Saturday, December 31, 2011


At the beginning of every class, I take roll.  Each student answers with their choice of "yes," "here," or "hello."  If a student is absent, I choose a student who is present to run a registry slip with the absent student's name, the date, my name, and the class to the office on the fourth floor of our building, so the ladies who do all of the administrative work can immediately register them.  At our school, we call the administrative area info.  The Korean students call it "eenpo."  Among third and fourth graders, taking the absent slip to info seems to be a job that is in high demand. Even if it only takes a minute, or two, the younger students seem to be excited about getting out of class, and doing something different.

I always know which students will be absent before I ever call roll, because as soon as I walk through the door to enter a classroom, the students will proclaim, "Teacher!  Teacher!  So and So is absent!  I want go to eenpo!"

Then all the others would chime in, "Teacher!  I want to go to eenpo!!  Teacher!  Teacher!  I want to go to eenpo!"

I would then have to establish order, "Okay, okay, okay!!  Let me take roll first!!"  I would then call the first student's name louder than the others, "Such and Such!!"  The students normally calm down after the first name is called.

As soon as roll would finish, all the students would continue, "Teacher!  I want to go to eenpo!!"

When I first started, I tried to avoid being accused of playing favorites, so I would hold a mini paper rock scissors tournament, but they would sometimes get out of hand, and take up too much time, so two months into it, I cared less about it, and would simply choose a student.

Now, upon completing roll call, whenever someone is absent, I usually choose a student who I feel hasn't taken the slip in a while.  I normally walk to the chosen student's desk, place the slip on it, and give him/her the instructions, "Such and Such, write So and So's Korean name on the slip."

Upon hearing me say the chosen student's name, the entire class, in unison, would give me a big, "AWWWWWWWWWW!?!!!!"

Then some would chime in, "Bad Teacher...  Mean Teacher..."  I can't help but laugh every time I hear it.

"Teacher... You only like Such and Such!  You always choose So and So!"

Sometimes the "You only's" can get pretty funny, "Teacher...  You only like students who are small!!"

"Bad Teacher...  You only like new students!"

"Mean Teacher...  You only like students who are tall!"

I laugh everytime I hear the latest, "Teacher!  You only..."

But in reality, I choose the quietest students more than the others.  For some reason, I've never heard, "Teacher!  You only like quiet students!!"

They crack me up.  Teaching can be a lot of fun.

With that being said, I would like to wish all of you a happy new year.  I wish you many blessings in 2012, and may it, up to this point, be the best year of your life!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Differences in Korean and Japanese Women

I would like to start by stating that I hope all of you had a wonderful Christmas, and I hope all of you experienced the love of Christ at some point during the season.  After all, isn't that what we are supposed to be celebrating?

My mother sent me money this Christmas, instead of sending me presents.  I took it as an opportunity to take a trip to Seoul, and complete my winter wardrobe.  I left on the Friday before Christmas.  I did most of my shopping in Myeongdong, the largest and most prominent shopping area in the city (to my knowledge).  Myeongdong has a Polo store, a North Face store, an authorized Apple dealer, and countless other stores that sell brand name items that Christmas shoppers would be inclined to purchase.

The most prominent group of shoppers in the Myeongdong area during my visit seemed to be the Japanese.  To the untrained eye, "all Asians look the same," but after being in Korea for over seven months, it's rather easy to distinguish the difference between them and Koreans.

Korean women are rather elegant in their dress.  They prefer to wear modest tops, as they never show even a hint of cleavage.  They prefer short skirts, dresses, and high heels, which is rather attractive.  During the winter, they still love wearing them, so the preferred article of clothing used to keep warm are navy blue pantyhose.  They are attractive, feminine, and apparently warm because of their thickness.

Most Korean women are rather modest in the application of makeup, as they choose cosmetics that make their faces appear whiter.  They are also modest regarding the alteration of the color of their hair, as the only color they seem to dye their hair is dark brown.  Korean women have a variety of hairstyles, and many seem to include bangs.  The shoulder length perm is also quite popular, and is rather nice to see.  Korean women are extremely feminine in their hair accessories, as many wear bows and clips of all types, as well as hair bands.

As I've stated earlier, to the untrained eye, "all Asians look the same," but that is definitely not the case.  Generally speaking, there are two differences in facial structure.  Japanese women tend to have a slightly different eye shape, as their eyes seem to be slightly rounder.  They also seem to have a rounder more compact facial structure than Korean women.

Regarding eye shape, many Asian women go to great lengths to make their eyes appear rounder and larger.  Some wear color altering contact lenses, along with other applicable accessories.  Many even have plastic surgery, called double eyelid surgery.  Many Japanese women are known to come to Seoul to have such surgeries, because of the lower rates, and that may be a contributing factor to this particular difference.  But nevertheless, Japanese women seem to have slightly rounder eyes than Korean women.

Japanese women wear more makeup.  This could be another contributing factor to the notion that their eyes appear rounder.  A theory that I have is that while the goal of Korean women, when applying makeup, is to make the face appear whiter, the goal of Japanese women in the application of makeup seems to be to make the eyes look bigger.  They seem to apply eye liner much more liberally than Koreans, and they seem to wear eye shadow, a cosmetic that not many Koreans wear.  And if it is worn by Koreans, it is done more conservatively.  Japanese also apply pink blush extremely liberally to their cheeks, while it is rare to see Koreans wear it.

Japanese women are more liberal in the alteration of their hair color.  Many had a hair color that was a much lighter shade of brown than what I would ever see on most Koreans.  The hairstyles are also noticeably different.  It's difficult to explain, but they seemed to be less elegant, and traditional than Korean women.  Japanese women seemed to go for a more "modern" look with their hair.  Japanese women seemed to prefer not to wear hair bands, bows, and other feminine hair accessories that Koreans wear.

Japanese women definitely have a different fashion sense than Korean women.  In Myeongdong, they seemed to be slightly more casual.  Their sense of style in the winter seemed to be geared more toward comfort, while still maintaining an elegance.  It was difficult to find the attractive combination of miniskirts, navy blue pantyhose, and high heels on Japanese women.

My Korean friends, along with western friends who have visited Japan, tell me that Japanese women take a more individual approach to their sense of style, while Korean women tend to follow the latest trends.  I definitely noticed that while in Seoul.  Many Korean vendors display pictures of Korean celebrities wearing a particular accessory, or article of clothing they are trying to sell.  Korean women tend to prefer the classic look, while Japanese women are more likely to to take risks regarding their style.  The goal of Korean women seems to be to appear more elegant, while Japanese women seem to want to appear more hip.

Another way to tell the difference between Koreans and Japanese is by listening to the language.  Japanese seems to be a little more rhythmic.  It has sort of a cuteness to it.  And nowhere is the cuteness more evident than in how they say Mcdonalds.  Koreans say, "Macdonardsu."  I can't quite explain it like my Korean friends, but Japanese people struggle with pronouncing consecutive consonants, so they say, "Magudonarudo."  It's endearing, and I laugh every time I hear it.  Saying it is as addictive as smoking cigarettes.  For the past week, I've been unable to stop saying "magudonarudo."

While in Myeongdong, I wanted to stop some Japanese people, and ask them, "Do you know where the nearest Mcdonalds is?"

I would have done so only to hear them answer, "Magudonarudo?!?!"  I sat in front of the Mcdonalds in Myeongdong for around ten minutes hoping to recognize a Japanese person for the soul purpose of hearing them say "Magudonarudo."  Isn't it funny how when you are not looking for something, it seems to be everywhere, but when you need it, and begin to actively search for it, it seems to be nowhere in sight?  That's how it seemed when I wanted to hear, "Magudonarudo" from the "horse's mouth," so I had to settle for hearing it from my Korean friends, which was still funny.

