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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

(8253) 290-7610

For all you internet stalkers out there, the above is my phone number. First person who figures out how to dial it from America and then posts instructions for the others wins a seriously gigantic prize.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

In the eyes of babes

By babes here, I mean youngins, and not the other meaning. Below are the renditions of me of me that these Michael Jackson loving 15 year olds drew sometime last week. The one with text says "Silly Mike, hehehe/silly Gemma [my coteacher's name] :-D/ Gemma is a yellow monkey."

Also, in the spirit of a certain friend who will remain unnamed in case everyone thinks the following is dumb, here are some bizarre statistics about this past month or so that nobody really cares about:
Arrival date: 29 November
Full teaching weeks: 3
Days here: 24
Average wakeup time: 11:00AM

Average bedtime: 2:00 AM
Average work hours: 2:30-10:00 pm
Miles walked: 75
Corndogs eaten: 4-6, depending on how you count the doubly-fried ones
PBJs eaten: 18
Bananas eaten: roughly 7000
Vegetable medleys made: 15
Percent of work days involving free food: 67

Episodes of Chappelle’s show watched: all of them

Pages read: 600ish
Conversations with native English speakers: 1 Other whiteys spotted: 5 (all male)Movies/songs downloaded: 0Channel-surfing sessions ending in disgust at the omnipresence of american pro-wrestling: 83%

And yeah, I have no clue how the formatting here works.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Position Opening

Just so you all know, my school is most likely going to hire another foreign teacher around the end of Jan or start of Feb, so let me know if you're interested. I can probably get you the job.

If you need some more convincing, read the other two posts I did today about corndogs and supermarkets and what not. And take a look at the video of my pad.


This building is on the corner of the street where I work. It's a pretty normal building, as far as I can tell, in terms of the different stores found inside. It's got some food and clothing stores downstairs, a bowling alley in the middle, an English school up top, and then above that, a Jesus Loves you sign. I'm not sure what that's all about

This is a photo of the street I work on, taken from a little overpass thingy that saves you the hassle of waiting for the walk sign. Way down on the end, I think you can make out part of the Jesus sign.

This is the building my school's in. We share the floor with the Oprah restaurant; if you could rotate the photo around the corner, you'd see our banners and what not On the ground floor, there's a convenience store, and above us there's a PC room, in which people chainsmoke for hours on end. I don't recommend going in.

I've also got 2 links for you, though I'm not sure they'll work. The first is a video of my room.

The second is an audio clip of the supermarket. Don't ask what he's saying, I don't know. I had a great success at the corndog stand just now, though, when I understood the woman when she said "dewo mot haeyo," or "I can't heat it up." Make sure to read the post below about heating corndogs and supermarket wildness.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Twice as Nice

It's a sad day when, after having studied intensively for a few minutes and gathered your resolve, you can put nearly every ounce of your Korean knowledge to use while trying to get a hot dog from a street vendor. I managed to use several phrases, like "how much is it?" "please heat it up for me," "I'm an American, so I don't speak Korean" "Ah, yes, please give me sugar," "No, ketchup isn't necessary," and Thanks." However, if there was a positive aspect to the experience, it was that when I asked her to heat it up, she simply took the already-fried corndog and dunked it into the hot grease-batter for another few minutes, resulting in an indescribably delicious double-decker corndog with TWO layers of fried dough.

Besides these C-dogs, I've also been eating lots of bananas. Mostly because they're cheap, but also because the store only sells them in gigantic 18-packs, which means you have to eat about 3-4 a day if you don't want them to rot.

What else...I think we'll be having some sort of Xmas party here. We're doing a secret santa sort of thing with the 5 workers here. My coteacher Gemma said that she's going to buy me a pack of condoms, and then everybody laughed at me. It's a very nice office atmostphere we have.

And now, some attempted links to pictures and video and audio:

Ok, that didn't work. Jeff, help me out here. Just to get you all excited: I've got a little video of my apartment accompanied by some fantastic commentary and a tinge of sarcasm, an audio clip of the supermarket, and pictures of the street I work on and my school from the outside.

