dal niente

Month: October, 2007

We are all One

We are brought together by the strangest of circumstances.  Sometimes, like constellations, everything gets connected and you don’t even know where you stand in the big picture of things, it’s just that someone says “you’re connected” and by their perspective, it seems so obvious.

When I started teaching this class, these kids were always fighting with eachother.  The teacher who I replaced told me that they were monsters, and that this particular group of boys out of all her classes are the ones that drover her to madness.  They were animals, they were on the chairs and desks cussing eachother out in Korean.  One month later, they’re working together.

I asked these boys “Okay, so we’ve just read about food chains.  Can someone tell me what a food chain is?  Better yet, what’s a chain?”

They started jabbering among themselves in Korean, obviously searching for the words.  “NO KOREAN!” I shouted, which is the rule of the school.  Kids are only allowed to speak English in class, it’s supposed to be a totally immersive environment.

And, lacking the English vocabulary to describe a chain, they improvised and made a human chain instead.

Yes, I was so proud of their sudden cooperation that I told them to do it again just because I had to take a picture.

 
 

The guy on the right has his head down because he’s screaming in pain. He’s got a cast on his hand and the other guy is squeezing it, so some of their beforementioned rivalries still hold true.


On another note, remember how a few days ago I was asking what I should do: more TKD, Kendo or Internet?  I, in the end, went with a fourth option: guitar lessons.  I was talking with some of my co-workers and apparently there’s a music studio just behind the school where one can get music lessons.  It’s pricey at 150 000 won per month (about 150 USD/CAD).  You get one lesson of an hour length per week.  The plus side is that it’s really informal and apparently if you go more often and it’s quiet, you get more than that much instruction, plus with the soundproof rooms you get to go in and jam whenever there’s space.  They’ve also got a piano and a drum kit. 

It’s the first time I sat down at a drum kit since I was in high school, and though I was just playing around, it was great.  It really was amazing to be able to wail out 9 piece kit.  Within a minute, I was loose and had gotten back most of what I could do when I was in high school.  It’s pretty amazing actually, because I didn’t think I’d retain the dexterity, but it seems like I was able to just jump right back in.  My body’s muscle memory surprises me all the time.

Later on in the night, some of my friends were practicing for a show that they will be playing at this friday.  I snapped a few pictures, because it really felt like I was at a private backstage thing– they’re really good at what they do.  Hearing them play and watching them just made me have a damn good time, because it’s been a long time since I’ve been in the company of musicians who are really working together in unison to have a good time and to make a good sound.

Anyway, that’s it for now… I’m outta here, I have to go to school a bit early so I can watch Heroes (my home wifi connection is too flaky to watch streaming video) and after that one of my co-workers is going to take me to a clinic so that I can figure out what the hell is wrong with my lungs and throat.

Moving On

Dear Flynt,

I have an apology to make, though perhaps it’s a bit ironic.

The first reason is because I forgot your birthday this year.  And by the time I write this, it’s November 1st.  October 30th should have been an important day for me to remember as well.  Though I guess it’s more important that we remember the life in between the birth and death right?

I was teaching my class today and the subject of Halloween came up.  “It’s when spirits rise up, and the whole tradition of Halloween has to do with the belief that the spirits of the dead are still around with us.”

I think I’ve spent too many years thinking about you Flynt.  Every year up until now.  This is the first year that I forget.  Only when I was talking about spirits in class did it hit me, that there was something I forgot to do now that I’m in Korea.

I guess what this means is that, genuinely, I’ve finally been able to put the past where it should be– behind me.  Not that I’ll ever forget completely, because it’s a part of me.  What’s behind me is what backs me up.  It’s who I am today.  But also it means that I don’t have to look over my shoulder any more– I just know it’s all back there to back me up, I don’t need to keep checking.  It means that I’m getting on with my life, and for that, I’m happy.

So it’s a bit late this year, but thanks for everything Flynt.  I am forgetful, but never truly.

The way I show thanks for everything is by using all that I’ve learned to keep going forward, no matter what can hold us back.  You should know that, you taught me that.

