Sunday, December 11, 2011

Current State of Mind...

I came to a realization the other day. It's not really all that revolutionary or earth-shaking, but I feel like it's a pretty accurate barometric reading of my mental state lately.

I realized there were two songs on my iPod that were receiving more play-time than the others. I just kept repeating them over and over, alternating which song I was listening to depending on how I was feeling at the moment.

The two songs? Iridescent by Linkin Park and Al Fin Me Armé de Valor by Reyli Barba. I've started putting playlists together based on these songs, but I wanted to discuss why I was listening to these two so much.

Iridescent comes from Linkin Park's most recent album, A Thousand Suns. It's a surprising album, differing from the Rock/Rap that brought the group such popularity. I think it shows a group that's not afraid to mature and evolve in the music they perform. It will be interesting to see where the group goes from here.

The lyrics that have been speaking to me from Iridescent are as follows:

"Do you feel cold and lost in desperation?
You build up hope, but failure's all you've known.
Remember all the sadness and frustration
and let it go."

It's a rather concise and straightforward way to say, "Pick yourself up and brush yourself off." Part of the reason this speaks so strongly to me is the way Chester Bennington sings the lyrics. Guy's got a pretty amazing voice, truth be told, and he injects a lot of emotion into this song.

I've been listening to this on the days when I've been feeling more down and sad. I just keep hitting repeat until I feel better. And it has been working. It usually only takes a couple listenings before I'm ready to move on and be happy again.

Al Fin Me Armé de Valor is the basis for a new playlist I've entitled "Kiss My Ass." Really, the whole song is pretty key to making me feel better. If I wasn't usually wearing headphones when listening to this song, I would sing along as loudly as I possibly could. 

Basically, Reyli sings that he's tired of all the crap his girlfriend has put him through. He's dumping her. He's finally armed himself with valor, with bravery, and he's dumping her, because really, he's put everything into the relationship and she's just abused him. 

On the days when I'm fed up with the tensions at work and the changes and stupidity that the teachers have to put up with I listen to this song several times and I feel better. Happier. Vindicated. 

It also works on the days when the students are little bastards that I want to squish under my feet. 

I like these songs. I love listening to them. And I am so glad that I can vent through songs and I don't have to find another way to feel better.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


I feel the need to work through some thoughts I've been having.

See, I enjoy my job. Quite a bit, actually. Sometimes I have rough days when the students are pains in the butt and my coworkers aren't much better, but overall, I have a pretty good time while I'm at work. 

I feel appreciated and valuable, and that goes a long way to making me happy. There's nothing I dislike more in a job than feeling like my employers or coworkers are taking advantage of me.  I like to be willing to help wherever and however I'm needed. When I start feeling oppressed, I want to say "no" to new requests, and I don't like being in that mindset.

In a couple weeks our winter month-long VIP program will be starting. We will have students here and they will stay for a month. It's a big deal and there's a lot of prep that goes into this program. I requested to work in Special Programs. Special Programs will still have new students every week and won't work with the ones here all month. I particularly enjoy working with the Special Programs coordinator (basically an assistant manager). She is an amazing supervisor and there's not much I wouldn't do for her.

At the Village, the teachers rotate between various shifts. There are two shifts running Monday through Friday. One shift works 9 to 6, the other 1 to 9. There is also a weekend shift. Whenever new shifts are being scheduled, I've requested to be on Monday through Friday so as to attend church on Sunday. I've never specified what hours I want to work. I prefer 9 to 6, though. It just fits me better personally. 

For half of October and all of November I worked on the 1 to 9 shift. On the 5th of December I was switched  back to 9 to 6. Hooray! Unfortunately, three weeks after back onto my preferred shift, I'm getting switched back to 1 to 9 for the duration of VIP. 

I'm a little bummed. 

I wrote an email to the manager. All I told him was that I was excited to be working with Special Programs but a little bummed to be shunted back to the night shift. That's all. And that's as far as my complaining will go. I don't see any point to bitching and moaning and begging to be on the morning shift. Sometimes I wish I was the type of person that could do that. I really do. I'm not that kind of person, though. I'll just do the best I can with what I'm assigned to do.

I'm a little worried about how this will affect the shift rotation following VIP. Will the manager in charge of shift assignments take into account that I've been working 1 to 9 for Special Programs? Or will she just look at the shift assignment email she sent out, see that she assigned me to the morning and condemn me to an additional two months of night shifts? 

That's my big worry. I don't want to have to work the night shift for four and a half months with just a three-week break of blissful morning schedules.

I guess as long as I keep ending up on the Monday through Friday schedule I'll just try to be grateful for that.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

On My Kindle...

South Korea is a country that does not mind at all if you download torrents. I would say that the vast majority of internet-using people in South Korea use torrents. 

While in Rome....Right?

