it must be the start of art season in the united states. why else would i have dreamt last night that i performed? conrad would argue that i did perform, i am sure. he likes to argue things that cannot be disputed one way or the other. after all, i was not around to verify that i did not perform, only to awake in my bed later on. who is to say i didnt take a trip back home last night? perhaps i hit a wormhole. perhaps i didnt take a trip at all, and numerous people came to seoul, just to see me perform. i cant believe those cunts havent contacted me since. i have plenty of reason to be happy here with friends like those.
where was it? i dont know. i know i had a coatrack. i know i had a coatrack and a small television screen, similar, but not the very ones, that i see numerous koreans using on the subway to watch television programs--do i know they are television programs?. i will believe they are. believing they are watching television programs, i had a screen, similar, but not the very ones, koreans use on the subway to watch television programs. it was affixed to my coatrack. the venue's coatrack. the coatrack was made of wood, like the one on leawood. a tripod, only two of the tripod's legs were separate pieces of wood, the main beam--mast?--was abused by a craftsman to make it bend, or perhaps they cut and sanded the main beam, doesnt matter, to create one unified piece of wood which served at one and the same time as the main beam--mast?--and the third leg of the tripod. the small television screen, similar, as we know by now, to the ones koreans use on the subway to watch television programs, was affixed to the coatrack, above the coathooks. a digital INRI. but why not plasma? after all, if it was korea, LG and numerous other companies surely (the confidence) have plasma television screens. but that is not what i want to go on about.
my set list, as i refer to it, wishing i was a musician, was nailed below the coathooks. looking back on it, if i was to perform this performance, should i ever have really performed it, again, i would switch where the television screen--no, not again--and the set list as a nod to my catholic roots. but since i may have very well performed in seoul, i am glad the, ahem, television screen was placed on top, merging my catholic upbringing with a nod to paik nam june's multi-media sculptures.
last night i was taken out by my korean male co-workers. only 1 speaks any english, and his english is limited. all day i have been wondering what the plan is. they can't tell me. at 4:30, when i leave, i can't find any of the male teachers. finally, one tells me to sit on a bench, another says, 'go to cigarette haus-uh' which is the male teacher's lounge. another stops me at points me somewhere else. its very comical to be the reason for a welcoming party and see disorganization and have no idea where you are supposed to be. eventually they all come running down in waves of two or three, they are all talking, i am sitting on a bench. one of them pulls up, 'KE-bin! get in!'.
there are about 14 of us at a chinese restaurant, and we manage to eat a ton of food (ike 6 courses) in about an hour. before we/they ordered they kept trying to ask me what i like and what i wanted to drink. had no idea how to communicate to them i am not picky. korea, from what i understand, has made it impossible to continue the vegetarian, towards veganism*, path i was on.
'words words words Kevin' 'words words words Thurston' 'words Kevin words Thurston' 'uh...what do we call you?'
at one point one of the korean teachers (hangul teachers) starts speaking very passionately, addressing the entire table. about 6 people get very engaged in this conversation. i am, of course, half-worried that i am the subject matter (the egotistical nature of paranoia), but that eventually subsides. the conversation, however, continues. and it continues. for 15 minutes i have no idea what is being said, but it is either: very important or another dull debate. i giggled as i taught one of the grades a few idioms this week, one of them being 'talk shop' and to explain it i used the sentence: 'She hates it when her husband's co-workers come over, all they do is sit around and talk shop.' i broke it down to the key word of 'co-workers' to point to the specialized topic of conversation that makes one feel outside. at this point i am analyzing, why did i pick 'her husband'? am i sexist? and now am i in the classic position of the (male) artist who is feminized? i continue to giggle as there is no way i can explain my giggling, just as they couldn't explain even the basics of their conversation to me. i'm sure i could've at least gotten the topic from the one teacher who speaks limited english. he is a p.e. teacher (i like that they dont say gym teacher). finally, the hangul teacher who started the entire conversation says, 'give me cigarette!', i said out loud, but only for my benefit and the p.e. teacher's, 'that's the first thing i've understood in 15 minutes.' it quickly gets translated and we all laugh.