Goodnight Flynt,

Happy Halloween!

This day in History

I almost forgot, because South Korea really has me disconnect from these things that were part of my life in North America…

HAPPY HALLOWEEN! 

… and also, it’s Novermber.  As Shira mentions, yes, it’s time for NaNoWriMo.  I have attempted NaNoWriMo no less than 2 times, perhaps more, and failed each time.  I think I’m going to give it a shot again, since it’s the first year that I don’t have any schoolwork to do… although working full time does make it somewhat difficult!

Who else is doing it?

On that note, I just went ot the NaNoWriMo site and it turns out that they have a youth program for kids aged 12 and under.  I wonder if I can get some sort of class activity to have my Junior kids write a novel for November…

Yellow

In the TKD class, I’m having a fair amount of trouble picking up the hyung (kata/forms).  Some of the folks in my class say that it should be easy for me because I’ve got some history in martial arts, but it’s exactly the opposite– because I’ve done other rulesets of pointfighting before, it’s actually extra work for me to de-program what I already know.

Certain things like the basic stance used in hyungs, called jhoon bee (basically, you standing with one foot forward, like in mid stride) messes me up.  The reason for this is because the stance requires that you stand straight and tall, on the flats of your feet, knees not bent, with chest forward and shoulders square.  Instinctively, whenever I throw a punch kick or block I drop my weight, stand on the balls of my feet and angle my body so I can tuck my chin a bit behind my shoulder, arching my back a little bit too and keeping my hands up.

I guess that this rather bothers me not because I can’t do it but because the primary set of hyung that I’m doing right now are SO EASY but my reflexes just keep making me do them wrong. 

For the same reason I find that they’re really, actually, kind of fun, just because it’s like a game to me.  It requires so much thought to me.  In reality, this is bad because too much thinking slows things down a lot– but at the moment, this is like a brain game to me to see if I can control my muscle memory.  It’s pretty tough though.

People who say that the muscle memory developed by forms is bad when it comes to real fighting, I’m not sure that’s entirely true though I can see where they come from.  Frankly, the way forms are practiced, I’d never expect to get into a situation where I’d be able to block with that kind of stance anways, so I don’t think that a “TKD form response” is an issue since the forms, being as isolated in nature as they are, just don’t have any real-world triggers.  For example, the trigger for me to go into a standard fighting stance is when I feel that someone is a threat.  The trigger for me to go into a TKD jhoon bee is after the instruction from the master 😛  so I don’t think I’ll make that kind of mistake on the street. hahaha

Il Jong: Choon biii…. 90counterclockwise pivot, left low block (araie maki), right reverse punch with crossover, 180clockwise pivot, right low block, left reverse punch with crossover, 90counterclockwise pivot, leftlow block in ahp koo bi (lunging stance), right reverse punch with no crossover,  90clockwise pivot, mid block with left leg forward, reverse right punch with crossover, 180 counterclockwise pivot, right mid block with right leg forward, reverse left punch… uh…. actually, I’ll have to study this a bit more because I’m not certain this is correct.  Anyway, I’ll get back to this later.

ANYWAY, aside from the hyungs which I’m gradually learning (I finally managed to form) there’s actually a lot of kicking techniques that I’ve never had to do, and I’m really excited about these.  Stance switching is not something I used to do much because I’m actually not that accustomed to kicking from the back leg… truth be told, my kicking is very limited. I’d say that I can do low roundhouses with both front and rear, and then there’s lead-leg sidekicks, but really– I don’t have many more than that! I can do the others, but in all my years of kickboxing I’ve always made due with almost just those comfort kicks.

TKD’s really forcing me to do things in that department that I’ve never tried.  Reverse back kicks, reverse hook kicks, axe kicks, as well as spinning feints and doubled up kicks… for those of you in the readership who do TKD, excuse me if the terms aren’t quite right because I don’t know what they’re called in English (nor can I remember yet what they’re called in Korean).  Basically, it’s a whole lot more different ways to score points with your legs, and frankly, it’s very fun.