Here's my plan. While here, I will enjoy using torrents. For a variety of reasons. One reason is that I just don't have the space to buy DVDs and books, then take them home. It just won't work. I did bring some DVDs with me, and I could probably take some home on top of what I brought, but there's not too much extra space. Books? Yeah, I could go nuts, but I probably wouldn't be able to get them home. 

So torrents are a good thing. 

I'm treating my enormous (over 3,000) collection of ebooks as a library. If I start reading a book and I just don't like it at all, I delete it. Then I move on to the next. I'm keeping a list of the books I love and will buy when I get back to the States and have the money to purchase a book or two. 

I think it's a good plan.

Anyway, I figured I would share what's on my Kindle at the moment. After I downloaded well over 6,000 ebooks, I went through and sorted them. I got rid of the books I knew I would never read. Mostly romance novels and books by James Patterson. I feel kind of bad for singling him out, but really, with the quantity of books he supposedly writes, how can they be of any decent quality?

After winnowing out the chaff, I went through and sorted the remainders into genres. I ended up with fifteen categories, including "Books that look really intriguing." Whenever I finish the books on my Kindle, I reload using one from each genre. Or, if there is a trilogy or series of two, I take the entire series. It's a system that makes sense to me. 

So here's what's on my Kindle at the moment.

My Name is Memory by Ann Brasheres.
The Heir Trilogy by Cinda Williams Chima.
Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul by Deepak Chopra.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen.
The Perfect Woman by James Andrus.
Restoring Harmony by Joelle Anthony.
Googled by Ken Auletta.
Gutshot Straight by Lou Berney.
Deadwood by Pete Dexter.
The Spirit Books (two of them) by Rachel Aaron.
The Horns of Ruin by Time Akers.
The War of the Roses by Warren Adler.

I already deleted a mystery book. I read another in the same series earlier and didn't like it. So, once I realized I had a second from the same series, it went to the limbo that is deletion. 

I am reading Googled at the moment. It has been interesting so far. Also, most nights before going to sleep I read a chapter from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz out loud to my wife. I have the entire Oz series by Baum on my Kindle for just that reason.

And now, back to reading, as I don't have as much time for reading while at work. I managed to create quite a bit of work for myself.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Movies Everyone Should See...

When I decided I wanted to make a post about movies I thought everyone should see, I had two criteria for myself: One, that they be more recent movies, made within the last two decades. That leaves out a lot of movies, yes, but those are movies that have already been talked about so much that I don't know that I would have anything new to say about them. Two, that I should have five movies in my list.

Well, I managed the first item. The second, well, it seems oddly coincidental that I've only been able to come up with two movies for this list. I think they are two exceptional movies, however, so I'm okay with not having five. There is no order of preference for these two movies. And I reserve the right to add to the list if I think of more movies that should be included.

The first is Amèlie. It's a French film, but I don't think that should exclude it from the list. Oh, the wonderful things of this movie. Audrey Tautou's performance of the title character is amazing. She's just so much fun to watch. The other characters are full of life and nuances. The colors pop and add to the emotion. There are surreal moments that are divine. There are tender moments that break your heart. And it all culminates in a finale that makes you feel good about yourself and the world. Amazing movie.

The second is Juno. This movie also features an amazing performance by a lead actress, in this case Ellen Page. She portrays a quirky, unique girl who you just want to hug and protect. The other actors do well, but J.K. Simmons should be mentioned in particular. He plays Juno's father. He's at once wise and loving, but he has a funny, sarcastic side that adds a lot of punch. The film is full of witty lines and clever phrases. It's a mental workout that is so much fun you don't realize you're thinking that hard.

So watch these, if you haven't already.  Good stuff.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

It's...Different Here...

...and I'm not talking about the big things, like culture or language. Or even physical appearance. And I definitely don't want to get into the tendency Korean pop-culture has to put androgyny on a pedestal. 

No, I'm talking about the small things, the common things that affect my every-day life. 

For example, my shower. Well, the bathroom in general. It was designed as a wet bathroom. No shower curtain. Just a drain under the sink. Chelsea put up a shower curtain. I was indifferent at first, but I think it was a good thing. The shower is a handheld job, so that can minimize the water on the floor if I'm careful, but it's easier with a shower curtain. Also, no matter how careful I am, I can't get a constant water temperature. It's either constantly heating up or constantly cooling down. That can be rather torturous, to tell the truth. Each time I adjust the temperature, I get about two minutes of comfortable water, then it quickly becomes either scalding or chilly. On the plus side, this makes me shower faster.

Convenience stores are tiny. Really tiny. The stores are crammed into any space available, no matter how small nor how oddly shaped the interior is. And the stores still have aisles of products. For the majority of the Korean populace, who happen to be skinny skinny skinny, this isn't a problem. For me? I feel like a bull in a china shop, like my slightest movement is going to cause havoc. At one particular Family Mart, I slide through the aisles sideways, making sure my bag doesn't swing and knock the products around. 

