Thursday, July 30, 2009

Summer Camp, Part Deux

1) Well, camp continues despite the fact that two of the students are on vacation the rest of the week, and two will be on vacation next week. So, I get up at the crack of dawn, walk twenty minutes to work, spend an hour teaching my scrupulously prepared lesson plan, then walk back home, all before most stores along my way are even open for business--for the benefit of four or five students.

2) On the plus side, the students that show up are quite keen. We spend the first five to ten minutes just talking (in part, this is because I designed my lessons to last 50 minutes, as are regular lessons, and as were winter camp sessions back in January, only to find on the second day that they are one hour!) This is nice, but can't be sustained, so I dive into the planned lesson.

3) Yesterday, being Wednesday, was Video Day, and I showed a string of Schoolhouse Rock videos from God's gift to ESL teachers, YouTube. Interjections, nouns, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions ... Schoolhouse Rock did a concise, humorous, tuneful explication of grammar topics. Conjunction junction, what's your function...

4) Today's lesson was essentially the Jack Prelutsky "Beware the Crocodile" plan from I used this during the winter camp as well, when frankly it went somewhat better, at least in the advanced class I taught fourth period. I met Prelutsky when he came to Heritage some years ago.

5) There is no Number Five.

6) In other news, I have been adjudged "healthy" by Seoul Medical Center, thus completing the last step of the renewal process for my job. Now, I have to gather several forms and pieces of paperwork and carry them to the Immigration Office in Mok-dong for a new visa.

7) I am currently wearing a temporary cap and am supposed to get my gold crown on Monday at 11 AM. Anyone who wants to come along and sing "Suicide is Painless" is more than welcome.

Bonus Photographs: On Yeouido. I have been impressed by the amount and quality of public art here in Seoul. Click on art in the label cloud to see more.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Psychotic Test

I think I mentioned that I organized my three weeks of summer camp such that each day focused on a particular skill or task--Video Day, Writing Day, etc. Well, Monday is just full on talking day, and yesterday was Telling a Joke.

Pretty straightforward, we were to spend the period telling jokes, riddles and funny stories. As a starter, I had some riddles and their answers in a table in Word, printed them out, and cut them up in such a way that they were strips of paper--long strips with the riddle, short ones with the answer. I mixed them up and handed them out, and had students take turns reading their long strips. Hopefully, someone recognizes that one of their short strips is the answer, and reads it out to pursuant hilarity.

Next, I told them a few jokes to get things started: A snowman walks into a bar. He says to the bartender, "It smells like carrots in here." etc. Of course, the problem with jokes in translation is that they often rely on wordplay or separate meanings of a word for their humor, and nothing kills a joke like having to explain it. So I had to pick my jokes carefully.

Same thing is true, of course, with Korean jokes, and the students, though there are three pretty bright ones among them, had trouble finding more than a few that they could translate well.

So, Mr Kim eventually told the following story:
You, Cam-brell, are on top of a mountain all alone. You are in a hut. You are sitting in your hut meditating, it is late at night and the moon is full. You hear a noise behind you. Do you think it is:
  • a dog
  • a ghost
  • the wind
  • the falling leaves
  • a man
  • a wild animal

This is somewhat simplified, since Mr Kim is the English illiterate I mentioned, and relied on his classmates for considerable help. That's okay, though, since they got vocab practice and he might have picked up a few words along the way. Anyway, I had no idea where this was going, but I don't believe in ghosts and I doubt falling leaves would make enough noise outside my hut for me to notice. So I chose the wind.

Mr Kim says, "Berra good! You, psychotic, no!"

I wiped my brow in pretend relief, and asked what the hell he was talking about. It turns out that somewhere in Korean kid culture, there has arisen these little scenarios which purport to determine whether the respondent is a "psychotic".

The next psychotic test was the following:
You hear a commotion on the street below your apartment very late one night (in Seoul, I guess you are assumed to live in an apartment). You look out the window and you see a man stab a woman to death!
Immediately afterward, he makes eye contact with you, so you know he's seen you and you can identify him. What do you think he will do next?
I said, "I guess he will try to memorize my face so he can try to kill me to keep me silent."
"Oh, good! You are not a psychotic!"

