dal niente

Month: May, 2008

A World Without Thieves

If you haven’t seen this movie, you should try and get a copy of it on DVD.  It’s one of those rare movies that is plot and character driven, rather than by action and visuals (even though cinematographically, it’s really well done).  It’s the story of two professional theives.  They’re a great pair, until one of them decides that she’s tired of the lifestyle.  It’s really a touching story… can’t really say much more than that without spoiling things, but I think you should watch it.

There’s a line in the movie that translates basically to “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished.”

I think one of the major themes of the movie is “improving your karma.”  I’m not Buddhist, and in fact, I’m barely Christian even considering that I make an effort to go to Church every week, but you know, some ideas just make sense.

I beleive that people have the potential for good and evil, in equal parts.  And you can perhaps tag this on upbringing– but personally, when I do something bad, I sometimes feel it.  Truly.  The whole looking out for number 1 kinda mentality has been my lifestyle for more than half of my life.  And while I’m no saint now, I’ve been trying to turn it around for perhaps the same motivations as the heroine of the story– to improve my karma.

But it’s so difficult sometimes.  It’s emotionally draining to try and do things in a dangerous, hateful world.  And I’m not saying this as an emo– I say this from the perspective that people really are cynical and caught in the loop of maintaining a system of emotional capitalism.  I call it emotinal capitalism because people put the focus on happiness– and then they do what they can to fight for it– as if happiness is the end goal.

I don’t think this is true– I think happiness is a byproduct of a life well lived, which is perhaps why for so many people (myself included), it’s so elusive and short term.

When I was in College, I met a teacher who taught me a really interesting lesson.  It was the idea of our true generosity or love.  What he did was get everyone in our class of 40 students to put five bucks into an envelope.  Then we went onto the roof of the university, and just threw the envelope off.

Some lucky bastard was going to get 200 bucks from heaven.

“You can say all you want that you do this for that cause or whatever.  But if you really want to love, that means you do nice things without expecting a single thing in return.”

I think the resounding sense of regret as we watched the 200 dollars float to the street, further than our eyes could see, wasn’t just that we’d lost 200 bucks– but in fact, the regret was that we felt regret, and that at a certain level, it reminded us of how selfish we really are.

I should clarify the circumstances for this post.

I wrote a little while ago about using up all my elixers– I’m not kidding.  There are days in my teaching week where the situation in class demands extreme measures– but they leave you vulnerable for the rest of the week.  You’d think that a night’s sleep will reset you and you’ll have a full tank of gas again when you wake up, but no– it doesn’t work like that.  You get a tank of gas per week, and if you use it all up by wednesday you have to hitchhike on chances for the rest of week.  And like inspiration, which is really all that can save you when you’re out of gas, you can hold out your thumb until your arm falls off sometimes.

It’s been that kind of second half of week for me.  I burned my gas too fast and as a result, I’ve been trying to ride out the rest of this week.

Two days ago, while teaching my S3 class, I used the last of my fuel in the first half of that class.  It was a fun class.  But children are magnifiers and mirrors all at once– I think escalation is the proper word.  If you throw good energy at them, they throw it back at you with 10% extra.  Of course, this means participation, but on the other hand, there’s a fine line between an active class and pandemonium.

At a certain point things were just getting too crazy, and in the last 20 minutes of that class, I just snapped.  I told everyone to sit down, be quiet.  We’re not going to be playing the game because you guys are getting too out of hand.  We’re going to cover 2 more chapters in the book.  And you. YOU.  You will be quiet or I will throw you out in the hall.  I’ve been nice to you up until now to spare you getting sent to the counter, but don’t TEST ME.

In my head, I had to consciously go through the effort to check myself from it coming out as “SHUT THE FUCK UP and SIT THE FUCK DOWN, ALL OF YOU.”

This is a constant occurance as a teacher– but that’s why I say you need to pace yourself during a week.  It doesn’t just take energy to teach and force down the information– it also takes energy to carry the class, to maintain fun– and it takes energy to roll with punches.

I mean, tolerance and patience.

I’m find that with this age group, teaching is moreso about patience and endurance than it is about knowing your materials.

And part of your job is to just keep on trying, and always smile, even though they’re just like drains– you throw stuff and it just dissapears.  They think you do it naturally but really, everytime you put your heart into something and get no reaction, you just feel a little more worn around the edges.

I like my job, I sincerely do.

But sometimes, the amount of tirendess you go through just to get a chance at success in even just one kid… it just feels so fucking long.

I’ve been officially recognized as one of the most important teachers at our branch.  The manager called four of us out of the 25 and said flat out: “Among the teachers, I consider you the best.  So I’m giving you all a raise.”