Generally speaking, I find Korean women to be more attractive than Japanese women.  Korean women are more elegant and feminine in their style.  I prefer women who embrace their femininity and wear things such as dresses, skirts, cute hair accessories, bows, and pantyhose.  And Korean women definitely do that.  While Japanese women may embrace their femininity in a different way, they seem to do so less regarding their personal appearance, and their sense of style.

If you haven't noticed, the last two posts have been on Japan.  The reason for that is that I find Japanese culture to be more exotic simply because I was never around them in New Orleans, while I was always around Koreans, so naturally, I am fascinated by Japan.

Update:  Please Read

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Observations on the Views of Koreans Regarding Japan

Lee Myoung Bak is the president of Korea.  I've gotten the impression that most of the people from Gwangju adamantly dislike him, and his policies.  My students, especially my 6th graders, are particularly vocal in their distaste.  In order to get a pulse on how the people of Gwangju feel about him, I assigned the essay topic, "Do you like Lee Myoung Bak?  Why or why not?"  The political views of most sixth graders are merely a reflection of their parents, so I knew that these essays would provide insight on the views of many of the citizens of Gwangju.

The students wrote well, and unabashedly displayed their sentiments.  I assigned the topic to two of my upper level sixth grade classes, and every essay, with one exception, began with this statement (There was slight variation in wording.), "I dislike Lee Myoung Bak for many reasons.  The first reason I don't like him is because he is from Osaka, Japan."  

For those of you who are unaware of Korean history, the Japanese occupied Korea for several years prior to World War II.  Koreans were treated horribly, and many of the atrocities were unspeakable, so naturally, Koreans have a strong hatred towards Japan.  A question on a writing test for my fourth graders was, "What place would you not like to visit, and Why?"  

Around half of the answers were some some form of, "I don't want to visit Japan, because I hate Japan.  And I hate Japanese people."  Many of my Korean friends, in casual conversation, have told me that they hate all things Japan.  I get the impression that this view is fairly widespread throughout Korea, so the accusation from Koreans of their own president being Japanese is a fairly strong insult.

Korea is now a thriving economy, much like Japan.  Korea has Hyundai, and Kia.  Japan has Toyota, Honda, and Nissan.  Korea has Samsung (Did you know Samsung manufactures cars?), and LG.  Japan has Sony, and Panasonic.  The rivalry is fairly evident.  Soccer matches between the two nations receive high television ratings.  The most replayed sporting event here in Korea seems to be Korea's victory over Japan in baseball to win the Gold medal in the Beijing Olympics.  I've seen that game numerous times.

I sence sort of an inferiority complex from Koreans towards Japan. Nowhere is that more evident than in the dispute between Korea and Japan over Dokdo, a small Island off of the coast of Korea.  Both Japan and Korea claim the island is theirs.  Koreans hold fast to their sovereignty over Dokdo, not because it's an island of abundant natural resources, but because they absolutely refuse to give in once more to their Asian rivals.  One of my sixth graders said in her essay, and I paraphrase, "Lee Myoung Bak is from Japan, and he became president to give Dokdo to them."  Sovereignty over Dokdo is a major issue for Koreans that fuels their hatred towards Japan.  I've yet to meet a Korean who has taken the stance that Dokdo should be under Japanese sovereignty.

The earthquake and tsunami in Japan cooled Korean sentiments slightly, and I emphasize the word, "slightly."  Make no mistake about it, many Koreans possess an inherent hatred towards Japan.  It's both sad and fascinating.  America is one of the most multicultural societies in the world.  As an American, I, along with most others, don't have an inherent hatred towards a particular nation.  Different ethnic groups may dislike, and maybe even hate each other, as racism does exist.  And many Americans possess a slight allegiance towards the nation of their ancestry, in addition to their allegiance to the USA.  Korea, on the other hand, is the other extreme.  It's one of the most homogeneous societies in the world, and obviously the pain and embarrassment stemming from Japanese occupation of Korea has transcended generations, because the feelings are obviously strong even in the children.  

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Best Friends

Hiromi is a sixth grader, and is one of my more rambunctious students, but I like her.  Some of my other wilder students are less likable, and I kind of enjoy laying the hammer on them, but that is not the case with Hiromi. She is so charismatic that the bahavior of the rest of the class will be solely dependant on her's. When Hiromi is quiet, the rest of the class will be that way. When she becomes difficult, so will the rest of the class.  Although I love her enthusiasm and her zest for life, having control of the class is more important, so the reigns on Hiromi are rather tight.  I like her, because she is obviously highly intelligent, but she is not particularly hardworking. Hiromi always seems to know enough to answer intelligently.  Her best quality is her amazing smile.  Her eyes are rather squinty, so when she smiles, they look as if they are completely closed.  It's beautiful.

Hiromi is in one of the upper level sixth grade classes, so she and most of her classmates are fluent in English.  In phone interviews with my upper levels, I usually converse with them, and talk about what is going on in their lives.  Her best friend, Cassie, is in the same class, and through those interviews, I have learned that she and Cassie do everything together.  In the beginning, I thought it would be unspeakable for the two of them to sit next to each other in class.  They would constantly look across the room, turn towards each other, and speak to each other silently, reading each other's lips.  It would drive me nuts, because other students would see it, then feel free to speak to each other more verbally.  There was no separating the two girls, even though they were across the room.

I moved Hiromi, as I do with all of my other rambunctious students, to the back to the class.  Cassie, who sat in the front, would constantly feel the need to turn around with her back towards me to communicate nonverbally with Hiromi.  One day, I decided to move Cassie to the back next to Hiromi to see what would happen, because the class was becoming rather difficult to manage.  It couldn't possibly be much worse than what it had already become.  As I walked into class on that particular day, I said, "Cassie!  Move next to Hiromi."  I pointed my finger at the particular seat where she was sitting in the front, then I moved it towards the empty seat in the back next to Hiromi.  Hiromi flashed me her amazing shut-eyed smile.

Cassie couldn't believe it, "But Teacher!  I can't sit next to her!  Korean teacher won't let me!"

I repeated, "Cassie!  Move next to Hiromi."  And again, I pointed my finger, and moved it from where Cassie was sitting in the front to the empty seat next to Hiromi in the back.

"But Teacher...!!"  I kept pointing, and moving my finger from the front to the back.

The other students were stunned.  They knew the implications of the two friends sitting next to each other.  I think they genuinely believed the class was going to explode.  Then other students began chiming in, "Teacher!  Can I move next to so and so!?"

"Nope. Only Cassie can move."

Another student would chime in, "Teacher!  Can I move next to such and such!?"

"Nope.  Only Cassie is allowed to move."

I thought Cassie was going to get on her knees, and kiss my feet.  The Korean teacher for that particular class saw it as unspeakable for the two to be next to each other in a classroom setting.  She tried to forbid the two to sit next to each other in my class, but I was determined to see if it would work.  And surprisingly, it did.

The reigns remain tight on the two friends.  I have to be more strict with them than I am with other students, because, again, Hiromi is so charismatic, that if she gets out of hand, so will the rest of the class.  The two friends no longer have to disturb the other students by looking across the room to communicate, because they are next to each other, out of sight in the back of the class.  And I have sort of endeared myself to the two friends, because I am one of the few teachers to allow them to do the unspeakable.

