Sunday, October 28, 2007

Japan imminent; no other news

Very little news since my last post. Japan is this Wednesday, we're leaving campus at noon on a bus for Busan, which is about two hours. Then a boat will take us from Pusan to Osaka overnight. The three days we'll see a lot of neat stuff, which I am sure I will post pictures of.

This weekend was neat, on Saturday I was very busy- at 10AM I headed off to the "International Student Love Feast" which was held by a local church in Pohang. They brought in a few busloads of students for the occasion. There was decent food(with.. gasp.. meat!), haircuts, and a free medical checkup. They took blood pressure(130/80), glucose(97), and did an ultrasound of my heart. The doctor said I had good heart wall muscle thickness, no abnormalities, which is good. They had a table covered in pill bottles and were handing out medication as they saw fit. I didn't get any, though several students I know got some for various ailments. I've heard that medicine in Korea is kind of a mixed bag, there are still some traditional Korean medications/treatments mixed in with the modern medicine. On the bright side, it's not as expensive as US healthcare.

I had to leave the love feast early to go teach. English camps sent a van for us we the van driver and I had trouble finding each other for a while and we ended up being about 20 minutes late. I missed most of the meeting, then I had to rush back to my room to get my materials and stuff for my first class. I was a bit late for my first class also. The three class periods went as usual, me teaching and the kids in various states of paying attention or maintaining blank stares. After the normal time, however, there was a 'harvest festival' which went for another three hours. This was to make up(in advance) for the classes we'd not be having this weekend due to festival.
We herded the kids out of the classrooms, across campus to the outdoor assembly area place. I had a crowd/line of 13 kids following me, which reminded me of that kids' book 'Make way for ducklings'. (While that is true, the first thing I thought of was leading hostages to safety in Counterstrike, because I had to keep looking behind me to make sure that they were still with me.) Once we had passed the near-riot-stage collected mass of children onto the staff there, my group of teachers headed off to another building commandeered for the purpose of entertaining the kids once their finished with their movie. The kids were split up into groups and sent to different stations. My station was the mummy station, which involved the kids racing each other in teams to make a mummy by wrapping someone up in ridiculous amounts of toilet paper. We made them clean up before we gave them candy. I had fun throwing handfuls of peppermints into a crowd of children. I'm pretty sure that one kid cussed me out in Korean after I refused to give him some more, though.

All in all, the night was tiring, though not difficult. I took one of the half-rolls of toilet paper and put it in the little bin that drinks fall into on one of the vending machines. I wonder how long it will stay there.

Today I got up to go to class(and a midterm) at 8AM like a good student, then class ended up being six minutes long. Mr. Laidback seems to value his unique test-giving style, from my experience and what I've heard. He gave us the option of working on the test during the class period, or making it a take home test, open book. The test would be more or less impossible to take during the class period. I'm glad that it's a take-home test, but he said that he had decided this last night- so why not email us last night and save us all the trouble of getting up for first period? It'd be just as easy to email us the test, since we're emailing it back anyway.

I got notice on Friday night from the international office that I had a package waiting for me at the post office. Unfortunately, they only emailed me right at the close of the day so I still don't have the package, because it was too late Friday to go get it and this morning is the next time they're open. I'll head out a few minutes early for my next class to pick it up. I anticipate it to be my sandals. Took long enough, they were sent the 3rd. I'm glad I'll have them for Japan!

My next post will be from Japan if we're lucky and have internet access(although we'll be in a hotel, so we ought to), or afterward if not. Over and out.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

It all works out thanks to God

I've just realized(well, been reminded of really) that God takes care of me. I've really been stressing lately about my calling(as you can read in posts past), and whether I'm really meant to be an engineer- what with my math troubles and all. I asked God to help me with Statics, having faith that He meant for me to be an engineer- and He provided. Yesterday I got 3+ hours of tutoring from Joe, and I'm finally starting to understand the material. The professor agreed to my request to let me retake the midterm later to prove that I know/will know the material. I'm no master just yet- but I have a foothold and now I'm on the track. It will be a long, hard, and boring track, but if that's the track that God has for me, it's the track that I want to be on.

Tonight I had a miniature dilemma with Korean manners- the guy that I tutor gave me a big tip since we won't be meeting for the next several classes, and I felt rather uncomfortable taking it because I didn't know if he needed it more than I did. I felt guilty taking it, especially because I didn't realize that he had given me the tip until afterward, and I didn't get the opportunity to thank him right there. I IMed one of my friends seeking advice about whether or not it is polite to refuse a tip in Korea. It worked out that I that friend was struggling to cover a bill- I thought 'well, this works out nicely'. God blessed me both by solving my dilemma and by giving me an opportunity to pass that blessing on. I am glad.

