getting through to, and they were sitting in their seats, keeping their eyes on me, and happily shouting out their vocabulary. It helps that I've got a little boyfriend in that class, who also happens to be one of the class leaders. He doesn't put up with no one but no one disrespecting his English teacher, let me tell you. If I say, "Be quiet!" more than once, he's on them like white on rice. And they may think it's okay to ignore me, but it seems ignoring this handsome young man is simply not done.

There's one kid who's a bit off in that class. I'm not sure exactly how off, but I know that at the very least, he cannot read the Roman alphabet and has no interest in even pretending to try in class. Anyway, I managed to call out his number to read in front of the class. My little boyfriend, for whatever reason, decided it was acceptable to openly mock this kid. After I told the kid and his partner to sit down, I focused my eyes my boyfriend. Doing my very best to tap into my freakish occasionally psychic vibes, I called out, "Number 22!"

The look on his face was priceless. "Eoteokeh!? How!? Teacher, how!?"

"I'm psychic." I winked at him. "The rest of you remember that!"

They were thoroughly impressed.

It's funny, actually. I was thinking about this student just last night, because he reminds me a lot of somebody I knew a few years back when he was, himself, just sixteen years old. Wasn't sure what became of this kid -- he was really dear to me, but he got involved with some pretty serious stuff, and I was away at school. The last time I saw him he was lying through his teeth about how good he was being lately. Thought the kid was on the fast track to a coffin, for sure. But yesterday, I got news from home that, not only is he alive and well, he managed to finish school and is gainfully employed, doing very well. I can't wait to see him again when I get home, see what kind of man he's turned into.



I'm just going to blame the new moon for the utter fucking chaos that broke out at school today. That, or the spring like weather giving them ants in their pants. Who knows. Either way, I'm fucking exhausted. All of the teachers were taking their glasses off, rubbing their temples and resting their heads on their desks by the end of the day. And the EZ will be closed for quite a while longer now, thanks to a group of third graders who decided it would be a wise idea to test the durability of the glass doors against the full force of someone's skull.


They're cute idiots, though.


The return of the second graders.

Today I faced my biggest fear of the last two weeks: the return of the dreaded second graders. It's not that they were particularly horrible as first graders last year, I guess (although some of them definitely were), so much as I've had such a firm grip on my third graders so far that I really wasn't looking forward to going back to a semi-chaotic situation where I didn't feel fully in charge.

There are too many little people in our school at the moment, and as a result, they've opened an entirely new wing that I was completely unaware of until today. I ended up being about five minutes late to class because I was running around trying to sort out where the classroom was. As I crossed over the bridge between buildings, I saw a second grader climbing into a classroom through the window from outside. Somehow I just knew....

I motioned to him through the glass, the universal sign for, "What the hell are you doing?" He stopped, with one leg nearly swung over the window ledge and somehow managed to bow. What the hell was going on? Was there no coteacher in the classroom? I've seen a lot of things in the last five months, but I've yet to have a student actually go out the window.

As I approached the classroom door, I could hear them being terrible little monsters inside. To my surprise, when the door swung open, there was a terrified young Korean teacher standing at the podium, looking thoroughly fucked with. Great.

What I've learned in recent days is that there's only one way to properly deal with these boys: you've got to walk into the classroom with your hand on your balls. Not literally, of course. But if they're fucking kids -- if you walk in like you own the place, they follow your lead. Shouts of "Elizabeth! Elizabeth!" began, as the frazzled Korean teacher scurried to a back corner, relieved. I put my books on the podium and moved my glasses to the top of my head, slammed my palm down on the podium.

"Good afternoon, guys! How are you?"

To my utter shock, the class went amazingly well. We went through all of the exercises, explanations of vocabulary, etc. etc. with absolutely not one word of assistance from the coteacher, who stayed in the back trying her best to be invisible. They got a little rowdy at one point, but I just slammed my hand on the podium again. "Hey guys! Listen to me. You are second graders, now, right?"

Blinking faces.

"You are in grade two, right? You are older. Next year, you will be seniors. You will lead the school. Right?"


"So guess what? Time to act older. You need to be quiet. You need to stay in your seat. You are too old to act the way you are now. Do you understand?"

