Saturday, December 11, 2010

"Do you know what a chick sexer is?"

My kids were, on the whole, terrible this week. I don’t know what their collective issue was. Perhaps they got together unbeknownst to me and created the first annual “Make Kimbelly Teacher’s Life Terrible Week.” As I think I’ve mentioned before, I am a terrible disciplinarian. As a result, I now have two classes who simply will not listen to me at all. I spend a lot of time imploring children, “Ok, please stop hitting each other....Ok, no, really, please stop...Ok, I’m serious get off the window ledge and stop hitting him....Ok, please get off your chair...No, really, please get off the window ledge...No, get off the window ledge and sit in your chair...Ok, actually, can you please put your head outside your jacket so you can see what we’re doing...No, really, please come out from the inside of your jacket and stop kicking each other.” It is not a pretty situation and at times I just get so exhausted by them not listening, particularly in terms of them talking ALL THE TIME! I have one class that just will not stop talking and they drive me insane. The problem is exacerbated by the language barrier, as it’s a lower level class, and disciplining them in English is much less effective and much easier for them to ignore.
    While they are so naughty sometimes, they also crack me up a lot. Kids are weird. Kids become extra weird when they’re attempting to communicate in a language they speak poorly or barely at all. This is an example of one of the finer moments of learning in one of my classes. The essay topic was “Write about the most amazing thing you have ever seen.” This was the result:

Dietary restrictions are not really a part of Korean culture like they are in the US, so people here often think that not eating meat or seafood is very strange and even unhealthy. People always ask me here, “You don’t eat meat or fish!? What do you eat...bread?” Bread is always the go to. There are apparently an appalling number of people who think that three foods exist in the world: meat, seafood, and bread.

Here’s another little gem for your reading pleasure. This is out of one of the lower level reading text books. Read the text.

This is the question page for that inexplicable reading. Take special note of question three.

In case it proves difficult to read, question three is as follows: "A ______ determines the gender of chickens.  a) chick sexer   b) chick lover   c) chick player"  I can just picture a bunch of stoned foreign English teachers here who decided they possessed the ability to read English at a 3rd grade level and therefore the ability to write and publish a series of textbooks. This was the result, and I now have to read this to groups of children with a straight face.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Riding the Short Bus

I can’t believe it’s December already! I didn’t go out tonight, so I’ll update everyone instead. My only real exciting news is that one of my coworkers and I have booked tickets to Beijing for New Year’s, so I’m quite excited about that. Other than that, my life is boring. I’ve started taking a pottery class which is fun. I’m doing it with the same coworker who I’m going to China with, and she’s an awesome girl. She stepped in a dead cat the other day on the way to the post office to mail our visa applications. I would say stepped on a dead cat, but really it was just sort of a flat wad of cat in the middle of the road, so it was more of an in a dead cat moment than an on a dead cat moment.

That’s really all that’s new with me. I’ve been keeping track of some of the better moments with my children though.

This one requires a little bit of background. The kids come to English Academy in a “bus” which is really just a large van. It’s very similar to the vans which transport convicts from the prisons to the sides of highways to collect trash or the vans out of which child molesters offer candy to children outside schoolyards or the van into which Buffalo Bill stuffs the girl he’s going to kill in Silence of the Lambs. You get the picture. Anyway, the kids have a speaking section on their monthly test. A portion of Harry’s test went like this:

Me: “Ok, number 7, ‘What’s the best way to learn English?’”
Harry: [long silence]..... [joyful childish light appears in his eyes] “Ride the short bus!”

Yes, Harry, many of you belong on the short bus, but unfortunately the special ed method of learning English really isn’t working for you or your peers.

A group of the younger kids saw the cover of a book about Martin Luther King Jr. and all started yelling, “Obama! Obama!” No, children, not all black people in the US are Obama.

