10.31.2010

Hiiiiigh-YA!

To lighten the mood in a classroom of stressed 5-year-old's, I sometimes waltz in and fake fight the little tykes. I snap an air chop here, throw a phantom sweep-kick there and even fake being hurt for their viewing pleasure.

They like this. Even the girls will attempt and jab or two just to be in the fray. Smiles sprout from their faces for these two-minute soire├ęs. Everyone is happy.

Except one kid.

Oh no. He takes this moment serious. During my flurry of fanning the students with fake punches, this boy waits. And waits. And...waits.

Then, after I begin to rattle off, "OK...OK...OK, that's enough sit down," and the other students begin to disperse back to the rug, he starts his approach. I don't see it coming, but I feel it when it hits.

He walks stealthily to within two feet of me, winds up and WHAMMY! I get a swift kick to my shin bone. For a split second I get pissed. But when I look at his face beaming with a smile of glory, I remember that Taekwondo is Korea's national sport and I immediately respect him more for doing what he has been trained to do.

...get Lost my friends.

10.28.2010

I Am So Glad I am Not in California

I saw a Korean dude with a SF Giants hat on today and I almost shoved him.

Go Rangers.

10.26.2010

What is That Smell? Oh, Yeah.

The other day I called a student up to the front of the class. He hopped up and screeched to a halt right next me. The floors are wood in the classroom and his socks (Koreans do not wear shoes indoors) allowed for a very smooth standing slide-and-stop right next to me.

He had a great running start, perfect power stance on the slide, his eyes were focused and he stopped on the exact spot I wanted him to. But just as his Tom Cruise "Risky Business" sock slide came to a halt, his face went pale, his body stiffened and he looked straight at me.

Then it happened.

Half a second after he looked up, he let out a fart. Not a big one. Not big enough for the class to hear but definitely big enough for me to hear and he knew it. He then did what most kindergartners would do...giggled.

I played teacher and pretended nothing happened but I could not get over the fact that it oh-so-gently and slowly wafted directly into my nose for the full 45-seconds he stood next me reading.

The weird part? The smell did not bother me. I was used to it.

You see, in most schools in Korea, the students and staff eat the exact same thing for lunch. And in those 45-seconds of fart filtering into my nose, I realized that if everyone eats the same things, everyone farts the same thing too. This equation creates a subtle undertone of fart throughout the afternoon everyday.

I am not sure how I feel about this. It's weird, yet OK. But it does make me question how much of that fart cloud is teacher produced. I guess we will never know.


...get Lost my friends.

10.25.2010

My first trip to Busan

My first bullet train zipped me into my first relaxing weekend in Korea. I traveled with Jamie, a friend of mine since middle school and one of Liz's best friends, on Friday night to meet Liz at her Korean families house in Busan.

Simply put, the comparison to the states run as follows: Seoul is like L.A. and Busan is like San Fransisco.

I agree. Considering it lines a huge harbor, has a giant bridge over that harbor and looks all together nicer at first glance than Seoul ever will, the comparison feels very true.

Here are some beautiful pictures Liz snapped on our short two day stint that was wonderfully hosted by her dad Stephen.

DSC_0033
{A shot from across the harbor.}

DSC_0016
{Liz, looking real smooth.}

DSC_0128
{Me, scooping a cup of water at a Buddhist Temple, Jamie, taking a pic of her boots.}

DSC_0119
{Puddles on the temple walkways.}

DSC_0148
{Me walking over a oddly dangerous bridge for a Buddhist sanctuary.}

DSC_0160
{Liz made it look easy. Athlete.}

DSC_0153
{These women were not as confident in their athletic abilities.}

DSC_0174
{The last meal before leaving Busan. I kind of enjoyed it. ;-) }

A great first trip, of many, to Busan.

...get Lost my friends.

The Art of Walking Slow

I used think of long slow walks as a sign of depression. A sign that you (or the mid-aged bedraggled woman that trudges through the sand on a lonely beach at sunset by herself) walk to get away. Being from Southern California, I used to think a long walk meant you are either depressed, disappointed or lost. A long walk became a soul searching endeavor done alone.

I used to walk slow when Liz lived in another part of the world. I have not had those types of walks in a while. Thankfully.

But here, the walk simply walks. It moves slower and slower as the destination nears. You do not walk slowly to get away but rather to stay in contact. The art of walking slow in Korea never happens alone. People arm in arm lose sight of the world in front of them. They simply listen or talk to the one person in the world important enough to be next to them for the walk.

This past weekend I walked with a buddy of mine I met in Italy a few years ago. He teaches down south in Busan and on our walk he looked up at the slow moving yet crowded coastline walking-trail and said, "You know, if Korea knows one thing, it's how to make a walking trail the right way."

Do not get me wrong. This culture moves fast. Determined, if you will. But front them with a table of Korean food, beer and rice wine and an after-meal walks will always ensue.

DSC_0073
{A few locals taking a walk after a meal in the beautiful Busan. Photo courtesy of Elysabeth}


I like these walks.

....get Lost my friends.