They may not have caught all of it, but they got the gist. And were mostly angelic for the rest of the period. Every time I called them to order from the chaos of an exercise, they settled down more quickly than the time before. Follow it up with a, "Wow. You guys are getting good at this," and there you have it.

What can I say? They're like dogs: you cannot let them smell fear.


As friends.

Nah, it's alright kiddies. Didn't mean to startle anyone. Just didn't mean to stay out till sunrise again. It's all very innocent, very un-"fuck", so don't worry.

Somehow talked Mike into going to the regular last night, but he kept to his guns and left at 11. I just wasn't ready to go home, so I assessed the situation at hand and decided I should be perfectly capable of staying out with Small Town (aka (As Friends)) and remaining 100% nonsense free.

Success, my darlings.

We simply slowly sipped our beers and chatted for absolute ages about all kinds of things I think we've both probably been dying for someone to talk to about. Visual art, poetry, religion, moralism, culture, man's inherent drive toward chaos....

Well. Plus the good stuff, like, how the fuck do you control the really defiant little fucks in your classroom? And what does it mean when someone has a "punchable face"? And why is that guy in the stripey shirt over there trying to pull that girl so fucking hilarious?

In short, it was a really decent night. Much needed. I daresay I've almost nearly actually made a friend.


In the buff.

Oh man. There's all this hubbub going on about some middle school students who, as far as I can gather, decided to combine the usual middle school graduation egg and flour throwing, uniform cutting celebrations with a bit of streaking. Of course, there's a huge outcry about the moral decline of the nation, blah blah blah. There are photos flying around the internet. I'm not going to post them here, as the Anti-English Spectrum Cafe nutjobs are terrifyingly capable of twisting anything into malicious intent, and I don't, personally, feel like taking the risk of being stalked and deported. But you should be able to find them easily, if you do a little google legwork. Keep in mind though, many of the pictures seem to have been taken after the students have been caught and rounded up by teachers/adults, and their bizarrely shameful posture, which makes the photos look quite shocking in my opinion, is just standard Korean I'm-in-trouble student posture. Plus it was really fucking cold.

Loads of philosophizing on what the whole thing was about, what it means about the young generation of Koreans, or Korean culture. To me, it seems quite normal. It's just made a bit surreal by the context of the situation. Nothing is funnier or more wild, at age 16, than taking all your clothes off and running around where other people can see you. In fact, it's considered pretty funny at any age, really. Just a shame it has to be newsworthy, as well.

I will say that one thing does strike me as particularly bizarre -- apparently the students were simply wandering around the neighborhood. So it wasn't streaking, exactly, per se. Sort of just a little naked... stroll through town.

I don't know. I still think it's funny. But then I'm the one who managed to tell a student waiting outside the office in the hallway yesterday that I liked his haircut, moments before he was called into the office to be reprimanded for said haircut.

Meh. Whateryagonnado? Teacher schmeacher.

Toeing the line.

Full on loving my boys. And the good news is, I'm dealing almost exclusively with the lovely third graders this semester. Can't get enough of them. And I have a feeling it's only going to get better.

Smartassedness is the only problem I run across, which I'm fully capable of handling and throwing back at them, to the nth degree. I've got crazy street cred, you see. Full on Zen master, and they get it, soon enough. Standing on chairs and throwing things out of windows, being openly defiant -- not a clue what to do with that. But smartassedness? Pffft. I practically invented it, young'ns. Or I'm at least ten years more practiced in it than you. Next.

Aptly predicted to Mike tonight that at ten o'clock, my phone would start ringing. Literally, 10:01 and the first message arrived. Nonsense is back around -- the personification of Nonsense, that is. At the moment, I'm just dipping my toes in, and weighing my options.

See. I can avoid nonsense if it doesn't come around. But when it's just standing right in front of me....


Anyway. Fuck it. I'm for bed, for now. We'll see what tomorrow brings.



Forgot to mention. There was a kid in my next to last class yesterday who, if I didn't know any better, I'd think beyond a shadow of a doubt was stoned. I have it on a pretty reliable source that pot is next to impossible to get your hands on here, even as a university student, so I doubt middle school kids could manage it. But. Man.

I almost just nearly asked him at one point, while he was squinting up at me and giving me a giggling reply to a question, but I don't know that I could explain what I was asking in the first place, nor if it would be the best idea to bring the subject up.



Multiple Choice & Hazel Eyes.

