Good News?

There’s a feeler out there for Onya. Potential homeowner lives just north of Daegu. Stay tuned.


Dirty Laundry: Am I Going Insane?

Actually, for now, I plan on keeping the work situation details to a minimum. People can e-mail me directly if they want to hear my thoughts about what went down.

However, please allow for this confession. I’ve been very hard on my students, over the past three months I have:

*beat them with sticks and other hard objects

*make them stay after and take a test until 1 am

*make them do push-ups for 45 minutes

*shout curses at them

*I told my Korean co-worker I wanted a blow job for Christmas and I believe she was planning to refuse

Wait, I take it back. I didn’t actually do any of these things. I confused the collective memory of the teachers on Jeju with my own. Sometimes it is very hard to distinguish between the two.

I am slowly going insane. One of the first signs that you are a crazy person is a disconnect with your surroundings. My perception of events is not actually how they occurred in reality. Or so I’m told.

I’m not even sure if I’m on Jeju right now. I’ve had more and more dreams that I am back home.

There was a typhoon that hit Jeju, and I did notice typhoon conditions outside my apartment. And there was Korean signage outside in the city I walked around in this evening. So that does narrow things down to only a few places.

I could be on the mainland. I could be in Queens. But there’s a volcano outside. Is there a Korean district in Honolulu?

Onya needs a permanent home. I got a little snippy online with someone who suggested I just take her home. This is POSSIBLE, but not ideal. My family home situation, and my future home situation, is not really conducive to taking care of a (future) large dog. That situation is the one I am most concerned about.

I’m pretty sure I completely imagined my Korean co-worker this month, a la “a beautiful mind.” All the details make too much sense for him to have actually been a real person. Consider that he’s leaving for Australia tomorrow, which for now is equivalent to the dark corners of my imagination.

For now we’ll call him “Gary.” “Gary” was a physical manifestation of my personal anxieties about life.

The first day I was supposed to work with “Gary”, he was extremely frazzled.

“I had a very bad weekend,” he explained.

“I lost my job. I split up with my girlfriend. Her parents are very angry with me. They are threatening to kill me. She’s in the hospital.”

“Oh dear,” I said. “This sounds ridiculous. Just ignore the parents, they sound crazy. What, did she have an emotional breakdown?”

“Oh, no,” Gary said. “I put her there.”


“Yeah, we got in a drunk argument and so I hit her and she fell on the ground.”

Ohhhhhh. So I spent the first week in August wondering if the parents would press charges and Gary would mysteriously disappear. But of course he wasn’t going to disappear. Because Gary existed in my imagination, and you can’t run away from the phantasms of your mind.

Just try doing that in a dream, it doesn’t work, they always pop up again.

Gary spent the week not eating. On Thursday he was very tired.

“Hmmm,” said Gary thoughtfully. “Does starving yourself cause exhaustion.”

“Yes it does. When’s the last time you ate, Gary?”

“Six days ago.”

So then I spent the next few days trying to feed him. I would buy bread and goodies and try to shove them in his face. Proof that just because you are inventing fake people, they can still affect the reality of your wallet.

More on Gary later. Here’s some cute pictures of Onya. Have you considered taking a dog home this week?



Korea: Life in the Mild Mild West

Haven’t written too much about life in Korea in general, but last week someone chalked up the cultural and job issues here to being akin to living in the “wild wild west.”

In essence, as a foreigner living here the rules are bendable and the hogwon system is dicey.

Korea is not the wild wild west. Korea is a great “gateway drug” of a country to work in as a first foreign country, but life here is more silly than crazy and life here is not characterized by lawlessness and spontaneity, but rather the opposite.

Things here can at times be very mechanical. I think the educational system here is a bit like a Rube Goldberg machine, particularly the English-teaching facet. The focus is on keeping the students as busy as possible, even if the end result after years of “learning” is a giant turd.