The instructor asked me to take a yellow belt test on sunday, and he’ll give me more details on Thursday.  … I’ve only been at TKD for about 5 classes so far, doesn’t this feel a bit soon?  But then again, sunday– that’ll give me time to learn the terminology and hopefully I can get enough brain control to do the il jong hyungs properly.

You know what’s very different about here?

It’s that the black belt doesn’t mean you’re an ass kicker, the way it sort of meant back in North America.  A black belt here sort of means that you have enough experience to really start learning.  This hasn’t been formally explained to me, but this is what I get from talking to my students at school and from the calibre of the students at the dojang.

And so maybe it does make sense that someone can get a black belt in a year if they work really hard? I dunno yet, we’ll see I guess.  We’ll work on yellow first.

Status Updates

Condition:  Much better, but I still have a cough from about 2 thursdays ago. It just refuses to go away, so tomorrow, one of my fellow teachers is going to take me to a clinic to get some anti-biotics. 

Financial: Money situation is balancing out just fine, and I’m according to budget (so that’s good).

Hobbies:  I actually have more things to do than I have free time.  Right now, I’m trying to debate what I should spend monthly money on… more TKD time, or Kendo lessons, or internet.  Kendo is probably the most expensive, and will set me back about 100 USD per month at least.  Internet is the cheapest thing to add to my life– I’d get a router for less than 40$, and split with a fellow teacher for about 25$ a month.  Thing is, I already have internet, it’s just that my connection isn’t all that great.

I think, most likely, TKD is probably going to be the thing I add on, but the quesiton is– do I have time?  I dont know how much it will cost for extra TKD lessons, but it probably will be less than an extra 100$ USD per month.

What do you think I should get?  On one hand, I do want to try kendo.  On the other, I’m having a great time picking up TKD.  And on another hand, stable internet would really be nice, especially since I’m running my business back in Montreal remotely via internet.  I’ve decided I’m not going to do all three, just because if I did, I wouldn’t be able to use any of them more than a little and it just wouldn’t be worth it.

What do you think I should do?

My hands in my pockets

It’s been years since I had the urban studies class under Soukwan Chan at Concordia university.  It was one of the most influential classes of my life.  In it, we covered many topics that didn’t have anything to do with the cirriculum– mostly because if the university ever saw on a course syllabus what we were going to do in class, they’d go white with fear of lawsuits.

I heard stories about this teacher.  In an experiment about reclaiming public space, students in one of Soukwan’s classes went out on the street and paid the parking meter for a couple of parking spaces– then parked a sofa there.  And sat there, and chit chatted all day.  People in cars honked and complained to get out of the spaces– the students were told to reply “but we’re paying the meter, so it’s my space.”

In another class, Soukwan was explaining what he thought was the hipocrisy of being a good person by giving money to a charity of your choice.  “If you’re a good person, you just give… you don’t chose how or to who, you just do it.”

And so, one day, he gathered his class of 40 students, told them all to put a few dollars in an envelope for a ‘charity’.  “Now THIS is what it feels like to truly give something.  When you truly give, you don’t judge who deserves to get.”  Then he took them on the roof of the university, and threw the envelope over the side. 

Students screamed as they saw the envelope, with easily a hundred dollars in it, flutter to the streets of Montreal below where they had no idea who would get it.

I think that one of the most influential classes though was the one about homelessness.  It comes back to me because, interestingly enough, now that I’m a teacher as well, globalisation and the economy are the theme of the month’s readings, and I actually had to cover at least one lesson on social services, and another on homelessness.

One of Soukwan’s homeworks for the urban studies class I was in was very different.  “Your assignment, folks, is to go and find this homeless person and have lunch with her.”

On wednesday, I had a late dinner with Zanshin after work.  After the usual repartie discussing the pros and cons of using bladed weapons against zombies, it was getting a bit late.  15 minutes before midnight.  Last trains were midnight, or so I’d been told.

I was about a half dozen long stations away from my own apartment, but if I caught the trains just right it should be okay.  So we said our farewells and I was on my way.

“I hope you got your last train, because I just got on my bus and it was the last one,” I got on my cellphone from Zanshin, who was heading back to his place in another direction.

