Woman Shows Aaron Her Asian Pears

Crude? Yes. But accurate? Almost! There was only one asian pear, but a woman did give it to me unprompted…and for free! It was the same person who helped bat off the drunk the other other night who was harrassing me. Another friend of mine suggested that I start yelling at him in bad Spanish. No me gusta Coreanos quien estan barracho.

The pear was almost as big as my head. Here’s a picture:

In other news, I got a haircut and have a new health food which I can eat every day for lunch: cold crushed soybean soup. It’s not mungbean pancackes, but it’s got protein which I may need now that I discovered a gym near my apartment. Then again, that may merely add to the list of things which I will do any day now…yeah…real soon…

At least I bought a UV light for the turtles.

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A Quick Weekday Wangdoodle

I bought new sunglasses yesterday. Tomorrow, I’ll post a picture of them.

There was a great east/west divide about their sex appeal. The Koreans loved it, in particular the seventh grade boys. Lucky me. One of them offered to set me up, I think he’s already suggested that.

Two nights in a row I’ve been interrupted by very drunk Koreans trying to practice their bad English because they think it’s funny and they wouldn’t leave me alone. The second night my secret admirer at Dorothy Cafe had to shoo them away. Thank you, secret admirer.

That gives me a whole new reason to learn Korean, so I can tell people like that to ‘fuck off’ in their own language.

My turtles Jinhee and Han are still alive. Yesterday I got rocks for them, from broken part of the pavement. When I woke up this morning, Han was sunning himself on top of the rocks. I should have taken a picture. Oh well.

I had about ten things to do that I wrote down last night, and I didn’t do any of them. But at least I made a list.

Aaron Gets Some New Roommates

This weekend I went to the five-day market. It’s housed in a massive open-air structure and the whole thing is a wonderful mess; there are hundreds of stalls with hundreds of random items from belts to dried squid to barrels of kimchi to knock-off brand baseball hats to live hedgehogs.

Two of the other Yale teachers and I went there with a mission to fill the lonely silences in our apartment with some creature features. Here they are, Charlotte and Robyn, in living color and all their Canadian glory:

The five-day market is notorious for its cheap assortment of household pets who have been very badly treated.

There were miserable puppies living in cardboard boxes, and a very sad dog sitting in a cage that was too small for him. There were also chickens and ducks for sale.

What we were looking for, and eventually found, were these adorable miniature painted turtles who not only could fulfill my desire for a pet, but also turtles for a long time were my favorite animal (until I discovered narwhals) so this is like a childhood dream come true. You CAN be young again!

The first thing I read when I got home from the market was something along the lines of “most people think that all you need for a turtle is a tank, some pellets, and a little plastic bridge. These people are idiots and their turtle will die in two weeks.” This week I’m going to have to buy a UV Light and a “basking area” so they can sun themselves during the day. There is a teacher contest to see who can keep their turtles alive the longest. I’m kind of cheating since I bought two (and maybe there might be some more turtles on the way? I actually have no idea about my turtles’ gender).

So far Jinhee and Han don’t like me very much, and I don’t blame them. I’m this giant creature who placed them in a tank and didn’t read about how to take care of them. It’s as if well-meaning aliens were to abduct you, and they were very friendly but they kept on trying to feed you sheet metal and were confused why you were dying. I am determined, however, if not to give Jinhee and Han a deeply fulfilling life, then at least to let them party for a while. Maybe I’ll put a few drops of soju into their tank.

On an unrelated note, this Sunday I met an aerospace engineer who had traveled all the way to CLEVELAND to see the Korean outfielder Sin-Soo Choo who plays for the Indians.

The food this weekend was truly wonderful. On Sunday I ate Mungbean pancakes with spicy soy sauce. They were delicious. We also had some homemade fried pork cutlets at a place I like to call the “KKK Kitchen” because its real name is the Komkkatchi Kitchen or something like that. There’s enough Ks in the name of the restaurant not to be racist, but not enough Ks to impress Nolan Ryan.

Also among the adventures this weekend was an open-mic night. I brought a short story to read and it was went very well for the first 5-7 minutes and then people understandably got bored. I wasn’t sure what to do though; I didn’t think I could really stop. Oh well. Next time, I’m seriously considering just getting drunk, jotting some notes down on my hand, and just spouting about whatever the hell I want for 5 minutes or so. Trust me, this idea is a lot better than it sounds.

Next post: Koreans and Emma Watson, New Sunglasses, and More Nonsense

But first, two hilarious conversations which occured today:

(me and Robyn sit on the curb)

Korean Children: Girlfriend?