In many ways Korea is a forward thinking nation, particularly on the mainland, but Jeju architecture for the most part takes its cues from Soviet-era big box style. Even new apartment complexes are these horrifying ugly boxes. There doesn’t seem to be a big focus on urban planning, even though Jeju is leaning towards overdevelopment, which would be tragic because the island has such natural beauty.

But more importantly, life here is incredibly easy, which allows people to be complacent. You don’t have to learn Korean to thrive or be part of a community. Small issues crop up here and there, there is a little bit antagonism against foreigners but nobody really acts on their prejudice except to stare and make frowny faces at you.

The biggest issue with racism that I’ve heard about is a landlord refusing to offer housing to a western couple, which is wrong but not egregious.

Most jobs foreigners get here pay on time, and pay well enough to offer a wonderful lifestyle.

There are no threats on your life here, technology is great here, no questions about internet access or phone communication.

Korea does not have to be a challenge.

But the country needs more bagels.


Dakota Peeks Into the Business Club

This post is gonna be quick.

Last night, I finally got my wish and snuck into the Tooshie Club with a friend. I was expecting a classy bar with lots of sexy Korean 40-year-old women. I was extremely dissapointed.

First, the lobby just looks like a typical middle-class nourebang. Except the two people at the counter informed me and my friend Eliza that it only catered to “Korean business men.”

“But we are Korean business men!” I said. But I fucked it up, I couldn’t keep a straight face. I mean, Eliza was wearing my cowboy hat and I have a silly mustache. But the laughter probably gave it away.

While the counter creeps were still confused, I got a look around, and it looks like all thats in there are sex rooms. I opened one and tried on some shoes, much to the dismay of the bouncers.

I also offered to pay 2,000,000,000 won and wrote this on my hand but  I guess they don’t accept IOUS.

DOWNSTAIRS, in the sexy nourebang, is where the action happens. After getting kicked out of the Tooshie Club, we went down THERE and saw a bunch of Korean women sitting around at table for unknown purposes. I said hello and showed them a picture of my dog. Then we got kicked out again.

One of the old man customers came out and started touching my arm. It was weird. A friend of mine told him to get lost. I had another beer with my posse at the Family Mart and went home.

Doggy Business, My Landlord is a Terrible Person

I don’t think I’ve written about this yet on the blog, but Onya is now mine all mine. Me and my landlord had a passive agressive Korean-style fight, and then we had a direct western-style fight. It ended with me buying the dog for 30,000 won.

The Korean style fight went like this; during the day he would tie the dog to the fence, rain or shine, and she would have no access to food, and would just have to lie there or whatever. They were kind enough to provide her with chocolate milk, or at least that’s what I hope it was because the color of the liquid was light brown, but somebody should have told them that dogs can’t have chocolate milk because that will kill them. So maybe it was just sludge water after all.

When I came home, I would untie her and provide her with plain old water and dog food, and let her hang around the balcony. Then the next morning I would wake up and she’d be tied up again. So I would untie her again.

Finally on Friday night, the landlord’s husband caught me untying her again and he came out and started yelling at me. So I started yelling at him. We were yelling at each other in different languages, it was kind of stupid.

I called one of my co-workers and made her translate that I wished to buy the dog then and there. I offered 30,000. He laughed when he heard this. I can only imagine that this must be like if you took a goldfish home in a plastic bag because you won it at your kindergarten fair, and the neighbors offered to buy it for 30 dollars. Money in the bank!

So now me and the landlord are friends again, and more importantly, Onya is officially mine.

This week Onya had a very special surgery, the kind that makes it impossible for her to spawn any puppies. All the male doggies in the neighborhood will be heartbroken to hear the news tonight.

It was a necessary thing, although a very sad sad operation for my bank account.

  1. I’ve taken Onya out on multiple occasions to see how the locals react to her. The consensus is that overall westerners find her adorable and Koreans find her repulsive and monstrous. I was at the beach and Onya made a 4-year-old girl cry just by looking at her. The mother got mad at me and shouted: “dog! Very scary! Very scary!”