after dinner we kind of all just leave, but in a group. similiar to when we left school for the restaurant. i'm not sure if we are done for the evening or what. some people are leaving leaving. i begin to drift away. 'KEVIN! billiard bah!'
i have never played billiards, only 'pocket pool'. i am not good at this game. i got better as the night went along, but it was another opportunity for me to play 'smiling like a foreigner'. billiards is a big game amongst my co-workers. they are putting english on the ball, fade right, fade left, draws, all of it. i am getting taught by the p.e. teacher. 'what do you call spin on the ball?' 'uh, i'm sorry' 'okay, baseball. fastball (act out the trajectory), curveball (act out the trajectory).' 'ah, in korean?' 'sure' '(word is forgotten), but why don't we call it engish?' i smile. so does he. i am getting the hang of it. its a good game. the difference is in pool you only plan 4 shots ahead, but shoot directly for 1 ball. here you need to hit two balls with the cue ball each time you hit it to get a point. you need to plan 2 things per 1 shot.
one of the teachers is an art teacher. he told me earlier this week, 'Action painter!'. in between shots i ask him, 'action painter?' 'do you have photos, pictures of your work?' 'action painter, no photo-realism' 'i know, do you have picture of your paintings?' 'ah....' 'okay you paint (make gesture) it goes on a wall (gesture post-painting it hangs) then (pull out camera) picture of painting' 'ah (gestures for the p.e. teacher)' (to p.e. teacher) 'okay, i know he is an action painter. i want to know is if he has photographs (pulls out camera) photographs of his paintings (re-inacts the earlier gesutres)' 'sorry, i don't understand' i'm thinking about beckett. the layers he wrote about from thought>hand>pen>page>reformatted and published>page>to eye> to brain. that all assumes a common language. i am asking a man to ask another man on my behalf if the original man has photographs of his paintings. that is rather complex.
we switch tables. now i am playing with the art teacher who is a hoot. each time it is my turn, he helps me map it out, and he yells. 'KEVIN! VERY LIGHT! (pointing the trajectory cushion by cushion) BING-BING-BING-POW!' i am nearly on the floor, so are the other teachers. i'm losing about 19-2. he only needs one more point. 'KEVIN! ONE MORE POINT, WINNER!' he raises his arms in exclamation, puts a hole in the ceiling with the cue. all of us spit up pineapple soda, choke on our cigarettes, etc.
the hour ends, we all leave, i get driven home. in silence.
* i have been thinking one of things that allows veganism in the us, canada and the uk are they incredibly cheap prices we pay for imported foods.
i have been getting lots of gifts. drinking too much every other night, i am taking tonight off and making tea with the ginseng. i decided to buy the strangest noodles i could find today in the grocery store. they were 'italian spaghetti'. it came with corn. the tomato sauce was soy based. i may make an artists book with this absurd amount of seaweed.
today i spent alot of time talking with some friends back home (thanks, skype). and have been having difficulties sleeping, so i had a video chat a few days ago with my mom. and have been having difficulties sleeping, so i had a video chat a few days ago with my mom at 515am. it was nice to talk to people that i know well. i miss them. there are alot of good people here too. friday i met park again for dinner, then we went to his house to study. first i met him at his office. i walked out of the subway station and took guesses at who looked nice. then i would walk up to them. then i would say hello (in korean). then i would hold out park's business card. 'we're chinese, sorry.' then i would walk up to them. then i would say hello (in korean). 'are you looking for this man?' it sounded sinister. i am glad i dont carry weapons. 'yes' 'he is in that building over there, on the 11th floor' 'thanks'
view from park jin-woo's office
at his home his wife was kind, but knew no english, so i just kept saying thank you (in korean) over. and over. and over. i felt like a foreigner. his children, after 15 minutes, came out to look at me. they just looked at me. after 15 minutes. they didn't have an expression on their face. i think i sounded like a hairy fool mis-pronouncing basic korean.
i am the kind foreigner. i know. i have been told. teachers at school say this to each other in korean. i get a report from one of my co-teachers. i thought of my friend iwan who had some limited english when i first met him. everyone thought he was very nice. he would smile and be kind. i am the same way. i am also polite to women. there is a small walkway in the teacher's office that two people cannot go use at the same time. i deferred to one of the teachers. she and one of my co-teachers looked at each other and laughed after.
