korea (49) music (17) oddities (11) english (9) 한국어 (5) coffee (4) opinion (4) language (3) church (2)

Monday, November 30, 2009

good coffee

You have to understand how much instant coffee we've been drinking. Only a few days ago Lewis and I were heartily singing the praises of Maxim Gold. "It's actually not bad," I said. And it's not -not morally bad like sin or reheated coffee. But the fact is, we all know well and good that instant coffee is only a memory of coffee - the ghostlike existence of a brew that lived and died long ago. You can drink it all day long just to wind up with a coffee shaped hole in your heart or maybe stomach ulcers.

So this morning when tasted Intelligentsia for the first time in many long months, I was absolutely blown away. It was a caffeinated journey for my senses -a hike through hills of floral flavors and and valleys of nutty nuances I couldn't begin to describe. I had just one carefully rationed cup and the delightful impression it made on my palate remained with me throughout the day. Thank you ever so much, Laura. You have no idea how happy you made us.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Every month the educational office in our district (Uijeongbu) has something they call the "English Café." It's an opportunity for native English teachers in the area to get together with Korean teachers in a Korean cultural experience. I usually don't go, but this month's event was called "Extreme Taegwondo Musical."

They requested that we write a reflective essay afterward. I wasn't sure what that meant, but it sounded kind of like an assignment from the PCM class at MBI. In case there's any confusion, my somewhat garbled analogy is a complaint about the names-from-a-hat buddy system they enforced at the beginning of the event. Some of the Korean teachers didn't want to speak English so it made that situation a little uncomfortable. I don't think anyone else will read it so I'm posting it here. This is what I wrote:

Flashing lights, blaring sounds and extreme entertainment all tempered by a prelude of warm conversation and delicious food – these were the panorama of delights which awaited us upon attending the year’s final English Café.

I knew not what to expect, for I’d not forayed on previous adventures of the said company. Yet even had I an inkling of what was to come, my mind would not have been able to encompass the scope and vision of what would ensue with the evening’s activities. It may be an overstatement to cite the scriptures – “Eye has not seen nor has ear heard” – yet in my mind the similitude is not to be overlooked. Because no one can know quite what to expect of a situation before it is upon him.

Certain aspects of the English Café I enjoyed overwhelmingly, and any negativity conveyed in the proceeding thoughts should not preclude that no matter how slightly. To have enjoyed pleasant camaraderie with countrymen and diverse bearers of my mother tongue is a privilege I should be loathe to despise. Nonetheless, there were elements of the aforementioned nocturnal expedition, namely the mandatory and seemingly perfunctory social couplings, which did nothing to increase the joyfulness of our shindig but in fact were somewhat to the detriment. Invoking the medium of analogy, I imagine each member of the party as words in a sentence from a mid-nineteenth century Gothic novel. In no way would I want myself understood as obdurate towards those with whom I share a dissimilitude in etymology – for we are all but entries in a dictionary of common making and these deviations enliven our sultry prose in every way. Yet it cannot be overlooked that some words find themselves uncomfortable with their preordained literary citizenship (which is why we have such a detestable plethora of kitsch lining our bookshelves, newspaper stands and magazine racks). It is in no way the fault of the words themselves. Rather it is a result of an author's discombobulated thoughts or some vacuum of scribal proficiency. Let sentences be written naturally and freely, infusing a variety of words and ideas of their own accord and not from a misguided sense of necessity. That is my only contention, and I thought it bore mention as a constructive adjunct to the rest of my accolades.

But enough dull talk of prose. What of the free verse that followed; the fine flowing lines of thought and body merged with the voice and soul of music? Mellifluous? Yes! Obtuse? Perhaps somewhat! Campy? By all means, yes and yes. And one of right mind would not have had it any other way. For with such things there is no other way. I offer my thanks for the opportunity. In all sincerity I hope the oversight of these outings brought you much joy and blessing.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Pepero Day and other things more important

While many among our readership are proudly and solemnly observing Veteran's Day, the Koreans have another tradition (albeit nontenured and not necessarily revered). November 11th is Pepero Day in Korea - an unabashedly commercial holiday which enables the Lotte conglomerate to cash in on the sale of Pepero.

