Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Oh Korea, how silly thou art!


This one is a bit messy. Non linear thoughts collidingat every turn!
(by kyle)

Among “Westerners” there is an undeniable stereotype of Asian men. In no particular order, it goes something like this;
1. Good at math.
2. Short, slanted eyes, and red face when drinking.
3. Slightly weak but a hard worker.
4. Sometimes rude with horrendous table manners.
5. Veraciously loyal.
6. Likes sushi.
Deny it all you want but we have all heard it and everyone who has been with an Asian friend long enough will agree with at least some part of this list. The thing I have come to realize in my time here in Korea is that when one gets too caught up in looking for the stereotypes, you can’t help but find them and 9 times out of 10 it completely blinds you from seeing the value in a person and their culture.

On the other hand, to say that I am some high and mighty, well seasoned citizen of the World who doesn’t see people as Caricatures of their cultures would simply be un-true. For all of my “open-mindedness” I am constantly struggling trying not to fit the people I work with into tidy little boxes of ignorant and simplistic generalization. Life is far more painless for the brainless.

For the record, this is not one of those moments were I berate all the ignoramuses out there or make some pathetic plea for a pardon for my transgressions. I will simply tell you my thoughts and let you all judge me for what they are. I may end up apologizing for them but at the moment I see no reason too. Perhaps someone can lead me to see the error of my ways. In other words, this is a rant.

Koreans are freakin robots! They will mindlessly follow orders to the bitter degradation of their own personal well being! They will do exactly as they are told to without question until someone points out just how ridiculous the request was. The root cause of this as far as I can tell is that anyone who raises an objection is ostracized, excommunicated, publicly humiliated or simply forced to quit and if they don’t, Hell’s fury knows no wrath! By the way, this is not exclusive to Korean men. Korean’s are equal opportunists when it comes to exploiting the cultural norms of their society. One simply does not question, does not talk back and certainly doesn’t say the dreaded N O word.

Ok, so not all of them are in this sinking boat any more. There’s a growing chunk of the population in Korea that have seen what this attitude does to people but it lingers on. I have a feeling that until the old farts in Korea finally kick the bucket, the fart cloud will continue to float around every office, just waiting to ambush its next victim.

Even now, the younger Koreans are starting to wake up to the fact that it doesn’t matter how old they are, if a douche is being a douche, everyone reserves the right to put him in his place. Take the Ajishi (Korean old man) on the subway for example;
Too many times I have seen some old geezer drunkenly stumble onto the subway and push his way to the “old farts” section. Along the way, he may yell at anyone younger than him for whatever reason, he may grope whoever he pleases so long as it isn’t for too long and the only people who can stop him from doing any of this are the Ajimas, (the Korean Old Ladies) of who there always seems to be too few of when the Ajishis come around.

BUT! Many of the new generation of Korea are standing up to these belligerent, drunken buttwipes. Some even feel compelled to tell them it’s not ok to treat people like crap. If a group of foreigners are speaking a language you can’t understand, that doesn’t mean you can yell “YAAAAA! You too loud!” and get away with it. If a couple teenagers find a joke funny, they have every right to laugh at it without someone telling them they’re “stupid wastes of their father’s semen.” Creative, but uncalled for! It’s NOT ok is to drink your ass off, stumble onto the subway at 2 in the afternoon and presume that because you are the oldest person in the subway car you can say whatever the hell you please, touch whoever you want to touch wherever you want to touch them and be shocked when someone talks back, slaps you, or tosses your ass out at the next stop!

So that’s changing, but then there’s the whole other matter of the workplace. For example, when you’re boss is telling you that you either put in more time, share your apartment with another co-worker, take less pay than you deserve, and teach more hours than you’ve been teaching and not complain or quit. Most people think that’s a bit Fed up, Koreans included. But the response I always hear is, “this is just how it is in Korea.” Here’s what I’d like to say;
Oh, this is how it’s done in Korea? Oh I see. Well as long as it’s tolerated by everyone else, I suppose you should go along with it too. I mean, maybe if you ALL said something about it… oh ya, that would mean you would actually have to SAY you don’t like it to someone “higher” than you. Freakin grow a pair Korea! For your own damn sake!

