Alarm Clocks are for Zombies

Next week is the last week of term and I expect I’ll have something to say about how close I am to the end of my time in Korea. But in the meantime, I still have another week. This week was less than ideal at work insofar as I had two combined classes, taught a class of third graders in a level I’ve never taught before, and had another class mostly as normal except in a random different classroom and which suddenly combined to double its size for the last half hour.

All in all, not huge burdens or anything but frustrating. A general theme I’ve noticed at my workplace (and which seems to be a common mindset in Korea) is to approach problems as if they only had one dimension. You choose what thing is the most important and you make that look the way you want without considering anything else. Which is frustrating because it means there are easier and simpler solutions that are overlooked. I get that this is for-profit education so money comes first. I hate it, but I understand. Sometimes, though, it’s just straightforward efficiency and time management issues.

Anyway, it’s my first full-time job and I’ve obviously joined the ranks of workers who think they know better than their bosses. Though I’m pretty sure I do, whatever.

On the plus side, though, I had a surprise day off on Wednesday which is always nice. I didn’t do much, surprise. I had a nice, brisk walk (it’s gotten pretty cold here) but nothing too arduous, just around town. I picked up some fancy groceries just because I could–pasta, cream sauce, and fig jam. Highly recommend. Mostly, I just lazed around and slowly went about a few household chores that I had been putting off. It was the right balance, enough to make me feel productive but little enough to let me feel rested.

Our topic today in my debate class was world government but I didn’t really like the lesson so, after doing obligatory lesson things, we had a debate on the proposition ‘War is always wrong.’ And my students (there were only four today) actually had some really good ideas. I helped provide them with some historical examples for both sides but they did quite a bit of work on their own, I was impressed with their maturity. These are mostly sixth graders. Though I did have to stiffle a laugh when, in their speech, a student talking about the US Civil War described slavery as “doing a lot of hard works, listening to bad words, and not being treated as human.”

Kind of funny but also I’m glad that they know enough about the world to say, without my prompting in any way, that slavery treated people as less than human.

You may recall that a few months ago I wrote about the mysterious alarm clock in my neighbor’s apartment that was on for like a day straight. Well, it was back again this week. Starting on Tuesday morning at 9:30 and ending sometime while I was at work, which means at least four and a half hours of beep-beep-beep. But at least it wasn’t overnight like last time.

My explanations then were murder and zombies, a brief recurrence later in the week seeming to suggest the latter. This week’s episode confirms the theory and, I think, zombies must just be heavy sleepers. Because there is no other possible explanation. Zombies.

Though honestly it doesn’t sit well with me that zombies have enough going on in their lives (unlives?) that they need to set alarms. No rest for the wicked, I guess. But are zombies really wicked, if it’s an infection that you can’t choose to get and then suddenly you have a need for brains?

I don’t know. These are the questions that occupy my time. At least I can say I’m together enough as a person, and have leisurely enough mornings, that I don’t use an alarm. In fact, the only alarm I hear in this building is the zombie’s alarm.

Take from that what you will.

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Doughnuts, Sweaters, and Being Together

So the super important news of the week is that the Paris Baguette across from work, which has been closed all month, is finally open again!! It’s been magically transformed into a Paris Baguette Café which means I’m not sure what. But it looks very fancy and shiny and new (but also mostly the same). Yesterday was the grand reopening and everything in the store was 20% off, obviously I bought everything in the store. It really was almost exactly the same but still. One new product I saw was blueberry doughnuts so I got one and it was delicious (though it kind of made me miss Tesco).

It was truly a hardship while it was closed. There’s another one ten or fifteen minutes down the street near my grocery store, but I only ever go there on Saturday, it’s such a burden.

Okay, that is all the first-world complaining I have for this week, promise.

I would like to share a really precious picture of Camaro who just wonders why life gotta do her like that.

Camaro2017-10-23

Work continues to be pretty generally fine. I covered one of the three hour sessions of the extra course I taught last term and, while the class itself was fine, it did renew my gratitude for being free from teaching that this term. We’re also having a little Halloween poster contest for the whole hagwon, a fun diversion for them instead of stressing over the test. Some of them are taking it very seriously which is always nice.

My students are pretty good, several of them are definite favorites. Teaching higher levels is a major plus for me and hopefully I’ll finish strong next term with similar classes (and I’d love to have a bunch of my students again). Next week is the level-up test which means there’s only one more month left in this term.

