Archive for November, 2010

Taught my students how to ask ‘Have you ever…?’ questions. It’s a pretty good lesson. Afterward we did a review game. One of the questions is:

Have you ever _____ a dog?

I thought there was only one obvious answer: had. I even wrote it on their People Bingo sheet so it should’ve been easy for them. How naive am I?

Here’s what they’ve said:

Have you ever GROWN a dog?

Have you ever EATEN a dog?

Have you ever BEATEN a dog?

Have you ever SEEN a dog?

Have you ever RIDDEN a dog?

Have you ever BEEN a dog?

I couldn’t stop laughing when one kid said in all seriousness, “Have you ever BEEN a dog?” But it’s an acceptable question. If he believes in reincarnation.

These old Sesame Street skits come to mind:

Read Full Post »

At War

On my way out of work yesterday, I read some news headlines about a North Korean attack on South Korea. To be honest my first thought was, “Again?” I don’t mean that to be insensitive, but since I arrived in the ROK, I’ve realized that there’s a tangible tension between North and South after the alleged North Korean attack on the Cheonan-Ham back in March and the subsequent school drills we had to conduct in the months following the attack/accident.

The shelling began around 2:30 p.m. local time, according to South Korean military officials. The North fired about 200 rounds, and the South returned fire with about 80 rounds of artillery and scrambled fighter jets in an exchange that reportedly lasted an hour. It is considered one of the most serious exchanges in years between the two nations.


On my way home, I bumped into a few of my 3rd grade boys. They greeted me with, “Teacher, war!!” And I told them well, we are not at war, but soldiers on both sides fired some shots. Technically, they are right. The war has never officially ended. They seemed pretty riled up about what had happened. Then I said, “stay safe, boys” and went on my way. And I meant that. The reality is that all of my male students will serve in the Korean military. It’s possible that they would have to fight if the conflict were to escalate further in the future. I just hope North Korean and South Korean relations don’t continue to deteriorate in the years to come.

The internets was a-buzz with reports of the firing. People posted links to news articles and all the major and even smaller news agencies had already written reports within a couple of hours. But, I didn’t notice much of a difference in anyone’s behavior around here. Local shop owners tuned into the news instead of their usual dramas, but that was about it. Not that I expected people to be up in arms or anything. I’m just not sure how I should act or react in this kind of situation. It seems ‘business as usual’ is the common approach.

Another thing that has concerned me is how this incident will affect aid to North Korea. South Korea has always provided a significant amount of humanitarian aid to the North, such as flood aid after the heavy rains this past year. According to some reports, South Korea has suspended aid as a response to North Korea’s military aggression. I can understand why they made this decision, but I don’t think it will be very effective. Kim Jong-Il will still be able to eat while the rest of the people suffer. Sounds like the kind of policy he would go for anyway.

And I also wonder, what role will China play in all of this? They expected North Korea to maintain peace, but what do they think about this incident? What does this mean for Kim Jong-Il’s successor, his son, Kim Jong-Un? Some reports say it’s a way to draw attention to the future North Korean leader and his awesome power. Next time, they should consider sending out ‘Save the Date’ announcements.

And an even more pressing concern (sarcasm), how will this affect K-Pop? Don’t worry, music programs have also been put on ‘high alert.’

For those of you who want to find out more, a quick google search will turn up hundreds of articles. Check your trusted news agency for more information. For those of you here in Korea, do you hear jets all of a sudden? I didn’t notice at first since I’m so used to hearing them back home. What do you think?

UPDATE: Here’s a collection of photographs from the events of this past week.

Read Full Post »

BFD: Korean SAT

In November, every 3rd year high school student in Korea takes the Scholastic Achievement Test, or SAT. Their score on this test determines which universities students can even consider applying to. There’s already plenty of information out there about the significance of the Korean SAT, so I wanted to focus on how else the Korean SAT is a BFD (big f*cking deal).