Apparently, if I had answered that the killer was counting the floors up to my window so he could actually locate me and affect my demise, I would be a "psychotic".

We went through one or two more, I wasn't pressing the joke angle since at least they were talking, and I am happy to announce that I am certifiably non-psychotic in the Korean schoolboy psychological paradigm.

PS: If you have heard other such "psychotic tests" from your students, please do add them in the comments to this post. I'd really like to know.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Line 9 is Transportation!

Say that title to yourself the same way Chuck Heston (I met him once, so I can call him Chuck) says, "Soylent Green is People!" Just to inject a little drama into the blog, you understand.

So I took the train to the end of the line at Sinnonhyeon, which is in Gangnam, one of the rich, over-developed, central areas of Seoul. Well, right outside one of the exits (#7) was an enormous Kyobo bookstore, and having just finished the book I bought after I finished Mountains Beyond Mountains (look about four posts below this), this was a happy coincidence. I also ate a classic Italian sub at Quizno's in the Kyobo Tower building, and it was delish.

I bought two books, one of which is titled Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which I think is one of the first novels to deal with the aftermath of September 11, 2001. I stopped off at Yeouido and walked around the park for a while, then settled in and read for a spell. Here are a few photos of Yeouido Park in mid-summer (click in the label cloud for photos and descriptions from my visits in winter and spring):

While I was in the park, I happened across a bit of a commotion, which turned out to be some filming, probably for a TV show--MBS, one of the major networks, is headquartered right across the street. I suppose it was one of the myriad goofy-ass reality-type shows they love here; in their zeal to be Western-ish, Koreans have made their TV just as insipid as the American version.

Anyway, in this vignette I witnessed, the host found a young couple and convinced the young man to put on a pink tee-shirt:

Then, a young woman (not his girlfriend) wearing a matching shirt rushed up and appeared to promise him her undying love. This vow is a required part of wearing the "couple shirts" so popular in Korea.

The scene ended when the young man rode off on a bicycle alongside the new girl, while his original girlfriend rode the opposite direction on a tandem with some other member of the production staff. The assembled crowd seemed to enjoy the spectacle:

Taking line 9 to the end and back, I observed a few things:
1) Express trains only come twenty minutes apart, while all-stop trains are about 6 minutes apart;
2) it is helpful to announce on all-stop trains at which station you may transfer to an express, however, announcing that express riders can switch to an all-stop train at every stop is unnecessary;
3) the time difference between regular service and the express is not all that great--the 11 minutes difference from Jeungmi to the end of line at Sinnonhyeon is less than you will wait for the next express to come along;
4) furthermore, if the first weekend of service is anything to go by (and it may not be, since I suspect there was a lot of subway tourism), express trains are SRO, and regular service is less crowded.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Tuttle Rides Nine

Well, it's official: Seoul Metro 9 line is open for business. Frequent readers of the Seoul Patch (and who can blame you, after all?) may recall that I went on a test ride of the new underground back in early May (if you don't, then pay better attention in the future, and go here).

During the trial run, the super nifty over-door signs didn't work, so you can see them in action in the video below. At first, I thought the escalator wasn't working, but when passengers pass the electric eye, it starts up--great energy-saver, that.

But that footage is from the end of my trip, when I got off the train at Jeungmi, my very own subway stop. Let's go to the beginning, shall we? After my summer camp session ended at 9 AM, I decided to go to Dangsan, where I recently discovered there is a McDonald's that has breakfast. I never go near Mickey D's unless there is a sausage, egg and cheese McMuffin in my immediate future. The nearest stop to the school is Deungchon:

All Metro stations are kept cean and orderly, but there is something about a station with that new car smell:

All Seoul Metro stations also have pretty good signage, with station and neighborhood maps on the platform and the entry plaza. Personally, I think they could do with more route and system maps, but below are: first, a platform-level map; second, a detail from the station map; and third, a neighborhood map just inside my exit at Jeungmi. The graphics are clearer and cleaner than the old style, and the "Google maps" of the neighborhood are particularly helpful if you are familiar with overhead views of buildings--in any case, they are no less informative than the old ones. The pictures underneath show more map locations.

