Caveat: gota a gota

  ME ESTOY RIENDO
Un guijarro, uno solo, el más bajo de todos,
controla
a todo el médano aciago y faraónico.
El aire adquiere tensión de recuerdo y de anhelo,
y bajo el sol se calla
hasta exigir el cuello a las pirámides.
Sed. Hidratada melancolía de la tribu errabunda,
gota
a
gota,
del siglo al minuto.
Son tres Treses paralelos,
barbados de barba inmemorial,
en marcha    3    3    3
Es el tiempo este anuncio de gran zapatería,
es el tiempo, que marcha descalzo
de la muerte             hacia           la muerte.
- César Vallejo (poeta peruano, 1892-1938)

Confieso que no entiendo muy bien este poema. Probablemente me atrajó sólo por su clara temática de muerte.

[daily log: walking, 5.5 km]

Caveat: Starbucks Planet

There was an interesting article over at The Atlantic the other day, pointing to someone who was mapping global cities based on their Starbucks locations. Seoul, apparently, has more Starbuckses than any other city – even New York or, um, Seattle. I like these compartive "same scale," simplified maps of urban areas, for some reason. It's interesting to see the contrasts in density, for example: e.g. the circle for Seoul metro represents 25 million and the circle for, say, Portland represents 1.5 million. 

Starbucks_520

I am not necessarily a huge fan of Starbucks, but I'm not one to put it down, either – I don't view it as an "evil corporation" or any such thing. Does the fact that I have Starbucks stock in my IRA (what's left of it, post cancer liquidation) perhaps bias me?

What I'm listening to right now.

Flaming Lips, "Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell."

[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: 방귀쟁이 며느리

There is a Korean folktale called The Farting Lady (방귀쟁이 며느리). It's pretty well-known, apparently, though I hadn't heard of it before. There are some English discussions of it here and here.

The series of "roleplay" books we're using for our Stars-level (younger elementary) students, called A*List, includes a lot of interesting stories, and our recent talent show ("verbal contest") last Friday included pretty-well-done musical adaptations of Simba and the Tigers, The Wedding Mice, and this Korean folktale, The Farting Lady.

Frankly, I cannot imagine a better topic for a musical performance for first and second graders than a folktale about a farting lady. The kids thought it was fun, although their too-serious demeanor during the performance in the video below somewhat belies that – that's the pressure of the final show, I guess.

I think it's interesting that the likelihood of such a drama being performed in a US institution seems to me rather low – unless I'm misjudging my own culture – given the peculiar puritanism in US education that might be wary of frankly addressing the topic of a farting lady.

Preparing for the performance was a little bit difficult, because my Betelgeuse class has been shrinking and currently only has 2 students. So with seven roles in the story, we had to be creative and not really do it as a full-fledged dramatic performance, making it instead more of a dramatized reading with singing. I think they did an excellent job at the talent show, and the judges (some parents) did too – they got 3rd prize. 

Here is the video of their performance, with Ken and me as MCs beforehand.

Here are some sample pages from the materials provided by the publisher of the roleplays, called A-List. It is one the best ESL curriculum publishers in Korea my personal opinion – their product is high quality and pedagogically sound.

A-List The Farting Lady page-001_240 A-List The Farting Lady page-009_240

A-List The Farting Lady page-019_240 A-List The Farting Lady page-025_240

[daily log: walking, 5 km] 

Caveat: Pervasive Corruption

Yesterday (Wednesday), I had a brief discussion, via Kakao chat, with my friend Peter over the nature of the recent spate of deadly "accidents" and disasters that seem to be befalling South Korea. There was the ferry boat sinking last month, there was the fire at the bus terminal on Monday here in Goyang, and yesterday another fire at a nursing home or something. There were some subway crashes, too, last month. 

The public sentiment seems to be that there is a big problem with corruption as being an underlying cause or correlate of the neglect of public safety in these events. I pondered this after our brief chat, because I decided it might make an interesting debate topic.