The human resources department in the Village recently sent out a posting for an open Head Teacher position. As part of the posting, one line read, "This job is only available for senior Korean teachers." In the US, this would be an enormous lawsuit waiting to happen. Here? Not so much. The foreign teachers grumbled, but didn't really say anything. Mostly because it wouldn't have made a difference.

With the possible exception of that third point, I'm not saying these are bad things. Just different.  

I have seen one nouvelle here that has completely blown my mind with how amazing it is. When I got my bank account, I was given a bank book. Now, I'm not the most conscientious person in the world when it comes to keeping my register up to date. I just don't. Here the bank book has a magnetic strip coded with my account information. Not enough to make a withdrawal or anything, I have an ATM card for that. No, inside the bank there are two automatic teller machines. I can stick my card in the one and withdraw cash. When I stick in my card it always tells me, "Processing time is the longest two minutes. Please wait." I love that. But the other machine, an amazing invention, is for the bank book. I open my book to the most recent page, tell the machine I want to update my bank book entries, then stick the entire book in. It will record all the most recent transactions in the book, even turning the page when it gets full. 

Brilliant! Why can't we have these in the States? So convenient and practical. 

I'm sure there are many other small things that are different here, but these are the ones that have been on my mind lately. I'll probably do another post later on with more. 

I think I like it here. I still miss home, but Korea is a nice place to be. Even when I can hear the occasional firing of a gun or launching of a mortar. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Candor in Perplexity

I don't understand why some people are so fascinated with butts. 

I'm sure you've heard someone say things like, "Oooh, nice ass," or "check out that guy's butt," or any other variant. It occurs quite frequently. In songs, in movies, on the television, and in everyday conversation. It's everywhere.

Normally, when I don't share a particular affinity with someone, I can at least understand the appeal of the object of their interest. For example, Batman. I don't enjoy the character. Just not my thing. However, I do get that people like that he is vigilante justice and has a cool car. Not to mention the costume. I get it. I just don't share it. 

But being fascinated with another person's butt? Nope. I don't get it. And here's the thing, I've tried to understand. I've spent some time observing passing derrieres, just to try and understand. I'm sure the passing people have thought I was just your normal, everyday lecher, but that wasn't the case. Everything I'm attracted to in a woman occurs above the waist. 

I like intelligence. A sense of humor. Breasts. I am definitely a breast man. And I like strong women. A confident woman, who knows who she is is one of the most attractive qualities a woman can have. And I'll admit I'm rather fascinated by physically powerful women. Just one of my quirks. 

But I don't get the butt thing. I just don't.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Well-Read in Korea (Part 2)

I figure it's about time for an update on my reading habits. I decided to purchase a Kindle because keeping my normal book buying and reading habits wasn't feasible while living in Korea. They just weigh too much to transport back in my suitcase. Or to mail back. 

The Kindle was a great purchase. I really enjoy using it. I'm tempted to try and elicit some sort of credit or something from Amazon because I've inspired several Korean teachers to purchase their own. 

I've come into possession of over 3,000 ebooks. This number is after I went through and winnowed out the ones that I had no interest in reading. Mostly romance novels, but there were many others eliminated on the basis of the title or basic concept. Now that I have these winnowed down, I am attempting to read them. The ones I really like will go into a folder, then when I return to the States, I will purchase a physical copy. If I don't enjoy a book I've just started, it gets deleted. 

So, here's the list. What I've read since August 24th. 

  1. The Neverending Story by Michael Ende
  2. Sleeper Season One by Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips
  3. The Once and Future King by T.H. White
  4. Why Do Men Have Nipples? by Mark Leyner and Billy Goldberg
  5. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
  6. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
  7. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
  8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick
  9. Fablehaven by Brandon Mull
  10. Is Shakespeare Dead? by Mark Twain
  11. The Fat Man by Ken Harmon
  12. Fallen Angel by Peter David
  13. Rise of the Evening Star by Brandon Mull
  14. Grip of the Shadow Plague by Brandon Mull
  15. Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary by Brandon Mull
  16. Keys to the Demon Prison by Brandon Mull
  17. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future by Michael J. Fox
  18. Good Things I Wish You by Manette Ansay
  19. Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan
  20. The Upside of Irrationality by Dan Ariely
  21. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  22. The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition by Caroline Alexander
  23. The Thunder Riders by Frank Leslie
  24. Hounded by Kevin Hearne
  25. Hexed by Kevin Hearne
  26. Hammered by Kevin Hearne
  27. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
I think it's a pretty good list. My favorites by far were The Once and Future King and The Fat Man. The Fat Man is a noir mystery set at the North Pole. The protagonist is a rather grumpy elf. Worth a read. I was amazed by how he worked in every single Christmas story, song or poem. It was pretty incredible. Most of the time it was pretty natural. There were only a couple occasions where the reference was forced.

I'll try and work up a real blog post before too long. For now, I'm going to read a book.

Friday, October 7, 2011

On to brighter...

...and more positive things.