I think this is the "performing place" referred to in the station map detail above:

Here is a vending station on the train platform. They accept payment with your T-Money card; note the Georgia brand coffee machine.

I got this semi-humorous shot of the new benches on the platform:

And finally, a photo taken onboard one of the new trains. I didn't take any pictures of the Sausage McMuffin, since I figured you probably know what that looks like already.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Summer Camp, Part 1

1) You may recall that the original Friday the 13th movie, Jason Voorhees, hockey mask, Kevin Bacon and all that, took place at summer camp. True, it was sleepaway camp, and it was the week before campers arrived during counselor training, but that's more or less irrelevant to what is to follow.

2) Well, okay, it's totally irrelevant, I just wanted to remind you that Kevin Bacon was in Friday the 13th.

3) Actually, camp has been going just fine, if you get beyond the fact that I have to be doing it at all. After all, I was told initially that since only six students signed up for my camp sessions, I had the option of "working from home" during those three weeks, or teaching approximately two students an hour for three hours. Guess what I chose?

As I mentioned, I used this deal to arrange two weeks vacation in New Zealand with Andy, to split expenses, and then had to renege when the school took back the offer (due to the way the dates worked out--for vacation, that is). So I am giving up a week's holiday to teach seven students one hour a day.

4) It has become well-known at school that this has pissed me off, and understandably so, especially since I have made great effort to be (or at least appear) flexible, affable and hard-working. Miss Lee can't even look me in the eye when we talk about camp.

5) Anyway, once it became established I would have this one session to teach, I quickly developed 18 fine lesson plans; Mon. through Sat. for three weeks. Each day has a different theme, to wit: Wed. is video day, Fri. is pair work, Sat. is game day, and so on.

6) Really good, interesting lessons--I know this because the students have been intensively involved, even reluctant to leave when the bell rings.

7) Oh, speaking of which, I assumed the sessions were 50 minutes in length, as are regular classes, and as were winter camp sessions. This notion was reinforced by a bell at fifty minutes on Monday. I therefore timed out Tuesday's lesson to end at 50 minutes, only to learn when the bell failed to ring that the previous day's bell had been a mistake, and camp sessions were one hour.

Tough shit, I spent scads of time developing these lessons based on available information. My lessons are designed to last 50 minutes. If they stretch to 60, fine, so be it. But I'm damned if I'm going to run around scaring up 10 minutes of extra material at the last minute because some dunderhead can't be bothered to inform me properly.

Not that the kids will mind too much, anyway...

8) Speaking of, they are a really good group, with four that can speak English okay, one who is so quiet and shy I have no idea what he can do, one who is basically illiterate but professes to love me at every conceivable juncture, and one who has only shown up one-and-a-half times.

9) Still, on Saturday, Aug. 8th, I will finish my last camp session at 9 AM--some games, then a party with cake and all--tidy up the classroom, then leave that afternoon for Auckland. Finally!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Considering that I finish my school day at 9:00 AM, I have considerable free time, so I trekked to Sindorim TechnoMart today to the bookstore. The entry plaza from the subway station (which I previously blogged here) had several large figures, which I assumed from a distance were promotional materials for the new Transformers movie or something like that.

Instead, they were promoting a display called "JunkArt" by an artist named Oh Dae Ho or an approximation thereof: 오대호, and created from junkyard metal. It looked interesting, but at an admission fee of W 15,000 (about $12), not that interesting. Still, I was able to get a few snaps with the cellphone cam:

PS: This is blog post #300--unbelievable...

Monday, July 20, 2009

Book Report: Mountains Beyond Mountains

I have just finished reading one of the most profoundly moving books I've ever read, and it's all true. The author is Tracy Kidder, whom I've been reading since the mid-80s when I was assigned Soul of the New Machine for a scriptwriting class.