Another Korean channel surfing stopper is a beautiful woman who goes by the name, Soo Ae.  She stars in a drama called, A Thousand Days Promise.  On TV, she has sort of an elegant plainness that I find to be incredibly striking.  She is also a spokesperson for a company selling women's apparel here in Korea, so her pictures are everywhere.  I don't mind seeing them, and I don't mind seeing her on TV.

These pictures were found via a search through google images.  They are not mine.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

LSU vs. Alabama

Every year, LSU-Alabama seems to be a huge game.  How could it be any other way? Louisiana and Alabama are both annually loaded with top caliber high school football talent, and the top players from the respective states annually choose to play for LSU and The University of Alabama.  Both teams are well-coached and always seem to be loaded with NFL caliber players.  Both schools have recently won national championships.  Both schools have football-crazed students, alumni, and fanbases.  Both schools possess a mutual respect for each other.  But it ends there.

Both schools' students, alumni, and fanbases hate each other.  The hate seems to be stronger from the LSU end.  A big reason is that up until the last fifteen years, Alabama has dominated the series.  Another reason why the hate isn't as strong from the Alabama end is that there are two schools that they hate more than LSU, in Auburn and Tennessee.  But make no mistake about it, the feeling is mutual.  The people who support the University of Alabama hate LSU.

My first real memory of LSU football was when I was a little boy around the age of four.  Our family was sitting in the living room of our little old house in South Slidell on a Saturday watching the LSU-Alabama game.  I remember previously comprehending LSU football.  I remember comprehending them as the "good guys."  I remember comprehending them as protagonists.  I remember comprehending them as the "heroes."  I was old enough to comprehend that the game was big and important, and I was able to sense the excitement and the intensity.  I don't remember exactly what I asked my Dad, but it was something to the nature of, "Who is LSU playing?"

My Dad answered, "They are playing Alabama."

"Who's winning?"


It was then that I began to associate the men in the crimson uniforms with the numbers on their helmets as "the bad guys."  I began to associate The University of Alabama as "the villains."  I began to see them  as evil.  These villains in the crimson uniforms from Alabama were beating our heroes from LSU.  I vividly remember my disappointment and perplexity, because heroes are supposed to win.  I remember, as a four year old, feeling a hint of anger while sitting in our living room.

Afterwards, when wanting to insult children my age, I would tell them, "Naa! Naa! Na-naa! Naa!  I'm from LSU.  You're from Alabama."

The hate didn't end.  I remember how angry I was, as a high schooler, watching Shaun Alexander break the NCAA single game rushing record in Tiger Stadium against LSU.  I remember my disappointment walking out of Tiger Stadium, again as a high schooler, after watching Andrew Zow torch our Lou Tepper coached defense, and hearing the familiar chant from Alabama Fans, "HEY TIGERS!  HEY TIGERS!  HEY TIGERS!  WE!  JUST!  BEAT!  THE!  HELL OUT OF YOU!!"  My hate for Alabama football grew.

I was in Tiger Stadium for last year's win against Alabama.  Apparently, I'm not the only person from Louisiana who hates them.  I remember a particularly vocal middle aged LSU fan sitting behind me.  He was dignified in his dress.  He was tall, handsome, and probably successful in whatever he did.  I remember the intensity in his face throughout the game.  I remember after the outcome of the game was no longer in doubt, he stood up and began the familiar chant.   He did so in the manner that could only be done by a stiff white middle aged man.  His face became redder, and his eyes got bigger.  I thought they were going to pop out of his head when he began to mockingly shout the chant owned by Alabama supporters, "HEY ALABAMA!  HEY ALABAMA!  HEY ALABAMA!  WE!  JUST!  BEAT!  THE!  HELL OUT OF YOU!!"  He authoritatively pointed his finger at the Alabama section of Tiger Stadium with each chant.

I realize that the game is more than a week away, but it is the biggest game in the history of the series, and one of the biggest games in the history of LSU football.  LSU is ranked #1 in the country, and is undefeated.  Alabama is ranked #2, and is undefeated as well.  Both teams have consistently dominated their opponents, and the excitement is evident in both fanbases.  I am excitedly looking forward to the game, because I am confident that the Tigers will walk into Tuscaloosa, AL and beat The Alabama Crimson Tide.  And no win feels better than a win against Alabama.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Gift

Natalie is a wonderful student of mine.  She is a fourth grader, my favorite grade level to teach.  I was coming out of a class on a random day, and she saw me, and began jumping up and down, while waving.  She motioned for me to come over.  I did, and she handed me a lollipop, along with this note... Needless to say, it made my day.

Meeting my Cousin

I met my first cousin, DongWook, for the first time two weeks ago.  It may sound strange to those of you who are more family oriented, but being that I grew up in the States, and he grew up in Korea, and that flights over the Pacific are extremely expensive, we simply haven't had an opportunity to meet until recently.  

We talked on the phone a few times before meeting, and the only pictures that I have seen of him are the ones that were taken when he was a little boy, so I was clueless regarding his appearance.  My first impressions of him when I first answered the door during our first meeting was that there is no doubt he is my first cousin.  He strikingly resembled my little brother, Jon, in the face.  His mother is my mother's older sister.  I've seen recent pictures of my Aunt, and she looks like an older version of my mother.  Dongwook strongly resembles both of them.  He is three years older than me, as he is 32.   

I was fortunate that he is naturally outgoing, and easy to talk to, so I immediately felt comfortable.  I really don't have much to write about on this topic, but to say that he is a delight to be around, and the two times we saw each other, we stuffed ourselves with food until we couldn't move.  The first time we ate Sashimi, and for the second meeting, we ate grilled Eel, along with an eel stew, which was among the best things I ate while being in Korea.  The eel was obviously alive and freshly filleted seconds before being put on our grill, because upon being placed on the hot surface, the meat began to twitch.  The hearts were left on the fillets, and they were still beating.  I've never seen anything like it.  The meat had such a smooth taste, and was extremely delicious.  

I pride myself in my ability to eat with chopsticks.  I've heard numerous compliments on my ability from several Koreans.  I believe that I can pick up absolutely anything with my chopsticks.  And for some reason, I struggled with the sashimi, and the eel.  Dong Wook wasted no time making fun of my perceived lack of ability with the utensil.  Whenever a piece of fish or eel would fall from my chopsticks, he would hold up his spoon, point to it, and in a humorously sarcastic tone, say in a Korean accent, "This is a spoon...  It's a very useful tool...  Even I need it sometimes."  His English was very good.

We mainly talked about our two families, and laughed a lot.  Both meetings were wonderful, and it was as if I had known him my whole life.  It was amazing that we had that comfort from the outset, despite meeting for the first time after all these years.  I guess that's the power of blood kinship. 

I ordered food via delivery for the first time yesterday.  My Korean has improved, and I am now able to say my address with little trouble.  I attempted to order fried chicken, which Koreans do extremely well, as it tastes just like it does back home.  Apparently, all types of food are delivered here in Korea, and it is relatively fast, and efficient.

Each day, several menus are taped to my door, and one particular menu for a restaurant serving fried chicken caught my eye.  I prefer dark meat, and on the menu, there was an option for drumsticks only.  It read in Korean, "Stick."  I saw a picture of wedge fries, and said to myself, "This looks delicious."  These were labeled in Korean, "Wedge."  I felt courageous, so I dialed the number, and upon hearing a greeting a boldly ordered, "Wedge hangae (one), Stick set hangae, Juseo (give me please)."

"Easy enough," I thought to myself.  

Then I heard, "Alsdkfla laskdfsalifjsad  kmksdfjoasijeowinf.  Laskfhoiw auehf lsakjdfn lskdjfosnosnd???"  That wasn't exactly what he said, but it may as well have been that.  

