Intrepid Girl Reporter

Wednesday, 3/26: the laws of the jungle
March 26, 2008, 11:50 am
Filed under: actual transcripts, anatopism, skool, students, teaching

[Dear Lee Myung Bak]…Please help the economy. I want my parents to smile.

– PopSongBoy #1


2-7 – The Price is Right

  • Co-Teacher F doesn’t want them screaming out answers
  • good efforts
  • how can I channel the energy of that kid in the back?
  • PopSongBoy #1 won AGAIN…next time don’t let that happen

2-6 – The Price is Right

  • one of my louder good students got mad when Co-Teacher F punished her for being late
  • liked game pretty well
  • WotD: discount

2-11 – The Price is Right

  • Soccer was here
  • students well behaved/got a TON of letters
  • Malcolm X agreed to read Holes – get him map for Kidari English Shop bookstore

2-10 – The Price is Right

  • tried clapping thing for first time – worked well
  • Co-Teacher F made them stop yelling (“was not my plan”)
  • Min Ho incident

2-8 – The Price is Right

  • what am I going to do with BeatBox Kid?
  • clapping thing

1. I have lost maybe 4 different chalk holders. Chalk holders are highly coveted because they prevent your hands from getting chalky. Because they cost roughly $3.50, they are not kept in stock by the supply room. I was given two in the beginning. One of them disappeared from my desk. One of them I left in a classroom. Since then, I have received more, accidentally left those in classrooms too, and have run back literally two minutes later to find them gone, with the current teacher professing to have no knowledge of said chalk holder and the students looking as doofy and clueless as ever. Today I was given a chalk holder by one of my students and decided to keep it, as the other teachers keep keeping mine, but then he reclaimed it when I wasn’t looking on the grounds that it belonged to some other teacher. None of my students do this for me.

EDIT: One of my students returned a chalk holder to me! This was a high point in my teaching career. Last period, however, I left it in the classroom. I went back to get it ten minutes later – bear in mind that this is the last period of the day, and there are no more teachers in the room after me – and it was gone. There are no witnesses.

2. As previously mentioned, Miguk Oma sent me trail mix. I like to eat trail mix at my desk, as eating small snacks throughout the day prevents me from getting cranky. School etiquette says you are not supposed to really have private property. I have seen teachers eat breakfast at their desk, but that’s about it. So I’ve been trying to eat this surreptitiously, because it is food for a specific purpose and food that was sent to me from America and I don’t feel like I should have to share it, but then this science teacher who sits diagonally from me came up to me the other day and told me to give her some, thus blowing my cover. GREAT. I am now eating it only when there are three people or less in the office with me.

3. Soccer came to see one of my best classes today, which was fun. They liked her a lot. But once she left, I ran into some trouble with Co-Teacher F – he hit Min Ho in the head for talking too much, which is an ineffective way of dealing with him, and Min Ho got angry and refused to even try at the game. I am not allowed to share this info with Co-Teacher F, however, as he is about forty years my senior and it would be considered rude. Also, the BeatBox Kid, who used to be really nice before he decided he was going to be both a pro soccer player and a pro beatboxer, is more of a jerk every time we have class. BLAHGAH.

Other occurrences of note today: Moon River, who is chubby and has a lazy eye and is all around rather goony looking, proceeded to shout, during a review of numbers, “Million Dollar Baby!” In response to the quizzical stares of his classmates, he explained, “American movie.” (When I asked, he assured me that he had watched it, which is pretty impressive, considering I’ve never seen it.) Later, when I pulled up the Price is Right PowerPoint, he christened his team “Show Me The Money.” His knowledge of American pop culture continues to both baffle and inspire.

Then KES stopped me in the hall and gave me a ticket to what appears to be a handbell concert this Saturday. While he is in my top 5 of worst students, none of my best students ever invite me to anything.

Sunday, 12/16: I’ll be that girl

Can we start with a few lists, please?


  • “Jingle Bells”: domestic violence
  • “Summer Nights”: dying soldier


  • “No speak” 
  • “Father, he is fat”
  • “Snowman. I don’t like face”
  • “I hate cat”
  • “Santa, Santa isn’t fun”

My students mostly earn brownie points for liking “The Snowman,” however – regardless of some of their opinions of it, they all – and I mean all – watched it quietly, which is not something I thought I could achieve with an elephant tranquilizer gun. SDY wrote that it reminded her of the days “when I was young.” The fact that SDY looks like a third grader notwithstanding. She’s an old soul, I guess you could say.