It's a foggy morning. When I don't have to drive in it, I love the fog. It makes the world around me so visually quiet. I get an intense feeling of solitude. The only things I can see are fairly close by, while the further objects become gray shadows, hints and suggestions of what they really are.

Looking out my window I could almost believe I was in London. I've never been there, but this is almost what I see in my head when I read "London."  

Streetlamps on black posts rising up from brick sidewalks. Square, close-set buildings that don't sit all in a row, following the curve of the road they rest on.

Even the trolley-cart tracks fit in with my image. Does London have a trolley or light rail system? A quick Google search doesn't tell me, so I let the image stand. The tracks just seem to fit.

Or maybe I've been at the English Village so long, that I've bought into the idea that it's a good representation of an actual English village.

The geese have been migrating this week. Every morning as I've sat down at my desk at 6:30 AM to write I've heard the squonks of passing flocks of geese. Looking out the window, I've seen them flying East by Southeast in something approximating a "V" formation.

It's fall and getting cold. I've had to stop wearing my wedding ring for fear of losing it. In this cold weather my ring finger has shrunk significantly. One morning, I waved my left hand for some reason or another and my ring flew off and thunked against the bathroom door. Chelsea thought I was throwing things at her.

Despite my now ringless hand, I enjoy the colder weather. I tend to not feel the cold as much as other people do.  I enjoy walking out into the cold air and stuffing my hands in my jacket pockets to keep them warm by pressing them against my stomach. I like watching my breath puff and dissipate when I exhale. I like the slight shock to my system when I inhale cold air.

Most of all, I love going home on a cold day and curling up with a blanket, a mug of hot chocolate and a book. It just makes me happy.


Last Friday at our weekly staff meeting, one of the upper level administrators came in to talk to us. The guy could speak English, kind of, but wasn't comfortable using the language, so asked for the help of one of the other Koreans.

He told us the English Village was in CRISIS. 

Apparently we're running out of money. The local province (think state) of Gyeonggi hasn't been taking in as much revenues from property tax, so the province government hasn't been able to provide as much funding as they have. And the Village doesn't really make money on its own. I think they try, but aren't really successful. 

During the meeting the admin, I can't remember his name, basically asked us to be patient as they make changes. He stressed that the teachers would not be losing their jobs. I'm not sure how much I believe him, however. To make it through the end of the year, the Village has asked the government for 1.4 billion won. That's roughly 1 million dollars. There is no guarantee that the money will be available for us.

It's worrying. I'm a little unsure of what to do. For now, I'm just going to keep doing my job and hope for the best. We have students scheduled to arrive for programs starting on the twentieth of Oct through the end of the year. Plus, the big, month-long Vacation Intensive Program will start up in December. So I think I have a job through the middle of January. 

I hope so anyway. I'm not ready to move back to the States just yet.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

One Thing I Want

I don't mean to sound prideful when I say this, but I'm good at a lot of things. Not excellent, not spectacular, but good. I can sing quite well. I play the piano well enough to enjoy it. I can sketch okay. I'm a good student. I think I'm a decent writer. I'm quite gifted at languages.

The problem with being good at many things and enjoying those many things is trying to dedicate time to improving them. Some activities are going to get neglected. 

I have a difficult time deciding what I want.  There are many things I'd kind of like to have or do, but it's easier to know what I don't want than what I really want.

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this a couple times here before.

Well, I've figured out something I want.

I want to write.

The problem is i have to have certain conditions just right in order to write. I have to be in a place where I can be relatively free from distractions. I have to have a decent chunk of time, as it can take me a bit to get started. I also have to be pretty inspired to get going. 

Ideally, I would have a private space of my own and two to three hours in the morning to dedicate to writing. I'm in a one bedroom apartment in Korea and I've traditionally been a night person. So private space is at a premium and waking up early is a difficult task.

I have writer friends who can write directly into a computer while watching a movie or the television. I can't do that. Movies or TV will sometimes spark an idea, but I can't focus enough to develop the idea while the TV is going. I also have to write my ideas out by hand before I can type them, but I actually enjoy that part and wouldn't change it.

I love the revision process. I love going over something I've written and finding weak words and phrases and making them stronger. Revision is something i can do while listening to music. I still can't watch TV, though, but that's okay by me. I get too into the revision to watch TV.

My revision process is probably not as efficient as it could be, but it works for me. The first revision is the process of typing what I've written into a word processor. This allows me to catch small problems and see what I've written with new eyes. After typing, I print out a copy. After a couple days, I will read the printed copy and make changes right on the page. After two or three readings, I will type the changes into the computer, then print another copy. I'll repeat this process a couple times. I don't know that I get to a point where I feel the piece is great, but I reach a point where I feel I can't make it any better.

What I would like to have is a group of people I could count on to read my piece and give me feedback. Fresh eyes will catch problems I'm blind to as the originator of the piece. Unfortunately, the people I've approached before to read haven't been good at leaving comments or suggestions. And yes, I'm halfway around the world from my friends from the creative writing classes I took, but I use Google Docs, so distance is not an excuse.