Me: No. She is girl, she is friend. But she is not girlfriend.

Korean Child: No. Girlfriend.

Robyn: (pointing to Korean boy) but Ginny, is Ken your girlfriend?

Ginny: No.

Robyn: But you like him as a friend, right?

Ginny: No, I hate him.

(poor Ken)

Conversation 2:

Background-apparently one of my (best) students, Steven, works at my favorite restaurant (it’s a 24-hour joint, always open but more delicious and less racist). His parents own the restaurant and he’s there all the time and yet somehow I never made the connection. How this happened may say a lot about my selective memory.

Aaron: Hey, Steven. Are we studying for our test on Thursday?

Steven: No. I’m eating.

Ba dum bum.

Aaron Gets Locked in a Bank

Today ended with me sitting in a bank foyer for one hour while I waited for the police to come get me out. It wasn’t a very good day.

I should have known today was going to be a no good, terrible, horrible, very bad day. Last night I dreamt that I had been fired and my parents came all the way to Jeju to vouch for me, and it almost worked, until a teacher named Ron who I’VE NEVER EVEN MET BEFORE, and only exists to me by name, was in my dream and said that he refused to work with someone like me. He had more weight than my parents. I tried to punch him in my dream but before I could, a girl (no names just to be safe) got in the way and said that I would have to go through her. So I took her hat and spit on it before leaving. Then I killed myself, became a ghost, and tried to scare other teachers at the school, but they just laughed at me.

And this was all before I even got out of bed!

A cab driver today took me on a “special” route to Yale and overcharged me by 200 won (okay, 20 cents, but still).

Later shenanigans occurred at school which will go unmentioned.

What will go mentioned is that my eighth grade girls alternate between wanting to be my girlfriend and wanting to be my mother. Or worse, my great Aunt. They ask me how old I am. If I’m single. How tall I am. If I know Justin Bieber personally (because I’m from New York, and Justin Bieber is from…New York? What?)

Then they tell me I should shave. And that I should clean my glasses. They won’t even play games, they just “want to have conversation.” C’mon, girls, I thought I looked like Harry Potter! Doesn’t Harry Potter deserve some respect?

The pizza for dinner tonight was okay. So there was that.

Then I went on a hunt for a poker game at an apartment called Hyorim Sky. Finding the place was difficult to begin with. I got very confused and had to ask four different people, getting closer each time, until finally they made fun of me because it was the building just next door. One kid, however, manning a cashier station at a 7-11, just looked at me with his eyes glazed over when I asked where it was. I stood there for 90 seconds and then just gave up. Kids these days.

Once I got to Hyorim Sky, I not only knocked on three wrong doors, but they were three doors of PEOPLE I KNEW. They seemed to take it well but it was kind of strange and embarrassing. I got to poker in time to lose 4500 won ($4.50) on a hand where the winner hadn’t even looked at his cards.

It was on the way, at around 1 in the morning, that I made the fatal decision to stop at the bank to get some cash from the ATM machine. I have no idea what happened. Maybe the bank doors were designed to open but not close after a certain hour. Maybe the door broke. Whatever the case may be, I went in, saw that the ATM machines had all been shut down for the night, and then couldn’t get out. I had to go to the bathroom and seriously considered taking a leak in one of the potted plants, if not for the fact that help did arrive and also, there was a camera which was taping the whole thing. A few people went by while I banged on the doors, until finally someone noticed that there was a foreigner screaming from behind glass doors, and took pity on me.

The police came 30 minutes later and were laughing at me. Whatever. As long as I got to sleep in my own bed tonight.

And Rick Perry and Danny Danon are having a séance together or something shitty like that.

And the Mets lost.

Is it the weekend yet?

Udo Photo Dump Part II point 5

He’s not dead. He’s just resting.

See?

Now he’s upright.

Our “camp grounds.”

Family fun on the rocks.

Elizabeth, another Yale teacher, looking dapper in her sun hat

The boat as it docks on Udo.

A lighthouse on Udo.

There are some more extraneous photos, but those are the highlights. Hopefully there will be some more new adventures to come soon. From a blogging standpoint, the last few days haven’t been too eventful. I went over to Jungmun Tourist Complex a few days ago but didn’t get a chance to see too much. It’s quite a place, but it deserves a longer stay before it gets a blog post of its own.

Later this week I’ll post something about my visit to the 5-day market. That was a fun experience, although also a semi-failure as I didn’t get what I was looking for.