I won’t complain about a raise, but it does also mean more responsabilities.

I’ve been assigned 4 teachers who will be operating under me to develop the summer program.  It’s going to be uphill man… uphill.

I’m a bit tired right now so I’ll finish this post at that, since I have to head off to work in a few minutes.

Thank God it’s Friday.

I wonder what it’d be like, a world without ‘theives’.

Tell Me

Recent Movies:

Flashpoint: Thumbs Up
Three Kingdoms Ressurection: Thumbs Up
Seven Swords: Thumbs Down

So, my boss once again asked me to renew my contract with the company.  Good sign, right?

On a side note, I’m going to be working on a new prototype project– aside from me designing a special saturday class cirriculum from scratch, I’m going to be working on developing the students’ worksheets for Scott O’Dell’s  Island of the Blue Dolphins.  I say worksheets because it’s a prototype– in the future, I might be making an entire workbook.  It’s unknown so far.  But it pays more.

People ask me how I can spend so much time doing things for work.  Well, the thing is, I get paid– and I actually consider a lot of the tasks as hobbies, because they align with my interests.  The newsletter is sort of like publishing, the Saturday class is like seminar format teaching (very different from the style of Monday to Friday teaching), and this workbook prototype is … I don’t know what it is, I’ve never done this kind of work before.  And frankly, I think I’m quite bad at making up written activities, but that’s exactly why I’m going to try and see what I can do with it.

There’s a new teacher at work, and I was somewhat excited because I was told that he would be observing one of my classes.  I NEVER have any of my classes observed.  For a long time, I thought it was because they don’t want to show my teaching style to any new teachers for fear that it might set a bad example.

Later I found out it was because that it was because they wanted him to observe an H-class, and that none of the other teachers wanted to demo for him.  Because of the way H-Classes usually are, they just all protested that it would be a waste of time. 

An H-class is a group of middleschoolers.  Generally, they’re the oldest kind of student that you can have in my academy.  H-Class is a completely different ballgame from Basic, Junior and Senior classes– the reason being is that they’re at that age when they’re too cool for you.  Most H-Classes are like dental procedures– nobody likes them, nobody says anything except cusswords when you want to drag something out of them.  They certainly don’t want to volunteer and above all, they don’t want to write you any essays.

So the new teacher gets assigned to watch my class.  Ah.

I was thinking for a while “It’s a shame he doesn’t get to observe my Senior classes instead.  Those kids are so much better.”

But then I thought about it.

Why the hell not the H-Class?  Yeah, let’s show him how it’s done.  This is a rare opportunity. Instead of worrying that he’ll copy my style, on the contrary– I’ll who him how fucking awesome my H-class is.

He comes through the door.

“Alright.  I told some of you.  This is Corey.  He’s a new teacher at Youngdo.”

(Chorus): “HI COREY.”  (No exclamation or enthusiasm, but pure volume.)

“Teacher,” whispers Joshua.  “Do he do bad medicine?” (Translation: drugs)

“I don’t know,” I reply.  “Why don’t you ask him?”

“Oh teacher!  No can ask.  Bad med people are dangerous.  Anything can trigger danger.  No can ask.”

Corey’s sitting down in a chair next to the girls, but contrary to what you’d think, his presence in the room makes no difference to their habits.  If anything, they’re purposely being more showy and vain.  He might as well be the ‘invisible’ voyeur that they secretly know about.  The girls are busy pretending to be ‘fashion leaders,’ the  boys are warming up their fistfights.

“Teacher, why does class 5 and 6 have pizza?  Why don’t we have pizza?”

“The Sarah and JC are going back to Canada.  It’s their last day, so they get pizza.”

“So why don’t we get pizza?”

“Because I’m not leaving.”



“Yes Hyun?”

“Why don’t you get out so we can have some pizza?”

“Because I like teaching you so much that I’m going to teach you FOREVER.”

I look to Corey, and laugh.  “I’ve worked very hard to make my H-Class kids talk.  This isn’t your typical class, and if you ask any of the other classes, I’d say 9 times out of 10 you get stuck with a field of crickets for 3 hours.  This is a bit crazy at times, but I think that at the very least y’know, you get them to talk and you can at least get them to practice their speaking abilities.  They won’t do the homework.  They seldom do the writing.  They are often sleeping.  You do what you can.”

“It’s really… uphill, isn’t it?”

“It’s a lot like ‘To Sir, With Love’, but minus the ‘Love’ and put in some Korean words that you don’t undersatnd.  Depends on the day, really.  But I think that as long as you don’t go gently into the night, you’re doing a good job.  You take any inch you can from them and at some point, they respect you.”

