Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Mr. Cho Saves the Day, A Very Famous Professor and The Origins of the Chicken Dance

I can't believe this is the last day in March! As I rapidly approach the 4 month anniversary of my time in Korea I have realized how much has happened since I came here last December, a lot of which has happened in the past month. In order to save myself with the bother of writing transitions, I will present these changes in list form.

1. In March, I not only turned 23, but I also turned 24*.

2. Another big event occurred when I walked into my apartment one day and the first thought that came through my mind was that I was happy to be home. Home. No longer is my tiny Korean apartment just a tiny Korean apartment with a hot pink bathroom and no shower stall or oven... it is MY tiny Korean apartment with a hot pink bathroom and no shower stall or oven. Though this could be simply explained as one getting accustomed to a new living situation, let me assure you that this is no small feat. With my new found acceptance of home, I have been able to embrace my stay in Korea with enthusiasm and optimism.

3. On the Saturday before my Birthday I celebrated with a group of friends by partaking in Indian food, Lao Bar and Norebang. The Indian restaurant was pretty difficult to direct people to, and Korean socializing never seems to include an emphasis punctuality. Lesson #1? Meeting at the resteraunt was a bad idea. I frequently found myself running out of the restaurant to meet people and direct them to the naan of the evening, and it was on one of these outings that I was stopped by an questionably sober older man with many visible cold sores. "Hello!" he said. "...Hi?" I responded. "MR. CHO!" He excitedly said, pointing at himself. "Peter?" I said, timidly gesturing to my newly 23 year old (24 in Korea) self. "I know! Maetan Dong!" said Mr. Cho. This was just getting creepy as I do happen to live in Maetan Dong and we were a good 20 minute cab ride away from my neighborhood. I could say with come certainty that I had never seen this Mr. Cho character before in my life. We made small talk and Mr. Cho asked if he could give me some advice. Feeling a Karate Kid moment coming on, I told him that yes, I would like to hear his advice. "Never leave Korea. You become very famous professor," he said. "Ever?" I replied. "Never." Though I am pretty much positive I will someday leave South Korea, this did get me thinking about potentially extending my contract and riding out the recession Korean style for a bit longer. I mean, who wouldn't want to be a very famous professor?** Thank you Mr. Cho.

4. I went to a palace built in the 13 hundreds*** and found a really amazing artsy neighborhood in Seoul called Insadong. If I stay in Korea longer than planned, I will try to be as close to Insadong as possible.

5. When the new term ended in early March, I was really hopeful (and this is putting it lightly) that I would no longer be in charge of teaching the class SG-B. These little monsters are the worst of the worst and have the potential to give me a full, honest to God melt down. SG is one of the youngest levels our school offers, they speak little to no English, and have the attention span of a developmentally challenged squirrel. On the first day of the term I was presented with the new schedule only to find that yes, I was still the teacher of the dreaded SG-B. I attempted to start off the new term by explaining to the children what the phrase "starting off on a new foot" meant and hoped that we could put this idea to good use on the charred and disintegrating shell that was our student/teacher relationship. This did not work. One week into the new term I was informed that my new duty as SG-B teacher was to hit these students when they misbehaved, which is, wait, always. ... ... ... ... This gave me a wonderful opportunity to practice the Nancy Reagan mantra of just saying oh hell no, but it did give me extra motivation to make my non hitting punishments effective. Thus... the chicken dance punishment was born. I have realized the best way that does not involve a stick to truly get through to these monsters is balls to the wall humiliation. It took two class periods of making these students come to the front of the room and dance like a chicken for 5 minutes before SG-B became one of my best behaved classes.

March is almost over and, though I may not be prepared to follow Mr. Cho's advice, I am thrilled to be here and looking forward to experiencing Korea in the Spring.

Enjoy the rest of your March.

Until next time,

Peeta Teecha




Friday, March 19, 2010

Just Say "NO" to Pets Giving You a Happy Time and Drinking Drugs

With a new term comes new material we are expected to teach. I am now teacher for a debate class, and the topic recently called upon my students to question the morality of owning a pet. In a country where they eat dog and live octopus, this was a hard subject to tackle. We managed, and today I was rewarded by seeing just how much of a difference I am making in the lives of these children by being presented with the listed pros/cons and refutations. These are some of my favorites...

Pro: Pets will cheer you up when you are sad.
Refutation: When you buy untrained pets they can't give you happy time. You should train them for a long time.

Pro: With pet we are not lonely.
Refutation: We can be lonely anyway.

Pro: A pet can make family amicable.
Refutation: Sometimes you can feel pets are not part of family.

Con: They can be very rude.
Refutation: They can be rude but that's very rarely.

