Saturday, April 19, 2008

shil-mang (la déception/disappointment)

My brother Sean almost never writes me, so whatever I learn about him, I learn from his Facebook updates. I see that he has just become a fan of* The Wonder Girls.

Many Koreans are into that whole "guilt by association" thing. On this particular point, so am I.

Ah, Sean.

Sean, Sean, Sean.

I'm so ashamed. How could you do this to our family?

*The "become a fan of" function allows a Facebook member to announce their liking of X, be it a music group, a city, or whatever. Facebook is full of useless crap like this. For more on Facebook's insane time-wasting potential, see this article.


Friday, April 18, 2008


My buddy Charles turned fort-- uh, thirty-five yesterday, and he seems ambivalent about it. I'm going over to his place today to rag him. He's making pizza; I'm bringing cheesecake. My heart, already overburdened, is going, "Noooooooooooo!"*

Happy 35, punk.

*If I'm not mistaken, Wikipedia (or some other possibly unreliable online source) notes that "Noooooooooooo!" (of varying lengths) is, along with "I've got a bad feeling about this," a line that occurs in every Star Wars movie.

_ that's that

As of an hour ago, I've finished teaching at Smoo. The feeling, right now, is one of sudden stoppage-- the fact that I'm no longer a teacher here hasn't sunk in yet (for those tuning in late: no, I wasn't fired).

Over the next few days, I'll be slapping up more nostalgia photos and messing with your head by scattering photos (and a vid or two) of the most recent crop of students through and among the older pics. You shouldn't have any trouble following: since the 90s, Quentin Tarantino has trained us well in tracing nonlinear narratives.

The office is quiet. It's Friday, and Friday is something of a "down" day in terms of class activity. Most of my own classes were Mon-Thu deals; the only Friday class I had was the Pronunciation Clinic, which met for an hour a pop, lasted just six weeks, and probably included only about three days of actual instruction.* Now it's just a matter of clearing everything out of the office, boxing everything up at home, throwing away everything unneedful, and shuttling most of my belongings to the people who have kindly volunteered some free space on my behalf. I am, as always, amazed at the various kindnesses I've received.

Pics later.

*The first session was diagnostic: I got voice recordings from the students and analyzed their weak points. The fifth session was the final exam and the sixth session-- today's session-- was the jjong-party. We drilled pronunciation the during the second session, worked on intonation in the third session, and did rhythm during the fourth session. No time for a comprehensive review in class, but I did have students come for 30-minute one-on-one sessions with me during the week to help them improve. This latter idea wasn't in the course description; it was something I'd volunteered to do for the students. It made for a weirdly symmetrical closure, too: when I came to Smoo in April of 2005, I immediately began giving one-on-one sessions to students who wanted more face time. Back then, too, I had students signing up for available time slots.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

my last big day

I have only a single class to teach on Friday, so I view today, Thursday, as my actual final day of teaching. My Current Events English class told me on Wednesday they wanted to have a jjong-party (i.e., an end-of-term party), so today, everyone brought something to munch. We sat around and talked; one of my male students, Mr. Kim, took some pics and videos with my camera, which I proudly display (or link to) below. Another student also took some pictures with my camera, and the first video to which I link below was shot by me during my students' midterm exam on Wednesday.


Here are the videos (I'll be putting up a link to my YouTube "channel" soon):

1. Students taking the midterm.

2. Farewell party: first look.

3. Farewell party: second look.

4. Farewell party: third and final look.

I can't tell you how much I enjoyed teaching these students. I'm glad my time at Smoo has ended on such a positive note.

Until next time, my wonderful students!


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

hey, what's the big idea?

My brother David recently wondered what this blog was about. Well, it's about a specific project called Kevin's Walk, but the walk doesn't actually begin until late May, so I have some time to muck around, give my tiny readership a chance to get to know me, and basically lay the groundwork for what's to come. Don't be surprised if you see posts about politics, religion, fart humor, and whatever else comes to mind. Once the walk begins, the blog will snap into focus, but in the meantime, just sit back, settle in, and enjoy the meanderings.


[NB: Please check out this What's the Big Idea? post before reading what follows.]

What would a typical Kevin's Walk day look like from your perspective? Well, let's suppose you're a member of a religious community-- say, a Presbyterian who knows I'm arriving. Let's further assume today's Monday, though I suppose the day of the week doesn't matter much if we've made arrangements beforehand. The schedule might look something like this:

4:30PM: Kevin arrives, bedraggled and sweaty, at the church or at the residence of a church member. (This will have been decided in advance.)

4:35PM: Kevin greets whoever's there to greet him; round of handshakes, photos taken, polite silence regarding the stink doubtless wafting off Kevin's body. Kevin broaches the uncomfortable subject by asking where he can shower and change his clothes. A volunteer says, "We've arranged for you to go to the Jones family's house; you can shower there now and come back here, to the church, and then you'll spend the night at the family's residence." Kevin offers his thanks.

4:35-5:30PM: Kevin walks over to the Jones's place (no vehicles for Kevin unless he's seriously injured!), sets down his backpack, showers, rinses out his clothes, puts on a clean set of clothing, and announces he's ready to walk back to the church (or to stay there and have the talk).