“Im on it now,” I replied.  Yeah, train bound for Cheonan.  Right on time, I thought, as the doors closed.

Cheonan?  Oh fucknuts.  I was supposed to be on the train bound for Dangoggae.

Before I could arrive at the next station so I could switch over, I saw the train bound for Dangoggae pass by.  The last train.

So there I was, stuck in Seryu.  I got out of the subway and was greeted by a side of Korea I’d never yet set foot in.  Somewhat deserted looking.  Small buildings, no hills.  No major restaurants, and since it was late, nothing open– except for  bars, karaoke joints, DVD rooms and a few other places that looked rather seedy. 

It was different from any place I’d ever been to in Korea because this was the first Korean town where I saw bars over all the windows.

I decided that huh.  Maybe this is my chance to give it a shot.  Partly because I was too cheap to pay the taxi fare across 6 cities.  Partly because I had this welling excitement coming from within me at the prospect of finally being able to do this.

So I decided to try and live on the streets for one night.


The first problem was that I was totally underequipped.

What I had on me:

  1. The underwear I was wearing
  2. My socks
  3. My Timberland outdoor-shoes
  4. A Helly Hansen LIFA sweatwicker shirt
  5. A thin shirt
  6. A wool jacket with a detachable hood
  7. A scarf
  8. My biking gloves
  9. My MEC backpack
  10. 6 handwritten essays from my Senior 3 class
  11. My camera
  12. My watch
  13. My cellphone and a spare battery
  14. My wallet, which had 45000 won (about 45 bucks)

And that’s it.

The first issue was that it was already midnight.  Korea’s temperature drops like crazy once the sun is gone, and though I was still warm from the subway, I could see my breath in the air.  I had to bundle up if I was going to survive.  I took out all my clothes and layered it all on.  I needed to stay just warm enough that I wouldn’t sweat, so even when I was searching the town for shelter, I made a point not to spend too much energy or to sweat.

At first I decided that I wouldn’t sleep– I would just walk around for about four hours.  But frankly, it was getting a bit cold.

I was half heartedly looking for a cheap motel or something to stay at because frankly I hadn’t quite decided yet that I wanted to sleep on these streets. 

 

Lighting was pretty bad in the area.  It was a really run down sort of place, with lots of scrap lumber and metal lying around in barb-frenced yards. 

I walked street after street, and my evaluation of the area led me to the conclusion that it’d be very unwise to sleep out in the open anywhere, or even in any of these yards.  I’d need to find my way into a building, perhaps climb onto the roof of a small building or something where I could be out of view.

The only place that really looked good at first was the place shown in the photo above, which is a church.  Somehow, amid the rest of the town, this place looked pretty clean.  However, it was also well lit and had security cameras around it.

Later on in the morning I was getting quite tired of walking around, and it was getting cold.  Probably around 10 degrees Celcius.  That’s not that bad, but I was sick from a the leftovers of a cold that I’d had since saturday.  So I started seriously looking for some shelter.

I found this:

You can barely see it in the picture because there are almost no streetlights on this building.  I figure it’s an apartment because though there are no signs, I see bicycles parked inside and locked to the rails.  People don’t lock bikes to the rails of businesses, and besides, the doors have numbers.  It is the only apartment building whose front door has accidentally been left open (all the other ones either have their doors closed, or have guards).

The inside of the apartment is only moderatly better lit than the streets, and I make my way up stairwell after stairwell.  The lights are automatic– they’re motion sensitive and turn on as you walk through a hall, then shut off 15 seconds later.  So, if you stop moving, you’re plunged into the darkness again.  Have you ever thought what that would be like? Living in 15 second bursts of eyesight? 

Having worked in a hospital tells you one trick:  usually, if you want some peace and quiet, try to get to the roof.   Sure enough, when I went to the top floor of the stairwells, there was a roof access door (locked) and a small storage area (pictured below.)

