You have failed and now you must Daegu!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Well. I finally did it. I've just visited and returned from Fukuoka, Japan. I was terrified it wasn't going to happen and I would end up hiding out in Daegu for Chuseok(Korean Thanksgiving, only they celebrate for 5 days). I even had to visit the immigration office to change my visa status(I wanted to be able to come back). I know, curses are for pussies and losers, but I went out of my way not to talk about my plans for Chuseok. Every time I say, "Hey maybe I should go to Japan this weekend," it ends up falling through for some reason or another.

No more.

Su-Jin and I spent four glorious days in Fukuoka.

Funniest moment: The Japanese assumed Su-Jin was Japanese. Everyone tried to speak Japanese to her. Welcome to my world.

Cutest moment: Su-Jin and I had to stand in the same line for immigration. We were BOTH foreigners for a weekend.

Most annoying moment: Getting lost in downtown Fukuoka. Fukuoka is very clean, but not very well laid out. We had a terrible time finding restaurants. We did find a KILLER Indian restaurant on the first night. Awesome nan.

Scariest moment: Traveling on the ferry in choppy water. I was convinced we were going to capsize.

Frustrating moment: I picked a large, expensive hotel because usually the staff at large, expensive hotels speaks English. Not the case at the JAL Sea Hawk Resort. No one could speak English. No one. You know what this means. Kate failed Japan. I hold my sister accountable for this. You were their teacher, it's YOUR fault that Japan's English sucks. Also, Fukuoka people have terrible accents. For some reason they speak through their noses. Pinch your nose and say "Sumimasen." That is what a Fukuoka person sounds like. The location was actually kind of cool. We were right next to the beach, the massive baseball stadium and HawksTown mall. Nice area, but a little boring at night.

Also, for some reason they included the internet for free on the TV in every room. The only problem was that the remote was impossible to use. Thanks, but no thanks.

We did find a five or six story comic book store. That was a lot of fun, but little to no English.

That's really what struck me the most about Fukuoka. No one could speak English. Daegu is MUCH better for foreigners than Fukuoka. I remember Tokyo having many employees willing to try English. Seoul is even better for English. For some reason, Fukuoka just doesn't have any. I couldn't imagine being a person who didn't speak Japanese or English in Fukuoka. You couldn't do anything. I think Daegu even has more foreigners than Fukuoka. Strange.

The trip was about what I expected. I had fun. Su-Jin had fun. I think we both needed a break from Korea, but I'm happy to be back in colorful Daegu. I found myself missing my job and my coworkers more than anything. That's strange to type.

Best j0ke of the weekend goes to me. No one spoke Korean, so we had the bright idea to smile and say bad words in Korean. We didn't do it, but it would crack up both Su-Jin and I.

Worst piece of bad news. Glico has stopped making Pretz in honey butter flavor. The replaced honey butter with soy turd flavor. I was crushed....until I found bacon flavored ramen.

Fukuoka City grade: C
Hotel grade: D, nice room, expensive restaurants and a large non-English speaking staff.
Shopping grade: A plus. We found everything we wanted. I didn't buy any cool toys or anything, most were WAAAAAY out of my price range.
Restaurant grade: C, good restaurants, but everything closed too damn early. I'm used to eating dinner at midnight in Korea. Restaurants were closing around 10 o'clock in Japan.
Overall vacation grade: B, it was nice to take a break and relax for a few days.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

If ever a country could be summed up in one picture....

I'm going on vacation in three days. I can't say where because every time I mention the place I can't mention, I end up not going. Yes, I know curses and jinxes are for pussies, losers and cubs fans, but I really want to rest for a couple days.

Work has been good. I have a new challenge. Avoid my vice principal at all costs. If he catches me, he tries to rope me into practicing his English. I have more important things to do with my time believe it or not. Like, I don't know, prepare a lesson that the kids might enjoy? I don't really want to help him practice his hellos and good-byes.

Apparently, last nights' adult class was fun. Whatever.

My classes have been canceled for the last two Wednesdays because of field trips. I still have to come to work, but I'm not expected to do anything. I finally know what its like to be Gork.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Okay, work has officially begun. Is it a grind like my Academy job? No, its not. Is it painfully easy? No, its not. The two jobs are actually fairly similar, despite the larger groups. I have more toys to play with here. I'm allowed to actually prepare a lesson, instead of doing what the Kim's tell me to do.

The kids appear to not hate me. My coworkers appear to not hate me. I think I'm also helping to spread a positive image of foreigners in this country. Or maybe just in my neighborhood. Either way, I've got them convinced that I'm a hardworker who cares about doing his job. I'm always prepared for class(so far) and I try to keep the lessons interesting. We'll see how long this lasts.

