Nothing Happened This Week

But I still wanted to update the blog.



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……..

Udo: Sunsets and Wannabe Amphibious Vehicles

The problem with teaching on this island is that you can develop a solid reputation for ten years, and all it takes to get kicked out of the country is driving your car into the ocean.

Two weeks ago me and a friend, Aaron, were supposed to get picked up and go to a pension.

Aaron Demay made a big point that he wanted it to publicized that he went to Udo island, to prove that he DOES take advantage of the natural beauty of the place. Here is photographic proof that he spent a weekend on Udo:

Anyway, at around 2 in the morning we were both really drunk and wandering around a deserted (not desert) island until we found a building with lights. (ADDENDUM: Lindsay Drinkard was with us as well).  I wasn’t wearing any shoes and my toe started bleeding.  The first lighted building we found was the hospital. I waltzed in and, surprise! Somebody we knew-a foreigner-was also in the lobby.

“Hello! Hey! Ho there!” I shouted. “We’re staying with you in the pension! Where’s the pension?”

“I can’t talk right now, my best friend is in serious condition,” they replied.

I hate it when that happens.

But eventually we got a ride in an ambulance back to the pension for a miserable night’s sleep on the floor (with a bloody toe and my contacts in-damn).

The next morning I asked about what happened.

“How’s your friend?”

“Oh, they’re going to be fine. They have a cast on their arm but that’s about it.”

“What happened?”

“They drove their car into the ocean.”

I thought this was a joke. Then we went outside and saw a tow truck hauling the car out of the harbor. So it wasn’t a joke any more, but that didn’t make it any less funny.

As it turns out, me and Aaron (the other Aaron, I’m not referring to myself in third person. Although it does help to have people refer to you by a contrived and bombastic nickname like “Dakota” when there’s another Aaron around) were the culprits, sort of. Indirectly.

Alcohol was probably the more direct culprit here. Although the driver passed their breathalizer test, which might have been nearly as miraculous as the fact that they survived with not much more than a mild scraping.

The pension holders asked this driver to go pick us up. The driver wasn’t very happy about this. So she wasn’t in the fullest capacity when, as the road veered left, she turned left too soon, missed the road completely, and drove into the water.

The second-hand story goes that she was knocked unconscious by the immediate impact, and that only when the car hit a boat did she come to again.

Her reaction to the whole episode the next day was really inspiring.

“This is the last time I go out of my way to help friends,” she muttered, which is a great attitude to have. There’s a lot of societal and peer pressure, when you go through a near-death experience, to have to dedicate yourself to being a better person, or at least think about the choices that brought you to where you are at that point.

It’s refreshing to find that, instead of trying to better yourself, at least one person has taken such a moment to become less generous than before the incident.

Now, onto sunsets:

The hill to the far left, just above the heads of the boys, is the big volcano Hallasan. The smaller mound to the furthest right is Jimibong, an oreum on the water which offers great views and I was going to climb it the next day. Then China sent some yellow dust eastward and instead I stayed on the beach. Here’s “Jimi” again:

There are a lot more Udo photos, hopefully I’ll dump them onto the blog later this week.

I’m fully moved into my apartment and I’ll have to write about that too. Yesterday I saw “Snow White,” a really boring film but Charlize Theron is beautiful and bitchy and she can be my evil queen whenever the opportunity arises. All I ask in return is continued access to the Mets on my laptop.


Now I did!

Back to Jeju: the movie theaters up north in Shin really suck. Back in Seogwipo, you can sneak into almost any movie you want. But they’ve designed the Jeju theaters so that you exit the theater entirely upon completion of the film. I was really looking forward to seeing bits and pieces of “Men in Black” again or “Prometheus” into I got bored. Oh well.

I’ll wait until I take pictures to write something substantial about my new apartment but I will say that it’s really great to be moving in to a place designed for a couple for several reasons:

1. The apartment is designed for a couple, so its basically twice as large (at least) as it needs to be to accommodate me.

2. They were a couple so at least one person gave a shit about what the place looked like. Hopefully this will inspire me to do the same.

On the Move

My new teaching job started today, and the experience was very bizarre. My final days at Yale were very quiet and anticlimactic. Neither the Korean teachers nor my boss said goodbye last night, which was a little sad. They did tell my students that I was going back to the USA. My students took this as as a sign to ignore me and be as belligerent and rude as ever.
I bought two pizzas for a class that finished a whole series of textbooks. Their response?
I should have bought three pizzas. And then they demanded the free coke as well.
I SHOULD have bought three pizzas. So I could then make them watch me devour an entire one whole.
The whole first floor office was in the process of being dismantled and redone. It’s almost as if they are trying to erase the memory of my brief career! But really, as with most things at Yale, a random idea popped into somebody’s head and on a whim they remodeled everything. Maybe the parents complained about the size of the library. Who knows. They’re putting the computer labs on the top floor so in addition to listening to the robotic (literally and figuratively) lab recordings they have to walk up a billion flights of stairs. At least they’re exercising their muscles, if not their mind.
Oh well. I’ll be writing up something about the hogwon education, as well as a seminar I attended last week hosted by the “Seouil System” people, whose materials Yale uses. Readers, get ready to “seouil” yourself in the coming days.
Also in the coming days I’ll post my favorite memories from Yale. But first I’ll say that I’m going to miss spending the days with all my western co-workers, who are all lovely people: Steve, Robyn, Dan and Amy, and Andrea. We will now be just friends, co-workers no more.
And although they won’t read this: Jolie, you are a sweetheart. And Kyung-jin, we had our differences but you cared about the students and that is honorable. Keep on fighting against the current.
As for the new job, the first day I was sick and could only really manage some getting-to-know-you exercises. One classes’ guestimates of my age range as follows:
30, 33, 28, 46, 36, 33, 41, 39, 45, 31, 33, 28, 27, 29
That averages to about 34.5, which is over a decade over my actual age. Hmmm.
I’m very excited about my new classroom, though. There’s a projector. And a computer. And a plug that connects the projector to the computer. There’s a whiteboard. And colored pencils. And scissors. And a bunch of copies of “Animal Farm.”
The goal also is to post some photos from my big Udo Island trip from a few weekends ago as well. For now, some long overdue photographs of Kelly Leighton eating a hamburger, free of context or explanation:
Kelly is from Canada. Udo is a small little island next to a small little island off of a small nation which is kind of an island too because the country to the north is closed off. For some reason, there are pictures of Kelly’s high school classmates performing “Anne of Green Gables” at a hamburger joint on Udo.
Picture your friends from when you were in High School in photographs hanging on the wall of a random place ten thousand miles from home, and you still have no idea how random this is, because we actually WENT there.
That was the second strangest event of the weekend, after the time that girl drove her car right into the ocean.
ftw? Gadzooks! That’s right, this post ends on a cliffhanger.