Ah. That's the feeling I've missed. Exhausted, and lovely. Not nearly as exhausted as when the first graders keep me running from table to table to stop anyone from setting anything on fire, but good enough.

I've got one complaint today -- just one, but it's a doosie. I've got one new coteacher who I've never worked with before, otherwise here as of yet unmentioned. I had two classes with her today. She's always been a bit uncomfortable with me, and she makes me uncomfortable, and I'm not sure if it was her discomfort or mine, but her two classes didn't go so well. The second one got better after the halfway mark, but the first one was pure rubbish. Afterward, she decided to make a suggestion. She informed me that making sentences was hard for the students, and that maybe I should make an answer box, and have the boys select a pre-written answer and read that instead.

Christ. Way to miss the point.

First of all, I haven't got them writing full sentences. I've got them finishing sentences, with their own opinions. I realize that's not the standard way things are done here, but, the way I see it, it is an absolute necessity. If the boys are going to start learning how to converse in English, they're going to have to start learning how to think in English. I don't expect them to get the "right" answer on my worksheets -- that's not what my class is about. It's about making them think about what they want to say, communicate enough in English to convey it to me, so that I can tell them the best way to say it.

I know it upsets the boys at first, and makes them extremely uncomfortable, to have to make mistakes and ask for help. But I've seen them pick up on the idea extremely quickly after a few classes with me, that I'm not there to condemn them for not getting everything exactly right -- I'm there to help them figure out how to get it right, and work with them on their own level, whatever that may be.

Multiple choice answers that they read out loud? How fucking boring is that?

Well. What am I supposed to do? Technically, they're my classes. But I have a feeling things can get extremely uncomfortable if you go against the grain of your coteacher's advice. Normally, I'd try to find a way to accommodate it. But this is something that I feel really, really strongly about.

My other new main coteacher, however, is fucking brilliant. The students adore her, and our class times together are genuinely enjoyed by everyone. We get actual class wide conversations going. And she goes out of her way to try not to simply translate things, but to help me explain things, in English. She always, always asks me before she translates something. She's also really into teaching the boys idioms, and giving them new ways to say what they mean in English. Most important of all, when I explain the reasoning behind why we say things in a certain way, which I really think makes them stick much better than just trying to recall based on rote memorization, she understand well enough to translate if we need to. Today, I was able to explain why "pet peeves" is pet peeves -- peeves are things that make you angry, and we call them pet peeves, because, like a dog that is your pet, they are yours -- they belong to you, specifically. I guarantee you that class contains the only students who will remember the phrase "pet peeves" in a year's time.

Getting better at fending off the raunch attacks in class. Today I had my first class with a handsome young man who speaks next to no English, but who has made a point of staring at me, in a frankly creepy manner, ever since I first arrived at the school, and waving. He's one of the ones who always gets yelled at by Smartass Teacher for lurking around too much. Today, he had an English speaking buddy nearby translating little bits for him. I was trying to help the boys in front of him, when he broke into action out of one of his leers and leaned into my face.

"What are you doing? Why are you so close to me?"

He responded by pulling the eyelids of his left eye back.


Something to his friend in Korean. How do you say_______? Friend replies, "Eye color."

He looks at me. "Eye color."

He's got hazel eyes, which stand in stark contrast to all of the brown and black eyes he's surrounded by.

"Yes. Your eyes are hazel. I know."

He pulls his eyelids back again.

"Kid... do your worksheet."

I skipped over him and his partner to the couple behind them. At which point I overhear his friend telling him how to say so beautiful, sexy, and lover. I didn't look up from the worksheet I was correcting. "I can hear you."


His voice: "Teacher?.... Teacher?...... TEACHer?"


"Oh... after school --"


"Oh. Okay."

A minute later.

"Cell phone --"



Next I'm leaned over another couple of boys helping them work out an issue with an answer, and out of the corner of my eye, I see him stand up, put one foot on his chair, and thrust his hips, as he's explaining something to his pack of mongrel pals. He then walks over and starts fooling with a locker behind me.

"What are you doing?"

"Neh? Ah...."

"Sit down."


Somehow got drawn into a conversation about the various physical merits of female Anglo film stars by this pack of ne'erdowells and ran out of time before I could make any of the boys read their answers aloud. I approved of Scarlet Johansson, and had to side with Hazel Eyes on the issue of Angelina Jolie being much hotter than what's-her-face from the Harry Potter movies.