Here's to you Kristin. I hope you have a great day, and that you don't mind too much our feeble musical tribute.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Will You Help Me, Please?

The inspiration for this was The Good Samaritan. Unfortunately we lacked the costuming and actors necessary to reproduce the entire storyline. So we settled for a very basic plot, much lacking in the power and compelling morals of Jesus's parable. This is for our 6th grade chapter 12 lesson, "Will you help me, please?"

Thursday, October 29, 2009

the show

Lewis, Steven and I put on a show at the local coffee shop this past Wednesday. There was a great turnout, and everybody was super enthusiastic so it was really fun to play. Here's a link to Steve's Youtube channel where he posted some of the videos:


(Please disregard my slightly out of tune tenor parts and accordion hacking, I'm sure it was much more amazing live).

Here's a link to Steve's Myspace as well, where you can check out more of his great music: http://www.myspace.com/stevenmorel Here's Lewis' site again too in case you've forgotten how to get there, or missed the last time I posted it: http://www.lewisknundrum.com/music.htm

Monday, October 26, 2009

a touch of color

This is what it looked like when I walked home today. It's been gray skies mostly, but the trees have a touch of color that's nice to see. 가을냄새정말 좋아요.

Friday, October 23, 2009

a picture post

Here are some pictures taken by our new friend Alex. He's the co-teacher of our other new friend, Steven the Canadian. Alex is a great help with learning Korean and he's super encouraging despite my incomprehensible pronunciation, minuscule vocabulary and non-existent grammatical structures .

Once I was a yangban (양반).

Another time we were models for trendy Korean jackets.

That tepee is just like what we used when I was a young Korean boy growing up in the village. We were much shorter back then or maybe there was just food in it, I don't remember.

The point of the teeter-totter jumping game is not to knock the other person off or to break his legs, I learned. You're just supposed to keep jumping. It didn't make sense until I found out it was a girl sport.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Is this your book?

Is this your book? No, "The Stories of Anton Chekov" is not mine. In keeping with the subtle Russian themes, I tried using Rachmaninoff's third piano concerto as a film score. The melancholic folk melody and brooding accompaniment nicely underlined the tension we wanted to evoke in the "search" sequence. But in the end, it made the denouement feel somewhat preemptive. The drama speaks most clearly for itself against a backdrop of silence.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

class materials

Since Lewis, Steve and I all teach the same classes, we decided we could do each other a favor and make a video together. We're using the sentence form "I want to ____ ."

The official video for this lesson is this . Obviously, we are not attempting to improve on the original -which would be impossible- but rather provide supplemental material.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Speaking English

I've got to say, I can speak English pretty well. I think it comes naturally to me, and I guess I've been doing it for as long as I can remember (missing from this video are the parts where I accidentally said "cheesebooger" instead of cheeseburger).

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Here is a bit of the view outside my school. That's a chicken farm and church right next door. It smells really bad in the summer. The chicken farm I mean.

New Stuff

Here are some pictures of my new classroom and office. One of the wings of the school was remodeled during vacation and now we have a bona fide English Zone.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Monday, August 10, 2009

Siapan Day 9

Here are a few more of Tami's classroom all decked out for the first day of classes.

Above is Tami and Auntie Debbie, who teaches 2nd Grade at the school. Below is Tami and her mom, also Debbie.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Saipan Day 8

We had some beautiful weather the past few days, resulting in my sunburn and some nice scenery.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Tank Beach

Tami's friend Emily and I were planning to go hiking at a place called Forbidden Island. Despite the name, people apparently go there all the time. But the roads were really bad owing to all the heavy rain we've had. We were driving a Ford Explorer and it started smoking as we climbed the last hill. So we turned around and went to Tank Beach instead. I'm not sure why it's called Tank Beach because there are no tanks anywhere.

There are two tanks over by the school, buried mostly underwater about one hundred yards off the shore. They got stuck in the sand when US forces attacked the Japanese in the Battle of Saipan. Tami and I swam out there Monday. While sitting on the tank my left foot was attacked by a crab.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Tami's Classroom

Here's Tami (my friend from my Moody who lives in Saipan) in her 5th grade classroom. That they conduct classes entirely in English seems strange, but apparently they do that in English speaking places. Classes start on Monday, 8/10.