But then I remember that for every job in Korea, there are 50 other people applying and no one, my Korean teachers included, has any hope of standing up to the threat of “don’t like it? Then quit!” What’s a Korean to do when there’s just too many of them around? I wish I had an answer. Sigh….ok, rant is over. As you were, nothing to see here.

Happy birthday Kyle!

 Kyle was born on March 27th, 1984. I love Kyle's birthday- almost more than I love mine, and that's saying something because everyone knows how much I love attention. I love Kyle's birthday because without it, I wouldn't have my simply amazing husband.  We'd been discussing what to do as a celebration of Kyle's birthday, and had come up with few creative ideas.  The Monday before his birthday (the following Sunday) Kyle walks into the office and announces "We are a going paintballin for my birthday, and all you folks better sign up or else your fired!"  I wasn't actually at the meeting, but I assume it went something  like that knowing Kyle.

Saturday, was the day of the game, and all in all, we had ten people signed up for the celebration.  The two Irish girls keep threatening to shoot themselves in the foot so they could just surrender and not actually risk being shot.  My assurances did nothing to console their fears. On the subway on our way to the paintball match, a Korean vendor woman, selling decorative sweat band thingies, I don't really know what to call them, made a killing on the ten silly foreigners who decided that in order to play paintball, they needed to decorate their head appropriately.   We dressed up in camo, and were given helmets with ear coverings- a big improvement from the last time we played in Korea.  Half of the fun was taking pictures in our ridiculous outfits. The game itself was adrenaline filled, and a bit painful.

Kyle, on the left, pretending not to be a soft teddy bear.

Our group

Being silly
If you recall my last post about our paintball match last year, my husband shot me 7 times, however, the bruises were nothing in comparison to what I received this year, and once again, I have grounds on which to blame him for at least two of those broken blood vessels.  From the sidelines, the people who had either run out of amo, or had been shot out of the game, called out suggestions for those still in the game.  Often times, I didn't take a shot for the first half of the game, partially conserving my amo, and partially afraid to get shot if I looked around a corner. Kyle, who had run out of amo, instructed me to move to the next barrack as from where he stood, I was clear to do so.  I had seen someone shooting on the left of me, but he had a better vantage point and I thought maybe they had gotten out.  As it turns out however, Kyle was wrong very wrong indeed. As soon as I began running towards the location he specified, I was shot by not one gunner but several, and one from close distance.  I was shot five times within a span of three seconds.  It was painful, not as painful as a real bullet, but enough to throb the rest of the day.  Another bruise, however that I cannot blame on my husband was the one on my shin. I slammed into a stump with said shin on my run and slide behind a barrack as I tried in earnest not to be shot. It was as painful as a close-range paintball, if not worse, I have to say. 
Here is a picture of my thigh on the first evening after the game. You can see a white dot in the middle of the red circle.  I'm not sure why that is, but  all of my bruises from the bullets had the same marking.
this is that same bruise several days later.

Yet another bruise on my knee.  My other knee has a matching bruise.
On Kyle's actual birthday, we made breakfast tacos from scratch and then I used up every dish in the house to make him a sweet potato cake using a recipe, I got from my bff, Leslie, who LOVES sweet potato in every form or fashion.  It is similar to a carrot cake but with more sweet potato flavorings.  It was yummy.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Bake: 40 minutes
Yield: Makes 2 dozen


  • 1  cup  coarsely chopped pecans
  • 2  cups  sugar
  • 1  cup  butter, softened
  • 4  large eggs
  • 1  (16-oz.) can mashed sweet potatoes
  • 2/3  cup  orange juice
  • 1  teaspoon  vanilla extract
  • 3  cups  all-purpose flour
  • 1  teaspoon  baking powder
  • 1  teaspoon  ground cinnamon
  • 1/2  teaspoon  baking soda
  • 1/2  teaspoon  ground nutmeg
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • Cream Cheese Frosting
  • Garnish: coarsely chopped pecans


