Video for Cassie

August 29, 2010

I made this stop motion video for Cassie for her birthday and I was pretty happy how it turned out so I thought I’d post it on the blog.  I hope you like it.



August 26, 2010

            In one of my classes I have this little 1st grade boy named Max.  Max and his friend Brian are little terrors.  They’re always punching each other in line then crying and telling on the other.  Throwing hundreds of little pieces of eraser across the classroom at each other or eating their pencil or whatever it may be.  They also try to sneak things past me all the time, mostly trying to obscure whatever they are doing with their book or by doing it just below table level of their desks.  The other day Brian was gone so I think Max felt he needed to step up his performance.  He’d already had his pencil taken away after drawing all over his desk.  Later I had taken away Max’s pencil box because he was continually sliding it off the desk onto the floor and at the same time I’d told the rest of the class to start answering questions in their workbook.  This put Max in quite a predicament, on the one hand I’d asked him to answer questions in his book and on the other he had no means in which to do this.  Max, who is very good at finding a way around whatever obstacles I put in his way, found the solution that hadn’t even occurred to me.  Very slowly Max licked his finger, reached down under the table and dipped it in an overscratched mosquito bite on his leg and began writing the answers in his own blood.  The girls in the class started screaming, which was a big surprise to Max who looked up from what he was doing like it was the most normal thing in the world.  I had to turn away momentarily in order not to laugh and encourage him.  I pretended to not be impressed by his ingenuity and quickly gave him a pencil to finish his work but this was not before he had circled two correct answers in blood.



August 26, 2010

I’m sorry that my role seems to be the immature voice of the blog, but I guess I just have to face facts that my sense of humor is pretty immature.  So without further ado…

            At Wonderland we share a bathroom with the kindergarteners.  The boys’ room has little urinals with bug stickers on the back wall of the toilet to give them something to aim at and as you would expect there’s a lot more playing then actually going to bathroom or washing hands.  In this environment I realized early on that I shouldn’t use the urinals because of the Dong Sheik game that I’ve mentioned in an earlier blog, (a game in which they try to stick their fingers up everyone’s butt they see), and because the other female teachers are always coming in to check on the little boys.  So I decided that using the stall was probably the best option for me.  This doesn’t stop the boys from asking every time I walk into the bathroom, “Teacher are you going to go pee?” or trying to peak through the cracks in the stall door the minute I step inside.  I normally just yell, “I’m trying to go to the bathroom,” and they laugh and scurry away with their anonymity intact. 

            On one particular day however I came into the bathroom, as two boys were finishing up brushing their teeth after lunch.  One of them left as I walked in leaving only the very birdlike, Ithan still brushing his teeth.  “Haaaawooo scccaalt teeeeeacha” he said with a mouthful of toothpaste now oozing down his face, “Hello, Ithan” I said as I stepped into the stall.  A few seconds after I closed the stall door behind me I heard creaking on the outside like he was trying to push his way in to the stall, to which I yelled, “Ithan, I’m trying to go to the bathroom, you need to finish what you’re doing and go back to class.”  It seemed to work so I finished up, flushed the toilet and unlocked the door.   All in one motion Ithan, (who must have decided to lean his back against the door) came crashing down onto his back, sprawling out next to the toilet as his toothbrush flew out of his mouth and skidded across the bathroom floor.  The look on his face was pure shock and embarrassment.  He quickly got back to his feet and shuffled over to pick up his toothbrush, which he kicked at least twice before he was able to get it in his hands.  I just tried not to laugh as I said, “ I told you I was trying to go to the bathroom, don’t do that anymore,” He just nodded and ran back to his classroom but since then I haven’t heard any creaking on my stall door.


August 8, 2010

For our summer vacation, we visited an island off the southern coast of Korea, Jeju Island.

I’m sure you’ve heard tales of super-crowded Asian beaches.  We got our first taste of it.

It’s kind of hard to see, but this coastline is famous for the hexagonal shaped rocks formed by the waves.

On the second day, we found a much more peaceful beach.

Along this particular coast line, lots of women had set up little stations so they could catch fresh sea food, cook it on little camping stoves, and sell it right on the spot.

These people offered us some of their food and soju (Korean alcohol).

So, that’s Jeju 🙂

We’ve been noticing a strange dessert popping up with the arrival of summer.  It’s called red bean shaved ice, and when ordered at a restaurant, it looks something like this:

You can also buy it at the grocery store.

The ingredients can vary slightly, but the basics premise is shaved ice, topped with milk, red beans, fruit, and soybean powder. Sometimes, it also is topped with jelly candies, chocolate or strawberry syrup, whipped cream, chocolate candies…things like that.

