Thanksgiving on Jeju

It’s been almost a week since my last post.

First things first, I made a promise: Congratulations to Dave and Ailbhe on their sixth-year anniversary. If I can give some advice on romance: you know things are going well when you don’t have to say anything to the person you’re with, you can have a nice time just being around them and reading in bed. Me and my Mike Piazza have enjoyed such a relationship for over 13 years.

Speaking of which, the last time I didn’t spend Thanksgiving with my family in Connecticut was BEFORE I had my Mike Piazza doll. So things on Thursday were…actually not that different.

There was a big buffet lunch, the Dorman contingent came later than expected, the host got very protective of the kitchen area, at around 2 o’clock I really wanted to take a nap, and at night we played Apples to Apples for 3 hours. There’s even a fun pretentious New Englandy feel to having a “Yale Family Thanksgiving.”

I even had to wear a sweater. I discovered, in what amounts to a sad surprise, that I only brought one sweater to this island, and Thanksgiving day was the first time since I’ve been here that I had to wear it. Girls, who wants to go shopping??

I don’t want to mislead anyone; there were some new elements to Thanksgiving Day. I had to work for six hours in the middle of the day, so that’s new. There was no turkey. Or even tofurkey. But there WAS pumpkin. In fact, not only was there pumpkin pie, but there were pumpkin PANCAKES (there was also vegan pumpkin pie later on in the week). There was also no football, but this was actually good because unlike in years past, last week I didn’t have to pretend to enjoy watching it.

So for posterity: Thanksgiving with the ladies (and Daniel, thanks for the potatoes buddy they were delicious) was fantastic. How nice was it? It made me want to clean my apartment so I can have people over. If that doesn’t sound like a big deal…it probably shouldn’t, but I just spent over 100,000 won before I typed this to buy cleaning materials to beautify my home. I hope my turtles will appreciate the effort, at least.

The weekend was very exhausting: I played soccer for five hours on Saturday (thats a LOT of soccer), went out to a Thanksgiving dinner, and discovered there that Paris Baguette doesn’t know the difference between cherries and cherry tomatoes: I’m sorry, but you can’t put cherry tomatoes on a birthday cake. It wasn’t even as delicious as it sounds.

Then I stayed out all night; this included a trip to the karaoke bar (note: Music Bank’s version of “Locomotion” is TERRIBLE) and I had to escort some persons (no names) back to the Seogwipo bus terminal at 7 am.

Some people have accused me of drinking too much. So let it be known that I very soberly took people to the bus, one of whom was literally falling asleep  on a bench, or just the sidewalk, every block of the way, and another was convinced that we had passed the rotary ages ago and I was leading them the wrong way. Some good advice for life: don’t bite the hand that feeds you, and DEFINITELY don’t bite the hand that is leading your drunk ass back to the bus that’s going to take you to a bed you can sleep on all Sunday.

Nobody bit my hand. But there was definitely some nibbling going on there. Just don’t do it.

Last week was also very eventful at school. I had an entire class rename themselves. The NEW class roster:

Juliet = Henrietta

Lisa = Bobo

Olivia = Girl Girl

Priscilla = Mrs. Pratchett

Leo = David

Julie = …still Julie

It was requested (by the artist formerly known as Juliet) that they all be redubbed. Someone wrote a list of thirty new names on the board. I think you can tell looking above, whose fingerprints were all over this. Guilty!

Also, I need more pants.

I have no pictures of my motorcycle. But a friend DID post a picture of me rapping. Straight from the mean streets of Seogwipo, I give you INNER CITY HELLO KITTY (again):

 

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Ho Ho Holy Shit

Boss: “We’re having a Christmas Party.”

Me: “Mintak, you should be Santa Claus.”

Boss: “Actually, Aaron, we were thinking that YOU would be Santa Claus. You have the beard and everything.”

Whoops. I guess I walked right into that one.

 

In other news, I had my kids draw a map of Seogwipo. I now know where Isabella’s grandma’s house is. Nice!