Out of 8 students, 3 of them didn’t bring their books outright.  2 of them didn’t finish their homework completely.  The other two actually did it.  So, as per usual, homework checking is a moot point.

The class dynamic is a bit different today because Corey’s here– when someone’s watching, the students are reflexively a bit more tense and reluctant to get crazy.  I take advantage of it to plow through the lesson and catch t hem while they’re hesitant.

Teaching a class is a lot like a confrontation.  While ability and fighting potential is one thing, a lot of the results are determined by the power balance of the presences in the encounter.  Meaning, when one party is indecisive, the other party can magnify their abilities through the imposition of strong intentions.  You can call it ‘battle aura,’ if you were a fan of Ranma. It’s like flaring your chi– you don’t shout, but you speak with such measured and decisive clarity that people pay attention to you because you’re doing every calculation in your head to make the perfect bluff of invincibility.

And perhaps you are.  Maybe it is no bluff– since bluffs stem from your base ability, and people really catch on to more than perhaps they’re even conscious of, the size of your bluff at times can determine the amount of substance backing it up. 

You’re full throttle ahead.  It’s not very good on fuel economy, but damn, it is a fun ride if you can hang on.  I liken the experience to being at some boss in a game of Final Fantasy and saying “Fuck it.  I know it’s not the last boss, but I’m going to use all my !@#$*( elixers NOW and show this fucker who’s in charge!”

“Okay, so we’ve got pottery.  We’ve got paper.  What else do they trade on the silk road?  Another P.”


“People?” I repeat.  “Okay, people.  Yes, that works.  But what kind of people?  What do you think that it means when we trade people?”

“Soccer players teacher!”


“Get rid of the Beckham, he is the garbage player!”

“Good example!  That is a trade of people.  But remeber– Beckham isn’t 2000 years old.   Give me a guess– who do you think gets traded?  Isn’t trading only for goods and services?  What do you think it means to trade people?  The hint– it starts with an s and an l.”

“Sluts teacher!”

“NO.  YES.  That’s part of it.  That’s not what I’m looking for.  Another word that starts with the SL sound.”


“Yes, slaves. Good word.  What does slave mean?”

“Servant, working for.”

“Yes, that’s exactly it.  If I am your teacher, you are my slaves.  I will assign you pages 1 to 1 million, and you will do them without pay.  And you will hate me and want to kill me.”

“No teacher,” Thomas raises his hand.  “That’s okay.  I don’t do my homework anyway so you cannot hurt me!”

Hyun and Thomas are deadlocked in their seats– each one of them is holding the other’s wrist and they’re trying to leverage to punch eachother in the face.  I was talking to Glara and Amy about their vacation plans, so I didn’t notice right off the bat.  When I did, I snuck up behind them, grabbed them by their ears.  Too late they realized I was there.  The rest of the class suddenly drops everything they’re doing, waiting for it.

“Nooooooooooo teache~~~~!”

I crack their heads together.  They clutch their foreheads, bury them in their laps and they start swearing in Korean.

“HEADSHOT.” Yells the rest of the class.  Not with an exclamation, mind you– a loud, definitive sentence.

Mike runs up to the board and checks off two points for Teacher.

I consider telling Corey to stop staring with his mouth open, but then again, I don’t want to make him feel uncomfortable.

(It should be noted that though I do whack my kids, it’s never with the intent to hurt them– it’s all stage acting.  I pretend to hurt them, they pretend to be hurt– the whole game is that they don’t get caught, or that they find some way to dodge or block.  If I get a good grip on them though, or if I use my ninja skills to sneak up on them, I can score lots of easy kills.  I do not endorse corporal punishment in the classroom!!)

Later on in the breakroom, JC calls me from across the room.  “Hey, so Corey was observing your H-Class right?”


“He says that your class was crazy.”

“I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks so. He seemed pretty impressed when my students started swearing at him in French.”

Yeah, I take a lot of pride in my work.

From Jack, Age 12

I want to solve the test very well. If iI had a good score,iI had a present or good time. If iI had a bad score,my father whips me and he shouted (shouts at me) so iI became a scared child.

I want to write the test very well.  If iI wrote the test very well, friends envied (envy )me and they celebrated me.  If iI had a good score, iI will very happiness(happy).

I want to answer the test very well.  If iI answer the test very bad, I had no energy because iI thought about my father’s voice.  I am scared of my father.

I want to unravel the test very well.  If iI had a good score, iI don’t have to study again. I had(have) a funny time.

If iI had a good score,iI will very happiness(happy) and don’t have study again. bBut if iI had a bad score,iI became a scared child.  I really want my father to become a kind man.