Up until last week, we hadn’t tried it yet.  Some of the ingredients are delicious on their own, but mixed together it sounds like something that Will Ferrel’s Elf might have created.  (Those of you who’ve seen the movie undoubtedly remember the scene where he  makes spaghetti with noodles, syrup, M&Ms, poptarts, marshmallows and chocolate syrup.)   **Side note: While I was trying to  remember the ingredients in Elf’s spaghetti, I stumbled upon this gem of a website  )

Then last week, we had our monthly English cooking day at the kindergarten.  This month’s menu: red bean shaved ice.  Here are the ingredients that we used:

shaved ice, milk, red beans,  fruit cocktail, jelly candies, chocolate cereal, chocolate syrup.

You’ll notice the watered down milk (most of the ice melted instantly when the not-so-cold milk was poured on top), a few red beans, various canned fruit-cocktail fruits, and jelly candies poking out of the milk soup, soggy chocolate cereal and chocolate syrup floating on the top.

I tried it.  You can imagine what I thought of it 🙂  The kids loved it though…


Home run!!

August 5, 2010

We finally made it to a Korean baseball game in Daegu.  We went with our friends Tyler and Chris.  The home team was the Samsung Lions.  They were playing the LG Twins.  The game was long (12 innings) and a little boring, but the fans were really into it the whole time, which made it loads more fun.  (I have to admit I spent more time watching the crowd than the actual game.)  They handed out thunder sticks to everyone, and believe me when I say everyone used them.  They played music and chanted cheers the whole time…they didn’t stop while people were up to bat, like at home.  I think they only have about 7 cheers and songs which they recycled over and over and over for the entire 4-hour game.  The fans loved these 7 cheers.  We did too…at first.

At one point, a mascot lion came out into the crowd.  Everyone was cheering and going crazy as he made his way down the steps toward the field.  Then, suddenly, he stopped, pulled out a fake machine gun, and began pretend-shooting the crowd.  We’re not sure if this is his normal habit or something special for this game.  Maybe he only goes on shooting sprees once a season and we were lucky enough to be there.   It was bizaar… and a little disturbing.


This is the kid who sat beside us.  I guess he could tell that we were getting bored toward the end of the game, so he entertained us with spit bubbles.

Last week, I made cardboard sun visors with the littlest kids.  It may have been more exciting for me than for the kids, but they liked it too.


For the whole time we’ve been in Korea I’ve had trouble with two classes, every time that I teach them.  They are wild and won’t listen to anything that I say no matter what I do.  I’ve tried yelling at them.  I’ve tried staring a hole through them.  I’ve tried writing mad faces next to their names.  I’ve tried yelling louder.  I’ve tried yelling louder than that.  Then maybe two or three weeks ago I decided I would only write little smiley faces next the people who were doing good in class.  I wasn’t going to give them candy for a good class, or money, or any large reward but if they were good I would give them a little smiley face on the board.  As soon as I started doing it I got this huge turn around.  As soon as one kid got a smiley face two more kids would be quiet and when those two got smiley faces two more and two more until they were silent and listened to everything that I was telling them.  Besides it being a nice little tool for managing class I feel like it’s saying more about the psychology of people.  I’m not suggesting an exact correlation but I wonder if my little class hints at something more universal.

Maybe one of the strongest motivators is creating a defining line that separates people into two groups.  In my class, if I give even two of the kids a mad face and the rest a smiley face the kids with the mad faces will drag the rest of the class down.  On the other hand if I define who’s good and leave the others ambiguous with nothing beside their name, then there is still an opportunity to be a part of those who I’ve deemed “good”.  Once someone is labeled “bad” then they are “bad” so why does it matter what they do from that point on.  Even when I present them with the opportunity, “If you’re good for the rest of the class then I’ll give you a smiley face too”, it doesn’t seem to cause much change in the behavior of the student.  They’ve already been put into the position of the outsider and as the outsider their goal is to pull people into their group in order to not be alone anymore.  Instead, if they are all a part of Grape Class, which is “good”, then they tend to do more things in order to be consistent with that label.  If Grape Class is good and they are a part of Grape Class then by extension they should be good too.  In this case they are given a label which makes them act in a way consistent with positive behavior but many other negative labels in wider society seem to simply create obstacles.

I think maybe a person is treated or given a specific label which puts them into one of two groups.  A line is drawn arbitrarily by someone, then people are told which side of the line they fall. They are ugly or pretty, rich or poor, good or bad, intelligent or stupid, there are a million examples.  I think this often creates a situation where people will do whatever they need to in order to maintain say, being pretty, but face a daunting obstacle that may remain for years when they’ve been told they are ugly.  The rich do whatever they can to stay rich (or to at least appear rich) and the poor often have a hard time believing that they will be anything but poor.  It’s true that many have overcome such labels but how many others end up living the difficult life of their parents or others in their ethnic group or their socioeconomic group or whatever else they have been labeled as.

