Tuesday, June 30, 2009

This is Why I Don't Learn More Korean

Hey, Korea. It's been a while since we sparred. I've either become soft or have just completely lost interest in bitching about you. The latter is most probable. I'm not gonna lie, you sort of bore me. Even the following is not about you. Sure, you've been around for these happenings, but I regret to inform you that you cannot be held responsible. Believe me, I would throw you a bone if I could, but this simply isn't about you. Maybe next time. Don't hold your breath.

Not only is my new building much cleaner, bigger, and generally more fantastic than the old one, but it has twice as many elevators. Twice as many elevators! It's like a castle, without any of the nice stuff that makes a castle a castle. Of course, with twice as many elevators, comes twice as many people who don't quite understand how elevators work.

Every other day or so as I am waiting for the elevator, somebody comes up beside me and pushes the button several times. Perhaps they think that I haven't bothered to push it yet and am just standing there like an idiot because that's how I like to spend my time. In this case, the illuminated red light that clearly indicates that I have pushed the button to call for the elevator is just a product of my imagination. The other, more plausible scenario, is that some people actually think that pushing the button multiple times will speed up the elevator and get them where they need to be faster. This is too stupid for me to speculate on any further (though I'm certain you can find such a rant elsewhere).

When I am forced to witness this brand of stupidity in Canada Land, I struggle to get through the situation without bringing attention to the absurdity of the perpetrators actions. It's only natural that my first response to seeing it here is to come up with a list of snide phrases on my walk to work that I absolutely must get one of my friends to translate into Korean for me. Unfortunately, by the time I get to work I've talked myself out of learning Korean for the sake of being an ass. While at work, I like to feign that I'm a good person.

There's little sense in blowing my cover just so that I can insult people more effectively.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

My Korean Expiry Date

With all of my bags finally loaded onto a cart, I took one last look back at my father's SUV. "Barring something unfortunate happening between now and the end of my contract, this will be my last trip to Korea". I'd been debating what to do for a while and didn't realize that my decision had already been made until I said it out loud.

My reasons for coming to Korea in the first placed were varied and uninteresting, as these things tend to be. I was poor but wanted to travel; I didn't like what I was doing but didn't have any idea what it was I wanted to be doing; I was interested in education but taking a year off work to go back to school wasn't feasible. There are more, of course. There always are with me.

My reasons for coming back to Korea after my first year were a little more specific. I enjoyed teaching more than expected and wanted challenge myself by teaching in a different environment. I wanted another year of teaching experience under my belt so that I could potentially teach elsewhere. I still had a number of friends here. Blah blah, whatever.

When I signed that second contract, I promised myself that if I passed my Korean Expiry Date during the year, it would be my last. But when does one know if they've passed their Korean Expiry Date?

I was in a bathroom stall at some pub when I was in Ontario for my sister's wedding a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, so were a herd of 12 year old girls. Talking. Awful. I got lost somewhere between, "like, oh my God *squeeeeeeee*!" and "eeeeeeeeeee! Me too!" I really wish that I was just being lame and was not actually subjected to that primitive level of discourse. I really do. It was here that I remembered one of the finer points of living in Korea (and having only a basic grasp on the language): how awesome it is to understand little of the meaningless drivel that spills out of other people's mouths. Other people are boring. Sure, I'm boring, too. It's just that my brand stupidity and vapidness is far less offensive than yours. As these thoughts, and worse, tortured my imagination while I attempted to piss rather than bank my head off the side of the stall in agony, I realized something: as absolutely excruciating as that moment was, when I'm in Korea I feel like that at least once nearly every day.

While it would be fun to point out all of the things here that make me feel like I did in that stall, I still have a number of months to clock. There is a contract to be finished and some loose ends to be tied. I haven't quite figured how I'm going to make it all work, but I'm pretty sure that a list of negatives isn't the place to start. Today. No promises as to how I may roll next week.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

From One Side of Seomyeon to the Other

Finally. I have left my shit hole neighborhood in the dust and moved on to greener pastures. My former neighbors - two love motels, a booking club, and a food n' booze tent - have been replaced by car dealerships and office buildings. My poorly lit, one room closet of a living space, has been replaced by an apartment with high ceilings and a loft. I can finally cook without expecting a sea of cockroaches to flood the sink. Count the Number of People Excreting in Public is no longer a valid game to play on my walk to work in the morning. I can finally leave my apartment, walk a block, and not need a shower. I hardly know what to do with myself anymore.