[Jinryu:  I’ve already done the corrections for the grammar.  So now, here’s my question for you, the readers– what comments and feedback would you write at the bottom of this essay?]

From Joe, age 13, in his second language

”     Each people (person )has a things that they want to change.  People wants to change their trashes to gold and others are want to change their worn dresses to luxury dresses.  For me I want to change nuclear boms to water boms so armies couldn`t make other people to die,


To answer a previous comment,

I’ve found that Korean jeans aren’t just low cut, but they’re made for a really strange sorta physiology.  Granted, I haven’t tried all the cuts, but I do own 3 pairs of the ‘most popular cuts’ i’m told, which are similar to the one pair that I bought when I was in Taiwan.  While they do vary a bit (all four of them I mean, between eachother) there are a few noteworthy notes to the jeans I onwed back in North America.

  • Waist sizes are correct.
  • Thigh sizes are usually kinda tight on me.
  • The jeans are shaped somewhat like… uh… a funnel?  So they tend to be kinda be tight under the crotch.  Ahem.  I’m not sure if that’s supposed to say something about Asians or not.
  • And perhaps this is too much information, but it’s perfectly all right as long as you stack your goods upwards instead of downwards.
    • That said, i think all of my new jeans are ‘brief friendly’ and not ‘boxer friendly’.

I probably wouldn’t be wearing these kinds of jeans if I was in Canada, but then again, when in Rome….

I saw Indiana Jones last night.  It was AWESOME.  I liked it more than I liked Iron Man and Speed Racer, but that might be because my childhood had me timed specifically with the original ones.  I think I live in a privledged generation– I grew up with Super Mario, all of the Final Fantasies, Dr. Jones, Luke Skywalker, etc…. I was just lucky so that I saw these things growing from the bottom up and now that I’m older, as perhaps the creators are as well, they just know how to keep things going.

Granted, not all continuations really turn out great, but when they do, it makes me feel like I’m a part of something.


It took me about 1 day per pair, but I finally got used to wearing the Korean cut of jeans.

(It felt really strange at first…. ^ ^”’)

I used to cry when I had 비빔밥 because even that was too much for me to handle.  If you look back at my entries from the period where I was fresh off the plan back in October, I do believe I sobbingly confessed that I was going to die out here if only because nothing was edible for my Cantonese dietary habits.

When I was trying to ask for things in Korea, I’d read the English phonetics out of my Lonely Planet phrasebook.  Usually I was met with frowns and wrinkled brows of confusion, since my Canadian phonetic range was so far removed from the local lingo.  I didn’t get anywhere with trying to communicate anything, and the only way I could get lucky was if the person actually knew some English. 

I spent the first month hanging out with the teachers I worked with.  I tried to get in with the various cliques, and see where I fit.


There’s something that always bothered me about Chinatown back in Montreal.  I’m a Canadian born Chinese.  It’s a common backstory, really– I’m of the subdivision of CBCs that didn’t learn how to read or write Chinese, and doesn’t know how to speak it all that well.  My vocabulary was limited to the domestic things and common applications– I could make my way in a conversation about the home, or in the restaurants that we were eating in, or the whether.  But if you asked me to teach you how to drive a car, how to use a fax machine, or how to ship a package, I wouldn’t have enough vocabulary.  I basically had the words for whatever I was exposed to most in terms of Chinese culutre, which came from my grandparents– and that was basically ordering food in restaurants or bitching about how the price of vegetables has gone up.

My grandparents and my parents never made much of an effort to teach me Chinese, and I think at the time, especially during elementary, I was struggling with the confusion of having a home with many dialects present.  (Although Cantonese is the primary dialect, we also had Toysan, and my mom’s side spoke Fukien and some Philipino dialects as well.)  Somehow through it all I finished university as an English major, but, simplified, this is to say that I really failed with any Asian language acquisitions.

I used to hate Chinatown for a long time.  At least, I’d never really go there without a purpose.  I’d go there with friends to eat, or I’d go there to play badminton, but I wouldn’t go there to hang out or to relax.  I didn’t like how when I walked into a store and couldn’t speak fluently in one straight dialect that I got frowns or less service.  I especially didn’t like it how even a Caucasian would get better service than me, because somehow a shopkeeper had judged in the 5 seconds since he’d met me that I was purposely forsaking part of ‘our’ history by not being able to communicate fluently.

There was a long time where I simply identified myself as “Canadian,” with the intention of this meaning that I didn’t have any history.  I was Chinese only in appearance. 

