It’s the Final Countdown… with robots!

 

Yeah, I was going to use the original “Final Countdown” but 1) I couldn’t remember if I already used it and B) this one has robots.

So, today is the official “1 week left” day. This time next week I will be on a big ol’ jet airliner carrying me so far away. Away back home. I am looking forward to getting home, home to my family and friends and cats and many many projects that I have dreampt up in my year abroad. But there is a lot I will miss too.

I have spent the last couple days packing and shipping and cleaning. I have a lot more to go, luckily I have beer and MST3K to get me through the cleaning.  I hope everyone has enjoyed my posts, I want to keep the blog going but part of me is not sure if I should just let this stand on it’s own as a testament for the year in Korea and start a different one when I get back. Part of me hopes that future NETs (Native English Teachers) will always be able to come to this blog and read my trials and tribulations so they know they are not alone. Or maybe, like Luke Skywalker, I am GREATLY suffering from delusions of grandeur (Harrison Ford quote). I need to think about it. What do you all think? Should I start a different blog when I get back home and just let this be for the NETs by a NET or just keep adding to this one? Either way… It is the final count down, play me out of here Journey uh, I mean Jabbawockeez.

Last class… most likely ever

So, I just finished teaching my last class here in Korea. I feel like opening a beer and having a cigar (both of which I think are COMPLETELY fine to do in school in Korea I think).  I will save the waxing poetic for a later post after I have had time to digest the year and re-acclimate back home. I will say that I always tried my best. I worked on my lesson plans, represented myself and my country as best I could and always tried to learn from my many many mistakes. I think the year of hit and miss, failure and constant evaluation did me a lot of good. As cheesy as it sounds I think you do learn more from your mistakes than your triumphs. Not that this year abroad was a mistake, not in the least. But teaching kids is insanely erratic, what is an absolute blast for one class will miserably bomb the next without any logical pattern. So you learn to change on the fly (I kept a closet full of word seaches and music video worksheets at the ready).

One incredible relief was me being rehired by my old company early last week. It might sound strange but after spending 14 years at a job it was much more of my life than I imagined. I am very thankful and fortunate to be going back. I hope to give another 14 years to them before I retire off into the sunset (of course I mean the sunset in Japan HA HA). This year was tough, on more than one occasion I wanted to quit but with the encouragement of family and friends I made it. I am glad I did, I would have been pretty raw about it if I had packed it in. Only a few more days and I will be in Florida, I will miss Korea. It was a true life experience that will always be with me. Now it is time to focus on COUPONS!

 

 

3 weeks left

 

Sorry for the late post, I was on winter vacation in Japan for 2 weeks. It was really awesome. I got to see my favorite group The 5.6.7.8’s play live at the UFO club. After that I went to Akihabara for a wild and crazy day of Otaku shenanigans. After that I went to Kobe City and Osaka. It was a really incredible vacation. Now I am back in Korea for the final 3 weeks of my year abroad.

I used the “2 weeks” video even though I officially have 3 weeks left… gotta give the Total Recall some love. Very strange thing in Korea, there is one week of classes in the middle of the winter vacation. So basically I taught English Camp for 2 weeks, and had a conversation class for a week. Then went to Japan for vacation and upon returning have a week of classes then 2 weeks of the school inventing something for me to do until I leave. This one random week is a very strange thing, we all know how much effort and attention the students and teachers will be exhibiting for a span of one week in the middle of vacation. Yeah, that would be NONE. So basically I will be giving them a “good bye” word search worksheet and playing the second half of The Simpsons movie and off they go.

This year was very tough at some points and teaching class to students that don’t care about English or learning in general was frustrating but it was a very good experience. I lived alone for the first time in my life, learned about Korea and Korean culture and spent a month (2 – 2 week vacations) in Japan. I am looking forward to getting back home to my family and friends and WARM SUNSHINE of Florida. Through it all I always knew that Kuato Lives! Apparently Arnold was to Mars he just didn’t “recall”

Be where you are

It is hard not looking ahead. As my time abroad nears its end I find myself looking ahead. My brain focuses on worrying about a job, thinking of that first night back in my own bed and generally thinking about “what happens next” upon leaving Korea. I need to stay focused on the here and now, I try to live by a simple philosophy of “being where you are”.