1. Place pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan.
2. Bake at 350° for 8 to 10 minutes or until toasted, stirring once after 4 minutes.
3. Beat sugar and butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition.
4. Whisk together mashed sweet potatoes, orange juice, and vanilla extract. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with sweet potato mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition. Fold in toasted pecans. Place foil baking cups in muffin pans, and coat with vegetable cooking spray; spoon batter into cups, filling two-thirds full.
5. Bake at 350° for 28 to 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean. Remove immediately from pans, and cool 50 minutes to 1 hour or until completely cool. Spread cupcakes evenly with Cream Cheese Frosting. Garnish, if desired.
Southern Living, NOVEMBER 2007

Monday, March 28, 2011

Making pizza the Korean way

As I have mentioned in the past.  Friday in preschool is "theme day." This past theme class was cooking- cooking pizza.  Except this was no ordinary pizza- oh no, this was special Korean pizza.

How does one cook Korean pizza?
1. get bread- most likely plain white bread
2. put tomato sauce on this bread
3. spread mashed sweet potatoes.  Yes, I did say sweet potatoes and yes I am aware that we are making pizza.  Remember, this is Korean pizza.
4. sprinkle onions and bell peppers which are called paprika in this country.  I don't know why.
5. cover in fake soy cheese which tastes like plastic.
6. place in oven and watch cook.
Honestly I was surprised that there was no corn.  There is never a pizza in Korea without corn. Even cheese pizza has corn on it because obviously you didn't mean "just" cheese.

So how did our pizza making day go?  It was a trial of patience, that is for sure.  First of all the kids had to have their cute aprons on, because you must be dressed for every occasion.
And then came the problem of the counters being incredibly high.  We had to find chairs that the kiddies could stand on so that they could make their pizza.  Often times when they were given the job of spreading something, they actually knocked off the toppings so that they were no longer on the pizza but on the pan, but really that was to be expected.
How did the pizza turn out?  I'm personally not a fan.  Maybe that makes me a pizza snob, and if so, then so be it. But the kids had fun, and that was the point.
In their cute aprons.

this has to be my favorite picture of the day.  look at Jerrome's face!

eating the pizza

they think it is yummy.

and so does my Korean co-teacher.  It is Korean pizza after all!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Something's gotta give

Some of you out there might be looking at this statement and saying, "Well, yeah, I told you so." While others of  you might have no idea what I'm talking about.  If you've been following my blog, or our lives you might know by now that I have piled on quite a task load this year.  I made some quite New Year Resolutions, and then I made them public, partially in an effort to keep myself accountable, and partially to make them real goals as opposed to secret goals.  Keeping goals a secret can be useful for instance if your planning a surprise party or are planning on surprise attacking an enemy with water balloons, but when it comes to goal making, in general, telling people helps to consummate those goals into a reality.  The goals I made for myself this year were 1) study for the GRE 2) run a half marathon and 3) finish writing my personal project.  And as is typical in my family, I think it must be genitics, when one of us gets excited about something, we typically have to jump into the pool immediately.  No need bothering with nicities such as learning how to swim, or changing clothes from a sweater to a bathing suite, nope, those things just are barriers to getting to that finish line the fastest.  We get excited, what can I say.  And persistence is a blessing and a curse, depending on who you ask.  Ask my husband that question and he may answer you the later, as he sees my persistence in a different light- aka: annoying  and pestering. Regardless, that is exactly what happened this year.  I got really excited about attaining my goals, and instead of weighing them, and deciding which to begin first, I just dove right into the icy cold pond, and started swimming carrying all three behind me.  There were rocks in the way which I swam around, and blocks of ice with jagged edges, but until I came across the huge polar bear (bear with me on this metaphor, I know its kind of silly) I kept on swimming.  (On a side note, not in a million years would I dive into an icy pond, that is unless someone I loved was drowning, but even then I would probably think twice.  The cold and me, we aren't on great terms) 
What am I saying?  What I'm saying is, that while on the subway, studying the 260 page math section, and calculating how slowly I've made progress, inchworm style, I decided that it was time to let something go. The previous day, we had finished our fifth week of training for the half marathon and had just completed the 7 mile run (or what I hope is seven miles as there isn't really any way to measure the paths we run).  Considering that we run up this one particular hill with an incline made by Lucifer himself which looks like a straight 90 degree rise and I can never actually finish running up it, but have to stop and walk some of the way, it took us about an hour and thirty minutes plus a few.  Studying our schedule, and calculating the amount of time we would continue to have to devote to the training I realized that I had to prioritize and as much as it pained me, I was going to have to postpone the half marathon.  I decided that the half marathon could wait as the deadline for the GRE test was in June before it changes formats and becomes an entirely new test, one that I haven't studied for.  Previously, I discussed whether I should take the new version or the current version and it was recommended to me by advisers that the current one was a known factor while the new version would make guinea pigs of all it's takers.  Therefore the GRE test has a set deadline, where as there is a half marathon in Seoul EVERY WEEKEND, I kid you not.  If I wanted to run in a race every weekend of the year, I could find one here.  You'd never know if you weren't in the runners circle however, as I never see Koreans running, at least outside.  So there you have it, my confession. A part of me feels like a failure for putting the race off, a pansy, but the other part of me, the logical part that isn't such a bully, explains to me in a even toned voice that it was the right move for my/our future.  I'm thankful for Kyle for being so understanding. He's been fantastic at helping to support me in these endeavors (except for posting on the blog as of late) and I can't thank him enough.