And I began to resent Chinatown, because from my Canadian perspective, who were these people?  These immigrants who decided to ship off the shores of the Mainland and then come to Canada, who started their own little ghetto– and for what?  What was Chinatown, any Chinatown really, but a thorn in the side Canada?  I’m saying this from the perspective of someone who at the time was very concerned with socio-economics and government.  Because most Chinese people who congregate to live and work in Chinatown tend to exclude themselves from the outside world.  They don’t take the time to learn English or French to workable levels– for every waiter or shopkeeper who smiles at you and does speak to you with genuinely well-intended broken English, there are 2 or 3 more people who work in the back who not only can’t speak with any level of fluency but they’ll resent you for the fact that you can’t speak Chinese and talk to them on their own terms.

I would think to myself– what gives you this right?  To come into this country, my country, and tell me that I should be the one who should speak your language, or that I should adapt to your customs?  You’re the minority– you came here bceause you wanted to be spared a lesser condition in your native country.  This isn’t your parking lot, this isn’t your hotel– you are not a tourist, you are here to live.  You think that by gathering with like-backgrounded people, it makes it all right to have your own methods within these walls?

Chinatown in Montreal has it’s own rules that operate in parallel to those the rest of the city, or for that matter, the country.  There’s protection rackets.  There’s their own ways of tax evasion.  There are the discounts that Chinese people get that nobody of any other race gets.

I just, really, sort of resented the Chinese community and the way that they thought it was okay for them to pretend that Canada was just their trailer park.

I don’t know exactly when the realization hit me, but at a certain point, I understood what it was like to be in Chinatown back in Montreal.  The table had turned– because I was now the foreigner in a new country.  And while I am here in Korea, it is without a doubt visible how foreigners stick together.  We ignore the rules.  We treat eachother better than we do the locals.  We want favors.  We expect the Korea to understand our ways, and in fact, our common profession as teachers gives us the misguided idea that we are here to tell them how much better things are in the West.

At a certain point it was all so obvious.

In the end, I realize that my resentment of Chinese back in Chinatown was just pointless.  In fact, when is started playing more badminton I actually began to spend a great deal of time in Chinatown.  It was a safehaven for me where things made sense.  When I started working at the hospital, which was just a few blocks from Chinatown, it was easier for me to get to know some of the locals better.  And it wasn’t that they became any more integrated into canada– but I started to like the feeling of exclusivity that I had that my caucasian friends didn’t. 

Things are different in Korea now though.  I don’t want to live in ‘foreigner land’ because if I did, I could ask myself the same question that I used to ask Chinese people back home in Chinatown: “Why don’t you go back to your native country, if you think that your ways are so great?”

And so

here I am.

I’m doing my best to adapt.

Sometimes it frustrates me because doing so has been difficult for both my pride, my patience, and in some cases, my mental and physical health– but at the end of the day I feel like I’m learning a bit more about the world a milimetre at a time.

I wonder sometimes though… why go through all the trouble?

Some people go through their entire lives without challenging themselves.  And while from an outside eye one might comment negatively, to them, in their world as they see it, what’s the appeal of complicating our lives?

Antagonistic Muscle Contractions

“…. release.”

There’s a punching machine at the local Kinex theatre near Pyeongchon station.  They have those things in a few arcades back in North Am– you basically hit the target as hard as you can, and it tallies up your score.

A couple of weeks ago, I whacked one of those machines and got a score of about 800 or so.  That pretty much beat the previous high score by about 300 or so clicks.  Since then, I’ve been to the theatre twice, and my high score still is on that machine.

Of course, it’s just a game.

I just got back from taekwondo today.  The teacher is a guy perhaps my age.  He probably outweighs me by about 20 pounds.  But his power generation is incredible!  Kicking cold without a warmup, he can blast a sandbag at least twice as hard as I can when I’m warm.  His technique is fluid, and you know what?  One of the differences I see between him and I is that he doesn’t fight himself when he’s in a match.

I’ve seen him sparring twice… his ability ancitipate, and not only that, but to instantly commit either to deffense or offense and to make those transitions fluidly is amazing.  His computation speed is incredible– he judges distances amazingly, and his ability to generate power even in cramped quarters is a sight to behold.

I’m jealous.

I’ve never seen him hit a bag before but this, really, is the difference between the dudes wearing the read belts and the dudes wearing the black belts.

I wonder how high he’s score on that game?  Considering that it only goes as high as 999, it probably wouldn’t work.

Numbed (Effects Do Stack)

Some things just don’t trigger any emotions from me anymore.

I remember the first weeks owning my scooter.  Traffic in Korea is nothing to scoff at– it’s really worse than anything I’ve ever seen in North America, and I’ve been to LA, New York, Toronto, Washinton… whatever the major American city, nothing in urban traffic compares to Asian traffic.  Korea’s not as bad as Philipines, but then again, I didn’t drive in Philipines.