Kids aren’t supposed to chew gum in class, but I think that’s a little silly. If they’re not chewing with their mouths open like a herd of disgusting cows, I don’t really care about it. One of the children from my class from hell, eager to tattle on another child in the class from hell, stands up in his desk, points to a kid on the other side of the room and yells, “Teacher! Colin’s chewing cum! He’s chewing cum!”

And on that lovely note, I’m off to bed.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Some Pictures of Ulsan

I finally took some pictures after being here for six weeks. Me and two of the girls I work with attempted yesterday and failed to find the beach in Ulsan. We did find ocean at least which was pretty, and I took pictures which conveniently edited out the industrial, rocky, dead fish ridden area in which we actually ended up. Here are some pictures:

Here are the carefully edited pictures that could make one assume that we were at a nice beach...if one disregards the smog in picture one and the garbage in picture two.

 These are the pictures that more accurately represent the area we found. There were a lot of dead fish, particularly fish heads.
Here's me with my one seashell and the ugly industrial background. I'm making my "Where's the real beach because this one is atrocious and hideous" face.

 This is the park across the street from my apartment building. It looks really pretty with the leaves right now. One night i was walking home for work and an emo Korean teenage girl was having a mini fire on that bench and burning things in front of her. Teenage angst knows no language.
 This is looking down my street from the from the front of my building. Again, it looks pretty with the leaves. The park is to the left of where the picture ends.
This is on of the main streets near where I live at nighttime. There are cooler areas for nighttime pictures, with more lights and buildings, so I'll try to get some pictures of those at some point. This gives you the gist.

So anyway, those are a few pictures so people can see a bit of Ulsan. I also finally have internet in my apartment now, so I can update about all sorts of silly things more regularly. On that note, I bid you adieu.

Friday, November 5, 2010

This Seriously Happened

Friday is essay final copy day. Kids write an essay each week for Monday. I collect and grade the essays and return them to the students. The students then type and submit the final copies of their essays on Friday. This is seriously something that was handed in to me today.

For a sense of scale, the "essay" is sitting on the side of my computer. It is the same width as approximately four keys. As for the picture which inexplicably serves as the background....I have no words.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Hospital Saga: Part III

I missed three days of classes while trapped in the hospital, and some of my students made me Get Well cards. These are some of the best ones:

 This one included a sweet picture of me rocking the power eyebrows and quite broad shoulders. At least I'm more proportionate than poor Kevin views himself. Also, this is not "Oh. Teacher. No. Dirty!" Kevin. I have two Kevins and two Harrys.
 When I first saw this one I was appalled. My oldest students are about 13, and this would not be appropriate for school...then I realized it was from one of my coworkers and the world was right again.
 This one is from Sophie, who insists that ET lives on Mars. Apparently one thing which makes people in the hospital feel better is Playboy Bunnies. I'm sure there are some people who would feel a lot better if there were Playboy Bunnies in their hospital rooms, I, unfortunately, am not one of them. I still love the juxtaposition of the bunny and ET Love though.
 This is my favorite. The sick picture is actually pretty accurate. I didn't leave the hospital with those awesome, juiced out, Popeye muscles though, so I am not the model of health in Harry's eyes or my own. :(
 The muscle picture also came folded in this snazzy way.
 Rachel likes me because I'm nice and pretty. Guess who gets an A on their essay this week, Rachel?
This one depicts a person in a red sweatsuit bleeding from the eyes under an apple tree.

Those are the best ones.