Earlier tonight I went with Joe to (part of) a piano/choir/cello concert, although we had to leave before the cello part started. It was full of many well-dressed Koreans(not formal, just nice) and I stood out by wearing a BRIGHT blue and yellow tie-dye shirt and dark green work pants. As we approached the building, Joe asked "Do you think we're underdressed?" I replied "I think I'm underdressed for just about anything." It was a nice atmosphere, I (as usual) took the opportunity to daydream about various things. Daydreaming to pleasant classical music is something I should do more often. In a hammock. Yeeeeesss. Is there something wrong with me if I consider the chief merit of a quality classical concert to be a nice atmosphere to daydream in? Perhaps.

I got my Literature midterm back, I got a 221/260(85%) which I noticed was significantly higher than some of other scores I saw. The advantages of being a native English speaker, I guess. This week the weekend English school is going to be different. Since I(and many of the other ESL teachers) are going to be far away during the Korean festival time, we're skipping that week and having a double week this week, which I rather like. I wouldn't be working that week at all under the original plan, but this double-week plan gives me the opportunity to work and get that week's pay, which is sweet. I'm going to see if I can possibly save and scrounge enough to avoid taking out a student loan next semester. The less debt I have, the better. I hate debt. Another bonus is that (for both the teachers and the kids' sake), the extra time during this double week is not just more classroom time, but we're having a 'harvest festival' which I equate to the carnivals that TBC had earlier this summer. There will be movie watching, facepainting, and presumably a lot of other neat, festival-like things.

I'll be going pretty much all day, though- there's a "International Student Love Feast" hosted by a church out in Pohang which I plan to go to, though I'll have to leave early and find some transportation back to school. I mentioned to the English camp people that a shuttle would be neat if a lot of teachers wanted to attend(since many are in the target group). I'll have to email Mark. Anyway, there's a bunch of neat stuff- 'Food, Fun, and Free Ultrasonography' is the lineup. Kind of has a ring to it, eh? I'm not sure why international student need an ultrasound, but hey- the hospital putting on the medical checkups thinks it's a good idea. I'm game, as long as it doesn't involve smearing jelly all over myself like they do with prenatal ultrasounds on all those cheesy 'It's a Baby!' shows that TLC has.

Today we discussed strongholds in Marriage and Enrichment. We're covering general people problems right now, things that can especially screw up a marriage. Last class was forgiveness, this class strongholds. I got a hat trick, suggesting three important strongholds. Joe gave me a high-five for my outstanding performance in knowing strongholds.

I'm still losing weight. I haven't weighed myself since the last post, but today I put on pants for the first time since earlier this year(tee hee)(It's been shorts weather so far, at least for me). I of course chose my favorite pants, the survive-a-nuclear-bomb Sorel chainsaw pants. I appreciate things that I made to last. Anyway, earlier this year(AKA summer) they fit fine, bit bit loose but certainly well enough. Today, though, I was presently surprised to find that they are not very lose. Really loose, like the baggy pants that were(are?) in style that adolescent boys wore/wear to show off their boxers, which apparently was hip. Hooray! Later I'll try on the suit that didn't fit me in Australia- maybe I don't need tailoring after all.

Anyway, that's enough of the mundane details of my life. Why don't you leave me a comment detailing the mundane details of your life? I'd enjoy reading it.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

English camp, week 2

Today was the second week of teaching English to kids. Last week went sort of rough, none of the new teachers had any idea what was going on and things were pretty hectic. Before I went to class I actually made a neat lesson plan, I got a short story off of the interwebs and found all of the words that the kids wouldn't know, then I illustrated those words with pictures. I planned to use my laptop to project this in the classroom so that all the kids could follow along with what I was reading and not get lost. However, when I went to the pre-class meeting, I found out that we would not actually be holding class in the main building, but in the HIS building, which is the international high school for professors' children and the like. It turned out that these rooms did not have projectors, and I was caught without a decent lesson plan that I could actually do. I fell back on the textbook material.

My first class, which I suspect fears me, was again quiet. With this class it's mostly me trying to get the kids to do something...anything related to English. Most of the time, they just pretend not to know what I'm saying, which is very frustrating because I can't get anyone to participate, which is something that the class material depends upon. It relies on the kids getting involved, or at least responding to what the teacher says to make the lesson complete. I couldn't get any of the ideas that the book suggested to work. (Do a play of the short story, have kids act out actions related to the short story, etc. This class wouldn't have any of it, and mostly it ended up being me standing in front of the class trying to find more material to present or some busywork for the kids to do. There's not really any other option when the book's lesson only takes 5 minutes because the teacher can't get anyone to do anything.