I remember the first weeks owning my scooter and how I didn’t even dare using my scooter on anything but the sidewalks.  Within a few days, yeah, I moved myself to the shoulder lanes of streets, and now, I’ve even been on highways (by accident, mind you– it’s illegal to ride a 50cc engine on a highway because your top speed is barely over half of the road’s speed).  But sometimes, when I leave my house, I kickstart the rig and just ride off and before I’m even aware of it, I’m already half way to my destination, on the road, weaving through traffic.  My eyes flick instinctively to the left or right for the glances at the mirrors, I whip my head a bit to the side to check my blindspot before squeezing myself between cars with  a few feet to spare.  And I just do it naturally now.

It doesn’t scare me anymore, it doesn’t excite me.

And if you asked if in the past if I could go out with someone until sunrise, I’d tell you it’s not something I’d ever done.  And yet it happens often enough now.

These “new equations” are no longer new.

I think that’s the thing about having as much freedom as I do– I need to find new things to entertain me.  New ways to just feel things.

It’s not commonly known, but ‘romanticism’ actually doesn’t have to do specifically with love, and the word “romantic” originally didn’t deal just with love either.  It was a big movement a few hundred years ago in literature and the arts that favored emotions, above everything.  It has to do with the pursuit of passions.  That’s what gives meaning to our lives.

I was out with 예니 on saturday night.  I met up with her after the musical.   We went to a park, went to a mountain.  At 3:00 AM, I had this crazy idea to just go and shoot some hoops even though I can’t play basketball to save my life.  At 3:45AM we had a basketball and were riding out to Central Park, where the courts were all ours.

I actually really, really suck at basketball.  You have no idea.  When I was in highschool, I was awful at it– and even in my final years of highschool, the only things I could really do in terms of athletics was a bit of kickboxing and hackey sack.

But nonetheless, company is everything.  예니 and I have a lot of differing views on culture, the world, and relationships, but when we had a basketball it was a nice change of pace.  It was fun.  I have this unique ability to consistently get near goals from the 3-point line– I can hit the rim, I can hit the board with it rolling around the rim, but I can only actually sink 1 out of every 10 shots.  It was interesting to be in a situation where for once we weren’t arguing or bitching about anything.  It was just fun.

It was interesting to see that a girl perhaps a third less my weight could outshoot me, especially considering that she wasn’t strong enough to throw one handed and had to use two hands.

If there’s anything that has been reiterated to me over the months here, it’s been some sort of lesson about the paramount importance of endurance.  I’m not talking about putting up with external shit only– I also mean putting up with those times when you’re on the path you’ve chosen, and there’s just nothing in sight for miles.  Those situations where “nothing is wrong” but where “nothing is right” either.

I just realized it now as I was going to write it down, but I have these two students.  One is named Zeus, the other is Helen.  They’re not in the same classes.  For 3 months, I’ve been Zeus’ teacher.  I’ve gotten little or nothing as far as reactions go from him.  He’s like a stone in my class.  I’ve even taught him for supplementary classes, and I get no words out of him unless I directly ask him a question.    He’s there in body, but in mind and spirit, he’s gone.  He’s not a bad kid– he does average on his tests– but I just couldn’t get any participation out of him.

Helen is much the same.  She says nothing in my Senior 3 class.  The difference between Helen and Zeus is that Helen’s actively made it her job to hate me, despite me doing my sincere best to get on her good side.  I’ve never really done anything to warrant her animosity, except, perhaps, stand in front of the whiteboard and attempt to teach her.  When I ask her “How was your day Helen?” I’ll often get exasperated sighs followed by a string of Korean which, from her body language and what little Korean I do know, translates to “Oh my god, like, why doesn’t the fucking teacher leave me alone.  He’s such a pain in the ass!”

She’s been my student for 4 months.

In the last two days, I’ve found a kink in their armor.  Zeus, contrary to my initial beleifs, is actually paying attention to everything that’s said– he just actively decides not to participate, for whatever reason.  But the other day, as we were playing “The Valley” in class for the first time in over a month, we got him.

And I say “we” because it wasn’t me alone– it was his peers.  I put him on the same team with Thomas and Mike.  They’re two of the most creative guys in the class, but they’ve also got a mean streak of tom foolery and nonsensicalness.  They’re smart, but they’re clowns, and sometimes the limits of their English speaking abilities makes for some awesome misunderstandings that really are some of the greatest moments in this line of work.

On their team, Zeus made his first mistake when they had the idea to kill 100 mad cows to make oil to fuel their motorized crane (which they were going to use to throw the other 900 cows at the enemy camp)–

Zeus smiled.