Shut your mouth, woman. Onya barely comes up to your knee and she stopped teething weeks ago.

Back to the operation: it was a mess. The vets did not speak English and instead of trying to bridge the communication gap, they just didn’t give me accurate or complete information on the procedure and the end result was that it appeared that they were trying to swindle me, which they might have been doing anyway.

An army of Korean dog-lovers spoke to them on my behalf, which was probably not going to make me their favorite customer. Their medical recommendations for the dog seemed to involve lots and lots of money, and by the time I got the dog home, we had mutual distrust and I won’t be going back there.

The last few nights have been extremely miserable. There is no way to tell Onya that she must spend the next seven days recuperating, instead of going about her usual active outdoor adventures. She changed positions every ten minutes or so and then decided at 6 am that sleepy time was over, and it was play time again. Wrong!

Actually, all of yesterday was miserable. While I went to work my landlord went snooping around my apartment, ostensibly to give me the electric bill, but then eventually wandering about and taking the time to let the dog out of her crate, so she could smash her water dish and eat a pencil.

My landlord called SCI to tell me that my apartment is too messy and that I need to turn the fans off. This man is not my mother. He has no business stepping foot inside my apartment unless it is to give me back the money he stole from me by blackmailing me for possession of the dog.

My landlord is a monster. If there is any justice in the world, Onya will grow up to be Clifford-sized and, in a fit of hunger, eat him for lunch one day.


Back at school, things have been equally stressful. As said before on the blog, I am being punished by some third-grade brats for not being the sweet motherly figure who left for South Africa three months ago. These kids don’t know what they want. They think they want me to be Joanne, but if I tried, it would be terrifying to them.

If I came into the classroom in a blond wig, spoke in a soft, high pitched voice, and tried to hug them, they would scream and run out of the classroom. They need to learn to let go and to tolerate a different  personality set.

In the zero-boss environment of SCI, everything gets scrutinized and I’m pretty sick of this shit. I get it. Kids are sensitive. But every occasion that something happens that makes them sad or hurts their emotions or whatever does not have to over-analyzed on replay and turned into an event.

My students are discovering ever more ridiculous reasons to cry in my class.

This week, a student cried because she won a prize and the prize was…batteries. This made her cry.

Are batteries a stupid gift? Of course! (that was kind of the point, it was meant to be a joke)

But is there something offensive about this? Did I trigger a horrible memory? Is this another one of those dreaded “cultural differences”?

Whatever the case, I was told never to mention the incident again.

Yesterday, a student starting crying because it was raining outside. I’m not kidding.

I want some positive feedback. I want the hear that kids are enjoying my class. Doesn’t their opinion count? Like seriously, I know it’s school and shit, but I let them watch videos. Listen to music (English-speaking music yes, but isn’t that special?). Draw pictures. Play games. Whatever.

I try to keep the classroom environment fun and eclectic whenever possible. Surely there is SOME student out of the hundred or so that I teach that doesn’t mind being there? I want to hear from them.

The bad students don’t get to control or motivate the class. That’s why they’re the bad students. I’ll help them try to be good students, but they shouldn’t have the pull here. One bad day at school shouldn’t be enough to get a kid out of the school.

And why is it that teachers never hear of these incidences on the day they happen? Oh yes, I remember. Cultural differences.

Where’s my watergun? Dakota needs to shoot his landlord with soju…a straight shot to the head.

100 Happy Things

A friend complained that my blog has been too unhappy and I’m a big meanie. So here are 100 warm and fuzzy things about my life on Jeju:

1. Ptolemny Barnes, teacher of English, has a new blog, “Another Expat Blog.” He’s a competent writer, I look forward to his material.