I did something I haven't done much, so far, but I consider it to be the ultimate objective of my debate teaching: I went from "chosen topic" to actual debate in a single class period. At the start of class, I explained the topic, which immediately grabbed the kids attention because it was topical. I then crafted a proposition on the fly, which was something like this: "The recent spate of disasters in Korea (ferry sinking, fires, etc) indicates a problem of pervasive corruption."

We brainstormed some as to what would be some PRO and CON reasons, and I ran to my desk for a moment, went online, and found a recent and older editorial from the Korean English-language press on the topic of corruption, which I printed out. We did not read these exhaustively – rather, I presented the materials as a sort of instant research resource. Then we assigned sides and I said, "OK, 20 minutes." After the kids had prepared their ideas, we had our debate.

Normally the class has four students, which is perfect for debate – 2 to each side. However, one student was absent, so I stepped in and took a position in the line-up. When I do this, I handicap myself by denying myself the opportunity to adequately prepare – I have to speak completely off-the-cuff. As such, I would say my 2 speeches are less well organized than those of my students, even if they are, obviously, of higher quality in terms of referentiality and nativeness of the English. 

So here's the debate. I think these students did really well with short notice and a difficult topic. Even though I'd told my friend Peter I thought there was, indeed, corruption, notice that I'm taking the CON side of the debate below, with my student James, against the girls Jisoo and Andrea.

Caveat: Visit from a former student

Just this instant, coming back from my last class of a very busy day (Wednesday is currently my busiest schedule), a former middle school student was visiting – he's 11th grade now and he seems vaguely "broken" – in the broken-spirited way that high school students so often seem. 

I felt a little bit sad – and he was feeling sad for me having heard about my cancer. So we commiserated, briefly. I think that Korean students often project that "broken" feeling – it's similar to soldiers in the midst of boot camp, maybe. 

Well, anyway. It's nice to see former students.

[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: every where is Fun Fun Fun Fun Fun Fun Fun Fun Fun and Die Die Die Die Die Die Die Die Die Die

I have a student named Clara – a third grade elementary student. She's quite smart and charming and has a better focus than most 3rd graders when she wants to. But she also is a bit morbid and strange sometimes – a kind of proto-goth-girl, personality-wise.

She will say these unexpectedly morbid things, sometimes. I was going through some drawings we did in class last month, cleaning out a folder on my desk, and found this picture. It seems innocent enough, until you study the caption ("every where is Fun Fun Fun Fun Fun Fun Fun Fun Fun and Die Die Die Die Die Die Die Die Die Die") and try to puzzle out any kind of meaning at all to the sequence of symbols at the bottom. It strikes me as a kind of accidental surrealism, and I was compelled to an outburst of apophenia in reaction, as is intended in surrealism, I suppose.

Claras_surrealism_3363

[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: Baekseok Burning

Apparently there was a giant fire at the Goyang City Bus Terminal earlier today. Seven people died. It's weird when disaster strikes somewhere that is intimately familiar to you – you think: I could have been there

Homeplus_burning

The bus terminal building has a HomePlus store in it – it's a few subway stops away from here.


What I'm listening to right now.

Depeche Mode, "Never Let Me Down." 

[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: Nightmares and Mist

I had diffuse but unpleasant nightmares this morning waking up. I do not actually have nightmares that often, but these dreams had me convinced I was dying or having some kind of paralytic attack in my bed, and I could not escape. As a result, I felt unrested and eerie all day, and the strange misty weather added to the atmospherics, making for a grim mood. I tried to escape by playing simcity, which I havent played in ages, but I ended up angry at the game. Heh.

Caveat: Verbal Aftermath

The "verbal contest" was a successful event, with the main failing being that, since we failed to a full start-to-finish dress rehearsal we underestimated how long it would go – which is always the case with such things, I suppose. 

I was co-MC. Ken was the Korean-speaking MC while I was the English-speaking MC. So not only was there the job of preparing the students for their many various speeches, songs, roleplays and debates, but also there was the matter of being on the ball and saying the right introduction at the right time. 

Anyway, I think it went pretty well. Certainly, the parents were for the most part pleased with it and we got some positive feedback. 