And then, even if it was with restraint, he started working with his team to come up with some ideas.  He’s still got a long way to go, but as the game progressed, he was actually laughing.  He still wasn’t speaking out, but to see that the boy has some emotions, that’s fucking gold.

And as to Helen, it turns out that she plays a mean game of rock paper scissors.  In her class, we were playing “The Islands”, which is similar to the game of “The Valley” except instead of there being two sides separated by water, there’s three islands.  Basically, for bigger classes.  And instead of airdrops of 6 items at a time (as in the Valley), “The Islands” has 9 items.  Each team requests 3 each.  You can put anything in an airdrop that’s about the same size as my class.  You can ask for cows, wood, metal, motors, gasoline– the only restriction is that you can’t use explosives or non-mechanical projectile weapons.  Guns are out, but bows and arrows are in.

What happens is that all 9 items are being air dropped, but the story goes that due to wind and tides, you never know where those items will land.

And I don’t know if it’s just luck or some sort of uncanny ability, but she managed to win her all-girls team 6 out of the 9 items.  The other two islands are fighting for table scraps, really.

And with each successive win, her peers cheered her on.  She was red in the face, she was covering her mouth to hide her smile of disbeleiving laughter.  She would just stick out her fist, her scissors or her open hand and suddenly she’d find herself on a path, in a spotlight not alone, but with the other girls.  For a while, she was accepted by everyone, she was needed by everyone, and everyone at once was paying attention to her.  For a little while, even if she never really acknowledged her power, she relished in what it felt like and she wasn’t afraid to laugh.  She had fun in my class.

In this one class, they gave here the title of 이란드 키라, “Ilandu Kira” (“Island Killer”).  Helen of Island 3 laid waste to distant lands by taking everything from them.

I think that as a teacher, my standards have changed.  It used to be a big deal to do simple things.  Like, get through a class.  Get through a text.  And I used to feel good about doing things like that.  This has led me to where I am now– I don’t care about the teaching of the English so much now, because I’ve got the technical bits of my class down, more or less.  This has left me in a position of numbness– where the English portion is just routine.

That leaves me acutuely aware of other issues in the class that I would only rarely be able to focus on in the past.  I used to get caught up with the ‘bad kids’, I mean, reforming the ones who were bad.  But even that, that’s pretty natural, isn’t it?  If you’ve got a problem, you fix it.  Or at least, you try.

But now my focus is shifting– even dealing with bad kids, the disruptive ones, has become part of the routine.  Even my empathy or sympathy for them is routine.  “What’s wrong?” I’ll say, as I kneel next to someone’s desk.  And it’s a convincing performance– you’d think I was sincere and that there was only that one child in the whole universe, and that that child was the one I was talking to.  But for all the trust they sometimes give me when I ask that sort of simple question, my brain is working it’s way through decision trees in my head, plotting their paths along a set of pervious experiences.  I’ve seen most of it before.  I may get a problem fixed, or I may not– but it falls somewhere in the system and I know what’s happening– at the end of the day, I know what I have to do to simply fix the problem or wait it out.  I guess you can say that to a certain degree, I feel I have all the answers.

Which is to say that on some days I feel that the efficiency with which I deal with situations that were previously emotional to me, well, to be honest, I feel like I’ve died a bit.  Because if we’re numb, in what ways really could we differentiate ourselves from corpses?

Don’t get me wrong– I still find myself genuinely enjoying the company of my students.  But it was so much easier to be impressed or to be concerned when I was new.

But this is all to set the background for the things that do make make me feel nowadays.  And that’s when I can see a change in a student like Zeus or Helen.  They don’t stand out because they don’t cause trouble. And in fact, that’s probably their goal– to just blend into the crowd and go unnoticed.  I think that for everytime someone points out a ‘strong silent type’ I could show you a person who is ‘insecure and shy’.  Is that really strength?  Some people really are strong and silent, but I think that there’s a limit to that since I beleive that true strength comes from the sharing of the human experience.  And even endurance, though it may be something that one can pride themselves at developing through their own personal suffering, wouldn’t we say that it’s greater of a person to share the burdens with others?   Isn’t that teamwork, isn’t that love?  What else is there?

Share it all, really.  Laughter.  Embarassment.

The silent kids are the ones who we should watch out for, because unlike the good kids or the bad kids, they just get no attention.  They’re good at their craft– they’re the modern ninjas who can quickly become a problem if they so decide, just because we never see them coming.

