Friday, December 31, 2010

63 Building and Picasso

After passing this ad board in Yeouinaru station a few times, I determined to have a look at the exhibit, and asked my friend Karen along. It was divided into three main sections, 'Prints', 'Ceramics' and'Traces', the last of which is actually photos of Picasso taken by the French photographer Andre Villers. Villers became famous for his work on artists in their studios, including Chagall, Miro, Dali and Calder, but started via a chance meeting with Picasso in 1953 in Vallauris, France, where the great artist had come to explore ceramics.

Picasso's Prints:

Picasso's Ceramics:

Green fish
Traces of Picasso:

Karen pointing out Picasso's pet owl
With Claude and Paloma

SkyArt Observation Deck: Here are four photos showing a snow-dusted Seoul, looking roughly east, north, west and south, in order.

East, toward Namsan Tower
Northerly, Yeouido Hangang Park in snow
West, Noryangjin fish market in foreground
Southerly view

Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 Teacher of the Year

UPDATE: Korea Times profiled me on Wed, Jan. 5, 2011, click here.

Just to make it official, I had to go in to school today for the final faculty meeting and a free (delicious) lunch. I was one of five NSETs (Native Speaker English Teachers) in Seoul to receive the award.

It snowed again last night,so there was a fresh coat of snow on everything. Here are two views out of my classroom window:

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Laura Ingalls, Lousy Teacher

I found this clip from "Little House on the Prairie" where Laura Ingalls, played by Melissa Gilbert, (unintentionally) showcases about six terrible teaching techniques in the space of about three minutes.

1) Although "cold questioning" can be useful as a way to open a lesson, it becomes immediately clear that she's asking questions about material to which they've never been introduced.

2) Her impatience mounts after one kid lucks into an answer; she seems to think that if one student has heard of one borough of New York, they clearly should all know all five boroughs--as if they are just refusing to answer out of obstinacy.

3) She allows the minor disruption of the spitball to take over and sideline the class activity, such as it is. Furthermore, she singles out and punishes Willy without actually knowing he did it--all the more reason for Willy to act out, if he knows he'll be punished anyway. (Self-fulfilling prophesy, anyone?)

4) Willy's question is a legitimate one, one for which teachers should have a ready answer. And she does have an answer--but does she have to be so mean about it?

5) When Willy confuses 'borough' with 'burro', Laura passes up the chance to conduct an interesting side-trip into homophones, so that she can instead belittle him and goad him into further acting out. Good choice, Laura Teacha!

6) It might occur to the students that the Brooklyn Bridge goes to Brooklyn if they had, say, a map; the bridge also goes to Manhattan, so why isn't it called the Manhattan Bridge, then? A map would also help in identifying the three rivers in question.

It's well and good to have high expectations for your students--I use the TESA model myself--but clairvoyance is a bit too much. Give them some tools, Miss Ingalls! A hand-drawn map on the board would suffice, since you probably didn't have a textbook in the 1880s.

Well do I remember the maps of Mr Ferguson, a big beefy guy who taught history at Chaplin School in the 1970s. Four color works of art they were, beautifully lettered, bold arrows illustrating troop movements, mountain chains so real you felt your chest tighten in the thin air. We were expected to copy them down in the first minutes of class. The rest of the period, Mr Ferguson dictated, and we wrote everything down. 45% was the passing grade in his class; I never knew anyone who got over an 80. He wasn't perfect, but he didn't expect us to know things before he taught them.

He set up his classroom with a big open space in the middle, through which he would pace, droning his dictation, with rows of desks on opposite sides, facing in. Dale M--- and I would spend most of class trying to look up Janet E---'s dress. I've never used that desk arrangement, and still blame it to this day for why I don't understand how the von Schlieffen Plan led to Germany's defeat in WWI.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Cake 2010

I am told that baking was never a part of Korean cuisine until its introduction when the peninsula was opened to the West in the late 19th century. In fact, the Korean word for bread, 빵 bbang comes from the French word pain.

They must be making up for lost time, because today bakeries like Paris Baguette and Tous les Jours can be found every few blocks as you stroll through Seoul.