That book was about the upstarts of Silicon Valley, and it was followed by books like House, about the process of building a new house, and Among Schoolchildren in which he spent a year observing a fifth grade classroom. He's won the Pulitzer Prize and about every other award possible, because the man can write. He turns our ordinary experience into something fascinating and revelatory--one of his books is Home Town about a small town in Massachusetts, largely seen through the experiences of a young town policeman.

Mountains Beyond Mountains, Random House, 2003, tells the story of Dr. Paul Farmer, who changed the world. It is different from Kidder's other books in a couple of ways: first, he appears as a character in this book; and second, it doesn't take the "ordinary" and make it seem extraordinary, it takes an extraordinary man and allows us to see how we ordinary people can be more like him.

Farmer, who is a couple years older than me, grew up in unusual circumstances in Florida, in a large family which for years lived in a jerry-rigged school bus, which the siblings called the Blue Bird Inn. After that they lived on a houseboat moored up Jenkins Creek somewhere in central Florida. The value of this upbringing is debatable, but it did give him a "very compliant GI system", the ability to sleep anywhere, study under any conditions and never have the need to call a specific place his "home".

These would come in handy as he worked his way through Duke and then Harvard Med School on full scholarship, meanwhile traveling back and forth to Haiti, where he set up a clinic to treat the multitude of destitute natives for their various ills, from machete wounds to AIDS and tuberculosis.

Over the years, his organization, Partners in Health, has grown to become a leader in health care in the developing world by focusing on policy changes in government health agencies in the countries they work in, as well as providing clinical care for the sick and alleviating the root causes of illness: malnutrition, contaminated water and substandard housing. Patients in Dokte Paul's clinics are seen free of charge, and are usually given subsidies to ensure proper food--the organization works to provide potable water, sewage systems and education to those in the communities it serves.

Farmer has become one of the most important figures in shaping WHO and worldwide policy on the treatment of AIDS and tuberculosis, his organization changing the approach to MDR (multiple drug resistant) TB and AIDS, advancing social justice reforms, and forging cooperation among NGOs and official health departments in countries under its purview, including Russia, Peru and Haiti. Kidder traveled with Farmer to these locations time and again while researching the book.

He also spent many hours getting to know the amazing people in Farmer's circle, including Tom White, a key benefactor who plans to die penniless after making his final contribution to PIH; Ophelia Dahl, daughter of Roald Dahl and Patricia Neal, who Farmer wanted to marry, but who instead settled in as PIH's business manager; and Jim Kim, a Korean-American from St. Louis who takes on projects Paul can't manage, like the MDR/AIDS program in Russia's prisons, schmoozing with former Soviet apparatchiks by singing karaoke, to hold at bay an outbreak that threatened to overrun Russian society with a lethal cocktail of diseases.

Kidder finds a way to make people "ordinary" people fascinating and admirable--this is because he believes no one is ordinary. Similarly--or maybe conversely--this book makes the amazing achievements of Dokte Paul seem human, even expectable. Paul Farmer is a revolutionary, the kind of liberal do-gooder that puts his money where his mouth is (hell, he doesn't even take a salary, despite being a world-class physician on the board at Harvard and Brigham, a high muckety-muck at WHO et al; when in Boston, he lives in a room above a Catholic Church rectory) that makes even Greenpeace activists or civil rights marchers uncomfortable with their lack of involvement. Yet, his actions seem ... perfectly reasonable.