Which reminds me, I meant to give a little description of the supermarket here. First of all, It's called HomePlus, it's owned by Samsung, and it's pretty huge. It's hard to compare it to a walmart, though, since it's on 4 floors (just like in Europe, they tend to build upwards here, since ground space is in short supply). The lowest floor is a garage, the highest is just some crap and miscellaneous sale items. The 1st floor is all food (both a food court and a grocery store), the 2nd is clothes and electronics and housewares and all that. The 1st floor is where you (IE I, an american) really feel out of place, both because of the numerous vegetables you've necer seen or heard of before (such as "dropwort"), the ridiculous price of cheddar cheese ($8 for an 8 0z. package of lousy cheese), and the store employees standing everywhere yelling at you. In the produce section, there's a guy with a mic hooked up to a speaker who keeps yelling things, probably about the sale items. And every aisle you walk down has a Korean girl between 18-25 in a short skirt stationed at the top, I suppose trying to tell you all about the specials. They mostly leave me alone, though one hovered over me the other day while I was trying to find detergent. Ah yes, back in the food section, there are also lots of free samples. Even though I stop by the store almost nightly on my way home, I haven't done my usual mooching yet, mostly because I don't know what the etiquette is at those little stations. Plus you have to pay at some of them, and I'm not sure I can tell the difference just yet.

So, that's that. Hopefully Jeff will figure out how to make the video and audio and other pictures available. Perhaps he will even post links in the comments. Once we get it working, we will all owe him many thanks for providing the necessary web space for this junk.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Address et. al.

Send letters/donations to:

Mike Roy c/o Hyun Sook Lee
Herald Institute
Bukgu Guamdong 766
Prime Plaza 4th Floor
Daegu, South Korea 702-280

Also appreciated would be any input on what sort of Xmas food I can make without an oven – preferably involving only 2 burners, as well. And no expensive ingredients. And also, nothing too smelly. Remember that I sleep in my kitchen, or maybe I cook in my bedroom, whichever way you want to put it. Anyhow the bosses might have me over for Christmas dinner, in which case I’d like to bring some homemade American food. Not because I’m generous, but because so far Korean desserts (not counting the sugared corn dog – that’s a category unto itself) have been on the lame side. For instance, the other week, some little 1 year old that the bosses knew had a birthday party, and for some reason or other I wound up with a box of treats on my desk. There were two types: the first were little dumpling-looking things that would have been delicious if filled with meat and veggies, but were relatively gross owing to the pseudo-chocolate bean paste filling; the second was some type of powdery rice cake that I can’t really describe other than with the words dry, excruciating to chew, and yucky.

Then, later on in the week, my boss got into some sort of fight (I wasn’t there) with the boss from another English center upstairs, who later apologized by giving us a cake. Each of the other 4 school employees (IE 2 bosses, secretary, and my coteacher) had a slice, then gave me the remaining half. It was alright, but there was something a little funky about it that prevented me from eating all 4 remaining slices. I could only choke down 1.75 before I got this slimy sugar overload feeling.

I’m not complaining, though, about the way my employers and coworkers and even students indulge my tendencies to mooch; so far, in addition to those desserts, I’ve been given numerous tangerines, treated to various homemade, incredibly labor-intensive riceball treats, bags of chips, bags of little fried snacks sort of like you get with Chinese soup back home, and handfuls of these awesome little fried things. I wonder if they’ll stop giving me all these goodies once I get my first paycheck.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Some Pictures

This one was taken from what would be my front yard, if it weren't a street. Most notable for the telling contrast between the little peasant field (I assume that's what it is, though I haven't seen anyone working on it) and the skyrise apartments in the back. No, I don't live in one of those.

This is the building I live in. The sign on the left says "bidio" (video) and the one on the right sayd "daegu" something or other. I live on the 2nd floor.

This one is the big store where I do my shopping. The Korean script says "Samseong," or as we like to say, Samsung.

The cart lights up at night. Koreans don't love xmas all that much, but apparently they love it just enough that stores find decorating and changing their music and selling appropriate gear to be profitable.

A building I pass on my way to school. Looks like a sweet castle, probably some guards with arrows and maybe boiling pitch in the tower. The reflection on the glass is the apartment skyrise across the street.

Monday, December 11, 2006

On being handsome and getting your butt touched, the latter not necessarily because of the former

Something is awry in this country. In America I would have responded with mild surprise had someone called me cute; in Korea, I am apparently rather stunning. Men and women both young and old (though unfortunately no ladies aged 20-25) have all been forward enough either to tell me or my boss that I am a very handsome man. Apparently one Korean wife (the Korean word, by the way, is "houseperson") angered her husband when she made such a comment to my boss. A high school student called me handsome in the middle of a lesson in which we were discussing looks, hair, etc; my boss' husband, who speaks very little English, did so while we were in the elevator; and a middle schooler today took my teacher's book, wrote "Mike Handsome Mike <3<3" on it, and gave it back to me. I must conclude that either they don't understand the word, they are trying to ingratiate themselves (understandable for the students, less so for the bosses), or they revere whities.

In an unrelated case, a Korean elementary schooler pulled a little manoeuvre (that's right, I've been watching the BBC over here) on me that I had hoped never to experience. I read about it on some general korea info site: little kids run around and then pretty much jaab you right in the butt crack with the pointer and middle fingers. Actually I think I'd rather not talk about it.