Tonight was the first night of the Seogwipo Writers Workshop (run by yours truly) and it was a fair success. My favorite part was finding out all but one attendee wrote blogs. We debated the relative merits of wordpress, blogspot, etc. I’ve been working on a story all week that I think I’m proud of, but I want a second opinion.

It was a co-teacher’s birthday today and the directors of the school bought her a purple cake. No photos, unfortunately. And by now the cake is subject to the laws of entropy.

There’s a barback who I have started to really dislike at one of the cafes I go to. He never smiles and tries very hard to make it clear that I am a customer, not a friend. He nags me about money in really obnoxious ways. Dude, I’m going to pay for my yogurt.

Doesn’t this kid have to go back to school or something?

I know I do. In about 13 hours. That’s life in Seogwipo.

Udo Photo Dump Part I

The lovely Udo beach.

Walking up to the beach on Udo.

Palm Trees near Udo beach.

x2

Sunset on Udo.

Goodbye sun.

This photos were uploaded in reverse, so the setting sun will actually continue to rise in these pictures.

They call the little mountains that dot Jeju island “oreums.”

Look at this kid!

That’s a good photo.

Earlier that day, there was a storm above Jeju island.

Ailbhe from Ireland and some other people who I went “camping” with.

The girl on the left is another Yale teacher. The girl wearing the Brazil dress is actually from England. Tricky!

A different Udo beach.

These people didn’t realize they were posing for my blog.

It’s like Jeju Abbey Road.

Fellow Yale teacher Elizabeth takes a photo. She’s watching the oreums. But someone is watching the watcher.

A closer look at the anonymous oreum.

Who Let the Bugs In? Whoops, I Did

I woke up this morning and had a legitimate waking dream. It’s the first time that happened to me that I can remember since I was eight years old.

Very vividly, there was a blond girl sitting at the edge of my bed and two window washers cleaning the door of my balcony. My eyes were wide open; everything else about the room was exactly as it was in reality: large circular overhead light, broken TV, fan, Mike Piazza doll, etc. I was actually kind of freaked out, not just because of the fact that I didn’t know how they let themselves in, but importantly I couldn’t make them disappear just by blinking.

In a few minutes I reached a more full level of consciousness and they were gone. And then I decided it was pretty cool. I feel like there were a lot more unpleasant spooks to conjure up than what my brain fed me for breakfast. I eagerly await more visitations from imaginary friends.

I also didn’t realize until 4 this afternoon that I’d left the balcony open all day, which might explain why I had to kill so many mosquitos. I understand that killing is wrong, but I can’t help but feel satisfaction when I send them to their judgement. Hey, it’s not like they wouldn’t do the same thing. No bug was going to give me malaria today!

Just to prove that not all my moments with students are confrontational, here are some happier thoughts about my classes:

Skywalker was a dear today. He was attentive, partipitory, and even got answered some questions correctly. He wasn’t as heroic as Luke, but he certainly wasn’t cocky and obnoxious like Anikan anymore.

I’d say he was more like Shmi Skywalker today, Anikan’s kind hearted but poorly scripted mother.

If my students were all 10-15 years older and not my students, I would be totally set on this island. I’ve been given so many compliments about my naturally crafted physique, you’d think I actually went to the gym. I always enjoy the comparisons to Harry Potter, I suppose because we both wear glasses (sometimes) and both have dark hair. The comparisons stop there most likely, I don’t even think I’d be a Gryffindor.

But back to Korea! I might already be set; one of the students may or may not have offered to help set me up (with someone my age hopefully?).

Also a woman working at the coffee shop I’m at now asked me how old I was. I never know, when I tell them the truth, if I’m giving the right answer or not. Even if they had better English, I would tell people here that I am whatever age will make myself more eligible in their eyes.

Several hilarious episodes occured in school last Friday.

The old Asian stereotype about confusing L and R came alive for one class, 8D, when we played Scattegories and this poor soul named “Blake” managed to botch every single category in spectacular fashion.

“Someone give me a food that begins with R!” I demanded.

“Remon!” shouted Blake.

“Noooooooo,” I said. And I spelled “lemon” for him. And the other kids laughed.

“Now a country or city!” I said.

“Ros Angeles,” Blake replied.

“Dogh! Wrong again! Los Angeles starts with L,” I said. One of the other kids really grilled him for that one.

“You fool,” said a kid who goes by Victor at the hogwon. “It’s called LA!”

Poor Blake did a face palm.

Victor was one to talk. He spelled “tiger” t-a-i-g-l-e. Nice try. Kind of.

