Kate Leads a Journey to Land of the Lost

But first, some pictures of my students and their work:

This playground is out behind the school. There’s a park there; when we went outside, I accidentally yelled at a bunch of kids thinking they were my students, and I realized my mistake when they looked at me funny. Poor guys.

My students made ‘chain stories’ of sports games to hang up outside my office.

My students are artists:

‘Frank’ looks like he plays for the Mets.

Finally, blog readers, Onya says “hi”.

Monday, I went back down south to Seogwipo for the first time in over a month. Donnaekko is a river that runs near the mountains and the area around the riverbed is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because that way they can get a bunch of people to camp there and play in the water.

The water was freezing but it was near 100 degrees outside so the icy water was refreshing.

Since a lot of teachers have August off all over the island, Jeju has been flooded with tourists from the mainland.

Kate Corr, who is so hard core (hard Corr?) she only eats protein once every two days,  was taking some of these people, along with several others, along the part of the riverbed that people don’t usually go; as it heads toward the ocean, the river bank gets steeper and the river has these massive boulders everywhere.

Because it hasn’t rained in a while the water was low, and you could walk “on” the river by jumping from boulder to boulder. After about a 60-minute walk on this ‘trail’, we got to a place Kate calls “Land of the Lost”, which is a stupid name because if were really were a Land of the Lost, there would be plaster dinosaurs just hanging out among the rocks and waterfalls.

However, even if it is no Dinosaur World Theme Park, the scenery was still rugged. Here are some photos:





What a photograph! Kate does her “Nixon” while I stick my hand in my face.


Dakota in the wild; climbing among the rocks reminded me of my childhood back in Wyoming when I would follow a creek for days living off the fish and berries.

Yasmin Abbyad celebrates her perceived freedom, but it is an illusion. Man is born free, but is everywhere in chains.







One Day Until Vacation: The Kids Are All Right

 I was going to write about how wonderful my students are. I still will, but the made the last day of teaching before vacation very stressful. A lot of kids didn’t bring their work, thinking today was just an extension of vacation. I explained to them that this is stupid, because vacation is vacation, letting them do nothing today would be a double privilege, and while I normally would love for an excuse to do nothing for eight hours, the students are deep into a massive project, trying to make sports sections of a newspaper. It was too ambitious I think, but anyway, school is sometimes a boring topic.

At long last, here is a picture of my house. Seven weeks into my life in the city, I got around to walking during the morning and taking my camera to film my adventure.

I live on the second floor of this building. Onya is sleeping somewhere on that porch. Everything above the stairs belongs to me.

This is just another random building in my neighborhood.

And again.

This is the entrance to some climate science study building.

This is a dried up river bed.

The entrance to one of several temples along the 1136 road, which sort of connects the old and new parts of Jeju city.

A closer look.

The kids slide down inside, and land outside. This is cool. What a neat escape for when your teacher is really boring! How could you stop kids from just leaving and running away? I don’t know, but I wish this was attached to my school when I was a kid.

An oreum, with some plaques with some writing with some trees with some grass with some sky with some stones.

A fun boxy building.

A pretty gate.

Halla Elementary School, in shin-Jeju.

Later, I’ll post pictures of my students work.

Dakota Breaks All the Rules, Works the Red Lights

“Aaron, this is difficult for me to say to you,” begins my Korean boss, the manager of the hogwon.

Uh oh. “Tell me,” I say, but I’m very worried. What happened. Are my students not enjoying the class? Is my work product unsatisfactory? Did the student who cried when I shot her with a water gun accuse me of harrassment? This could get ugly.

“Your students have seen you on the street.”


They saw me on the weekend? What were they doing out in city hall at 2 am? They saw me working the street? How can I help that, I’m an urban cowboy, it’s my “other” job!

“Am I partying too much? I don’t think I’ve ever had any beer from the family mart downstairs.”

“No, that’s not the problem,” says my boss. “It’s when there’s a light.”


“It’s when there’s a…red light.”

Ohhhhhhh. Now I understand.