One of the reasons I enjoy writing is that it helps me process what I'm thinking about. It helps me figure myself out. In a way, writing is extremely relaxing. Part of the benefit is that when I'm writing I can focus on the words and forget about the other things that I'm worrying or stressing about.

What do I want? 

I want to write.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cliches Were Meant to Be Broken...

Particularly this one: "Never judge a book by its cover."

Really?  What else does everybody do every single time they go to the library or bookstore to browse for a book?

You go to the store, wander up and down the aisles. A book catches your eye, so you pull it off the shelf. If the cover looks interesting, however you define that, you will read the synopsis on the back, maybe glance through the bits of praise and see what other people are saying.

If the book doesn't look interesting, then you put it back on the shelf and walk on. 

I get what the old cliche is trying to say: "Don't dismiss someone until you get to know them." But sometimes the cover doesn't lie. 

I've spent the last several weeks judging books by their covers. Sometimes just by their titles. 

I came into possession of around eight thousand ebooks recently. That's a lot of books, I know. I knew there was no way I would ever come close to reading each one, so I started to attempt to winnow the list a little. 

First, I found all the duplicates. There were quite a few. Then I started consolidating books into folders under their authors' names. As I was consolidating, I would open the file that showed the cover. If it was a romance novel, it went into the trash. If it was a book based on Doctor Who, Star Trek, Star Wars or a video game, it also went into the trash. 

Eventually, I got to the point where if the title sounded like a romance book or included the words "A novel" after the title, I deleted the book. I've since relented a little when it comes to the words "a novel." They still bug me, because I know it's a novel, but I'll let it slide for now.

Now I'm working on going through and renaming each file so that it will be sorted by author in one big list, subdivided into genre. 

It's a little monotonous, but I actually enjoy it. I listen to music and sort book files. Kind of fun. I'm still reading a lot and trying to get into the practice of writing every day. 

And I'm judging books by their covers.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Life Is Just the Same... in Korea.

No, really.

See, I continue to read voraciously. That hasn't changed at all. I still buy books. The only way that has been altered is the quantity of books I purchase.

I've done quite a bit of shopping while here in Korea. I like having tangible souvenirs of the places I visit. So I buy things.

I decided to take a picture of the major things I've purchased up to this point. Why? Because I can, of course.

The books are (from left) Blankets by Craig Thompson, Fun House by Alison Bechdel, Sleeper by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips and Persepolis(the boxed set) by Marjane Satrapi. 

I bought a man-bag in Namdaemun. It's handy and a convenient size. Plus: lots of pockets. 

The bag is propped against the printer I purchased. On top of the printer is the wireless router. You can see the antenna!

There's a pipe and two pins that I purchased at the Mt. Odu Unification Observatory. The pipe is supposedly a product of North Korea. The pins are of the South Korean flag and of the observatory itself. The observatory is all about the propaganda of unifying the two Koreas. The message I got was that South Korea wants to unify to benefit their cousins in the North, but North Korea keeps screwing things up.

And last, but not least, is the Samsung Galaxy S II. Great phone. Best phone I've ever owned, actually. Here's the cool thing about buying a phone in South Korea: In the phone box, you get the phone, headphones, and a charger. All pretty normal. What makes the purchase great is everybody with a smartphone gets a spare battery and a battery charger. So you can use the phone while the spare battery is charging! Brilliant!

Oh yeah, I also purchased a 2TB external hard-drive. I like having it.

And there you go!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


I have this week off.  Monday was the Chuseok holiday here in Korea. It's generally a three day celebration, so Sunday and Tuesday were included. As I teach in a week-long program, I got the week off. And got paid for it, though it came out of my vacation days. Kind of a mandatory holiday. But I have twenty days total, so no big deal.

On Monday I went to Everland with a group of friends. Everland is Korea's Disneyland. Fun amusement park. It doesn't have as many thrill rides as Disneyland does, but the prices are more reasonable. Both to get in and to buy food and souvenirs once inside.

The first rollercoaster we chose didn't have a very long line, which was nice. The security harness did not fit over me. That wasn't nice. I couldn't go on the ride! Very rude. So I waited.

The next rolloercoaster I attempted to ride had a line that lasted 2 hours to get through. Crazy! I was able to ride, though Chelsea wasn't. This coaster was a wooden one that features the steepest drop of any wooden coaster in the world. Really! Look up "T-Express" on Wikipedia and you'll see I speak the truth. The initial drop felt like it was vertical. I'm sure it wasn't, but that's what it felt like.

My favorite "ride," however, was the Rotating House. There were fantasy paintings on the walls as I waited in line. Gave me something to look at. When I went into the room that starts the ride, a pair of gargoyles began to speak and argue with each other. One was evil and one was good. The evil one had an evil laugh and red eyes, so I knew he was evil. The good one had a kind voice and blue eyes, so I knew he was good. 

