Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What the heck is that thing?

Last week this equipment showed up in my room for "air quality testing" a.k.a. H1N1 testing.I'm not saying that foreigners are being singled out in the hunt for the flu, but I will note that my room was the only one tested because, "many students go there." I guess the lunchroom doesn't fit that criteria.

Good news though: Dongbu English World is a flu-free zone!

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Here's an article from the Korea Herald (one of Korea's largest English-language newspapers) about the strengthening won.

Rising Korean won rings alarm bells

Lucky for me, this bad news for Korea means good news for foreign teachers sending money back home next year!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Swine Flu Strikes (but not in the way you think)

We had heard rumors for about a week that the Andong International Maskdance Festival, one of Korea's largest, most spectacular (and for us, most LOCAL) festivals was cancelled due to the Swine Flu. But being the optimistic little foreigner that I am, I convinced myself that no one would cancel the city's largest annual cash cow based on a potential outbreak of the flu. But of course, I was wrong.

Today, the Maskdance Festival's official website ( posted this notice:

"Andong Festival Tourism Foundation is obliged to cancel the Andong Maskdance Festival 2009. We are sorry to inform that the Andong Maskdance Festival 2009 is cancelled due to the diffusion of H1N1. According to the indicator of Ministry of Public Administration and Security, major events must be cancelled to prevent the spread of H1N1 virus."

As much as I love this country and this city, I wish someone would just tell them that wearing their masks, washing their hands, and not making out with strangers who are sneezing and coughing is as effective in preventing the spread of flu as cancelling one of the country's most interesting annual events.

I would love to see the reaction in Chicago if the Taste was cancelled because of Swine Flu.

For the record, here are the numbers: appr. 7,000 people have been infected with H1N1 in Korea (out of a population est. of 50 million). Nearly all have recovered fully, and only 6 elderly people, most of whom had other, preexisting conditions, have died.

So long, Maskdance Festival! Maybe Sara and I will see you next year. Unless, of course, there's a really nasty case of the sniffles going around in September 2010.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

My Korean Name

I knew it was only a matter of time before someone asked if they could give me a Korean name. After countless itterations of my English name (from Si-co-teh to Suh-ca-tchi), I could tell the Koreans were getting a little tired of trying to figure out my name. And lo and behold--at lunch this week my principal finally said enough was enough.

"He needs a Korean name," he said to Mr. Kim. "Tell him to give me a few days and I'll come up with a Korean name for him."

And so Mr. Kim told me the situation, and I was ecstatic. I've actually been waiting for someone to do this. The Koreans are always asking for English names, so I wanted some reciprocation in this process. Apparently, though, "a few days" actually meant 1o minutes, because before lunch was over I was named. He tapped Mr. Kim and immediately started to explain what he was thinking.

And so I was born...again:


Or, for those who don't have extensive training in reading Korean written language, Seo Han-il (pronounced Suh Hon-il). Now, I was just happy because it had Han in it, and I see myself as a young Han Solo. But then I was told the reasoning behind my new name.

서: West, as in Western man.
한: Korea, or a korean person.
일: Lit. the number 1.

So to string it all together, I am Western Korean Man Number 1! There was even a ceremony yesterday to legitimize the thing, during which I was given a Certificate of Appreciation for being a dedicated teacher and co-worker. The principal explained that I was the "best foreign teacher in Andong." Whether that's true or not (I tend to think not), it was great to be the topic of conversation for the day.

Now I am referred to daily as 서생님, Seo sangnim or Seo Teacher, the formal manner in which teachers are addressed in Korea.

I've also been going around introducing myself to my colleagues in Korean and telling them that it's nice to meet them. They know I'm just kidding around, but maybe this really is a good way to reboot the year- to start over and dedicate myself even further to this school and its staff and students.

Maybe this can be the Semester of 서.

(Note: If the Korean language in this post comes up as boxes and numbers, you need to install the proper language pack to see it. Each browser has a different way to do that, so ask your resident tech nerd how if you're interested.)

Monday, September 7, 2009

Swine Flu SCORE!

To backup Sara's post, the swine flu scare has also improved some hygienic conditions at my school. There is now soap everywhere in my school (even on my remote floor) as well as fresh paper towels in the first and second floor bathrooms. Also, I was given a GIANT bottle of hand sanitizer for both me and the kids.

My favorite part of the day is watching the kids wash their hands outside of the cafeteria, get a big squirt of hand sanitizer on their way INTO the cafeteria, and then use the sanitizing machine directly inside of the cafeteria. One thing's for sure--these kids are NOT getting swine flu. And neither am I!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

One of the Downfalls

Peter King, the current editor of the NFL section of Sports Illustrated and, has picked the Bears to win the NFC this year and fall to the Patriots in Superbowl XLIV. I tend to agree that they might go all the way (or close) this year, which pains me because I know I can't watch any of it.

Unless, of course, I bite the bullet and pay out the nose to the money-grubbing NFL.

Consider this: before I left for Korea I paid $119.99 to watch any MLB game I want, live or archived, for the entire year. For those who don't want to do the math, that's 2,430 games that I can watch this year for 120 bucks.

The NFL, on the other hand, wants to charge me $209.99 JUST to watch Bears games. That's almost twice the price for 16 games of football. Of course, I could pay the $30 more and catch all 288 NFL games. But when you break it down, I find it hard to stomach the price disparity (appr. $0.05 per MLB game and $0.83 per NFL game or $13 per game if I just get the Bears option).

Now, I know football is an expensive sport, what with the grossly over-paid athletes and exorbitant, multi-million dollar stadiums. But come on. $210 bucks to watch something online that I could watch at home for free with a hanger sticking out the back of my TV? Sounds a little stupid to me.

The worst part of all of it, of course, is that I'm considering buying it.

Please, oh please, somebody in the Chicago area buy a Slingbox and give me access to it!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Little Things

At the end of class a minute ago, a little girl waved and said, "Have a nice day," as if I had just met her on the street in Chicago. The best part is, I know she knew exactly what it meant. It's these brief exchanges, when you know you've really taught these kids something, that the job feels truly worth it.

There are time (like today) when I, like my English-teaching colleagues, get frustrated because it seems like we don't get through to the kids. They don't pay attention or you just can't explain a simple concept to them, and suddenly you feel like a failure, unable to make a kid understand what "do you like ice cream?" means. It's these times when I want to huddle into a ball and get on a plane to a nation where I can have a conversation with a little kid that's longer than 6 words.

And then a 9 year old girl waves and says, "Have a nice day" as she's leaving.

And I get up and go back in for the next class.