A Christmas tradition here is the elaborate, and very rich, Christmas cake. These posts have photos of my Christmas cake last year and the year before. And in keeping with my tradition, here is a photo of my Christmas cake for 2010:

And, before I dig in, let me say to all my friends, as it does on the Christmas cake, Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Bragging Rights

1) Norfolk & Chance earned the "Hat Trick" last night at 3 Alley Pub's Quiz Night, first place three times in a row. Well done, us! Unfortunately, we have to take a miss the next couple of weeks--at least under that team name.

2) This week's class activity is "create your own superhero", something fun and relatively easy with which to end the year. So far, my favorite superhero is Whassup Man. Students name and provide the characteristics of their hero or villain by fillng in the blanks on a worksheet I stole from Simon and Martina and fixed up for my purposes. I take (or sometimes choose) volunteers to read about their superhero/villain aloud at the end of class. It's generally a humorous, nice way to end things up.

Most classes have one or two students that take shots at a disliked teacher or the principal; and a couple who make me into the superhero, angling for brownie points on the last day. I felt pretty good today that one student actually tried to describe my traits as a teacher: "TuttleTeacher can freeze students with his stopwatch", "TuttleTeacher can make students pay attention without using corporal punishment", "His television shows interesting videos".

3) My teaching--or my ego--got a more official boost today; the principal showed me a certificate naming me Seoul Office of Education 2010 NSET Teacher of the Year. My co-teacher said there are five teachers receiving the award; I don't know if she meant total, per division, per region or what. Anyway, recognition is nice. And the monetary prize is nice, too--don't know how much it is, but it's nice.

I don't know the criteria or the process that was involved, but I do know I was asked a few weeks ago to put together some sample lesson plans, and I gather this was at a late stage of the selection procedure. I also know that the evaluators of my "open class" gave me a perfect score; and that my school's English Department gave me an "A+".

So, those are some nice laurels to rest on over the holidays!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Off the Bookshelf

  • The Shakespeare Curse by Jennifer Lee Carrell - I loved the literature and history references in this book--from Holinshed's Chronicles to Beerbohm Tree to Bandirran Stone Circle; I loved the way ancient mystic powers intermingled in modern-day events. I loved the characters--well most of them--Eircheart, Lady Nairn, and Lily. I loved the setting, amidst ancient Scottish castles and Woods and lochs. The story involves an attempt to mount the Scottish Play, as we theatre denizens refer to it, with original props, while nefarious forces attempt to use magic powers contained in the props, and a secret version of the play itself, to bring down those connected with it. There is, as I see it, one or two coincidences too many, three or four incredible connections too many, for me to sustain my willing suspension of disbelief. Though the author's notes make a good try to convince me, I'd skip it.
  • Tangerine by Edward Bloor - The town of Tangerine (which can't be far from the central Florida locale where I grew up) is more than the backdrop for this young adult tale of a middle school soccer player trying to figure out his life, and some dark secret he can't quite recall, it is a character in the story. Paul Fisher is a young teen who sees and understands more than others give him credit for--mostly because of the thick glasses he wears, supposedly because he stared at a solar eclipse too long. He doesn't remember that, but soon events will trigger his memory, and lead to a tragic, but satisfying, denoument. I recommend this novel for those who enjoy quirky, intelligent young adult stuff!
  • Zeitoun by Dave Eggers - The story of Zeitoun--Abdulrahman Zeitoun--and his wife Kathy and their four children, personalizes the natural disaster of Hurrican Katrina in New Orleans, and the policy disasters of the Bush administration's FEMA and the global war on terror, in a unique and imminently readable fashion. Zeitoun, an able-bodied painter and contractor well-known in the city, stays behind after the floods to look after his various properties and help out however he can, but becomes ensnarled in a FEMA/Homeland Security nightmare when he is picked up for "looting" and imprisoned without charge, without evidence, without even a phone call to his worry-sickened family for weeks. While one wants to blame the cops, the District Attourney, the FEMA head, it becomes clear that it's not the individuals who are to blame, mostly--but the system itself. For a proud American like myself, Eggers' 2009 non-fiction tale is a sad but necessary reality check.
  • Neither Here Nor There by Bill Bryson - Subtitled "Travels in Europe", this volume chronicles three of Bryson's trips through the Continent, the first two during the halcyon days of tender youth, the last nearly two decades later as he attempted to retrace those earlier trails. It says something, though I'm not sure what, that I was in chapter 5 or so before I realized I had read this book before--it was probably the first Bill Bryson book I ever read. He was still formulating his style at this point, so the book lacks some of the meticulous backgrounding he provides in later works, and less attention to the locals.