I Ride Motorcycles Now

That’s right. There’s a Daelim Daystar sitting five floors below my balcony as we speak. And two helmets and keys lying on my bed with a bunch of other shit very neatly placed on my dresser.

Here were some choice reactions from my co-workers:

“Don’t kill yourself.”

“Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat the Fuuuuuckkkkkkkkk.”

“You’re going to get deported.”

“Aaron, I like you. You’re artistic.” (my boss)

Whatever.

I guess, full disclosure: I’m going to need to practice. But it had to be done.  This island could be my one and only chance to lead a biker gang. If I’m going to defeat the volcano, I was going to need to up my street cred somehow. And winning fuzball wasn’t going to cut it.

Pictures soon?

My second-grade students were learning about animals in class today. At first I was really impressed, since they knew lots of more obscure ones like “crocodile”,   “cheetah”, and “giraffe.”

Then I realized that these were just the random creatures in the textbook. The text’s writers also randomly included “dinosaur” in with all the others, which really doesn’t make any sense. At least you could find all the other ones at the zoo. If the book is going to include extinct animals then it should just rip off the Power Rangers and have all the really cool dead animals, like the mastadon or sabre-tooth tiger.

How can a textbook teach students about dinosaurs but not narwhals? At least narwhals have existed in their lifetime.

Speaking of narwhals, I drew one on a balloon and gave it to a girl who was crying on Friday. Afterwards, she was all smiles.

This weekend was more laid back then usual, in that only one night was spent staying up until 4 in the morning. Saturday was open mic night and I performed the rap as my gangsta alter ego, Inner City Hello Kitty (see: Halloween). My favorite compliment of the evening:

“Some people on this island just aren’t very interesting. You’re not one of those people.”

It was wonderful to hear.

On Sunday I went with a friend to a photojournalism exhibition at the Jungmun Convention Center which showed some rather gruesome pictures of child poverty, environmental devastation, and war zones. There was some pretty moving stuff there, and if anyone reading this is currently on the island, I’d recommend you check it out (it’s free). Spoiler alert: Bangladesh has some problems.

Finally, some long overdue pictures from two weekends ago:

 

Rapper’s Delight

Since I haven’t posted in a few days, I’ll put up the Jeju rap I wrote, which is mostly a rehashing of anecdotes from this blog. I performed it tonight in Jeju city.  It was an amazing success. If you missed it, you can read it below:

My boss says I have a bad reputation,

He says my pink handbag is a culture violation,

He watches me on the CCTV and says my teaching style is a

Permutation of devastation,

I read books in class and I make ‘em do dictation,

I didn’t give them ice cream, that’s cause for termination?

The kids chewing odang breaks my concentration,

I need a vacation,

When I come to this island, I was gonna learn Korean,

They say hangul is easy, you can learn it while your peein,

Three months later, that ain’t what I’m seein,

I can’t stop speaking English, it’s what I got my degree in,

Are we agreein?

I work with only women, I’m the only guy in sight,

My girls, they ain’t the seven dwarfs, but I’m Snow White,

I swear in the office, they say “bitch, be polite!”

If they try to beat me down, I’m gonna put up a fight,

Yeah, that’s right

A woman gives me fruit, I think hey,

Is it my lucky day?

Turns out she’s married to the boss of the café,

No fucking way,

I went to a barber shop, but didn’t get no warning,

I didn’t see no signs that these places are for porning,

I wanted a trimmin’, all they had was naked women,

Maybe I shouldn’t get haircuts at one in the morning,

I live in my apartment but I got no privacy,

Window washers be partyin on my balcony,

And the cleaning lady, she’s got my key!

She opens the door, and she don’t like what she see,

Yeah, it was me.

Jeju, wonder number seven! Fuck yeah that’s ace,

Nothin says natural beauty like a new army base,

But even if you think that’s a big disgrace,

There’s bigger dangers that you need to embrace,

A nastier disaster could take place,

When big Halla mountain,

Ejects a lava fountain,

Or Kim Jung Il sends down a rocket from outer space,

BOOM! IN YOUR FACE!