Finally, the title, Mountains Beyond Mountains:
The title comes from a Haitian proverb, which is usually translated as: "Beyond the mountains, more mountains." According to Farmer, a better translation is: "Beyond mountains there are mountains." I first heard the proverb from Farmer, and I remember that he told me, "The Haitians, of course, use it in a zillion different ways." Sometimes it’s used to express the idea that opportunities are inexhaustible, and sometimes as a way of saying that when you surmount one great obstacle you merely gain a clear view of the next one. Of course, those two meanings aren’t inconsistent, and I meant to imply both in the title. To me, the phrase expresses something fundamental about the spirit and the scale and the difficulty of Farmer’s work. The Haitian proverb, by the way, is also a pretty accurate description of the topography of a lot of Haiti, certainly as I experienced it in my hikes with Farmer through the mountains of the central plateau.--Tracy Kidder

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Citizen's Park of Han River

한강시민공원 Hangang Shimin Kongwon, Han River Citizen's Park No. 1, as nice a park along the river as you'll see anywhere! Just a ten minute walk from my apartment, I feel lucky! I generally approach it from the southwest, where my entree is this view:

The bike/jogging/walking track runs for 1.3 km, marked off in 100 m. increments. Shady benches, tennis courts, exercise stations, basketball and other sports areas form the bulk of the leeward side of the park.

The Jang-ma rains of the last few days have rendered the soccer pitch--dirt, no grass, like most such fields here--unplayable:

Still, pick-up baseball takes place wherever there are a handful of small boys with a ball, a bat and a couple of gloves:

The wind-up ...

... the swing

It's called Hangang Park because it is on the Hangang (Han River), though the river itself is located on the other side of the Olympic Expressway, about ten lanes of freeway traffic.

Still, that's no problem, as you simply go up a ramp and down the other side ...

... which is decorated in a kind of Mary Blair-esque tile style ...

... then through a cool tunnel ...

... with cyclists streaming along the bike path beside the river ...

... until I take a rest with the Han River right behind me. Yeah.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Coupla Videos

I'm not much of a re-blogger, but today was a slow news day here in the Seoul Patch, with rain, rain and more rain, so I thought you might enjoy a coupla videos I saw while wandering around the cyberworld, like e-Diogenes on a search for something of interest.

Well, first up, here is a report about something called RepRap:

RepRap from Adrian Bowyer on Vimeo.

And now for something completely different, we have two 'tards armed with a camera and some tunes. And a YouTube account. This is the kind of thing I usually flip right by, but these two were having so much fun it was kind of charming. If not your cup of tea, I understand perfectly. Move along.

I now return you to your regularly scheduled internet.

Friday, July 17, 2009

In The News

1) Election Update: Young-il go student government president will be (drumroll please) Jung Jer-ho, candidate #4, who is the one without a set agenda, but who promised to listen to his constituents and strive to help their voice be heard. Knowledgeable high school political commentators everywhere were pleased by this victory, noting that specific campaign promises, like toilet paper pledges, shorter classes or better vending machines, are too often empty promises, rhetorical hot air which offer hope though little chance of real change.

2) Elsewhere: New York Times front page story caught my eye--without a single mention of Kim Jong-il: Cities Like Seoul Rediscover Waterways They Paved Over. You can see my pictures of the stream by clicking here.

In the years after the Korean War, as more and more people flocked to Seoul, the Cheonggye Stream, Cheonggyecheon 청계천, became an open sewer, a source of disease and odor. It was paved over in the 1960s. As the article points out, this is a fairly common fate of central city waters in the twentieth century. There is such a stream running along the north side of The Mall in Washington, DC, for instance, and the article points out additional cases:
In New York State, a long-stalled revival effort for Yonkers’s ailing downtown core that could break ground this fall includes a plan to re-expose 1,900 feet of the Saw Mill River, which currently runs through a giant flume that was laid beneath city streets in the 1920s.
Cities from Singapore to San Antonio have been resuscitating rivers and turning storm drains into streams. In Los Angeles, residents’ groups and some elected officials are looking anew at buried or concrete-lined creeks as assets instead of inconveniences, inspired partly by Seoul’s example.

Uncovering the stream was a project of current ROK president Lee Myung-bok when he was Seoul mayor at the start of the decade. Before moving into politics, MB was the CEO of Hyundai chaebol, where he built cars, as well as the roads to put them on. In the Cheonggyechun project, he literally undid his own work. He also beefed up Seoul's public transport, including LP-fueled buses (built by Hyundai, of course) so the roads became less crowded.

