Friday, December 31, 2010

즐거운 성탄절 보내시고 새해 복 많이 받으세요 (jeulgeoun seongtanjeol bonaesigo saehae bok manhi bateusaeyo)

Here's how that sounds:

Here's what it means: Happy New Year!

Resolutions. I have them.

1. Get fit. I don't care if I lose 10 pounds or 50, or none at all, but I want to be able to take a flight of stairs without getting winded. I want to fit into a pair of nice trousers without having a huge roll over the sides. I want to be rid of this "back cleavage".
Steps to take: Don't take the elevator unless absolutely necessary. Try that Hapkido place in Itaewon. Get a bicycle in the spring and bike to work if possible, or at least get off a bus stop early and walk the rest of the way. Do try hiking again, at my own pace. Get the yoga mat out more and practice those leg lifts and such. Do Aikido stretches daily.

2. Revise the 2009 NaNoWriMo novel. It's not great literature, but there are niche publishers out there who will take it-- though it needs to be polished within an inch of its life first.
Steps to take: Get feedback from people I trust and respect as writers. Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.

3. Write something new. Fanfic, novel, short stories, poetry, whatever. Do it, and do it more often. I used to fill up notebooks in high school with the crap I wrote. I need to do that now, and not worry so much about the final product.
Steps to take: Just write.

4. Draw every day. I've been slipping on this in the past couple of years. Time to buckle down and change that.
Steps to take: Just draw. Start with that New Year's picture.

5. Be honest with myself. I'm not going to uphold all, maybe not any of these goals, 100%. But I need to try. I also need to get better at recognizing when I'm being ridiculous, selfish, unreasonable, and contrary, and just knock that nonsense off.
Steps to take: When upset or angry, take a moment to step away from the situation. Go to the bathroom. Breathe. Stop thinking for a little bit. Then, REALLY think.

6. Manage my money better.
Steps to take: Write up a reasonable budget, and really stick to it. Write down every expense, even those little trips to the convenience store in the morning for breakfast on the run and purchases on iTunes. Decide what can be reduced, what can be cut out entirely. Stay on top of paying off debts. Start putting more money into savings.

7. Be a better teacher.
Steps to take: Keep reading the articles. Implement new techniques. Find out what works, what doesn't, and only keep the stuff that works. GET ORGANIZED. Get more sleep. Find non-candy prizes to reward students and start using a points system instead of instant gratification. Don't let them smell fear, don't let them see frustration.

8. Learn Korean.
Steps to take: Find a place to take lessons. Start practicing things like numbers and such from the books I already have. Memorize one new Korean word or phrase per day, and use it in an actual conversation with a Korean person. Learn more useful phrases, like how to give directions to a cab driver, and how to order a pizza, and what to say if a kid is doing something entirely inappropriate in class and I can't call in my co-teacher for backup.

9. Read more. The mind atrophies without stimulation. Audiobooks are nice, but they're not reading.
Steps to take: Find out if the English-language library has anything worth checking out. Do hang around What the Book more. See about finding free or cheap Kindle books and putting them on the iPod (since I have a free Kindle app now). Read or re-read the books I already have on hand. They're THERE, for goodness sake, READ THEM!

10. Start comicking again. It doesn't matter what, just as long as it's comics.
Steps to take: Doodle comics about crazy life in Korea, re-work the FTLY storyline, do that ESPers comic with Geoffrey Corsier, or just do one-shots. Anything. And then post them online by whatever means available.

That should do me for now. Happy New Year, everyone, and I hope the Year of the Rabbit treats all of you gently and with great prosperity!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A mid-week post? Surely not!

It is, in fact, a Wednesday post. And don't call me Shirley. (RIP, Mister Nielsen.)

No pictures this time, sorry. Just figured since I wasn't ridiculously tired, I'd put something up here for you folks back home to read.

Christmas is coming up fast. We just passed Solstice, and it's a gorgeous full moon right now. Korea got a pile of snow last week, but it melted in the oddly warm temperatures following it. As a born and bred MinneSNOWtan, it feels odd to be this deep in December with no snow on the ground. The temperatures have been hovering mostly in the 20-40 F degree range (I still haven't converted to Celsius, because I'm a stubborn, arrogant American like that). I can sometimes get away with my thick hoodie and a scarf, which is nice. The lack of ten bazillion layers of winter gear is refreshing. I am starting to wonder why, exactly, I choose to continue living in Minnesota? Oh, right. All my people are there.

Which brings me to my holiday rant. Or, ramble. Or whatever. I'm bored and I just ran out of Dresden Files audiobooks to listen to (except for Side Jobs, but I'm limiting myself to one short story a day, to make them last awhile).

I never really got into the holiday spirit once I hit adulthood. I have a love/hate relationship with Christmas shopping. I find the perfect gifts for some people, sometimes people I'm not even particularly close to, but then I hem and haw forever over what I should get everyone else, like my family members and my nearest and dearest friends. Or, I'm broke, and wind up drawing homemade cards with "commission vouchers" for free custom art (which always feel like a cop out, because nobody ever cashes them in). Either way, I always feel guilty about it, and I wonder if that's just part of my Catholic upbringing or if I really am just that lousy of a gift-giver.

And now I have friends who have kids. Lots of friends with kids. And I remember when I was a kid, and the coolest thing ever was getting a present in the mail from someone I might not even remember very well. And I always wanted to be that mysterious, benevolent Santa figure in some kid's life. Again, lack of funding has thwarted this dream.