Even more unrelated: When I first arrived I had functioning cable TV. After a few days I decided to work a little Feng Shui in my room, mostly with the goal of moving the bed to the warmest spot. It had previously been right next to the window, so was often about 4 degrees (celsius) colder than the area by the thermostat, so I figured it'd be efficient to move it elsewhere. In the process of doing this, I had to unplug the TV, which then lost its settings and thus about 80% of my channels. So, for the next 6 days, I didn't have any English TV at all, which means that I completed much reading (Kauffman's Critique of Religion and Philosophy is much recommended), Korean practice, and Sudoku. Then on Sunday the director's husband came by, changed the tv input setting, which I couldn't do due to its korean-ness, and got me my cable back. I had to do the little channel finder thing, which I had found on my own, and then, voila, I had about an additional 40 channels. So now I've got 85 or so, maybe 8 of which are in English.

The best thing on TV is the BBC channel, lots of good news and such. But an even better thing, or rather two of them, is the STARCRAFT CHANNEL. If you weren't a huge starcraft dork in high school, then, frankly, I'm surprised we're friends. Because I used to be crazy about that game, though never to good. Anyway these channels have 24/7 (so I've gleaned since Sunday morning) coverage of starcraft battles. I hadn't thought about protoss and zergs and terrans (not to mention carriers and scourges and firebats and hydralisks and goliaths) in so long! So now, even though I don't have the game on my computer, I can still get some vicarious kicks watching revered - yes, these shows are taped with a live audience, and girls are screaming - teenage boys rock at video games.

Oh, the other best thing is that they play pong on TV sometimes. Maybe if America would get a clue and start airing some coverage of the 2nd most popular sport in the world, fewer college grads like myself would be lured away to the Orient.

On the other hand, though, having a washer but not a dryer is pretty lame. My clothes have been drying on a rack now for 36 hours, and only about 1/2 of the items are wearable. This is a big deal considering that the rack either takes up 50% of the remaining floor space in my bedroom or 90% of it in my bathroom.

Friday, December 08, 2006


I saw the above while walking around this morning in search of a plug-adapter thing. Now, the Korean language, as mentioned in my first post, is an alphabet just like ours, so each letter has a sound, meaning that they can pretty easily transfer our words to their script without changing too much (the same way that we can take the sounds of, say, 김치, and rewrite them with our letters, kimchi). The word was written on an apartment building under construction, I think, and is meant to be read, "city vista," as in having a view of the city. However, you only read it like that if you already know what it's meant to say, because usually, the 시 makes a "she" sound. So, reading it for the first time, trying to pronounce it in Korean instead of in English, you get "shitty vista." Great name for an apartment complex.

What else...I spent around 2 hours wandering around trying to discern which stores might possibly have electronics. Every once in a while, I would enter ones and say things like "저는 미국사람이라서 고 필요 있어요", which is "cho-nun miguk-saram-iraso ko p'iryo issoyo", or "i american person-since-i-am thing needed is." Then I pointed to my computer cable, explained that I didn't speak korean well, and then repeated the same point every time they tried to say something to me other than "없어요", opsoyo, we don't have it. After about four failed attempts (though I guess they were relatively successful in terms of managing to communicate), I was hungry and either more linguistically confident or simply unable to worry about it, and so I went to a lady in a little plastic stall and tried to ask how much the corndog looking think was. It was only 50 cents, so I sprung for it. She then picked it up and coated it with granulated sugar for me. That was my first hint that maybe it wasn't a corndog. Then I bet into it and got only dough, so I started thinking it was just a larger version of those chinese doughnuts you can get at buffets. Completely wrong. On the next bite I hit gold and discovered that it was indeed a corndog, but with an absurdly thick/fatty/delicious layer of batter surrounding a miniscule dog. I'm willing to bet that any diarrhea I experience this trip will probably be due to this sort of American-style food and not to the dainty little 김밥 (kimbap, sushi) that I talked about last post.

Anyhow the dog has now settled and I've regained some energy, so I think I'll resume my meanderings.

If you can see this, I didn't delete the blog a second time.

A small victory, but a crucial one.

It's now about 9:08 or 9:12 depending on whether you go by the computer clock or the one in the school lobby. That means that I just finished my 8th class of the day - normally I'd have another, but since this is exam week, the middle schoolers (as I may already have mentioned) are taking it easy for the time being, so I don't have the advanced night class that would normally go from now till 10pm. The MWF Friday schedule has grown even more intense/ludicrous, since a new girl signed up for class and got herself inserted right smack dab into my break period. Now I work 3-4, have a break from 4-4h30, and then work again from 4h30-9h15 or 10. I feel like this schedule is insane - only about 5 minutes between most classes to prep - especially given that my T/Th schedule is 4h50-5h20, 6h35-7h05, and then 8h25-10. Unfortunately, I realized today that my contract is for up to 30 hours of teaching a week, 6 hours a day, and so I'm more spoiled by easy T/Ths than I am ripped off by grueling MWFs. If the business manages to blossom as it should (that is, given its excellent staff), most days will probably be like my current MWFs. Except without that 30 minute break.