I froze.  The only thing i could think of saying was, "Neh (yes)."

And once again, "Lskdfosijfow kenfldskhfo weif.  Hlskdnfowa ienf lskdnfoiwe nflksdnfoweinfwl eknfoiwneafow. Lenfoiwenfoei wwoeifnowiejfo iwejfoiwejfoiw enfoiwejfoiwej foiwejfoiwejf???"  

"Uh... Neh."

And yet again, "Kasjf lskdjflsdjfoiwejf, soidfjoiwejfeksdmf lsfijweoijfoiwejf.   Jsfioiwejh wliefjoiwejf owiefjoiwe nfuehfwjenfeuhr???"

Awkward pause followed by, "Neh."

This went on for what seemed to be a very long time, until finally, I heard a price.  I told him my address, and we hung up.

After that, I was worried that it may not even come, so I would have been happy with anything, much less the correct order.  After less than 30 minutes, my doorbell rang, and the attendant handed me a box full of chicken.  It wasn't what I intended to order, but it was still good.  I was a little disappointed that the order didn't include the potato wedges, but it was still delicious, and I felt a little more confident in my ability to order delivery here in Korea.    

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Radio

I was recently on the radio here in Gwangju on GFN 98.7fm.  Here is a Link to the segment.  Enjoy.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

4th Grade Drama

I've mentioned before that 4th grade is my favorite grade to teach.  While they are still kids, in our curriculum, many of them are fairly advanced students of English, so in my upper levels, conversations can be had.  They are still small, and have not quite reached puberty, so unlike the 5th and 6th graders, defiance is not prevalent, because they still don't quite understand the concept of looking "cool" in front of members of the opposite sex.

Allow me to explain defiance through an incident that happened today in one of my 6th grade classes.  I've repeatedly warned my 6th graders to not have books from other classes out on their desks, especially math books.  One girl, Amber, had two large math books on her desk.  Because she didn't have her backpack, I showed her mercy, and merely kept the books on a small table in the front of the class (within reach of the students who sit in the front row), with the intention of giving them back to her when class was over.

Within a few minutes, immediately after I finished writing on the chalkboard, I turned toward the table to find one of the boys, Dave, reaching over his desk for the books, as he was standing.  I calmly kicked Dave and Amber out of the class.  And outside, I let them have it.  I said to Amber, "If the math books are out on your desk, they're mine.  The next time I see them, I'm keeping them."  And I looked at Dave, "If it's not yours, DON'T.  TOUCH.  IT!!!"  I made Dave repeat it several times, "Eep eet's not yours, don't-ah touch eet...  Eep eet's not yours, don't-ah touch eet..."  I calmly went back in class, and continued the lesson as if nothing happened, while Dave and Amber were standing outside.  Defiance angers me.

I prefer teaching the younger kids because the defiance is significantly less prevalent.  In one of my 4th grade classes, Haley has a crush on Ryan.  Most of the other girls in that class do as well, but none are as smitten as Haley.  Korean 4th graders demonstrate their infatuation differently.  They love to show how much they "hate" the object of their affection.  For example, I have each student create a sentence including two vocabulary words from the story.  The subject of all of Haley's sentences were Ryan, and they were less than flattering.  On a normal day, during the sentence making segment of class, upon it becoming Haley's turn to make a sentence, I would tell her, "Okay Haley, choose two vocabulary words."

"Eat and dericious," Haley would reply.

"Okay, go."

She would sit and ponder for a moment, gather herself, then confidently recite, "Bear eat the Lyan, and he was dericious!"

The whole class would burst in laughter.  I would calm them down, then correct Haley's mistakes, "The bear ate Ryan, and thought he was delicious."

"The bear ate-ah Lyan, and thought he was dericious!"  Haley would repeat.

In the beginning, I allowed them to make such sentences, because Ryan was one of my wilder 4th graders who was apt to getting in trouble.  He was also a good sport about it, and took the good natured teasing well.  And not to mention, Haley was the only one doing it.  It very quickly got old when all of the students in the class started making sentences about "Lyan."  I would ask them, "Do you girls like Ryan?  When girls are mean to a boy, that means that they like him..."

Every girl in the class would then proceed to act as if they were gagging, then exclaim, "Teacher!! Lyan is bery bery bery bad!!"  I then began to discipline the students whenever they included the name, "Lyan," in a sentence with a negative connotation, and that killed it.

Ryan then took a vacation to the U.S.  He spent the summer in both New York City, and Miami, and was gone for four months.  He soon became an afterthought.

Yesterday, at school, I saw Ryan in the halls for the first time in months.  I warmly welcomed him, and told him, "I'm glad you're back, Ryan."

Moments later, one of my female students from that particular class, Alice, tapped me on the shoulder, and excitedly proclaimed, "Teacher!  Lyan is back!"

"I know, and you girls be nice to him, okay?"  Alice immediately saw Haley down the hall, and ran to her to tell her the news in Korean.  Upon hearing the news, Haley's Korean eyes lit up like I have never seen a pair of eyes light up before.  They suddenly got bigger, her heart began to noticeably race, and she began to smile.

In school, the Korean teachers determine the seating arrangements, and the one for this particular class sat Ryan next to Haley.  I guess I'm not the only one who noticed.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


Those who know me know that I love music, and you may or may not know that I love to sing.  When we were in college, my brothers and I lived together in a condo owned by my parents.  And my parents aren't going to like reading this, but I am about to tell you what used to happen when my brothers and I were young, dumb, and ugly.   We used to host a few parties per year in that condo.  We would have a semester kick off party on the first Friday of every semester.  Those were guaranteed to have at least a hundred people.  We would also host one on the Friday of finals week that was fun as well.  And we would sometimes host parties for our birthdays.  My brothers and I were all born two years apart, and the three of us were at LSU together for the '02-'03 school year.  The parties were fun, because naturally, as brothers, we had different circles of friends, and it was always fun to have all three circles, along with friends of those friends, in one place interacting.

For my 21st birthday, my older brother, Ben, and I threw a party.  One our friends, Lauren, brought over a karaoke machine.  In the beginning, we thought, "What in the heck are we going to do with this?  Nobody's going to use this thing."  And we asked her, "Why did you bring this?"

I don't remember exactly what she said, but it was something that amounted to, "Trust me."  Once people had a few drinks in them, the Karaoke machine became the absolute smash hit of my 21st birthday party, and every party we hosted afterwards.  It may have seemed that way because it definitely became a smash hit with me.  I loved that thing.              

Korea has what is called noraebangs, which literally translates to "singing room," which is exactly what they are.  They're everywhere.  I've come to learn that since I've learned to read in Korean.  Upon walking into the lobby of a noraebang, the attendant standing at the counter will lead the patrons to a private singing room, and included in these small rooms are usually a large couch, a table, and a Karaoke machine with a giant high definition flat screen tv and a high tech sound system.  Each room will also have a couple of microphones, a thick book with a list of songs and a corresponding selection number, and a remote control to enter the selection.  Noraebangs also include a pager to page a waiter/waitress to order food and drinks.

I wish I could adequately describe the fun that we have in these singing rooms.  There is something about singing a great song that enables a person to let go of all inhibitions.  I don't drink, but when that microphone is in my hand, all of those inhibitions seem to immediately leave, and I am free to have the time of my life.  It's a lot like being drunk.  At this point in my life, I can only imagine what karaoke is like while being drunk.  Noraebangs are one of my favorite things here in Korea.  Every time I've gone, I've never wanted to leave when it was time to do so.  They're fun.