Is this scene,

a fever dream, that I need to erase?

I want to buy a squid boat just in case,

Okay I’m done.

Within a few days, some pictures from last week, and a brand new toy I bought for six hundred dollars.

Frisbee and Fish

Today my students made family trees. Best teaching moment on the island so far: one of the students asked me where she could draw her “big daddy”?

About an hour ago, an old woman at a cafe tried to force-feed me maekkali, or rice wine. She was so adamant about this that she poured it into my tea, to the embarrassment of both myself and the cafe owner.

I don’t know if this wrinkly person was flirting with me, or trying to be friendly, or just really drunk, but she was mixing her English with Korean and although the cafe owner’s girlfriend was translating and claimed I was deemed a “handsome Hungarian”, I also caught the old woman saying “monkey.” It was strange.

Also, the cafe is selling their piano. I said this wouldn’t come between us, but if I’m being honest, that was the cafe’s main selling point. Oh well.

My to-do list looks something like this right now:

1. Reading

2. Writing

3. Buy a (not going to spoil the surprise if it actually happens)

4. (not going to spoil this one either)

5. Feed Turtles

6. Go to the Gym

7. Piano

8. Make More Worksheets

9. (already spoiled this one to too many people)

10. Selling Stuff

11. Learn Korean

12. Clean Off My Bed

13. Clean Off My Couch

14. Clean Out My Refrigerator

15. Shave

16. Talk to the Newspaper

17. University

18. And so on.

My boss came into work today wearing a fancy purple sweater. I told him he “looked nice” in a way that let him know what I really was saying was “why can’t I bring in my pink handbag to work?”

His response: “Thank you for the compliment Aaron. My wife made it for me.”

So maybe my next move is to come in with pink pajama bottoms and say that my mother knitted them and shipped them in from New York. Or one of my co-workers. Or one of the women who work at the barber shops.

Speaking of which, I haven’t talked about the “barber shops” in a while. They confuse me. I don’t understand where the supply is or the demand. But more importantly, do any of them function as actual barber shops during the day? I wonder if there’s a certain time of the night when the barber shops become “barber shops”, or if it’s a flexible transition. I’d like to go to a barber shop one night and see if it transforms. Maybe you’re getting your hair cut and then at around 10:30 they stop cutting your hair and start giving you a lap dance. There’s a few ways to find out.

Also, if I had an infinite amount of money, I would set up a fake “barber shop” and have people come in at 1 am looking for women, and it would just be me standing there with smock and scissors, smiling and asking them if they’d like a trimming, and some discount hair gel.

You can see Jupiter in the night sky right now.

This weekend was the fish festival. I thought it was a “Phish” festival until I was not so painfully reminded that that band has split up and wouldn’t be doing any reunions on Jeju. Here are some pictures:

Here lies the remains of eight crabs who were already dead when we found them on our plate. Here’s a closer look, with a rotting apple core for good measure:

There was also some big money:

And some pretty festival sunset pictures:

Oh, and the frisbee? We’ll get to that in a later post.

Story Time at School and a Moldy Funeral

Today, I played a fun game with my students. It was called “What is Teacher Aaron.”

It went like this:

ME: Am I a doctor?

CLASS: ….no.

ME: Am I a cook?

CLASS: ….no.

ME: So, what do we think is going to happen when we yell “TEACHER, HUNGRY!” or “TEACHER, SICK!”??

CLASS: err…um….gee…

(I think we made a breakthrough!)

ME: if you are sick, I will feel sorry for you. I might even put a hand on your shoulder. But I won’t make you feel better.

It was a really fun game.