What does the statement “Be where you are” mean? To me it means keep your mind and your thoughts focused on the task at hand. Think of what you are doing not what you are going to be doing. That simple thought is becoming harder and harder to actually achieve. Not because I am in Korea but because we as a race are losing our focus. How often do you check your smartphone, how often are you in a room with others and stare down at your phone or ipad instead of actually being in the room? It is pretty common for others to look at their phone or text someone “quickly” in the middle of a dinner or at work. I too am guilty of checking my phone or reading email when I should be paying attention.

More and more now my brain is in overdrive about what I will do when I get home. It is natural, like a kid dreaming of Christmas or someone with a week left before their cruise your mind tends to dream and wanders. I still have over a month left (granted it is a month in which I only teach one week) so it behooves me to let my mind wander. I am going to do my best to stay focused and be HERE until I am not. That is not as easy as it sounds, but I will try.

English Camp is OFFICIALLY OVER!!!!

When I started working as an English teacher I struggled a lot, I was going to quit on more than one occasion. One of the things that I looked forward to was the “English Camps” scheduled for Summer and Winter vacations. They are voluntary so only the good kids would sign up right? Right?!? BUZZZZZZZ Wrong!

For some damn reason kids that could care less about English or learning in general signed up for English camp. So I had 2 weeks of teaching camp (2 – 90 minute classes each day) one camp in summer and one camp in winter. So each day I would basically throw as much dung at the wall as I could and hope something would stick. Part of what makes it even harder is although it is illegal for me to teach class without a co-teacher (don’t worry… there was still classes where the co-teacher didn’t show) it is completely fine for me to teach classes that are twice as long each without anyone there to explain what the hell the foreign monkey is trying to say. My miming skills have increased 10x since coming here. The daily struggle against cell phones, talking, not listening and general malaise toward my camp just kept grinding on.

There were some bright spots, there was a wonderful team of 1st grade girls that listened and worked and were a pleasure to teach. There were two girls that were teamed up with 4 bad kids that were really sweet so I looked forward to teaching them each day. The second grade class has already turned to the dark side so they have no concern for instructions or anything other than being cool and their cell phones. Look, if you are a kid that can’t get into zombie survival game or creating your own super hero you basically have nothing left. You have already lost one of the essential things that matters in life… fun.

Long story short, winter camp wasn’t horrible and wasn’t great. Had some fun and did my best. I guess the main point I am trying to get across is as of this moment barring the unforeseen I will never ever ever teach an English Camp again and I am a better happier person for it. Now who wants to do a Zombie Survival worksheet with me!

 

I forgot… Life without technology

Working in a well established company for so many years made me forget something. It made me forget what life was like when you work with substandard equipment and outdated software. See, life before Korea was a blissful time when you could print something in color and it took a matter of seconds. A time when computers ran on the most up to date platforms and everything was just super. A time when if something broke you contacted the tech team and they zipped out with the fix or a new computer on a cart. Life was good…. Then I came to Korea (insert screech and crash noise here)

I didn’t even know that Windows XP was supported? It is! who knew?!? The daily struggle is one that I often lose. I have never walked away from the copier with it still working, I just take a deep breath and hope to get “most” of the copies I need for class that day. The awesome touch screen in my class is hit and miss at best. Basically I am the tech support for it, I am not too bad but when all the errors are in another language things get tricky. For the most part you just hit the “on” button and take a deep breath. Maybe you will have the computer and audio system for the class you are teaching in 5 minutes, maybe not. So for these reasons and many more I dream of taking most if not all of the “technology” in my school out to the local soccer field and reenacting the classic office space scene.

BIG Number ONE on our Top Five Countdown… Communication!!

Thank you Three Dog Night. There were a lot of choices for the song for NUMBER ONE. Honorable mentions go to Metallica – One, U2 – One and of course Swedish House Mafia – One. I had to remain true to my roots and go with Three Dog Night, it works on many levels. My mother used to sing this song a lot when I was a child so it reminds me of home and my youth and of course makes me think of my mom. That is a gift that is priceless.  It also works because one is in fact the loneliest number.

