Monday, June 27, 2011

I think the Translator hates me.

Or at least has no confidence in my ability (which I think quite fair).  I haven't written much about her because she hasn't been interesting; until recently she continued to translate nearly everything I say and be predictable and easy to work with.  She did once chastise me for pointing with my index finger but other than that it was smooth sailing.

This semester I teach the school's youngest students with her and she seemed to enjoy it.  She was indulgent and cheerful and real extra pleasant.  Then in April her behavior started to change.  She failed to appear for a few classes and when students asked me where she was I had to go fetch her from her office.

Soon she stopped having a good time and became less involved in our co-educational enterprise.  These changes were remarkable enough that I considered asking her about it.  I assumed she was tired or overworked, two common problems for employed Koreans, and thought maybe she'd appreciate some friendly concern.  But our relationship isn't a talking about personal situations sort of deal so I decided it would be wiser to stay out of it.  I wasn't going to hassle her.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Really, we all look alike to them.

I showed this picture to three classes today:

Remember how my students are hopelessly bad at recognizing diversity in foreigners?  In two of today's classes my first task was to convince everyone this is not a picture of me.  (The third class was a third grade class, which means they were all thinking it was a picture of me but not saying anything about it because contributing a potentially useful utterance to a classroom is devastatingly uncool in Korea when you're 15.)  One girl, upon accepting this as an image of a stranger, shouted "brother!"

Also, they're shallow.  I know, everyone is shallow.  But read this or this.  In the two classes willing to speak there were cries of "HANDSOME!" and "SO HANDSOME!" and "BIG MOUTH!!" which I had to quiet.  Even after I'd explained about how that fool isn't me.  (Students hassle me about being handsome every day, especially when they want something.)  Dang it Korea, you're supposed to laugh at the man's buffoonery not fall in love with him.

Actual conversation from yesterday apropos of nothing:
STUDENT:  Teacher... tall?
ME: How tall am I?
STUDENT:  [nodding]
ME:  187 centimeters.
STUDENT:  Oh! So handsome!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Busan: Temple with Ocean View

I've little interest in temples and this one is nothing special.  Great location though. 

This picture of the stone marking the turnoff for the temple was taken from the nearest bus stop, where it's like 20 torturous minutes between buses and you know if you hail a cab you'll see the bus in the rear-view mirror pulling up as you ride off.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Busan: Haeundae Beach

Behold:  mainland Korea's best beach.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The 2011 English Pop Song Competition

Seems the middle schools in the district hold English pop song competitions every year.  Being a local celebrity famous for my coziness with the English language, I was chosen to judge both auditions and final performances.  Auditions were weird.  At 0830 hopefuls came to my classroom and sang one unaccompanied minute of their songs to myself, Chortle, and a roomful of mixed-grade students.  You can imagine the horror of being 12 years old and singing a foreign-language song first thing in the morning in front of 2 teachers and two dozen strangers.

Singers scrupulously observed rests, including instrumental breaks, which makes for a real awkward a capella performance, let me tell you.  When their minute was up Chortle barked at them in Korean and they shuffled to their seats trying to hide their pantloads of terrorshit.  Some students sang in groups of 2-3, in which cases harmony was attempted.  This usually worked but is the only reason I can now say I've heard "Lemon Tree" sung in parallel tritones.  Well, technically it is harmony and the girls were so consistent that I have to think maybe they were just being avant garde.

For the final performances the school's English Day! banner--evidently unfurled for every extracurricular English event--was hung in the auditorium.  The festivities began with technical difficulties.  The auditorium's PA didn't work despite having been thoroughly tested.  Plan B was to broadcast the music over the entire school's PA at 78 rpm quality, which gets the sausage made, but at what cost?  Someone working the technology accidentally started "Dancing Queen" 3 or 4 times, which was cool because hey, ABBA!, but it turned into a huge tease when the girls who were slated to perform it no-showed.

Then there were the microphones.  They all had dirty/loose XLRs or something and crackled when jostled.  I started hating the very idea of the microphone after the first student stabbed "You Raise Me Up" into my eardrums singing straight out his nose.  I got a headache from the kid who wrapped his hand around the windscreen, held it to his lips and shouted into it.  I could see his carotid artery swelling with exertion.  He doubled over when he wanted to be louder still, like he was trying to use his pelvis for leverage against his diaphragm in a perverse quest for mechanical advantage.  And he did a wordless caterwauling thing I cannot adequately describe; it was simultaneously painful to hear and hilarious.  The applause he received was thunderous.  I couldn't tell whether it was ironic or if the crowd prized his total commitment.

Singers provided printed lyrics for the judges.  This was helpful because most of the time listening alone was incapable of determining which words were intended.  (No one was this much fun though.)  One song was performed twice and the two transcriptions didn't agree.  Is the line "sense of elation" or "since ovulation"?  The difference is huge, guys.  I also learned you can safely drop the f-bomb on your Korean middle school's principal and 5 of its English teachers because none of them will catch it.

All told, I'm glad this was my last English Pop Song Competition.  Being the Paula was hard work.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A boring story from someone else's job.

I laughed though, because it's my story and my job.  You may remember that I call one of my co-teachers Rose because she's about as quick as the dumb one from the Golden Girls (pictured).  Most of my co-teachers bring nothing to my classes but Rose likes to contribute in her own clumsy way.  Here's how our classes together have worked for the last 10 months:
  1. Rose provides a cloze (fill-in-the-blanks) worksheet covering the textbook's dialogs.
  2. I lead students through the textbook up to the first dialog.
  3. I coerce students to listen and fill in the blanks.
  4. I coerce students to say the missing words as I reveal them via PowerPoint.
  5. Once the complete script is on screen Rose talks about it in Korean for 2-6 minutes.
  6. Repeat steps 3-5 for the second dialog.
  7. I coerce students to perform speaking exercises.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Busan: Haeundae Beach Love Motels

Went to Busan last month, took a lot of pictures, didn't even tell you about it.  Allow me to right this wrong starting with an expose of Busan love motels.  Your first question is undoubtedly "What's a love motel?" and I'm glad you asked!  A love motel is where Koreans/Japanese take their lovers for assignations.  Hourly pricing is often available and staying more than one night is discouraged.  Love motels are awesome because they're often cheap, typically clean, and frequently wacky.