It’s a Puppie…Again!

Look what I found!

Actually, this time it found me. She (I’m calling her Anya right now, for “anyaseyo” which is NOT the romanization of ‘hello’ in Korean but that’s how I mentally verbalize it) was outside my flat last week and I started feeding her and giving her water and then I made a makeshift doggy bed out of a laundry basket, quilt, and chair, and now she’s been living just outside on the balcony. Until it rains, like today, and then I have to figure things out.

I have enough space for a dog now. Do I have enough time? We’ll see.

Updated: NOOOOOOOOOOOOO. That’s what Darth Vader said…when he discovered ticks all over the body of his new puppy. The vet visit has gone from a good idea to an urgent emergency. The dog has been unfairly quarantined. Sorry, puppy.

Fuck you, ticks. Enjoy your last night in this realm.

Where’s My Taxi?

From Jeju Province’s Official English Tourism Website:

Provincial government to extend hours of operation for public buses
Transportation might be a headache for many commuters Wednesday as local taxi drivers plan to take part in a nationwide strike.
The provincial government says that taxi management and unions will hold a rally in Seoul on the twentieth and that Jeju drivers will take part in the collective action.
It has therefore extended the hours of more public buses. Officials are also advising public offices, schools, and businesses to relax rules about employees driving their own vehicles to work.
More than 200,000 industry representatives will assemble in Seoul Square Wednesday to demand the stabilization of LPG prices and an increase to taxi fares.

Link is here:

This hasn’t affected me yet since I’ve been using my legs and my motorgolf cart to get around between home and work. However this could become a serious problem over the weekend, especially if its raining, which will render my skate board inoperable. Stay tuned.

Here’s another article about the taxi strike:

I tried to get a lift back to my apartment tonight but the only person offering a ride was this guy:

In other news: I have a new stray dog! She’s been following me around my flat (outside). I put some sunflower seeds and water outside my door and made a little doggy bed with what I could. But I’m not sure if I can take care of a pet right now.

There’s a cute girl who works at “A Twosome Place” (coffee chain) right near my hogwon. She was very helpful and I was really appreciative and then I got really fancy and complemented her on how well she spoke English.

Her response: “Well, yeah, that’s because I’m from Brooklyn.”


I’m also a DJ now. Airirang Radio is an English radio station that operates out of City Hall in Jeju, and they do a segment called “wanna be a DJ” where somebody has a six-minute segment.

I brought back an old favorite, “musical news”, which was my college radio program where I highlighted some news headlines and played songs related to them. This week I touched on the fact that Asians have surpassed Hispanics in immigration to the USA (Quick, Obama, build a border fence along the international date line!!!) and the fact that South Korea is the fastest aging nation in the world (not oldest, just fastest aging. No wonder I have grey hairs in my beard).

The segment airs on Saturday. I don’t think it went very well, I didn’t give myself a script, I just sort of mumbled crap about the news and then played my songs. Oh well, it’s still a really fantastic opportunity for foreigners and it brought back some good memories.

At school, my middle school kids think that if they don’t bring their pens, pencils, books, or backpack to school, they don’t have to do anything that day. They aren’t entirely wrong. There’s only so many teachers copies of “Animal Farm” I can hand out.

Another girl came to school wearing my all-time favorite non-Mets baseball hat, with the old school Milwaukee Brewers logo:

Check that shit out, it’s a glove AND the letters “m” and “b”. This girl doesn’t like baseball so she probably can’t identify either one.

Where’s my taxi?


Aaron Eats Brunch, Learns Hangul

My bogus alter ego, Dakota, is taking over my life. People I never even met before are calling me Dakota. People call me Dakota even when I’m not wearing my authentic cowboy hat. I want my life back! Maybe I don’t. I need to figure this out.

As I am now living in the city, I’ve made an effort to get out there and make some new friends. I know a lot of people up here already, but there are plenty of new faces to discover.

There’s too many Aarons. One Aaron has been reasonably helpful in helping me adjust to the strange new ways of the city.

I met another Aaron on Friday night, hanging out at a bar in a basement run by a Canadian expat. The two bars above had to close down, so this one, known simply as “the bar”, is something of a survivor. (side note: the gutted bar where me and a friend almost had to spend the night has been bought and remodeled, it’s now a tacky place called “Hans Deli.” I haven’t gone in yet but I’m betting there’s no pastrami).

Rather mysteriously, Aaron wasn’t in a chatty mood that night-maybe he was feeling protective of his wife, who was friendlier and more interesting for a number of reasons. Anyway, here is our “conversation.”

Dakota: Hey, where are you from.

Aaron: HERE. (unlikely; he’s wearing a Chicago Cubs t-shirt)

Dakota: That’s…interesting. Are you a teacher?

Aaron: NO.

Dakota: Oh, what do you do?

Aaron: I WORK.

End of conversation.

As my high school didn’t say in the lobby, “there are no friends here, only strangers who’ve already met.”

When he first said that, I was duly intimidating, thinking that maybe this guy was a pimp or a spy or something crazy that he just couldn’t say out loud. Of course upon further reflection…

…baseball is a much much much much better sport than cricket.