My friends and I went to a Noraebang last week for my friend, Greg's, going away party.  This particular one served the Korean liquor of choice, soju, and fried chicken.  We ate fried chicken, my friends drank, and we took turns singing on the mic for several hours that night.  We started dancing on the couches, and none of us were good dancers.  On the far end of this particular room above the couch was a large window overlooking a particular downtown street, along with the restaurants across that street.  Patrons of those restaurants are able to see fairly clearly into our room through this large window.  And it was funny seeing the looks we got from these Koreans staring at us.  It was the unmistakeable stare, then laugh, that only stiff white dancers could elicit.  And it was a stare, followed by a laugh, that could only be done by Koreans.  Good times.

A k-drama that has recently caught my eye is one entitled, Heartstrings.  The star of this show is an actress named, Park Shin Hye.  Some of your comments seem to indicate that I must have a different taste than most when it comes to ladies.   I honestly don't care.  I am who I am, and whenever I see this particular lady on TV, I put the remote control down.

These photos are not mine.  I downloaded them from various websites linked through Google Images.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Football Season

Words can't explain how stoked I am about the upcoming football season.  Both LSU and the New Orleans Saints are looking to field strong teams this year.  With a 14 hour time difference, I will be staying up late, or waking up early to catch most of the games, but I don't care.  My friend, Sara, is from Chicago and is a Bears fan.  I've already informed her numerous times that the Saints will hand the Bears a loss when they meet in the SuperDome on September 18.  Moreover, there is no doubt in my mind that the Saints will hoist their second Lombardi on February of 2012.  The Saints are solid and deep at every position, and nobody outside of New Orleans is mentioning them as a contender for a Super Bowl title.  As long as Drew Brees is healthy, Greg Williams is our defensive coordinator, and Sean Payton is our head coach, the Saints should always be mentioned.  

It all starts on September 8 in Green Bay on Thursday night.  It's absurd how fired up I am about this game.  Drew Brees vs Aaron Rogers in a dream matchup pitting the last two Super Bowl champions on Thursday night in Lambeau Field on national network TV to kick off the NFL season.  Thinking about it makes me want to run through a wall.  As a fan, I have no fear going into this game.  Coach Payton is intelligently aggressive, and competitive is not a strong enough word to describe him.  I know for a fact that there is nobody who is more fired up about the game than him.  I am confident that he will have the Saints ready to play good football on Thursday night.  I am also confident in stating that the Saints will walk into Green Bay, and steal a win.  I believe in Brees.  I believe in Coach Payton.  I believe in Greg Williams.  I believe in our defense.  I believe.

I've said since college that the Saints are my mother, and LSU football is my wife.  I grew up on the Saints.  Some of my first memories were watching Saints games with my dad and my brothers.  And unlike most other generations of Saints fans, the Saints were winners when my generation was old enough to understand football.  My first memories were of Bobbie Hebert, Ricky Jackson, Pat Swilling, Sam Mills, Vaughn Johnson, Toi Cook, Stan Brock, Hobie Brenner, Eric Martin (former LSU Tiger), and Dalton Hilliard (former LSU Tiger).  They fielded some great teams.  The reason they never went far was because they were in the same division as Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott, and the San Francisco 49ers.

I went away to Baton Rouge for college at LSU.  And in Baton Rouge, I lived and breathed LSU football, maybe even to the point that it was a detriment to my GPA.  It was there that LSU football became my wife.  I was a freshmen during Little Nicky's first year as football coach of the Tigers in 2000.  Tiger stadium just added the east upper deck to make Death Valley 92,000 strong.  And what an awesome time I had watching LSU there!  I saw some great games against teams like Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, Auburn, Ole Miss, Georgia, and many others.  I was in my fourth year at LSU when they won their second national title in 2003.  I still say it was the funnest year of my life.  I witnessed players like Joseph Addai, Rohan Davey, Josh Reed, Labrandon Toefield, Bradie James, Trev Faulk, Corey Webster, Devery Henderson, Kyle Williams, Marcus Spears, Andrew Whitworth, Michael Clayton, Jamarcus Russell (Say what you want about him as a pro, but as an LSU Tiger, he was incredible), Glen Dorsey, Dwayne Bowe, Early Doucet, and Jacob Hester.  My mother, the Saints, sort of took a back seat at that time.

I returned to the New Orleans area in 2009, the year the Saints won their first Super Bowl.  I was back home living amongst the Who Dat Nation, and it was there that I reconnected with my precollegiate childhood passion that I had for the Saints.  Living in Baton Rouge, I had forgotten how passionate New Orleanians are about the Saints.  I had forgotten about the genuine love and strong loyalty that they have for their team.  One of the funnest conversations you can have is talking NFL football with a y'at.  I quickly caught the fever, and witnessing the Saints win their first Super Bowl title was one of the greatest moments of my life.  And I know witnessing their second will be equally as good.

I love football.  It's the greatest game in the world.  So without further due, here's to another intense, passion-filled, competitive, emotional, and exciting football season!  And good luck to all of your favorite teams, unless you are a Falcons fan.  In that case, I loathe your team, and hope they lose every single game they play.              

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Embarrassment at LSU

The Story

I've been following this story very closely since it began, and quite frankly, it makes me want to puke.  Allegedly, senior quarterback Jordan Jefferson, and several other players broke a 10:30pm curfew imposed by head coach Les Miles, and went out to a bar, called Shady's, on a Thursday night, a popular night to go out among LSU students.  Apparently, at around 2am, the time in which the bars in Baton Rouge are required to close, LSU football players, including Jordan Jefferson, blocked the exit of the parking lot at Shady's to prevent a particular truck from leaving.  The individual driving the truck honked at the players in an effort to get them to move.  Apparently, the players didn't.  Then a brutal fight ensued.  It is alleged that the individual was pulled out of the truck and kicked in the head several times by a number of LSU football players, including Jefferson.  Apparently, three other individuals were involved in the fight and sustained minor injuries.  I don't know details of the fight.  I simply know generalities, and what is being reported, and it is enough to make me embarrassed to be an LSU alum.

I am embarrassed because the senior starting quarterback was heavily involved.  He shouldn't have been out in the first place.  As a senior and a four year starter, he, of all people, should set the tone as a leader through his example.  It's one thing for a sophomore backup linebacker to break curfew to go out.  It's different when one is the starting quarterback, and all eyes are on that individual as the face of the team.  Jefferson, of all people, should have set the example, honored the coach's curfew, and stayed home.  As the starting quarterback, and might I add, a struggling one, he, of all people, should have a greater understanding of what he stands to lose.

I am embarrassed because the players did not move when the individual honked.  I'm sure that more was said by the driver of the truck than a simple honk to provoke the players, and I am sure that there is more to the story than the simple parking lot exit, or lack thereof.  Despite all that may have happened to provoke the players, if they would have moved when the driver honked, then nothing would have happened.

I am embarrassed that the players were fighting with common students.  These football players are finely tuned athletes trained to beat their opponent in a physical contact sport requiring strength, speed, and endurance.  These players are considerably larger and stronger than average nonathletes.  There is no reason that they should be fighting for that simple reason.  What honor is there in beating up the small, weak, and untrained?  The players should have understood their place as athletes, and walked away.  It's already established that they can beat up anybody.  Why prove it?  The only thing it will do is cause people to look upon them with contempt, and respect them less.

Number four ranked LSU is less than two weeks away from the biggest season opener in the history of the program against the number three ranked Oregon Ducks.  This year's version of the LSU Tigers are thought to be contenders for a national championship.  The players involved should have considered that when breaking curfew, not allowing a truck to exit a parking lot, and beating average idiots senseless.  Now, apparently, those who were injured are pressing charges, and jail time is a possibility.  Is proving one's manhood, in the form of physical violence, worth it?      