    One thing that struck me is Bryson's chastisement of the Austrians for their anti-Semitism and the "Waldheim Affair"--Austrian President Kurt Waldheim was re-elected to his position even after his dubious role in WWII war crimes as an officer in the Wehrmacht, and his long record of lies about it, was detailed. Austria has never paid war reparations. Bryson goes so far as to show polls demonstrating the high level of anti-Semitism in modern Austria, even though there are practically no remaining Austrian Jews. But the Waldheim Affair was twenty years ago--come to think of it, so was Bryson's trip to Europe.

Monday, December 20, 2010

I'm Still Standing

After being postponed twice due to heavy fog, shelling drills by ROK forces in the Yelllow Sea near the NLL (Northern Limit Line) continued today beginning at 2:30 PM. They ended at 4:04 PM.


And I am still here in Seoul, safe, and well. While North Korea had reiterated its threat of "a nuclear war disaster" and promised to "inflict decisive and unrelenting punishment on aggressors that infringe upon the sovereignty and territory of our republic," just this Sunday, the response from Pyongyang to the resumpton of the periodic "war games" has been unusually calm. Says Korea Times:
The North gave a mixed response to the drill, which began at 2:30 p.m. after being postponed twice due to heavy fog.
“We have no interest in responding to each one of such despicable military provocations,” the North’s official Korean Central News Agency said, hinting that it may refrain from any immediate retaliation.
However, the Supreme Command of the North Korean People’s Army, warned of harsh retaliatory measures, saying “its limitless revolutionary force” would wipe out the “strongholds of the American and South Korean warmongers” through stronger counter strikes than its earlier artillery attack on Nov. 23 [on Yeonpyeongdo, in which 2 South Korean civilians were killed].
Prior to the drill, some 280 remaining residents of the Yellow Sea island were ordered into air raid shelters, according to JoongAng Daily, in its only really up-to-date online coverage. Until last month, Yeonpyeongdo was a sleepy fishing village with a marine garrison dug in due to the proximity to the NLL. It certainly doesn't resemble Baghdad in any way, shape or form, so one has to wonder who fell for this picture here:

The story reads, in part:
One particularly stunning aerial image of plumes of smoke coming from a bombed-out territory made it onto local broadcaster KBS and even CNN. It turns out that image was a fake. The territory being bombed wasn’t Yeonpyeong at all, but Baghdad during the initial days of the U.S. invasion of 2003.
Okay, back from Lala Land. But not quite, as I'm now going to look at what some would call the two extremes of US news, Fox vs NYT.
Fox offers this: "The North on Monday, however, kept its rhetoric heated, saying it will use its powerful military to blow up South Korean and U.S. bases." Well, DPRK always talks tough, so no one actually reports on the bluffs, but on the small bits of meaning hidden away between the bully language. What, are you guys trying to stir things up?

NYT offers this snippet, amidst their coverage of Bill Richardson's stay in Pyongyang: "Earlier Monday, South Korean television showed footage of the few remaining residents of the island’s fishing community moving into bomb shelters and trying on gas masks as the mainland also braced itself for possible North Korean retaliation." In the context of those nearby trying on gas masks, one might suppose that we on the mainland "bracing ourselves" would include some kind of actual behavior toward that end.

Uh, nope. Not at all. I taught class during the entire timeframe of the fusillade, and never heard an air raid warning or anything. A couple hours later, I went to dinner utilizing a subway system totally free from emergency measures (apparent ones, at least). If "bracing yourself" means carrying on just like always, then they're right.