I did not take any video or pictures, because I was in it, up on stage most of the time. I'm hoping that next week I can get copies of the video files that Curt and Razel made and post some pictures or videos from it. Meanwhile, I can only discuss it.

My efforts to have the kids have a less-than-fully-scripted debate for my "Newton  반" classes was pretty disappointing. Razel had more success with just working out a scripted debate and making the kids memorize their appointed roles in the PRO or CON teams. I still remain committed to avoiding fully scripting debates, however.

The best successes were the Noraebang-style (karaoke) song-and-dance to pop songs – those are always entertaining and Irene did a great job working out some clever little choreographies for them. The little ones from the Phonics and Stars classes were the absolute best in my opinion – they did such a great job memorizing and putting on their little shows – which were actually pretty long. Maybe next time we should combine these classes into and do a single larger production. 

I will make a separate entry about the play my two lonesome "Betelgeuse 반" kids did. It's culturally interesting, too. I'll leave that in suspense until I can get some video of it. 

It was hard because I was so tired – I have been more tired than usual, I think, because Spring is fading into Summer, and because I'm eating so poorly (which is my own fault, I guess, but, as Ken commented recently, "Eating really is just a chore for you now, isn't it?" and I had to agree). Anyway I guess I did OK.

We went out for "meat" hoe-sik (회식) after. So I was out late after work and then ended up going to bed at almost 1 am. That is a problem because Saturday morning I actually have to wake up early and teach in the morning, rather than the week-day afternoon and evening schedule. 

That's my journal for the KarmaPlus 2014 annual talent show "verbal contest."

[daily log: walking, 5.5 km]

Caveat: Practice Practice Practice

This Friday, we are doing an annual talent show at KarmaPlus, for the elementary kids… except that they think it's bad to call it a talent show, which I guess is a term that has some negative or at the least insufficiently academic connotations for a presumeably rigorous after-school English academy. So it's being called a "verbal contest" – which personally I think sounds much dumber. But whatever.

We are doing a lot of practicing. All the time. Extra classes and extra hours. Basically the last week or so I have had zero downtime or break at work.

So I've been very busy last week and this week. Hopefully we'll have a good result on Friday. I'll try to post some video or result when it's over.

[daily log: walking, 5.5 km]

Caveat: 내가 중이 되니 고기가 천하다

This is an aphorism from my aphorism book.

내가 중이 되니 고기가 천하다
nae·ga jung·i doe·ni go·gi·ga cheon·ha·da
I-SUBJ monk become-SO meat-SUBJ be-plenty

I become a monk and meat is everywhere.

If you need it, it is rare, if you don't need it, it is everywhere. Monks don't eat meat, so once you become a monk, suddenly there is meat everywhere, whereas normally in Korean society, until very recently, meat was uncommon.

Last night my coworkers went out for meat for hoe-sik. I chose not to go, because I was very tired and because it was late and because eating meat didn't sound very appetizing – I wanted something soft and neutral.

Noodles.

Shall I become a monk?

[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: Teacher’s Day Ironies Reconsidered

Hallabong_rollYesterday, on Sunday, I was thinking about Teacher's day again, because I was trying to eat one of the gifts I had been given. Most of the sweets the students gave me, I regifted to others, but this "Hallabong roll cake" that Minseo gave me I kept and tried to eat because I have a sentimental attachment to this orange-flavored roll cake, because in 2007 I'm pretty sure it was this kind of roll cake that was the very first thing I ate in Korea, given to me as a housewarming gift by my new employer at that time.

Hallbong_box_400The name Hallabong is a reference to Jeju Island, famous for its mandarin oranges and hence various orange-flavored things. It was hard to eat the cake. I probably shouldn't have tried to eat it – it ends up being dry and difficult and I have to wash it down with coffee or something.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Saturday, however, I received a note from a student in commemoration of Teacher's day, too. It was a touching note.

Habins_letter_520

At first, I thought maybe she had been inspired to write the letter by something her father said about my recent grumpiness – because it just so happens that her father is a teacher here at Karma . Pete is a teacher with whom I have had my difficulties in the past (difficulties which I commemorated, perhaps coincidentally, in a blog entry for Teacher's day, 2008) but who is no problem now – probably mostly because we don't interact much because he is a high school teacher, which I don't teach.

