Dong Chim April 29, 2009Posted by jorkat in Seoul.
Many thanks go out to our dear friends the Mulloskey’s. They warned us of numerous Korean customs, social tendencies and etiquette prior to our departure from Canada. In retrospect, the warning that I am most grateful for thus far is that of the dreaded ‘Dong Chim.’
The Art of Making Children NOT Cry. April 23, 2009Posted by jorkat in Seoul.
I spend almost 4 hours per day with the same group of 5 children. That’s 20 hours per week, 80 hours per month for a grand total of close to 160 hours in my first two months here.
Overall this group of 4-5 year olds is very well behaved, but all kids have their moments and sometimes I have to intervene to resolve disputes or nurse minor injuries. They’re a very active group and can only sit still for so long before they get antsy and start to bounce around.
With a group this young who haven’t quite mastered all of their motor skills and are virtually in constant motion, accidents are bound to happen. And believe me, I’ve already witnessed my fair share of them. But so far, I’ve only had one child breakdown and cry despite a myriad of incidents and injuries. From what I’ve heard from the other teachers, crying in their classrooms is a fairly common occurrence and in some cases can be witnessed almost daily. Most of the other teachers think I’ve been blessed with a good group of kids who all get along and just aren’t accident prone, but that’s not the case. I have a secret.
When I was interviewing for prospective jobs here in Korea, most of the schools were obviously comfortable with Katie’s teaching credentials and spent more time questioning my experience with children. The only real experience I could cite was from my time as a camp counselor for a few summers in Bracebridge, Ontario which I obviously embellished. As it turns out, some of that experience was more invaluable than expected. Back in the day, a few fellow counselors and I created a game called “Dock Day”. The purpose of the game was to incentivize the youngest campers to swim in the frigid water and encourage them to work towards their next swimming badge. The premise of the game was that if the campers went in the water every single day without exception that they would be allowed to push the counselor in the water on the last day of camp. It worked like a charm. Pushing anyone in the water is one of the biggest no-no’s at camp imaginable, so planting the idea of pushing your counselor in the water in a 6-year old’s head is almost inconceivable to them and too good to pass up. What we didn’t tell them was that on the last day when they were granted the right to push us in the water, that we would strap life jackets on them and defend ourselves by launching them into the water in self-defense. To this day it remains as one of my fondest memories of my adolescence. Imagine having a group of 6-year olds crawling all over you, desperately trying to push you into the water and picking them off one by one and disposing them into the lake from all different altitudes and angles. Some of these kids would fly. Some of them would hit the water so hard that for a split second you would worry about them coming back up. But as soon as they broke the surface and looked back at you with a stunned look on their face, we (the counselors) would erupt with praise and enthusiasm. Any pain or discomfort would evaporate and they would hop right back out of the water with even more determination than before, even though they knew that they would likely suffer a similar fate.
My point is, you don’t need to go to teacher’s college to be an effective teacher. And, I really hope the Director from my old camp isn’t reading this blog.
As you can probably tell from his sweaty brow and enthusiastic smile, he’s one of the more active members of my class.
I’d say that of all the potential injuries and accidents that have occurred thus far, that he’s likely been involved directly or indirectly in well over 70% of them.
Just yesterday he was practicing cart wheels on the carpet when the other boy in our class, Nathan, decided to try one himself. Let’s just say that Nathan didn’t quite stick the landing and basically drop kicked Bob in the face with an errant left foot. It was hysterical. But before I could sit back and enjoy a good laugh, I knew I had to spring into action as Bob immediately starting grasping his face while trying to decide if the throbbing sensation in his face merited tears. Once he heard the cheers and overwhelming praise from Jordan teacher (that’s what they call me) that he’s come to know and love, he knew he wasn’t hurt. He was a hero. And he was back turning handsprings ready for his next collision.
I actually got the idea for this post as I was sitting peacefully watching my children play after lunch when the skyscraper they built using blocks which was taller than me, started teetering and fell on one of the girls faces. Under normal circumstances, there would have been tears and maybe a visit from a Korean teacher to comfort her, but when I started jumping around as if the Leafs had won the Cup and gushing with pride over the fact that she just happened to catch one of the falling blocks, well let’s just say little Jessica barely flinched and immediately started the rebuilding effort. She was a hero. It was that moment that I realized that this story had to be told.
A few minutes later, I was debating exactly how to share this tale with all of you, when I decided to take some more pictures of my class who I continue to grow more and more fond of, when this happened:
Now keep in mind that video doesn’t capture how hard he hit the ground. He usually nails that handstand 9 times out of 10 but when he saw the camera, he got a little too excited and lost control. He landed right on his tailbone and took a few minutes to get up. But once he did, we was right back at it as if nothing had happened. It’s amazing what you can do to a young mind and how you can mold and train them to react and respond to certain situations.