Con: Animals can make many disease
Refutation: In 21C the medical is very evolve

The End...

or is it?

In conclusion, I would like to share with you the introduction written by one of my students on their thoughts about whether parents should shield their children from the harsh realities of life.

Many childrens wants to play with their friend and parents don't want to play with. Because they do not want to go to bad ways such as using cures, hitting peers, dirnking drugs (I don't want to.), liquor, smocking tobacco. That is really bad for childresn. But we don't have to shield them.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Picture is Worth 1,000 Blog Posts

During the past three months of blog posting, I have discussed many different aspects of my life in Korea, but have yet to provide much photographic evidence that I am actually here. So... here are 20 ish pictures of the things I have been seeing and doing since I arrived in Korea.


In early February myself and two friends made our way to Busan for Lunar New Years with our friend Donna and her family. The following pictures are from this trip.


A visit to Busan has to include at least one trip to a Buddhist temple. This place was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.


The view from the top of the temple.


Stephanie places some Won on the statue of the Year of the Tiger, and makes a tiny new friend. Unfortunately this child is not on Facebook, so they quickly fell out of touch.




I could not stop thinking about San Francisco on this trip. Everything from the bridge to the cliffs to the culture of this town screamed San Fran to me. I have decided that should I prolong my stay in Korea, it will definitely be in Busan.



The meal Donna's family prepared on the day of Lunar New Year.


When we visited the giant fish market, I was shocked by the huge variety of Marine life being offered up for your culinary delights. This lady is slicing whale meat for a happy consumer.


The end of every trip should involve a trip to a Norebang, we just happened to be lucky enough to visit one with kids running through the halls who let us take pictures of them. It sounds creepy, but let's be honest, this is a picture that needed to be taken.

Seoul and Suwon

The following pictures are of my friends and our adventures in Seoul and around Suwon.


A train ride home from Seoul is an opportunity to sing some norebang and take some really artistic photos.


I really will never get over public displays of really awful English. Check out the Bob Dlylan bar.


Stephanie is interviewed about her thoughts on the Olympics by a Korean news channel. It went something like this.

"Can you sing a Korean fight song?"


H&M is a holy place to foreigners teaching in Korea.


Unfortunately Koreans seem to love it too, which is why there is this massive line outside just to get in the store.




A little snow didn't stop us from celebrating Stephanie's birthday with sparklers.


Climbing into the mouth of this large bird called for some apparent criticism on the part of passing locals.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Dodgy End of Haiti, a Knocked Up Snow White and Chicken from Kentucky

I have laughed many times so far in March... the following have helped that along a bit.

"Teecha! You must be very rich. You have gold hair!"-student in class

"Your teach is the most interested and fun."-text message from student

"Haiti is located in the mountains of central amerka on the island of hispanola, on the dodgy end."

TOEFL Corrections
The following are selected passages taken from eassays written by my TOEFL students. Question: You have the opportunity to travel to any country for two weeks. Where do you go and why?

"Let's sea a history of greenlnd. There are person name eriko. His name also red hair becuase his hair red. this men looks very disgusting, and bad. actually, he was bad. anyway, so he have leave village begause his neighber. and he can found one island this island cold and actuaaly cold. this greenland."

"They have Thanks-giving Day. There are history. There is mayflower what is the vessel to transport grape wine. In 1609 Christopher Colombus and Polgrims want go America to get liberty of religion. They are Indians. I want go America."

"I want to visit many countries, like Nethuland for breads and windmeals, Africa for safari, America for many playgrounds, Italy for pastas and many pizza, etc. Oh so much countries, I confused."

"I especially love America food culture. Most of American eat fruit juice,cireal for breakfast. Sometimes they have lunchen. They eat meat,fish,disertand soup when they have lunchen.They have tea party.It's famous in Boston.American can freedom with this party. They eat lukewarm tea with cookie,cake,muffin,bisket for Tea Party. It's amongst 10amand330pm with friend, family."

"In my case, I want to go U.S.A., a powerful country. My cousin live in the U.S.A. He said Americans are humorous. Some Americans in aroud me. They are humorous. So, I like their civilization and I want to become intimate. I want go New York, Seattle and Colorado. My favorite singer is live in Seattle, so I want go to the Seattle and comfory him."

"I would like to visit America. America's food is fried chicken from Kentucky, barbecue, steak, hamburger, donut, serial and hot dog. That is my favorite food, too. They are very delicious but,too much eat them become fatness."