10.21.2010

I Get Petted

There is a tiny little person in my 4-year-old class that calls herself Leah. She wears ultra-magnified glasses that make her tiny eyes bulge with curiosity like the Korean version of the littlest "Who in Whoville." She is literally 2-foot-9 and constantly complains of a headache, a stomach-ache or any other word combo that ends in -ache to get a little extra help on her coloring worksheet.

Her kindness makes my day easier.

But she also makes my day slightly, well, uneasy.

You see, she pets.

I have many minor petting moments throughout the day. Yes, I know. Odd. But arm hair, it appears, rarely happens in Korea. As a result, the kids think I have fur...Like a pet teacher of sorts. I get tons of arms grazes or maybe a little pull followed by 4 kids running away giggling. They love it.

But Leah, she gets serious with her teacher-fur. For instance, when I sit in the mini-seat next to her to help spell the word 'because', she loses all interest in my explanation and starts petting. Full grooming motions like it's her daily visit to the pet store. Even after I get her attention back to the spelling issue, her tiny little fingers will slowly start to pet again and her eyes will slowly follow in the same direction.

She petted me on the very first day at school. Since then, a few full time petters have developed and the Korean teachers have to yell at them in Korean. But personally I am cool with it. If it means they will like me more, go for it. I mean, look at what the willingness to be petted has done for dogs. Right?

...get Lost my friends.

10.20.2010

My Job

I got to my desk in the teacher's room 30-minutes before my first class on and asked the guy next me, "How is it here?" He looked slightly befuddled.

"Have you ever taught before?" He asked.

"Nope," I said.

"Well, have you ever seen 'Kindergarten Cop?'" he asked. "`Cuz it's kinda like that."

I politely giggled and turned back to the English language workbook at my desk. I opened her up and I tried reading but I couldn't stop thinking about the governator's ulcer. That intro into the system did not sit very well. I immediately felt exhausted and out-of-my-league. "Who are these kids?" I thought. I had heard multiple horror-stories about private Korean schools just screwing Americans over. This job was a leap of faith and at this early point in my teaching career the faith I had possessed fell immediately with that comment.

But I sucked it up, repeated my motto (fake it 'till you make it) and cruised into class. 12 sets of curious eyes and anxious smiles waited patiently for my arrival. They got the first word.

"What is your name," little Rex asked.

"Mark."

"Mahkuh teacher!?!?" He boisterously replied as the class giggled. Koreans have trouble with the "r" "k" combo in English and they sometimes add vowels to end of English words.

I smiled. It was funny. I corrected him and spent the next 30-minutes laughing with the most intelligent 5-year-old's I have ever met. No disrespect to my nieces, nephews or little cousins but I had a full conversation with these kids in English the first time I met them. I was impressed, and excited.

I teach 12 4-year-old's, 12 5-year-old's and 13 7-year-old's that can all understand English. I also teach 24 5-year-old's that know very little English and a group of 3-year-old's that know about as much English as 3-year-old Korean children should know (they know colors and the word "hello"). All of these are split into groups of 30-minute classes and after 4 weeks I can honestly say I feel lucky being here. The kids are filled with love and the staff works really hard.

I did not exactly know I would be "teaching" such young kids, but who cares. I remember my friends after the age of 8 and it was nothing but annoying the authority figures. So I'm cool with it.

And plus, I'm too young to have an ulcer...I think.

...get Lost.

First Impressions

{Down the stairs into the metro}


Crowded....

10.19.2010

Notes From the Plane

(Here are some notes I took down while on the plane to Korea three weeks ago.)

It was a long day. Scratch that, it is a long day. I woke up with dew still hovering over a San Clemente camp site at 5:45 a.m. I stayed the night with my mom at a family reunion but woke up early to run the last of my "leaving for a year" errands before needing to get to the airport by 9 a.m. Mom and I raced up and down the 405 until getting to the airport promptly at 9 a.m. I said goodbye to my mom and even though her eyes were less watery than expected, they were as loving as ever.-- Her beauty travels so much farther than she will ever know.-- I boarded at 12:00 p.m. L.A. time, flew 12 hours and am now on my decent in Seoul. I have watched five movies, slept 4 solid hours, ate two incredible meals and now Thelonious Monk swimmingly carries me through my current peace...

(--I go on for a page about how Thelonious Monk's skittish but smooth piano stroking ability translates to my excitement based anxiety. Good stuff, not important to this post though--)

...this flight has helped. All 96 of the people in coach have been so kind. My seat partner helped me open the foreign packages. It's premature but every time one of the Korean people talk to me I say, "I have my new home."

We shall see how it plays out.

In 25-minutes I will be walking into a whole new adventure. I start teaching about 16 hours after I land. Ha, what a typical move. I leave no room for fidgeting. I move, and move fast. This new life will work well for me because I can "hustle" again. Work four jobs, run around a city, make weird money and enjoy the process as it speeds by.

I have relaxed for a year. Now I'll move quicker than I have ever moved before.

15 minutes to touchdown....Here we go.


(...And the ride has begun....)