My only regret is the lone blemish on my record of the one crying incident I was unable to avoid. One of my students approached me on the verge of tears but was unable to communicate what the source of her discomfort what. After a few awkward exchanges lost in translation, she removed her shoe in tears to reveal that she had stepped on a thumb tack and it had completely pierced the sole of her shoes. I tried to put a positive spin on this turn of events and starting cheering for the thumb tack and her act of bravery, but it was too late. I’ll never forget that thumb tack and vow to do everything in my power to make sure these kids never cry on my watch again.
Cherry Blossoms April 21, 2009Posted by jorkat in Seoul.
Last Saturday was my favourite sports weekend of the year.
It was the last full night of NHL regular season games. It was the first full Saturday of Major League Baseball. And it was Saturday at the Masters.
And yes, this is actually a picture of our TV from Sunday’s coverage which we had to watch on Monday night. I was a basketcase most of the day trying to avoid knowing the outcome. But I was successful and we were able to enjoy the entire final round in its entirety. Katie also succesfully managed to figure out how to hook up our laptop to the TV so now we can watch the grainy non-HD image on a 27-inch screen instead of an 11-inch.
What’s this post about again?
Oh yeah, last Saturday was a great day for sports. So how did we spend the day you ask?
We went to a Cherry Blossom Festival. Or as I like to call them Cherry Blawesomes.
I don’t know what the festival was called (and neither did wikipedia). All I know is that cherry blawesomes are only in full bloom for a few weeks each year and that this long street is lined with over 1400 cherry blawesome trees.
At the end of the street is a tall building called the 63 Building. Guess how many floors it has?
60 floors + 3 in the basement. I wonder how long the brainstorming meeting was to name this thing. 30 seconds? Maybe a minute?
The streets were jammed with lots of Asians of all ages. Mostly just families out and about enjoying a wonderful spring day amongst the beautiful scenery. Just about everyone had a camera so plenty of pictures were being taken, mostly of the trees and their loved ones, but once inawhile something would catch our attention that was too difficult to ignore. Like this guy for example.
Wow. And I thought I was an attention whore. I searched Google and Wikipedia for “lonely old asian men with nothing to do on a Saturday except dress-up and scare small children”, but nothing came up so I’m not quite sure what’s going on here. But I know what you’re all thinking. That’s a great picture and all, but wouldn’t it be nice if there was some video to truly capture how surreal this moment was. Well, you’re in luck. Enjoy.
Between the blawesomes, the building, the asian mullet and Mr. Miyagi’s estranged gay brother, I’d say this day was far more entertaining than Saturday at Augusta, Fenway and the Bell Centre combined.
Photos April 19, 2009Posted by jorkat in Seoul.
This is the best I can do for now. It’s a long complicated story as to why we can’t have our pictures on our blog, and I won’t bore you with it. If you want to see some pictures of what we’ve been up to, go to:
Email Address/Username: email@example.com
Sorry this took so long.
Olympic Park April 15, 2009Posted by jorkat in Seoul.
Marriage is all about compromise. Fortunately for me, in our relationship, compromise is usually slanted slightly in my favour 60/40. This is why we get along so well and why I love my wife so dearly.
So when it comes time to decide on where we’re going on weekends, she usually defers to my judgement (within reason). Katie is more about beautiful scenery and touring cultural landmarks and monuments, whereas I’m more interested in people watching and you guessed it – sports. A couple of weekends ago we found the perfect venue to satisfy both of our desires.
The 1988 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XXIV Olympiad, were the second summer Olympic Games to be held in Asia and the first since 1964 when the Summer Games were held in Tokyo.
Hosting the 1988 Olympics presented an opportunity to bring international attention to South Korea. The idea for South Korea to place a bid for 1988 Games emerged during the last days of the Park Chung-hee administration in the late 1970s. After President Park’s assassination in 1979, Chun Doo-hwan, his successor, submitted Korea’s bid to the IOC in September 1981, in hopes that the increased international exposure brought by the Olympics would legitimize his authoritarian regime amidst increasing political pressure for democratization, provide protection from increasing threats from North Korea, and showcase the Korean economic miracle to the world community. South Korea was awarded the bid on September 30, 1981, becoming the 16th nation, the second Asian nation, and the second newly industrialized economy (after Mexico in 1968) to host the Summer Olympics.