I couldn't understand a word of what they were saying, though. All in Korean.

After the gargoyle argument, the group of park visitors I was with proceeded to the next room, which had four long benches, two running down each long side of the room. Once seated, a lap bar lowered down until I was securely held into place.

The gargoyles across from where I sat came to life, their eyes glowing red! The room began to rock back and forth! I began to get dizzy.  

Then the room began spinning! I was staring down at the floor from up above it!  It must have been magic holding me up there, as I was not pressing against the lap bar at all. 

Then blue lights started shining from behind me, and I knew the good gargoyles had started to try and protect me.  The room began spinning the other way, because the good gargoyles were trying to protect me.

Faster and faster the room was spinning. First one way and then the other. I didn't know when it would stop. 

Then, with a puff of air that exploded in my face, the room came to a rest, the right side up. The evil gargoyles' eyes flickered on and off, then turned off for good. Thunder crashed outside, and lightning flashed through the skylight. I saw a demon's face in the skylight! The good gargoyles must have chased him off.

I thought I was safe, then I felt something moving underneath my butt, inside the bench! It scared me and I jumped! It ran back and forth underneath me a few times, then went away.

The lights came on and the lap bar went back up. The doors opened again, but the room on the way out was upside down! I felt like I was stuck to the ceiling!

Then I went outside the house and felt safe again.

Seriously, though, the Rotating House was a lot of fun. Sorry for the abrupt change of voice. It just came over me.

The last ride I went on was the Log Ride. It was lots of fun. I was in a log with Chelsea and our friend Brandon. I even bought the keychain with our picture in it. Only seven bucks!

It really was a fun day. Liked it a lot.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Photo Dump: Beautiful Bugs and Creepy Crawlies...

Since coming to Korea, I've seen many amazing creatures. I try to catch them with my camera as best I can. I just wanted to share them with you.

I frequently see these huge black butterflies. But they move so fast and so rarely stop that it's hard to get my camera out in time to snap a picture. One finally landed in my vicinity, so I got a couple good pictures.

There are many dragonflies flitting around. I didn't realize they came in such vivid colors until I started taking pictures.

This spider was hanging out at the bus stop for Everland, an amusement park near Seoul. This guy was about four inches long. If you look at the full size picture, she (I'm guessing it's female due to its size) has a white skull shape on her back.

The next two photos were taken just outside the back gate to the English Village. This spider was about two inches long. If I were going to attempt to kill this one, or the previous one, I would want a flame thrower. I'm not going anywhere near that with a shoe!

And there you go! 

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Good Books Are...

...a traumatic experience.

No, really, hear me out.

Anyone who reads more or less constantly knows that finding a new book to read is a challenge. And heaven knows that the ratio of good books to okay books is pretty small. And the ratio of okay books to crappy books is even smaller.

When you look at it that way, finding a book you like is a rather miraculous experience. 

Let's say I'm at the bookstore, looking through shelves and shelves of books. I see a title that looks intriguing. It's not trying to be clever, it's not a pun and it doesn't give away key plot points. I read the author's name. Not someone I've read before, but I've seen his name mentioned in interviews where an author I enjoy is talking about authors he likes. So I think, "Hey, I'll give this a shot."

After making my purchase, I go to a restaurant or fast food joint, place my order and start to read.  

So far, so good. The first chapter is enticing. I like the protagonist. I think I can see where the story is going to go, but there is a distinct possibility I'll be surprised. 

Then I really start getting into the book. The supporting characters are well-formed and feel like real people. The settings are given enough description that I can almost see them in my head. 

I'm completely pulled into the book now, starting to read faster and faster. I know I should take my time and savor the experience, but I can't help myself. It's so good, I just want to devour it. I stay up late, thinking, "I'll read through the next chapter." 

I tell myself that four more times before I go to sleep. 

When I wake up, and I mean alert-and-thinking wake up, not just get-out-of-bed wake up, I open the book again and keep reading over breakfast. 

The next thing I know, I've finished the book, and I'm not ready for it to be over. I sit staring at the cover for a few minutes, the reader's version of an athlete catching his breath.

The glow, the rapture, of reading an enjoyable book is transformed into a new desperation: I have to find another book to read. I almost don't dare look for something new. What if I end up with a bad book? It takes me an hour or so to work up the nerve to browse my "Unread" bookshelf for my next affair. 

I make my selection, praying it won't let me down. I open the cover. The smell of book wafts out and my eyes become unfocused for a moment. I take a deep breath and hold it to the count of five.

I start to read.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Well-Read in Korea, Part One...

As mentioned in other posts, I read books. Lots and lots of books. 

It's quite possible that I have an addiction, though I would claim that it was a healthy addiction, as opposed to others I may or may not have.

I've started keeping a book journal of what I have been reading. Well, not so much a journal as a list. Luckily, these books are available on the Kindle, which makes it easy to carry a  whole bunch at once, so I rarely experience a delay between when I finish a book and when I start the next.