The floor was cold so I improvised something to lie on with the stuff that was available.  I took a small abandonned coffee table and set it on the ground, and used my bag, packed with my sweater, as a pillow.  My legs were too long and dangled over the edge, so it was uncomfortable, but it was better than lying directly on the cold marble. 

My roomates were a giant water tank, an old mattress (which was too heavy and dusty so I didn’t use that), a picnic table parasol and a bucket of brooms. I used the broom to clean off my ‘bed’ as well as I could.  I wrapped my hood and scarf tightly over my face, knowing that in Korea, the mosquitoes are freaking huge, and because I didn’t want to suck in too much of the dust that was everywhere.

I was woken up a little while later by the sound of buzzing in my ear.  So there were mosquitos, I thought!  I tied my scarft and hood tighter over my face, leaving only enough space for my eyes to see in the event that I was discovered by someone.

I managed to sleep for maybe an hour, I can’t exactly remember.  But I remember waking up intermittently.

It was very stressful.  Because of the stairwell leading straight to the exit about four floors down, and the marble design of the place, the acoustics were crazy.  People would be walking or talking on the streets, just passing by the entrance, and I’d hear them as if they were coming up the stairwell right next to me.  Sometimes, a distant car would sound like a fly in my ear, just because of the way the sound waves were channeled.  It was near impossible to sleep and I found myself checking my watch often, wondering when the subway would re-open, only to find that only 5 or ten minutes had passed.  My ankles were hurting from the angle at which they were lying on the floor in my shoes.

“Tie your laces.  Triple knot them,” one of my classmates in Urban Studies had suggested back then.  “If someone wants to steal your shoes, at least they’ll have to wake you up first and you’ll have a fighting chance.”

“Keep your valuables in your pockets, and keep your hands in your pockets,” I was told, for exactly the same reason.

It was, thankfully, a lot warmer in the apartment stairwell than in the streets.

I was awoken again at some point by buzzing by one of my ears.  Something trying to get through my hood.  I flailed around a bit, then I saw the shillouette of something against the dim lights and I managed to smack it hard with my gloved hand.

It wasn’t no mosquito.  If it was, I wouldn’t have been able to feel it through my padded glove.

I went down the stairs to turn on to trigger the lights.  When they turned on, I rushed back to my ‘nest’ and looked at the wall where I heard the bug’s body slam in the darkness.  Turns out it wasn’t a mosquito– it was a hornet, slightly bigger than an inch.  I decided at that point that I perhaps shouldn’t stay there, in case any of his friends were around.

I wandered a bit for a little while longer, playing the Push Push II game on my cellphone, taking pictures of the streets to stay busy.  At some point, around 4 am, I thought to myself– only an hour more and I can be on my way home.  Only an hour more and I can get back on that train.

But I was exhausted.  My little adventure had burned a lot of energy from the cold, and, frankly, the stress of constantly waking up at any voices I ever heard.  And even if I did get on that train, I’d arrive home exhausted and unrefreshed, and I’d have to work in the afternoon.  So I aborted my little forray in homelessness 1 hour before my goal was to be reached.  I once again scored the town and eventually managed to find a motel to spend the night.  From about 4:30 am until 12:30PM the next day, I slept there.  When I awoke the next day, I got cleaned up and went to work.

…it was an interesting experience.  Although the place was kind of creepy, I don’t think it was particularly dangerous.  This isn’t the kind of experiement that I’d try in New York or Montreal, that’s for sure– even in a town with barred windows, Korea is still a relatively safe place.  It was, however, interesting to see what it’d be like to resign oneself to the idea of no personal shelter during the lull of the night.

So, how was it?

I can say that it isn’t nearly as scary as it sounds.  I don’t know why but I guess the whole experience was somewhat cheating– as I said, the backalleys of a slightly rural Korean town are different from a North American ghetto.  Nonetheless, I’d like to think that the fact that it was a foreign country makes up for some of the challenge, since at this point I’m not even quite sure how to say “police” or “ambulance” in Korean.

When I think about it now, the whole issue of personal belongings comes to the foreground.  You need things to keep you warm. You need things that are practical and which are versitile.