Another fun game that we played this week was a writing exercise where students had to finish a story. I now present a sneak peak into the world of our Korean/English textbooks. The following story prompt appears in an intermediate textbook for middle schoolers called “Hey There 2!” (I’ve added some all-caps for emphasis):

“One Saturday morning, when I was bored at home in my bedroom, I received a message. It said: ‘CU at 2.00 next to the big tree in the park.” I thought it was strange because I didn’t recognize the number. I also didn’t know which tree, and, when I thought about it, I also didn’t know which park or which city! So I didn’t answer. It was obviously a wrong number, and I forgot about it. At about two-fifteen I heard another “beep”, and I saw that I had another text message. this time it said “I’m at the tree. Where R U?” This time I sent a reply. “Which park?” A minute later the reply came: “Finsbury!!” Incredible! My neighborhood park! I made a decision. I went to the park and looked for a big tree. I thought, “who sent this message? A boy or a girl?” Then I found a very big tree, and next to it was a girl with a cell phone in her hand. She was beautiful. But WAS IT SHE? I phoned her number and watched. Her cell phone rang. IT WAS SHE!”

This is a truly beautiful story. There are so many directions this can go. Who was the mystery woman? Some possibilities:

This story is like “Memento” and far from a mystery woman, she’s his doctor/sister/parole officer.

She’s a call girl and the main character (his name is Steven) didn’t remember the role-playing service he drunk dialed the night before.

Steven is about to be taken back to the girl’s home and diced up into little pieces.

Maybe it was the wrong number. I have a feeling, that whatever the case is, Steven is in for a big disappointment. I feel for the guy, he sounds a lot like me. Sitting in his bed at two o’clock on a Saturday “morning”? Hmmm.

I’m pretty sure there wasn’t a single Saturday this summer that I woke up before noon (except for the one time in Boston when my friend locked me out of his apartment-another story); where was MY random text message from a beautiful girl looking to meet at the local park? Are you not allowed to get spontaneous solicitations under an unlimited texting plan? Should I have ordered an international phone?

I’ve been getting a lot of Korean messages on my phone, thinking they’re spam. Could it be that there’s some woman below my apartment waiting for me to come down, and I just haven’t noticed?

Can this work the other way around? Can I start randomly texting people asking them to ‘meet me at the tree?’ and see what happens?

My guess is if I ever got such a text message, it wouldn’t be a beautiful girl under the tree. There’d be a big hairy man there eating something gross like pork rinds. I bet he wouldn’t even be happy to see me.

(side note: “outside my window is a tree” is now playing on my ipod shuffle, its the lyrics from a Cream song)

Earlier this week I sent a shirt to the great clothing rack in the sky. It was bound to happen sometime in this humid climate where my clothesline sits on the balcony, close enough to get wet in heavy rain. It was a nice shirt too, but they’ve all got to go sometime. It was sad but it wasn’t a tragedy. I still have my Sydney polo shirt.

I’ve started reading a biography about Adolf Hitler. The first sentence reads: “the rise of Adolf Hitler to supreme power is one of the those events in world history which are almost totally inexplicable in any rational terms.” Isn’t writing a biography inherently a rational act? If so, what’s the point?

I would like to explicate Hitler, even if it means doing so on irrational terms. Perhaps a true biography of Hitler should simply be a picture book full of abstract shapes and swastikas? And perhaps some ponies thrown in, just for counter balance? I would ‘read’ such a book.

There’s a baby picture of Hitler in the book. It’s really creepy. Especially since his haircut apparently never changed in his entire life.

Here’s a link to the picture online: http://www.foldedspace.org/weblog/2004/01/hitlers_baby_pictures.html

Even creepier is a picture from 1914, where Hitler is identified in close-up amidst maybe tens of thousands of people, in a blurry black-and-white photo. How the hell did someone ever find Hitler in that picture? It’d be like if someone made a ‘Where’s Waldo’ the size of a city block, and you didn’t know that Waldo was even in the picture. And the picture was taken in 1914. Did some scholar pour through a photo thinking, ‘hey, maybe I’ll find Hitler in this one’? People have too much time on their hands, but don’t misunderstand; I am extremely grateful for it.