Each story comes with a photo from the AP (top, Fox; bottom, NYT):

Both photos have oodles of atmosphere and loads of tension. Personally, I prefer the second one, because it's more personal. Your thoughts? BTW, the yellow band reads 통일, meaning "Unity."

Blog News:
So, Dear Reader, I am still here in Seoul, still standing (well, sitting and typing), and proud to announce that this is blog post number 600 since I started gardening here in The Seoul Patch two and a half years ago!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Bongcheon Redux

I took my 친구 Chris, The Stumbling Engineer, on the grand tour of Bongcheon 양꼬치, 막걸리 and 서을대 last evening and I think it's fair to say the experience exceeded our expectations.

Apparently, and I was informed of this soundly by all concerned, it's been far too long since I came round these parts--I was greeted like a long-lost son at every turn! Now, Andy and Nick were there with me when we saw the 양꼬치 (yang ggochi lamb skewer) place go up in flames. We simply adjourned to a similar shop a few doors down. Admittedly, we had been back to Nohwang Yang-ggochi at least once since then--Baseball Opening Day. In the meantime, we experimented with oter locales for our lamb skewers, including Daerim and Guro Digital--but for my money, Bongcheon is still it!

After a delicious and filling encounter with Nohwang's marinated lamb, we went down the road. Where I was shocked to hear from our cool-ass makgeolli-house owner-dude that it's been il-nyun since I put in an appearance for 막걸리. One year? No way--I think he's forgetting the afternoon when the gang went indoor fishing ...

Still, many of my visits here have been memorable--and not just seeing the restaurant we were planning to dine in reduced to embers. For instance, there was the time some drunk asshole didn't like the way Nick looked (or something else, but we prefer to think it was about Nick ...) and there followed a hour-long drama long of scuffles, take-downs, incompetent police interventions, and even massages. Then there was the time a patron serenaded us with a tune I like to call "The Led Liver Valley":

If you're so inclined, you could see all my blog posts (though not all my experiences) on the "Bongcheon lamb skewer, magkeolli and Seouldae/Sillim tour" by clicking here.

Well, sharing the tour with Chris turned out to be totally boffo! Not only did we receive the royal welcome, but when we sat at the magkeolli-jib, eating Korean omelette and sipping unfiltered rice wine from well-used metal bowls, another patron decided to do our portraits in pen-and-ink. The owner-dude is a retired graphic arts teacher, so perhaps, as Chris speculated, his establishment draws local artists. I don't know.

Still, bold, sure strokes on the reverse of a jewelry store notepad, and after five minutes, he gave me this:

A flattering likeness, and yet another reason to love Bongcheon!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Don't Have a Cow, Man!

... but today's caganer is that perennial pre-teen prankster, Bart Simpson, with apologies to Matt Groening:

And, no, that's not kiddie porn.  For that matter, neither is this:

Today's (Well, yesterday's) Caganer

Sorry, I was busy winning the trivia contest at 3AP tonight, and then slurping down the winnings, so I didn't post the Caganer-Of-The-Day as promised. Corrections are in order.  And apologies.

First, though, here is a photo of my winning trivia squad. Having won three of four times in succession now, I think it's pretty clear what the key is--let TUTTLE hold the pen and write down the answers: none of this "well, he's our biology guy" or "Tom lived in Portugal so he knows all about Brazil, where they speak Portuguese". No, it's clear--if I don't know the answer (which I quite possibly won't, after all) let me assess who probably does! Okay? Right, then, stop bitching and give me the answer sheet!

Not that I or my team can compare, but here--in honor of back-to-back wins--is the smartest caganer I could find, the veritable definition of genius, Al.  No, not Big Gay Al, or even the other Big Gay Al, but Mr. Einstein squatting:

Announcement of One-Day Military Firing Exercise in Northwest Islands Off the Coast of Korea Between Dec. 18-21, 2010

The U.S. Embassy in Seoul is transmitting the following information through the Embassy's Warden System as a public service to all U.S. citizens in the Republic of Korea. Please disseminate this message broadly to U.S. citizens.

This warden message is being issued in response to the announcement on December 16, 2010, by the Government of the Republic of Korea that it will “hold a one-day live-fire drill on Yeonpyeong Island between Dec. 18 and 21.” The Embassy does not assess that there has been an increase in the threat environment in South Korea.