Fortunately, however, the other two classes went just fine. We covered the same material, but the kids would actually get involved instead of cowering in fear of the giant white man. The second class started...strangely, with several of the boys rubbing my arm in disbelief that there was such a thing as arm hair. At least these students would do something other than sit in their desks with the mouths glued shut. The planned book material didn't fly here either, but this time because the teacher that had just taught the previous session taught the material that I was planning on using. I ad-libbed with some work that had been skipped over previously, and it worked out fine. At the end of class some of the kids starting writing on the whiteboard in Korean, I was sort of worried it might be swear words or something, but nobody really reacted to it. The english caption underneath was 'she old'. I don't know who 'she' is but I thought she'd not be pleased, so I had the kids erase it before I left for the next class. (The kids stay in one room, teachers shift around)

My third class is rather good. They're the most competent of the classes, and will get all the work done that I ask them to do, as soon as they figure out what it is that they want. Some of them even volunteer information when I ask a general question. (One student knew what 'Jamaica' and 'carnival' meant, and accurately too) Most of the kids(in general) are good with reading English, but the speaking and listening is not so great. We got through twice the material that the other classes did with ten minutes to spare. The third period turns into homeroom when the class period ends, so I decided to start homeroom early. This time is generally to check homework(none this week), give handouts(also none) and take attendance, which I had done earlier. The kids were slightly amused/confused by the pronunciation of their Korean names, but we got through it. I had my laptop with me because I had been planning to do the projected lesson, so I decided to reward their good behavior with a little bit of Toy Story 2, which I happened to have. We had about 25 minutes, so there's plenty of incentive material left for them. I'd really like to find some subtitled movies so that they can be reading as they listen, because that would really help them with the subject. Because my laptop has little laptop speakers, all the kids had to be quiet to listen to the movie, and soon enough they all were. There was some confusion just after the movie started, however. One girl made an objection of "No movie, head cut" with a somewhat pained/concerned expression on her face. I thought she meant that her parents wouldn't let her watch the movie, and that they'd cut off her head if they found out. While I was trying to find out just what the problem was, if there was anything else we could watch, it came out that she just couldn't see the screen because other student's heads were in the way. After some chair scuffling we got back to the movie. At one point Mark(bossman) came in and didn't seem to take offense that the lights were out and everyone was staring at my laptop, so I think he's okay with it. Mark, if you're reading this, is it okay to watch movies during homeroom? Also, any chance at rooms with projector next week?

Anyway, I realized that I had previously agreed to attend a birthday party tonight at 6, and I realized that the post-class meeting was at 6. After some deliberation, I decided to go directly to the party(do not pass go) because I didn't have any concerns to express at the meeting and I hadn't really gotten anything out of last week's meeting. It turns out that somebody had brought birthday cake to the meeting, so I got only one chance at birthday cake, instead of two like the people who went to the meeting first and were late for the party. Oh well, I guess the meeting was mostly birthday party anyway. (Sorry Mark!)

Here are some pictures. I've put my camera in my backpack so that I'll have it with me now, so perhaps you can expect more pictures in the future. Perhaps.

The kids in my third class. Studious, aren't they?

Happy Birthday!

I don't remember why I decided to upload this picture.

Peace to you too!

Guess what kind of cake this is. Hint: It's green on the inside.
It's green tea. Weird, eh? Green tea is a popular flavor for everything here.

Essra being funny with the cake lid.

If you point a camera at any given Korean, there's a 96& chance that they'll throw up a peace sign. Point in case: random student working to food counter, whom I do not know.


Valerie and an unnamed bystander caught offguard. I expect to die tomorrow by Valerie's hand.

I tried to take a picture with Joe, but it seems that I accidentally eclipsed him.

More birthday festiveness.

This is what you see if you look down a table full of Koreans eating. Note the peace sign.

I was caught off guard when this picture was taken, which is why I'm not making a serious face. Birthdays are serious business. And no, I haven't had a haircut in a while.

Tyrell is very open to the power of suggestion. I told him to open his mouth, so he did.

If you tell him to kill people, he'll do that too. Toy guns here don't have the orange tip. Private gun ownership is illegal here, so maybe that's why- although I don't think it's a good idea to assume that anyone not in uniform and carrying what appears to be a gun has a plastic toy.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Today in Intercultural Studies we got a nice lesson about living for God's purpose. You'll remember that earlier this semester, I challenged Handong to live up to its name. (Handong God's University). Apparently Mr. Laidback took note of this. He was both the prompt for my writing that post, and he mentioned it today in his monologue about God's purpose and standards are so much more meaningful than ours. As usual, he challenged students to defend conventional wisdom (e.g. going to college is a good idea), and promptly embarrassed those who chose to defend the worldly system of personal value by showing that the basis for their belief is ungrounded. The typical response to 'why are you going to college' was 'to get a good job'. Mr. Laidback countered this with the standard argument- people want to get what they consider a good job. Something more than just adequat, something that the collective deems worthy or commendable. While this common, almost universal, goal generally works out, the reasoning for it cannot always be reconciled with God's will. The purpose that we put some much effort into may not necessarily be what God wants for us. We tend to ask God to bless our plans without stopping to wonder if our plans line up with His.