2. Dinosaur World Theme Park

3. I get paid every month.

4. Onya, my puppy dog.

5. A delicious chocolate shake at Gwakji Beach

6. A delicious mango shake at Gwakji Beach

7. My favorite student is named Sarah, she is a tiny little first grader who strains with effort to try and do the very best job possible, whether that is writing a sentence or doing a stupid word search puzzle. It’s nice to have students who want to excel for no other reason than the challenge has been presented to them by an adult.

8.  I am slowly advancing my position as a VIP customer at Bagdad’s Cafe. Not only am I designated as “little brother” by the Nepalese owner, but I also frequently receive free tea and mango lassi. Excellent.

9. There were at least five Korean men and women who wore their swimsuits, and not their business suits, at the beach today. Progress.

10. The herpes dick statue at loveland.

11. I believe there is at least 500 won just sort of lying around in every room in my flat. I could probably find enough money for a nice meal if I went hunting around for 20 minutes.

12. Soggy citizens from the southside visited Jeju city on Saturday night. This was very exciting.

13. Spicy ribs at 2 am.

14. I snuck into Jane’s Groove last night. This never happens. I think I waved my hand and was like “I’m with ‘those people'”, even though in context that didn’t really make sense, but I looked purposeful and so the bouncer let me in.

15. Showers. I still haven’t used up my “modern woman shower gel” that I received at the wedding I went to in April.

16. Sandwiches. I went to Quizno’s for the first time today. It was delicious. Not NY deli sandwich delicious, but Quizno’s delicious, which is delicious enough.

17. batman

18. the dragon puppet I found in a basket at work which I use to entertain kids when things get a little boring.

19. No school on Wednesday

20. I won 160,000 won playing poker by working really hard this week. Thanks, Mr. Song!

21. Mr. Song.

22. Stephanie Danielle got a new apartment. And she made into the blog. Promises kept. Be happy Stephanie.

23. I just killed a bug. One less in the world.

24. I bought a line for Onya so she can roam around the grounds of the flat when I’m at work but I don’t have to worry about her chasing me to the cab stand.

25. We are discussing MY work at the writing club tomorrow night. I get to leave my job and then hear people talking about ME for 45 minutes, I’m very excited.

26. Onya made new friends today.

27. Dakota has new friends today.

28. Speaking of which, Dakota got butchered into “Duncan” this week, I was at a social gathering and people started calling me Duncan. My name is not Duncan. My name is not even Dakota. But people calling me Duncan made me happy.

29. My blog is an international sensation.

30. My school, Scholars’ Choice International, is an international sensation.

31. Facebook scrabble

32. Timo Latour returns to Jeju yet again this week. He’s having dinner at Bagdad’s on Tuesday but he doesn’t know it yet.

33. I think i’m going to play squash this week.

34. Dinosaur World Theme Park again.

35. In 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the Nautilus is initially mistaken as being a narwhal.

36. Narwhals

37. The McKayla Maroney meme. The best one is a picture of her with Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi and the caption is “McKayla thinks the first Death Star explosion was cooler.”

38. Ruben Tejada

39. Fancy dress neourebang.

40. My landlord and I are “friends” again. Maybe we can go to the business club together, or if that’s too greasy maybe we can just have coffee sometime.

41. Onya is a chick magnet. This one’s not a surprise, but I should take more advantage of this. Onya will soon be accompanying me to more beaches, more parks, more Family Marts, more E-Marts, more casinos, more hotels, more more more.

42. The cute Korean/American barista who works at the Twosome Place across from my school is still here until the end of August.

43. I caught Onya reading the “Modern Arab-Israeli Reader” on my way to work yesterday. She was tearing the cover off, but this can only be evidence that she is a scholar.

44. I get to watch a bunch of videos tomorrow at school. Mondays are podcast days with the younger students and I found part of the “Adventures of Huck Finn” which I will show to my middle schoolers.