Given the increased tensions since the North Korean shelling of Yeonpyeong Island on November 23, 2010, it is understandable that U.S. citizens would be concerned regarding the security situation on the Korean Peninsula. However, the Embassy reminds U.S. citizens in the Republic of Korea that military training exercises are routinely conducted throughout South Korea throughout the year, to include civil defense drills normally held eight (8) times a year. U.S. citizens should stay informed through local media about upcoming military exercises and civil defense drills that sometimes occur at short notice and for which the Embassy will not routinely provide advance notification. The Embassy continues to closely monitor the current situation. Should the security situation change, the Embassy will update this warden message.

U.S. citizens living or traveling in South Korea are reminded of the importance of enrolling with the Embassy through the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment System (STEP) website: . U.S. citizens without internet access may register in person at the U.S. Embassy. Enrollment is a voluntary way of telling us that you, as a U.S. citizen, are in Korea, whether for a long-term stay or for a short visit. In the event of an emergency, we use enrollment information to communicate with you. This could include a family emergency in which relatives in the United States request that the Embassy contact you.

For the latest security information worldwide, U.S. citizens should regularly monitor the State Department’s website at where the current Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings, and Travel Alerts can be found. Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the Unites States, or, for callers from outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

End text.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cheery Tomatoes

I remember the first time I was served a fruit plate in Korea--my first thought was, Wow, those are some big cherries! Turns out they were cherry tomatoes, which had me assuming something got lost in translation.

Tonight was a first, as well--not my first chicken salad, by any means. But the first time I've seen the reverse error: no, those aren't really small cherry tomatoes with my lettuce and dressing and whatnot, those are regular-size maraschino cherries! That's just ... strange.

Speaking of strange, the Salvador Dali caganer:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

How to Make A Caganer

The finished product, just in time to surprise your anti-socialist, anti-communist, anti-fascist Tea bagger pals for the holidays:

A Day in the Life...

... of a Korean High School Student:

Thanks to But Different.

An eloquent eleven seconds, indeed.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Twelve Caganer of Christmas

I was watching QI a while ago (I've mentioned it here) when they started talking about the caganer. I've been around, so I know when I'm being had.

According to Mr Fry, the caganer is a small figurine common in Catalonia, and Catalan segments of neighboring Spain and France, that is found in creche or Nativity scenes (you know, Baby Jesus in a Manger). Nothing unusual here, right? But, this figure is squatting in a corner, taking a dump. Right there, next to Baby Jesus, the lowing cattle, the Wise Men et al.

What utter crap, I said to myself, intending the pun. This must be the April Fools episode. So I went Googling and sure enough, Wiki has it--not proof in itself, but a little more looking found a whole industry devoted to the little figures.

So, I resolved then and there to post a different caganer each of the twelve days leading up to Christmas. Caganer #1 is the standard issue, a Catalan in a white shirt and red cap, taking care of business:

As they say in Catalonia,
Eat well, shit strong and don’t be afraid of death!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Smokin' Steve's Bar & Grill

One day, many years from now, I will retire. I will hang up the chalkholder--well, the presentation pointer--and open a barbeque joint. Like many Americans, I dream of one day being my own boss, running my own business.

And with the commonly-held old saw that nine out of ten new businesses close in the first five years, no time like retirement! Actually, no one really knows where this statistic comes from, but it is pretty easy to disprove. It was a matter of a couple of clicks to find this, from the US Small Business Administration:
Seven out of 10 new employer firms survive at least 2 years, half at least 5 years, a third at least 10 years, and a quarter stay in business 15 years or more. Census data report that 69 percent of new employer establishments born to new firms in 2000 survived at least 2 years, and 51 percent survived 5 or more years. Survival rates were similar across states and major industries. Bureau of Labour Statistics data on establishment age show that 49 percent of establishments survive 5 years or more...

Koreans feel pretty much the same way about owning a business, I ruminated as I dined in 노리노리 Nori Nori, one of the twenty small businesses that occupy the ground floor of my officetel, most of them mom-and-pop affairs. I wondered what the success rate of Korean start-ups is, especially considering their seeming ubiquity.