The Hospital Saga: Part II

Being trapped in the hospital in a foreign country for two and a half days while feeling completely fine provides a lot of opportunities for both boredom and observation...but mostly boredom. I should say here that my coworkers were so, so great. They came and visited me multiple times, and packed me up bags of magazines, crosswords, snacks (they didn’t know that milky medical IV feed sack it the most delicious snack), and sodokus. Despite my bag o’ fun, I still spent many hours lying in bed watching the women around me. All the rooms had multiple people in them. There may have been single rooms somewhere else in the hospital, but all the ones I saw has 4-6 people in them. Anyway, the cast of characters is as follows:

Frog Lady: This was the loudest and most outspoken of the characters, so named because of her frog-like appearance. She did not posses the ability to chew with her mouth closed, ate excessively, and seemed to be self declared master of the remote and room lights. She also had a strange predilection for pulling her hospital outfit pants up to under her boobs every time she stood up from her bed...I know this because she would pull her shirt up to reveal her exceedingly saggy boobs resting on her pants each time she did this. Frog lady’s bed was situated kitty-corner to mine across the room, and she was therefore the person in my direct line of vision the most frequently. This woman was my secret nemesis.

Monkey Lady: I wish so deeply that I had a picture of this character. She stood about 4’8” and weighed in at perhaps 80 lbs. She also had the squeaky, high pitched yet gravely voice of a cartoon character and hair that stuck directly out from her head in what would have been an afro if she had about eight times more hair. Not only did she lack the ability to chew with her mouth closed, she frequently made sucking and smacking noises with her mouth for no apparent reason which made me want to leap out of my bed and end her. Monkey Lady’s bed was situated directly across from mine, which hindered my view of her from my frequently horizontal position.

Barfing Lady: This was the only character in the room who actually seemed ill. She spent most of the time barfing, hence the name. I did not hear her speak. Ironically, Barfing Lady was significantly less annoying than both Frog Lady and Monkey Lady.

Old Lady: While both Frog Lady and Monkey Lady were old, Old Lady was the oldest, and thus earned the title of Old Lady. She was not a hospital patient, but seemed to be the mother perhaps of Barfing Lady who was staying in the hospital to attend to Barfing Lady 24/7. She, like Frog Lady, was quick to comment on everything happening in the room. My final morning in the hospital, when I could eat for the first time in four days and sat looking at the Korean style breakfast of kimchi, soup, rice, seaweed, and two other things I couldn’t identify, she came over to my tray and took all the little lids off for me and unwrapped my seaweed for me. I must have had that stupid-foreigner-who-only-knows-how-to-eat-out-of-milky-medical-IV-feed-sack look about me. Old Lady and Barfing Lady’s beds were next to Frog Lady’s bed, also facing mine, so they were also frequently in my frame of view.

Next to Me Lady: This woman did seem ill sometimes. She was unremarkable. Additionally, because her bed was located next to mine, I couldn’t stare at her and observe her without it being very obvious.

I wanted to keep a war-style journal:
Sunday 2:28pm, Day 4, Frog lady stares at me, speaks to me for the first time
Sunday 4:14pm, Still Day 4 Right elbow has lost any concavity it once had and is filled to a disgusting swollen blob with milky medical IV feed sack fluid
Monday 11:32am, Day 5, Frog lady eats for the fourth time before lunch
Monday 12:58pm, Still Day 5, Monkey lady climbs on top of her bed to be able to reach her IV bag, detaches from the holder, balances bags atop her sparse afro and leaves the room with bag on head...seriously
Tuesday 9:09am, Day 6, Korean soap operas causing IQ to drop

...and in this manner I spent Sunday, Monday, and part of Tuesday. Well, this and trying to talk my way out of being stabbed with more needles, which did not, on a single occasion, work. Part three shall include pictures of the best of the Get Well cards from my students.

The Hospital Saga: Part I

Here is a saga for you all about living in a foreign country if ever there was one. It involved my recent release (this morning) from four days in Korean hospital. Oh. My. Word. Let me set the scene....

I woke up Wednesday with a bad headache, which was strange, because I very rarely get headaches, but, with the exception of feeling very tired, I was fine. As the day progressed however, I felt worse and worse, and by the end of the school day, my students were reaping the benefits of my suffering because they were getting free time solely to ensure that I didn’t barf on them while trying to continue teaching. By the next morning I felt horrible. I had bad chills, a terrible headache, and spent the morning and early afternoon throwing up (it should be noted here that the receptacle of choice so I didn’t have to drag my feeble, worthless body to the bathroom, was the empty “Mixed Nets” container which you may or may not remember from previous posts). Anyway, one of the Korean director-teacher people took me to the hospital which sounds really extreme to us, but as far as I can gather, it seems that if you’re sick here, you go to the hospital and see a doctor instead of going “to the doctor” as we would at home. There are also hospitals all over the place, as I would soon learn far too well.

The cliffs notes of the following four days are as follows: The doctors couldn’t figure out why my fever was so high or why it wouldn’t go down with the meds they were giving me, so they admitted me. The twelve or so hours following that mostly involve me writing in my bed and throwing up a lot. Initially, the doctor thought I had some sort of Japanese mosquito virus disease which Koreans apparently get vaccinated for at the beginning of the season. Turns out that was not the case. Then they though I had meningitis, so I had to move to a different hospital with the meningitis expert doctor....until we arrived at that hospital and the meningitis expert doctor was at a different hospital, leading us to a third hospital on the quest for the elusive meningitis expert doctor. This is where the high point of the four days really plays out. Picture me feeling like I’d like to die, barfing all over the place, being led through all the tests I’d already done at the first hospital, not understanding what people are saying to me, and crying. The real pinnacle of the experience involved me attempting to give a urine sample with IV needles in both arms, crying, while my poor, meek, sweet Korean co-teacher holds up my IV drip bag thingy in the bathroom of the ER. No, Ladies and Gentleman, it was not a pretty sight...oh, and I didn’t even have meningitis.

I was then admitted to the second hospital for the next three nights. Turns out the problem had something to do with my intestines being coiled when they shouldn’t have so I couldn’t digest food. I figure that due to the language barrier I ascertained maybe thirty percent of what the doctors actually knew about the issue. For all I know, there was a live hamster in my intestine, but the word for hamster was inconveniently left of Pocket Medical English, and I therefore was left ignorant of this fact. Who knows really.

Anyway, by Saturday night I was beginning to feel fine, and by Sunday I felt completely recovered, but I still wasn’t allowed to go home because the doctors had to make sure the hamster was out...or sorry, they had to ensure that there were only the proper number of coils in my intestines. I’ll save the titillating details of feeling completely healthy and being held against one’s will in a Korean hospital for Part II.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Week Three

I’ve officially crossed the three week mark here in Ulsan, and everything is going well for the most part. I try to keep track of the funny little things I find here to post, but I usually just end up forgetting about them and not posting. For example, the other day I finally decided to buy myself some sort of device for heating food, so I can stop living off cereal and yogurt. I purchased myself a “Fly Pan” from a home goods store near my apartment. It closely resembles a frying pan in every way, shape, and form, but because the packaging so proudly declared it not a fry pan but a fly pan, I will stick with than moniker. On the same note, I bought a pack of “Mixed Nets” which, to the naked eye, would appear to be mixed nuts.

I had a big day on Friday when I understood for the first time something one of my students was saying to another student in Korean. First, I should note that the kids aren’t supposed to ever speak Korean in class to begin with, because I’m sure the majority of what they’re saying before I start yelling at them to stop speaking Korean is along the lines of, “Look at stupid Seaweed Teacher. She doesn’t even know we call her Seaweed Teacher. Baaahahahaha.” Yet on this particular occasion, in one of my more rambunctious classes on Friday, I was able to distinctly pick out “Your mother is a man.” Yes, ladies and gentleman, my Korean has officially progressed to the level of eleven year old boys’ insults to one another. Unfortunately my small victory was lost on my students. Immediately after I proudly chastised the student (it should be noted that said student is Kevin of constant homework avoidance fame) by saying that the other student’s mother was not, in fact a man, but most likely a lady, he simply smiled back at me laughing and saying, “Teacher, Teacher, I say his mom a man! [insert laughter at his own hilarity here]” Apparently he found his insult so brilliant that he couldn’t trust my understanding and felt the need to translate for me. This is the same kid who, after choosing an English storybook for his weekly book report, brought in his own copy of the same book in Korean which he apparently had at home to show me his genius ability to cheat on his book report. He still didn’t do the book report. I hope he never plans to pursue a life of crime, because if he eludes the police for even a day, he will undoubtedly run down to the station to tell them the details of his crime so everyone can appreciate his work. At least he keeps me entertained.