  • Susi. It’s like Early Admissions in the US. High achieving students can apply to universities before the SAT date and get accepted based on their current grades and test scores. It’s beneficial to apply early since universities fulfill 30-50% of their admissions quota during early admission. If admitted, students don’t have to study as hard for the SAT. However, highly selective universities can retract their offer of admission if admitted students don’t meet the minimum SAT score.
  • Schools and businesses start later. To ensure that high school students make it to the testing locations on time, most schools and businesses start an hour later to minimize traffic congestion as high school students throughout the city travel to take the exam.
  • Gifts. Example of an SAT gift set. Students and their parents receive rice cakes and other gifts to wish them luck on the exam. Neighbors, co-workers and other people in the community pitch in to show their support. As one of the teachers at my school jokingly stated, “Mark next year’s test date on your calendars in red pen – My son is taking the SAT!”
  • 엿 Sticky grain/rice ‘cake’. There are various types of 엿. This sticky, taffy-like confectionery is a common gift for students taking the SAT. At first, I thought it was supposed to signify information sticking to your brain during the test. But, actually it’s supposed to help students ‘stick’ to a top university.
  • 찹쌀떡 Sticky rice cake. Similar to mochi, this rice cake is made from 찹쌀, which is a sticky variety of rice (glutinous rice). It is soft and doughy on the outside with red bean filling on the inside. 찹쌀떡 has the same significance as 엿. Gotta be extra sticky to get into Seoul University!


  • Toilet paper. Not as common as getting rice cakes, but it’s supposed to mean that the test will be so easy, the questions will simply unravel for you like a roll of toilet paper.
  • Fork. So you can ‘pick’ the right answer.
  • Toy axe. In Korean, you use the same verb for axe and fork so it’s like a play on words.

Candy companies and stores like Paris Baguette sell test gift sets to give to students taking the SAT. And I thought I left rampant commercialism behind back in the US.

My English Buddies asked me, “In the US, what do students get when they take the SAT?” uhh a little stressed?

We don’t take it nearly as seriously as they do in Korea. The systems are quite different. As I recall, we don’t get anything special when we take the SAT, especially since there are multiple test dates and the test isn’t mandatory. Did you get anything special whenever you took a test?

Photos from:  mykoreankitchen.com

Read Full Post »

We learned about emoticons in Korean class today! Commonly used emoticons in the US are  🙂  😦  😀  😛  :]  :\  and so on. My Korean teacher commented that our emoticons focus on the shape of the mouth while Korean emoticons focus on the shape of the eyes. (Also, our emoticons are usually sideways!)

For example, -_-  ^-^  ㅇ_ㅇ ㅠ-ㅠ =ㅅ=.

Here are a list of emoticons from today’s handout (credit to my Korean teacher):

  1. 사람 얼굴 (person face)
    기본형 (basic form):  -_-   ㅡㅡ
    응용 (application) a little sullen feeling:  -____-    -.-    ㅡ.ㅡ    -ㅅ-    -ㅂ-    -ㅛ-    =_=….
    a vacant look:  -ㅁ-    -0-    -ㅇ-    ㅇㅁㅇ
  2. 읏는 얼굴 (smiley)
    기본형 (basic form):  ^^    ^-^    ^_^
    응용 (application):  ^ㅁ^    ^ㅅ^    ^ㅂ^    ^ㅛ^    ^0^    ^ㅇ^    🐱    ^-^*….
  3. 우는 얼굴 (crying face)
    기본형 (basic form):  ;ㅅ;    ㅠ ㅠ    ㅜ ㅜ
    응용 (application):  ;ㅁ;    ;ㅇ;    ;0;    ;ㅈ;    ;ㅂ;    ;ㅛ;    ;ㅍ;    iㅁi    iㅇi    iㅂi    ㅠ_ㅠ    ㅜ_ㅜ….
  4. 당황, 황당 (to be embarrassed, flustered, taken aback)
    기본형 (basic form):  -_-;
    응용 (application):  ㅡ_ㅡ;;;;;;;    ㅡ_-    -ㅁ-;    =ㅁ=;    -ㅅ-;    -ㅂ-;    ^^;;….
  5. 빛나는 눈 (shining eyes) – 관심 (interest)
    기본형 (basic form):  +_+
    응용 (application):  +ㅁ+    +_+    +ㅃ+    +ㅂ+    *_*    *ㅁ*….
  6. 기타 (others)
    춤 (dance):  ~(ㅇㅅㅇ~)(~ㅇㅅㅇ)~    ~(-ㅅ-~)(~-ㅅ-)~
    어지럽다 (dizzy):  @_@
    돈이 좋아! (like money):  $_$
    안녕? (Hi):  ㅇㅅㅇ/    =ㅁ=/    =ㅅ=/….
    안녕?  절 (Hi or deep bow):  (- -)(_ _) “꾸벅” (“nod”)
    (난처해서) 머리를 긁다 (scratch one’s head):  -_-    -_-)….
    욕 (fuck;;;;;):  ㅗ    凸    昌    晶    -_-ㅗ

It took me forever to type this ㅠ_ㅠ! Hope you all find it useful *^^Y (supposed to be peace sign)!