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Slight Feeling of Homesickness

It has just hit me.  I miss home.  Sometimes you feel drawn to certain things, and sometimes certain things cause you to discover your true emotions.  And nothing is as effective in doing so as a song.   I have over 32 gigs of music in my Itunes, and when I am relaxing at my apartment, I enjoy putting it on shuffle.  Many times, I will hear a song from a familiar artist for the first time.  And many times, I will hear a song that I love that I haven't heard in a long time, and upon hearing that song, it will take on an entirely different meaning.  And that just happened with this song (He begins playing at 1:30.)

Don't get me wrong.  I love it here in Korea.  I haven't grown tired of the food, and probably never will.  My city is in a breathtaking sea of mountains.  The women here are absolutely gorgeous.  The people are indescribably kind, and always tell me that I am handsome.  I have a wonderful job.  My apartment is comfortable.  I have made a lot of good friends.  I have a church home here beyond anything I could have expected.

But despite all of that, I am beginning miss home.  I would kill to eat a gyro with hummus, and french fries.  A shrimp po-boy, a large medium rare ribeye, and some red beans and rice would be nice also.  Football season will begin in a matter of weeks, and I am as excited about it as ever, but I will have to stay up in the middle of the night to catch LSU and the Saints.  I enjoy talking about it, but nobody seems to be interested in it here.  Whenever I find somebody who shares a similar interest, it's like taking a huge breath after holding it under water for a long period of time.  I miss driving.  Walking is nice, but sometimes I feel out of place doing so.  I know the exact point where I will begin to sweat on my daily fifteen-minute walk to school.  And I do so profusely.  I miss having a dryer.  Hanging clothes to dry is inconvenient, and it stretches the elastics.  I bought fabric softener for the first time, and I am unsure if I am using it correctly, so there is a chance that I could be wasting my money.

I just learned to read in Korean, but I do it on an elementary level.  I am able to read menus fairly well, and I am beginning to learn my students' Korean names.   The most common family names in my school are 김 (Kim), 박 (Park), 정 (Jeong), and 이 (Lee, pronounced 'ee').  Reading has been a great help, but the language barrier is still a source of stress.  It's extremely stressful to mime a gesture to somebody who has no clue as to what you are trying to convey, especially when you need something, or you are trying to tell them something important.  And I feel like an idiot when I tirelessly do what amounts to waving my arms in the face of somebody who speaks an unfamiliar language.  Before moving to Korea, I've always thought my hand gestures were good, and that I was prepared.  I've always done well in Charades and Guesstures with my friends back home, but apparently, Koreans have never played it.   Miming has only been consistently effective in causing Koreans to shake their heads while giving me a weird look.

Here in Korea, they have what is called K-pop.  I pride myself in my taste in music, and the fact that I am able to remain oblivious to all that is popular and horrid, but remaining oblivious to K-pop is impossible.  It's everywhere, and the songs are all extremely catchy, and when you are not careful, you will find yourself singing them.  Whenever I do so, I usually go to the bathroom and drink Listerine.  K-pop goes against everything I stand for musically.  I'll give you an idea of what I am up against.  You'll get the full effect if you play all of the videos at the same time.  Some of you may actually like it.

Don't get me wrong, I love Korea.  And for all of you potential teachers who are on the fence, don't allow this to discourage you.  Korea is awesome.  It's simply human nature to miss home.  And I am beginning to do so at the moment.  


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Greetings from Busan

I would like to start by congratulating my brother, Ben, and his wife, Buff, on their new baby, Benjamin Graves.  I would also like to congratulate my parents on their first grandchild, as well as Buff's parents, Mr. Ronnie, and Mrs. Connie on their third grandchild.  I would also like to congratulate my little brother, Jon, on his recent marriage to his wife, Sarah.  It was a big week for our family, and it's times like these when I wish I were home celebrating with them.  I wish each of you the best as husbands, wives, parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.  That goes without saying, because I know all of you will do fine.

I am writing this post from a coffee shop in Haeundae beach in Busan, South Korea.  Busan is a coastal city on the southeastern tip of the Korean peninsula.  It is an enormous city, roughly the size of Los Angeles.  And I arrived late last night.  My first impressions of the city are that it is absolutely gorgeous.  Numerous high rise apartments are among a sea of mountains, and small buildings line the foothills.  It's a beautiful sight at night.  I came here to take a ferry to Fukuoka, Japan, but decided to stay in Busan for the next couple of days, because I like it here so much, and because an overnight stay in Fukuoka was not worth the price of the ferry.  I think I will plan a proper trip to Tokyo and Osaka within the next couple of months, but for now, I am content perusing the beaches and city life here.  I have no major plans for this trip.  The only plan that I have is to relax, wake up late, walk around, eat some good food, and enjoy the great scenery.  Maybe I am different than most, but I don't like vacations with a full itinerary.  Itineraries make me tired.  And I want to return from a vacation recharged, not more exhausted.

I've recently had a case of writers block, and I have been unable to shake it.  I've started a few posts, and have been unable to finish them.  I guess I have a desire to write something great and captivating, and I find myself stuck in the middle of a piece, feeling as if I failed, before erasing it all together, and starting over.  With this post, I have decided to fight through it, and post it however it turns out.

I recently had two separate, but similar conversations, with my friends, Dean and Brett.  We talked about the similarity between art and relationships.  They are similar in that if you go into them with a certain expectation, you will almost always fail.  If you go into a painting, a writing, or any other form of art with the expectation of what it will be like in the end, you will always be stuck, and/or disappointed.  I think my writer's block has come from the fact that I have had a certain expectation of my writing.  

Relationships are similar in that if you go into them with a similar expectation, it will fail.  I think the only expectation that one should have in a relationship is to have fun, and it should not be dependent on the other person.  It depends solely on you, the individual.  If you are having fun, and are naturally happy and content, it will be evident to the other person.  Unfortunately, desperation is also evident.  And nothing turns off another person more than desperation.  And the expectation of something more, or less, than the simple notion of having a good time will always lead to desperation and loneliness.

It can be compared to getting in your car, and driving for the simple purpose of discovering where a particular road will take you.  An effective work of art will give the artist a greater knowledge about his or herself, and will lead to discovery.  A good relationship, like art, will lead a person to discovery, and will enable a person to see things the way he/she has never seen them before.

I'm not saying that life should be undertaken haphazardly with absolutely no goals and expectations.  One should always have goals as to what they would like to become in terms of success and careers.  Goals give us focus.  In the realm of careers and competition, desperation can lead to success.  If you watch a football game between two evenly matched teams, most of the time, the team that is more desperate for a win will win the game.  Many times, a salesmen does his best work when he is desperate for money.  But that is not the case with art and relationships.

A few weeks ago, some friends and I took a trip to a small island off of the west coast of Korea, called Seonyudo.  The island was too small for cars, so everybody got around on bikes and golf carts.  It was a rainy weekend, but it stopped just long enough on Saturday for us to explore on bikes.  I thought the rain made the island, and the mountains more beautiful.  The rain clouds created a fog that covered the top of the mountains.  It was gorgeous.  It was a fun trip with some good friends that I made here in Korea, and we ate well.

My friends in front of the place where we stayed.  It had an amazing view from the porch, and windows. 

The place where we stayed from farther off.  Notice the mountain behind it.