I was glad to see that Mr. Laidback abandoned his strategy of 'Don't worry about offending or shocking anyone, except for being politically correct about religion' and embraced 'Say what God wants me to say'. He really let loose with the God material today, even though there are at least 3 who do not profess Christianity in the class, one of which is a Muslim. I like Mr. Laidback's style. Where most people defer to letting people's preconceptions lie for fear of offending or seeming ethnocentric, he just flips out and shows people how foolish we are for believing some of the things we do, or being ignorant or simply blind to the truth. I like to think that my cynicism and analytical ways have kept more more or less clear of undue prejudices, and most of the time I don't find myself being shocked by Mr. Laidback's statements, but agreeing with the sentiment. I'm sure, however, that I have more than a few preconceptions that need adjustment; I don't think that Mr. Laidback has hit on any major ones so far.

I've been wondering about my own purpose lately. While having so much trouble with Statics, I wonder sometimes if I'm really cut out to be an engineer. Sometimes I doubt if I can graduate. I have to wonder what God's plans for me are, and if they include a degree. Have I been ignoring God's plan since I enrolled as a freshman? Does God not even want me to be in school? I think I'm right to be at LU, getting a degree. God has blessed my endeavor of schooling in so many different ways, I am confident that LU is where he wants me to be. It still leaves that question, though, of how I'm going to manage to graduate when I'm more or less math-retarded. I'm at sort of a standoff, then. I'm confident in my knowledge of what God wants me to do with the next few years of my life, but I can't see how I can do it. I know that God is a God of miracles, but I don't think I've ever heard of a miracle that involved making up for a decade's worth of misunderstood math overnight. Perhaps my lack of faith is what is holding me back. How can I expect to progress if all I do is to say it is impossible? This is difficult. Like my post last week illustrates, I am a very thinking-oriented person, and I can't just think my way out of this corner, it requires something else.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

T-minus 2 weeks..ish until Japan - Also: Koreans, teaching, and sandals

The trip to Japan is the 31st, which makes it about two weeks away. I can't wait. I anticipate that the trip will be a hoot, but I'm also looking forward to just breaking the monotony of school. There's not much to do at Handong. My time breaks down this way: Sleeping, Class, Studying, computer. There's nothing else. When I'm not obligated to do any of the other three, the only option, really, is to sit at my desk in front of the computer. There's just nowhere else to go. I could go visit somebody in their room... and stand behind them while they sit at their desk. Or watch a movie- but the only way to do that, really, is to have multiple people trying to squeeze onto one bunk so they can see the laptop on the desk.
This paragraph is all 'in general' . Koreans spend all their time in the library studying. I think there may be some kind of giant misconception that the library is the only place where studying is allowed, because I have yet to see a Korean study in their room by choice. Koreans study until their eyes bleed, forsaking all else to just read, reread, study, over and over again. I'm sort of at the other end(not studying very much), but I think it's safe to say that Koreans study way too much for their own good. They bring toothbrushes to the library when they study, because most of the time they're going to be there way past midnight and want to brush their teeth at 'bedtime' that isn't really bedtime. The library is open 24/7 during midterms. In all truth, there are some that will stay up all night and study, every night. They study until they pass out in the library, getting 1-2 hours of sleep, go to class, and sleep all afternoon-then beat themselves up because they slept instead of studying. It's not healthy. Most of the time, when I ask a Korean if they have any hobbies, they don't know what I mean. It's like that scene in Robin Hood. The king/sherriff/nobility guy is riding with some peasants to do some deed. Feeling obligated to get to know them, he asks them if they have any hobbies, and fails to convey the concept. "What do you do in your leisure time?" "What time?" "Leisure time." "What is 'leisure'?" It's that scene every time. Koreans don't have free time because they spend all their time striving for a goal that someone else has set for them. I've just spent a whole paragraph discussing how the Korean way of doing things is wrong, so I should throw in a disclaimer: I may be wrong, not have seen the whole picture, don't get offended, yada yada yada.

Anyway, the first week of teaching went okay. Not great, but not terrible. None of the new teachers had any idea what was going on. It was mass confusion. I went by the rough lesson plan that was handed out and I couldn't really fill the 45 minute class with meaningful material. To boot, the language barrier is huge. Most of the kids don't understand what I'm saying, so they don't know what I'm trying to instruct them to do. In each of my classes, I tried to get the students to break up into two groups to do an activity. Each time, it really took some convincing for the kids to understand that yes, I really do want you to pick up your desk and move it. One class just made a big giant group, and I just had to go with it because I couldn't think of another way to express "make two groups". I hope we get some more training on how exactly to teach the class, because it's the first time I've ever taught anything(in a classroom, anyway) and I don't really know how to act the teacher role. LU has a 4-year program on how to be a teacher, and all I've got is a few documents and what I've seen from the other side of the desk.