Bonfire of the Waeguks

Well, it was bound to happen sometime.

Although I can’t be too sure it was the first time while I was here, for at least the first time since the last time, my body decided that lying half-conscious was more important than doing anything on Saturday and we sailed right past the 12-hour sleep mark on our way to a 5 pm wake-up call.

Most of the reason was for this was that me and a friend were buying each other non-stop rounds of rum-and-cokes (at New York New York bar, no less!) in a rather pointless race to the bottom; I’m not sure if I ‘won’ the race, but I was dealt several rounds of disappointing news and at one point in the night I was sloppily making my way through curry pork, extremely upset, and had this wonderful conversation:

Me: Nobody likes me. I’m all alone in this world. November sucks.

Friend: If I didn’t like you, why would I be staying up until 4 am with you (listening to you whine)?

I had no rebuttal to this.

The next evening was considerably cheerier. Up north, at Iho beach (where the volleyball tournament was) was “Guy Fawkes” night, and there was a huge bonfire right beside the water.

Earlier, I also had my first chance to wander around for a bit along one of the main streets of Jeju city. Although it is still an incredibly ugly city that is done no favors by cloudy weather, I must say I was impressed by some of the western-style shops and restaurants. Jeju is the place to go for good non-Korean food, and I’m not just talking about the Outback Steakhouse.

Among the ‘discoveries’ I made:

*Zapata’s, a quasi-authentic Tex-Mex outlet with a big tv playing soccer and salsa music in the background. Of particular note is their ‘tortilla pizza’, and perhaps just the fact that their salsa tastes like salsa can be considered a major accomplishment.

*La Vie, a tiny tiny (like REALLY REALLY tiny) hole in the wall, behind a hotel and next to a playboy bunny ‘business club’, which has some of the best hamburgers (apparently) on the island. I wouldn’t know, I had a salami and cheddar cheese sandwich, which was very delicious (the thick-cut salami was very meaty). The owners are married and speak good English, and the place is decked out with lots of wood and it feels very zen and hippie in a rustic kind of way. There were three foreigners with me when I was there playing the guitar and trying to come off as laid-back cafe musicians (they did).

*Tom and Tom’s coffee, a fun but overpriced venue that also specializes in fresh pretzels and strange bread ‘sensations’, like this giant mound of ‘sweet potato’ bread topped with whipped cream. Perhaps another time.

Also, I still need to make my way to one of the two recommended Indian restaurants up north, Raj Mahal and Baghdad’s. One of them is said to have excellent naan. I hope to find out soon.

Back to bonfire night: although the party wasn’t quite as ferocious as I’d hoped it was going to be (some idiot did try and jump the fire, and managed to not face the consequences), we did burn a bunch of pictures of Cameron (the British PM) and it turned out to be a fun meet-and-greet. I gave a friend a 5000-note for a beer run and he came back and shoved a bottle of soju in each hand. Call me Aaron ‘Double Fist’ Dorman. But don’t actually call me that.

Overall the bonfire served as a fun casual meet-and-greet, with the ratio of people who I was happy to see/people I was sorry to remember existed being around 65:2, which is pretty good, right? After midnight, everyone got bored and went downtown to the bars and clubs, where things got really fun.

After non-stop dancing around about 72 5 hours, me and my posse treated ourselves to a 5:30 am pork bbq, and then “treated” ourselves to one of the most spectacularly seedy hotels on the island.

How seedy is seedy? To get in, you have to basically crawl through a hole in a back-alley and manage your way through this weird roofed courtyard which kind of looked like a place for storing garbage, and there were random people just lying on the ground.

Anyway, inside, there’s this 4-foot Korean lady who might be the only person who works there, as she multitasked as the desk manager, the cleaning lady, the bellhop, and the person banging on the door telling us to get the hell out when it was time to go the next day.