P.s. ya'll might send Kyle an email or a shout out as his birthday is this coming Sunday.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Keeping Japan in mind

It's surprising how little information I hear about Japan considering our  close proximity, but the only news I hear is from the US news I watch in the morning.  Japan not only suffered from a devastatingly enormous earthquake but also a tsunami and now the threat of a nuclear fall out. In light of all of this catastrophe, I thought I would bring you some humor via Japan.  Korea, like Japan enjoys VERY silly humor, but in all honesty Japan does a better than does Korea.  They entertain their masses in the form of silly game shows. And here are two classic examples.  The first one is a game show in which the goal is fr the contestants is to try and eat marshmallows while being held back by contraptions which distort their face.  The second show is a group of men who play games in a library and must remain quite while having to do tasks that one might see on the "fear factor."  Both are hilarious. Enjoy the pleasures of Japanese culture, while you keep the people within the country in your prayers and thoughts.
Japanese show

Japanese silent library

Thursday, March 17, 2011

White day

March 14th is white day here in both Korea and Japan.  What is white day? It's a further continuation of Valentines day.  You see, Korea doesn't think Valentines goes far enough.  One day to celebrate "LOVE" is insufficient.  Therefore, it is necessary to have not one extra day, but two extra days; white day and black day.  In Korea, Valentines day isn't exactly the same as inside the USA.  In the US, a typical couple might buy chocolates, flowers, expensive presents and go out on a date.  In Korea, girls are supposed to give their boyfriends chocolates on Valentines, and it is common to rent (for only a few hours) a love motel.  We have discussed love motels in past posts.  They affectionately were bestowed with this name for their almost sole purpose of "encouraging love" that might not otherwise happen as almost all unmarried individuals live with their parents until their marriage. Dates also occur, but it's not like in the US where every romantic restaurant is laden with doe eyed love birds.  March 14th, white day,  is essentially the other half of Valentines.  It's the day when the boyfriend gives his girlfriend a present- typically just candy- although that trend is changing.  Black day on the other hand is April 14- singles day. This could be considered a national revenge of the unromantized population.  Single friends celebrate their singledom and freedom by going out to dinner to partake in a black sauce and noodle dish.  Some might claim that it is to celebrate the love of friends, but in reality, no one in Korea ever wants to be single, at least the ladies.
Kyle and I meant to do something for Valentines day, but we didn't get around to it this year. So for white day, we made a lentil meatloaf- I will include a recipe at the bottom, and had a double date with another couple who lives in our building.  It was lovely.  Going out on dates takes a LOT of effort in a foreign country so it's nice to have other couples around to double date with.

