Friday, June 29, 2007

A look in the pool

So its been a while since I wrote any sort of reflective piece thus the title. I got a strong gut reaction just now reading Asher's out of Africa blog and am thinking about all the differences in the world that we find are selves in. The other night I was out in Apgujeong-dong meeting a friend. The street is lined with the world's finest fashion houses and with beautiful people and their beautiful clothes all bought at a highstreet price. Korean people are naturally very beautiful but this neighborhood has a huge amount of plastic surgery clinics. People actually can get tax breaks for getting plastic surgery. THe most popular are eye skin tucks and colligen shots but it ranges to jaw reductions a process where the actually file down your jaw bone and adjust where the bone meets your skull. (suprisingly this is apparently very common.) the other is of course breast implants (the other option here being the water bra, a noticably common enhancment and serious disapointment Im sure. The most extreme, considering the infatuation with height, is leg lengthening. A six month procedure where the legs are broken seperated and allowed to grow and fill the fracture. The process is repeated to a gain of as much as three inches. All of this Narcissism behind closed doors does pour onto the street where the young twenty somthing women speed past "the Galleria" in their Mazaratti's going to the clubs. Those who have seen both say that this high flying Seoul is wilder then Manhattan. Coming into the world Fore at this time in history gives it a strange science fiction edge.
This is of course a discription of a crust of Korean society but it happens to be the part of the pie I am surrounded by these are the streets I walk home from work or when I go to do yoga or have a beer with friends.
I am sure that if some of my Korean co-workers read what I wrote they would be embarassed at my impressions that I send home. And that is fair. Because I don't speak the language I can't talk to anyone unless they speak english and so my impressions are from the rich who by and large speak english. It is kind of scary in Apgujeong how many young people will tell you a place in North America where they are from, usually playing up that accent and acting as if they lived there for more then the three or four years of college. These of course are the ones driving the bentley's.
So it gives me a feeling of unease to look at a schools red Roof in Sierra Leone and to stare across the street and see the giant flashing neon panasonic sign or Johnny Walker or Mercedes or whatever.....
Today we had a class birthday Party for Gemini he is 7, korean age that means 6 back home, and every kid got a box of cookies and ate enough cake to make horse sick, all provided by young Gemini's family, who I was told by my co teacher "were showing that they cared a lot".(I almosted pasted the guy on the spot, as if big cakes and presents ever made up for a good time with loved ones.) And despite the affluence of it all here was just a normal little boy having his birthday party with his friends. sure the cake was bigger then most, sure the presents cost more. But he still likes "baby beluga" and playing musical chairs and cries when he loses. it's his party, he can if he wants to. And it makes me think that much of our understanding of self and wealth is like the air we breathe. it comes like our skin. We only see it from another perspective if we get a chance to breathe someone elses air or have a skin transplant. And few 6 year olds are self aware let alone globally aware. it seems a little to much to ask on a birthday.
How much is to much? I can't say that I know the line but its a few turns before you get to the broken leg stretch exit Im pretty sure. "Of those to whom much is given, much is required. " I am gonna go in tommorow and donate a few inches between my knee and my ankle. It seems there's people who need it more then me. or at least they need something................

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The little people I spend most of my time with.

These are my M/W/F afterschool kids, Henry looks like I think he feels about being in a class of all girls but me. Most of these kids have spent time abroad and have a great grip on english already. right now we're reading a drastically abridged version of "The Nutcracker"
These kids shouldn't be in school at the time I teach them they should be tearing around, building forts, riding bikes, swimming and fighting; not sitting in desks learning another language at 4:30pm. As a result they rarely listen. They still surprise me with how much they do pick up.
Irene (and Steve in the background) brilliant, both of them. We have great classes in which I can talk at a very sophisticated level of English and they still understand (with the help of the dictionary.) Wendy also in the class took the day off (no photo)
This is Will hes going to be a Ninja when he grows up. He may already be a Ninja. He is one of the smallest fiestiest kids I've ever met. Him and Adrian Vanwoerden would get on famously. I teach him art, that is to say I put paint and a brush near him and see how long he's entertained for. I don't teach the kid "standing" next to him; thank the Lord. Today in this class on kid pee'd his pants another drew a penis on a picture of him self and Will here threw lots of paint on the floor and walls. Education; that's what its all about.
These are my Kindergarten kids. 5 days a week for 5 hours I hang out with these kids. We read good books and sing raffi songs, and draw, paint and play in the sand box, we write in our journals and listen to sweet music like Modest Mouse, Niel Young and Sigur Ros
This is Lola, I want to learn Korean because they say this girl has the driest sense of humor, she apparently is continually cracking lines at me that I can't catch.
That is John in my chair. As you can see I surround myself with quality art. Note also the "Where the Wild things are Masks" on the wall. That was a fun class. Alex is the fuzzy guy in front but you'll see him later.
Here they all are.. somewhat. this is from a set of 3 funny progression photos which Ill post later.
This is the school at 1:30 with all the K kids about to get on the buses. My classroom is in the window by the top of red "S" on the sign.
Alex and Tulip madly chopping away.
Julia, drama queen and someone whose humor I understand.
Alex: Very creative, possibly a few candles short of a cathedral.
Gemini and Soo Yeon, two of the sweetest kids. Gemini (the Boy) has the softest heart and is most likely to burst tears of all my students. Soo Yeon's favorite word is Belly button and she is continually sneaking around and poking other peoples. That leaves no mention of Andy, Danny, Rose or Taylor. I will have to get them in later