I am going to share the books I have read since the last week of June, when my books were almost all boxed up and I was ready to come to Korea.

Here is the list:
1.  A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain

2. Eve's Diary by Mark Twain
3. Extracts from Adam's Diary by Mark Twain
4. If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B-Movie Actor by Bruce Campbell
5. Stardust by Neil Gaiman
6. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
7. Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
8. Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris
9. Club Dead by Charlaine Harris
10. Dead to the World by Charlaine Harris
11. Dead as a Doornail by Charlaine Harris
12. Definitely Dead by Charlaine Harris
13. Altogether Dead by Charlaine Harris
14. From Dead to Worse by Charlaine Harris
15. Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris
16. Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris
17. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
18. River Marked by Patricia Briggs
19. The Godwulf Manuscript by Richard B. Parker
20. Ghost Story by Jim Butcher
21. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
22. The Lost World by Michael Crichton
23. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
24. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
25. The Girl who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
26. The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson

And that's my list. So far. Twenty six books in two months is a pretty good pace. Don't know I will keep at the same pace, but it seems likely. I read.

A lot.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

High School, Blankets, and Graphic Novels...

This past week I taught students from Yeonchun High School. Most of the lessons/activities I taught were the same as those I teach for other groups. There were just two big differences. At the beginning of the week, when the students had just arrived, I interviewed half of them to determine how fluent they were in English.  That was new. Then, at the end of the week, I helped them prepare presentations that they were to give in English. I also helped critique their presentations. That was also new.

When I found out that I was to be teaching a group of high school students, I wasn't all that excited. For the last month, I have been working the 1PM to 9PM shift, which means that my primary responsibility was leading group activities and games while encouraging the students to participate in English. One of these activities is a dance party, where the students learn many different dances, like the Macarena, the Cupid Shuffle, a dance to "YMCA" and many others. When I was in high school, I would not have wanted to have anything to do with that particular activity. 

I was pleasantly surprised by how much these students enjoyed the activities, even the dancing. Of course, the night previous to Dance Party, we had watched "Iron Man," but didn't have enough time to finish it, so I promised the students that if they danced, we would finish the movie.  That may have had something to do with their participation.

They were fun students and I am glad I got the chance to spend a week with them.

Quick side note: yesterday I bought a printer. It wasn't too expensive and I felt it necessary as when I write I like to edit my own essays on a printout. I felt uncomfortable with using the English Village's printers for this purpose, so figured a printer was a decent investment. End side note.

Every now and again I browse through Amazon's recommendations for me. This is generally rather amusing as my tastes are very eclectic, but now and then I find something I am excited about. 

I found out that Top Shelf publications just put out a hardcover edition of Craig Thompson's Blankets, which is in the running for "Adam's Favorite Graphic Novel" (not an actual prize). Yesterday I went across the street to the Village's bookstore and asked if they could order it in for me. Yes, I could have ordered it from Amazon, but I like supporting local businesses, and the bookstore, as far as I know, is not run by the English Village.

I am very excited to own a hardcover copy of this book.

When I say Graphic Novel, what I am referring to is a work of fiction related to a comic book. However, a Graphic Novel is a single work, generally much longer than a comic book. In the case of Blankets, the work is 600 pages long. It took Thompson years to write, draw and publish the book. 

So, in my definition, a Graphic Novel is an original work of fiction that is composed of two principal elements. 1: Pages composed of panels of artwork that tell a continual, visual (graphic) story. 2: Written elements that can provide insight into what a character is thinking, or provide additional perspective to what is presented in the drawings. Graphic Novels tend to come out once, unless they are released in series, which then are released often several months, or years, apart. Good examples, besides Blankets, include Stitches by  David Small, Maus by Art Spiegelman (which, incidentally, won a Pulitzer, if that sort of thing impresses you. It does me.) and Fun Home: a Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel.

Comic books are serialized monthly, and these are most often 22 pages or story. The monthlies are (now) collected into volumes that usually include six issues. Sometimes more, sometimes less. Superheroes tend to fall into this category. Sometimes these collected editions of comic books are called Graphic Novels, but I believe this is misleading. They used to be called Trade Paperbacks, but they are now released in hardcover editions as well. I don't know that there is one perfect term to call them. I refer to them as Collected Editions. I'm working on a better title.

I believe that Graphic Novels frequently have profound artistic merit. Collected editions, not so frequently, but it still happens. 

But that's just my opinion...

Saturday, August 6, 2011

My Korean Name...

I actually had a good week. I was teaching elementary school students this time around. I rotated between three classes of fifteen students each. Classes 1 & 2 were the oldest. I spent the most time with them.

My favorite was Class 3. I spent my week looking forward to the next chance to spend time with them. Most of the students were eight years old, though there were two who were six. They were tiny and super cute.