As political demonstrations emerged in June 1987, the possibility of jeopardizing hosting the Olympic Games contributed to a declaration which issued President Chun out of power and led to direct elections in December 1987. The desire not to taint the Olympic Games with military dictatorship and riots served as an impetus for Korea’s transition to democracy. Roh Tae-woo served as the transitional president, directly elected by South Koreans in December 1987. The 1988 Olympic Games provided a catalyst for controlled political change to maintain stability in South Korea.
In essence, sports saved the country. (Thanks Wikipedia!)
These Olympics were also best known for a fellow by the name of Ben Johnson. I was almost 10 years old when Ben provided me with one of my first proud to be Canadian moments only to have it tarnished for eternity when he tested positive for anabolic steroids and had his medal and world record rescinded 3 days later. Despite having 4 of the top 5 finishers from that race having tested positive for a banned substance at some point in their careers, including Carl Lewis, only Johnson was penalized and forever villified. he now lives in Markham, Ontario and is currently working on his autobiography entitled Seoul to Soul. (Thanks Wikipedia!)
Enough of the history lesson. Here are some more pictures of Olympic Park.
Now, spring wasn’t quite in full bloom but there was a fair amount of outdoor activities being played in some of the parks and fields. This provided us with our first opportunity to throw around the football (Katie throws and mean spiral) which obviously attracted some stares from our fellow park-dwellers. But nothing garnered as much attention as the new shirt Katie unveiled featured in the picture below.
For those of you who aren’t fluent in Korean, her shirt says “Wae-gu-kin” which in English means “Foreigner”. On the surface, this may not seem that interesting or funny, but for some reason Koreans think it’s flat out hilarious. Our friends, the Mulloskey’s (Sean and Erin) purchased the exact same shirt for Sean while they were here and insisted that we do likewise. Here is Sean’s assessment from his blog last year which most accurately describes what it likes walking around with this thing on.
“In Korea, there are only 2 kinds of people. Koreans and foreigners. And I am as foreign looking as they come. So whats the big deal? Well, for starters you can’t walk down the street, to work, the corner store without someone, usually a child pointing at you and shrieking ‘waygukin’. Despite the fact that foreigners are quite common now in most Korean towns, we are still a site to behold, especially to children. So, to our complete surprise and amazement, the shirt makes every Korean who sees it laugh hysterically. I guess it’s because you’re beating them to the punch in their own language. Wearing it on the busy streets of Seoul is like walking around with a happiness gun and shooting people as you pass them.”
Of course I had ordered the same shirt but they sent me the wrong size so Katie was the first to wear it in public and I chose to walk about 10-15 feet behind her with the camera and attempt to get pictures of peoples’ reactions. They were priceless but the pictures don’t do them justice. We will do it again and get video when I finally unleash mine. I’d say that of the hundreds of people we passed that day, at least 80% noticed the shirt and a solid 65-70% acknowledged it by quietly snickering to themselves, pointing it out to a friend, laughing out loud or pointing in full blown hysterics. It was amazing. I enjoyed it even more because most of the time they wouldn’t react until after they had passed Katie so I would get to share the laugh with them as they often didn’t realize we were together until I started laughing as well. Here are a couple of pictures to give you an idea and a link to the Mulloskey site where they have video of Sean walking around our neighbourhood with his on.
(The guy with his head down is laughing hysterically.)
I can now admit that deep down, waaay deep down, the main reason I wanted to embark on this odyssey was for two reasons. Number one, so I could write this blog. And number two, was because of this t-shirt. Needless to say, it didn’t disappoint.
Asian Mullet April 11, 2009Posted by jorkat in Seoul.
Katie here. For my big bro Tim. This was one of our highlights as we were walking around the Cherry Blossom Festival today….
The Legend of Strong Dick April 6, 2009Posted by jorkat in Seoul.
Don’t be alarmed by the title. This post is suitable for all ages. I think.
We started a tradition a few weeks ago. Part of it was intentional and the rest was a glorious coincidence.
A few of our fellow teachers told us about a trivia night that a predominantly western bar in Itaewon holds once a week. Itaewon is known for being home to the US Army base and to Dan Suranyi for 4 years while he was in high school. The place is crawling with foreigners and obviously caters to this demographic with everything from American restaurants to cheap suits and counterfeit merchandise. This is also the place where Mullin found the jersey store which we visited within days of arriving in Korea. Any counterfeit major sports jersey for approx. $25.