In other news, this city has more mosquitoes than anywhere I’ve ever been, and they all seem to want to have some sort of Korean mosquito orgy in my apartment. I counted over twenty bites on my body the other morning. I looked like some sort of walking case of full body herpes. Apparently they sometimes come up through the drains. I’ve plugged all the drains up now, and that seems to have helped.

The school has finally sent in our applications for our foreigner cards. They were waiting for the two other foreign teachers who arrived later to have their health checks finished to send all the applications in together. They apparently do not see having a phone or a Korean bank account as pressing issues. Anyway, now that the applications have been sent, it shouldn’t be too long until I finally have internet that is neither stolen from my neighbors nor requires the purchase of a $4 cup of coffee. Until then...

Thursday, October 7, 2010

I Believe the Children are our Future....

....but if that's true, South Korea is doomed. No, I'm kidding. Today is the end of the first week of teaching. In generally the kids are really great. They're inadvertently hilarious all the time, but some of them are a bit naughty. One of my favorites is called Kevin (all of the kids have English names for English school) and despite the fact he really cannot sit still for the 40 minutes of class, he cracks me up. The other day we had a reading about tornadoes and, after insisting that he knew what a tornado was but repeatedly drawing a circle with dots on it with a plant growing out of the top as a representation of said tornado, we finally determined that he was confusing tornado and potato. Later in class the word tomato came into the mix as well. Kevin also currently has a cast on his arm which he spends about half of each class trying to slide his arm out of, and i think he once was trying to tell me that his father hit his sister with a baseball bat, but that it was ok, because he only hit her lightly. He also expressed extreme concern when we read a story about a silly family who ate dinner in the bathtub saying, "Oooohhh! Teacher, no! Dirty, dirty!" I have another little girl who loves E.T. and tried to tell me the reading was incorrect when it stated that nothing can live on Mars, because, of course, what about E.T.?

Not all of the kids are so funny though. I have two classes of kids who just stare at me wide eyed. You would have thought I threatened their lives the first day or something. They act terrified. Two of them are these little twins girls who both always look so afraid. When they get extra afraid (e.g. I look at one of them, or, god forbid, ask one of them a question) they stare look at one another with what I can only imagine is their twin ESP "The crazy foreign lady just asked me a question, and to survive the remainder of class I now need the aid of the dual life force we shared in the womb" look.

For the most part though, things are going very well. I have yet to buy myself any hangers, so my clothes storage method consists of all my shirts and sweaters laid on top of each other on top of my suitcase in the middle of the room. I also have yet to purchase a pot or pan, so cereal has been a main staple of my diet.

That's all for now. I hope everyone's doing well at home. I'll update more regularly when I get internet in my apartment. Adios for now.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Scoring Digits

This is the note a man gave me at the bar last night after declaring himself my first Korean friend. It says: "Junho - friend...?? 칭구 [ching gu, the Korean word for friend] - ha ha. - [A series of symbols which I think are meant to be numbers and represent his phone number] - calling!!"

Also in the course of the evening he hand fed my co-teacher and I popcorn and told me repeatedly that he was waiting for my call. I think he's a keeper.

My family should also note that upon telling the bartenders that I lived in Texas their immediate reaction was "Texas Cahinshaw! Texas Chainshaw" followed by chainsaw noises and pretending to cut one another with imaginary chainsaws.