I got to teach class three a lesson about tornadoes. After the lesson portion, we made tornadoes out of two one liter bottles, a connector, water and food coloring. The kids were fascinated by the spinning water.

In the evenings, all three classes were combined for activity night. We played games, watched a movie and had a dance night. Unlike my last experience with Dance Night, the students actually participated this time. And had a lot of fun. Near the end of the activity, I told the students to get in a big circle to have a dance contest. One of the six-year-olds walked up to me, pointed at my belly and said, "Big circle." I cracked up. I couldn't help it. The next day, she pointed and repeated the phrase. Cute kid.

Later in the week, one of the older kids in Class 3, who also spoke English better than her classmates, told me I had a Korean name. She said my new name was "Bathangthang." I had her write it down for me and say it several times so I could get it right. When I asked her what it meant, she giggled and wouldn't tell me. I asked around, trying to find out what it meant. I figured it couldn't be anything too horrible, as she was just a kid, and Korean kids are generally quite polite, especially to their teachers.

Turns out, my Korean name means "big, soft belly."

And that is pretty accurate.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Cafeteria

As the English Village was built to help school-age kids immerse themselves in an English experience, it makes a lot of sense for the campus to have a cafeteria. 

Included in the students' tuition are three meals a day in the cafeteria. As another option, the food places on the faux Main Street are also open at meal times. 

The cafeteria has two levels. The ground floor is for students. When lunchtime hits, the line goes out the door and down the ramps leading up to the entrance. Teachers eat upstairs. As part of our salary, we are allotted funds to eat at the cafeteria once a workday. We still pay at the entrance, but are reimbursed. So, for 3,000 won, roughly $3, we get an all-you-can-eat meal. 

After paying, I pick up my compartment tray and head to the serving buffets. The line starts at the huge pot of rice, a staple of Korean food. After the rice is a huge pan of kimchi, a traditional Korean dish made from cabbage. I usually take a little of this, but not much, as it is very spicy, and I'm not big on spicy. The rest of the food varies from day to day. Some days, there's not much there that I want to eat.

One of the dishes I particularly enjoyed was the lotus root. I'm not sure what sauce they made it with, but it was very tasty. And, according to the Korean teachers, it is very healthy. One day last week, the cafeteria served hamburger patties and French fries, tater tots and fried potato slices. It was bliss after several days of strange cuisine.

Also served are two kinds of soups. One is usually made with a clear broth. Sometimes hot, sometimes cold. The other soup is usually a cream soup, and that's what I normally go for.

Yesterday, I looked in the display case to see what was being served. The main course was fish.  I'm not a fish person, so that was a bummer. I looked at the other offerings, but couldn't see anything that looked particularly tasty, so I decided to bail. I walked up Main Street to the pizza place and had a slice of combo pizza and a serving of spaghetti, with a glass of Coke. This meal only cost me 4,000 won. I was a little surprised how cheap it was, then remembered that teachers get special prices at the food places in the Village. Very handy.

I'll still eat at the cafeteria more often than not, but it's nice to know that I have other options, should I need them.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

First Week...

...and I think I did ok.

Better than ok, really. Teachers are generally assigned to two classes that meet together for homeroom. We see these students every morning at nine for an hour, then again at five for an hour.

This week, my homeroom included 32 thirteen to fourteen year old girls from Ho Sung middle school. I consider myself very lucky to have had them for the first week. They were very advanced as far as their English skills go and, for the most part, very well behaved. I even got to see them several times during other classes besides homeroom.

As part of introducing ourselves to our students, we let them ask questions about who we are. When speaking with girls, the most common question is if I have a girlfriend. I told them "No, I am married." They would always squeal with delight. Later on, during break times or when we were walking to their next class, they would ask me about Chelsea. When my homeroom girls found out Chelsea taught at the Village, they were excited to meet her, then sad when they didn't get to.

These girls would always yell, "Adam Teacher! Adam Teacher!" whenever they saw me. It was a good booster for my confidence. Especially during a week when I had no clue what I was doing.

The last lesson we teach in the Village, the last Homeroom, isn't really a lesson at all. It's a chance for the students to write short postcards to their favorite teachers. I figured a few of my homeroom girls would write to me, and I was excited to see what they had to say. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to be in the last homeroom with them because I had to go to the hospital for my medical exam. It's required by the Korean government, so no way around it.

After the closing ceremony, I walked the girls to their homeroom, then told them I was very sad they were leaving. I said I wanted to enjoy this last hour with them, but had to go to the hospital. I thanked them for making my first week so enjoyable. As I left the room, a chorus of goodbyes followed me. One girl jumped up and ran towards me and gave me a candy bar.

After my medical exam, I returned to the Village and went to the teachers' preparation room to wait for our afternoon meetings. I was very glad to see a stack of postcards waiting for me. The girls had written some very sweet things that made me laugh and brought tears to my eyes.

Here's the one that made me and Chelsea laugh, but also made me feel like I had done a good job:

It was a great first week.