Do poor, homeless people really have nothing?  Or do they chose not to have nothing?  To ask the question that Bono posed at a 2005 UN summit meeting about the future of aparteid, “What is all that you can’t leave behind”?

Throughout the night I thought of one thing that I missed– people.  Talking to people.  As isolated as one can feel in the middle of a foreign country, in the daytime and security of one’s home town one still has familiar places and people to turn to .  Even if not for interaction, then at least for a mental anchor.

Being in the middle of the night and trying to stay awake while everyone sleeps is a surreal experience.  It’s as if the streets are a graveyard– though nobody is around to disturb, you don’t want to raise your voice, you muffle your cough in your sleeve because you don’t want to wake anyone.  When drunk people passed by me in their harmless saunters, I found myself actually trying to blend in the shadows and waiting for them to pass by me.  First rule of latenight streets– if you are going to let yourself be noticed, look more threatening than the threats, either by body language, or by keeping yourself in a position that has superior tactical advantages; high ground, obstacles shielding you, etc.  If you have gloves, keep them on so that you don’t tear your knuckles on peoples teeth, which is a mistake I made when I was younger.  Leave as little skin exposed as possible.  Walk with purpose, but make it known that you’re not so set on getting where you have to to go that you aren’t aware of the presence of others.   Keep your bag and shoes strapped on tight so if you need to run, you can without worrying about dropping anything.  Tie off all loose things that people can grab.  Keep your legs and, especially, your ankles warm, so that you’re ready to sprint.

Your senses are a lot sharper in the middle of an empty area.  Perhaps in the crowds of daytime, one takes it forgranted– the idea is that no one will try anything bad in public.  But when you’re isolate, then threat detection becomes more and more important.  In large part, it is because any bad people out there don’t have to worry about witnesses, and and on top of that, if you run into one, their selection of targets is extremely limited.

While I was sleeping in the stairwell, one time I was awoken by the sound of shouting followed by what sounded like a beer bottle exploding against the wall.  It was followed by cursing and the sound of hard rubber soles racing down the street.

That morning, as I slept, it was one of the best rests that I had all year.

… I’m really happy that though I am an english teacher, I have the permission to take my lessons wherever I want.  It’s not that, as some people beleive, I’m preaching my ideas. I mean, I am.  But my job is to give them perspectives. 

When i really think about it, being stranded out in Seryu was an opportunity to become a better teacher.  Sure, I didn’t stay out as long as I could have… and yeah, I chickened out only a little while before my goal was up.  But there’s a lot of things that were learned out there that night…

I had, for example, no idea that I could be driven to the brink of madness by simple boredom.  No, it wasn’t the fear of the voices in the streets– it wasn’t the waking up constantly.  It was, rather, that being awake meant being bored, so exhaustion was just that much more annoying.

…Go home and hug your pillow tonight folks.

Have a good night!

One at a time

So, it’s not often that I actually really feel super rewarded with my job.  I mean, sure, I love the kids, and they’re really nice to me.  They chit chat with me often enough, and I’d like to think that they find me entertaining as a person the way that I make fun of them and let them make fun of me, despite the age difference of 10+ years.

Today I got something back that really made me feel as if I’m really a teacher.

Korea is one of those fast paced industrialized nations where the youth are really on the move when it comes to their education.  Kids generally start their day of education between 8 and 9am, and finish their day of education late around 8pm.  Middleschoolers finish at about 10pm.  That doesn’t include the time it takes them to transport around, and to actually do the homework for those classes.

As a result, I can say without any hesitation that Korean kids are some of the hardiest students you will find on the face of the planet.  They just work so hard and they have an appreciation for hard work that is deeply rooted in every aspect of their culture. 

 

But there are a few prejudices that they easily take forgranted as a result of this kind of work centered culture.  Because of the emphasis on hard work, the subject of poverty is a rather taboo one.  In the begining, there was a very capitalist mentality to it when i asked my middleschoolers, “what do you think of poor people?”

The answers ranged from “they’re a waste of government money” to “they’re lazy and don’t want to work so they get what they deserve.”  The general consensus was that “poor people aren’t really people.”