My new sandals haven't come yet. I hope they come soon, because my flip flops are almost on their way out, and don't provide much insulation from the road anymore. There's a well-formed impression of my foot, because the soft foam that they're made of soft foam rubber that has both worn away and compressed over time. As neat as the impression looks(I have arches, apparently), it only gives me 1/8" of material under my feet where it counts.

Also, I'm losing weight still, thanks to the Korean food(or lack of it) diet. According to Chris' roommate's scale that I sneak in and use, I'm 127.7kg, or 281 pounds. This spring, my physical pegged me at 316, and I wasn't too much less than that when I arrived. So hooray for being surrounded by unappetizing food!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Startling job offer, round two

This job offer isn't as startling as the original startling job offer, but it's much better. Handong has some kind of mysterious program called the Business Incubator which encourages small businesses by Handong students. One such small business is Handong English Camps. They have been commissioned by the city of Pohang to educate a bunch of kids in basic English. Most grade school kids in Korea take English the way that most American kids take Spanish, or something else. The push to actually learn English is much greater, though. Many parents with money to spend will send their kids to special English schools on the weekends. For those who can't afford expensive English schools, the city of Pohang has a special program. They pay Handong English Camps decent money to give the kids some booster English. They needed some extra teachers, and pay startlingly well.

I was asked to apply, and was enticed by the good pay of 350 kilowon per month, which (as of this instant, US$ is very unstable right now) is $382. The workload is very light- the camps are only on Saturday from 3-6PM, and the staff gets there about half an hour early and stays 30 minutes late. I'm told the after-time will become less and less as the program gets into full swing and there's less to sort out in meetings afterward. Call it 4 hours, anyway, so 16 hours per month, which makes it about $23 per hour!

I did it this weekend, and it was pretty good. We(the other new teachers and I, all 3 from LU) weren't teaching yet, instead we evaluated the kids for a verbal exam. This let us get a feel for how much English the kids knew. It ranged from zero to conversation level, though most were in the 'poor' range, which is to be expected from kids that have only had 2 years of English classes. Next week, we will actually be teaching. Because it's the first week, it will be mostly icebreaker games, etc. I've been assigned to reading, which I think will be great.

However, I haven't yet mentioned the other half of this business. The people that run it are rabid Christians, and want to get as much Truth into these kids as possible, which is just great. I look forward to it.

I've already been doing some English tutoring for the past two weeks, in a different deal. There is a older(40+) gentleman on campus-on my floor, actually- who is here for the purpose of learning English. He is a pastor at a church outside Seoul, and has a vision for international ministry. He still pastors his church, even though HGU is 3 hours away from home. He drives home every weekend, preaches, spends time with his family, and drives back. He's very dedicated. I'm just doing conversation practice with him. Many Koreans, I've found, have pretty good English reading/writing skills, but the speaking and listening aspect is very difficult for them. There are just so many people trying to learn English in Korea that there just aren't enough native English speakers to practice conversation with. He's paying me 10 kilowon an hour to practice English with him, 3 hours per week. Often times its kind of awkward while we try to find something to talk about because we don't have much common ground. I'm a 20 year old American student, and he's a 40+ year old Korean pastor. However, the other day I started asking him about the history of the church in Korea, and he had a lot to say. I learned a lot. In the olden days, before 1400AD(if I recall correctly), Korea was all Buddhist by mandate from the governing body. Aroudn 1400 they switched to Confucianism, then shortly thereafter(100 years?), switched back to Buddhism. Buddhism stuck since then. Around 1800, Catholics landed in Korea and worked on some missionary work, with mild success. A few decades after some Christians showed up too, and had about the same amount of success. Not a huge conversion, but they weren't being run out either. Slow going all around. During the Korean war, American involvement in Korea spiked, and the Christian church took off. Denominations are more prominent in Korea than in the US. My pastor friend is a Presbyterian, while I gather there are some Methodists around, and of course the giant on-fire-for-God biggest church in the world in Seoul and those up the same alley. I don't think that on-fire-for-God has a denominated yet. I'm glad, labels never help anything except in a workshop. It was interesting to hear about the history of the church and Korea.