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em, right? Well. No. But it just so happens the boys managed to pick two of the lovely ladies on the top of the Girls Liz Would Love to Shag Senseless List. Can't help that.

As much as I hate the complete and utter disrespect I'm shown sometimes, in the form of minuscule schoolboy sexual harassment, I have to admit, I wouldn't have a fucking clue what to do with girls in comparison....


Getting closer.

Back in the classroom, finally, thank fuck. Teaching third graders all week. Such a relief -- I won't have the little guys until next semester, although seeing them around and chatting a bit, they seem alright. I think it's just the current second graders that are wankers.

The EZ is still chained closed, so I'm going from classroom to classroom this week, just like the real teachers. And guess what? Fucking hell, are they ever more attentive in an actual classroom. 80 million won on this new EZ and all it takes is a stroll down the hallway to their ordinary classrooms to get them talking and paying attention ten times better than in that fucking circus of a room.

My mouth is terrible these days, isn't it?


I was worried about the classroom thing at first, thinking, now they've got the home turf advantage. And it's a bit like that, when I first walk in -- a football stadium, that is. But I think it's just because a. they don't know they're due to have class with me, rather than their normal English teacher and b. they are now officially third graders. My lovely, studious, respectful second graders have instantly transformed into boisterous, hormone driven, top-dog third graders. Not all of them, obviously. But the majority. Today I was serenaded -- in class, in front of my coteacher -- with a tone-deaf rendition of "You Are So Beautiful", which I didn't mind so much. But the little "sekshi"s in the hallway are seriously pissing me off. I didn't mind getting it off the third graders last year, because I didn't have to actually teach them in class -- I wasn't their teacher, never would be. And after all, I lived in Brooklyn for five years -- I've had much worse hurled at me on street corners. But out of my actual students?


Gotta think of a good way of handling that. One that doesn't involve telling them to get their cocks out and let us have a look, which was generally a good way of dealing with Brooklyn asshats, but probably wouldn't go over well at school.

Oh. It is fucking, fucking, fucking lovely to be back in the classroom. And something clicked at winter camps, as well, when I was able to work with smaller groups that didn't intimidate me so much. My confidence has carried over extremely well into the classroom -- the lessons are stronger, less boring. I know more how I can be useful, as the native speaking teacher. And, most important of all, I'm holding their attention. A lot of that is due to the fact that my wonderful new main coteacher takes the liberty of translating my jokes. And I'm learning better how to make ones they'll understand without translation. I'm much less a bundle of socially anxious nerves and much more myself, which isn't as horrible.

I wasn't nervous at all about performing in front of two new teachers today -- more eager to show them how I work. And, unlike the teachers who saw me when I was first dropped into this whole thing, completely unsteady on my feet, they seemed genuinely impressed. And they were enjoying class as well.

I haven't got it just yet, my lovelies. But I'm getting closer.

Still fighting on the front lines of the "I'm fine, thanks, and you?" battle. And today I tackled, "What is your hobby?" head on. Don't say it, boys. It's fucking weird. Managed to actually get the coteachers asking questions, when I raised the issue of how "good evening" is generally a greeting, while "good night" is used for goodbye, and not necessarily at night -- just when you are leaving someone for the day. Or how "what do you like to do?" is different from "what do you do?" Anything to get these kids to stop shouting "hi" in my face day in and day out.

And two little smart asses up front decided to teach their teacher, who has been living in SK for four and a half months now, how to say "On Yong Hah Say Yo". I gave a cheeky grin and shook my head, responded with a flawless, "ahnYAseyoooo", complete with a little bow. "Wah!"

I know. I'm fucking impressive. Nigh on half a year in a place and I can give a standard greeting like a native.

Doing the "things that piss you off" thing this week, due to the fact that no one told me I was to have third graders at all, let alone first thing this morning, so I haven't even glanced at the book, and some classics of the day involve one particularly comical duo writing in "kiss" for every answer. As in:

It bothers me when my parents kiss.

It bugs me when teachers kiss.

It pisses me off when my girlfriend kiss.

It drives me crazy when I'm on the subway and kiss.

I had some questions about those last two, the latter more grammatical, and the former more theoretical.

