I’m beginning to love Wednesdays. Most people dread them (I used to too) because they mark the week’s halfway point. Meaning you’re now stuck in the midst of it; you’ll have to wade through just as much shit to escape as you did to get here. It’s the old half-empty/half-full dilemma and yet somehow I’ve ended up in the optimist camp.
Or perhaps I’m just a hardened pessimist. I am, after all, always considering any given day to be “over” almost as soon as I wake up. My morning bike rides start around 8:30-9, and I’m always looking forward to the day ahead through a decidedly reminiscent lens. The day’s barely started yet and here I am, already plotting out tomorrow’s activities.
So Wednesdays are just Thursdays who are too lazy to get a move on. Thursdays are Fridays in disguise. And Fridays are a painful wait for the inevitable weekend that I’m already enjoying in my head anyway. (I work less than four hours every Friday, so the idea of considering them an actual “day” is rather absurd.)
I know, I know, it’s overly complicated, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.
Today was made even sweeter as I learned that my last class for tomorrow had been cancelled. So Thursday is acting like the Friday deep down it knows it is. This, coupled with the fact that my drone organ arrived today makes this week practically unbeatable.
Since what’s better than an extra “short” day? One with presents!
Last week I made a big deal about eating better. “Better” as in both healthier and economically sound. And I succeeded! Managing to spend only 1/9th of the cash normally spent on dinner, all while increasing the sheer amount of vegetables twofold. Times were good.
Then Sunday reared its ugly head…
For reasons unknown to me, my stove stopped working. Thus eliminating my ability to cook my beloved “vegetables.” (Actually just a lot of broccoli and cauliflower; the only two vegetables one could ever need.) Leaving me alone with dishes consisting of local (Jeonju) pork and kimchi. A lot of kimchi.
So last night I had my boss come over to look at the stove. (He also owns the building where I live.) Apparently the battery under the stove that sparks the gas became loose, making the lighting mechanism to fail. (The only reason I hadn’t pried the stove apart looking for the problem was because, as I mentioned a line ago, my boss owns this building. The last thing I want to do is break something that the man I work for owns.)
So broccoli is now back on the menu! But that’s not the only piece of amazing news. As my boss was leaving, he said: “Your apartment is so clean.”
At first I just stared at him, trying to figure out whether he was cracking a joke or not. I haven’t swept or mopped in around a week, and from what I’ve seen of most Koreans they seem to clean the floors everyday. So I naturally felt that I wasn’t holding up my end of the cultural norm. As the pictures populating this blog can attest, I’d hardly call my apartment “neat” or “clean.” A “mess with great intentions” maybe, but in no way “clean.”
Sure, at first glance it looks fine. But under that cheap facade lies a lot of moldy oranges and bags of compost waiting to be recycled.
Which makes me wonder what’s happening in my peers’ apartments. If this counts as clean, I’m not sure I want to see what passes for dirty.
Me: “How many baby animals are in the picture?”
M: “Four? There’s two kittens and two puppies. That’s four.”
C: “Five – there’s a baby.”
M: “A baby isn’t an animal; it’s a person!”
C: [chorus] “People are monkeys. The baby is a monkey.”
What’s truly amazing here is that this conversation happened in my Phonics-level English class. Meaning the children in question are in (on average) the 3rd grade. Yet they already have a stronger grasp on human evolution than most Americans. Americans who are still debating the scientific merits of Darwin’s contributions 150+ years after the fact.
One of the neatest parts of my recent trip home over the summer break was visiting the camp where I used to work. One child, who is a diabetic, could care less about me living on the other side of the world. Not one shred of interest. All the child wanted to talk shop.
Child: “Mr. Tim, did you bring your insulin!?!”
ShenaniTims: [Dejected, putting away a handful of Korean change] “Uh, no, but I can go grab it from the car I guess…”
While I found it to be hilarious, it did raise a couple of doubts for me. If I could be (if I was) such an influence on a young diabetic, then maybe I should’ve actually gone to one of those diabetic summer camps as a child. Maybe a lifetime of hatred directed at this disease could’ve been averted if I had had a more positive role model than just my mind.
This incident also made me wonder if my diabetes has always been the star, with me just playing a supporting role.
The closest I’ve ever come to feeling like a true-blue celebrity happened today when I arrived at work. My arrival coincided with the arrival of (most of) my 2nd period class. “Fast, teacher, fast!,” they shouted as they held the elevator door open for me as I quickly tried to lock up my bicycle. I can only hope they didn’t take it as an insult when I then declined the elevator ride and opted for five flights of stairs.
Interacting with them daily, believe me when I say none of them would understand the explanation behind my refusal to dog-pile into a tiny, cramped space with five of my students. “Sorry kids, but teacher could be arrested for that in his home country,” is above their level. And the tone of fear and foreboding would be unrecognizable to them. They trust and respect teachers over here!