Sweater weather is finally here, too. A great relief after long-enduring days of too much heat. It hasn’t been hot hot for a while, and we long ago left the humidity behind, but it was getting pretty late for an actual start to fall. So I’m very much enjoying wearing all my sweaters again, giving them some fresh air after too long stowed away in the closet.

Not much else has been going on this week. Doing some reading. Doing a lot of waiting because I’m on hold at the library for like twenty thousand books and it’s taking forever. Also, I have not suddenly become fluent in Korean, I’m referring to the Pierce County Library which has on online lending system for Ebooks that I’ve been using.

Also, how crazy is it that Martin Luther nailed up his theses 500 years ago? Five hundred years of protest. Maybe next week I’ll have some thoughts about it, I didn’t realize that it was actually on 31 October, just sort of interesting because, like, Halloween and stuff. You know. Not feeling eloquent today, and feeling generally lazy, so that’s all I’ve got on that but there is plenty to be said, maybe next week.

I don’t have much to say this week in terms of discussion topics, but I did have a little moment of almost déjà vu. Did you ever see those Android commercials from several years ago? With the animals playing together? I do happen to use an Android phone but regardless of that I really love the slogan for that ad campaign: Be together, not the same.

That’s my closing thought for today.

Reading. Again.

Once more, this week has been chock full of intrigues, adventures, double-crosses, and unexpected (and all-too-expected) love. Except not at all. Except actually. My life, of course, is incredibly boring. But I’ve been reading distinctly more than my dose of adventure.

A small highlight from the week: for my upper class on Wednesday and Thursday (which is whatever, I’m also working Saturday but it’s a whole thing and I don’t want to go into it at this juncture) we learn a literary device each week and so we covered anadiplosis. Not a term I was familiar with but a technique that is relatively common. The thing where the end of the sentence is the beginning of the next.

This enabled us to watch a couple fun clips in class. First we had the emblematic “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Iconic. Yoda. I didn’t even try to explain the literary device of his speech patterns (which is called anastrophe). But it was fun. Even better was when we watched part of Galadriel’s intro to Fellowship of the Ring (“History became legend. Legend became myth.”) and the students wanted to watch more. That was a major plus.

Really not much else going on in my life. Next week is a holiday week for Chuseok, which is why this week’s schedule is strange and annoying. I will talk about Chuseok next week, though you’re welcome to look it up yourself too. We get pretty much no holidays off at my branch so having like three days is really something.

Anyway. I know I probably spend almost as much time thinking of bad metaphors for reading as actual time spent reading but whatever, I’m over it. My latest is this: some books twist the harp of my heartstrings into a cat’s cradle so taut it doesn’t even need to be plucked to sing.

So my heart has been singing of late.

I sometimes like to think of myself as a bit of a cold customer, not really icy but someone mysterious and aloof and imposing. Serene and self-sufficient and devil-may-care. I’m not sure why, but I’ve always sort of been enamored with that general vibe. People who know me know, obviously, that I rarely (except actually never) pull that off. I have all the emotions. So many emotions, sometimes, that I want to vomit to expel them all. Literal emotion vomit. The strange thing is, though, that I’m at my most vomity when I’m reading. Like, books are way more likely than people to threaten to pull my stomach out of my mouth. I’m not sure why books do this so often when life does it so rarely, but I guess I’ll take what I’m given and be grateful.

That may have gotten more strangely graphic than I intended but what can you do. Somehow we went from a beautiful metaphor about singing (you’ve gotta admit it’s a pretty good one) to vomiting emotions. Which is less beautiful.

Anyway. Books.

I know I talk about them all the time but what can I say. If the vomit metaphor doesn’t convey how they make me feel, then I don’t know what to tell you. Stories. Just, stories.

Gah. I’m descending into inane babbling because I simply cannot, like, ugh. Books, okay? Wow.

There’s something inexorable about it; it’s totally out of my control but I don’t think I would stop it if I could. Were it in my power to do so, I think I would refrain. As much as emotion-vomit makes for tightly wound living, I would not exchange it for vomit-free living. This, more than anything else, makes me grateful for my own literacy. What a gift it is that collections of small lines and curves can make me weep.

I haven’t even been reading anything particularly powerful recently, though I’ve been reading plenty. This is just a series of thoughts that have occurred to me over the past several weeks in which books have been playing pretty seriously with my emotions.

Best of luck to you all this week. Some weeks need more luck than others and maybe this is one of them for you. You can do it.