In news not related to english teaching or the Korean church, there is nothing new. Statics is hard. Reinforced Concrete Engineering is over my head. Everything else is easy enough. Intercultural Studies is consistently interesting/entertaining. In the last class we took the Meyers-Briggs type indicator. I've taken it twice before in high school. First time around, I got INTJ(Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Judging). I was super-smug about it because this typed is nicknamed 'the Mastermind', which I thought was a cool at the time. I later took it again and got ENTJ, the same except I took it in my senior year and become extroverted, hence the E. This round, I was again one letter changed, to ENTP. The P is 'Perceiving'. To be honest, I don't have any idea what the difference between judging and perceiving is supposed to be. The way that the short documentation explains it makes it sound like to-may-to vs. to-mah-to to me. Either way, the score indicator was low for that one, so I'm 'just barely' perceiving over judging. My 'thinking' score (vs. feeling) was a 9, the strongest possible. Take that, touchy-feelie accomplish-nothing liberal people. I am excited about my new rating, as ENTP is called 'The Visionary/Inventor'. Neat.
It's always interesting to read the little profiles of the personality types. However, it's always easy to read a happy description of what someone says you are, and all to happily accept it because it sounds nice. Illogical confirmation bias at work. For example, several of the traits mentioned in the ENTP profile struck home for me exactly, even though I'd never read the profile before and didn't aim for it. The same thing happened in high school when I took the test and got INTJ. So much of what the profilers say sounds nice because even if the trait isn't really flattering, they are pointing it out in such a way that it sounds flattering and attractive, even if it's not a great trait to have. They make being a jerk sound like a perfectly reasonable personality trait. It's right up the alley of personal responsibility- if you have an undesirable trait and a test tells you 'yes, you have this less-than desirable trait', we erroneously see that as an excuse- so it's not really my fault I'm a jerk, the test says I'm supposed to be one! Wrong! Tests like this measure, not assign. It's "Yep, you're definitely a jerk" not "No, it's not your fault that you're a jerk". Anyway, what was I saying about labels earlier? Oh snap. I shouldn't get excited about being labeled one thing or another, any more than I should get excited about being who I am every day. Oh wait, I am excited about being who I am. Whee!

Marriage and Enrichment is moving very slowly. In general the teacher just recounts stories and gives out tons of handouts. Everything so far seems like common sense to me. I don't assert that I know more than the teacher(either about teaching or marriage) but frankly I find the class rather unstimulating. It does, however, give pause for thinking about marriage. I guess that's the whole point, eh?

Literature is boring as usual, I'm still doing well. With the exception two quizzes where I didn't actually read the assignment, I've still got a perfect record. The latest assignment is play called 'The Glass Menagerie' which is too long for a general assignment in this class. Boring as all-get out, and ideologically abrasive. Hmm. I like that phrase. ("Sir, I find you ideologically abrasive! Good day!") I won't go into the story, for fear of being liable for giving my readers a myocardial infarction due to lack of brain stimulation. However, I have decided that literature classes are mostly the same no matter where you go. Pretend that you really like the assignment, never criticize anything('I don't understand why...' is better), and never let the teacher suspect that you in fact loathe classical literature. That is the recipe for success as I've found it in MA, TX, and Korea.

I need a haircut.

I shouldn't have come to Korea, from an academic perspective. Missing Tech Calc and AC Electricity(both of which are fall-only classes) is going to put me super behind..again.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Campus photo-tour

Until the other day, I hadn't taken very many pictures while in Korea. In a moment of boredom, I decided to grab my camera and walk around. This was the result.

Disclaimer: Odd things tend to catch my eye, so I take pictures of weird stuff. This is not a representative sample of what campus looks like.

I started around out back. This is a trail that supposedly leads off to a lake. I haven't been down there, but I was told that the lake is kind of stagnant and nasty. I'll head off down there when I get my new sandals, my current flipflips are not in condition for walking on long dirt roads and I don't want to break my sockless marathon.

You can see that it trails off into the distance.

This is the corner of Ihouse in the foreground, and the funky roof of the dorm next to ours. It would be a nice patio, but I heard that it's just a smoker hangout. Handong is not a non-smoking campus, and smokers are supposed to keep to designated smoking areas, but that rule is not enforced at all, which I hate. I always hold my breath when I walk by somebody smoking; I hate the smell.

The dorm on our other side(on its side). I think this is the newest dorm. I wish we had a sweet glass-walled lounge area.

The countryside surrounding the school. The people in the newest dorm get this view, I get parking lot and brick wall.

More countryside.

Still more.

Some kind of weird hatch thing that I deduce leads down into some kind of industrial machine room. I deduced that by opening a hatch and looking inside. I didn't take a picture, however, because I realized that people in the sweet glass lounge probably could see me. Luckily there was only one guy chatting on his cell phone, and he probably chalked it up to being a weird American.

This is directly behind the picture I just took, and is the 'service' end of the campus, where all the dirty stuff, storage, trash, etc is. Also the home of Handong's very own cell tower. They have a lot of ISO containers fitted out with doors and windows and stuff, probably for storage.

Koreans cars. Passenger cars aren't terribly different from US cars, smaller ones are much more prevalent, and you see a LOT of Hyundai, Kia, Daewoo. I saw a PT Cruiser once, which prompted me to ask who in their right mind would choose, of all cars, a PT cruiser. If you're going to go to all the trouble of importing a car, at least make it a decent one.