I realize that being human means our brain is constantly trying to categorize and make sense of the world.  If the brain doesn’t do that then there is too much information for it to process all the time but I do suggest a danger in putting a label to something when it is not necessary.  Especially verbalizing a label or having it shape how you treat someone can create the line which keeps a group from being united.  How many conflicts are based on defining sometimes the most minute differences and how many problems would seem a lot smaller if we could focus on the ways we are similar?


stories and pictures

July 13, 2010

In my first grade class the other day, one of the boys, Charlie, found a small, dirty white thing on the classroom floor.  He held it up and said “Teacher, what?”  So, I had him bring it up to me for inspection.  It wasn’t anything recognizable to me, so I told him to just throw it away.  (side note:  Telling kids to throw things away always poses a problem, as there are not trash cans in any of the classrooms- why, I don’t know.  So, telling a kid to throw something away is the same as telling her/him to throw it on the ground.  Usually I just have them hand the thing to me, and I throw it away in the teacher’s room after class.)  As he was on his way back to his desk, one of the other students asked Charlie if the mystery object was candy.  He still had it in his hand, and before I had a chance to do anything about it, he popped it in his mouth.  His initial response was a firm “no.”  But, after a split-second contemplation, he changed his mind, “yes, candy!”, he exclaimed as I told him to spit it out.  “Charlie, it’s dirty, throw it away.”  I’m not a germaphobe but this thing was gross.  He spit it out and dropped it on the ground by his desk.  I went back to the book I was reading to the kids.  Charlie, seeing his opportunity, reached down, picked up the candy and started to put it in his backpack.  I looked up just as he dropped it in his bag.  He was determined to have that candy later, if he couldn’t have it now.  The little sneak.

In one of my 6th grade classes, I was trying desperately to get the students engaged (the lesson for the day was not doing the trick), so I started asking them about movies.  I’d noticed posters around town for the new Twilight movie, and even though I wasn’t sure how popular it was here, I figured they would have at least heard of it.  I asked if anyone wanted to see it.  One girl perked up and started telling me how much she loved Twilight (although she thought the illustrated characters in the books were much more attractive than the actors and actresses picked for the movie).  She quickly pulled out a notebook on which she had written “I love Adward”.  I told her that Edward is spelled with an “E” not a “A”. She glared at her twin brother (I found out later that he told her it was spelled with an “A”) and began fixing her mistake.  “Teacher, very very very very thank you”, she said sincerely.

Last month, I made my first trip to a Korean doctor.  A friend told me about a doctor in town who speaks english, and his office happens to be in the same building as the kindergarten where I work.  I’d heard that health care here is really great… it was amazing.  I didn’t have to wait at all, the doctor was thorough, the office visit cost $3 and the prescriptions (5 different medicines) cost $4.50 total.

The South Korean soccer team (the Red Devils) made it to the World Cup, so we joined in the festivities.

cute kid pictures:


Scott and I celebrated our one year anniversary a couple weeks ago.  It’s been a great year.  Here’s a picture recap:

Louisville, KY. 6.6.09. Married!!

Lake of the Ozarks. 6.7.09 – 6.12.09. Honeymoon. (Thanks again Bohannons!)

Columbia, MO. June and July. Cassie finishes grad school.  (Sorry, there’s really no good pictures of this time period…so here’s our first apartment together)

Florissant, MO. August and September. Painting for our rent.  (Thanks again VanMaters!)

New York City, New York. Early October. Visiting friends.  (Thanks Corey and Katelyn!)

Costa Rica. October.  Backpacking.

Nicaragua. November. Backpacking.

Panama. November.  Backpacking.

St. Louis, MO / Louisville, KY.  Back in time for Christmas!

Little Rock, AR. December, January, February. Figuring out what to do next.  (Thanks Mom and Dad!)

Gumi, South Korea. February until present.  Teaching English for a year.  (Thanks Lindsey and Andy for helping us get here!)

We’ve had LOTS of help this year.  I’m not sure what we would have done without our wonderful families and friends.  Thanks to all of you for everything!

Tang Tang Chicken

June 20, 2010

In many of the restaurants in Korea the owners live in the back of the restaurant.  You can often see some of them sitting on their beds watching TV in the back of the restaurant with their children next to them maybe eating their own dinner.  It’s strange to me but I think it accomplishes two things; one, they are better utilizing the space of the building and two, with the long hours that many Koreans work it makes sense that they should just live at their place of work.  This is an idea that makes my skin crawl but I am also not Korean.  The merger of these two worlds came out in all it’s glory the other day when I went to get some chicken.