Here is the recipe:

We made some changes however-
two eggs instead of one
We added real garlic, mushrooms, and kidney beans
only 1/3 cup oats as ours weren't quick cooking.
And Viola- delicious meal- even the carnivores agreed!

Really Good Vegetarian Meatloaf (Really!)

By SaraFish on July 11, 2002
Photo by Veggie Girl Kacey
260 Reviews
  • timer
  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Total Time: 1 1/2 hrs
  • Servings: 4-6

About This Recipe

"High in fiber and protein, low in fat, easy and really yummy! I've always think meatloaf looks and smells so delicious and savory so, as a vegetarian, I decided to make a no-meat version! This is basically our favorite meatloaf recipe but with cooked mashed lentils instead of ground meat. The result is a very tasty dinner!"


    • 2 cups water
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1 cup lentils
    • 1 small onions, diced
    • 1 cup quick-cooking oats
    • 3/4 cup grated cheese ( cheddar, swiss, jack or american)
    • 1 eggs, beaten
    • 4 1/2 ounces spaghetti sauce ( or 4.5 ounces tomato sauce)
    • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
    • 1 teaspoon dried basil
    • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
    • 1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper


  1. Add salt to water and boil in a saucepan.
  2. Add lentils and simmer covered 25-30 minutes, until lentils are soft and most of water is evaporated.
  3. Remove from fire.
  4. Drain and partially mash lentils.
  5. Scrape into mixing bowl and allow to cool slightly.
  6. Stir in onion, oats and cheese until mixed.
  7. Add egg, tomato sauce, garlic, basil, parsley, seasoning salt and pepper.
  8. Mix well.

Directions (cont.)

  1. Spoon into loaf pan that has been generously sprayed with Pam (non-stick cooking spray) or well-greased.
  2. Smooth top with back of spoon.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees for 30- 45 minutes until top of loaf is dry, firm and golden brown.
  4. Cool in pan on rack for about 10 minutes.
  5. Run a sharp knife around edges of pan then turn out loaf onto serving platter.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Preschool pics

Top (the boy in the picture)  hates art class. Most children love coloring, Top just finds it tiring.  Holding a coloring pencil and using ii is entirely too much work.  This strawberry was actually drawn by my co-teacher.
The students have Chinese class once a week.  They can now say "hello" in three languages :)
Friday afternoons are "special classes" . Last Friday was "health check." We checked their eyes, height and weight.  Two of the boys refused.
You can see my lovely house shoes here :)
We're trying to learn our colors. Its slow going.
Darling Elise really loves art class.  Isn't her picture lovely.
Richard- the angry cryer is at the top of the slide. This slide is the favorite activity of the kids.
This activity involves matching things of the same color.
Aram is the little girl who loves to wave and smile.  She is adorable.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

My first week in preschool

I've officially moved to the dark side, or the light side depending on how you view working in the preschool. Last year, when I was asked to substitute I was extremely hesitant.  Cleaning up messes, wiping faces, dealing with "he hit me" all day long and not having interactions with the other teachers throughout the day didn't seem very appealing.  However all of that changed once I began my temporary service.  The children with their hugs, smiles, enthusiasm and love boggled my mind.  I loved walking into a classroom where the students were thrilled to see me, and weren't afraid to express their enthusiasm in the form of a full body hug. Seeing the daily growth in their language abilities was incredibly encouraging as an educator.  At the end of my time with my class, I was terribly sad to say our fretful good-byes. We'd become attached.  I told the preschool director that when I returned I would consider a position in preschool depending on the class size, and prep time alloted. Last year I taught the (korean age) 7 year class, children who had been learning English already for at least one year.  This year, however, I was placed (by choice) with the (korean age) 5 year old class. Mind you these children have had minuscule to zero exposure to English. Some of my students, although  officially in the five year old class, in western age have not even reached 3 years of age.