I should have some pics of Busan in a later post.  Have a good next few days everybody.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

On a Normal Week Day

Not much has happened in the past week, so I've decided to tell you what happens on a normal week day when I have no plans.  I usually wake up at around 9:00 am.  One of the perks of my job is that it doesn't start until 1:30 on Mondays and Wednesdays, 2:30 on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 3:10 on Fridays.  I don't like to sleep past nine, because if I wake up later, I always feel as if my day was wasted, because I have less time to do things, even if my day simply consists of watching ESPN highlights on  I always get an eerie feeling when I sleep in on a work day no matter how late I have to come in.

Once I awake, I have a morning devotion.  I like to start my day reading the bible and praying while still in bed.  I used to run after my devotion, but I recently stopped because I have been losing too much weight.  I have lost sixteen pounds since moving to Korea.  So now, I eat a large breakfast which usually consists of rice, kimchi, 2 eggs fried in sesame oil, juice, milk, and a multivitamin.  I usually eat a large meal for breakfast and lunch.  I normally finish breakfast, and clean up after myself at around eleven.  After breakfast, I normally surf the internet.  I check my facebook, view sports highlights on, read about and comment on the the latest happenings concerning LSU football on, download music, view various videos on youtube, and watch reruns of Southpark and The Office.  

Sometimes, I'll walk to the coffee shop down the street, and have a cup while relaxing on the patio.  Coffee shops seem to be on every corner here in Korea.  Koreans sort of see them as a hip place to see and be seen.  I normally do that once or twice a week.  I also run errands when needed, and I usually talk to my family on skype in the mornings.

I leave for work at around 45 minutes before school starts to give myself enough time to eat somewhere before I start.  It takes around 15 minutes to walk there.  On days that I start at 1:30, I leave twenty minutes before, pickup something to eat, and have lunch at work.  I didn't think it could get more humid than New Orleans, but I was wrong.  Gwangju is not as hot, but it's more muggy.  It's impossible to walk to work without sweating.  It's something I've learned to accept.  I don't stink, so I don't worry about it.

We have to be at work an hour before class starts in order to prepare our lessons for the day.  I teach 4-6 classes a day from Monday to Thursday.  I teach three classes on Fridays.  During the periods that I don't teach, I correct essays written by my upper level students.  I find the essays to be very interesting, because I learn a lot about my students as individuals.  I also find that these essays give me a glimpse into the views of the youth of Korea as a whole.  Through these essays, I am able to learn a little more about Korean culture, and what these students value.  I assign topics such as, "Tell me three things that you are thankful for, and why; If you could make a memorial for any three people, who would they be, and why?;  What three things could you not live without, and why?"  Through these essays, I learn that Koreans are extremely family oriented.  In all topics, parents are always discussed, and the students write extremely fondly of them, as I have yet to read an essay where a student had something negative to write about his/her family.  It is rare to see them write about their friends, although some do.  My students are also very proud of their country, and they hold strong opinions regarding that.  I always find their essays to be fascinating.  

I also call each of my students during my down time.  I am required to reach all of my students every two weeks.  I have around 175.  I now know all of their names, and am able to associate a face to the name when I speak with them on the phone.  Phone calls are another opportunity to get to know them more as individuals.  It's always interesting to learn about their hobbies, and interests.  The boys love soccer and baseball.  A lot of girls love swimming, and being with their friends.  Both sexes love being on the computer.  The boys play various computer games, and the girls spend time in chat rooms.

I finish work at 10 pm on Monday through Thursday.  I finish at 9:15 on Fridays.  I usually eat something light after work.  Most of the time, it is either ramen noodles, or rice with kimchi at my apartment.  Sometimes, I'll eat out at night if I am craving something in particular.  I usually unwind in my apartment by surfing the internet.  My computer has replaced the television as my primary source of entertainment.

My blogging is usually done at nights after work in a coffee shop with wifi.  I find that I am more productive and creative at night.  I also enjoy hiking the mountains after work.  The views at night of the city from atop these mountains are absolutely incredible.  I am usually the only one there, so I see it as a time to reflect and pray.  I'll hike at night if something is on my mind, or if I had a difficult day.  It's a wonderful way to relieve stress.  I usually fall asleep between 1:30 and  3:00, depending on how busy I am, or what I did.

So there you have it!  A normal day when there are no plans!

Another K-drama that I find myself watching is a show whose title has a few different English translations from it's Korean title, among those being Shining, Twinkle Twinkle, and Sparkling.  The protagonist in this particular drama is played by an actress, named Kim Hyun Joo, who I find to be absolutely stunning on camera.

These photos are not mine.  They were downloaded from various sites via google images.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Being a Christian in Korea

I would like to start by wishing my friends, Carolyn and Heather, the best as they go back to their respective countries.  It is always a blessing to find people who are at similar points as I am in their walks with Christ, and who share similar beliefs.  Even though I have known these two ladies for only a short time, I feel like I had known them all of my life.  I realize that it sounds cliche, but it is the only way that I can describe it.  When you find a brother and/or a sister in Christ, you find a friend for life.

When I came to Korea, I was worried.  I read horror stories online about people being stuck in jobs with horrible living and working conditions.  People seem to be more vocal when they are unhappy, and it's sad.  It's always easier to complain.  I was worried that I would hate my job.  I was worried that my apartment would be below the standards that I am accustomed to.  I was worried that I would have a difficult time finding friends.  I was worried that I wouldn't find a church where I felt comfortable.  I was worried that I would be taken advantage of, or mistreated by my superiors.  I was worried that my students would be difficult.  I stopped drinking two years ago.  The pressure to drink and smoke here in Korea is immense.  I was worried that I would return to my old habits.  I had many worries because I was flying halfway around the world to a city that I knew nothing about.  I was merely relying on the word of a recruiter in determining that my job and living conditions would be suitable.

It's amazing how, sometimes, things seem to work out perfectly.  I have a great job teaching wonderful children.  My superiors are laid back, and trust my judgement.  My coworkers are friendly.  I am a runner, and there is a beautiful lake to run around less than 200 yards from my apartment.  The sidewalk even has a rubber track surface.  I live within walking distance of two mountains with incredible views.  I live in a big city with almost everything to offer.   My church, Wolgwang, has been incredible.  It's a great feeling to go to a church on Sunday, and leave feeling "full."  The minister, pastor Jeremy, always has an inspiring message to teach.  I play in the praise band with some fantastic musicians that challenge me.  I have been introduced to numerous wonderful friends whom I trust, both Korean and western.  I realized that politely saying, "no, but thankyou though," when offered a drink had become a habit that would definitely continue halfway across the world, despite the pressure.  I could go on about how good everything has been.

There are no coincidences in this world.  I believe that I have all of these things because I prayed for them.  It's comforting to know that I serve a God who provides, and takes care of all of my needs, despite the fact that I sin, and "fall short."  Nonchristians always seem to be watching, and so readily throw around the word, "hypocrite," when they see a christian fail.  It's sad that that is the only aspect of christianity that they are able to see.  It's a shame that many are blinded to a christian's contentment, peace, and joy.  It's sad that they are blinded to the fact that christians are blessed, and that "doors open" for those who trust God.  All christians are hypocrites in some way, shape, or form.  More over, with the exception of Jesus, all humans are, were, and will always be hypocrites.  Jesus was the only human to walk this earth without making a mistake.

The difference between a christian, and a nonchristian is that a christian is able to truly feel forgiven, and is free to live a blessed life, a life with eyes open to the fact that there are no coincidences, and that the hand of God is upon both believers and nonbelievers alike.  It's comforting to walk into uncertainty with confidence, not in myself, but in a God who provides, and makes his children "the head, and not the tail."