Still, despite the popularity of the new environment of the stream, many Seoulites remain unhappy about its cost. Mr Hwang and his family visit occasionally, despite his opposition due to its expense--but, hey, he paid for it, might as well use it!

3) Tuttle Gets a Root Canal: Andy's suggestion of the dentist in the next building was spot-on, as the place was sparkling clean, highly professional and very modern with an in-house X-ray room, electronic dentist chairs and wireless English translation services.

Okay, that last bit meant one of the dental assistants called a friend on her cellphone to translate back and forth, but I appreciate the effort. I did the same with Mr Hwang; plus, they had a series of printouts with Korean and English on them so they could point to what they needed to tell me.

Anyway, I got a root canal on Tuesday. Call me a chicken, but it felt like I was being waterboarded or something. I finally figured out how to breathe, and after that, things went quite smoothly. I had a second appointment yesterday, which I thought was to get the crown put on, but it was just a progress check kind of thing--I think the dentist pushed some more amalgam in there, too. I go back next week--hopefully for the crown.

Korea has socialized medicine, including dental care, for which I contribute about 5% of my salary, an amount my employer matches. The root canal procedure cost W 8,400, about USD 6.50. In the States, this would run me between $500-800. The crown will cost W 350,000 (under USD 300) since it isn't covered, compared to $600-1000.

The ramifications are left as an exercise for my Dear Readers.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

K-Pop the Vote!

This is the last week of classes of the semester, which makes it election week at Young-il go-dung hagkyo. I brought my camera to school to capture the flavor of campaigning as students stream in through the gates in the morning:

The number is the candidate's ID number on the ballot sheet, determined earlier by a random drawing. In addition to enlisting their friends to cheer for them, the wannabe politicos are responsible for providing posters identifying their policy platforms to go on this bulletin board:

There are seven candidates for president, and only one for vice-president. Among the platform issues:

  • toilet paper in all bathrooms
  • no hair length requirement
  • no boring sports events--everyone should get to participate
  • I have no agenda, but I will listen to you and try to do what you want
  • 8th period (after school program) should be optional
  • classes during the week after exams should be 10 minutes shorter

Mr Hwang and I both celebrated the power of the vote, but lamented that we had no rights to vote in this election! Personally, I'm all for shorter classes...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Swine Flu, Crazy Cow and Other Animals

Mike Breen makes a very good point in his recent op-ed in the Korea Times, writing about the swine flu outbreak:
When the health ministry issued statistics last weekend showing swine flu cases were up to 286, Koreans took the news in stride.
Not so long ago, the media atmosphere would have been less cool, possibly even hysterical. The government would almost certainly have banned pork imports, as China, Russia and the Philippines have done.
But this time we are being calmly told that this flu is caught from other infected people, not from pigs, and advised, just in case, to thoroughly cook our pork.
The change is welcome progress and makes sense. Playing up foreign food scares and demonizing imports may have made popular sense in justifying agricultural protectionism. But the authorities have learned that food scares lead to fears about local produce and that it's better for consumer credibility, as well as international perception and trading partner relations, to treat such outbreaks as health, and not trade, issues.

Breen is the author of one of the main books I read about Korea, The Koreans: Who they are, what they want, where their future lies, and has lived here half-time for many years. The title of his piece is "Hope on Mad Cow Disease", and his overall point is that due to Koreans' xenophobia, they have failed to certify the safety of their own beef supply.

Since it is considered so well-known that BSE comes from American cows, there was little effort made to screen and protect Korean herds. Today, Korea still has not made the list of "negligible" or "controlled" risk countries.

A small galbitang (beef rib soup) restaurant opened in my neighborhood last month, and it had a really delicious version of the soup. Alas, I only managed to eat there twice before it closed last week. I asked Mr Hwang what the explanation could be.