But this year, I have a job. A job that pays way more than any other job I've ever had. Unfortunately, I'm in Korea, so shipping gifts is not only expensive, but takes forever. And I was a putz and put off Christmas shopping until, like, THIS WEEK. So, guess what, kids? You get to celebrate Lunar New Year instead! I'll be shipping a box home in January, with instructions and individually-wrapped gifts for Chris to toss in the mail for me.

Which means I'd like ALL of my friends who have kids (and if you're reading this, and you have kids, you probably count) to email me their mailing addresses, kids' ages, clothing sizes, favorite colors, favorite animals, hobbies, and whatever else might be helpful. I'm playing overseas Lunar New Year Santa this year, and darn it, I want to do it right!

I guess there was a point in there after all. Awesome.

That's it for me, then. Going to hit the hay early tonight. If anything interesting happens, I'll be sure to write a new post sometime during the next month or so.



Sunday, December 12, 2010

I promised pictures. Here you go.

I even figured out how to upload videos onto Youtube. Apparently all I had to do was switch my location setting from South Korea to "Worldwide". Clever.

So. There's my unscripted, unedited apartment tour for your viewing pleasure.

Right. Moving on.

I got new boots in Itaewon awhile back, but I don't think I posted any pictures of them. Here they are. They're that adorably clunky style that is so popular right now, even though they're all Ugg Boots knock-offs. These are faux fur and moleskin, I'm pretty sure, so they're not waterproof or as well made as proper Ugg Boots, but they're warm enough, they fit me, and they look good with most of my clothes. Best of all, they were cheap.

It does snow here in Korea, though not as much as Minnesota by a long shot. We got a light dusting the other day, and if I hadn't been so sick with this stupid yo-yo of a cold, I might have enjoyed it more. As it was, I did have the presence of mind to take a few pics with my iPod.

Here's my desk at home for those of you curious as to how my workstation looks:

I'm also taking pictures of all of the teachers and staff at Uiwang EPC for my not-so-secret Christmas project. I'll post the pictures up here, maybe next time, but I still have a few elusive people to hunt down while I have my iPod handy. I'm going to be drawing each of them in a cartoony style. I won't be using this one here, but as you can see, some of my coworkers were less excited about this project than others:

Classes have been going well. After the fiasco with the text books for the Book Club classes, the problem was corrected, and now I have a fairly predictable and formulaic syllabus to work from with our current books. It makes my job easier, the students are happier, and we're not getting any more angry phone calls from parents (at least not about the material). I feel like less of a failure, and the stress is no longer making me want to curl into a ball and die. Everyone wins.

This weekend, I volunteered to work for an extra half hour or so with a Saturday program that the library in our building was doing for Christmas. I wasn't sure exactly what I was supposed to be doing at first. In typical Korean fashion, they kept changing the plan right up until the last minute. I was a little worried and frazzled about it, but when I got there, things went pretty smoothly.

Hea Young from the library, a really nice lady who may be a new friend, gave me some options for what I could do. I agreed to lead the 30-40 some families in a few rounds of Jingle Bells (with printed lyric sheets to share), talk a little about American-style Christmas and my own experiences with the holiday, and then to hang around to help everyone write Christmas Wish cards which they would then hang on the Christmas tree in the lobby. I mostly just mingled, talking to the kids and their parents, asking them what their wishes were for Christmas and so on. Only one person actually asked for my advice on spelling or grammar, though that was supposedly what I was there for (though I wouldn't be surprised if nobody had been told this).

After card-making, Hea Young asked if I wanted to make a craft, and I said sure. She gave me a little plastic snowman to decorate with markers, and I sat right down at the table with a bunch of mystified and amused kids and started coloring my snowman with great care. I had some fun conversations with the kids as we worked, and then we had our snowmen shrunk down to the size of cell phone charms in a toaster oven. In fact, they WERE cell phone charms. Perfect for my brand-new Korean cell phone. (If you want the number, btw, you can email me or contact me on the Facebook and I'll send it to you privately.)

It was hardly like working at all. I had a lot of fun, and for the first time in many years, I was really feeling the Christmas spirit. This was a community of families all having fun together and enjoying a holiday through song and art. It was a good feeling. Even as someone who doesn't necessarily identify as Christian anymore, I felt honored to be part of that.

See? I even put on the antler headband.

Our wonderful Cindy is getting married next Saturday, and all of the teachers have been invited to the wedding. If I'm able to go, I will be sure to take some pictures (with Cindy's permission, of course) to share with all of you. I've never seen a Korean wedding before! I've heard they're dreadfully boring, but I think that could describe most Western weddings I've seen, too (with a few notable exceptions). Anyway, I hope I can go, if only to show my support to Cindy who has been so helpful to me and the other foreign teachers. She was the one who first met us when we arrived in Korea, after all, and took us on our first Lotte Mart run, got us our cell phones, bus cards, etc.

I think that's really all there is to report. I could get into the minutiae of lesson planning, classroom stories, etc, but nothing is really standing out right now. Things are getting better, anyway. Even my most difficult classes are becoming more manageable as I gain experience as a teacher, and as my students learn to respect and understand my expectations of them. Someday, I'll sit down and write up some of my funniest and most horrifying moments in the classroom, but not today.

I hope the pictures and video were satisfactory. I promise to dust off the good camera for the wedding, and if I do any other proper getting-out-of-the-apartment on the weekends, but that's what I've got for now. Until next time!

Annyoung hi keseyo,