'should i have barreled her over?' 'no, you are just very polite. it was nice of you'
i have a project that i started when i was in the united states of america. it is not finished. it was put on hold when i had to get a new computer and the software i use wouldnt transfer. i dont like the linux programs, largely because i am not comfortable with them. im already learning a foreign, very foreign language. that is enough. however i will eventually get paid. these are some of the signs i will use.
i brought the following books to read: diderot 'jacques the fatalist' beckett 'the complete short prose' wittgenstein 'philosophical investigations' douglas 'purity and danger' williams 'pictures from brueghel' derrida 'glas' lendler 'crisis and political beliefs' dostoyevsky 'the idiot' dostoyevsky 'the devils' sachs 'the man who mistook his wife for a hat' acker 'great expectations' brathwaite 'trench town rock' fitterman 'metropolis 16-29'
Mike needed some things at the store. Mike and Ann went shopping together. They pushed the cart. They just looked at the yellow bananas, the green peas, and the orange carrots. They saw candy and chocolate. Mike didn't put anything in the cart.
They walked up and down every aisle, and their shopping cart was still empty. They were getting very tired.
Ann said, "You needed something at the store, didn't you?' "Yes, I did," said Mike. "But I can't remember anything. It wasn't peas or carrots. I just cannot remember!"
"Next time, make a shopping list and be a wise shopper," said Ann. "You can write everything down. Then you won't forget it."
"That's it!" said Mike. "Thank you, Ann. Now I remember! I need some paper and pencils for a shopping list."
i met a guy to talk about hangul for a bit, then i came home. dropped off my bags, putzed around on the computer for a bit (as i seem to do quite often these days. actually, i'm always putzing around on the computer--if i dont check my email for a few hours, im confused), then decided to go to a bar, but not that bar, have a beer and look over my hangul.
i went to rolling stone, it was pretty cool inside. nothing crazy, but not a dive either. korean dive bars generally only seem to have tables, and i like sitting at a bar, especially if it is just me. even if i have work to do.
at the bar, the bartender and the person sitting next to me start looking at what i am reading and before you know it, it is interview the westerner friday's at rolling stone.
the bar itself is shaped like |_____|. two guys one the left hand | send me a shot. and they are talking to me, and billy (all koreans who sell me alcohol are named billy?) keeps apologizing that he cant say more to me, tho he is clearly friendly. the other bartender is tall and beautiful, and kinda like a statue. nice, but doesnt say a word. the two guys who send me a shot, one is older, in a suit, the other is mid-30s with 'cocky korean hair'. what does that mean? if you were here i could point it out to you. you know how certain people in the states look like assholes/cocky version? similar idea. but, they both keep talking to me, so i slide over to where they are sitting.
'bring that shot glass.'
now, when i arrived i did a shot of jack and got a beer, again anticipating a quiet night of self-improvement.
the cockrean is kinda leaning into me a bit, slightly aggressive, but his older friend is super nice. and we are up to 5 shots or so of absolut. warm. warm absolut. the cockrean asks 'where are you here?' and 'why dont you have a name card?' (calling cards/business cards are very popular. not since the gays of baltimore have i seen people without any need for a business card carrying business cards.) the first time he asked about seoul i gave an honest answer (i keep getting asked that question, each time my answer fills out more*). by the tenth time i dont know what to say. his friend looks at me with 'i'm sorry' but it doesn't seem to deter his friend, even when he looks at his friend and puts his hand on his arm to say 'stop, please'. there is also a korean girl sitting on the main side of the bar. he keeps saying things to her in korean, and then motions at me. i know it is rude.
im nervous/anxious, not necessarily worried. i would be if i were in itaewon**.