45. My job keeps me thousands and thousands of miles away from Paul Ryan, whose laughter sends chills up my spine.

46. The Mets still play baseball of reasonably professional caliber.

47. Sunshine

48. Butterflies

49. The laughter of children (except when Paul Ryan was a child, I’m sure it was terrible)

50. Dinosaurs

51. Snoop Lion

52. Gwakji Beach

53. My cowboy hat

54. I can read hangul now. The flirt bar across from La Vie is apparently called the “Tooshy Club,” Tooshy (or whatever the romanization is) means rabbit in Korean but it also means your bum so it’s very clever. I’m sure the Tooshy Club is only the most classy establishment ever.

55. More on the Tooshy Club…me and the boys (and Valeria who hangs out with boys) like to watch the “couples” come out and then go into the neourebang downstairs. That whole road is like a whorehouse resort: you have a flirt bar, a love motel, a neourebang where you can pay your hooker to tell you you have a great singing voice or whatever.

56. Onya has six nipples.

57. The purple couch in the lobby of the Tooshy Club. I wonder if there’s a cover charge to sit on the purple couch? One of these Trivia fridays I’m going to sit on the purple couch with my cowboy hat and sunglasses and just see what happens.

58. One of the last people to come out of the Tooshy Club was a man in a purple suit holding an umbrella…for a customer holding an umbrella. That is service, friends.

59. None of my bosses, current or former, have ever read this blog.

60. Matt Harris likes my blog.

61. At trivia night I got a question right-Hrothgar, the king that Beowulf serves. I earned my team one point.

62. The SOC omelette at Winnie’s Brunch. The S stands for spinach, the O stands for Onion, the C stands for…….cheese I think? Or croutons. But there are no croutons. Probably in all of Korea.

63. It’s not even midnight yet. This could be the first blog post I finish before 5 am.

64. Gangnam Style

65. Someone told me they like my dancing style. Excellent.

66. Dinosaur World Theme Park

67. I have identified what kind of teacher I am. I am a “facilitator.” My preference is to “inspire” my students and get the ball rolling, and then observe them from a distance, unless there’s a trainwreck, so that they discover and learn for themselves and not because someone is hovering over them.

68. I had always meant to write five nice things about Yale. I don’t think I ever got there, so I’ll use this time to write some. I am forever thankful for Mintak Kim for believing in my abilities and hiring me to be a teacher of English despite having no prior experience. Now I have experience!

69. I can tell people without lying that I was a part of the foreign language department at Yale.

70. Han prayed for me. I still don’t believe in the divinity of Jesus, but keep on praying, Han. It can’t hurt.

71. Yale was a convenient location next to a piano academy, a 7-11, and a place that sold kolguksu (or whatever the spelling is), the amazing protein-rich cold soybean soup. I still miss that soup. Someday soon perhaps.

72. I have fond memories of my Yale posse. It might be the only job I ever have where  I’m the only guy in the office. Unless I buy out the Tooshy Club. But that will be different. Also, there will have to be a man there holding an umbrella in case a fancy person needs two umbrellas.

73. discovered some candy in my refrigerator just now.

74. Onya one more time.

75. Dinosaur World Theme park

I don’t actually have 100 things  I can write about now, so the final 25 will be a very esoteric list of the Mets major league roster. Thanks for reading.

76. Josh Thole

77. Ike Davis

78. Daniel Murphy

79. Ruben Tejada

80. David Wright

81. Andres Torres

82. Scott Hairston

83. Ronny Cedeno

84. Mike Baxter

85. Rob Johnson

86. Justin Turner

87. Jose Rey…whoops

88. Johan Santana

89. Matt Harvey

90. RA Dickey

91. Francisco Rodriguez

92. Josh Edgin

93. Chris Young

94. Jeremy Hefner

95. Jon Niese

96. Jordany Valdespin

97. Bobby Parnell

98. Manny Acosta

99. I can’t remember the last two, but my poison ivy rash is finally going away.

100. I remembered one: Jon Rauch