A DongA Ilbo story yesterday had this:
The National Tax Service said the number of self-employed in Korea was 4.8 million people last year, or 20 percent of the economically active population. Among them, 1.2 million or 26 percent are in 30 business areas, including restaurants, clothing stores and bars, so they inevitably face cutthroat competition. Nevertheless, 35 percent of the 930,000 people who launched businesses last year did so in the 30 areas. People who wish to open a business can find out how competitive the intended business area is by referring to the tax authority’s Web site. Opening a venture in highly competitive sectors could worsen the serious problems of the self-employed.

And a Reuters story from July 20, 2010:
The ratio of South Korea's newly started companies against failed entities in June rebounded from a one-year low with an increase in new business registration, data from the central bank showed on Tuesday.
The business start-up/failure ratio rose to 58.6 last month versus 47.6 in May, which was the lowest since May 2009, according to a Bank of Korea statement.
A total of 5,448 companies were launched in June, up from 4,565 the preceding month.

But nothing definitive about overall continuance rates of Korean small businesses. Icidentally, the title of the DongA story I referred to above is "Chicken War":

No, not that one! The one where Lotte Mart is selling fried chicken for 5,000 W per pack, thus driving the small retailers nearby out of business. Or so they are claiming. The article points out, though, that the move is analogous to E-Mart's recent foray into the pizza business. E-Mart's half-price pizzas "are known to have caused a sales drop of under 10 percent at neighborhood pizzerias, so the impact of the Lotte chicken might not be significant." Personally, I remain unconvinced that a sales drop approaching 10% is "not significant".

I also remain unconvinced about the quality of the E-Mart pizza, mainly because I haven't had one yet. The are so popular you have to sign up a day ahead in order to get one. They smell pretty good when I walk by, though.

Like it will when you pass by Smokin' Steve's.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Education News Roundup

First, and unsurprisingly, a analysis of data acquired by Dong-A Ilbo found that teachers are "more generous than students or parents in assessing their colleagues." The paper studied the results of the first-ever national evaluation of tachers conducted by the Education, Science and Technology Ministry:
The data suggested that the average score given by teachers to their colleagues was higher than those from students and parents in all categories.
A discrepancy of up to 1.85 times characterized the evaluation scores of teachers and students and up to 2.54 times between those awarded by teachers and parents. [...]
Jeon Je-sang, an education professor at Gyeongju University who conducted a joint study with the regional education research center at Chungbuk National University, said, “Efforts are urgently needed to correct the practice of teachers granting high scores to their colleagues due to sympathy.”

The aticle did not provide information on the basis by which Jeon was able to determine that higher scores were due to "sympathy" or why efforts to correct the practice are needed urgently, since the ministry has not determined any policy procedures that would be impacted by the study.

Second, another story on the so-called "English-teaching" so-called "robots" being pushed by KIST (Korea Institute of Science and Technology) as the solution to the native-teacher so-called "problem", this one from Korea Times, never the brightest pap in the rack:
"We learned that Engkey [the "robot's" nickname] should be able to fare well in markets based on the first phase of experiments. We are poised to conduct more pilot runs before commercially launching the robots in 2013, [said KIST spokesman Park Young-ho.]"
Engkey has arrested the attention of students in the English-language classes in Masan elementary schools this year thanks to her cute penguin-like shape, tender female-voice pronunciation and ability to interact.
However, the robot was found to freeze if a student goes off the scripted dialogue.

In other words, Engkey is a CD-ROM on wheels, in a plastic shell that looks like what children think a robot should look like. Utter shite, as my Brit friends would say.

Finally, and quite disturbingly, JoongAng Daily's story carries the header: Seoul high schools to eliminate P.E. classes "for third-year high school students next year to give students more time to study for the university entrance exam."