Not as many questions as I had about, "It pisses me off when my girlfriend I am sleep in bed and kiss."

1. When has that ever, ever happened? You naughty little liar.

2. Why on earth would that piss you off? Look, I think you're missing the point of this exercise....

In the words of Big Bang, koh jid mal, my dear. Big, fat koh jid mal.

Also, a bizarrely large percentage of each class finished the sentence, "It makes me angry when men" with "hit me". Although having spent enough time on the subway with adjoshi at this point, I think I understand what they're getting at.

One trio decided to call me over for a translation issue. This group consisted of Heckle and Jeckle of "On Yong Hah Say Yo" fame, plus one slightly more intelligent individual. Heckle and Jeckle began by pointing at each other and saying, "He. Mother. Me. Father." and pointing at the space where they were to write what their neighbors do that pisses them off.


"He. Mother. Me. Father."

Yes, I got that part, my darlings. You wanna give me a bit more?

"He. Man. Me. Man."

Well, that's debatable, but go on....

"Married. Two men married."

It pisses you off when a married gay couple move in next door? Well, sweethearts, you aren't the only ones....

At which point, Slightly More Intelligent piped up to say, "Fighting."

"It makes you angry when your neighbors fight?"

All three looked up at me and nodded.

"Then... what...?!"

Blank stares.

"Well then... uh... it makes me angry when my neighbors fight."

"Okay! Thank you!"

Fucking. The wonder of young minds.

What a nonsense.


Cats in heat in the alley out back.

Why is there always a fucking alley out back, and why are there always, always fucking cats in heat?

You've got to be kidding me.

Day One: Bad Before Good


The boys are back in town.

My boys are back. Thank fuck for that. The new guys are so tiny. The second graders have suddenly turned into third graders and have gone from mostly ignoring me to being the kind of confidently sociable that only the top rung of any given society can be.

Oh. So much better. My life here is utterly pointless without those boys around. And I was really starting to lose it, there for a minute.

New Coteacher seems lovely. Genuinely.

No good new male teachers around, and the good looking PE teacher has apparently decided to ditch the James Dean look in favor of the biggest clashing mess I've ever seen and an ostensibly stupid haircut. Ah, well. Just means fewer distractions.

Onwards and upwards. Now if they'd just get my schedule sorted so I can get back in the classroom. Bali bali!


Kimbap genius.

I'm a genius of fucking immense proportions. Today, I made kimbap. Hold your applause.

Money & Sex.

Koreans don't seem to have any of the hangups we Americans do about knocking on doors/ringing doorbells. It startles me every time, because the way it's done here is something akin to how an American would only treat a closed door in the case of the building being on fire.

It does make me think though, what are we so shy about?

American style:

Tiptoe up to the door and take a moment to adjust yourself, before taking a breath and pushing the doorbell button one time, stepping back a few paces. Wait nervously approximately two and a half minutes, before debating with yourself about whether you should ring the bell again. Maybe it's broken? Maybe you should knock? But you don't want to seem rude, over-eager....

Korean style:

Charge up the stairs and immediately fall upon the doorbell, while simultaneous knocking -- rapidly and with great force -- and shouting a loud greeting, as well as your purpose for visiting. Continue all three activities without pause until someone opens the door, or until exactly five minutes have elapsed, whichever comes first.

The gas man visited today. Well. Not the gas man -- a man who was checking for gas leaks. When I opened the door, already expecting trouble, because he was shouting in Korean at it, which means he didn't already know I was a foreigner, he quickly rambled something in Korean.

"Uh... hangukmal.... uh....."

Fucking. What? I know this. Hangukmal what....? Fuck!

Okay. Let's take a different approach.

"Hangukmal." I shake my head no, while doing my best to look ashamed of myself.

"Oh! Uh.... gas check!"

He pokes around for a while, all the time making small talk in Korean. I guess it's just habit. Then, "Uh..... sign-uh-chuseyo."

At least now I know I won't be dying from a gas leak anytime soon.

Hangukmal muteyo.

What's so fucking hard about that?


Well, Mike and I realized we have a different definition of "nonsense" yesterday, after meeting up with and staying out with (As Friends) until 5 am Saturday morning. Should have clarified. I am of the opinion we have stuck to our no-nonsense pact, while he argues that we distinctly broke it on Friday night.