In Which My Love Affair with Books Continues Unabated

Can I just start this post by mentioning that time, a number of years ago now, that I learned adults can get zits too. Like, you’ll never truly be rid of them unless you’re very lucky. I don’t have acne or anything, but even occasional zits are just beyond the pale.

The first week of autumn term is nearly finished. I’m back to teaching the same courses as my first term, but I’m teaching higher levels and one of them is substantially different. However, I’m only teaching two levels! A major improvement over last term, and I’m still very grateful for it. I like my classes, generally. I’ve taught nearly half of them before which means I guess I’m practically an old hand (at least in terms of foreign teachers here). They made me move classrooms, which is a shame as I’d been in 102 for the entire six months. But now I’m in 207, the last room at the end of the poorly-lit hall upstairs. It has its perks but I’m still getting used to it.

Not much else to report. I had Wednesday off, the first in a long time, and I made good use of it. I went to brunch with some friends and then wandered around. We visited a new cat café since the one we normally go to has been closed recently (hopefully not forever). There were no games to be had, but there were many more cats and of many varieties. It wasn’t long before we had given many of them names: Foxy Grey and Foxy Tan, Bedraggle, Cloud Baby and Cloud Baby 2, Big Face, Friend, and Tuxy. We passed a very enjoyable hour or two among the cats before heading briefly to an arcade and then home.

It felt like a long day but I got home at 6:30 and it was amazing. Plenty of time to read.

I know I talk kind of a lot about books. But it’s kind of how I live my life and I’m not sorry about it. I’ve been into several in the past couple weeks; not the same fervor from a while ago, but I’ve made my way through a number of them. One, that I started on Sunday night and finished less than twelve hours later, got me all sorts of feeling.

Some books are like that. They reach into you and start dancing around in your skin, singing songs you didn’t think you knew and stretching muscles you could’ve sworn you didn’t have. It doesn’t much matter whether the book is any good, or if you’re interested in the plot, or if you like the characters. Sometimes all it takes is a couple pages and wham bam it’s all over you have the book sickness.

I had that, a little, this week, and I’m grateful for it.

 

Schnitzel with Noodles

Very little has happened this week, as is often the case in my life. But there is one small adventure that I would like to share with you. Adventure is perhaps a strong word because it was actually just dinner but whatever, let me have this win.

Anyway. Wednesday. We all finished at seven (because our Wednesday schedules are highly variable and generally incomprehensible). And I (yes I!) took the initiative to ask a couple coworkers if they had dinner plans. And so it happened that we decided to go to a special restaurant that they had pointed out to me before but which I had not yet eaten at. It was called Castle Praha.

If you’re in the know, then you would of course expect Czech food, as Praha is Prague in Czech. And you would be 100% correct. The building is actually designed a bit like a castle and the inside is close and stone and lovely, festooned with banners and shields and traditional, if a trifle creepy, puppet-doll things. The atmosphere was absolutely fabulous, I loved it the moment I entered. Part of it, I’m sure, was just feeling a bit of European which I have been so lacking for so long. But also it was just great.

There were four of us, later joined by a fifth, and so we ordered a few things to share amongst us. A sausage plate, pasta, and Wiener schnitzel (and so it came to pass that I consumed schnitzel with noodles even though the schnitzel was served with potato). It was really good. Nothing super crazy outstanding, but definitely quality and very much satisfying, but my appetite and an urge for classic European cuisine which I didn’t really know I’d been harboring.

I wanted to get the goulash but the others weren’t keen. It was kind of a let down, but I’ll be the first to admit that Hungarian goulash is much better than its Czech counterpart, a position with which my companions agreed. And what we got was more than adequate.

After dinner settled, we went for a very Korean passtime by visiting an arcade. And by arcade, I kind of mean what Americans would typically think of, but also a little different. The screen shooting or driving or whatever games, but also an entire floor dedicated to those crane pick-up-a-prize things and a variety of other things too. It’s a really major thing here for young people (like middle school through like twenty-somethings and even older). They’re pretty common. I wasn’t wild into it but was successfully coerced into a couple rounds of Mario Kart.

After that, all that remained was to go across the street for some soft serve ice cream and a leisurely walk home through an intermittent sprinkle. The evening was reasonably cool and, since we set off at seven, I got home with still an hour to spare before bed (because I generally take my bedtime very seriously). I had a lovely time.

On another note, today was the second to last day of my awful nine hour schedule so I’m pumped about that. Tuesday will be the last. And then the term is so close to being over! We have no break in between terms, but I’m ready for new classes and just to start over. I do prefer this term’s material to last/next but it is what it is.