The week before I was due to leave for my short Canadian vacation, my supervisor stopped me to share the great news: rent in my building was going up 30 bucks by the end of September. My poorly located, cockroach infested, shithole of an apartment was jacking the rent (just because everybody in Seomyeon is jacking rent doesn't mean that this is okay). While my employer subsidizes a significant portion of my rent, unfortunately I have to pick up the rest*.

Before I could even consider huffing, puffing and accidentally blowing a gasket at work, my supervisor suggested that if I didn't want to pay extra for that apartment, that I could move into an apartment that a former coworker had just vacated. No brainer. I didn't even need to look at the new place to know that I was moving (of course, I did look. I'm not a complete idiot).

The truth is, I nearly insisted on a move ages ago. After two days in that apartment, I knew that I wasn't going to like it. I weighed the pros and cons of moving. Then, New Year's happened. Suddenly I had more important things to worry about than the fact that I lived in a craphole. I put the idea of moving on the back burner. I waited. And the second that I was given an out? I moved. Win. Now I just wait and hope that they don't stick one of the new kids in there. Bah.

*There are more than enough contracts floating around that will pay your entire rent here. In that regard, some may say that I have a shitty deal. However, this year I was looking for very specific things in a job and wasn't willing to compromise that - even if it costs me a few bucks a month. If there had been more time to find the "perfect job" (what the fuck is that, even?) I may have found a better deal. Or not. I only had one year's experience and no teaching credentials to speak of; I wasn't really entitled to a better job. Either way, it is what it is and I have absolutely no regrets.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Teacher's Tendency to Natter is a No

I haven't given a straight answer since 1987. It's not that I'm indecisive, it's that I like to examine all possible angles before giving a definitive response. This is probably an exercise that should be done in my head, but my stream of consciousness has been found leaking out of my mouth on more than one occasion.

I natter. The nattering may have purpose and a logical flow, but a natterer is a natterer is a natterer, and no love is lost on natterers. More importantly, it's a terrible habit to exhibit in front of students, some of whom maybe have struggled mightily just to compose a question for me to natter off a response to.

Today, during a discussion on body language and culture, one of my students asked me how much personal space I like to have. What followed was a minute and a half long tirade where I considered different situations, who I might be with, what sort of mood I may be in, and God knows what else. After a minute and a half of this I realized that the time for me to stop talking had come and gone about a minute ago. At the very least, I should have paused at various points in the tirade to ask comprehension questions and ask for the student's opinion. I know better. The ball was dropped.

My tendency to natter is just one of several habits that I need to monitor in my efforts to not be a terrible teacher. It's a struggle not to regularly interrupt students to make comments about their shiny new watch or inquire what kind of cell phone plan they're using. If the clock ticks too loudly, I turn the air conditioner up to drown it out. I've been working on putting kibosh on my incessant fidgeting. I could list countless other manifestations of My Crazy that I leave at the classroom door everyday so that I can lead an effective lesson, but I won't. Another thought on the matter might exhaust me and I have at least one more episode of Entourage that I want to get through before the night is done. I know that it's a terrible show, but it sure is pretty.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

My Misplaced Monday

I'm not entirely sure what happened to yesterday, how today is Thursday, or what on earth happened to Monday. I suppose that Monday was spent in transit, and that it's really Tuesday I can't properly account for.

Last week, on what was apparently Wednesday, I flew home to Ontario for a wedding. Normally I would have found a way to bail on a wedding halfway across the world, but in this case doing so may have barred me from the family. It's simply against the rules to tell your sister that no, you don't feel like being a bridesmaid. Bridesmaids require good hair, makeup, dresses, and all that other stuff that I'm not too keen on. Thankfully, my sister's refusal to slip into bridezilla mode made for an experience that was not just tolerable, but almost enjoyable. If only it hadn't been a windy day, I could remove almost from the equation.

I believe that I spent much of yesterday (which was apparently Wednesday) sleeping. I'd sort of like to sleep again right now, but it's only 1pm. I'm not 85. Or 5. I can fight this. I do no need a nap. I can be productive. I will eat dry cereal and watch Entourage.

I will eventually wake up in a pool of my own saliva.