I haven’t mentioned it yet, but one of my students totally has a Dick Tracy watch. It looks unassuming enough (unlike, say, Tracy’s own watch), a little cube with an otherwise blank screen. But it went off in class today; forcing him to tell whoever was calling that he was in class. All while sweating bullets because a.) they’re not supposed to have their phones with them in class, and b.) they’re certainly not supposed to be speaking Korean in class.
Now while I know that smart watches aren’t anything new anymore, I didn’t expect to see smart watches created for and geared to 8 year-olds. That is new.
It’s truly a wonder that it took Target as long as it did to get rid of me. (Or, more likely, it’s a testament to just how awful my boss there was. He wanted me gone oh so badly, but was either too lazy or incompetent to do anything about it.) One day my boss demanded that I get my team to sell more credit cards by creating a prize for them to win. Look guys, your hard work is appreciated! Here’s some cheap crap!
Most often someone would grab a gift basket, a $5 DVD, and throw in two boxes of movie theater candy; instant date night for those who secretly want to be single and so are hoping their significant other leaves them. Normally someone else would create the prizes, leaving the “real work” to me: fixing things, training people, handling guests. I was asked to create a prize once, and what a glorious day it was!
And so it began. I spent the rest of the day talking about Target’s new “adoption” policy; as the anthropomorphized bag was given a name, “Bobble.” I spoke endlessly on the walkie-talkies about how anyone could be lucky enough to win Bobble and take him home. To their credit, none of my co-workers had a clue to what I was carrying on about. I doubt my boss even knew, and he was the reason for me taking it over the top!
I managed to keep the charade going on so long, while enjoying it so much, that it eventually transformed from a not-so-subtle “fuck you” directed from me to my boss, to a “Tim is fucking crazy” from my boss to his peers! You can get into trouble for being disobediant. But being insane? They can’t very well hold that against you.
Wolfcop might be the greatest werewolf movie ever. Easily the best since the Howling. Now historically, werewolf films are tough to do. Universal’s Wolf-Man was written as a sap, and played the part with Lon Chaney chewing up the scenery instead of animal carcasses. After that ignoble(?) start, these films went downhill. Pre-CGI, it was hard making a believable werewolf. Gluing fur to a man’s chest does not a werewolf make. Post-CGI they just look silly, as the ones populating the Underworld films are eight feet tall bodybuilders with elongated snouts. The only two films to do the creature justice was the aforementioned Howling which introduced air bladders into the transformation process, so that the body of the actor changing into a wolf could actually distort itself. And a honorable mention goes to the beloved Howling III because a.) it’s set in Australia, and b.) we learn that werewolves are actually marsupials.
Wolfcop starts with the geniusly named titular cop, Sgt. Lou Garou (Leo Fafard), waking up to an alarm cop, pulling his pants on with a naked hooker lying in bed next to him, finishing off a beer, and puking out his squad car as he hurriedly (and hungover/drunkenly) drives to work. This, along with the askew camera he’s shot in, tell you all you need to know about the character in under two minutes with no dialogue. I can’t tell you how happy I am about someone (director Lowell Dean) understanding how film should work.
Playing to the werewolf’s strengths, Wolfcop’s victims (all thugs) are shown after they meet their fate; ripped to shreds. Lou’s transformations are done with jump cuts and bloody/hairy props in a way that would make Eisenstein proud. And you originally don’t see Lou’s body after he transforms; just bits and pieces to create a convincing illusion.
Wolfcop moves at a fast clip, as films that require mind-boggling suspension of disbelief should. No one wonders why Lou is allowed to be the town’s brazenly drunk cop, or why he’s suddenly fighting crime as a werewolf. Keeping with the film’s (absurd) reality, Tina (Amy Matysio), the town’s wonder-cop to Lou’s dummy cop, does question Lou on why he’s suddenly working so hard. Everyone else recognizes him as a werewolf, and only the criminals bat an eye.
Granted, Lou is wearing his police uniform after he transforms, so maybe everyone’s reading his badge. A styling that coyly bypasses perhaps the greatest hindrance to movie werewolves in the past, getting their fur to look believable. It’s tougher than it would seem (just look at how crap most CGI werewolves look), so having Lou in uniform keeps the most iconic werewolf parts visible (the head and claws) while covering up all the silly bits.
Except for the first transformation, when we see Lou’s penis change first. Gratuitous, yes, but the movie does start with a topless hooker, so this is technically just equality in action. And speaking of “action,” Wolfcop marks the second time I’ve seen a film with werewolf sex in it. A disturbing trend if the numerous hits my site gets looking for it is any indication.
“Man, I think we should lay low there’s a guy running around with no face. Like you clearly ripped his whole face right off.”
The plot involves a trio of shape-shifters who must periodically drink werewolf blood to stay alive. For 200 years they’ve been cursing an unlucky citizen and then sacrificing them during the solar eclipse. Until they make the mistake of choosing Lou, who’s stronger than their past victims. (Running at barely 80 minutes in length, there’s no attempt to explain why Lou was a bad choice, or what makes him so strong, beyond the guess of, “maybe it’s the booze.”)
Frankly, the only area where Wolfcop fails to impress is its soundtrack; which is mainly retro-sounding 80s rock. While it does work within the film, Wolfcop is one of the newer films that tries to sell its soundtrack to horror movie buffs as a “future classic;” a case of reaching too far. It looks to have been a small(er) production, so I can see trying to monetize everything and anything to defray costs, but assigning your film a status it hasn’t had time to earn yet always strikes me the wrong way. As great a movie as Wolfcop is, I doubt anyone will be clamoring for its score the same way they do for those of John Carpenter.
I knew coming into Korea that the culture over here is geared towards education. Education is looked upon very highly, and teachers are treated with the utmost respect. I work at a hogwan; which is basically an after-school center where children focus on their English skills. (They also learn English during their normal school day too. It’d be like sending your child to an after-school center dedicated to teaching them Spanish all year in the States.) But even knowing that, I never imagined it being as complete a departure from the US as it’s turned out to be.
First, writing my name on the whiteboard was completely silly/worthless. In the US this was imperative, at least until the kids learn who you are, otherwise 3/4 of the questions you’d answer would be, “Uh, what’s your name again?” Here, all the students call you “Teacher.” Not “Teacher Tim,” or “Teacher B.,” just “teacher.” It’s a title and a sign of respect here; it’s all you need, you’re a teacher and that’s that. No shame or “oh, you’re a teacher,” looks down, averts their gaze, “I’m sorry about that…”
Next comes the gifts. Nearly every two to three weeks at least one of my students will come in bearing gifts for teacher. First it was with Pepero Day. Pepero Day is sort of a second Valentine’s Day. You celebrate a relationship by gifting someone special to you a pepero. (A pepero being a thin, semi-sweet bread stick often coated with candy. It’s a big business here in Korea, as you’ll see here.)
Pepero Day occurs on November 11th, as numerically it’s 11/11 which looks like two pairs of pepero sticks side-by-side. Supposedly it started when a group of Korean middle-school girls gifted each other pepero sticks with the hopes that each would grow up to be tall, thin, and (one presumes) sweet. (A very Korean sentiment even if the true origins are probably closer to a Lotte boardroom exec meeting trying to think up ways to promote their product Pepero.)
Pepero Day is 11/11, and my first day teaching in Korea was 11/10. Which made for a very confusing second day of work. Why are kids giving me candy sticks? Is this normal behavior?
It turns out that yes, this is normal behavior. As it was soon followed by a giant cookie/sandwich from one of Jeonju’s premiere giant cookie shops. (Seriously, I had just visited the historic Hanok Village across town from me and saw people standing in a line that stretched down the street (in the rain!) to buy one of these monstrosities.)
Another amazing aspect of the respect culture here: I had this cookie sitting on my desk all day, not a single student asked about it. (And by “ask about it” I mean ask me if I either a.) wanted it, or b.) would give it to them.) They were all “hey, that’s a cookie from what’s its place” and it ended there.
Sometimes it’s just little knick-knacks; packages of fruit rollups, etc. Or a giant sponge brick with a heart-shaped inlay.
Today really took the cake though. And by “cake” I mean mini-rolls made out of rice, black beans, and some kind of nut, all held together by a vaguely meaty-smelling covering. I don’t know what said covering is, it doesn’t taste like meat, but it holds the entire thing together. And while it’s definitely tacky to the touch, said substance doesn’t really stick to your fingers. (It leaves less residue than say Chee-Tos would.)
My boss told me that student X’s mother had made some for me; putting two rice rolls on my desk. I told her to thank the mother for me and tell her that I appreciated it. Later that night, at the end of my day, my boss then looked concerned when I left my classroom clutching said snack. “Don’t you want it?,” she wondered.
I explained that I was saving the snack for after dinner, since I hadn’t eaten yet and I’ve been trying to force my body to eat real food instead of banana chips and eggs. My boss laughed and pulled out a bag of the rice rolls. Apparently the “gift” above was just a warm-up for the main course.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the gift and the thought behind it. (After receiving nothing but death threats through all my years of teaching, being appreciated is quite a new sensation.) I just have no clue how I was ever expected to eat them all. My boss explained that since they’re rice-based, they won’t last much longer than a day unless I freeze them. But I have to thaw them out naturally, as the microwave will destroy the magic that is holding them together. So now I’m supplied with finger food for the rest of the month.
A constant reminder that I have the raddest students in the world.