I had my first "teacher training class," or as I call it, "English for those who didn't pay attention at Hagwon," today. This was the first time I was nervous about a class since my first TOEFL class last December. I had to teach 20 of my coworkers with the headmaster in the front row. Yeah, I was intimidated. Did I flinch? Hell no. I'd rather them think I'm a prick than a crap teacher(even though I am, but they don't need to know that). The class went reasonably well. I did my best. I was more worried that the other teachers would think I was rude than anything else. Korean is different from English. The polite form of speaking in English isn't as noticable and I think Koreans can be offended by this. Either way, everyone spoke in English and said thank you at the end. I considered it a success. We'll see what happens tomorrow during round 2. Low level(?) class today, high level tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

My first class at public school is completed. I had to work with the little ones. Twice a week I will have to teach a first or second grade class. The rest of the time I will be fighting monsters in the 5th and 6th grade. These kids are painfully cute. We're going to be doing a lot of alphabet review in this class. I hope they'll be able to say "hello," before Christmas.

So far, so good at Wa Ryung Elementary School. Everyone is very kind and as helpful as they can be. The food even agrees with me for the most part.

The kids here are full of energy and treat me like a rock star. Every time I walk past a classroom they scream.

I have my visa, finally. No jail time or deportation...this week. Normally I'd use this space to rip whoever it was that gave me a hard time in the first place, but not today. I have my visa and I won't have to deal with anyone from DMOE for a while, hopefully.

I has not stopped raining for two weeks.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Like I said. I didn't care for most of the people I was caged with. About half were couples that had little interest in talking to a guy like me. The other half were your typical mix of perverts, weasels and drunks that come to Korea.

I'm going to spend the next year figuring out which category I fall into. Pervert, weasel or drunk.

I willingly hung out with about four of these guys on a regular basis. I had to stay out of my room because I was stuck with an obnoxious religious nutcase and I wanted as little to do with him as possible, so I moved my base of operations down one door.

The rooms were set up so that one person who had been to Korea would look after three guys who had never been to Korea. I had little interest in babysitting, so after the first night I bailed on everyone and just spent time hanging out with people that I didn't mind sharing the same oxygen with.

First up is Larry, aka Jake, aka Shaky, aka The Shake. He's an older Canadien guy, who's a strange dude with a genuinely kind heart. He spent most of the trip busting my chops and farting on people.

Next is Ron, aka RonRon, aka Sporky. He's fresh out of college and is one of the friendliest guys I've met. He also has the healthiest appetite I've ever seen. I could barely finish a plate of food in Pohang, but he could go for seconds and thirds.

Then, theres' Fraser. He looks and talks exactly like Shrek. Well, if Shrek would drink a couple bottles of soju and smoke a dozen cigarettes. He's Scottish and proud of it.

There were two English guys that would also hang out with us. Simon, aka English and Nick aka English Nick. Both like to drink and have wicked senses of humor. Simon is one of the most tolerant people I've ever met.

Hanging out with these guys made my week in hell not seem so bad.

My week in hell is over.

I am back among the living in Colorful Daegu.

I have never been happier to be in Daegu than I am right now. By the end of Hell Week, I missed Daegu ALMOST as much as I missed Chicago. Read that last sentence again.

I started harmlessly enough, but by the end I was as ready to kill other human beings as I have ever been.

The living accomodations were fairly uncomfortable(no beds, only mats on the hardest floor I have ever slept on). Most of the people were douchebags(Some were not. More on this when I have more time). The food sucked. I know Korean food fairly well. I like Korean food when it is well prepared. I hate bad Korean food. Hate it. There were at least two mornings that I did not want to eat. For breakfast, I want bread, juice, coffee and maybe an egg or two. In Pohang, we got kimchi, rice and a weak soup. No coffee. I can't believe I lasted as long as I did. If they didn't sell beer and soju I would have killed someone.

I foolishly chose to take out my frustrations on whichever guest speaker happened to irritate me and one of my "roommates." One guest speaker actually told us that "The Korean teachers will not be trained in coteaching and they might not want to work with you." Wait a second. Why are we being trained while the Korean teachers are not? I realize western logic does not apply, but why would Koreans pass up the chance to add some more bureaucracy? Either way, I grilled the speaker on this and he didn't answer my question. I had to keep asking about it. Finally, I told him that this lecture was fairly depressing. He apologized for frightening me. My response, " I didn't say that." His response, "I'm sorry for making you upset." My response, "I didn't say that either." He was frightened. I high-fived my buddies after.

Then, I was informed that I could not use my vacation days during the winter holidays? Wha-What? I can use them when the schools are on vacation, so I can go home, just not for Christmas. This was not explained at all. I understood that I would have 7 vacation days each semester to use as a I choose. Not the case. I wanted "Elisha" to explain this. The first words out of her mouth were, "Didn't you read your contract?" Wrong answer. I brought the pain. Dewoskin-style. No yelling, just persistent questions.

I met the principal's and teachers that I will be working with in Daegu on Friday. They are the most instantly kind people I have ever met. In other words, the anti-"Elisha." I really can't wait to start here. They were all impressed that I could speak even a little Korean. I think I will be perfectly happy here.

I don't have a phone line yet, so calls cannot be made until next week.

I still don't have my visa. More on that in a few days. I want to see how ridiculous this situation will get before I comment.