The students who have the most brownie points in my book, however, are my PopSong kids, with whom I am celebrating Christmas right now in the most Korean way possible – at a nasty smoky PC방. Today is the boys’ party. Yesterday was the girls’ party, and with the three girls who showed up, I went to Baskin Robbins and the aforementioned Nix&Nox (for Jeju residents, I cannot recommend this karaoke venue highly enough). One of my students, it turns out, is a fan of both Eric Clapton and Jack Johnson, which means that someday she will be able to successfully rush a fraternity at My College. The boys, however, wanted to party by staring at a computer screen and killing things, so here we are. One of them tried to show me how to play StarCraft and, in perhaps my most badass moment ever, I got nauseous from the screen, so I had to quit. My handle was T3ACH3R.

Sitting at someone else’s computer gives me as much time to think as anywhere else, and I think a lot about transience now that I’m so close to coming home, even for a little bit. Oregon said that at the Christmas party last night she was about to say something about the party we could have next year, before she realized that next year we will be in an Ivy law school (Arkansas) or an Ivy med school (The Singer) or bumming around on people’s couches (yours truly). 

It’s all going to end. Just like the time when I listened to Barenaked Ladies ended around the time I started tenth grade. Someday I’ll hear the song again, just like I did yesterday at Hollys (in the first recorded instance of good music being played at Hollys ever), and remember that part of me, but I won’t be there anymore, and I’m still not sure how I feel about that.

At least these kids playing StarCraft are so much more adorable than I ever thought nerds could be.

the truth is

…that I am hungry now, and I probably wasn’t a very good sport earlier, and my room needs to be tidied firstthingtomorrow, and my blog is the first thing to come up in a Google search of the word “hotchken.” And I’m coming to peace with all of that. Today I woke up late and I ate some soup, but I’m pretty sure it’s the same soup we’ve been eating since Monday, and while I haven’t gotten sick yet, I still have to get over the mental block I have that says that cooked beef is only good for three or four days at the most. (Or do I?) Then I ate a pretzel at the new, revamped Tom and Tom’s in Sicheong (City Hall), which now features an extensive variety of soft pretzels – I can think of ten off the top of my head – and is so pleased about these pretzels, in fact, that a detailed explanation of what pretzels are (it starts by describing them as “a salted biscuit”) is permanently written on the front of the shop. Then I ate at Bagdad with Aewol (my friend who teaches in Aewol) and Transy, a Program kid out in Seogwipo who went to the university of the same name. (Incidentally, I made him my de facto brother in the second week of the Program’s training, but “Transy” is shorter.) So that’s one meal today, pretty much. Now it’s midnight and I just spent five minutes deliberating over whether or not I should make myself a piece of toast. The whole situation seems to parallel every problem I have in some deep way, but I’m not entirely sure how.

Scooter and I went to Expat Ultimate Frisbee today, which was fun, except that – if you know me personally – you know that I have absolutely zero hand-eye coordination, and also no experience with Ultimate. I was not a top pick, shall we say. The problem with me playing sports has always been that I have trouble focusing enough to be coordinated – I can do solo things better, because then it’s just me, but when I’m with other people I get self-conscious about the fact that this sort of thing just doesn’t come naturally to me, and then I’m really in a bind. Point being that at one point I forgot the rules and completely flubbed the one chance I had to do something worthwhile, and what I really wanted to do was stay on the sideline and watch some more so I could get a feel for it, but they convinced me to stay in and practice, which is difficult to do when you’re not sure what’s going on, and then they definitely felt sorry for me as The Girl Who Couldn’t Play Frisbee. (Who Can’t Play Frisbee?) And if there is one thing I cannot abhor, it is people feeling sorry for me. So I played until I could get a sub and then got out – I’m afraid that getting out, and the fact that I was visibly a little frustrated with myself (even though it’s just a game!), probably meant that I came off as a bad sport, so I’ll have to go back and redeem myself. I mean, I got back in, but I still wasn’t any good, and although it’s immature, part of me will always want to be good or go home. I need to grow out of it, but I’m thinking it might just be a part of who I am.

At any rate the Expats were v.nice – I recognized many of them, after all, from rhymeswithjeju, the mailing list for English speakers on the island – and it’s not their fault that they were concerned about a person with such appalling athletic skills.* To be honest, I think the language barrier has been getting to me a bit lately – I find myself increasingly frustrated with people who are only trying to help me, like, you know, my pottery teacher. Or my yoga teacher, for that matter. They know I speak very little Korean, and I know their English is equally limited, but sometimes they’ll just start speaking Korean and be surprised when I keep messing up, because I don’t know that my foot is supposed to be flexed or that I’m pulling the clay too hard. Maybe it’s the relatively stressful week I’ve had, although I might just need to come home for a bit.