I “discovered” a fun new hangout spot. It’s not so new, but it will be a hangout spot, because it serves western food and that now gives me FOUR places in the old city that I can eat at now, which is really exciting.

The place is called “Winnie’s Brunch”, and Winnie is a real woman, and her omelettes are real eggy. It opened in March, right next to city hall, and the Jeju writer’s workshop has been meeting there, and now Aaron/Dakota/Tae-Sun (my Korean name) hangs out there too. They serve a bunch of fancy stuff like brunch pizza, eggs benedict, omelettes, bruschettas, and the most creative thing might be the “chip sandwich”, which is the same thing as a “french fry sandwich” except they spelled it wrong.

Here’s an article about the place, courtesy of the Jeju Weekly:

There’s also a korean chain called “Pho Bay” which is like a fake Vietnamese place, but I like it anyway. The noodles are like bibimbap with Vietnamese noodles but that’s okay, it’s more authentic than the Outback steakhouse.

Back to Winnie and her brunch: I walked in there on Thursday and stumbled upon a language exchange club. They made me feel bad about drinking and then they made me feel WORSE when I told them I didn’t even know hangul.

Oh yeah, and like the title says, I’m learning hangul. Gonna start writing the blog in hangul by Friday.

Yale “Seoil”s itself

Thank you to everyone who made it out to my housewarming party last night. And a very special thank you to the poor cab drivers who had to wander into the middle of nowhere with a bunch of foreigners.

Apparently the consensus is that I do NOT live in the city. Whatever.  I’m ten minutes by motorcycle bus from city hall.

My last week at Yale all the teachers had to attend a mandatory seminar about ESL/EFL hosted by the Seoil English Educational System, a company which sells textbooks and curriculums to hogwons.

These guys are serious. They have teaching English to Koreans down to a science. The Seoil books are intended to cover their entire English education from elementary to high school. They’re the ones who published the books with all those silly songs like:



I like Robots. I like Robots. How about you?


Excuse me, excuse me, where’s the bathroom?

Down the hall. Down the hall. It’s down the hall.

The lecture started off well. Seoil’s talking head-was his name Brad? I don’t remember. I think he was from Oregon, but I could be making that up too-began by talking about the problems Korean students face when learning English and how their speaking often lags behind their other skills. So far, so good.

So Seoil designed this speaking-based curriculum which is designed to get the students to speak better English. I can see why Yale is so into these guys, and it’s funny because my bosses were always very concerned-in a vague, unhelpful way-about if the foreign teachers were giving the students speaking practice and if their speaking was improving.

There’s nothing wrong with focusing on speaking, although Koreans are far less likely to have to use conversational English, and certainly not frequently.

In practice, however, the Seoil system is pretty mindless. In fact, judging from the video that we had to watch during the seminar, the whole curriculum is designed to be boring and monotonous for both the students and the teachers.

Brad explained it as follows (this is paraphrasing): “In a typical lesson, the kids go into the listening labs and learn how to say and respond to certain key phrases. Then the foreign teacher reinforces the lesson the next day with our Seoil flash cards. If the students do not speak well enough, then the next day they have to go back into the listening lab.”

Back to the lab! Ahhhhhhhhhh. These poor kids. It’s like Silence of the Lambs:

“It asks me if I like yogurt or it gets hose again.”

Listening labs are brutally useless, from my experience. The are robotic and train kids to be robots. Not only is their pronunciation still inaccurate, but they have no idea what they’re saying.

Learning phrases in a foreign language without knowing the meaning CAN be useful. When I was studying to become bar mitzvah, I had to learn my torah portion and the tropes so that I could sing it. I spent months learning how to chant pages of text that I wouldn’t understand until I saw the translation in English.

But my bar mitzvah wasn’t ABOUT learning Hebrew. It was about becoming a man, and bringing all my friends and family together and throwing a party and getting lots of money and stuff.

So in a way, Korean students in those listening labs are doing something similar. They’re not really learning English either. Except instead of learning how to be part of the Jewish community, they are learning how to be miserable robots. Mazel Tov!

Back to the model video: the English teacher they have as an example of a “good Seoil teacher” is super creepy. He spoke with this weird exaggerated and affected style (note: NOT his real voice) and was smiling weirdly the whole time.

In retrospect think my old boss got all his ideas about education from this video. The teacher is doing everything I was supposed to be doing. The teacher in the video never sits down; the whole time he is standing and hunched over the kids, popping their personal bubble space. And he’s smiling. The whole time. Have you ever been around somebody who is just smiling blandly no matter what is going on? It’s really unnerving.

I was told that I needed to stare at the kids and smile. I’m glad I didn’t do this.

Anyway, the best part of the video is when they play a game. Here was Mr. Model teacher’s game:

“If you get a question wrong, I take a step closer and then I get to touch you. If you get a question right…well, you’re gonna get one wrong at SOME point.”

I think the kids in the video are too young to realize they should be terrified.

I’m sure the Seoil method is based on thousands  of hours of research and expertise and the system was designed by brilliant educators blah blah blah.

Robots. Robots. Robots. I like Robots. I like blocks too. Blocks. Blocks. Blocks. Blocks. Robots. Blocks. Robots. Roblocks. Blobots. I like Robots robots robots robots robots……..