The rooms had no towels and there were  stains on the bed (lots of red-hmmmm) and sheets. There were two opened bottles of water in the fridge. At least there was a balcony that had a lovely view of the slums beautiful Jeju skyline. I guess you get what you pay for; the room WAS 30,000 won (30 dollars).

This place even had a name! The “Juliana.” I actually kind of want to stay there again. The place is inspirational. It could be setting for all kinds of things. A horror/slasher story ala Psycho; a sci-fi twilight-zone episode (who is the little Korean woman? A gnome? An alien? God?); a gritty drama about the lives of suffering artists and druggies holed up in this hotel (or something like that). Oh Juliana, how I’m going to “miss” you this week while I sleep in my own bed. Now I have both the knowledge of a place I can stay the next time I get stuck in the city, and a great incentive to never get stuck in the city at night again.

Happy birthday, Aunt Nancy!

Aaron’s Spooky Halloween Weekend

TEACHER, CANDY! TEACHER, PARTY!

That’s what I heard all week. The whines and demands of small children who think that I’ll do whatever they want just because they say it loud and with enthusiasm. But this time they were right.

I love Halloween.

Shopping for a costume on Saturday, I was really torn. Part of me wanted to be something ‘cool’, or at least like, a costume that I’d look good in. I was thinking maybe Qaddafi in uniform or…okay, just Qaddafi. But at the same time I felt like it would be a lot less stressful and more fun to just let shit get weird, which is what I ended up doing. Here was my costume:

That’s right. Say hello to: INNER CITY HELLO KITTY.

No man has ever looked so smug wearing pretty bows, kimchi cooking sleeves, and a pink jacket meant for an 11-year old girl.

Here’s another picture:

As you can see, when I got to the bar, I ran into a hippie, a mime, a “cool person”, and a plastic surgery patient.

And whaddaya know, it turns out I work with all of them. But that’s the beauty of Halloween, our disguises mask our true selves.

Or do they help expose our true selves? Time for some soul searching (or Seoul searching?)

Anyway, I really really hate my smile in that group picture, but someone is giving the camera the middle finger in the other one; overall this photo makes everybody look more happy to be there.

The hippie left on Tuesday, for a new life away from this island. However, though something was lost, something was found as well. Elizabeth will be missed, but she should be pleased that she was the catalyst for discovering a new drink, rasberry wine and maekkali, which is not only alcoholic but also very delicious. I’m not the only one who thinks so. Another teacher, Mike, confirmed this for me. That makes a consensus.

Mike also came up with a beautiful name for this crazy new cocktail: “raskalli.” I don’t know how to spell it yet, I’ll work that out with the bottle manufacturers when it becomes the next sensation to sweep through Korea.

By the way, here’s a picture of my pumpkin, pre-rotting carcass:

Also, as promised, my ‘sexy gym photo’ with a handbag that I didn’t realize I was carrying at the time:

Yes, last week wasn’t my most lucid week. I got into a car thinking it was a taxi cab and had to shamefully exit the vehicle when it turned out that the driver wasn’t accepting hitch hikers.

Here are some fun pictures of my kids on Halloween week:

And some pictures of our decorations that I put up all over the classroom:

The hogwon gods are cruel to me. After spending two months slogging through a miserable Unit labeled ‘Solidarity’ (Hey There! 3, Chapter 6), the class was stolen out from under me just when it was time to move on to a more fun lesson. And we were only 2 Units away from Space! At least someone else now has a use for my tarot cards. That glory still should have been mine.

My boss doesn’t like my handbag. He told me to get a new one, even though I’ve been using it for about two weeks now. I thought that my handbag made me fit in more with the Korean man’s lifestyle; maybe I should have thought about how I fit in with the office lifestyle.

Favorite (potential) menu  misspelling of the week:

Nude kimbap

Also, deef organ soup remains a favorite of mine.

And in one of my textbooks, students will read about how Willy Wonka gives a golden ticket to…Charlie Burkett. Charlie Burkett?

Also, congratulations world, you reached 7 billion people. But only 370 jobs. Let’s do better next time.