Back to trivia. So every Thursday evening, this bar which is jointly owned by a Canadian and a Kiwi holds a team trivia contest with four random categories. There’s 10 questions per category and you can have as many people on your team as you like. Cell phones are also strictly prohibited so no one calls a friend sitting at home on the internet. It’s pretty competitive with a fairly regular crowd and a waiting list just to get a decent table. Our friends have been going every week for awhile and have only won a couple times. First prize is…wait for it…3 pitchers of beer. They also have the occasional random bonus question for a free beer which I won a couple weeks ago for knowing who Lou Gehrig replaced to play first base on the New York Yankees. None other than the immortal Wally Pip. If you know the answer, you have to run up to the front of the bar. Needless to say, no one else moved.
On our way to our first trivia night, our friend Kirsten told us about a pita place nearby where we could grab a quick bite as we hadn’t had dinner yet. It was just like pita pit only better because it was so unassuming and unexpected. We made a pact that trivia Thursdays would always start with a pita.
After our first night of trivia we were about to leave when fate intervened and the winning table donated one of their pitchers to our table. At this point, I informed Katie and Kirsten that we were no longer leaving and that I was going to play pool, drink some free beer and then buy some more. Over 2 hours after we had originally planned on leaving, we exited the bar and hailed a cab.
Our lives would be forever changed.
Enter Strong Dick.
The cab ride started off normal enough. The driver noticed that we spoke english and joined the conversation. I don’t remember what we were talking about, but I remember being impressed by his english and that the conversation was brief as he decided to crank my favourite Eminem song and roll down the windows. We rocked out to “Without Me” the rest of the way home in what was arguably one of the greatest cab rides home from the bar. This is when the story gets good.
As we’re exciting the cab, he hands each one of us his business card.
As you may recall from one of my previous posts, some Koreans are known to adopt an english name. Some of them are assigned and some of them make up their own. This guy chose Strong Dick.
After getting over the initial shock and the laughter had subsided I thanked him again for the ride and told him we’d call him next Thursday. We had a good laugh about it with the other teachers at school the next day and hung his card on our fridge thinking we’d never see him again.
A few days later Kirsten was telling one of her friends about our experience when the friend cut her off mid-sentence and said “Let me guess – Strong Dick”. Apparently this guy is a legend around Itaewon and is known for his cheap cab rides, his loud music…and for selling Viagra. Could this story get any better?
Fast forward to next Thursday. As we’re walking out of trivia (we finished second and were awarded one free pitcher) I jokingly start yelling out “Strong Dick!!! Strong Dick!!! We need you!!!” We were about to jump into a cab when fate intervened once again and Katie decided that she wanted some McDonald’s french fries. It was just down the street so we decided to walk on over. Keep in mind that Itaewon is swarming with cabs around this time, especially along the main strip where we were. I’m talking about hundreds and hundreds of cabs. As we approach the McDonald’s, we overhear a guy say to the cab driver parked out front “You’re the man Strong Dick!” We lost our minds. It was him. Turns out that Strong Dick had agreed to wait for this guy to go inside and get some food so he could get a ride home with his favourite cab driver. We pleaded with Strong Dick and the guy to let us join them and both were more than willing to oblige.
We got our ride home with Strong Dick for the second straight week. Pita. Trivia. Strong Dick. It was like clockwork.
So this past Thursday marked the third straight week of Trivia. I was feeling under the weather and opted to stay home and write a novel about Tiger Woods while Katie, Kirsten and a few other teachers made the trek to trivia.
I insisted that Katie bring 2 things. His card and our camera. Sure enough she called him at the end of the night and here’s how the conversation went:
Strong Dick: “Hello!”
Katie: “Strong Dick?”
Strong Dick: “Wassssup?”
Katie: “Hi, it’s Katie. Can you pick us up at the Hamilton Hotel?”
Strong Dick: “No problem, I’ll be there in 10 minutes.”
Katie: “Ok, we’ll be waiting. See you soon.”
So just to recap, we’ve befriended a black market Viagra salesmen who drives a cab, listens to hip hop and calls himself Strong Dick.
Tiger Woods April 2, 2009Posted by jorkat in Seoul.
Sorry for the delay since my last post but I’ve been sick for the past few days. The sore throat that I had when we first got here came back with a vengeance. Not sure if it was the yellow dust or an actual cold, but it wasn’t much fun.
Anyway, Katie is out with the other teachers at our usual Thursday night destination (more on that in an upcoming post that is sure to please) and I’ve decided to stay home, recuperate and share some of my thoughts with the world. And when I say world, I mean the 5-10 people who have sent emails asking why we haven’t updated the blog in almost a week.
I had my first bout of homesickness this past Monday morning. And it was because of this guy:
Holy shit balls. Could I have a bigger man-crush on Tiger? I don’t think so. While we’re on the subject, why don’t we take a closer look at Jordan’s top 3 man-crushes.