            This restaurant (Tang Tang Chicken) like almost every other restaurant will deliver to your house but since I don’t know how to communicate well on the phone I normally have to go in and wait for the food to be cooked.  I had just ordered and was sitting making weird faces at myself in the mirror when I noticed that I could see, in the back of the restaurant, a door leading into a bedroom.  I was thinking how strange it was that people lived in their own restaurants when a little boy came out of the bedroom bopping himself on the head with a piece of cardboard.  When he came a little closer I realized that he was wearing a shirt but no pants.  He continued to bop himself until he noticed me sitting there and suddenly got embarrassed and covered his face with the cardboard.   I don’t think he was embarrassed because he was naked but instead maybe he didn’t want me to be able to point him out in a lineup, “Yes officer, that’s the kid.  I was just trying to order some chicken and this little bitty flasher came into the restaurant and exposed himself, I just wanted some chicken, it was horrible” He began making his rounds of the restaurant, going over to inspect what his dad was doing at the grill, then to Mom who was folding boxes.  At this point he began to wave at me deciding that I wasn’t going to rat him out and turned to his mother again.  He clung to her leg and pulled at her pants and fussed at her.  Then putting aside all his earlier shyness or forgetting that I was there, he bent over to set his cardboard on the ground and was momentarily possessed. He began digging in his butt like a chimpanzee looking for termites.  At this point I had to put my head down because I was laughing so hard.  I was choking, trying not to laugh at the scene in front me.  The mother tried to swat his hand away and the boy simply took a few steps back and continued his progress, then got too close, was swatted at and stepped back to his safe distance. This little dance went on for maybe two minutes then just as abruptly as it began, he picked up his cardboard, turned around, waved again, then marched back into the bedroom bopping himself on the head as he went.  About then my chicken was ready and as I walked home I couldn’t help feeling an itch that I dared not scratch. 


Strange Inconsistencies

June 15, 2010

Korea seems to a place of contradictions.  Not that America doesn’t have tons of contradictions itself but it seems they always stick out more when you’re a stranger.  The first contradiction being Koreans are constantly trying to avoid getting sick.  Everywhere you go there are hand sanitizers and air purifiers.  It is also common to wear medical masks around everywhere, which means hiking outside, going to dinner, going to the gym, playing table tennis, reading a book, kissing or performing CPR, the mask must stay on.  This is a difficult situation in class when I have a hard time understanding some of them to begin with.  It seems that there are two schools of thought to this practice.  One school of thought seems to think that cold air is what makes you sick, so by keeping the air from entering your lungs in it’s coldest state you can avoid getting sick.  The other is that you will keep other people from getting sick by containing your sickness to your person, coughing and sneezing into your mask instead of in other people’s faces.  This is all fine, I don’t think there is anything medically proven about the temperature of air leading to sickness or those poor eskimos would be screwed.  If this is the case everyone should drive around for no less than 8 hours a day in order to turn up the old thermostat and save a few Eskimo lives, it’s just the right thing to do.  As far as the second reason, it seems very considerate.  How wonderful that they would try not to get other people sick but the mask seems to be undermined by their drinking solutions. There are Community cups at all of the water coolers.  Two or 3 plastic cups waiting for anyone to use.  Sure, often there are paper disposable cups next to these but it’s seems many people think, “I would have to fill that paper cup upwards of 2 times to get the amount of water that I could get out of this crusty old spitoon.”  I have actually seen someone remove their sick mask in order to take a long sip from one of these communal cups.

Another strange contrast is in everyone explaining, “Korea is a very conservative country, picture America in the 1950’s”  This is definitely true in many cases.  Women are expected to cover their shoulders when they go outside.  They are also expected to hide their vices, smoking cigarettes in private so no one would think less of them as a woman.  People tell us constantly that you must hold you’re temper at all costs as any showing of this kind of emotion in public is an enormous knock against you.  You must remain courteous in the face of whatever your opposition.  Boys and girls are also not supposed to show interest in each other.  Especially in any kind of physical way.  We are told that some married couples will not hold hands in public and often sleep in separate beds or bedrooms.

Then come more contradictions. Women can show off as much of their legs as they want, just no shoulders.  It is also true that for most of the time people don’t seem to let on when something is wrong.  This is until someone cuts them off in a car which seems to cause many to pull over and yell idle threats at the disappearing bumper of the assailant.  It’s also true that many Koreans won’t show much physical affection to each other but business men will walk hand in hand with each other down the street and 15 year old boys will play with each other’s thighs and tickle each other.  Kids up to the age of 15 love to play a game in which they try to shove their two fingers up each other’s butts (or mine, until I told them that I eat fingers).

I don’t pretend to understand the Korean culture.  I certainly have not lived here long enough to speak with any authority but there are things here that seem to contradict each other.  To me it feels like there are a lot of unspoken cultural rules that may cause order in some ways but underneath there seem to be a lot of things trying to bust their way out.  Like a fat man in a tight shirt, who is covered until the day his buttons start shooting off in all directions leaving what he was trying to hide exposed.