Even if that never happens, though, my fate is sealed for next month. I've agreed to teach during the intensive session, which is when all of the kiddies are on break from school - which of course means that they can be made to work harder at all their private academies. Thus, there will be another class coming my way, on MWF it seems, but for some sweet sweet overtime pay. I don't have anything else to do in the mornings, anyway.

As for this past week, nothing terribly noteworthy has happened. Today I saw two people walk straight into different transparent doors. I don't want to say that this should reflect poorly on the Korean populus, but honestly, what are the odds?

In the area of food, I've been exposed to a bit of mall-food, some of my own cooking, some back-home favorites, and, most recently, some home cooked goodness. At the mall, about a week ago, I discovered a disch called 불고기 오무 라이스, "bulgogi omu raisu." I'm not sure what it means, but here's the proverbial skinny: for 5000 원 (a little over $5) you get a wonderful battered and fried pork cutlet of reasonable proportions, a little shredded cabbage salad with a limey dressing, a bowl of bbq sauce, a bowl of soup (chives and broth), a bowl of 김치 (kimchi), a little shot of liquidy yogurt for desert, and, oh yeah, a huge was of rice, meat, and sauce all held together inside of some sort of egg souffle. For a few days I was enamored with it and brought tupperware to the mall food court so that I could save the leftovers (IE about 1/2 of the meal) for the following meal. I've eased up on it now, mostly because during the week I haven't had the time to go do it.

As for as my own cooking goes, it's been spicy noodles (think Ramen) and a medley of the usual suspects - carrots, onions, shrooms. Unexpectedly, the ramen here costs about 50 cents a packet, far more than in the US.

By back-home favorites above, I meant PBJs. That's right, the grocery store here has PB. And milk. Makes for a wonderful breakfast. I would buy this box of green cornflakes that they have, but it's about 6 bucks. Way not worth it.

Today for lunch was the home-cooked meal. It was called 김밥 (kimbap, which means seaweed rice) and is pretty sushi-like. Actually, this was called nude kimbap because the rice was on the outside, and inside was a bunch of seaweed, radish, egg, cucumber, and fake crab meat. Pretty good, way healthy, and apparently about the cheapest food source here. I think it costs a dollar for a stick about a foot long.

I haven't yet approached the street vendors, mostly because I'm not confident enough in my ability to buy anything. I think, though, that I'll probably stop at one for lunch while I'm out and wandering tomorrow. I can ask 올마에요(olmaeyo, how much is it?) and I can count to 99,999 (구 막 구 척 구 백 구 십 구, ku man ku chon ku baek ku ship ku), so I think I should be OK. The biggest problem will be of course that the best things - I mean the fried ones - have a layer of breading so I won't know ahead of time what's inside. Whether I'm adventurous enough to risk biting into an octopus-corndog or whether I'll stick with a skewered hunk of meat, only tomorrow will tell.

Oh, yeah, the school has also already offered to renew my contract for a 2nd year. I guess they are pretty sure that their business will continue to grow, and are also pretty sure that I won't have a total meltdown at some point. Anyway I told them that we could discuss it later, that I wasn't sure a year from now what I'd want. Ah, and they're also planning to hire a 2nd native teacher, perhaps in February, and I'll probably wind up helping them recruit. So, if you need a job, let me know.

School closing, gotta go. bye bye.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Just about 2 minutes ago I realized I had a bit of downtime here at work (middleschoolers are taking normal exams, so aren't coming to the academy) and decided to do a bit of blogging. While I was browing through the interface, which of course shows up in Korean here, I apparently managed to delete all of the posts and comments that we have so far come up with. Sorry about that, I'll try not to do it again. If any of you either have the pages in your browser cache or, for odd stalker reasons, have copied them all down and saved them in a slightly more foolproof format, please send them to me so that I can put them back up.

My apologies and condolences, once again.

In other news, a 4th or 5th grader put his hands in the little but pockets of my pants today and followed me around for a minute saying "Teacher, teacher!" I have no clue what that was about.

I also caused massive chaos in the school by giving a 50-cent piece to a kid who happened to say "Teacher, give me your money" while practicing with possessive adjectives. The whole place went buckwild, and I think it's safe to say that I'm probably the favorite teacher here. Too bad my bribe supply will run out within a few weeks.