Propane is used a lot here, but instead of large 250+ gallon containers, they use smaller ones(around 35 gallons, looks like) and a truck comes around and swaps them out when they're empty. I think the big tank system would be a lot more efficient, but this system is already in place. Oh well. Just like in Australia, LPG as a car fuel is common, and LPG is cheaper than gas. I think gas is around $5 per gallon. Strangely, one must get a special permit to buy an LPG car, which is hard to get. Not sure why. Of course, one can get an existing car retrofitted for propane and nobody cares about permits for that(so I hear).

This is a Kia. Yes, Kia makes large vehicles, they're just not imported to the US. Most vehicles larger than a passenger car are diesel, like this van. The coach bus that I rode from the airport to Pohang was a Kia, come to think of it. I know the big three(here, Hyundai, Kia, Daewoo) all make big trucks and busses. Since Korea is so small(I think it's a 5 hour drive across the country) big trucks are not used commonly for product transport because multiple small vehicles like vans can get the job done cheaper and easier. Large trucks are used only when something big enough to merit a big truck needs to move.

Tiny van. These are used very commonly as delivery vans. Cute, eh? I wonder where they find room for the engine.

A kitchen worker was burning something in a can. What was it? Who knows. Steel cans like this one are used more more commonly than plastic ones.

A truck, Korean/Asian style. Very utilitarian. People don't drive trucks here without a good reason, they're not an everyman's vehicle like they are in the US. I like these trucks, I wish they were available in the US. Even the smaller versions carry 1000kg, 2200lbs.

The rear wheels are TINY. This picture doesn't show the size very well, unfortunately. I'd guess 16-18" diameter. I assume it's so that the bed can be very low to the ground without having wheel wells sticking up in the sides and messing up an otherwise flat surface. Smart, but at highway speeds these must be spinning very fast.

Baskestball courts and soccer field in the background. The soccer field is sand for some reason. It used to be grass(I'm told) but apparently they sprayed some kind of grass killer on it, or dumped sand maybe. I'll never know why. The basketball courts are actually a fairly squishy rubber which is interesting to walk on. On sunny days it heats up and smells funny, probably solvents getting baked out of the rubber by the heat.

Scooters like this are popular, though the street isn't flooded with them like you see in movies.

Korean payphones. They take cards.

The cafeteria. Food is served on the two table islands, and traffic flows through, gets food, and sits down. It's a one-shot deal, you eat what they serve and in the quantity served. No choice or seconds. To the far right you can see the bar code scanner- the meal card here is just a card with a bar code sticker on it, you scan your card instead of having it swiped. Once the computer beeps and babbles off some Korean, the lady hands you a meal ticket which you put in the box at the food line.

Part of the kitchen. Yes, those are pizza boxes on the right. The cafeteria will makes pizzas for delivery or purchase at the counter. Also fried chicken like you see at chinese buffets, with or without the sticky sauce stuff on it.
The kitchen again. The picture isn't very good because the cookstaff were wondering why the weird American was taking pictures of their kitchen, and I took it while walking out. Those giant pots are what the rice is served in, they're maybe 30" across, and they go fast.

Windows. Yes, they're supposed to be transparent, they weren't made that way. Koreans appear to never wash windows. I don't know why. It's the same way for most cleaning beyond sweeping up and taking out trash. Maybe the US is obsessed with cleanliness?

I'm not sure why this bike is covered in cardboard.

Large truss roof covering the outdoor area behind the student union building. This houses the cafeteria, kitchen, a restaurant, the two cafes, and all of the student organization offices. Also a barbershop, but I was told never to go there because they cut hair way shorter than you want.

It looks like somebody left a quarter of their car behind. I presume this is an exhibit for an engineering class. Neat.

This is the restaurant in the student union building. Nothing fancy, it's like the Hive at LU. Since I never eat at the cafeteria, I sometimes eat here. It's cheap, a decent meal for around 2000 won. (about $2.19)

Air conditioning here is always done modularly, with tons and tons of small units. If you look down the side of a building, you'll just see tons of these instead of one big unit on the roof or behind the building. I can't think of why they would do this instead of a central AC unit. There's no way that dozens of these little units can be as efficient as one mammoth water chiller.

The basketball courts again, from the opposite end. You can see the dorms in the background.

The library, which is huge. You can also see that empty lots don't see much care here. Again, I don't know why. I think an overgrown lot is ugly, but I guess the Koreans have a different mindset.

Nice feature: On-campus post office. I'm standing at ground level in this picture, it's in the basement. There is a tiny AC unit, of course. They're everywhere.