Alligators_at_work2_380After asking both him and Habin about about, it, however, I'm pretty sure it was her own idea, and not influenced by any parental promptings.

Regardless, it was an uplifting note to receive from a student. It helps me feel less glum about teaching.

She mentions my character drawings, so I will conclude with some recent snapshots of some whiteboard characters here.

 

Alligators_at_work1_280

 

[daily log: walking, 5.5 km]

Caveat: My favorite tree

Ilsan_redwoods1_300They are not native to Ilsan, but they are planted everywhere: Chinese "dawn redwoods." They create their own little eco-niche wherever they cluster. They are both exotic yet familiar to me, given my own upbringing amid the the redwoods of northern California. At left is a picture taken along a path to and from work among the high-rise apartment blocks.

 

[daily log: walking, 3km]

Caveat: a natural part of life

Sometimes it takes a friend to give us back our own wisdom and allow us to see it. My friend Mark, with whom I only have the most fleeting contact most of the time but who is nevertheless still one of my closest friends, wrote this email to me earlier today.

I saw your blog and decided to send a note.  I know we all have down times.  You probably have had some in Korea, but I have been impressed at how much you have enjoyed the entire experience, and how worldly you are compared to me.  I think bad times are a natural part of life.  And then something happens and it turns around.  I certainly believe in the ability of people to just decide to be happy.  I've done that.  But the time has to be right.  I guess people need to wallow in their sadness for a while first or something.  

Take these words as your inspiration, you may recognize them:

I have made the realization that happiness is not a mental state. It is not something that is given to you, or that you find, or that you can lose, or that can be taken from you. Happiness is something that you do. And like most things that you do, it is volitional. You can choose to do happiness, or not. You have complete freedom with respect to the matter. 

Hope you have a great day, and know that we love you.

He quotes the thing I wrote some years ago and had sitting here at the left side of this here blog thingy. 


What I'm listening to right now.

The Arch, "Let It Beat Us."

[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: Teacher’s Day Ironies

Today is the day Koreans call 스승의날 [seuseunguinal], "Teacher's Day." There was even a googledoodle dedicated to it.

Googledoodle_teachersday485

 

I received some gifts from a few students – all food… which is, arguably, a bittersweet type of gift at best given my difficulties eating.

And… I guess it's all ironic since I've been feeling like I'm decaying into a bad teacher.

The thing that has me most disturbed is that I seem to be experiencing some kind of cognitive dysfunction – I'm forgetting things a LOT, and I'm losing my flair for keeping organized. This is impacting the quality of my teaching substantially – the other day I gave the wrong lesson to a class – and Korean teenagers being Korean teenagers, the kids said nothing for almost 20 minutes – perhaps puzzled what was going on, perhaps finding it mildly entertaining, or I-don't-know-what.

I've always had something of the "absent-minded professor" in me, but this is not sustainable, and it's the primary reason I say (as I said in this blog the other day) that I don't enjoy teaching anymore – because I feel like I'm getting bad at it.

I'm constantly forgetting things, repeating myself, losing my place, worrying that I'm making a fool of myself in front of my students. The hypochondriac in me fears some kind of creeping new disability, either consequent to the radiation, for example (it's possible – cognitive difficulty is a listed possible side effect), or else some other unrelated thing (e.g. proto senility or alzheimers, etc).

[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: but not that much

DESPAIR IS NOT THE END OF THE WORLD

Despair is not the end of the world
We go on in all our hopelessness
and all our frustration and all our pain
We go on-
Because what alternative
Do we have really?
Death is not a happy option
And loneliness at this stage
Even worse pain-
Tolerance is now the holy word
Forbearance Patience
Stoic quiet –
Despair is not the end of the world
But it’s not lovely either
We go on thinking maybe some day some how
It will be better
It will-
But not that much.

– Shalom Freedman (American-Israeli poet, b 1942)

[daily log: walking, 5 km]