Wow! Talk about getting the wrong end of the stick! If anything, what these kids need is less time with their noses in the books, and more time in the fresh (well, you know what I mean) air, exercising their long, skinny bodies. PE teachers' jobs, of course, don't face elimination (which is purpose of those robots in the story above for English teachers), as the number of PE hours will remain the same. The reporters explain:
Schools are currently required to give students 272 hours of physical education during their three years of high school, with 102 hours each for first- and second- year students and 68 hours for third-year students.
Starting next year, schools will be free to divide the number of class hours in any way they like, following the passage of a new regulation that also stipulates that schools offer classes in just eight subject areas.
According to statistics from the Seoul Office of Education, half of the 178 high schools in Seoul that offered physical education classes this year say they will reduce or eliminate the number of physical education hours for third-year students and allocate all of the physical education class hours to the first and second year of high school.

I asked around at my school about this, and they have no plans to make such a change. In fact, they're still hoping to find money for the new gymnasium project despite the big budget cuts for facilities in next year's appropriations.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

KidPower ToyCon

Last week was the much-anticipated KidPower ToyCon (batteries not included), the annual convention of the Classic Toy Manufacturers and Retailers Association.  And the Exhibition Hall is right there in my classroom!

Better-speaking students man booths inside the classroom as representatives of toy companies, intending to hawk their latest new product; the rest of the class are "store buyers", the people that choose the merchandise that will stock their stores' shelves this Christmas season.  Each store rep. has a unique identity and set of requirements, given on his worksheet; each toy manf. guy has information he wants, too, in addition to selling his toy: store name, contact info, number of outlets, age range, etc.

Okay, so it's a conceit for an interview/information gap activity, but the two co-teachers repeating from last year claim it was their favorite lesson.  I mentioned previously the ways I've tried to improve it: a) simplifying the Q & A (too much information takes too much time and decreases the contacts); and b) increasing the number of toys, or booths, from 8 to 10.  Both moves were successful, so the average "interviewee/store buyer" got five or six interviews compared to three last year. 

It was a massive amount of work last year, mainly finding appropriate toys (no guns, swords or other violent toys, no movie or pop culture tie-ins, and ... no batteries required), then building a corporate logo, brand and promotional materials.  This year I did three new toys, but I kept the Scholas Pop Out World stuff intact, because, though it is a Korean company (owned by LG), the English was acceptible. 

This lesson does promote a good amount of English speaking, though vocabulary covered in the textbook, like retail (as in retail price) and promotional (as in flyer) were sometimes less understood than I hoped.  I also used my "teaching stick" to threaten students who said their email address AT (@) was pronounced dalbaengi 달뱅이, though I swear before I looked it up I heard it as 골뱅이, golbaengi.  However you say it, don't!  달뱅이 is a marine snail, a popular anju food, whose spiral-y shape resemples the @. 

To conclude the lesson, students look over their contacts and compare them to the specifications for their particular search--"Did you get a match?"   A student who visits five of the ten booths is almost certain to have at least one match.  One further change I would make is to add a column on the far right of the worksheet, to check off Match or Not a Match.

The Nice Catch Suction Ball Paddle Game from Whizz-O, above, was a popular addtion this year (though two broken paddles do not bode well for its longevity in the market, or indeed the KidPower ToyCon).  The Puzzlebox sets from IQ+, Inc. were also a hit, and were solved--in one sitting--by Yours Truly:

Okay, so I'm a big kid at heart.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

K-League Champs!

"We are the champions!" blares Freddie Mercury's voice over the loudspeakers (and from beyond the grave) as FC Seoul team members take turns lifting the trophy and being showered by confetti.   Sunday was the final leg of the K-Lague championship, reprising Wednesday's first leg, a hard earned 2 - 2 result in Jeju at which FC Seoul scored the equalizer in the closing seconds, stunning Jeju United players who had watched FCS snatch first seed from them in the final two games of the regular season.

Sunday's result was a squeaker, with the Red-and-Black coming from down a goal to take the 2 - 1 victory and their first crown as FC United on the 4 - 3 aggregate.  They previously won as Lucky-Goldstar Hwangso FC in 1985 and 1990, and the Anyang LG Cheetahs in 2000. 

