New City, Same Gluttony

Over the weekend we met some food friends of ours for a buffet Seoul. It was mostly a front for abusing their bottomless wine refills for $3 like were were high school students just discovering the terrible wonders of alcohol and drinking all some poor parent’s expired creme de menthe. Then we shot some pool and took a late bus back home.

The aftermath You can see the food bloating my head

The aftermath
You can see the food bloating my head. It’s at least 2.5X larger than everyone else.

Oh it’s perspective?  Well excuse me, DaVinci.

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Ling doesn’t give a shit

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Sunday was a lazy day, as most tend to be with me, but we did venture out for some Korean-style Chinese food that tasted just like American-style Chinese food. Great Tso’s Ghost was it good and really hit the spot.

The spot is my heart’s ability to pump blood in a healthy way.

Black bean noodles. Not served in America as far as I can tell.

Black bean noodles. Not served in America as far as I can tell.

Sweet and sour pork

Sweet and sour pork

Doctor Who

The 3rd graders took their final exams weeks ago, so every class they just hang out and watch movies or do whatever activity the teacher pulls from the bag of tricks. One week I had them watch a Doctor Who episode, Blink, which is particularly scary with a few jolting jump scares.

This picture is illustrative of some coping mechanisms the students employed:  Hiding behind a friend, hiding behind a blanket, watching out of the corner of the eyes, or plugging ears.

This picture is illustrative of some coping mechanisms the students employed: Hiding behind a friend, hiding behind a blanket, watching out of the corner of the eyes, or plugging ears.

This girl was scared out of her chair.

This girl was scared out of her chair.

Thanksgiving Dinner

Winter has basically launched into a full court press these days. I sometimes wonder, as my toes lose feeling and a trail of my own frosty breath puffs out behind me in the school hallways, why did I pull up stakes and leave the tundra of a polar-vortexed Wisconsin, move halfway across the world, and end up in a place almost as cold? I could have gone almost anywhere; places of year-long summers that span for generations, where children live and die in green worlds untouched by the frost’s sting or a blizzard’s mirthless smile?

Sorry, that quicklydegraded into some shitty Game of Thrones fan-fiction prose toward the end.

Colin, Ling, and I prepared almost the entire day Saturday for a belated Thanksgiving dinner set for the night. We hosted four other friends in our apartment for a delicious turkey dinner, mostly cooked by Colin, and an assortment of booze that kept us fueled with good cheer well into the morning hours.

Colin slappin' the turkey for being fowl.

Colin slappin’ the turkey for being fowl.

Airport Once Again

One leftover note from the short trip to Daejeon.

Children should not be allowed to travel until they reach the age of 5,and only then if they sit straight ahead and don’t utter a word. If the children happen to live far away from grandparents, and illness or circumstance restricts the grandparent’s travel to visit the ugly brood, them stuff some straw into a few pillow cases, add a few dashes of paint here and there, throw on a wig and bam! “Say hello to Grandma, little tyke!” Kids are stupid–they’ll accept that. If one gets uppity and starts questioning, just casually mention that all grandparents look like that. Their minds are soft and malleable, just empty glasses waiting for you to fill it up with whatever truths seem easiest.

I picked up Ling from the airport Tuesday night. It seems we are both getting sick.

And now back to my job, which is…teaching kids.

Damn.

First snowfall of the year. Of course, the kids waste no time dumping dust pan's full of snow at each other.

First snowfall of the year. Of course, the kids waste no time dumping dust pan’s full of snow at each other.

Daejeon

I fought with myself for a long time leading up to the weekend. I could either have a solitary weekend to myself, or I could take a trip to Daejeon to reunite with some friends from orientation 8 months back. I’m not particularly wise, but once a certain age is reached, certain people are put in the express lane for friendship. Through meeting enough people, we can all tell who are compatible spirits. I suppose living abroad intensifies this further. This is why I can drop into a city and reconnect with people I met 8 months ago, perhaps even basing this on a single meaningful conversation..

I only stayed in the city for one night. I took a bus in and cut a 45 minute walking path through the city to the subway. After catching up with two friends at a couple of cafe, we met another friend and others to finish up the night with two pubs and karaoke. It felt great to be trading stories and be awash in the camaraderie of people who have similar experiences–both high and low–of teaching in Korea. At around 3:30 am, I’ve felt it was time to pack it up. But here’s the thing–I didn’t want to pay for a motel. So I killed an hour walking around then headed back to the bus station, bought a ticket for the 6 a.m. bus back to my city and slept all the way back home.

