Saturday, July 24, 2010

July Announcements and Updates, an 8-month review

July has been a light month for posts but I haven't been idling. For starters, there are many pictures of the 2010 Boryeong Mudfest taken by friends that I'd like to share. If you're curious what Mudfest is, a solid Wikipedia article complete with pictures can be found here. If you're curious why I don't have my own pictures, my camera ain't mudproof.

In no particular order, things I'd like to share:

Handsome James and I will be hopping a plane to Kansai, Japan this coming Thursday. Stops include Osaka, Kyoto, and Nara. Ko-ni-chi-wa sushi, sake, and sumo! Should make for good fodder and I hope to gain insights into the life of Brian Travers Peckrill.


My good friend Dale (a native of Norwich Connecticut and UConn alum) recently appeared on the famed blog Black Out Korea while on vacation in Thailand.
See the full post here.

Through mostly reader submissions, Black Out Korea chronicles those publicly passed-out across the country. There are many. Combine cheap soju and a strong drinking culture, and you're bound to see the results lying in bushes and on/around obstacles. While the site is popular (they've recorded over a million hits) Blackout Korea is controversial and the founder told Dale they get a lot of hate mail (often centering on the fact that people photographed don't give consent to have their photo taken). While I don't think we should celebrate what seems to be a serious social problem, I think if a person is irresponsible enough to get that drunk and pass out in public, conventional ideas about rights and consent go out the window.

"Hey pal, you aren't aware that this in fact not your bed, but rather A MOTORBIKE. Right, so would you like to sign this release form?"


Changing gears, a student gave me this gift, probably one of the funniest Asian things imaginable: A Hello Kitty muffin (I think it's a muffin).

For those that didn't understand the connection between eel and STAMINA (mentioned in the post about my fishing trip), I'm excited to share a picture of a banner proudly draped above the entrance to a restaurant a 5 minute walk from my place. Before the days of Viagra and the like, traditional Korean medicine called for a diet of eel to "sort things out." Driving the point home, we have:
There are SO MANY captions I'd like to give this photo. The visual is too raw, too rich, too bold. I'll just let it speak for itself. If you're feeling inspired please share in the comments! The one thing I would like to point out: the false ionic columns are a great addition to the tacky majesty on display.
When asked to describe, in a single word, their views on having a wae-gook-een like Keith-teacher in their classroom, the students number one response was "shame."

For the most part, I enjoy the books we use at my school. I'm supposed to teach the pages that the Korean teacher covers in that particular day, but it's fine. The material fits well into my time slot, the grammar and vocabulary is useful and appropriate, and I always find ways to stretch something extra out of a few pages. The one exception to this is Super Kids. Super Kids is a six book series that follows Donny, Beth, Toni, Chip, Diego, and Sandy as they travel the world to places like Australia and South Africa camping, going on safari, and putting on international fairs. I think the authors intended to introduce some international curiosity to students. What they deliver is an incoherent storyline that teaches random vocabulary practiced endlessly through equally useless phrases. The storyline is also littered with unnecessarily tough proper nouns. The kid can't pronounce hospital, but when I'm done in there, he sure as hell will be able to pronounce Galapagos Islands and Great Barrier Reef.

Super Kids is an injustice to the learning process. Case in point: Super Kids 6, Chapter 7: A SCARY NIGHT.

This chapter appears between chapters that show how each of the Super Kids spent their summer vacations. Without transition, it's teaching words like "mosquito" and "cockroach" when we had been studying about summer camp, boat rides, and safaris. Why do they need to know "cobra?" Do they even know "snake?" And that's a huge spider, probably a tarantula, why not teach "tarantula" while we're at it? They're all over the place with the animal vocabulary. In Super Kids 4, one unit covers wildlife unique to Australia, including wombats, koalas, and yes, the fabled platypus. Why? Why? Why?

I will allow that the "stepped on something" picture is great.