It was a good day for Frisbee though; the sun was up, the sky was blue, it was beautiful (and so were you). Scooter coached me on some basic Frisbee catching technique after learning that I didn’t learn to catch anything until I was six, and to his credit, didn’t laugh at me too much when it bounced out of my hands. I also crashed a pickup soccer game between these two boys who were probably in fourth or fifth grade; I meant to just play, but they ended up giving me some technique tips for my kicks. Overall, it was an educational afternoon. Afterwards we went to Tom and Toms and met some Jeju National University students, one of whom is going to be my language partner. She has a puppy and the same name as Teddy Bear Barrette. Interestingly enough. Soccer’s been sick all day, so I visited her later with some Gatorade and some leftover naan, and we watched Muhan Dojeon and made one of those sewing kits that they sell at the stationery stores here – this was a stuffed cell phone charm in the shape of a bunny’s head. Mine is blue.

Here is my cool thing for the day: the New York Times wedding section. No, I don’t know why I read it, but yes, I always do.

*How unathletic am I? Here’s a story: The summer before my freshman year of high school, I swam competitively for the first and last time, on my neighborhood team. I had no natural talent and no experience. All the girls in my age group had been swimming for years. Ergo, I could not keep up with them; ergo, I had to practice with the elementary schoolers. No joke. But, in the crowning moment of my summer, there was one race in which I did not come in last, which meant that I was not the slowest, and let me tell you, fifth place has never been so sweet.

November 2, 2007, 4:35 pm
Filed under: anatopism

Today’s featured Wikipedia article.

One of the men in this article is my father’s godfather. Do you know how it feels to be part of history and, at the same time, completely imperceptible?

One of my eyes is twitching.

in which…part 2

A series of stories.



I didn’t intend to see a horror movie simply because it was close to Halloween. Things just worked out that way. It was my sweet, gentle Oma who chose the movie (more on Oma’s likes and dislikes in a minute). It was entirely in Korean, of course, but you know the old adage: sadistic torture knows no language. There was something about an ugly necklace, some sort of supernatural hand that appeared periodically, and some women in court clothes who kept pulling all sorts of medieval/Guantanamo-style treatments on each other (or maybe just on one woman. I don’t really know). I fell asleep for part of it. Oma kept her hands over her face the entire time. Fun night!

Saturday Albuquerque had organized this festival for some little kids at a program at this church that one of her students attended, and most of us had signed on to help, so I found myself hauling thirty small prizes* and a 24-pack of toilet paper across the island.  Oma and Apa were headed to Seogwipo anyway to help with a wedding the next day, so I caught a ride and ate lunch with them and the wedding party, where I received a gift bag containing detergent and brown sugar. I met up with my friends and headed over to the festival site, where we were confronted with an immediate problem: Scooter, in a rare burst of enthusiasm, had invited some of his students, all of whom were at least five years older than our target audience. So we had to make some activities up, most of which consisted of us encouraging them to tell the goriest ghost stories possible (in English, natch). For the little kids, there were mask making, face painting (with poster paint and WATERCOLORS – thanks for not having party supplies, Korea), and various relay race activities. Then we all ate fried chicken and were very happy. Except that, during the haunted house, some of the students spat in Scooter’s face. Oops.

Somehow Hallim (or G) and I ended up back in Jeju-si, running through e-Mart at 9:00 on a frantic search for tofu and bananas and other barbecue supplies, in large part because I am pathologically unable to let anyone do anything for me. After some help from a kindly Anglophone meat clerk (who nonetheless alerted the entire first floor that there were two eccentric foreigners floundering through the groceries), we made it back to my apartment, where we dressed to represent the fair state of Kentucky (I was a cigarette, she was barefoot and pregnant). In retrospect, I should have donned a fat suit and a Philip Morris nametag so I could have been Big Tobacco, but there’s always next year.

We made it out to the pension in Hamdok Beach around 10:00. Here’s where things get – and will stay, for your purposes – a bit blurry. There was fun, and there were adventures; we ate grilled chocolate-stuffed bananas, made friends with a Korean family, watched Africa cook chicken adobo (as Scooter said, “After eating this, I’m gonna wife her”). Oregon had brought a college friend whose name was – and I am not making this up – Ricky Martin. And then there was a campfire, and grass seeds that stuck to our clothes, and an accidental but somehow inevitable discussion with a certain person in my life, one fueled by throwaway comments and cheap Hite beer and weeks and weeks of the unspoken. It happens. We’ll be stronger after this, but it’s going to take a while. To imagine that here I would learn how to depend on others, and at the same time so well how to be alone…well. I didn’t. But now I can, and I count my happiness and my sadness on each hand, and I keep the transcripts to myself.

The next day I woke up on the floor next to Hallim, still wearing a cigarette costume (having forgotten to bring pajamas), still with pampas grass in my hair, and we headed home.


feats of strength

If you have never been to a Korean wedding, let me just say this: Imagine the part in the Who’s “Baba O’Riley” where the synthesizer kicks in. Now, instead of recollecting that as music, try to picture that as flashing plastic chandeliers. Add a fog machine. Welcome to the wedding hall.