Summary Corrections
The following are the essays I have to correct, that are the same prompt as the corrections I have posted before. They are supposed to summarize a book I have not read, and must write 150 words. Here are a few of the best of this week.

the toy soldier peter happy birthday give me give father the Toy Soldier fifthent in the fifhent am one main character toy soldier bale rino see love and licifer see soldier down dowl toy soldier down down down down down down down in mouse see the very down in fish in the toy soliday eat fishing give you the fish go home mother fish cut and toy soldier in earthquake angry and earthquake toy soldier birthday in the stove and die

Snow white is pregnant. but snow white is sex and going strange house. house in seven shoe and seven bed. snow white is tired so she sleep the bed. many time go. seven dwards they see snow white. so they quiet she wake up and live they's house.

Today I write book's name is Peter and the Wolf. This book is to checkout because my english teacher is name Peter. This book in the peter is not good man. Then one day he meet wolf so they gander. They climb the tree hunter the fox, wolf is very kind so wolf hunter with eat. This book is good book. but this look man is be quite friend whisper. peter in book and english teacher different.

And last, but certainly not least

Martin Luther King very his working people may be same the Lincon, he's many excircise. America's black's and white's. Fight disappear a little bit with his exircise is suceece. he working for black's many peoples. maybe working, and white mans right his talking is very nice. These days many many black man has love the Martin Luther King.

Caaaaab Driver, You Don't Have to Stop for Red Light*

I have been here for three months now and feel that I have pretty much become immune to culture shock. The things that stood out as culturally insane when I first arrived are now just a part of my day to day life. I am used to strange looks and people constantly telling you their not so flattering thoughts on your appearance, I have fully adjusted to the fact that public restrooms never have soap and often don't have a sink, I have even started referring to myself in the third person as Peta Teecha. Even though this new found culture shock immunity is something I am pretty pleased with, I do genuinely enjoy when something happens that stands out as being very, very different.

Something that continually shocks me are the subtle differences in day to day activities, activities that are so routine and insignificant one wouldn't really think to look for strong examples of culture shock. To demonstrate my point, I will walk you through a few of these things including a haircut, a physical, and a cab ride.


I had my first haircut in Korea this past weekend, a process that I have been dreading since I arrived. It is in these random life need errands that you truly realize you are actually living in a place. I am not just a tourist. I live here. I have needs. I needed a haircut. Now that it is all said and done, I have to say that I am honestly looking forward to the next time I need a trim. I found a shop simply called "Scissors For Man" and figured that it was probably a safe bet. This shop just seemed to be, well, for me. I entered the store and was amazed to find that the hairdresser spoke better English than many of the Koreans who are teaching English at my school. As I sat in the chair the man asked if I would like to be massaged during my haircut, he then flicked a switch on the chair to show me just what this massage would entail should I choose to accept. The chair began to vibrate and rub my back and legs. Honestly, I hated it, but for more massage inclined patrons, this seems like a pretty impressive offering for a salon that charges under $6 for a haircut. I politely declined the massage. My eyes were then directed to the counter space below the mirror in front of me. The man pressed a button and a flat screen television rose out of the counter. He quickly flicked through the channels to find something playing in English and landed on a Nazi war movie with Jude Law. Nothing says haircut like a gory Nazi flick, and it truly made the 20 minute haircut fly by. I couldn't decide which was more entertaining, the video entertainment or the two Korean men in chairs to either side of me with their hair done up in curlers to obtain the so popular Korean man perm. As my first haircut in Korea experience came to an end, the kind barber quickly shoved a little trimmer in both of my nostrils to add new definition to the expectations one usually have of their barber. As I left, everyone in the shop, including the men in curlers, turned and waved to say goodbye.


I think the words hair pulling three year old tantrum throwing phobia are accurate descriptors of my feelings before a physical. I am a pretty big believer in personal space, and feel that the act of getting a physical pops your metaphorical bubble in a truly unpleasant way. When I first came here I was informed that later in the week I would be taken for my physical that is required of all foreigners upon their arrival in Korea. When the dreaded day came, I made my way to the hospital with my supervisor Jenny, her husband Charlie and my coworker Anthony, all of whom followed me throughout the entire physical. The entire process took under a half hour and is one of the funniest things I have encountered here thus far, though I am still not entirely sure I understand what happened. The best way that I can describe it is that you are shoved from room to room by doctors and nurses who speak little to no English, which means that you are never once told what is going on or what to expect. The process began in one room where a nurse wrenched open my mouth and pulled out my tongue and squeezed it for a bit, next room you are shoving your arms in some machine to do something I am still unclear on, next room is a blood test. I found it pretty shocking that gloves were not worn by any of the nurses at the hospital, even during the blood test. Next, they hand you a cup and give you directions to the toilet. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that the bathroom was just under a five minute walk away. I finished the cup filling process and made my way back towards the room where I was told the cup should be deposited. The long walk with the cup o' pee was pretty intimidating, what can I say, I guess I just prefer being seen in public without a cup filled with urine. I tried to avoid thinking about what would happen should I fall, which is especially likely when you are surrounded by Koreans who are very inclined to push and shove. There were a few more exams that were very fast and totally confusing, and in a flash my physical was done. I would take a physical in Korea over one in the states any day, though I still would prefer to avoid the whole experience all together.