A distance shot of the student union building with its crazy roof. It's a neat structure, it shows that many small parts can do a big job. (Unlike air conditioners, where many small units do the same job, but are eyesores and less efficient)

The front of the main building. See the tiny air conditioning unit marring an otherwise picturesque mirrored glass wall? Text reads "Handong God's University"

Most cars with a vertical rear end like this one have that odd mirror protruding there. I've never sat in the driver's seat of one of these, so I don't know what you see. Perhaps to make sure nobody is lying under your bumper before you back up? To make sure you can always see your rear license plate?

Yes, I took a picture of a toilet. Yes, I'm posting it on the internet. Yes, I tried it. I'll keep the at-length discussion off of the internet, however.

Korean version of a water cooler. The tank isn't swapped out when empty, instead the tank on this one it just where the water stays for a while while it's sterilized. See that light in the tank? It is a UV light that emits light at exactly 254nm wavelength, which kills germs without putting chemicals in the water. The water is also reverse osmosis filtered. Most water coolers don't have the tank on top, actually.

Korean vending machine. The cans here are usually 250ml or less. (About 8 ounces) They're also usually 500 won(55 cents) or less, some are 300 won(32 cents) which is a good price for a vending machine compared to the US.

An excellent sign, clear and concise with moderately humorous clip art. It gets the point across without you having to disturb the secretary inside asking if you're in the right place. Also note the sign indicating that the other office is right down the hall. At LU, you're always at the wrong office, and the right office is on the other side of campus. Across a pit of hungry lions and angry bees.

The student union building again, from across the lifeless and desolate soccer field.
Handong runs a bus service, free for students. Busses leave for downtown(and several other destinations) about every 20 minutes, and run from early in the morning to the other side of early in the morning. Fantastic job, HGU. LU: learn from this.

You can see that HGU keeps a good stock of buses. During holidays, this fleet delivers students to cities across Korea, again for free. Good work, HGU. And they do all this for $3875 per semester!

Samsung is based in Korea, and makes everything. They produce electronics, LCD TVs, cell phones, blenders, washing machines, refrigerators, AC units, and cars. LG is along the same alley, but minus the cars and slightly smaller.

The chapel building complex. HIC(Handong International Church) takes place in the big building and gathers English speakers from all over, which do a fairly good job of filling it. The smaller building has a decent restaurant on the bottom floor, and the second and third floors are multi purpose. Wednesday chapels, the second floor is used as overflow for Korean chapel, and International student chapel is held on the third floor.

Two more dorms: Shalom Hall and Vision hall. Vision is the one that I stayed in when I first arrived. As far as I know, all the dorms except for I-House and the professors' dorm have community showers.

Vision Hall and Creation Hall. Creation hall is aptly named, as the first dorm built.

The professors' dorm. Single professors live here. Handong gets some professors that are hit-and-run professors, they'll come and agree to teach for a year or two, then move on. The school provides housing for them. It's kind of mysterious, actually. You saw that the other dorms are quite long, the professors' dorm and I-house are shorter and take up the space of one other dorm. They're all lined up neatly. The newest dorm, that you saw the end up much earlier, is directly behind our aisle.

This is a picture of the typical HGU dorm room. Four beds, four desks, four square feet of free floor space.

A typical threshold crossing. This one is actually kind of lean on shoes, actually- sometimes the clutter of sandals and shoes gets three feet deep. There's a shelf unit that you can see the foot of, also full of shoes. In addition, there are cabinets at the head of each hallway- each room is assigned two fairly large cabinets for shoe storage. I wonder what the ratio of footwear to residents at HGU is. Must be at least 3:1.

Each floor has a water chiller, just like I explained above. This type is more typical. The hot water is scalding enough to make instant coffee with. Also, nobody makes real coffee here, just instant.

Oatmeal + chopsticks = bad combination. It worked, though.

Downtown Pohang. Sidewalks are just another place to park, here. I read that in more croweded cities, people often leave their cars in neutral so that they can be pushed around easily if/when somebody gets parked in.

The outdoor fish market in Pohang. Every tourist needs to see the outdoor fish market. These are those fish with the sand texture on their sides, so that they can hide on the seafloor. Neat.

I don't know what those pink things are. Sea cucumbers?

Again, not sure what these are. I actually didn't get a picture of the dried mini-fish. I'm not sure if they're anchovies or what, but there are always great big piles of tiny dried out fish that people use as a condiment. They range in size from an inch to less than a quarter of an inch long, and string-like.

Tyrell, looking excited about sitting on my bed. Note the cheapo laundry hamper in the foreground. I tried to hang it over my bed to make more space- then handled snapped two minutes later. Now I have a flimsy torn laundry basket with no handles. Speaking of laundry, I need to go take mine out of the drier.

Remind you of anything? Some knockoff kit-kat bars I got downtown.

This is the view out on the balcony of the room we had during Chuseok. It was misty and poor visibility the whole time- the time that it was this clear, we all grabbed out camera to take pictures.

The obligatory tiny AC unit out on the balcony.

That's about it! Thanks for looking. I wonder how long this post will appear on the page...