After we arrived, HS and HB in tow (they had to wake us up, as we’d fallen asleep on the bus), we were immediately escorted to the nook where the bride waited, where we – not my family, just Hallim and me – had our picture taken with her. On the bride’s camera, not ours. Then we were escorted back to our seats, where I was immediately summoned by some of Apa’s many ajushi cousins to sit with them; despite the fact that none of them spoke English, they all managed to ask me to call them “opa” (older brother; yeah okay). They called me by my host fam’s last name, which was cute, and they kept speaking to me in rapid Korean, which was not. Then we saw the wedding, which involved, in addition to the aforementioned elements, bubbles that shot out at random intervals, a troupe of toddlers dressed like Cupid who performed an interpretive dance, and a push-up demonstration by the groom, who was cheered on by an announcer and his bride. I should mention at this point that none of this appeared to have been rehearsed. At all. Then it was picture time; first the bride and the groom were photographed, and then the bride and the groom and their families, and then the bride and the groom and their mothers, and then the bride and the groom and their friends, and then the bride and the groom and everyone on one half of the room. Hallim and I fell into the last category. We were shoved to the front of the wedding pictures. I felt a little like a trophy wife. Trophy foreigner?

That’s all for today. More tomorrow. There is more, of course. In the meantime, I’m going to take a bath, revel in my newly purchased Time magazines, and try to forget the fact that I have mosquito bites on my hands.

a toast to the plans we’ve made to live like kings

Oma killed the last of the pesto today – she made almost exactly what I had made, fettuccine with chicken. Granted, it was for breakfast, but it was still very sweet. I was going to offer to cook dinner tonight, but maybe one American meal per day is enough.

I was supposed to go to the Jeju United game today with Soccer – note: I have realized that by calling my friends by their initials, there is bound to be some overlap, so I am giving them nicknames – because her dad works for the team, and it would have been fun; today is a good day to watch 축구. But it’s also a good day to go to some sort of flower festival with my family. I am a festival whore. I haven’t seen them much this weekend, so.

The past few days have been good. Friday I went with the first (seventh) graders at my school to a picnic, which turned out to be a Super Field Trip; we started at the set of this historical TV drama, which they had left up after they were done filming, I guess, and then we went to the 핸여 (Woman Diver) museum, and then to this volcanic beach. I’ve managed to befriend this bully girl – Teddy Bear Barrette – simply by remembering her name, so she kept running up to me and screaming “TEACHER! NAME?” and, when I told her what her name was, giving me a high five and grinning triumphantly at her minions. At the Woman Diver museum, the boys of 1J all bought these toys that looked sort of like inflatable swords with the heads of women divers at the end, and they chased each other around and beat on one another. Then I stole one from one of them and did the same thing. GOD I love 1J.

Friday afternoon Scooter (formerly D) and I went shopping, where we found a sleeveless denim vest that, much to my chagrin, he did not buy. Then Friday night I took HB and HS and Oma over to Soccer’s apartment, where most of the Crew had gathered with their respective host siblings, and we played Apples to Apples while my Oma and Soccer’s Oma had coffee. C (whom I’m going to start calling Africa from now on)’s host brother, who was in third grade, told me that I looked so old that my head should be in a museum. Saturday morning I met Soccer and Curfew (formerly known as E) for shopping (again), where I bought THE BEST COAT EVER.* It is a trench coat and it is silver.** Africa met us for a little bit, and then Soccer and Quagmire and I headed out to Seogwipo for the cast party of the play we all did for the English Festival, and we all sat around my friend Albuquerque’s apartment and drank and talked about the world. And now the weather is beautiful.

My former roommate also sent me this link, which expresses my position in the Land of the Morning Calm perfectly:

*In Korea, I have become more cognizant of many of my interests and enthusiasms. See Appendix B.

**This is the most Korean coat in the world. Yes, Miguk Oma, I realize that it breaks the “if it’s shiny, you can’t teach in it” rule, but guess what: I’m not in America anymore.


New Pseudonyms, with their old identities

N: Soccer

E: Curfew

D: Scooter

C: Africa

L: Albuquerque

Quagmire: Quagmire


Things for which I could safely call myself an “enthusiast”


Yogurt-based foods



Street food

PS: I saw this on AllMusic’s front page the other day and I remembered high school and the whole thing made me laugh.

September 29, 2007, 5:01 pm
Filed under: anatopism, life progress
  1. internship emails sent out
  2. started watching Season 1 of The OC*, brought me back to junior year of college

*note: had forgotten how attractive Peter Gallagher, Tate Donovan, Adam Brody are