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.