That’s all for this week. One of my students today used Lenin as an example of character vs. society conflict, and I was so happy that he was paying attention for once that I made no comment on his choice of example (he tried Stalin first and I wasn’t buying it). So I hope you’re all fighting the good fight, eating Hungarian goulash, and bagging that plush Squirtle. In other words, hope you’re having a great week. Until next time.

About Time

Importantly, I finally went to a cat cafe and it was amazing. Just being in the presence of a large number of cats…. it was a dream. They were all very soft, pretty friendly, and just in every possible sense a sight for sore eyes. I went with a couple friends to the one they liked, having found it much better than the others in our area. We just sat and chatted and played several rounds of Clue (because the cafe was well-stocked with board games). Though I am loathe to use hashtags for pretty much any reason, the manifold interactions of our game and the kitties inspired me to once use #catsofclue. It was an awesome way to while away the hours of Sunday afternoon.

I would post pictures, but I didn’t really take many and all I took were just on Snapchat. Mostly, I just enjoyed the atmosphere and lived in the moment. Hope you have a few cat moments to live in this week.

On Saturday, I had finally been roped into doing a service project with church. I had been avoiding it for no particular reason. In high school I did a lot of community service stuff but haven’t been that active since and it’s been kind of weird. I was generally dreading the work on Saturday but when I got there it was so good. It was basically a soup kitchen sort of deal and I didn’t even have to interact with people much. I was upstairs washing the enormous cooking dishes in the shower room. I got to know some cool people and even went out to lunch with them afterwards which, you may know, is really saying something.

It felt good to actually be doing something for other people rather than just spouting my nonsense on here about helping people and doing hard things. The project is only once a month but I definitely intend to go until I leave Korea. It was just so easy, even in the very, very hot heat and very, very humid humidity. If I can’t spare a few hours once a month then I would be a very different person than I’d like to think myself.

So it’s summer break and, naturally, I have an extra extra class (having already been teaching an extra one all term). I recognize that there are plenty of worse situations out there for summer school stuff but I will not let that fact detract from my desire to complain, not in the slightest. Allow me to explain what my schedule will look like for the next couple weeks.

On Mondays and Fridays I will go to work at 2:30 (actually, that’s when I must be there, I will certainly be there before then) and teach from 3-10. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I will arrive at 12:30 (again, I will actually be arriving before then) and teach from 1-10. On Wednesdays, blessedly, I will arrive at 2:30 (probs actually right around then) and teach 4-7.

There are breaks; between three hour classes we get a fifteen minute break and a five minute break every hour (though we aren’t meant to leave our classrooms during the short breaks, so they’re only kind of breaks).

Today was my first day of that, about a ten-hour day with the last nine spent actually teaching classes. Less than ideal. But livable. I’m not psyched to do it again on Tuesday, which is also my birthday. But whatever, can’t win ’em all.

You have two different kinds of work outlined, then. One for pay which is draining and one for free which is enlivening. I won’t deny a touch of hypocrisy in preaching service, but I’m working on it.

Not to be served, but to serve. Good luck to us all.