And that’s how you visit a city without dishing out money for lodging.

Some sky light show I stumbled upon. I think Las Vegas had something similar.

Some sky light show I stumbled upon. I think Las Vegas had something similar.

Bowing to Foreigners

Sometimes walking back from school, a little girl will bow to me as we walk past each other. It’s the most damned adorable thing that I have seen.

That’s it for today. I’m planning on taking a trip to Daejeon this weekend to do a brief tour and catch up with some orientation friends.

School fire safety.

School fire safety.

Beer drink, ok?

Taken during a 1st year trip in probably my favorite Korean city, Gyeongju. This may be my first real trip within Korea as well.

Taken during a 1st year trip in probably my favorite Korean city, Gyeongju. This may be my first real trip within Korea as well.

IMG_1093 IMG_1098 IMG_1107Nothing of note is really happening this week. Let’s see…more speaking tests at work and then I went to a cafe again Tuesday night because my life is a thrilling ride through the limitless possibilities of modern life.

Last night was yet another episode of School Dinner: The Drunken Vehicle of Korean Culture. As usual, I met this dinner with the usual amount of slight annoyance at something that seems mandatory, but once the 3rd or 4th beer hits my brain, I switch modes and become a fountain of smiles. Over some delicious duck soup, I talked with two of more co teachers and enjoyed their company in a more relaxed setting outside the school. We all carried the party to two more bars after dinner–down to the Principal, Vice Principal, one my my coteachers, and a handful of other teachers. Now, the VP has taken a great interest in me and wants to exchange his wounded duck English with my hobbled Korean. He got a bit drunk and basically repeated the same invitation to me regarding a male soccer party next week for over an hour. It was exhausting but a bit hilarious.

“Matthew! Next week….man soccer…beer drink! Understand?”
Yes. (inside my head..Good god for the 36th time, yes I understand. I’m not a goldfish.)

Free Therapy via PhD Dissertation

About half a year back, I consented to be part of a PhD student’s research thesis at the University of Iowa. I gave permission to use my blogs and completed two somewhat lengthy written interviews about adjusting to life as a foreign teacher in Korea. His study was just published and I read some of it. It was fascinating because it was a researcher who was generating theories and ideas from my writing about my life–drawing some connections by examining my life with a fine-toothed comb. He connected my experience with his thesis about ESL teachers adjusting to the host culture/school. Being a case study in a phD dissertation feels a lot like free therapy. For example, he posited that my foreign friends–some of whom I made from day 1–both helped and hindered my adjustment to Korea. I had an emotional support group of people who were going through similar experiences, yet these friends prevented me from taking full advantage of deeper connections with Koreans and the community.

In other news, I’ve decided to try and stay out of my apartment as much as possible these days, so I’ve started a streak of making trips to the many coffee shops in my area. See research guy? Look at me, all out and about in public and such. Sitting alone at a table….watching NFL highlights and bloating my list of Netflix movies to watch. Oh boy.

Colorful lunch today

Colorful lunch today

Luxury Movie Viewing and Seoul

Another week completed at school–halfway complete with the speaking tests.

Ling and I splurged and bought an expensive movie ticket–almost double–to see the newest Hunger Games in a special theater of super-comfortable reclining love seats. It was luxurious and the most comfortable theater experience I’ve ever had. I was transported and often forgot I was in a theater, mistaking it for watching a movie while laying on a couch at home. It was a fun novelty, but part of the allure of a movie theater is the shared experience is offers with other viewers. Everything is heightened when you see the whole theater light up a crowd sharing in the emotions of the movie. This luxurious one was small, only enough room for a dozen couples or so. It’s more comfortable and fun to share with a significant other, but not the traditional movie experience. There was even a VIP lounge to wait in before the movies, like we were flying first class in a the theater…lest the great unwashed sully our eyes before the movie.

Ling is flying to China for a wedding so I saw her off at the airport. A war raged within me: do I meet friends and be social, an activity I am sluggish to jump into but am always happy I do, or give the jail keys to the Warden of my Mental Prison, becoming an inmate of Netflix and bad food? Well, luckily I met Colin and Hayeong in Seoul for a fantastic time of lunch and bullshitting with beer. Colin and I left Seoul and returned to Incheon to carry on our party at the local pub and some poor food choices I have chosen to redact out of shame.

The best kind of friends are ones in which passing 8+ hours is a simple matter of bullshitting about nothing and everything, and the topics just seem endless.

Hard to see because the comfort is like a black hole, sucking in all light around it.

Hard to see because the comfort is like a black hole, sucking in all light around it.

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