I had been warned about the fitful crying tantrums of the first two weeks of school. Luckily however, we did not have the track record of the previous year, but we did not escape the crying episodes. Jerom was the first to break "Oma, Oma, Oma" he wailed, "mommy, mommy, mommy."  Try as I might to console his tears, my round eyes and unfamiliar features only served to frighten him further.  The art teacher, an older woman seemed to be the only cure for his blues.  She cradled him like a baby and cooed him into a limboed state somewhere between wails and zombie-like acceptance (as long as she was nearby).  The next child to follow in the steps of his mommy-missing predecessors was Richard.  But instead of yelping for his mother, he screamed in a hot tempered fashion breathing at the rate of a fire-breathing dragon in a marathon race.  His red-rimmed eyes illuminated the image of his uncontrollable temper.  He pointed his finger at me, and told me, in not such a kind voice, to go away when I attempted to distract him with toys. He stomped the ground, and threw himself down at the mercy of the floor.  He was plain and simply furious with us.  How could we keep him here against his will away from his mom, toys and home. His tempered raged for hours, once again only consoled by teacher Sunny, the art teacher, who he eventually referred to as grandmother.

We are now finishing our first week together, and the kids and I are slowly getting used to one another.  But it has been difficult and will continue to challenge all of us.  For one thing, we do not understand one another.  They constantly walk up to me and ask me questions.  I try to pick out familiar words, but even their Korean is baby talk, and the Korean teacher, in order to understand, has to ask them to repeat often.  Most of the time, I just follow them and see where they take me.  Sometimes they take me to the bathroom, and sometimes to the water fountain.  Other times they take me to the slide and explain something to me that I cannot understand. "Cindy?" (my Korean co-teacher) I look around lost for what to do.

When they begin to cry, I have no idea what they need or want.  They try as hard as they can to get me to understand, but I never do. This afternoon, little Elise grabbed my hand and tried to explain something about the slide. She pointed at Ester. Ester walked up to her and yelled something in her face.  This was then followed by open mouthed crying and flailing on the floor on Esters behalf.  I pat Esters back and then went in search of Cindy.

I have been video taping some moments of our first week together, and although I am significantly slower this year in editing video footage, I am looking forward to sharing some of our moments together and the adorable children I will spend the next year teaching English.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Pottery Festival from JULY 2010

I found this video I made months ago. Yes, months ago, like as in July of last year.  And I forgot to show it to you.  I certainly don't spend hours of my time filming and editing these videos just for my entertainment.  Our county for some reason paid for us to go on this incredibly unorganized, but rather fun trip to a pottery festival.  Had I paid for it, I might have been a little put off by the lack of organization, but as it was free, I was able to go with the flow. I plan to show you pictures that never made it to the blog either soon with more explanation for what you will see in the video.  Click here to see the video in Youtube.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Teaching the mentally challenged part 2

The second day, I walked into the facility with a little more hop in my swagger.  I had done this once before, it wasn't a cinch, but it hadn't killed me either.  In my bag of goodies, I brought with me two sets of cards, one regular set and one alphabet goldfish, plus Jinga.  We were going to have fun today, I was determined. My first class looked simple enough- it only had 4 students.  One of the four students however was in a wheelchair and was, as far as I could tell, nearly a vegetable. She had drool coming down her mouth and her hands were both curled against her chest.  Another student had the close set eyes of a boy with down syndrom, and he smiled brightly at me. The other two students, a young boy and a 12 year old girl looked "pretty normal" on the outside at least. I smiled inwardly.  This was going to go well, I thought to myself.  I couldn't have been more wrong.

I started with numbers. I wrote out 1 through 10 on the board, and pointed to the numbers and had the students repeat.  The Korean teacher, who hadn't been able to speak English left the room.  The students had been behaving up until this point repeating each number as I said it.  The young boy, who appeared normal from the onset, bounded from his seat grabbed the eraser and began to erase the numbers I was trying to teach them. Once I had wrangled the eraser from his grasp however, he used his palm as an eraser.  He then grabbed a marker and began writing his own message of scribbles on the board.  Once I had effectively taken away all of the markers and both sweetly and firmly requested that he return to his seat, in a language he couldn't understand, he began to run around the room, pulling open cabinets, and pulling things out of their place.

Meanwhile I'm chasing him like a mother hen trying to round up her distraught chick, except that this chick is mentally unstable, can't understand a thing I'm saying  and is enjoying this game of 'make the teacher run around like a crazed chicken.'

