Sunday, August 31, 2008

"Fish Heads"

Every month each class at LCI chooses a song to learn and then performs it in front of the rest of the school. Here's the one I want to teach my class this month.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Three Quick Things I Love about South Korea

The manwon, the 10,000-won bill, features Sejong the Great, creator of Hangul, the Korean alphabet. There's also an excerpt from the first work ever written in Korean.

At restaurants and bars, you don't tip, and the service is generally a lot better than it is in the States. A lot better.

It's perfectly OK to walk down the street drinking alcohol (though I don't usually see folks doing so, not in Banghak-dong anyway).

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Alas, Poor YORICK!

I'm rereading Tristram Shandy. This is one of my favorite passages about Yorick:
For, to speak the truth, Yorick had an invincible dislike and opposition in his nature to gravity:—not to gravity as such;—for where gravity was wanted, he would be the most grave or serious of mortal men for days and weeks together;—but he was an enemy to the affectation of it, and declared open war against it, only as it appeared a cloak for ignorance, or for folly: and then, whenever it fell in his way, however sheltered and protected, he seldom gave it much quarter.

House of Leaves Trailer

Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves was the last book I read before leaving the States. If there were a movie for it, this would be the trailer.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I Think I Have the Alphabet Down

Some Bullshit (As Though Poetry Needed Any More)

Read this post by poet Stacey Lynn Brown and avoid sending anything to Cider Press Review.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


I just went out for food. A little girl, not even a year old probably, kept staring at me. "{Hello}," I said to her over and over, waving. At one point, she came pretty close to where I sat. "{Hello}," I said again, and she started crying. "{I'm sorry}," I told her mother, who only smiled and shrugged, taking the little girl into her arms. On my way out, the mother waved to me and took the little girl's hand and made it wave too.

What a great evening, not because I made a little girl cry, of course, but because it's so easy to hang out with Canadians and other Americans and to speak English all the time, to stick to the words you use constantly, like 맥주 ("beer"), instead of actually interacting with Koreans. And though this interaction was small and hardly on an intellectual level, it helped counter some of the loneliness. It's nice after a day of teaching in an English school to be the one who doesn't understand much and must work to talk to someone so young.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Elmo and Corey Teacher

Around 11:30 a.m. the day after I arrived, Ms. K. picked me up from the Theme Motel and drove me to LCI. Even as late as this, I wasn't sure I was the right Jonathan, not until I saw a sign for LCI Academy as we pulled up to the school. Ms. K. immediately introduced me to J., my morning supervisor, who told me about my kindergarten class, Elmo. After a few minutes of going over the schedule, J. introduced me to Elmo's then-current teacher, Corey, who was going to lunch with A.* They each wore T-shirts, shorts, and sandals, and I, already feeling ridiculous in a long-sleeve button-up and khakis, felt even sillier. The three of us went to a restaurant most of the teachers frequent, where I had a wonderful hot dish of rice and vegetables with a fried egg on top, the name of which I forget (I thought it was pibimppop, but I ordered that earlier today at the same place, and it wasn't the same thing, unless I accidentally ordered it cold today [it's entirely possible that I nodded my head to the wrong thing (an annoying habit I didn't know I possessed [how easy it is to nod, to use the body to try to effect meaning (or to pretend)])]).

When we returned to LCI, Corey introduced me as Tim Teacher to Elmo. As I write this, I feel extremely lucky because, as I hear, most of the other teachers didn't receive such an orientation. Hours after getting off the plane, they faced a kindergarten class alone and were told, "Start teaching." For the rest of the day and the next, I got to know the children and the routine. I also get to teach gym for the other classes. One of the most fun things in those first few days was watching a bunch of six-year-olds play dodgeball. Another great thing about teaching over here is that there isn't this avoidance of contact that you have in the States. It's perfectly OK to hug or pat the children, which takes some getting used to after the oh-my-god-our-children-must-not-be-touched sterility of the States. Corey has done an amazing job with the children of Elmo. Everybody says they're the best-behaved class and maybe the smartest. He had them doing stretches in the morning, part of a routine I plan to continue. Corey was an amazing teacher, and taking over his class is a privilege.