Cab Ride

Cabs are amazingly cheap here and things are pretty spread out, so I feel that I have become quite accustomed to the Korean cab experience. The biggest obstacle you must tackle when getting in a Korean cab is gaining a calm understanding that your driver will not stop for red lights. They are just against it. Though it makes for a much quicker form of transportation than the cabs I was used to in Boston, I still find myself gasping and grabbing at the door handle in almost every cab ride I take. The drivers don't seem to notice, as every cab I have been in comes with a personal television in just to the right of the steering wheel that they seem to watch more intently than they do the road. It isn't uncommon that a driver will just refuse to take you because they aren't in the mood to go where you request or because you are a foreigner. They will sometimes decide mid ride that they don't want to finish taking you where you are going, at which point they will simply pull over and ask you to get out. Another thing to keep in mind when visiting Korea is that you should never take a cab that is black. This ride will be nearly twice as expensive, and the only difference is that the driver is wearing a suit.


Monday, March 1, 2010

March Musings: A Tongue Stompin' Good Time and a Shout Out to Librarians Everywhere

Another month has flown by and I find myself with a new term, a new schedule, and new students. I am really happy to be able to start classes anew with my recently aquired knowledge of disciplining young Korean children, and I am hoping that I will be able to set a tone for these classes that will make this term much smoother than my last. My friend Blake recently shared his method of threatening students that has received excellent results. I recently took on this same method and have also found that is quite effective. This method goes something like this... "SIMPSON! If you don't stop talking, teacher will come over, open mouth, rip out tongue, throw tongue on ground, stomp on tongue!" This really tickles the funny bone of 12 year old Korean children, but they are also a little bit scared that you might actually follow through with said threat. Thank you Blake.

I got to work today and literally fist pumped with excitement upon seeing my new schedule. Tuesdays and Thursdays still aren't ideal, but on Monday/Wednesday/Friday I arrive at 3 PM and have nothing to do but grade papers and continually refresh my facebook page, hoping for some new activity, until 7 when I have my first class. I teach from 7-8, have another break from 8-9, teach from 9-10 and am finished with my day. Two hours of work a day? This lax lifestyle really compliments my "I want to do nothing all day" habits I picked up during my four year stint as a student at Emerson College.

So what are my feelings at 8:30 on Monday, March 1st 2010, you ask? I am happy. Happy to be in Korea and fresh off a really great, relaxing weekend. I am happy to have made it to Seoul during daylight, happy to have visited a Boston friend currently wrapping up his year in South Korea, and am really thrilled that I found an H&M with normal human sized clothing so I can finally make it back to the L/XL bracket I thoroughly missed in the 2.5 months I have been in Korea. I now leave you with this... 3 of my favorite corrections from the past week.

Summary #1:
This book about food. about vegetable fult... especially about pizza. some space mans (example ET) eat the pizza's face is fun. so like read good. but so many good side sometimes strange. this book is same comic book. its cute. So. This book same the adult's comic book. no useful spring, summer autumn and winter's. so bad side. but this book is children is book good.

Summary #2:
One day the people tress people make the people. The name pinocchio. piocchio lie and nose long one day. pinocchio house outsied. well villager. the. maste find. pinocchio maste steay. good. very. not pinocchio. money. busy. surcause. goes and sudby. pinocchio. coin goes. and. house go fox, cat in. They. togetyher. go. he bechys. roud.
My Comments: Eric- This summary is so confusing that I am having a very hard time correcting it. Please work on your spelling and sentence structure for your next essay. Remember that you only need to use a period after a full sentence, not after every word.

Summary #3:
(This one goes out to my Aunt Anna, from a 9 year old boy named Danny)
This book is tell is Librarian's work Librarian's work is book's reading, book's borrow, book's cleaning... But librarian's work is very very many. Many people is help librarian. Library is event. Librarian is go to this events. Library, librarlians is always word Library and librarians is live is a gift to citizens. Librarian's history is very long. England- 500 is library. We are librarian's thanks. THANK YOU library and librarians! Book's numbers very many number, 800 or 900 books. Librarian's good people. Me love librarian's very a lot.