I’m glad I’ve made it this far… I keep saying this, that “the past month has been rough,” but then again, I think I said that last month too.  And yet, I think perhaps this is a good sign.  If it were easy, it probably wouldn’t be worthwhile.  There’d be no rarity to it, no value.

It’s taken months, but I can do a handstand for several seconds now, and even walk around a bit.  It’s not a big deal to those of you who already know how to do it– but for me, it is. 

It’s a lot like being numb.  To get better at something is to become familiar to it, to become familiar to it is to appreciate it on some level but on the other hand to be numb to a lot of what used to be glaring emotions associated with it.  And I don’t say numbness with any sense of desparity. I say it like how an Cedric, a kickboxing instructor I had about ten years ago, will tell you, as he dunks the 25 pound medicine ball in your stomach for the 25th time, that “once you’re numb to hits like this, you can go after big hits of your own.”

We get caught up in what we’re doing with our hands– do we notice all the callouses on the balls of our feet that brought us here?

No, we probably don’t.

But that’s the way of things.

“Abilities do stack.”

Your feet can keep on going– they’re faithful to your cause.  Just tell them what you want, and even if your eyes can’t tell them where you’re going, just keep going and you’ll find the next best thing in your life.

When in doubt, just lean forward until you’re about to fall.  If your courage serves you, then you’ll stick out a foot before you land face first.

Even if you do fall flat, when you get up, you’re a few feet further forward.

And at some point, it will be easier.

Kung Fu Dunk (One of the Worst Movies Ever)

Jinryu says:
okay so what the fuck is this final match
Jinryu says:
with like 4 kung fu masters assisting
Evoaris – IZ is a spiderpig that wonders why boys don’t wipe says:
i don’t know man ..i got lost in that movie long ago
Jinryu says:
oh man
Jinryu says:
this movie was doing okay until this
Jinryu says:
this is just too much
Evoaris – IZ is a spiderpig that wonders why boys don’t wipe says:
haha now u know why i thought it was ..umm yeah
Jinryu says:
Jinryu says:
this is definately an “ummmm  yeah’ movie
Jinryu says:
some of the dunks are pretty nice though
Evoaris – IZ is a spiderpig that wonders why boys don’t wipe says:
come on …the show is called kung fu dunk ..if they fuck up the kung fu and the dunk .then fuck it
Jinryu says:
Jinryu says:
Jinryu says:
this movie is retarded
Jinryu says:
what a piece of shit
Evoaris – IZ is a spiderpig that wonders why boys don’t wipe says:
hahaha u finally understand what i was thinking
Jinryu says:
Jinryu says:
is he going to fucking turn back time?
Jinryu says:
he better not
Jinryu says:
Jinryu says:
he’s going to do it
Jinryu says:
this is fucking bullshit!!
Evoaris – IZ is a spiderpig that wonders why boys don’t wipe says:
yeah …
Evoaris – IZ is a spiderpig that wonders why boys don’t wipe says:
kungfu man
Evoaris – IZ is a spiderpig that wonders why boys don’t wipe says:
u can turn back time
Evoaris – IZ is a spiderpig that wonders why boys don’t wipe says:
didn’t u know
Evoaris – IZ is a spiderpig that wonders why boys don’t wipe says:
aren’t u fucking chinese!

Random Notes on Ladders

So in the past little while, I’ve been becoming better friends with most of the Koreans I know.  This has just happened because I’ve taken the time to meet with them one on one and shoot the shit.  Talk about this or that, y’know?

As far as any actualy dating or serious relationships go, I’ve got nothing on the plate so to speak.  All I have is curiosity.

But on the other hand, it’s not so bad.  Perhaps it’s because I’m in generally a good mood but if you just go out with a girl to do something fun or for the company, it really takes a lot of the stress off a situation.

So, Tyrone actually DID come to the musical on Saturday.  Needless to say I was in full observation mode, trying to see just what Tyrone was up to.  In any case, nothing really came of the evening.  I didn’t really learn anything important about Tyrone or Emily, which is exactly why I didn’t prefer that he come.  But in any case.

I think that my annoyance at situations like this is because I feel I don’t really get anything out of smalltalk.  It’s nice to dress up a bit and know that you’re able to do that– but at the end of the day, you wish you had spent your time doing something more meaningful.  And it’s not that the people you spent the time with aren’t important– but don’t you ever get that feeling that under certain conditions, meeting up even with friends is really nothing but a way to waste time?

And what’s wrong with that?  Well, nothing, strictly speaking– unless you want to learn something about people.  I’m flip flopping right now on this issue, but my basic idea is that small talk is for the first few meetings– afterwards, we can get to the stuff that’s important to us.  We can get into the specifics of who we are, what we do, and what we believe.    At least, in theory.