To recap our “Top Five Things I Miss The Most Countdown” so far…
Number 5 – Florida
Number 4 – My Garage
Number 3 – My Movie Collection
Number Two Most Missed Thing – AMERICAN FOOD
and now… drum roll please…. The All Time NUMBER ONE thing I miss most COMMUNICATION!

See, what happens when you are in a foreign land is any attempt to communicate fails. Usually it is an EPIK fail if you will pardon the pun. Now, for those of you who know me personally since arriving in Korea I don’t talk much. I will give you all a minute to get back up from falling out of your chairs. Back home I talk quite often, I will interject or joke about a subject being discussed. I always try to be nice and just keep things light and fun. I am not really a “deep philosophical” guy and I am not an “argumentative” guy. Generally I respect people opinion and try to always have fun. Not the case here… anything I try to say gets misunderstood or unrecognized completely. I am of the opinion that the majority of people here think I am either a mute or slightly retarded.

Funny thing about being misunderstood every time you try to talk, slowly you just stop talking. Often I internalize my thoughts or feelings or just tune everyone out completely. It is kind of like a mental “thousand yard stare”. I try to nod or blink so those around me know I am alive but mostly I remain silent. I listen with envy as my friend the gym teacher makes remarks that give co-teachers a laugh. I think to myself “sure wish I could talk and laugh too”. If I try to joke the look of confusion is terrifying.  The few times I went out with fellow Ex-pats they probably thought my mouth was in overdrive. It is kind of like when you talk to a mother that has been trapped in her house with only children as her company. You become the only outlet for real interaction and get a shotgun blast of “talk”. A fact that might explain why I don’t get invited out with fellow Ex-pats much.

So, for the last 45 days I will continue to smile and nod. My best friend my MP3 player will sing in my ear as I walk and shop and when I get home I promise to TRY not to make my family and friend’s brains explode from too much talking. Until then my friends be thankful that when you say words they have meaning and the receiver has comprehension… it is a gift that I used to take for granted.

 

Number TWO on our Top Five Countdown… American FOOD!

To recap our “Top Five Things I Miss The Most Countdown” so far… Number 5 – Florida, Number 4 – My Garage, Number 3 – My Movie Collection. Now on to our Number Two Most Missed Thing – AMERICAN FOOD!

The food in Korea is very good, there are some things that I don’t like but for the most part the food in Korea is very delicious. At times I am not sure exactly what I am eating but that is rare. I will say that the “spicy hot” factor is GREATLY exaggerated. I eat very nuclear food back home and was looking forward to pushing the limits of what I could take with all of the “Korean food is so spicy” talk but alas that is not the case. I will need to train before hitting up any of the local “Hot Food Challenges” that’s for sure.

I miss American food because that is what I am used to eating, not from any lack of culinary prowess by Korea. I think of my favorite foods back home and my mouth waters. Both restaurant food and the dishes I cook are definitely missed. One of the things that is really awesome about where I live in Florida is there are Bijillions of restaurants (that’s right… BIJILLIONS, it’s a number google it) so any time you don’t feel like cooking there is essentially every food under the sun to choose from. And it has been “Americanized” for you so the portions are huge, the price is cheap and it is insanely bad for your health which inevitably means that it is freakin’ DELICIOUS!

Since coming to Korea I have lost over 50 pounds, partly because I walk everywhere, partly because I am going to the gym religiously and partly because I have not eaten American food since leaving America. I have no doubt the over/under on how fast I will get fat again upon landing in America will not favor me very much. Hell, my “top 10 restaurants I want to visit as soon as I get back home” list pretty much guarantees I gain 10 pounds upon landing. The food in Japan is insanely awesome, the food in Korea is great but as they often say there is no place like home. Mugs and Jugs… get those nuclear boneless wings ready, make ‘em hot and make ‘em sloppy cause I am coming home soon.

Number THREE on our Top Five Countdown… My Movie Collection!