5:35-7:30PM: Dinner (optional; giving food to Kevin is ALWAYS optional) and religion-talk at or near the church (or at the Jones's place), which will be recorded (possibly transcribed later, or the sound/video file will simply be uploaded).

7:35PM: Kevin discusses his next destination with the people he's been talking to. This might involve the use of Google Earth or Google Maps or something more old-school. The end result is that Kevin will have a physical set of directions describing a PLAUSIBLE and LEGAL walking route to his next waypoint.

9PM: Kevin will be at the Jones's place, using their computer (if they have a decent one) for the next 1.5 to 2 hours to upload photos and blog some brief insights.

11:15PM: Kevin will sleep wherever he's been told to sleep.

6:15AM: Kevin wakes up, brushes his teeth and performs other morning necessaries, collects the clothes that will have dried, packs his gear, thanks the Joneses, and heads off to his next destination by 7:15AM.

Comments: This routine can vary, of course. If I arrive somewhere later than anticipated, for example, this might necessitate a rescheduling of activities. If it turns out I have to stay in a certain area for more than one night, I'm not against staying at different residences so as to distribute the burden of caring for me among several people/families. I might also say "yes" to hanging around in a certain area to earn some extra cash for my trip. Other factors that might vary include food, sleep location (someone might prefer that I camp in their yard rather than enter the house), places to hold the religion talk, etc. I might end up needing several days to walk to a given destination, which means I'll be camping. Nothing is written in stone.


"Speed Racer"?

With its bubble-gum color schemes and shamelessly unrealistic CGI, the Wachowski Brothers' latest effort, "Speed Racer," doesn't exactly bring back that Saturday morning cartoon feeling. I've watched the previews and have seen the featurette, and the overall impression I get is that the movie will be a two-hour riff off the podracing scene from "The Phantom Menace" (itself a cinematic reference to the charioteering scene from "Ben Hur"), but with a wilder palette and "Matrix"-style camera work. The brothers should have gone whole hog and made the movie entirely CG. After having gone through the Star Wars prequel trilogy, I'm not all that keen on the fusion of CGI and live action, unless the CGI is compellingly rendered (as is arguably the case in "Revenge of the Sith," though Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movies are better examples of what I mean).

Should I see "Speed Racer"? Right now, I'm leaning toward "Nah."



One of the most interesting aspects of working at a Korean women's university is the occasionally hilarious or thought-provoking text message. In my three years here at Smoo, there's one message I've received two or three times that's been both disturbing and funny. It has appeared in various forms, but usually goes something like this:

Teacher! I can't come to class today because it's my period.

I mention this because I got such a message just today. Incredible, how frank these girls can be. Maybe I should be teaching English expressions like "on the rag," "riding the cotton pony," and "PMS-ing."


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

humble thanks (bis)

The contributions continue to roll in, and we now stand at $343.01. As always, my sincere thanks to all and sundry. I'm still wavering about putting up a Hall of Fame for contributors; too many of you have privately emailed to say, "Please don't list me" or "If you list me, use my superhero alias," or something similarly frustrating.

Anyway, I am sincerely grateful for the various kindnesses I've already received. This bodes well for the walk. My current plan is to save all contributions for as long as possible. One cool thing about PayPal is that your stored funds can actually earn a wee bit of interest (approx 2.8%; it varies) while they gestate. Over time, this can make up for the 4% chunk that PayPal bites off each transaction.

If all goes according to plan, I'll have about $14,000-$15,000 in the bank by the time the walk begins in late May (minus the monthly scholarship debt and the plane ticket to the Vancouver area). That doesn't include donations, which I'll be storing on the side (in PayPal) and holding for as long as possible (the goal is to reach $5000; see here for a detailed explanation). If I finish the walk before my main supply of money runs out, I'll be giving the donations to charity. If I dip into the contributions I've received but still have some money left over when the walk is finished, then as per what I wrote in the post about finances, I'm still giving the rest to charity.

Thanks again!


this may be in poor taste, but...

Folks who don't know me might not be acquainted with my sick sense of humor.

Time to get acquainted.

The biggest, baddest English-language Koreablog, the Marmot's Hole, is currently hosting a YouTube video of the torch-lighting moment of the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Robert Koehler, the Hole's founder and the writer of the post in question, remarks apropos of this video:

"Why the release of the doves was discontinued after the 1988 Olympic Games..."

Enjoy the sight of sizzling birds. I know my brother David, who's as sick as I am, will get a kick out of this. For me, the humor of the video lies in the buildup: the booming announcements about the torchbearers in three languages, the grand, sweeping music that served as a background to the runners who took the torch on its final lap around the stadium, the slow rise of the platform that brought three torchbearers level with the lip of the Olympic Flame... the doves perched so innocently atop the Flame's tower, unaware of what was about to transpire, and then...

This is what it tastes like when doves fry.


how many folks have traversed the country?

I was curious to know how many people have walked across the continental United States. This article claims that no solid figures are available, but guesses that the America-crossers might number in the hundreds.


Sunday, April 13, 2008

was denken Sie?

Do you think this is good advice on how to raise boys?