 

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been studying the topic of globalization.  Our classes are 3 hours long, and they give me a text each class that’s about 1.5 pages long to teach.  The text is perhaps 8 paragraphs long.  So, just imagine– the length of your average newspaper article.  Just enough to say a bit, but not nearly enough to say enough to really be understood.  How do you stretch a text that short into 3 hours?

You have to talk. And talk.  And talk.  And because middleschoolers are naturally adverse to speaking up in class, I often wonder if they’re even listening to what I’m saying.  My first few days with the class were actually really disheartening because I couldn’t get a peep out of them, sometimes not even when I asked them a direct question. 

Anyway, back to my subject…

At the beginning, my middleschool students, without any exceptions, were of the opinion that the poor people were a scourge upon the world.  Over the past few weeks I’ve been writting lesson plans and delivering them, oftentimes monologuing (since they are way too shy to respond sometimes) different ways of looking at the world.  The economy.  Politics.  Law.  Globalization.  The most I got was a smile here and there, or perhaps a nod of the head.  Maybe a word or two, “yes, it’s a noun.”

It’s not that I didn’t know the job would be like that, but it’s just that I suppose I accepted that perhaps in a certain way, I was a teacher in the sense that it was just my job to throw ideas off of them.  I never expected anything to stick.  And now that I think about it, that’s almost sinful– how could a teacher ever think that his kids wouldn’t learn?    How could a teacher ever think that he makes no difference?

 

I’m sorry for doubting you, class.

 

And here’s the essay from one of my students  that made me finally feel like I was finally making some small difference in the world.

There are still a few quirks (it’s uncorrected) and you can see that the kid is struggling with some of the ideas (nevermind the writing) but still: for a 14 year-old studying a language and culture that’s completely different from his own, this is pretty god damned good.


 

     There are many poor people all over the world, especially Africa. So we can see people who is dieing of poverty, and many organization for saving them. For example World Vision, UNICEF and so on. They are very devoted to poor people.

     We have to help many poor people, because almost poor people don’t have power about job and money. In other words, most of poor people don’t know about making money, because they didn’t have chances about education. So we should teach them. and make them earn money.

     Many people think poor people don’t matter with themselves. But they are not a world’s people. World’s people mean people who have right moral consciousness in the world. Worlsd’s people help many poor people and they are concerned about poor people. This is very natural situation.

     But many people think poor people are very so lazy that can’t make money. This opinion is right. But we shouldn’t ignore them. If we show them our interest and advice, maybe they like it. And they will work hard. Also we can develope law about poor people. This is all efort for poor people. Just love them, just lead them and poor people can be people who don’t poor.

     Real poor people are people who don’t have understanding, love, and interst. Let’s have interest about poor people. And help them and maybe the world become more beautiful.

 

Baby baby babaaaaaaay

Since we’re doing level tests today, it means I only have to do half as much teaching as usual.  For that reason, I brought my laptop with me to school today.

At 3:03pm, at school:  Rockin out with James Brown music in my classroom while I prepare for the day’s classes.

“I got the feelin’!”

It’s all in the Footwork

So yesterday, the instructor for the TKD class had to go and do some sort of special event, so we were left in the hands of the senior students.  So, there’s 4 of us (all foreigners and all working at the same teaching firm) and 4 of ‘them’ (the senior students).

Out of the bunch, D has a black belt, S has a yellow, while M and I have white belts.

All of the senior students have black belts.

You get two points for a clean kick to the head, and one point for a clean kick to the front or sides of the chestplate.  You get no points for punching, unless it’s a counter.

When I was younger, back in the MAC, I might have complained a lot.  For this sparring match, there are a lot of restrictions.  You’re not allowed to use destructive blocking (for example, blocking someone’s kick with your elbow).  You’re not allowed to hit below the waist (no low kicks).  Obviously, in TKD, there are no takedowns, and no grappling.  Because of the dangers of getting hit in the groin, front (thrusting) kicks to the body are not allowed.  Etc. Etc.

Because our Korean understanding is rather limited, it took a few minutes for the most senior student to demonstrate what was legal and what wasn’t.

