Hagwon? I hardly know won!

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Example Sentence December 28, 2010

Filed under: Travel Blog — olgathered @ 11:38 pm

One old man after another old man died.

One + adjective + noun + after another + adjective + noun + verb.

Meaning: many, but one then one then one then one

Teacher example:

One delicious taco after another delicious taco disappeared into my mouth.

Student example:

Tia: One cute puppy after another cute puppy…

Nancy: die.

Tia: Oh, Teacher! No!

Nancy: One cute puppy after another cute puppy go to hell.

Teacher: Make it past tense.

Nancy: One cute puppy after another cute puppy went to hell.

Grammatically correct and antagonizing, I’ll take it.


Brace Yourself 2011, Cause I’mma Comin’

Filed under: Travel Blog — olgathered @ 1:13 pm

My new year’s resolutions are as follows:

#1) Stop over planning for things I can’t prepare for now anyway and just chill out and enjoy where I’m at.

#2) Write two blog entries every week with pictures and videos.

#3) Take the free Korean class in Guri and do the best I can at it and not be a big baby who is afraid of learning languages.

#4) Take at least two weekend trips to places that aren’t Seoul or arrange activities in Seoul with non-Hopyeong friends each month.

#5) Take part in a temple stay.

#6) Join the yet to form ROKD (Republic of Korea Derby).

#7) Set a bed time and a wake up and get out of the house time. No more of this hagwon teacher life style of sleeping late and rolling out of the house just in time to teach classes at 3:30pm. No more wasting time.

#8) Figure out how to mail things home. It’s just a post office. It’s just a post office. It’s just a post office.

#9) Keep my apartment cleaner than it was in 2010, which was cleaner than it was in 2009.

#10) Don’t buy crap I don’t really need and get rid of the crap I already own that I don’t really need. Possessions are a burden. I would like to unburden myself. Plus, this will greatly help with #9.

Mary Louise, fighting!


ROK around the Christmas Tree December 26, 2010

The American Christmas spirit is a mesmerizing, blinding thing of festivities and unchecked greed rolled together in a heart stopping cheese ball of cheer. We are incapable of quietly enjoying a cold time of year, indoors with friends and family and good food. We need to kill each other as the doors open at Walmart on Black Friday and then stress eat our way through the quest for every little gift that we want but don’t need and probably can’t pay for and if we make other people feel like shit in our wake, so be it. It’s all in the name of the quest to provide each and every American family with the perfect Christmas. To this I say, bah humbug.

I don’t like Christmas. You have to force pleasant family interactions and then feel bad if they don’t come out looking like a Norman Rockwell. I don’t like buying the affection of people I care about with gifts that don’t really speak to them but say I cared enough to spend. I don’t like the mall or the people who shop there. And more than anything on this planet, I hate Kay Jewelry commercials and everything they represent, but that’s a blog for another day. You see, I spent and uneventful, stress-free Christmas in the mountains of South Korea far far away from American malls and American commercials and American parking lots and American greed and American lack of thought for the rest of humanity.

Friday, December 24th came as uneventfully as another work day. My coworkers and I went out for kimchichegae (spicy, red soup with kimchi and pork) and topped off the evening with hour upon hour of noraebang (a room where you and your friends sit and drink beer and sing karaoke). Fun was had and one Christmas song (Feliz Navidad) and a lot of 80’s hair metal was sung.

After Santa flew past and left us the boxes that our families had sent and we had laid to waste days ago, we woke up at an early 10:30 am. Until 4:30pm we sat around consuming nothing except Esther Price chocolates and a free slice of cake from our favorite coffee shop in Hopyeong, Park Avenue. For you see, dear reader, we were saving the precious space in our digestive systems for the most glorious of meals that awaited in Ietaewon. Doug, Kyle, our coworker Kin and I all bundled up and road on the brand new train that as of Tuesday stops in our sleepy little town and trekked for hours to get to Copacabana. We each ate the weight of a 7 month old baby in an assortment of Brazilian meats prepared on swords for a mere 29,000 won per person at an all you can eat steak house whose name brings Barry Manilow to mind. What could say Christmas more? Why topping off the gastric disaster with eggnog at Sam Ryan’s in a room brimming with waygooks (foreigners) who were also away from Christmas, happy and drinking.

Sunday brought a more traditional aspect of Korean Christmas, the eating of an ugly Christmas ice cream cake. Ours was topped with what was, after significant testing, deemed to be an inedible Santa and edible frozen cranberries.