The teams fought to a first-half stand-off, trading goals quickly as Jeju capitalized on sloppy distribution from the goalkeeper, FCS earning a penalty less than one minute later on a take-down in the box, tucked away by Jung Jo-gook.  Brazilian Adilson, or Adi, who recently returned to the line-up after being sidelined most of the season with a knee injury, scored the gamewinner off a corner kick, and also earned himself "Man of the Match".

This being the championship, the powers-that-be did things up right, including a Christmas tree and an all-girl marching band:

Well, except for the fact that they were completely out of beer before halftime.  Which is not just unbelievable, but unforgiveable!  Fortunately, my pal Charles and his lovely wife were with me, and they volunteered to make a quick trip to the nearby GS25.  Problem solved--but what kind of mickey mouse operation runs out of beer at the championship game?  Here is Charles with me right at the end of the game, after the reinforcements arrived!

FCS mascot (dragon, I think?) leads the fans in cheering
After the game, we went to dinner in Noksapyeong, samgyupsal, of course, but I noticed a model of the subway station as we wound our way ever upward.  I had also noticed a model of Seoul World Cup Stadium earlier, in the nearly deserted (certainly devoid of food and icy beverages) downstairs concourse on the west side.  I took pictures:

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Overdue Update

This post heading has more than one meaning--a trick I often try with mixed success.  Anyway:

1) I am strguggling along lately, due to having a fractured rib!  My rib, right side, first middle, got craked last Friday night.  I threw myself a small birthday party for Korean co-teachers that night; we went through the samgyupsal course in 1 1/2 hours or so; then we moved on to 'second round' the local hof; 'third round', as it usually is, was noraebang--the picture I'm painting is one of mild but definite inebration all round. 

One of my co-teachers--one of the real supporters of my contribution to the school program--gave me a big ol' bear hug at the end of the night.  I felt myself crack and pop a little, but I pop and crack quite a bit these days, so I thought nothing of it.  Saturday morning, I had to do my public speaking class, and I woke up in something like agony.  I felt like someone beat me up and I didn't remember it.  I soldiered on, kind of disappointed to find there was not a single drug store between me and Yeouido Girl's High where I could buy some aspirin or ibuprofen or something (yeah, you can't get that at a convenience store here), and made it through the day.  And Sunday, hoping--assuming--the pain would decrease.

Well, long story less long, it didn't.  By Monday afternoon, I could hardly move or breathe without a searing pain shooting up my right torso.  I was almost incapacitated.  So I made my way to the hospital, and got diagnosed and fixed up with some strong painkillers and a muscle relaxer.  So I can breathe now, I can move, even if not 100%.

2) For my USA friends who complain about America's path to socialized medicine, I spent about 1 1/2 hours at the hospital, paid under USD 10 for my examination, including X-rays, got a pain injection for  $7.00 and a one-week course of medication for USD 4.50.  Next week, I will go for a follow-up that will cost less than 10 bucks, and get another course of medication (maybe a stronger one, if I decide to complain) for the same price.  Stop complaining, you guys, and speed it up, fer chrissakes!

3) Despite my debilitation--I can take deep breaths, but I still feel pain--I made my way to # Alley Pub for trivia on Thursdat, mainly to follow-up on last week's triumph when my team came in first place.  That was George's team; I also play on Andy and Ian's team ocassionally.  Before I could find either one, this other guy I know a bit named Dave dragged me over to join him and his pal to make our own team.  We tied for second place--so I'm on kind of a roll.

4) Speaking of pubs, I ate dinner tonight in my chicken hof, where manager friend Jung Su shared his pride over the fact that Cass breweries has conferred upon it some special status.  Jung Su couldn't clearly explain what the hof had received, so he sent one of the waiters to do some translating.  Here's what he came back with:

Here is the nice plaque that ChickenMania Deungchon unit is now allowed to display on their premises:

Congratulations, guys!

The plaque makes mention of Cass's "12-step quality checklist."  The 12-step list I know begins, "I admit I am powerless over alcohol" ... Hmmm.

5) I am sad.  One of the best friends I've made in Korea has left the country unexpectedly--and rapidly, leaving too little time for farewells.  I hoped for one more time to say 'So long', but it didn't come.  Literary Hero, aka Andy: Thank you for everything!
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
And may we meet again soon!