I explain: as difficult as it is to imagine, there are places in the world where you don’t have to wait twenty minutes to cross the street, where lights are guided by traffic patterns and not random long intervals. Coming from such a far away land, I don’t have the patience to wait for the light to change, I just have to go.

In truth, nothing makes me feel more alive than jaywalking. I’m like the ultimate badass. I like to whistle to the ladies when I’m right in the middle of the road. Yeah girl, I make my OWN lights. Hold my hand and we can cross the street together.

So my students ratted me out. I wonder what their exact thoughts are about this. Are they bragging to my boss that their teacher is so cool because he fights the law? Are they tattling on me, trying to get me arrested? Are they concerned for my safety and want me to avoid the danger of oncoming traffic? Any of these things could be possible, they could be possible all at once.

I feel bad for my boss, that I had to extract this note of caution from her, but I still feel very alienated by these bizarre incidences of cultural disconnect. Even after a year, and knowing the indirectness of communication here and the idea of ‘saving face’, I don’t understand how bringing up crossing the street has the same levity as if my boss were telling me to stop bringing hookers to work, or smoking outside with the kids, or something equally bad. There’s no ‘middle ground’ reaction to something.

Any law you break makes you a bad boy, whether the act is putting a coke can in the paper waste basket, or killing a man.

I guess part of the problem is you are not supposed to be blatant about such things.

Back at home, the custodial battle for Onya the puppydog rages on at medium heat. During the day, the landlord’s husband has been taking her to work, or wherever he goes. Maybe he’s going to a business club during the day. Whatever the case, Onya waits for me to come at night, she knows she will have a friendly face and a nice doggy dinner whenever I return. We usually play for about 30 minutes and then I got to bed, or dick around on the computer for 6 hours.

My bosses right now are both away on a field trip to Canada, so the office is a bit hectic as the teachers try to control the students and convey an atmosphere of calm and authority.

Some pictures of my neighborhood will be posted later tonight.

Quiz Time

On Friday night I hosted a pub quiz with the theme “Outer Space” at La Vie cafe. It was fun but exhausting, and for my troubles I got two free sandwiches and a milkshake, so that was pretty good.

I had so much fun making the quiz that I think I want to go back to school to get a masters in science. Seriously.

Think how powerful a masters degree in SCIENCE would be. I could do anything. Be anything.

With a masters in SCIENCE, I could probably discover the key to human flying devices, or the time machine (originally misspelled as the “tie machine” which could be pretty cool too), or ships that go UNDER the water,   and travel many leagues below the surface of the sea…

Not too much has been going on lately. I’ve been taking care of the dog and taking care of my classes.

I saw Spiderman this weekend. It was fun but Toby is still my boy. The talking lizard man was scary. Who would win in a fight, the Lizard or Killer Croc? Black Cat or Catwoman? Why are so many supervillains across different comic books so similar? I think I know the answer to this question.

How about Lex Luthor vs. Martin Luther?

The fact that I’m asking questions like this means that in the battle of “Aaron Vs. The Volcano”, the volcano is definitely winning right now.

Dakota’s a Hater

I hate self-righteous pricks who give me a hard time about not having achieved fluency in Korean.

How far one should go with their hangul and Korean studies is a conversation every waeguk should have…with themselves.

Am I becoming part of the culture? No, not really. But am I detracting from Jeju society?Am I setting a poor example, reinforcing xenophobia? Am I being a rude houseguest?

Sometimes, but that doesn’t have much to do with learning or not learning Korean. If native-born people can fall down drunk on the sidewalk, why can’t waeguken?

Teaching friends should probably encourage each other to move beyond the ‘tourist’ lifestyle, but encouraging is not the same as judging.

Anyway, I have friends who are Korean. Not a lot, but a few. We converse in English. They same okay with that.

Some foreigners perhaps resent the idea of living among ‘tourists.’ They’re afraid of having an inauthentic experience, or perhaps just resent other foreigners who do so.

You think you’re a better person than I for knowing more Korean, but I think I’m a better person than you for knowing more about baseball and outer space. Let’s agree to disagree.