eventually, a man named vick comes over. im sitting at the corner of the bar, and vick redirects my focus back to the main bar as that is the side he is standing on. he's nice too. actually, most people are very nice, or i am invisible. it breaks down along generational lines. generally the younger, as they have had more english, want to talk. except in pure public (like the subway) but that's the same everywhere ive been.
eventually the cockrean and the older guy leave. not before a few more shots of absolut. warm. warm absolut. the cockrean shakes my hand and hopes to see me around, but i dont really believe him. the older guy shakes my hand, again with apology in his eyes.
now that they are gone, i go sit with vick. he's on my right, the korean girl is on my left. rose, the korean girl, vick, and i talk about the cockrean. the female bartender is over with us too. rose proceeds to tell me that the entire time the cockrean was calling the beautiful bartender a whore and that she was ugly, etc. and, korea being korea***, he is a man in a bar, a paying customer too, so he is allowed. beyond that he was telling rose to suck my dick, etc.
vick and i have a skyline
vick says, 'there are two types of people in this world. the good and the not so good.'
'and major assholes,' i say, extending my arms wide for emphasis. we all laugh. rose translates for the bartender, she covers her mouth as she laughs.
'okay, there are three types of people in the world. the good, the not so good, and the major assholes. you owe me one.'
so i buy vick a beer, but he protests, but i buy vick a beer.
rose's friends show up at the bar. they are alumni from the school i teach at. rose is worried, she ditched these two and said she wasnt going out. its worse. one of them is celebrating a birthday. rose comes over, after i meet her friends.
'okay, so im really sorry about this, but since i told them i couldnt come out earlier, i told them that you are in from vancouver--i spent a year in vancouver--and that i didnt know you were coming into town, and--'
'got it. vancouver. no problem, my old friend rose.'
vick challenges me to darts, i wish he challenged me a few hours sooner, but i manage to win. rose, billy, the other bartender, and i think one other person? are playing a drinking game involving cards. its basically rock-scissors-paper (which is a big business in korea, pretty much every dispute can be settled that way) and whoever wins gets to draw the first card, and each person goes clockwise from there. i already forgot what the yell, and i mean yell, in korean, before they throw down their rock-scissors-paper. whomever has the lowest card loses. then drink. they drink a drink. they drink a drink of cass (beer), budweiser, and johnny walker black mixed together with a shot of fake lemon juice mixed in for good measure.
billy explains the card game, the camera has been drinking too
'people in korea drink too much,' says vick. he's been there before i got there.
'that looks disgusting,' i say.
'its not bad,' says rose.
they play a few more rounds. each time billy wins he yells, 'vinner!'
'do you want to play?'
'no, but i'd have a shot of johnny black'
'no, must play'
they play a few more rounds. each time closer to vomiting. rose loses again. she pays 5000 to not drink.
'thought it tastes good?'
eventually, i play. i only have to drink twice. the game fizzles out. the entire time vick and i are drinking beers too. we have some beef jerky. korea has made being a vegetarian impossible. especially as they dont get the concept and push food on you all at once. then we have some squid. the squid is awesome. and its bar food. not quite dried, which i have had, but not like straight from the oven either. hard to explain.
it is a time of rapid expansion for the skyline
vick and rose tell me they have to go to work and school. 8am and 9am respectively.
'what time is it?'
'okay, im going'
im the only one who leaves.
*basically, i'm not getting into it now, as i have answered that question for a week. when i am talking about why i am in seoul--not 1 syllable, sorry to report--it seems more honest and forthcoming. writing doesn't allow for such transparency, i don't measure my words, and you cant edit speech like you can writing.
**itaewon is where the US army base is, and while you can get a custom-tailored suit and a whore for under 200 dollars, sometimes koreans can get angry at you. especially as the night goes on. i mean, like, what's the deal? its just flesh and textiles.
