Archive for Tales From the Hogwan

새해복 많이 받으세요

Posted in Hogwan Hijinks!, Tales From the Hogwan with tags , , , , , , , , on February 13, 2018 by shenanitim

Translation: Happy New Years.

Sometimes I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to make a full transition to understanding Korean. Tonight was another trial where my Western-ness scuttled all my training.

So there’s a nice cashier at the convenience store where I buy cider after work. (The only diet soda sold in Korea is Diet Coke. When you tire of soda (and/or Coke), you’re then stuck with the one cider with no sugar added.) The lady’s super nice, and tries her best to teach me useful Korean phrases. (Or remind me of useful Korean phrases that I should know already, like good-bye.) Tonight as I left, she told me “새해복 많이 받으세요;” an expression I technically already knew.

The problem is I learned, and used, said expression around the Western New Year (January 1st). So I was expecting her to say something mentioning the Solar New Year (a/k/a Chinese New Years, or 설날)). I completely forgot that to most Koreans, the Solar New Years is the actual New Years.

So I asked her to repeat it, she did slowly for me, and them it all clicked. Fuck, I thought, I actually knew that one. And I totally blew my chances of impressing her by knowing something of note!

Well, I guess there’s always next year..


항상 공부하고 있어요

Posted in Hogwan Hijinks!, Tales From the Hogwan with tags , , , , , on February 10, 2018 by shenanitim

Translation: I’m always studying.

I haven’t uploaded anything in forever, but it’s been a very hectic past few months. Summer vacations, suicides, Korean teachers coming and going, with me standing in the middle. Despite all of this, I have still been studying everyday, and recently I started drinking coffee for the sole purpose of studying more.

See, I’ve found that I love buying Korean grammar books to practice with. Unfortunately, I’ve also found that my apartment isn’t conducive to studying. Too many distractions waiting to distract me. What’s an idiot to do? Start drinking coffee of course! A small, enclosed environment, surrounded by Koreans speaking Korean, and nothing but a grammar book to distract me. And it’s been working beautifully.

This week I returned to 스노잉 (Snowing), which has a, you guessed it, snowing theme. Right down to its 스노잉화이트 (Snowing White Latte) which looks snowy. (There’s a cold one that looks cool too, but it’s much too cold right now to dare risk it.)

팀 선생님 시가 괴수입니다

Posted in Hogwan Hijinks!, Oldies But Baddies, Tales From the Hogwan with tags , , , , , , , , on October 1, 2017 by shenanitim

Translation: Tim Teacher is a kaiju.

File this classic under: First year teaching ESL in Korea (October 2nd, 2015).

It’s not often that I don’t have an answer in class. Today was one such day.

“Tim Teacher is tall.”

While that statement is grammatically correct, and also correct within the confines of said class, in any other situation it is completely wrong.

How do you break it to a 9 year old that while I am taller than him, I’m still not actually “tall?”

Hogwan Unfunnies: And I’m an Adult!

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

Yesterday, one of the lines the kids had to read from the book said, “He cuts the cheese on a platic board.”

It took ALL my self-control to keep from falling on the floor laughing.

I mean, I laughed (who wouldn’t?), but I managed to contain it to giggles and not full-on, uncontrollable, tears streaming from my eyes, prepubescent girl giggles. Probably the closest I’ve come to appearing human in the classroom.

Celebrity Love Skunk

Posted in Hogwan Hijinks!, Tales From the Hogwan with tags , , , , on May 21, 2016 by shenanitim

Success! Or even more success, if that’s even possible! Apparently Hurrican Jia is doing me proud; even when in someone else’s class.

Hurricane’s class was learning to use “over” as a preposition (“the pencil is over there”). But I had used it previously in class (probably their first introduction to it) as a phrase (“okay guys, class is over“).

So now Hurricane’s waging a war with the teacher over who’s correct; whether “over” means “finished” or as an indicator of a place. I almost feel sorry for the teacher here, as I named her “Hurricane” for a reason. This is a fight the new guy’s not going to win. While Jia might be domesticating slightly (becoming more “lady-like”), her world is still very black-and-white. And I’m still Tim Teacher. The sun rises and sets with me as far as these kids are concerned; a devotion that I can’t even fathom.

Speaking of unfathomables, why the new guy didn’t just tell them that over has two different uses is also beyond me. I do it all the time – “It means both. You can use it both ways. I know, I know, it’s confusing. That’s why English is so hard to learn, and why you’re so smart.”

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!”

The Easiest Way to Say “Happy Anniversary!” In Korean Is With Monthly Celebrations

Posted in Hogwan Hijinks! with tags , , , , on January 29, 2015 by shenanitim

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.