Bar adventures aside, everything's really good here. Today is our first day of teaching, but the classes are going to be really small until the 11th because a lot of the kids have midterms at their public schools until then. This is good for me because I don't know how many little hellions I can keep under control yet. Ok, that's all for now.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Stealing Internet

So I’m alive and well here in Ulsan, but sadly, without internet for the next few weeks. I arrived in Seoul Monday night which was Monday morning in the states, but because my flight was delayed out of Seattle and because customs took FOREVER, I missed my connection from Seoul to Ulsan. Luckily, my new co-teacher Emily (I’m not making up that little term co-teacher, that’s really what the other kids I teach with are called) waited for me at the Seoul airport where we were supposed to meet up. We stayed in a hotel by the airport Monday night and took the first flight to Ulsan in the morning.
    The flight wasn’t so bad. The only exception was the halitosis ridden, open mouth breather in the seat next to me who thought it was perfectly acceptable to break the plane between our seats with both his arms and legs, leaving me with approximately 75% of the airplane seat space which was rightfully mine.
    Anyway, once we got here the director of the school and two of the teachers came and picked us up at the airport and took us to our apartments. My apartment is super small, but basically what I was expecting. I was going to make a little video of it and post it on here, but I forgot to do it before I left this morning, and it’s really messy because my idea of unpacking was taking everything out of my suitcases and putting it on the bed and floor.
    Emily and I also went out yesterday morning after we arrived and bought some things we’d need for our apartments (we live right next door to one another). She’s taught here in Ulsan before, so she knew her way around and where to go for little luxuries one would generally enjoy  having in an apartment such as, oh, I don’t know, toilet paper, which my apartment was sorely lacking upon my arrival. After that we went to the school and had our first day of training. We work from about 2pm-9pm because the kids are in public school during the day and then come to  English school in the evening. Apparently there are two other foreign teachers coming, one from the US and one from South Africa, but they both had some problems with their visas, so they’re not here yet. Until they get here Emily and I are teaching their classes, so I have really little kids for the first two classes of the day, intermediate kids in the middle, then one class of more advanced kids, and another of intermediate kids at night. There are nine class periods a day, and each of us has one class period off. We’re doing training and lesson planning until Thursday, and then we actually start teaching on Friday. I’ve been keeping my eyes out when walking around for some good switches with which to whip the misbehavers. If I fail to locate one before Friday I’m going to just have to use a nice hardwood ruler in the interim.
    Anyway, I can’t get internet until I get my alien card (I wanted to hand in a passport picture of ET to make it a true alien card, but the official people weren’t too keen on the idea, though they did not the strong resemblance) and that should take a few weeks. In the mean time I’m stealing from Starbucks. Ok, I’m off to get lost trying to find my way home again. It’s hard to remember your way around here because remembering the street signs is nearly impossible because I first have to sound out the Korean name, and one I stand on the street corner doing that for about five minutes squinting at the sign like a mongoloid, I forget the eighteen syllable name after about ten steps. It’s really quite ineffective. Annnd, on that note, I’m off.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

My Blog: The Prologue

    Have you ever found yourself thinking, wow, I really wish I knew more of the insignificant details of the life of Kim Fitzgibbon? Me neither, but just in case that thought ever does happen to strike you, perhaps after sitting in front of the microwave for too long or having an anvil dropped on your head Wiley E. Coyote style, you now have this resource available to you providing you with all those details for which you so desperately yearn.
    I tend to think of blogs as self absorbed and pretentious...which is perfect because I’ve really been looking for a place in which I can condemn the silly bourgeois, post modern ideals of the people around me while simultaneously championing my own vastly more intelligent and superior beliefs. Joke. This is just an easy way to tell about all the silly/fun/weird things I encounter in Korea.
    Ok, I’m about half way through a five hour layover at the Seattle airport, and I’m now off to do some duty free shopping and be swindled by the airport currency exchange people. Stay tuned for further developments. In the mean time, for your viewing pleasure, I'm really looking to meet a man with some political power on this little sojourn...

 I spy a love connection.