***i hope that isn't getting too far ahead of myself.
i am making an activity for this week called 'who am i?' its pretty straight-forward, i project a photo on the screen, and one student, facing the class, can't see it. they then ask questions in english 'am i alive?' etc and there classmates answer 'yes' or 'no'. one of the suggested people is You Jae-Seok. so i started watching his videos on youtube. i think he's quite funny.
tonight i met a korean man for coffee. i posted an ad to trade language. hangul--the korean alphabet--is completely phonetic, which makes how the words are spelled a total hoot. they are constructed both horizontally and vertically. i'm not going to suggest that i even understand most of it, but the little i was exposed to makes perfect sense.
add to that, i feel great, and that i can actually learn this language. it seems like alot opened up to me, even tho i still know very little. park jin woo (to get all korean on yer ass) or jin woo park as we would approach it (i think i mentioned this earlier, but his name is really baek nam jun) was very kind. the notebook i have for learning korean (thanks to buck downs enterprises) looks like a visual poem. a mixture of english, romanized korean to help with pronunciation, tho it is a just a bridge that needs to be dumped quickly as, as mentioned, it is phonetically based, and hangul/korean. in fact, korean appears like a gigantic visual poem. i imagine dyslexia may be hard to come by in this country? i want to ask my co-teacher about that tomorrow.
we got in his car, which is literally from japan, so the wheel is on the opposite side of american and korean vehicles, and he programmed my address, and viola. of course, before that i took the subway to meet him. we agreed on an exit, and my description was simple: 'Okay, I will be the westerner with a beard--should be pretty easy to spot'.
i'm too excited to type coherently. i will just say i am eager to learn more, and think i actually can.
i've been thinking alot about romance languages, the ones i attempted to learn in middle/high school and college. i think the problem was that they were too similar to english, so i would fight them. like many other things in my korean (limited) experience, if i just lay myself down and am humble before it, it is a much more useful approach. am i aging and gaining maturity? who knows.
i teach 21 classes a week. at most i would teach 22, some of the native english teachers (as we are referred to) have 18. in my school there are 3 grades (it is middle school) and they are they are considered grades 1-3. each time they move up (from elementary to middle, from middle to high) they re-set to grade 1. so i have 7 classes with each grade & section (1-1, 1-2, 1-3, etc). 3 graders are by far the worst. i see each class once a week.
my classes, on average, have about 40 students in them, which is quite a lot of students, but since they sit in groups of 2, it somehow is less intimidating to see four rows with 5 units in them.
the scenic last 5 minutes of my walk to work
some basic differences in how the school is organized vs my experience in the west: teachers go from room to room, the students have their space. this has positives (the emphasis is on the students, not the teachers) and some negatives (i cannot, for example set up an 'english zone' so that when students walk in they know they are in english class).
students have 7 periods, lunch is separate, and school is basically from 9am to 4pm. lunch is about 30 minutes, and they have two 15 minute breaks between periods throughout the day. they have class for half a day, two saturdays a month. i think that is a nice structure.
i have 4 co-teachers (their korean english teachers) and 3 of them are great, 1 is okay (competent, but shy) the other--and surprisingly the most experience--i dont like teaching with. she essentially abandons me, which is nerve racking as sometimes they do not want to talk, which is often when the korean co-teacher steps in to get things moving again.
this week has been horribly repetitive as i am just showing a power point of photos and talking about them. i only need come up with 3 lesson plans a week, but at least that will be 3 different 7 packs of lessons (i imagine the students later on in the week will benefit from the monday beta-testers) as opposed to "these are _ _ friends at my going away party" etc.
quickly learning power point
one thing i do enjoy quite a bit is the respect given to education as a whole, at least as i have experienced it. they seem to think it is interesting that i know about poetry and art, etc. also, when i show the slide with _ _ friends justin, ekrem, divya, and steve they all are very impressed when they find out they are getting advanced degrees or PhDs. literally 'ooohs' and 'ahhhs' and 'smart friends'.
that's enough for now, i need to prep a bit for next week.
the 24 convenience store (where 'billy' works) and i can sit and drink a beer not even in a brown bag
When the electronic document drafting, [a_lay_wa_kath_i] to change an address, wishes. [Document information] - [in address] column: Seoul Metropolitan Government ocean celestial sphere zelkova route 68 (the New Year 7 eastern 325-8) with the fringe land wishes certainly. Informs late and, an obstruction to business causes, the unit only is sorry. Informs late and, an obstruction to business causes, the unit only is sorry.