My definition of no-nonsense: No body's vomiting, everyone knows (vaguely) who/where they are, and no one is sexually harassing anyone else. In a way that they mind, anyway.

Mike: Everything after 2 am is nonsense. Regardless.

I'm becoming some sort of strange lad's lad/feminist hybrid. What do I mean by that? I'm not quite sure. But it's a product of my peculiar position here, as a Western female. And the kind of Western female that I am, to begin with.

Exhibit A --

The Boys: I don't know about Korean women. It seems like there's just not a whole lot going on. They act kind of immature.

Me: You're going to have to trust me on this one, but there is a whole hell of a lot going on. You just don't get to see it, because you're men. And guards go up around men. But they are fucking brilliant, some of them at least. Totally fucking aware of exactly what's going on, and really fucking critical of it. Some of the most socially aware people I've met yet.

Exhibit B --

The Boy: You must hate Angelina Jolie, on some level though...

Me: Why?

The Boy: Well, because every man wants her....

Me: Are you kidding? I'd fuck Angelina Jolie in a fucking heartbeat. I want her....

The Boy: Well, I sincerely hope that happens. And give me a ring, if it does....

Me: Fucking. I wish. And so do you.

This poor boy. Mike and I have decided he's ultimately harmless -- he's just a small town boy, which makes him inherently socially awkward, easily shocked and more than a little naive. After he ran to the shops for some smokes, he returned apologizing for a joke he had made earlier that I don't even remember. He did mention that it involved kimbap, somehow, and my automatic assumption (in that case) was that it must have been dirty. I promptly informed him that I'm fairly certain Mike and I are the two least-easily offended people in all of Korea. At which point Mike and I re-assumed our game of, "That's what she said," as if to demonstrate.

He's a good fella, though -- my radar was right about that part, in the beginning. A genuine nice guy. Just gets a bit... well, fucking Irish after a few. Which, for the most part, is alright. His best for the evening? Conversation had gotten a bit heavy as we discussed the various cases of Koreans inventing totally sincere (basically) lies about what great friends you are going to be, how many wonderful things you're going to do together, and then promptly forgetting all about it and ignoring you on as many occasions as they have the opportunity. I pointed out to Mike that we sort of did the same thing with international students at university, except we wouldn't go as far as even speaking to them in the first place.

Earlier in the evening, Mike and I were loitering around in the Sea of Men, having just finished dinner, when the young PE teacher who speaks English came out of the restaurant adjacent with some pals. I somehow knew the second I laid eyes on him that I was going to be, definitively, blanked. Of course, I can't ever resist making these things worse for myself, and decided the best course of action would be to stare directly at his face until he left the premises. Blanked, I was, my friends. As Mike put it, rather sarcastically, "Maybe he didn't recognize you." Right. I'm pretty easy to miss, being a big fat foreigner standing directly in front of your face and all.

It bothered me more than it should have. Only because it's a perfect summarizing example of how we are treated in general, all too often. I'm not becoming bitter or anything -- just less naive. For most Koreans, the truth of the matter is, we just don't factor into their lives on any real level.

At any rate, after I finished conveying this story to Small Town, in response to a similar story he had told us, imploring a more senior expat opinion on the matter, we all looked down at our pints in silence for a moment.

Small Town then said, "Well, anyway. Do you know what the wisest thing anyone ever said was?"

"No. What?"

"Fook it."

Lovely. And true.

Another classic of the evening, and a better example of the hybrid situation, was when Small Town returned from the bathroom to find Mike and I engaged in an argument over the fact that Mike had taken two steps to the right, effectively blocking my view of a pool game going on between two Korean men, and was refusing to move back.

"What's going on, then?"

"Oh, she's upset because I've interrupted her ogling."

"I'm not ogling. I'm watching the game..."


"So, you find Korean men attractive, do you?"

Well, they're men, aren't they?


More than a little surprise in the tone there. I get tired of that, out of Western men. Western women too, for that matter, I suppose. There are a fair number of white ladies who will claim they "just don't find Korean men attractive". They're morons. And they aren't doing anything to help the superiority complex our Western brothers develop while they're here. Or Korean-Westerner relations, in general.

Almost all of the animosity seems to come down to two things: the complexity of a system that drives its people to learn (expensive) English, or else fail at life, and sex.

So you could say, it's all down to money and sex. What else is new?