Another teacher walked into the room, one this time who can speak some English, and he immediately sits. And I, near hysterics, grasped onto the table for support and attempted to continue the lesson.  I lay cards out onto the table 2 through 10.  I demonstrate putting them in order.  We don't have a 'one' card, so it starts with two, and "what comes next?"  They look at me blankly. I choose three and place it next to the two.  Once we're at six, they get the hang of it, I think.  They at least understand that I'm asking them to choose cards.  The boy who nearly threw me over the edge at the beginning of class removes his slobbery hand from his mouth and touches card 10. "Ten" I say, "good try, but not that one." I move the cards further from him so that he doesn't get his slober on school cards.  After we went through the game twice, I determined that not one of them actually can count.  However, during this game and throughout the duration of my time in the class, the girl in the wheelchair cries.  She doesn't just cry really but wail.  She wails like a newborn baby who has just woken up from her nap and wants her mom.  Big fat tear drops stream down her face.  The Korean teachers wipes the tears from her face and simply says, "she cries everyday." He walks her around the room, but it doesn't really console her.  The other students are plainly not even phased by this, and ignore the piercing sound.
Next we play Jinga.  However, we have more success building the jinga tower than actually playing the game, because although the girl is totally engrossed in jinga, and would actually like the play, both boys, when it comes to their turns just knock it down purposefully.  The girl looked grief-stricken with each blow, and yelled at each boy in turn to behave in front of the foreigner.

After 35 minutes, I move to the next class. I walk in, with my nerve endings a little seared, and see a 40 something year old, deaf, mentally retarded woman, and a lady whose age is unknown to me since I never saw her face throughout the entire class. She had her face flat on the table, and by the end of the lesson, I actually forgot that she was a person in the class.  She just felt like a piece of furniture.  The deaf woman was very interactive and in fact she was a bit simpler to communicate with than other students as she doesn't speak Korean, she only signs simple signs. She was smart, in that she picked up on things quickly, but not smart as what one would consider for an adult.

Her name for me was the sign for beautiful, the hand moving around the face and the sign for the teacher I was subbing for was the finger going down the nose of the bridge and following the tip to the mouth to indicate that he had a large nose.  She loved learning the alphabet and tracing the letters in the air.  The girl from my previous class came to join us, and we played a lovely game of "go fish," a game that Koreans don't play typically.  The Korean teacher in the room, didn't know the rules of the game so I had to explain them to her as well. By the end of the game, everyone had laid their cards on the table so that everyone around the table could see their cards, but it didn't occur to either student that we could cheat since we could plainly see their cards.  I didn't cheat, well, in a way I did, because I cheated so that they would win hands, but in the end, I still won.  We actually had a very lovely time in that class, which balanced my class from earlier thankfully.

After wards, because it was the last day the principal of the school invited us to have a cup of tea- barley tea- I find it's flavor appalling.  I lifted the cup to my lips and pretended to drink out of politeness.  He spoke for a while in Korean, I don't know what he said, most of it wasn't translated, but what was translated was that he wanted to know if we had any suggestions for his school.  I wanted to ask why such capable students were placed in classes with completely incapable students, but in asking us for suggestions, he wasn't really asking for advice, it was just a polite Korean thing to do, one that I don't understand.  I'm not sure if we were supposed to give him a compliment at that time or what the polite appropriate response should have been, but no one really responded.  It was actually an awkward moment, at least for the foreigners, but maybe not for the Korean staff.  I asked them about it after wards, but I didn't get a clear answer as to what it was all about. Sometimes cultural behaviors are difficult to translate into words.

I wouldn't go so far to say that the experience was life changing, but it certainly wasn't an experience I will not easily forget.  My appreciation, and reverence of those who care for these people has certainly increased ten fold.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

YEV is on the You Tubes!!!

Well guys, at long last our Village has finally made a promotional video that truly captures the absurdity, craziness, creativity and in some cases the brilliance of our lives here. It's cheesy, it's corny and at some points it's flat out lying but man does it look good! Enjoy and tell us what you think!