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Saturday, 31 May 2014

Seoul's Air Quality

Seoul often has poor air quality; I'm not sure of the figures, but when I visit (I live in a smaller city outside Seoul but connected to it) the air is often grey and dirty-looking.  Quite a few people wear masks, especially bicyclists.

Here are two pictures; they aren't very good, as they were taken from inside a subway car as it crossed over the Han River in the middle of Seoul (time = about 12:30 pm):

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Short Films

Here are two short films to watch:

"Twenty Eight Feet":


"The Incredible Marrec":

The first (documentary with good music) is 8 minutes, the second (animated story) 6 minutes.

Saturday, 24 May 2014


This past week I have spent a lot of time in a hospital in Seoul.

I have been there in the mornings in support of my friend, who has been very ill.

Let me give an abbreviated history . . .

About 3 weeks ago my friend was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and, as his health was rapidly deteriorating (memory, speech, body movement), his wife made an appointment with one of the top hospitals in Seoul.

They made the trip to the hospital from another (much smaller) city.

Once at the hospital, the doctors--after a series of tests--issued an announcement: if they performed brain surgery, my friend would have a 1% chance of success.

That is, there was a 99% chance that he would never wake up from the surgery.

His wife, also my friend and thankfully a very strong person, chose not to accept what those doctors said.

So, after a week she visited another hospital, and she received very different news.

"Yes," the new doctors said, "We can help your husband.  We will schedule brain surgery for Monday, and we think he has an 80% chance of recovery."

That Monday was 6 days ago.

My friend had the brain surgery.

It lasted for about 10 hours.

Within an hour he was conscious and breathing on his own, something the doctors said was unusual.

He was out of intensive care within 14 hours.

On Wednesday, two days after the surgery, we talked in his hospital room.

He has some memory and speech problems, but he was doing well, eating normal food and able to sit up.

On Thursday we took a trip around the hospital floor and terrace garden in his wheelchair, a bit of an annoyance due to the IV "tree" with its multiple bags and tubes, but enjoyable nonetheless.

Yesterday, Friday, my friend didn't need the wheelchair.

He walked.

The IV tree was there for support.

His speech is much better, and though he still has some memory problems and will likely have to undergo radiation and chemotherapy treatment, he is gaining weight.

The doctor who performed the surgery is pleased, and said the operation was closer to 99% success.

Here's to "percents"!

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Unwanted Variety

I was in the middle of a 5th grade class yesterday--the students were writing vocabulary sentences on the whiteboard--when I noticed one student (a polite one) had his hand raised.

I assumed that either:

     *he had a vocab question


     *he wanted to go to the front desk to ask a Korean teacher a question


     *he had an urgent need to use the bathroom

However, I know (or should know) that assuming things is never good.

"Yes, what is it?" I looked at him and asked.

He said, holding up two fingers with something pinched between them, "I broke part of my tooth."

Now, granted, his English response was very good, but I thought, "What the %&^*^?"

We were not doing UFC wrestling/fighting in class, nor were we engaged in any form of physical contact, yet this student showed me a tiny ( less than a pinhead) piece of tooth.

Variety in teaching is usually good, yet this kind of variety I don't need nor want.

How can a student break a tooth while sitting at a desk?

I took him to the front office for verification (especially in case his mother called the school after he got home) . . .

Ye gods, what next?


One of the things that I have always enjoyed about teaching is the variety of experiences that I continue to encounter.

After years of teaching I think I can manage most classroom 'surprises' efficiently.

For example, last week when my students were showing me their diaries to check . . . ok, backtrack.  I left a lot out.

Students at our academy write in a diary one a week and turn the diary in to the teacher on the first class day of the week.  Usually the teacher corrects 3 sentences, and then the student re-writes those 3 sentences.

However, sometimes I do things differently.  In this case I typed a 'good' diary paragraph (students almost always rush their writing, and it is often neither long enough nor detailed enough) and told my students to paste it into their diary and then to copy it 1 time.

In one class, a girl--there are 9 girls in this class; she is one of the extroverted ones--told me that the copying was hard (meaning it took a long time) but the computer part was easy.

I replied, "What do you mean? The 'computer' . . ."

She said, "Computer writing is easy and fast."

Wow--ok.  Most Korean students don't say that, because an English keyboard and a Korean keyboard are very different.

"Do you want to type your diary?" I asked, feeling my way but not quite sure.

"Yes!" she answered.

This was a first for me;  I have never had a student ask to type their diary before.  I am not sure I completely like the idea, as I am old enough to be caught up in the idea of personal writing = hand writing (= a heartfelt outpouring), yet the point is to practice English, and maybe the mother wants to improve her daughter's keyboarding skills.

"Great!" I said, "type it and glue or tape it in your diary."

And so begins a new educational experiment, one I am more than happy to participate in.

I give a lot of credit to the student, a 5th grade Korean girl willing to tell her American teacher that she wants to type her diary . . . good for her!

Before the Building

Across from my academy there has been a large vacant lot for years, but now the Lotte construction company is doing something with it.  The rumor is that they are going to build a 'Lotte Mart' . . . something comparable to a Super Target in the U.S.  We will have to wait and see.  For now, they are digging a big hole (presumably a basement or parking garage), and moving hundreds of trucks' worth of dirt out of the lot:

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

"Johnny Express"

Here's a short film worth watching, a dark comedy that is funny but conveys a message in its 5 minute time frame:

Monday, 12 May 2014


Earlier last week I ate at a pizza/pasta restaurant with some friends.  The salad was nice (it had a lemony dressing), the regular pizza was satisfactory, but the supposed 'pan pizza' was a disaster, mainly cheese cooked in a pan.  Here are the pics:

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Seoul National University Hospital

One of my friends here in South Korea is, unfortunately, very ill, and I visited him and his wife at SNUH today.  I have never really been in a hospital before, other than for background medical checks, so I took a few pics of part of the medical complex:

A map of the SNUH complex

Inside the main hospital entrance/lobby

Outside the main hospital entrance

The main hospital


The emergency room entrance

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Classroom Laughter

Last week one of my classes--6th grade--was reading a unit about rocks.  One of their vocabulary words was "chisel", as in I use a chisel and a hammer to carve a statue.

However, whenever I said the word "chisel" they laughed a bit, so (this kind of thing has happened before) I asked a Korean teacher if the pronunciation of "chisel" was similar to a Korean word.

The answer: yes, it sounds like the Korean word for "piles", but not "piles of things", but rather "piles", a bowel/toilet problem.

Laughter understood.

Veggies, etc.

A picture of lunch at a Vietnamese chain:

Subtle is Not the Name

The name of this singing room/bar (karaoke place) is "Apple".

That might not surprise you, given the logo.

Guess somebody got ripped off . . .

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Spring Weather

Today was a nice day to sit outside at a sidewalk cafe

and to go for a walk in a park:

It was sunny, breezy, and a little warm . . . my kind of spring weather:)

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Newest Evian Commercial

Featuring "baby Spiderman":

Flower Pictures

Not mine . . . these are from the Smithsonian Magazine, courtesy of California's nature: