이거 뭐라고 헤요?

Posted in Hogwan Hijinks!, Tales From the Hogwan with tags , , , , on April 27, 2016 by shenanitim

(Translation: What is this called?)


So another week, and another Korean lesson. But a self-taught lesson this time, as last Sunday only my teacher showed up to the class. Leaving one teacher and three students with vastly differing skill levels. (Possibly – the one student is clearly more advanced than me, and I believe I’m more advanced than the other student. But that student’s writing a thesis on bio-technology or something, so he’s busy advancing his career. I’m just trying to avoid having to choose one.) So class was kiboshed and we were instead taken to Deokjin Park to stroll around. Which was strange because while it’s nice to hang out with people (I guess), I didn’t learn anything, review anything, and it all felt like being the 3rd, 4th, or 5th wheel on a date between my teacher and the hagwon owner/program director.

To make matters worse, my teacher (who’s a actual Korean teacher in “real” life) has some sort of school trip this coming weekend. So I’ll be paired up with a different teacher come this Sunday.


Refusing to accept fate’s hand, I’m using this week to continue practicing my 13 or so Korean phrases as well as add a few new ones to the mix. Because I’ll be damned if I’m gonna sit stagnate for two weeks.

Fun fact: my teacher did seem surprised that I have listened to as much K-Pop as I have. Though, really, knowing 2NE1 should be a given the world over, as Crush is amazing, and Boa who, while batting 50/50 on the albums of her’s I’ve heard, is still awesome enough for me not to give up hope.

The Future (Still) Sucks

Posted in Free-Range Tampa, Oldies But Baddies with tags , , , , on April 26, 2016 by shenanitim


So approximately one billion years ago, or May 7th, 2014, whichever is closer, the Venture Compound had an art show called “the Future Sucks.” Clearly confused, they then asked Armzka Productions to participate. After all, Armzka is, at its core, one-half talented art guy and one-half loudmouth blowhard. Case in point – we agreed, and then had to work on an idea. I had none naturally, besides an overriding desire for the past 6 months to create and use a working greenscreen.

After a number of trips to Home Depot, tons of PVC bought, PVC cutters also bought, and a lazy Sunday afternoon spent waiting in line at some linen store packed with geriatrics, we had a workable frame and sufficient green cloth. I think we also bought some floodlights to augment what Leigh already had. And we were set!

For failure. It turns out while you technically can make a greenscreen for around $40 using a limited base of construction knowledge and a lot of trial and error, it’s not going to look that good. Not even good enough for Armzka’s level of “professionalism.” So Leigh ordered a real kit off of Amazon.


While we may not be proud of the process (or, at least,  I’m not), we are stoked with the results! So there it is in all its glory. We also had a television streaming the footage set up in the gallary so that your friends could stand around and laugh while you acted the fool in front of video footage (ripped and stitched together from archive.org) that you couldn’t see. Great times were had by all.

So here the night is, as chronicled by one of our friends as we were too busy running back and forth making sure all the pieces didn’t fall apart.

It’s Spring Again

Posted in Tales From the Hogwan with tags , , , on April 20, 2016 by shenanitim


One of the nicer points about living in South Korea is how scientific everything is. Evolution is talked about in museums with no mention of fundamentalism’s objections. This is most apparent come March-April, when Spring dawns. No running to oversized rodents to scry how much longer Winter will drag on. We have nature for that; enter the cherry blossom.


Spring is officially here when the cherry blossoms start blooming. This happens every year, and every year the people go nuts. The Jeonju Zoo is packed every day and night for weeks. This makes riding my bike tougher (more people crowding the sidewalks), but it’s hard to complain when you have to get off your bike and walk when the above is the landscape you’re seeing.

오늘기분은 이떠신가요?

Posted in Tales From the Hogwan with tags , , , , , on April 17, 2016 by shenanitim

(Translation: How are you today?)

Week three of my quest to learn Korean started off with a bang. Just before we started the day’s lesson, and right after we covered the homework (translating the 9 phrases I’ve learned, which form two dialogues – one about introducing myself (week one) and the other about shopping (week two), as well as writing and saying the alphabet in order) I was stopped and asked the question I’ve heard so many times before:


“Before we start I have to ask, who taught you how to write? Who taught you to write Korean?”

I’ve been collecting compliments concerning my penmenship since college. (I once met a girl in one of my Sociology classes who claimed to only come to class to watch me take notes. According to her, the teacher would say something, she’d start to write, look over and see that I not only had it all written down neatly, but was then drawing a picture of a dog next to it. I can still remember that dog picture. It was good.) But today was the first time I’ve heard that my penmenship is just as good in a different language. I’m not nearly as fast as I am in English (obviously), as each letter in Hangeul has a precise method of writing. (The general orders of operation in writing is such: left to right, top to bottom.)

That was the day’s second quizzical compliment, as I aced the tests. (Though I’d knock points off myself for screwing up the alphabet – I put ㅡ in for ㅇ; mistaking a vowel for a consonant! Can there be a greater crime? But on reflection, I caught that something was amiss as soon as I made it to ㅎ, and went back and fixed it. So I guess technically it’s still correct, since if this was a real class I would’ve fixed it before turning it in.)

This week our theme was General Greetings, a mistake on my part (I usually pick the themes I want to learn) since Koreans don’t use the same sort of small talk we use in English. There’s no general “How’s it going?,” instead they’ll ask “Have you eaten?” Which, upon reading, sounds strange until you factor in that Korea was a country of small, mountain villages for longer than anyone can remember. So there’s a strong sense of community here, which means making sure everyones doing okay. Hence the food inquiry.

Other than that, they’ll generally talk about the weather. A small talk convention that stretches across ALL cultures!

Election Day 2016! (In Korea)

Posted in Tales From the Hogwan with tags , , , on April 13, 2016 by shenanitim


So it’s election day in Korea, which means it’s a national holiday. I spent all week thinking how wonderful it would be if we had that in the US. Imagine if everyone, even the poor, were allowed the chance to vote! Could you imagine? We might eventually end up with some working class politicians, instead of endless reams of displaced European royalty.

But it turns out that the Korean government is probably just trying to shoehorn in more national holidays. Which is yet another thing that I find it tough to disagree with.

What you’re not seeing in the picture are the trucks that have been driving around for weeks with giant screens on the back playing videos of the candidate. Or the supporters standing on the street corners in matching, color-coordinated outfits waving, dancing, and passing out fliers. (Candidate 1 is obviously red, 2 is blue, and 3 is green.)

Take everything you think of when you hear the word “festival,” and mix it with what you already know about elections, and you’re close to how much fun this makes an election cycle. Imagine candidates whose supporters try to outwave each other instead of attacking each other.

And the results are in!


봉투 필요 하 서ㅣ요?

Posted in Tales From the Hogwan with tags , , , , , on April 11, 2016 by shenanitim

(Translation: Do you need a bag?)


No, this is not another blog listing the differences in shopping in Korea vs. in the United States. I apologize if that’s what you were looking for, but I’m sure there’s plenty of other sites out there that’ll be more accomodating.

Two weeks ago I started taking a course to learn Korean. One, one-hour, class a week, with a breakdown of one student and one teacher. So essentially personalized, weekly instruction. After toiling for a year plus with two different learn Korean textbooks, I’ve found the book approach works best with actual instruction. I mean, I can read what it says a word should sound like, but I’ll never know if I’m right without asking an actual Korean. And nothing will deflate your sails faster than constantly being reminded by the Korean teacher at your school that you are, in fact, wrong again.

(Just (half) kidding there, while it is depressing to be constantly wrong, Susan Teacher is super nice about it; as most Koreans are when they see you’re taking the time to learn their language. After so many decades of being taught and told that English is the way to a successful future, it must be nice to see a foreigner take interest in, and put personal sweat equity into, the country where they’re working.)

Though when I asked her for alphabet clarification (my teacher and the handout she gave me both said that P (피읖) comes before T (티읕), when my books were telling me the opposite. So I asked my Korean teacher who affirmed that the books are correct. Then laughed and said her two, maybe three(?) year-old son is also learning Hangeul, the Korean alphabet. So I guess in response to my tag (Are You Smarter Than a South Korean Child?), I guess the answer is – almost.


Some quick takeaways I’ve come to realize in just two weeks:

1.) My teacher is super nice. Seriously, she was giving me high fives on the first day just to, I think, stop me from slapping myself in the head every time I missed an easy question. (To be fair to myself, the slaps were light – a friendly, “Hey stupid,” reminder slap.) As it stands, I’m not sure whose approach is superior, as I stopped forgetting what should’ve been forgettable in the first place. Either it was her lighter hand, not directed at my head, or my forceful, yet lovingly gentle slaps that brought the change on. The world may never know.

2.) I used to get all angry with my kids for never using punctuation in class. I’d wonder, do they not use periods in Korean? What about question marks? It turns out they do, but when you’re beginning to write in a foreign language, as I started this week (Week Two), punctuation is the last thing you think about. You’re so focused on making sure all (in my case) your Hangeul is correct that you forget the little things, like proper punctuation.

Hell, last night when I was practicing transcribing the phrases I not only have to memorize, but be able to write, I was messing up basic Korean words. The same easy phrases and words that have been the only ones I’ve known since living here! So essentially everything goes out the window when you’re learning a foreign language, which has definitely taught me to be more forgiving when working with my students.

3.) There’s seriously nothing more belittling than having another teacher explain to you the necessity of the aforementioned punctuation. First she reminded me (probably again) that I had forgotten either the period or the question mark. And she added that periods let the reader know that that’s where the thought ends. My God, I’m being lectured on something I’ve lectured others on! What have I become? Where did my life go off the rails?

Even on the homework I was practicing last night, I still found myself overlooking the punctuation. At least until I was rereading my work and thought, oh crap, I’d better fix that before teacher sees…

Hogwan Unfunnies

Posted in Hogwan Hijinks!, Tales From the Hogwan with tags , , , , , on April 3, 2016 by shenanitim

“Teacher, why is [student’s name removed to protect the guilty] laughing?”

“I don’t know, [maybe] because she felt like laughing? Or maybe because she thought of something funny? You can ask her – after class.”

I teach English kids, I don’t read minds.

Later, that same class period:

“Teacher, I don’t know what you said, it was too fast, but it sounded cool.”

Uh, thanks I guess? That might be the nicest I’ve ever been told that I’m screwing up my job royally. Don’t worry kids, I’m gonna teach you English at the speed of light! That way you’ll never understand anything! Pace yourself ShenaniTims, pace yourself.

That’s, of course, a couple days of hindsight talking. Naturally my comeback sounded a little something like this:

“Funny thing is, [blahblahblah], I don’t know what I said either! I hardly ever know!”

Why Everyone Needs Artistic Friends

Posted in Hogwan Hijinks!, Tales From the Hogwan with tags , , , , , , on March 29, 2016 by shenanitim

Recently I had a friend offer to draw portraits of whoever wanted one on the cheap. Something about expanding one’s artistic horizons or something. Pushing oneself outside of one’s comfort zone. $5 for black and white, $10 for color.

I’m nothing if not an unrepentant egoist. So naturally I was down before she placed the offer on her wall. My original idea was to not give any instructions when I was asked what I wanted. Since what I really wanted was a completely honest interpretation of me by someone who doesn’t know me that well. Only knows me through the random bits of Facebook knowledge one might pick up while randoming scanning. Unfortunately, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that that answer would lead to something typical.

So instead I provided two extremes. One, the aforementioned desire to have an interpretation of me unhindered by actual “facts.” Go notes, you’re the artist! Followed immediately with a hyper-detailed request: me lounging in a bathtub full of coins a la Scrooge McDuck. Not detailed enough for you? I noted that I would be weating a suit while lounging, and that the tub should be clawfooted. It seems short summing it up in hindsight, but believe me, the actual request had 2-3 lines dedicated to the tub alone.


Easily the best $5 investment I’ve ever made. And further proof that everyone should have artistic friends; or at least acquaintances.

Mr. Friend Says

Posted in Hogwan Hijinks!, Tales From the Hogwan with tags , , , , , on March 24, 2016 by shenanitim


Mr. Friend Says that Watermelon Milk is completely legit, even if it sounds disgusting.

I feel like Hercules must’ve felt after he did whatever made him famous. Fight stop-motion skeletons? Or was that Jason and the Argonauts? Or was he just the Greeks’ version of Jesus? The mortal son of the almighty God?

Who knows, who cares? Watermelon milk is the answer to everyone’s prayers; regardless of denomination!

And Here’s the Follow-Up to the Previous Post

Posted in Hogwan Hijinks!, Tales From the Hogwan with tags , , on March 12, 2016 by shenanitim

So my first day with the new class involved one girl who wanted to eat Santa. But these new classes aren’t all cannibalism and sunshine. No, there’s some real dangers here.

Screen Shot 2016-02-07 at 5.18.55 PM copy

Many of the students I had had prior to this particular grouping were shocked to discover that “Tim Teacher” can’t do everything. Even after I explained that English doesn’t have the “ㅡ” sound at all. A response akin to telling little kids in the US that Santa isn’t real. Total shock and heartbreak.

I did eventually manage to pronounce the unpronounceable “ㅡ” though. Even if it took a lot of time and practice on my part. Oh, the sacrifices we make for work. A sacrifice that came in the form of practicing before each class privately with the student while everyone else was busy studying. While it might have cost her some study time, I like to think she ultimately appreciated the effort.


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