It was a very interesting experience!  I think I can really get to like this!

And that’s mostly interesting because traditionally I’ve never really like fighting in this way.  I’ve always wanted it to be rumbling, mma style “anything-goes school of martial arts”.

I am very rusty and I haven’t a shred of the flexibility that I did five years ago, but during my sparring match, which lasted about 2 minutes, I managed to win with a score of 9-1… so yeah.  I did okay.  I was going easy, but I nonetheless strained my hamstring a bit just because my opponent is tall and I overestimated my reach.

It’s hard to make sharp, clean kicks nowadays.  But I think that if anything, the one thing I can still do without so much cooperation from my body is mess with their heads.  I mean, sure, it’s one thing if I can’t beat someone with pure initiative.  BUT, if I can feint my way into openings, it’s really easy.

The sparring that we did in TKD was really interesting because it’s a completely different paradigm from what I’m used to– for one thing, peoples’ guards are generally very loose and open.  Although during practice, the master tells us to keep up our hands in semi-clenched fists, when sparring pretty much all the senior students kept their hands loosely by their sides.  Why? Is it because it’s easier to generate torque for stance switching and kicking?

I have noticed one thing– TKD folks are generally a lot lighter on their feet, and I find that they do relatively less blocking and crashing compared to evasion.  I mean, since they’re always bouncing around, it’s easy for them to use distance as deffence whenever it looks like someone is going to attack.

I think, actually, that I had a lot more experience than the black belt I was up against, at least when it came to sparring.  His techniques were a lot sharper than mine, and I could tell by his evasions and blocking that he had programmed reflexes to standard attacks.  Unfortunately for him, that is usually what I play on– reflexes.  So if I launched a single direct attack– no matter what kick– he always block or evade it relatively easily.  I was simply too slow, and the lack of refinement in my technique telegraphed my intentions. But, if I employed feints, almost all of my attacks got past him.

It’s actually REALLY interesting when someone has telegraphic techniques AND uses feints.  It’s almost like a sensory overload because once you give them juicy telegraphed moves, they tend to commit to a particular deffense, it’s like baiting them.  Feinting only works if the feint is done at a speed that is SLOW enough to trigger a commited deffensive reaction.  A lot of people ‘overfeint’ by feinting too quickly, and following up with the real attack before the opponent can even bite the bait.  I guess in an odd way I was in a privledged position because ALL of my attacks were slow, so everything prompted a reaction !!

But anyway, the match was very interesting for a number of reasons.

Although the rules restrict a lot of what you can actually do, what must be kept in mind is the sporting context of the match.  People don’t play basketball and say “that’s unrealistic… if you were just doing dribbling tricks on me, I’d just tackle you and take the ball.”  No.  You play a game, you play by the rules: it’s that simple.  And I don’t by any means mean to degrade TKD by calling it a game– I have the utmost respect for games.

The thing about it is, for example, since we only have limited scoring techniques– the roundhouse kick, the axe kick, the side kick, the back kick and the spinning/jumping variations; it is actually more difficult to score.  Simplicity isn’t easy.  You can say all you want, for example, that deadweight lifting isn’t as complicated as a team sport like American Football– but that doesn’t mean you’ll be any good at it, so stop being a critic!  The point isn’t whether or not the ‘sport’ is good– it’s whether or not you can be good at it if you want to.  If it’s not your cup of tea, then we agree to disagree.  If you don’t like the game, go play something else.

In that sense, even though my match was only 2 minutes, I managed to have a great deal of fun.  Because I’m not fast, I was pretty much restricted to two kinds of kicks that I was comfortable with– roundhouse and sidekick.   If you only have two tools, your options are VERY limited.  But that’s where the feinting made things interesting…

And even though I ‘won’ my match, it’s really not important… the guy I was against had a lot of interesting things up his sleeve as well, which I hope to be able to assimilate into my game.

Anyway, more on this some other day. 

Why do people care so much about celebreties?

…because it’s easier than looking up to themselves.

 

 

(that was the featured question, BTW.)