I hate teething puppies. Onya likes to bite. Everything. But mostly me. She tries to bite my legs. She tries to bite my fingers. She tries to bit my face. She even tried to bite my throat.

And then when I get mad she looks very confused, she has no idea she’s being vicious and unruly.

Imagine if in Jurassic Park, the T-Rex didn’t chase the jeeps, and just looked at them sadly and was like “why does nobody like meeeee?”

That’s Onya right now.

So far I’m trying a steady dose of bone giving and water gun. Onya hates the water gun but has not yet associated it with the biting.

I hate my landlord’s husband. The drunk fool has never said anything to me and now he’s claiming Onya is HIS dog.

Now, this sort of makes sense, since I found Onya in the yard, but if this is the case, it means:

*he’s badly mistreated her/doesn’t understand what a dog is

*he’s let me take care of her and do all the hard work, until…who knows when

There is no way he isn’t aware how I’ve been taking care of the dog, especially now. She walks around with a collar. Where does he think Onya got her collar? Does he think puppies grow them at a certain stage in their development?

His idea of taking care of a dog is to leave her outside and throw a piece of watermelon out the window every day. If he wants to control the dog, he can pay for the vet bills, food, bones, crate, toys, and collar (treats are on me).

Otherwise, he should continue not speaking to me and allow me to continue my foster parenting as I search for a good and permanent home over the next month or so.

I hate my old boss right now. He’d probably tsk tsk me and say this is a matter of “cultural differences.” Like if I had a pet turtle and somebody thought that I was mistreating the turtle or not giving it enough love. Like if I had a pet chicken and somebody thought they had a right to it because they were going to buy it a house and a chicken suit or something like that.

There are two things wrong with this. First of all, if that is the case, then he needed to assert himself as the rightful owner of the dog the FIRST time he saw her with me, not two and a half weeks later. Once he saw the collar especially he needed to address the issue.

Second, and more importantly, I’m okay with saying that a lot of people here treat their dogs like shit.

I don’t know enough about animal rights and Korean culture to write a treatise on the subject. You should not trust anything I say.

Cultural bias and ethnocentrism plays a strong role in how we see things.

Right now I’m a hater.

Other things I hate (but not EVERYTHING I hate): blood clots (get well soon Dillon Gee), the Home Run Derby, gamma ray bursts, standing around confused and bored at Island Stone, rain, shifting into neutral, lumps in my Irish car bomb, other people at the gym, and giant lizard men who terrorize Manhattan.



Fourth of July on Jeju

First, another puppy picture:

That’s little Mocha cuddling with Onya. It was a puppy party on Friday night, although Onya still does not understand the concept of not biting people’s legs and other dogs. Onya got a little too rough with Mocha but eventually they got tired and were forced by their humans to rest together.

Last Wednesday was July 4. When the giant alien ship first arrived over the KAL hotel people did not know whether they were here to save or destroy us.

Luckily, my home is out in the country and I was taking Onya out for a walk along the raddish farm when the first assault happened. When the aliens and their death rays were finished, Jeju City looked like this:

Oh sorry, never mind. That’s just what Jeju looks like on a normal day.

THIS is what it looked like after the aliens:

That’s right, only one lonely black pig was left. The rest of us quickly hurried to the secret safehouse located inside the Mt. Halla crater, while we waited for some good news.

Then a miracle happened: the Americans discovered the secret code to the aliens shields. And the Jeju navy was able to destroy the alien spaceship with the newly installed nuclear missile launchers.

And they said the Jeju base was a waste of money!

It was hence determined that the crashed spaceship become a new convention center:

Meanwhile, the remaining aliens agreed to manage a brand new Jeju Alien Invasion Museum:

Quite frankly I think it was colossally stupid for the aliens to come to destroy the planet on Independence Day. No American would accept defeat on the birth of our nation’s freedom. We remember when a foreign entity taxed our stamps, that will never happen again.

They should have come on Thanksgiving. I know my family would be  respond to an alien attack by napping on the couch.

In other news, my students believe Beethoven and Napoleon are on Mt. Rushmore.

Some more puppy drama and weekend malaise coming soon.