He replied there were not enough customers. Thank you, Mr Obvious, I said (on the inside). I suspect the real reason to be they served (indubitably delicious) American beef--stores and restaurants here are required to publicly display the national origin of all the meats they serve. Despite the fact that American beef is verifiably safe and Korean beef is not.

It is this same attitude that infuses and dooms to failure the Korean AIDS policy: foreigners with the disease are deported. This is bad policy for numerous reasons, not least of which is that it is in direct conflict with international AIDS policy. Only a few other countries attempt to screen and deport foreigners, countries like Saudi Arabia and Singapore--most countries reject this method because it doesn't work, and probably makes the problem worse.

Just like with "Crazy Cow", it gives you an easy scapegoat and allows you to whistle past the graveyard when it comes to identifying and dealing with the problem. It gives you a false sense of security.

I think Mr Breen is correct to see "hope" in the rational response to A-H1N1; hopefully, it is a sign of things to come.

Bonus Photograph: On a lighter note, here is a bar sign near Dangsan Station. Drink up, you can't get AIDS from beer, even if it's ...

Monday, July 13, 2009

Brief Teef Update

1) I was biting into a pork meatball today at lunch when I encountered a bit of bone. Unfortunately, it was MY bone, a piece of an upper molar that has been irritating me for about a year now, since the filling fell out (I have two, total two, fillings, in this mouth).

While I was flossing after lunch another piece fell out, so now I have a tooth disintegrating bit by bit in my mouth. No, it's not painful at all, but obviously, I must go to a dentist. Hwang doesn't know an English speaking one, so I'm hoping Andy's recommendation of the dentist in the building next door to my officetel will work out (stay tuned for a full post on my first dental visit in umpteen years).

2) I was just bragging this weekend to Steve W and Gav that I am proactive in dealing with miscommunication issues since I always ask Mr Hwang on Friday as we walk to school about any schedule changes for the next week. He told me that:
A - Thursday, 1st period would be devoted to student government elections; and,
B - Friday, scheduled as the last day of term, would be a holiday.
Well, it turns out that he was "Mr Wrong" on the Friday holiday, as Constitution Day hasn't been a national holiday for two years. Ah-hah. Thursday's veracity is TBD.
UPDATE: First period on Thursday proceeded as normal--some first graders had a medical check during this time (But not the ones in my class) so all first graders got a private electoral session!

3) Furthermore, he neglected to point out until today--that's Monday--that I would have no classes tomorrow--that's Tuesday--due to a national exam practice session. So, of three special events that I specifically asked about, he was wrong on two out of three. Now that gets you a million-dollar contract in the MLB, but for reading a calendar, it is pathetic. UPDATE: Make that batting .000!

4) So the upshot of all this is that tomorrow I will walk to work as usual in order to get credit for the day's work and, as I have no responsibilities, immediately turn around and go to the dentist. Oh, BTW, I'm askeered!

5) On top of all that, 장 마 jang-ma has decided to act up and Seoul is expecting the worst downpour of the season tonight and tomorrow. Rain for the next two days!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Machinery at E-Mart

Prepackaged and instant foods are a relatively recent phenomenon to the Korean housewife--she grew up with outdoor markets and roadside vendors, which are of course still around today. The popular E-Mart supermarket/department store chain is only 15 years old.

And in order to make inroads with the adjumma, they must combine modern efficiencies with a flavor of traditional market freshness. One aspect of this strategy is a number of processing machines found right inside the store. Below is the red ginsing extractor, for example:

Here is the rice milling machine:

Brown rice goes in ...

...milled white rice comes out

Here is a squid-prep apparatus. The lady is frying up raw squid in the George Foreman, then it will go through the roller device to be scored for easy shredding. Yumm!

Finally, two mahines that weren't operating today when I was wandering through. First is a garlic press:

Above is a seaweed, um, cooker, I guess. Sheets of seaweed go in one side, and then come out the other side a little darker. I suppose it's a sort of salamander. An adjumma feeds it at one end, and another stacks up the sheets that come out and slides them into packages.

There are in fact a few other devices like this in the store, preparing fresh processed foods, but they weren't out today, alas.