What was so sad was that every category, Blake thought THIS time he had it right. He was so hopeful when he tried “Rucas” for a name.

I don’t hold any of this against him, by the way. This class happens to be very intelligent. The problem, from what I understand, is that if kids aren’t introduced to the distinction between the l and r sounds from a very early age, they have an extremely difficult time with the concept. I am very curious about what, if any, the reverse implications are. What sounds can westerns not distinguish among the Korean language? Maybe once I learn more, I can figure that out.

INSTANT UPDATE: JUST A GOT A COMPLIMENT FROM A WOMAN IN THE RIGHT AGE BRACKET. SUCCESS!

In another class, I had them write sentences about James Bond, and the boys were very confused about who the hell this was, until after ten minutes of explanation, one of the kids finally had an epiphany and shouted “ZERO ZERO SEVEN!” and I felt like my role as an educator had been fulfilled.

My new favorite hobby is to take some swings at the batting cages. I teach at a school with some very sporty women, I believe at least two of whom played softball in their younger years. The only thing I don’t like is that the cages are sort of expensive (not enough balls for the price) and when you really lay into one, it doesn’t go very far. I want to see my moonshots sail over Jeju island, it’s a bit deflating when they just hit the back net 20 meters away.

I met another Jew on the island the other day. She was excited to find out I was from New York, just like her, and then equally disapointed to discover that I’m from the REAL New York, the one with the cows and spiedies and finger lakes and mountain ranges, the New York where you can actually drive a car. Niagara Falls ain’t in Manhattan, girlfriend. There’s only one place in the country where you can get Dinosaur BBQ: that’s right, upstate, bitchez.

Later today I’m going to post photos from Udo, and some fun at the batting cages.

More Pictures and Skywalker Goes Down

All the kids at my school have Korean and English names, to make it easier for the English teachers. Most of them choose fairly standard names, like Jeff or Clint or Jessica, but a handful think they are poetic or funny and force us to call them something different.

There is “Air” who happens to be a terrible student. At first I thought he was a jerk but now I just think that he doesn’t speak enough English for the level he’s at and his coping mechanism is to act out and talk with his friends. He’s still tough to have in class.

Another more problematic and annoying child is Skywalker, who I teach in a sixth grade class. Skywalker is obnoxious and always has a shit-eating grin on his face like “I’m a troublemaker because I’m a badass and you’re a stupid teacher so I don’t have to pay any attention.”

He’s been insubordinate and distracting and I’ve had to move him around many times. Today was a major showdown, however, as in addition to being a bad influence on the class, when I asked Skywalker to do the assignment, which was matching abcdef to 123456, he smugly stared at me and filled in the letters randomly into the spaces.

“Get out of my class,” I told Skywalker. “You can do the work out of my class and you can’t come back until it’s finished.” He laughed at me and sat there so I grabbed his backback and chucked it out the door. “Out!” I shouted.

That wiped the grin off Skywalker’s face. He got up, ran out the door, and slammed it as loud as he could. Fifteen minutes later, he came in sulking and angry, and passive-agressively showed me his (feeble) attempt at the worksheet. He was not a distraction for the rest of the class.

Today, I was Skywalker’s daddy.

On a less gloating note, today was the first day back from school and it was a mess because we are transitioning to test-prep mode, for English exams at the end of this month and the beginning of next for all middle school kids. I helped my 9L girls prepare for their test today by…playing Scattegories. But they are a good group of students, I told them this was a “treat” because of the holiday, and that it’s back to work on Friday.

Here are some more pictures. There is no theme or order to them, they’ve been taken at various points over the past few weeks. There are more photos to come from the camping trip, but for now, here are some nice pictures of my students, and the school, among other things.

Camping: Good, Cabbing: Bad

I had an emotional breakdown in, of all places, a taxi cab. Maybe that’s not so unusual. But all the same, a ride back from camping became the worst 45 minutes of my life as I combined crashing from the previous night with a driver who was hell bent on killing me slowly and painfully.

But first, I went camping. Camping was fun but maybe a little ambitious for being here three weeks. Udo is a small island off the western coast of Jeju, as said above about 45 minutes from Seogwipo, and near Sunrise Peak, which I’ll have to return to because it is a very famous crater and it is supposedly beautiful to walk up to the top. There are fly-over pictures of Sunrise Peak everywhere on the island and in travel brochures. It is called Sunrise Peak because theoretically it is where the sun first rises in Korea, although the next morning I got up to watch the sun rise and didn’t notice it coming from the mountain specifically.