One Hundred Things That Have Happened in the Past One Hundred Weeks

  1. I moved to Korea.
  2. I read Pictures of Hollis Woods and The Graveyard Book for class and enjoyed both.
  3. Britain decided to leave the EU.
  4. I lived in a house that was perpetually cold and had no heating.
  5. I got a Kakao and a Line account for work. Kakao is much better.
  6. I developed a deep and abiding love for Tesco.
  7. I felt at home in a place that was not my home (more than once but not often).
  8. I visited my sister and checked off two more US states (AZ and NM).
  9. I learned that LG originally stood for Lucky Goldstar not Life is Good.
  10. I watched Inside Out and thought it was alright.
  11. I consumed gochujang in many forms and still don’t like it.
  12. I received this picture of my cat. Bubba2017-6-29
  13. I learned how to use screen mirroring because I do it in class every day.
  14. I despaired of finding real cheese in Korea.
  15. I found some real cheese in Korea, but only on one particular dish.
  16. I learned Hangul.
  17. I started playing D&D again (virtually) and it’s great.
  18. I felt lonely (more than once).
  19. I ate some tangerine named after Hallasan (the tallest mountain in South Korea).
  20. I killed a rosemary plant and nearly a mint but the mint is still hanging on. Barely.
  21. I washed a quilty-thing when I probably should have had it dry cleaned but it’s fine.
  22. I visited Antwerp.
  23. I read The Count of Monte Cristo.
  24. I tried aged kimchi for the first time. Better than regular, but still gross.
  25. I moved to Ireland.
  26. I got over not having a dryer.
  27. I learned more Konglish than Korean.
  28. I moved into an apartment that is always hot but has AC.
  29. I went to Jeju. IMG_20170621_105549827
  30. I graduated with an MPhil from Trinity College Dublin.
  31. I took a trip on a single line of the Seoul metro that was almost two hours one way.
  32. I visited Amsterdam.
  33. I had a Belgian waffle (with Nutella) in Belgium. Exceeded expectations.
  34. I started saying ‘grand’ all the time because the Irish do.
  35. I worked in retail at midnight on Black Friday (but not directly with customers).
  36. I had ox bone soup. It was delicious.
  37. I tried and failed to figure out how to turn down the temperature of a toilet seat.
  38. I learned that Ohio is the only US state that shares no letters with the word mackerel.
  39. Donald Trump was elected president.
  40. I read A Man Called Ove and am still emotional about it.
  41. I got over not having a key but still sometimes check my back pocket for one.
  42. I found out who BTS was and kind of wish I hadn’t.
  43. I became a teacher.
  44. I climbed Ansan multiple times.
  45. I reread Stargirl for the umpteenth time and still enjoyed it.
  46. I found an English-speaking church in Seoul that I like.
  47. I received this picture of my other cat. Camaro2017-6-29
  48. I got Snapchat. I mostly don’t regret it.
  49. I learned about gene doping because I had to teach a lesson on it.
  50. Three members of my family visited me in Korea for a week.
  51. I felt embarrassed (more than once–often).
  52. I read the Chaos Walking trilogy and very much enjoyed it.
  53. I made many new friends.
  54. I grew to hate air pollution personally rather than in the abstract.
  55. I told my French cat joke to more than one native French speaker.
  56. I watched The Bourne Legacy and wasn’t impressed but was entertained.
  57. I planted basil and it’s doing well.
  58. I went to many museums in Seoul and learned a lot about Korean history.
  59. I turned 22.
  60. I ate small octopus (different from squid and normal octopus) for the first time.
  61. I got used to waking up at 2:30 in the morning.
  62. As soon as I was able, I stopped waking up at 2:30 in the morning.
  63. I watched Man of Steel. It was decent.
  64. I saw a few of the original Dol Harubang (stone grandfather) statues on Jeju. IMG_20170622_120728388_HDR
  65. I managed to live without a microwave or an oven (so far).
  66. I visited Oslo.
  67. I tried Pokemon Go but gave up because I don’t have data here.
  68. I learned how to pay bills at a 7-11.
  69. I possessed more money at one time than I have ever done.
  70. I successfully completed a dissertation. Or thesis. Still not certain what it’s called.
  71. Macron became President of France.
  72. I walked almost two miles in the rain at night during winter because I am stubborn.
  73. I worked retail on Christmas Eve morning (but thankfully not Christmas).
  74. I started to give a slight bow instinctively in certain situations.
  75. FARC signed a peace deal with the Colombian government.
  76. I visited the Hoh Rainforest.
  77. I had a lovely visit with a friend who had a twelve hour layover in Seoul.
  78. I felt proud of my accomplishments (more than once).
  79. I climbed a (dead) volcanic crater in the pouring rain. IMG_20170620_152819588
  80. I got a smartphone for the first time.
  81. I got another, better smartphone.
  82. I became a multimillionaire after only two paychecks.
  83. I came out.
  84. I was in Dublin for Irish elections to the Dáil.
  85. I was in Seoul for a presidential election.
  86. I visited Gyeongbokgung Palace. IMG_20170619_092830670
  87. Rio de Janeiro hosted the Summer Olympics.
  88. I became increasingly sensitive to and aware of nationalism.
  89. My sister visited me in Ireland.
  90. I did not visit the DMZ because of a mix up but was promised a trip at a future date.
  91. I had to drive to Seattle three times in one week and it made me sad.
  92. I bought a mask because spring air pollution in Seoul was killer (it hasn’t improved much).
  93. I bought a leafy green which turned out to be spinach still attached to the root.
  94. I saw many beautiful cherry blossoms.
  95. I read the Farseer Trilogy and thought it was good not great.
  96. I existed in closer proximity to more humans than I ever had before.
  97. I received this picture of my sister’s cat. Beegashii2017-6-29
  98. I visited Paris Baguette for the first time.
  99. I learned a lot about the Sami.
  100. I started a blog and here we are.