All and all the lack of Christmas was refreshing. After nearly a decade of retail Christmases, I thought that a year or two away from the greed and thoughtlessness would have me ready to join back in the celebration. What it has done is made me aware that, without Christmas the world still spins. You don’t need to celebrate this holiday to be happy. In fact it’s been packaged in such a way that if you feel you must, you can eat a candy cane, go to a party, and be done with the whole mess. Leaving Christmas to the malls of America has made me a happier person. I don’t think I’ll ever feel the need to return. Not when there is so much joy in simply enjoying December, giving to those who need it, and reveling in the presence of those you think quite highly of.


Fresh Food December 23, 2010

Filed under: Travel Blog — olgathered @ 11:47 pm

In Korea, “fresh,” when in reference to food, means it died because you were chewing it.


Subject + is flipping + object + the bird. December 18, 2010

Filed under: Travel Blog — olgathered @ 4:33 pm

My Friday night class consists of 11 to 14 year olds. *insert eye rolls galore* Yesterday, boy, what a day…

First, I counted the cellphones in my plastic you-can’t-have-cellphones-in-class box and came up short. I asked for cellphones and a few students remembered and came forward. And then there was David, sitting in the back. “David, give me your cellphone.” This is what made him remember, “Oh yeah, there IS a cellphone in my pocket.” “Oh and David? This is your desk, in the very front.” “Oh Teacher, whyeee?” “Take off your hat.” “Oh Teacher, whyeee?” “Oh, OK. My hat now. Thank you.” To which another student replied, “Oh Teacher, your fashion is good.” To which I replied, “It’s true.”

Class proceeds and I hear, “Teacher! Kyle is fucking me!” “Wait, what!?” “He is giving me the fuck!” “No! Do not say that!” “But he is, he is giving the fuck to me! He is showing me middle finger!” “First, don’t say this word. If you say this word to an English speaker, you will make them very angry. Second, when you say this, it sounds like you are saying that Kyle kisses you. It sounds like you are saying that Kyle loves you.” “Teacher NO!” “No indeed. Do you want to say that Kyle is loving you or do you want to say that Kyle is showing you middle finger? If you want to say middle finger, then you say, ‘Kyle (writing on the board) is flipping me the bird.’ Class, what’s the subject? Good. What’s the verb? Good. What’s the object? Very good. Let’s say it together, one two three. Great! Now go to the office.”

I never thought that I’d be the kind of person who does well with young children. I’ve always thought of kid people as being overly sentimental, the kind of people who have pastel posters of angels saying inspiring things or of precariously dangling kittens telling them to just hang in there. I don’t like parents either. They tend to be self-aggrandizing and condescending, both to people who haven’t gotten themselves knocked up and to their children.

In spite of my preconceptions, what I have learned in Korea is this… young kids are great. It’s grown ups who ruin them. Kids are honest, fearless, inventive, curious, and affectionate. I really enjoy my middle school classes, but I think what I’ve learned most by teaching them is that I like people before they realize they are being watched and once they’ve gotten to an age when they know no one is watching any more. I want a career that allows me to teach elementary students to take care of the elderly and facilitates the elderly teaching elementary students. I want to surround myself with people who are thirsty for life and who saturate the air around them with sincerity.


The Joy that Constant Surprise Brings December 5, 2010

Filed under: Travel Blog — olgathered @ 4:24 pm

One of my favorite parts of my day is when my students start to trickle into school. Each one is so excited to see me, as though they forgot that I would be there or maybe that I wasn’t coming back. “Teacher Mary!” I relish their recounting of every moment of their day at school, telling me the inane details with the excitement of a Publisher’s Clearinghouse winner. That they don’t censor their enthusiasm for anything only makes their English that much more difficult to understand. The truth is the details don’t matter. Just let that lust for life wash over me, infect me. When I see people I like I want to be so happy that I yell their name as soon as they come into view and then let out a small sigh of relief at their continued existence. Fearless and unaware of being viewed by others. I want to be just like my students, maybe minus the perpetual nose picking.


Under 10 Over 70 December 4, 2010

Filed under: Travel Blog — olgathered @ 3:39 pm

My favorite people are under 10 years old or over 70 years old. Everyone in the middle is too wrapped up in their own stuff to notice what’s going on around them. It’s the people who are brand new and those who are winding down who have the most honest perspectives. They are the ones who feel truly, who listen fully, who watch carefully, who are fearless.


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