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The land of the rising sun in technicolor.

I know you all want to see the kids so thats what I will start with. I don't have a picture of all of them together but its a taste anyway.

Julia at snack time

Jinny at snack Time

John and Alex eating
and then whispering to each other. There are 9 others who I will get photos of soon. These were taken the day before I left.
I had to select from 365 photos for the few to post here.
The view from the mountain outside of Nara The building in the trees houses the largest Buddah in Japan and I think the world (now that the Taliban did their damage). And Below is a street view in a rainstorm.
This is a prayer ceremony happening in a temple in Osaka the camera looks like its on the floor because it is. I was being sneaky.
One of the best reasons for a young man to go to Japan. Kyri. This is the Osaka Castle great from the outside but a bore inside except for the amazing samurai gear. There are also Ninjas with weed wackers all over the castle grounds; watch out!
Which came first the man or the lantern sign?
I can't load anymore pictures without killing the computer so I will leave it at that. I hope to post them on a photo share site.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

"I got the style but not the grace, I got the clothes but not the face"

Well as far as culture shock goes that was quite the ride. I just spent an extended five day weekend in Osaka Japan. I felt like Frodo and Sam ( yes both of them at once) in the land of the elves. The country is so different only strains of common ground remain. I spent most of my time in the downtown hip area of Osaka called Namba, the clothes the food (except starbuck and Mc D's) so much variety and beauty. I was able to see the 17th century Osaka castle and go on a walk through a large area of shrines and temples. I also got into just stopping people on the street and taking there photo and trying to chat. I took a train through two mountains (literally through them) and went to the city of Nara where there are all these deer that are tame and wander around and nudge you for food. And I saw the biggest Buddah in the world....annd... and. I luckily brought my friend Jon's Camera. I have a lot of pictures and I will post them because I really can't describe it in words.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

sweet weekend

So Asher in response to your comments as to Hollands "loss" against Korea on Saturday.... Jon Plantinga and I heard late Friday that the game was happening and so after a long afternoon walk around Olympic park and the river we grabbed the train for the hour ride to the World cup stadium avoided the mayhem of train lines by jumping cabs and taking backtrack routes to get ahead of the crowds. The river of red jerseys flowing out of the station was only interrupted by the odd flash of orange. We got $50 dollar seats for $30 off a scalper and bought a bunch of beer and Kimbop (korean sushi- kinda weird food to eat at a sports event) from a guy with a ice bin outside and headed up to our upper deck midfield seats. We were the only two white boys (jon in orange) in a sea of black hair and red jerseys. The game was excellent. It was an even match for the first half with the dutch avoiding a deficit on a penalty kick through an amazing diving save. Rafeal VanderVaart scored on a penalty kick with no wall because of an inner crease slidetackle by the Koreans.
And then got his second of the night

After that we started hoping the Koreans would score because 60 000 depressed Koreans is no fun. But the Dutch dominated from then on with Hanguk only turning it on for a couple chances in the final minutes.

All in all it was so sweet to be there.

On Sunday afternoon I headed out to Jamsil and watched the FiVB womens Beach Volleyball world tour Seoul Open Final match between China and Australia. Where the Aussies won. It was a scorching day and perfect for sitting in the sun in the sand.

Oh yeah the kids that you all want to hear about. They're great. This morning we did phonics and read "Mouse Soup;" I read one page and they read the next. They're brilliant. Then we did workbooks and studied the magic "E" which changes vowels.. you know cake instead of cak. And then we listened to The Beatles "Magical Mystery Tour" and coloured.