On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I teach a second-grade class in the afternoon. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I teach another, younger kindergarten class made up of five-year-olds who speak hardly any English, which requires the use of what little Korean I know, like ("yes") and 아니 ("no"). S., my afternoon supervisor, must translate often.

* OK, at this point, I'm not so sure what I should do with these names. Somehow the use of abbreviations seems too—what are the words?—unfriendly (?) for A. et al., on one hand, especially after all the time I've spent with them, and too informal (?) for Ms. K., the director of the school, on the other; however, I feel too weird about using actual names of people I just met less than a week ago without their permission. The exception, of course, is Corey, which is, yes, I know, inconsistent and all, but the kids loved him, and I hear "Corey Teacher" all day, and this one actual name seems important, and.

Fourteen Hours ahead of Normal*

Every few minutes in the San Francisco International Airport, an announcement came on to warn all passengers that the threat level was orange, whatever that meant. At the layover in Tokyo, however, there was no such announcement, nor was there when I finally arrived in Seoul. I got off the plane and followed the signs to immigration, expecting the process to take a long time, but it took only a few minutes. No questions. My written statement of having nothing to declare was sufficient. No bag search.

Near the exit to the airport, several people stood with signs for arriving passengers. One had "Jonathan"1 on it, but because it didn't have a last name with it, I wasn't sure whether I was the correct Jonathan. Besides, I thought, doesn't the level of formality in the Korean language necessitate the use of my last name? After seeing no other signs for Jonathan, I approached the man holding the Jonathan sign and said, "I'm Jonathan Lantz." He beckoned me over to a trash can, where he threw away the sign and got on his phone. After speaking for a few minutes, in Korean, of course, he handed me the phone.

"안녕하세요?"2 I said.

"Hello, Jonathan Teacher," said a woman. Again with the use of my first name. At least this time there was a title, closer to what I expected. "Can you speak Korean?"

"Not much. Just hello, thank you, and goodbye."

"The driver's going to take you to a motel, and I'll call you tomorrow at 11. You get some rest."

I handed the phone back to the driver, and he led me to his van. I still wasn't sure he had the right Jonathan. Also, I wasn't sure whether I'd have to pay for the cab ride. An American ten-dollar bill was the only money I had. I quietly sat up front with the driver as he drove through toll after toll, heading east. At one point, far too late, I asked, "LCI sent you, right?" He just shook his head, not to give me an answer, as I realized later, but to indicate that he didn't speak English.

I felt like shit from the long flight, and fighting sleep, I repeated 감사합니다3 in my head, concentrating not only on the sound but also on the Korean spelling, so that I could say it to the driver when we finally arrived. I was so tired, though, that the word had fallen apart by the time we arrived at the Theme Motel, and it came out as "kahm-dee" when I said it to the driver. Nice work, Lantz.

Crashed. Dreams all night about translating German into Korean.

Woke at 6 and forced myself to lie in bed till 8, at which time I showered, dressed, cursed myself for having bought khakis, cursed the wrinkled button-up shirt, and headed out, walking north for half an hour. When I returned, the man at the front desk spoke to me in Korean, none of which I understood, and followed me to my room upstairs. When he saw me enter the main part of my room, his voice rose a little, and he pointed to the area by the door. Immediately I felt ridiculous for not having removed my shoes. "감사합니다," I said, realizing I'd been nodding my head like a fool the entire time.

* Normal, Illinois, that is, where I lived from August 8, 2006, to July 14, 2008.
1 My first name, a name I hardly ever use.
2 Annyeonghaseyo? ("Hello?" [Literally "Are you at peace?"])
3 Gamsahamnida. ("Thank you.")

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Last Bit of America

Later today I leave for South Korea. I've been hired as an ESL teacher for kindergarten and elementary students at Language Clubs International Academy in Seoul.

The flight itinerary:
today, 2 p.m. (PDT), depart from San Francisco
tomorrow, 5:05 p.m. (JST), arrive in Tokyo
6:50 p.m., depart from Tokyo
9:35 p.m. (KST), arrive in Seoul