To recap our “Top Five Things I Miss The Most Countdown” so far… Number 5 – Florida, Number 4 – My Garage. Now on to Number 3 My Movie Collection. I am kind of a movie nut, I love movies! Not just any movies, really bad movies. It started when I was young, I would watch countless hours of Kung-Fu movies and the old Japanese monster movies. My father thought I had something wrong with me as I watched Master Of The Flying Guillotine for the 100th time. As I got older I collected those kind of movies but also found a deep love for old Sci-fi B-movies. I have never counted how many movies I have but I converted a closet to hold my DVDs and a second closet holds about 300 laserdisc movies and there is still some spillover. I also have a few thousand digitally. The sheer number of movies in my house back home can’t really be described accurately.

It used to be very hard to find the kind of movies that I enjoy. If you found a title that you wanted to see it would take a great amount of time and money to get it. Then they started to be available with the advent of cheap DVDs that have been pouring into the market. So when I did manage to find a copy of  Golden Swallow or Sex and Fury I bought it. Over time my collection just continued to grow and grow as I found more and more ways to get these crazy obscure movies. Many of the great movies of these genre are getting much needed remastering so I have been getting those (there is an INCREDIBLE remastering of the first 6 Godzilla movies that I suggest everyone buy ). I picked up a really good Laserdisc player because lately the movies for them have been cheap or free. Same as my record collection, Laserdisc movies are a way to squeeze more out of my money with no quality loss. The only thing that is lower quality with Laserdisc is the audio… they have the same visual quality as DVDs. They are just bigger because the compression was less. So often I get a Criterion collection box set of a movie that will have an obscure director interview on it for next to nothing and in some cases for NOTHING.

So when I left for Korea I loaded an external hard drive with a few hundred movies and figured I would be okay. But I have really been missing the on-hand selection. Being able to walk over to the DVD closet and watch just about an movie I want is a luxury that I have been missing in a big way. There are a few really incredible movies that I watch a few times a year… the Original Godzilla, The Day The Earth Stood Still (ORIGINAL… not the god awful remake), Deathrace 2000 just to name a few. These and so many more are part of my life, and they don’t really exist here. The B-movie and Sci-fi genre is pretty obscure in America and as far as I can tell it is non-existent in Korea. So for these reasons and so many more my NUMBER THREE Most Missed Thing is My Movie Collection. I see a few awesome movie marathons in my near future, starting with a Godzilla Weekend! Damn I miss godzilla!

Number FOUR on our Top Five Countdown…. My Garage

 

“His garage?” you might be saying to yourself… His number Four all time things he misses is his garage? Yup it is true and NO I have not lost my mind (no more than usual anyway). It turns out that I am a bit more of a tinkerer than I thought. I often get an inspiration and modify an existing thing or build something completely unique. Sometimes out of the blue I will start to scribble something on a piece of paper at work or in the car, then try to build it at home. Sometimes it works, other times not so much. No matter what it is I always find great fun trying to create. I love making things from my imagination.

Now, my garage is not some beautiful well organized place. Quite contrary to how I keep my work space and living quarters rooms at home my garage is a mess. But it is what I like to think of as an “organized mess”. Usually I will know where a tool or piece of hardware is even if it is buried under a few layers of projects that didn’t make the grade. It is a man pit in that there is lots of tools and machinery around. I can pretty much cut and grind and torch anything under the sun in my messy little cave.

As you can imagine living in a tiny apartment leaves no room for anything other than a leatherman tool to make quick home repairs and green duct tape to hold things together. The duct tape in Korea is green not silver like in America, this is one of the rare occasions that an American product is a bit more gaudy than it’s Asian counterpart. Even if I had the tools finding wacky material to work with would be a challenge. Part of the fun of building the bigger better mouse trap is finding unique materials to work with. That is a challenge back home where I know just about every shop and street, as you can imagine in a foreign land where I can’t find significant landmarks the chances of finding a shop that sells anything unique is slim to none. It is not that these wacky materials do not exist in Korea, I am sure they do I just don’t know how to find them. So my longing to build and create strange things out of weird materials makes my NUMBER FOUR all time things I MISS THE MOST my dirty smelly disorganized GARAGE.

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