It’s back to school time here in Korea and that means back to normalcy for teachers at private academies like mine. The summer break (mid-July to the end of August) is a time of chaos as the tight schedules the children keep become jumbled. Piano lessons, computer class, Math, Science, Art, Tae Kwon Do…most kids maintain a grueling pace during the school year. With the summer break, all the extra-curriculars become jumbled. At many small private academies it becomes impossible to maintain a schedule with leveled classes…you might have 5th year English students in the classroom with beginners. Thankfully, during this period I was given a lot of leeway in lesson planning. I was usually able to find material that was both interesting to the older students and accessible to the less experienced. However, I have nearly used up my giant bottle of Advil.
I don’t think I ever really discover anything new… I am only abruptly reminded of something which I had already learned the hard way.
When I got on the elevator last night at 1:30 AM (I don’t usually come home that early but I had to work the next day) I was assaulted by a horrible smell. “My god…” I said, waving my hands around my face to swat away invisible swarms, the kind which in my experience always attend such a stench. When the elevator opened on my floor my knees buckled. Now I live on the eleventh floor of a twelve story apartment complex and if I could smell it on the first floor…
I am probably way too excited about this but for anyone who loves food porn as much as I do it is a dream come true for Anthony Bourdain to make a stop in Korea. I only have access through YouTube so I am posting the links to the five parts below. He, as usual, captures the essence of the culture with great cinematic flair. Enjoy!
Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?gl=US&v=y-9SOq_QgsQ
Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDrH6bBCbHA
Part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gxXatYZXrfo&feature=related
Part 4: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TOs6Qf58OP4&feature=related
We got up early this Saturday to meet some friends for a hike up and over Geumgang from Beomosa. Prior to this I had been going up the cable car and hiking from there so I was a little apprehensive but my condition throughout the day was good and my endurance was actually kind of surprising.
This is a pretty crummy picture but what it represents is a bit of a milestone for me. Since I had the surgery my condition has improved dramatically and Yujin and I went on a long walk with mild exertion on Saturday and a long hike with serious exertion on Sunday (up the cable car and over and down the other side and back up to Seokbulsa, the temple carved in stone) and neither time did I suffer even mild symptoms. It wasn’t very hot though, which is the true test. It was great to be able to get out and do some hiking.
Why, in a country where an umbrella can be purchased for W5000 ($3.50), is it so hard to find a good pair of cheap sunglasses? I lose (or break) sunglasses at a rate which precludes purchasing an expensive pair. The ones I see at HomePlus and the like are cheap, but they are priced at W30,000 and up. Someone somewhere is getting rich off sunglasses. The same goes for watches. The plain analog Casio’s I see everywhere being sold for W70,000 are in the dollar store at home. I am also frustrated by the price and selection of clothing my size (biggish). I am still wearing what is left of the wardrobe I brought with me a year ago. It is wearing thin. An uncapped pen and a rainy struggle over a taxi claimed two shirts. Most of my t-shirts have lost their former shape as a result of the humidity and the clothes line. The situation is becoming somewhat critical.
As you know I have tried in this blog to be upbeat and to accentuate the positive aspects of this experience. That may be why I haven’t written in a while.
My tenure at KidsClub had been difficult from the beginning. There were many reasons for this, some of them my fault, some of them not. Long story short, I have moved on. After a bit of soul-searching I decided to try again in a better school and, putting to use the hard-won lessons I have learned, make a fresh start. After a few stressful weeks I found a new job with a new apartment, both of them much, much better than what I had before. One of my problems with the previous place was that they required so much administrative work that there was little time to do anything else. In my new job I go to work, teach, and go home. It is wonderful. I have signed on for another year and it is my intention to come home for a week around Thanksgiving.
It has been 10 months now and the earth has gone far enough in its circuit around the sun that the city is starting to throw recollections at me, fleeting memories of my first days here. The slant of the sun, still up now at the end of the work day, the outdoor revelry on weekend nights, the smells erupting from the open-fronted grills, and even the feeling of warm sand under my feet, these things all recall to me in brief moments the initial thrill of being for the first time in a place, then to me, utterly foreign.