1) Tiger Woods
2) Tom Brady
3) Roger Federer
It’s been these three guys for awhile, but figuring out the order was harder than I thought. Initially I had Federer ahead of Brady, but that’s not fair because Brady has been hurt since last September and his wife is hotter, so I’m still giving Tom the edge. For now.
So as you can imagine, the past few months have been fairly difficult without Tom and Tiger in my life while they both rehabilitated their respective knee/leg injuries. Federer was all I had left. It was so bad at one point that I actually stayed up until 3;30am to watch the Australian Open final in January, only to watch Federer lose a 5-set heartbreaker to Nadal (the match ended at just before 8am). Yes, I could have taped it and watched it the next morning but I needed to see one of my big 3.
There’s nothing quite like watching Tiger make a charge on Sunday. Even when he doesn’t win, the place is electric. When I was at the final round of the Masters in 2007, he finished in 2nd but was lurking the entire day. Golf is the perfect made for TV sport because you don’t miss any shots and you get to see all the relevant players in contention, but every true golf fan should experience Tiger in person on Sunday. When you’re at the event live, you have to pick a spot and and rely on scoreboards and cheers. As the day progresses, you start to figure out by sound, word of mouth and the course layout what may have happened by the crowd’s reaction. At one point, while we were sitting on 18 watching the leaders coming in, we knew Tiger was on the par 5-15th. We were sitting and staring at a scoreboard waiting for them to either post his score or hear the crowd cheer, but I remember thinking that we were close enough that we would definetly hear the crowd reaction if something good happened. Silence was not a good thing. Anyway, just as I’m explaining this to someone, we hear a roar coming from 15 that could mean only one thing. Tiger eagled 15. You could tell it wasn’t just a birdie, it was definetly an eagle roar on the back nine of Sunday at the Masters. Sure enough, a few moments later they posted Tiger’s score and the crowds surrounding every respective scoreboard throughout the course erupted. Tiger was just a stroke behind the leader and eventual winner, Zach Johnson. Nevermind, that he didn’t win, the point is the impact that his presence has on the gallery, the players, the TV viewing audience and the whole sport in general.
I can only imagine what the atmosphere must have been like at Bay Hill on Sunday. Despite starting 5 strokes behind the leader Sean O’Hair, Tiger once again birdied the 18th in near darkness to win his second consecutive Arnold Palmer Invitational and 6th overall. Which finally brings me to my initial point about being homesick. If I had been home in Canada, there’s nothing that would have kept me from being in front of the TV on Sunday evening to watch this unfold. But being 13-hours ahead with an illness on the horizon, I had to go to bed and watch the final round on Monday night after school. I would also have to avoid going on the internet and hope that no one at school asked me if I saw what Tiger did yesterday. I couldn’t do it.
Thanks to our Slingbox, which for those of you who haven’t heard of it, is a device that links the PVR (cable box) in my parents basement to our laptop via the internet. Therefore, we can record and watch live TV from Montreal anytime and stream it anywhere in the world that has an internet connection. Needless to say, this wonderful piece of technology has made it much easier to cope with being away as we haven’t missed a second of any of our shows. That being said, it still doesn’t compare to watching it live in HD on a 40-inch screen, and it doesn’t account for time differences when it comes to watching live sporting events.
So with this being one of the bigger tournaments since Tiger’s return and me having not watched a second of him play golf since his triumph at the US Open last June, I decided to record Saturday and Sunday’s round and watch them on Sunday and Monday respectively. I only watched part of Saturday as you may recall that we’re currently living abroad to experience a new culture, not sit inside and watch sports, so I checked the leaderboard and saw that Tiger was 5 back and playing in the final pairing with Sean O’Hair. I knew Sunday would be interesting to say the least.
Anyway, on Monday morning in Korea (Sunday night back home) I couldn’t resist the temptation and had to know what happened as I knew someone would ruin it for me anyway. I’ve made a point as asking most of my classes who are old enough if they know who Tiger Woods is, and every single one over the age of 4 has said “golf” or mimicked a golf swing. I also ask these same children is they know KJ Choi, and most of them don’t (KJ Choi is the most successful Korean golfer and ranked in top 10 in the world). So most of the kids know I’m a bit of golf fan and sure enough a couple of them mentioned it to me. Fortunately, I had already checked online and of course Tiger had won in dramatic fashion. It was bittersweet. I was happy that he had won but yearned for my big screen and the inevitable Sunday charge from the edge of my couch. For the time being, I’m going to have to get used to our 11-inch laptop screen in non-HD andwatching it after the fact. Getting through Masters weekend is going to be a nightmare.
Maybe we could just go to Shanghai in November and listen to the crowd roar…
Done and done.