From the comic dialogues, we get this gem of a conversational tool: "Why did you scream?"
On the left, you'll see one of the cutting edge language acquisition methods used in the Super Kids series: The CHANT-A-GRAM. A lot of my day with the younger students involves me saying things that they repeat back in chorus. So over the course of this Chant-a-gram, "why did ____ scream" is asked a total of 12 times. Next, each student is assigned one in a series of incidents that all resulted in a SCREAM.

While some of the students can't tell me what they did yesterday, thankfully if they ever find themselves in a situation where they scream as a result of having stepped on a platypus near the Great Barrier Reef, they have the English ability to tell someone why! Thank you Super Kids.


My wonderful girlfriend Emma, who will be visiting me here in Korea (in less than a month!) started a blog: "Kids, Heifer International's Overlook Farm Learning Center: my summer adventures facilitating interactions between baby goats and baby humans." You can view it here. Since I have to work a few days that week, hopefully her adventures around Daegu will result in a guest post here at SK Here I Am. We'll see...

Friday, July 9, 2010

World Cup Fever Strikes!

대한민국! (dae-han-min-gook!)
chants the swelling masses of Korean soccer hooligans. It's a warm late spring evening in Duryu Park in Daegu. By nightfall, the World Cup will kick off for the Taeguk Warriors in a match against Greece. Red devil horns flicker far off into the dusk. The Korean faithful trade their kimchi for fried chicken and soju for beer (ehhh not entirely, soju forever!). The excitement builds.
It was a great game and Korea dominated, comfortably winning 2-0. We enjoyed cheering and like the spirited crowds at baseball games, Koreans do well to keep up the enthusiasm.
HomePlus, the big Wal-mart type store here was selling face cut-outs of various Korean stars. No one could tell we were wae-gook-eens! From left to right: Diana, Joanne, James, and I.
Diana found and photographed this gem down in Busan. A fig thing in South Africa! Sounds delicious! A Fig Newton? A fig pie? Oh wait, what the sign was trying to spell was "Fighting!" Like you often see, it was a fail, and that's why we're here.

Koreans shout "FIGHTING!" to cheer on the team, the same way we would use "let's go!" or "here we go!" One of my Korean teachers asked me if we had any word like "fighting" in English. I just looked at her puzzled for a long time until it occurred to her that fighting is an English word.

The Korea match was really only a warm-up for the battle royale, touted by some as the match of the decade: USA vs. England. Many of my friends are English, including the most vocal dude I know, Sir Handsome James Barr. The insults and vulgarities were at a high.

Anticipating the 3:30AM start time, we all pack into a dimly lit basement bar downtown called Communes. Band playbills, albums, and posters from the 60's and 70's adorn the dingy brick walls and you can cut the cigarette smoke with a knife. Everyone is decked out in the garb of their respective nation, and the back-and-forth chants began long before kickoff. All the makings of a trans-Atlantic rumble.
The dramatic dropping of the pants!

I was good for starting some righteous historical chants: "JUST LIKE YORKTOWN!" Of course the clinching battle of the Revolution is relevant! Handsome James, also a student of history, came back with references to the war of 1812 when British troops invaded Washington and burned the White House. Damn you James.

The tension mounted as Communes grew more and more crowded. A line could have been drawn down the middle of the space marking the division of Americans and English. I stealthily stood on the English side.
Harry (English) and I. Let's here it for sportsmanship!

Within 5 minutes, England scored, and things looked pretty bad. After all the hype, a smack-down would really sting. Some solid defense and magic goalkeeping from Tim Howard kept the US in the game.

In the second half, Clint Dempsey fired a shot at English goalkeeper Nick Green that he appeared to have in his grasp as he came to the ground, only to have the ball roll out of his hands and dribble into the net. He dramatically crawled in an effort to stop the ball short to no avail.


The USA!USA!USA! chant was deafening and the English cried lucky goal. Tough luck on you, chaps.