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Saturday, 27 June 2009

It Breaks My Heart

One of my classes of elementary students, 2nd or 3rd grade, is a great one. They have very good English skills for Korean kids their age, but, more than that, from a teacher's viewpoint, they are simply really nice kids. Sweet, but not syrupy-sweet (they do have some failings).

One of the students in this class (6 students) last week failed a test. She, I'll call her Lisa, is a smart girl. Maybe 8 years old. Usually she doesn't get involved with the rest of the class, kind of hangs out on the margin, though she is accepted by them. Lisa's quiet, perhaps bored, perhaps disinterested. I haven't quite figured it out yet.

But Lisa failed the test when she has always (in my almost two months here) done very well. And she started crying. Scrunched up her test paper in one little fist, held her other hand across her face, leaned down on her desk, and quietly cried.

I immediately tried to see if a few comforting words could solve the crisis. No, not that easy.

Back to the other 5 students, I sought to wrap up the class and assign their homework so I could deal with the crying girl.

"Teacher, Lisa is crying" another girl pointed out, softly (bless her). Thank you, I know that, but you are a great person for caring enough to tell me.

The next day, I was informed that Lisa's mom had called, interested in learning more about what was going on. Not angry, thankfully, just concerned.

The mom also showed up the next day, shortly before Lisa's class. Now, I have to say that I go out of my way to avoid mothers; they are looking out for their kids above all else, I can't really communicate with them, and I don't want to get involved in the business side of my academy (they are paying for education, after all, and want to demand the best).

Lisa seemed a bit put off that her mom was there (what kid wouldn't?) but she took the retest, passed with flying colors, and was smiling after.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

The Rain

It seems like an uminportant thing. And, I guess, for the most part it is. Rain has been falling, but it has been a slow, gentle rain--at times sporadic--never the long, steady downours that I have come to hope for.

Who would hope for rain? Farmers in a drought. People in a desert.

I remember once, when I went camping in Montana, in the U.S., a big lightning sorm came up. It bracketed the entire night sky.

Above the treeline as we were, the storm was intense, momentous. I thought we were doomed.

But it ended, as all things end.

The next day dawned bright snd sunny, glorious except for the mosquito hatchlings.

I still long for that feel, that sound, of a good, steady downpour . . .

Thursday, 18 June 2009


Irony: an occurrence or circumstance notable for incongruity, or existing and intended effect

I have been drinking bottled water since I don't really trust the tap water in Korea, yet I just read tonight that the government reported 7 out of 79 brands of bottled water contain levels of bromite--a class 2 carcinogen--in excess of international (WHO) guidelines. The gov. isn't publishing the names of the brands since Korea currently has no guidelines concerning bromite levels in bottled water.

Then again, I guess bombs/missiles from our northern neighbor may be a bigger concern right now . . .

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

The Korean Melon

Ok, there is more than one melon in Korea, but these small yellow/white ones appear everywhere, especially at the start of the summer. I remember the first time I ate one because it was served hard, unripe. I didn't try eating another for a long time. Yet, when I did, I--most fortunately--ate a perfect one: semi-soft, juicy, cool.

The ones I bought a few days ago are in-between, but the melon taste is still refreshing. One of them will satisfy that summer fruit craving; two will provide a good, healthy snack.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Iranian Election

While I'm throwing links up I thought I'd add a few more:)

If you have read in the news about the recent Iranian presidential election and the charges of fraud, that apparently is just the tip of the iceberg. There are accounts of widespread violence against journalists seeking to cover the election, which is good reason to suspect an organized rigged vote. Here are two links to Reporters Without Borders articles:

Sunday, 14 June 2009

NK Human Rights Report

Here is a link to a Human Rights report on North Korea:

NK Video Link

This link appears to be a summary of the Seoul Train documentary, which I have not viewed yet but would like to. It is about defectors from North Korea, and the brutal "punishment" camps in NK.

How to Eat Grilled Meat in Korea

Delicious Home-Grilled Food

I spent Saturday night with my friends in Gangneung, eating and talking at their place. They have a 2nd floor patio area that they use for gardening, laundry, and grilling. Here are some dinner pics (beef, veggies, etc., Korean style).

Saturday, 13 June 2009

How Do I Know It's Summer?

We have had a few weeks of hot weather so far, though lately it hasn't been too bad.

But that's not how I know it's summer.

People are wearing shorts and sandals, and the sun hats/visors/umbrellas are out in full force.

But that's not how I know it's summer.

I walked into my older elementary class the other night and found, written on the whiteboard, the following demand: "Give me ice cream or I won't do my homework!"

That's how I know it's summer.

Indeed, the ice cream thing seems to be getting out of hand. Two younger elementary girls asked me recently when I was going to buy them ice cream. I was a bit taken aback, and asked what they meant. They replied that their former teacher often bought them ice cream.

"Often?" I asked.

"Yes," they assured me, "every day."

The boldness of the claim put a smile on my face, as did the other students' demand, though in that case I had to let them know that "give me" was not appropriate, unless I had a gun in my face.

The girls also threw hamburgers into the equation, so I'm half-expecting them to dream up more foodstuffs, seemingly denied their classroom rights as they are.

So, as I bemoan the over-generosity of some former teacher and the drain it may place on my wallet (there is, unfortunately, a Baskin-Robbins close to our school), I can at least rest content in knowing that summer is here at last.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Every So Often . . .

I usually eat lots of rice, especially now that I have a microwave. Sometimes I am even motivtaed enough to put some toppings on the rice, be it vegetables, kimchi, or seafood. However, every so often (lately once a week), I get a craving for a good burger. Fortunately, given my schedule, there is a place in Itaewon (Seoul)--the All-American Diner--that serves up just what I want at 9 am . . . it looks smaller than real life; maybe I should have taken a side shot:) Anyway, it fills me up and satifies that craving . . .

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Subway Station

This subway station in Seoul is kind of different; it has a big, glass-domed skylight at the top, and then a series of shorter escalators (3 in each direction) to get up or down.
Quite different from the pic of another (newer) station that I posted a few weeks ago.