I expected, for no real reason, that Udo was going to be an isolated island with nothing but jungle, beaches, and rugged adventure.  To get there you have to take a ferry. There were beaches, but the tallest greenery that grows on the island are rice plants and some spare trees lining the road to make the island look better. It’s a strange little place, with lots of cows and horses everywhere. We woke up this poor horse taking a nap because me and another girl from the school went to see the horse, and because we were foreigners, everyone driving on the road stopped and then decided that they too had to pet the horse. Eventually the horse passive-agressively rose up and said hello, and then stalked away. Sorry, buddy.

That morning I had bought a tent, a comforter, and a pillow, but it rained most of the first day we were there and so one of the foreigners bought a pension for about 10 people. Someone stole my pillow later that night. Whatever.

As the day progressed, the “camping trip” gradually became less and less so. Initial promises of a BBQ soon became a trip to the only restaurant open on the side of the island we were on, a rich man’s KFC. Then I lost my wallet somewhere on the beach. Luckily, there was another group of teachers on the island, who were sort of with us, but not really, thanks to some drama which had apparently occurred before my time. So THEY were camping out on the beach. Off in their own little world, I asked one of them if I could borrow their head lamp and they said yes without looking at me. It was a good thing that they were paying no mind to my existence, though, because I was not looking my manliest crouching along the beach and groping the sand. This is a little more dramatic than it sounds, I sort of knew where the wallet was, but it certainly felt good to have it in my hands again.

I don’t really want to talk about the evening too much except to say there were some interesting predictions made with tarot cards, some anti-Israeli sentiments which made their way into the open air, some strange incidents with a girl who tried to take my shirt off and then didn’t want to talk to me the rest of the night, and a very badly conceived game of “who am I?” where we stuck famous people to our heads on toilet paper. I also confessed to someone there, for better or worse, that I have difficulty making friends with people who I think are dumber than I am.

Then at six in the morning, I was the only one up (who else but I would be the last one up during a party that basically lasted all night) and went back to the beach with the beachy people who were also up watching the sunrise. I have no idea what they thought of me wandering into their “campground” and probably saying some more stupid things, but that was nice enough. Then I went back to the pension and fell asleep on the couch.

The next day was ill conceived on my part. We spent the better part of the day at the beach, which was fairly nice, until garbage somehow sailed from parts unknown to drive us away.

But the heat was hot, I didn’t drink enough, I got sunburned, I didn’t really eat anything, and I was working on two hours of sleep. So I was able to last until around 5, but then crashed in a bad way as we were leaving. I got very anal, somehow separated from the group, and then, once I got back to the mainland, got on board the taxi cab from hell.

Here’s a good new rule to live by, if you are a taxi driver or someone who likes to pick up hitchhikers. DO NOT TAKE A FOREIGNER INTO YOUR CAB IF YOU ARE GOING TO BE SCARED OF HIM. This cab driver was freaked out by me being on the other side of the car. He didn’t speak English. That was fine. But he didn’t know Seogwipo. I told him to go to Jungmun resort and he had no idea what I was talking about. Then I just told him to go to Seogwipo and figured I could point to the signs for Jungmun when we got there. This didn’t work for him. He stopped the car four times to get a phone out and try to get someone to translate. He was yelling at me in Korean, which was stressing me out, because I had no idea what he wanted. Then, once I was assured that at the very least we were going back to Seogwipo, I tried to take a nap and then the cab driver freaked out again. “OH MY GOD,” he said in ENGLISH and he stopped the car again. Did he think I was dying? I have no idea what the hell that was about. “Let me sleep you idiot,” I told him. I tried to motion with my hands that, no I wasn’t going into cardiac arrest, I was just closing my eyes which is what people do when they sleep, but this still didn’t satisfy him. We also had some trouble with the mirror. I would lean forward, the cab driver would yell at me and push me back, and we did this on and off for most of the ride until I finally understood that he wanted to see in his side mirror. I didn’t get to take my nap.

When we stopped again, I just lost it, and started screaming back at him in English, cursing and swearing, which felt okay even though I knew he couldn’t understand. Somehow, he didn’t throw me out of the cab and we made it all the way back to Seogwipo (we never made it to Jungmun), where I checked into a hospital, called my parents, and then walked out again without telling them. Then I slept for 18 hours and am now “refreshed”, in a very tired, anxious kind of way.

At least I have the faculties necessary to write this blog post. I’m ready for nightmares about cab drivers for the next five months. That’s better than nightmares about ghosts and nuclear holocaust, I guess.