Saturday, July 2, 2011

More Random Observations

I hope everybody has a great 4th of July weekend.  I have never been truly proud to be an American until I lived outside of the States.  When people ask me where I am from, I tell them that I am from America, and do so with a lot of pride.  Many of the foreigners here are from Canada, South Africa, The UK, and Australia.  Americans have an indescribable swagger that becomes more evident when you see them interact with other foreigners outside of the states.

As an American, there are many things to be proud of.  Here is the source of my swagger.  I am proud to be a gun owner.  I am proud of edgy rock music, which is virtually nonexistent in Korea.  I am proud of American Football.  I talk about my favorite southern American dishes with a great deal of pride.  I love the look people give me when I tell them that I drive an SUV back home.  I am proud of my sense of style that is different than most here.  More on that later in the post.  Most Koreans love Americans, and sort of look at us like Richie Cunningham looks at Fonzie.  

July 4th has only recently become one of my favorite holidays. Christmas and Thanksgiving are family holidays.  The 4th of July is a holiday for communities.  It is an opportunity to celebrate not only with family, but more importantly, with friends and neighbors.  Although we may have differing opinions on exactly what it is that America should stand for, the beauty of America is that we are allowed to peacefully disagree.  I encourage all Americans to get out, be with your friends and neighbors, see your local fireworks display, and celebrate the fact that you live in the greatest country on the planet.

I was even more proud when a random Korean, who happened to study in the states, stopped me on the street, and asked me, "Are you a southerner?"

I said, "Yeah, I'm from Louisiana.  How can you tell?"

"I went to Auburn.  You look like a stereotypical southerner.  I can tell by your hair, your workboots, your jeans, your polo shirt, and your costas.  I can pick out a southerner from a mile away, especially now that I am away from the it."  I enjoyed that conversation.  The rest of it was spent talking SEC football.

I feel bad for the youth of South Korea.  Much like westerners, they go to their regular school from 7:30am to 2:00pm, where they will be required to do lots of homework.  The similarities end there.

The youth of Korea works extremely hard.  On some weeks, they are required to attend school on Saturday.  Korean parents pay thousands of dollars a month to send their sons and daughters to these after-school academies where they will learn English, Math, Chinese, Piano, and etc.  These academies hold classes late into the night, and are usually more difficult, and assign more homework than their regular schools.  So when these kids get home, as late as it may be, they still have hours of homework to complete.  Because parents pay money to these academies, they demand results, so more pressure is put on the children.  These kids spend hours a day completing various homework assignments, and preparing for upcoming tests.

When I first started working, I would ask them, "What did you do last weekend?"

I would get the same answer every time, "I studied."  Friday and Saturday nights are spent studying.  Sometimes they let loose on Sunday afternoons, but they are unable to stay out late, because they have to go to school the next day.  Partying and hanging out with friends on a Friday and Saturday night are extremely foreign concepts to the average Korean teenager.  I now ask them, "What did you do last Sunday?"  Or if it's at the end of the week, I'll ask, "What will you do this Sunday?"  A large portion of Sundays are spent studying as well.  But their time to have fun with friends, or to simply relax, however short it may be, is spent on Sunday.  I feel bad for them.

I've had the opportunity to give numerous students of mine English names.  Boys are a lot easier to name.  They'll take any name that you give them.  Girls are a lot more picky.  I simply give them names that sound similar to their Korean names.  I have a little fun with boys.  Some notable names include Antoine, Clyde, Tyrone, J.W. (short for John Wayne), Waylon, Larry, Kingsley, and Chaz.  

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Elephant in the Room: Part 2

With the exception of Jesus himself, King Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived.  And even he made mistakes with women.  He had over 400 wives, and many of them being pagan gentiles who unwisely influenced King Solomon in decisions regarding the Kingdom of Israel.  Even the wisest man in the history of the world made unwise decisions regarding women, and suffered the consequences regarding them.  It says a lot about the power of a beautiful woman.

I decided to take Tae Hee out to dinner at a restaurant that serves Kalbi, deliciously grilled Korean pork, on a Friday night after work.  I had eaten at this restaurant before, and decided that it would be a great place to take a date.  I took Tae Hee there, and it went as well as it could have gone.  She looked amazing.  She wore this dress unique to the sense of style of Korean Women.  It was classy, modern, and looked good on her.  Most of the date consisted her making fun of the way I talk.  She showed me her sense of humor, as she is a hilarious mimic.   

Tae Hee and I live near each other, and both of our homes are roughly a kilometer from the restaurant.  It was a rainy night as it had been doing so all day.  She wouldn't allow me to see exactly where she lived, so during our walks home on every meeting, she would stop me at a certain point and say "I am near my home,"  and she would insist on going the rest of the way alone.  On the walk home that night, arm holding progressed to hand holding.  We came to the point where she would proceed to the house alone.  We stopped in the pouring down rain under my umbrella while holding hands.  I asked her, "Is it ok if I kissed you?"  She nodded, as the 'elephant' was still 'in the room.'

Every day, I finish work at around 10pm.  We sort of developed a habit of meeting at around 11.  We would meet at a particular place in our neighborhood, then proceed to Pungam Lake.  

On one particular meeting, she took me to a pagoda where we sat, and enjoyed the amazing view of the mountains, and high rise apartments on a full moon night.  She said to me, "Chrisu, I have known since I was young girl that American man think Korean girl are easy."

"I don't see you that way at all.  I see you as a beautiful, kind, intelligent lady with a great sense of humor.  I enjoy being with you."

She blushed, then took out her smart phone, and opened her translator app, entered various Korean characters, which were translated into the word, conservative.  "Chrisu, how do you pronounce?"


"I am conservative girl, and I wonder of your intention."

I reassured her in the best way that I possibly could.  I told her, "I am not like other guys.  You will see that when we get to know each other more."  

 "Chrisu, you are good man."

She mentioned in her broken English that she had been thinking about the future regarding the two of us, and while listening, I couldn't help but think of 'the elephant in the room.'  I felt like I was obligated to mention it to her.  I finally mustered the courage to bring it up.  "I have a concern."  I paused, then proceeded, "You are Buddhist, and I'm a Christian." 

She seemed almost surprised that I brought it up.  She forgot that she even mentioned it to me (If she didn't, she acted as if she did).  And I reminded her of the time she told me that she "trusted Buddha."  She, once again, took out her telephone, opened the translator app, entered various Korean characters, that translated into the word, barrier.

"Chrisu, we have two barrier."  She pronounced the word, barrier, incorrectly.  I smiled because of her endearing broken English, and corrected her mispronunciation.  We talked previously of the first barrier, communication, which was difficult, but we were able to overcome it, and still thoroughly enjoy each other's company.  The difference in religion was a considerably larger barrier.  

She said again,  "Chrisu, you are good man, but this must be last time we meet.  We have two barrier."

I didn't take what she said seriously, as our meeting proceeded as if the conversation didn't happen.  We were probably around two kilometers from her house.  As we walked home, we did so slowly.  When it came time for her to proceed to her home by herself, she stopped and said, "Chrisu, do you remember our conversation?"  I played dumb.  "We have two barrier.  This must be last time we meet."  

I don't know what came over me.  Despite the fact that I also knew that the difference in views was indeed a huge barrier, and especially knowing that one, or even both of the parties were adamant in their views, I protested.  "The chemistry that the two of us have is rare.  You can't simply turn it off like a switch."  She nodded, as I proceeded.  "It will be difficult…  for both of us."

While holding her, I protested once more.  "You can't simply turn it off.  It's going to be difficult."  We kissed one last time, and went our separate ways.