Read Full Post »

Daegu in Motion

Got free tickets to Korea in Motion performances from the DMOE (holla). I saw three shows this past weekend: Break Out, Return, and Sachoom. All I have to say is – I love bboys. They are automatically hot in my book.

Korea in Motion Daegu Brochure

Break Out was a hip hop/bboy performance about a group of prisoners that break out of jail. The show was hilarious! Even though it was a non-verbal performance, the actors/dancers did a great job telling the story. I especially liked the ‘tunnel’ scene. Really creative! I would’ve gone to see it again!

Break Out

Return was an excellent dance performance. Just what I expected from Korean bboys (and bgirls)! Gorilla Crew has got some talented members. The story follows Gorilla Crew battling against the crooked Brooklyn Monkeys to win the $500,000 prize. Great energy and choreography! The guys and girls seem really nice, too. We had the chance to take photos with them after the show and they seemed very gracious when I told them that I really enjoyed their performance.

Actually, before the show, the guy dressed as the clown stole the tickets right out of my hands. I had to play rock, paper, scissors with him to win them back! I was able to win back 3 out of the 4, but he ran away with my last ticket! He eventually gave it back just in time for us to take our seats.

Gorilla Crew

I think Gorilla Crew toured the Philippines with their Bboy and Ballerina show about a year ago. According to the brochure, they’ve also performed on Broadway! Here’s a review of the show, Return.

Return bboy performance

Sachoom was a medley of different styles and dances that reinterpreted the story of love and life. I fell asleep for part of it since I came straight from hiking Apsan and couldn’t help dozing off. But I liked that parts that I saw. Especially the re-enactment of sperm trying to fertilize an egg. It was really creative!


The performances were very entertaining! I think Korea in Motion is a great way to showcase and support the arts in its many forms. Thanks again for the free tickets, DMOE!


Photos from: brochure from the DMOE email, Korea in Motion website

Read Full Post »

I always knew that I liked fall and now I know why. It’s so colorful! Why don’t the leaves change in California? Now I understand why people travel just to watch the leaves fall.


Near Apsan

Read Full Post »

As most of you living in Korea may already know, scooter deliverymen (and the occasional deliverywomen) drive like rebels without a cause. They ignore every traffic law as they drive forwards, backwards and diagonal all over the streets and sidewalks. I must admit, the delivery service in Korea is excellent. It’s very popular because it’s fast, convenient and free (and there aren’t any drive-thrus). However, the delivery scooters appear out of nowhere and nearly take me out every time they pass. Today, one man came very close to it.

sidewalk AKA the 'scooter lane'

I was walking down the street to go the gym right after school. I turned the corner and suddenly saw a scooter driving straight at me. He was still far enough away for me to move out of the way, so I jumped back onto the other side of the corner. But, it was too late. The deliveryman tried to swerve out of the way but there was nowhere else for him to go because there were students on the corner waiting for the light to change. So, he fell off the scooter and rolled on the ground while the scooter skid across the sidewalk straight at me. Luckily I was able to dodge it, but it was a close call. I managed to dodge the scooter twice!

The driver got up with a strained expression on his face as he rubbed the pain out of his hands and legs. I just stood there, shell-shocked and speechless because I didn’t know how to express myself in Korean. He picked up the scooter, which was a bit damaged after it fell on the ground and asked me “괜찮아요?”. Then my students came rushing over to see what happened. They looked at me with eyes full of concern, “TEACHER!! Are you okay??”

I told my students that I was fine. I apologized and bowed to the driver because I felt a little bit responsible for his accident. I picked up his helmet for him and apologized one more time before he got back on the scooter and we parted ways.

Today’s Lesson:

Scooter deliverymen are reckless and dangerous. They need to slow down. Food can wait. Life is more valuable than a couple minutes of spared time.

Read Full Post »

Let’s Fly

Because I’m into Far East Movement and I love me some Socal. Congrats on having a number one single, FM! Here’s an article I wrote about them on BakitWhy.com.

Up, up here we go

Read Full Post »