Sunday, October 18, 2009

Suck My Toes

All day and all night I hear a persistent, melodic cry from some point in the distance. The first few days I wasn’t sure if it was even human. While visiting my friend Robin and his girlfriend, I learned that it’s apparently some dude peddling rice cakes. His catchphrase, by the time it reaches our ears, sounds something akin to the title of this entry and he, in my mind at least, has become legend. Window closed or open, rain or shine, “SUCK MY TOOOOOOESSSS!”. It’s maddening. I’ve plotted ways to silence this man forever. Last night while eating at an outdoor table, Robin taps me and says, “There he is!”. I’m not sure if I want to put a face with my tormenter, but I strain my eyes and finally I see him…no longer disembodied from that piercing wail. I’m smiling…he’s magnificent. Stocky, robed, with a creaseless face despite his age and a shiny bald head, as though one of the Drapung Loseling monks had wandered here from India. Leisurely swaggering along the pathway lined with dining Ilsaners, beaming a beatific smile right back at me and then launching into another whooping SUCK MY TOES.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Gina Teacher

My swine flu quarantine being over, I was finally allowed to interact with the kids this week. I spent today and yesterday observing the teacher I'll be replacing. It took enormous effort not to step in when he 1.) bribed them with candy and 2.) didn't engage the few who were more interested in their toy cars than the letter B. Next week they're all mine and unfortunately the chocolate well has dried up at Feinschule. The kids are freaking adorable and seem a bit fascinated with Gina Teacher...I'm the first female foreign teacher this school has ever had. I can tell that Chuy (I have no idea how it's spelled), a girl, and "Baby", a boy, are going to be my faves. They're the right amount of silly and they're ridiculously advanced. Plus, they give me kisses. I'm a little terrified of being in charge of the classroom because of my nonexistent Korean and their primitive English. It'll be interesting.

I keep learning never to leave the house without my camera. My coworker took me for an impromptu lunch which turned out to be an event. If I can figure out how to get the picture off my goofy Korean cellphone, I'll post it. The meal was basically Korean BBQ (not a recognized term over here) which you grill at your table. I love the ceremony of removing your shoes at the door, picking up your floor mat, and sitting at a low, dimly lit table. As with any meal, we were served around 10 side dishes and a hearty soup. Apparently this is a popular place to fill up pre-bar scene.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


This is, without a doubt, the most difficult thing I've ever done in my life. I think by next October I'll feel invincible. I'm not being paid until the 20th, but they've heavily hinted that I should be spending huge portions of the day doing things totally unrelated to my job (teacher). You know, instead of acclimating to the 16-hour time difference or finding my way around town through the maze of funny characters. I practiced a very assertive speech in front of the mirror yesterday and delivered it earlier today, to what seemed like a receptive audience. I was really hoping they would put me on the payroll but they've decided to just have me wait until the 20th to begin. There are so many people with such limited English that are involved in every conversation. The confusion snowballs.

Korean words are unbearably long. I can't even land on familiar syllables when hearing place names. My friend, Steven, tells me to avoid a certain part of Seoul or to beware if I see a type of "massage" listed, and the word for it is gone before I've even registered it. "Gam-Sah, Ham-Nee-Da," I parrot to everyone and feel like the reverse caricature of the Asian who can only say, "Hello! howareyou! bye-bye!"