Today was the first sunny day of the rainy month we're a week into, glorious. I woke up early and met a friend (R) with a scooter and climbing gear for two to trek over to the soccer stadium, outside of which is a fifty-foot climbing wall, and I had my first climbing experience. I loved it. We pulled up to the sound of 4 irate German shepherds (and a couple of disinterested puppies more into each other than us) hollering at us from this little pen that one would probably call a puppy mill. Not to give the wrong impression, the dogs looked healthy enough, but the lack of a male canine presence and the dusky brown teats hanging from each of the adult dogs tipped me off that these were probably not pets. One of the mamas was pretty vicious when I came near, and was standing in front of her puppies. I tried to assure her that I wasn't here to take them, but conversing with dogs who speak English is difficult enough, and my korean is still quite limited.

After showing me the way all the gear works, R and I took turns scaling the wall.
The furthest I got was probably about 20 feet up, and that was exhausting. The most exhilarating moment of the morning was when I had finished my second climb and R let me "swing out" off the wall and take a look around before letting me down. I'm a little afraid of heights, so the feeling of giving all my weight to the rope and letting go sent my heart into my throat, and it took me another ten seconds or so to take my hands off the rope and hang by the harness. We talked a bit about the importance of unplugging from "the daily grind" and getting back to "you and the planet" whenever possible, and he told me some stories about climbing in Thailand, which I'm excited for. Oh, and I know I told some people I was going to Thailand for Christmas with J, another teacher at ECC, but I came back and he informed me that we never discussed such a thing and I completely made it up. I think I may have dreamed it. Actually, I think that there's a large group of people conspiring to make me go crazy, but I'm probably wrong. So we'll see, I may still go on my own.


Back in the thick of it...

Well, after a couple of weeks in the land of good beer, nachos, and racial diversity, I'm back in Korea. And exhausted. I got into Seoul Monday morning at 2am and spent a few hours sleeping at Gangnam bus station waiting for the 6:30 Sokcho bus. I shared a few cigarettes and laughs with the security guards and then hunkered down on the floor beside my luggage. I woke up at 5:30 to a Korean police officer poking me in the face, while smiling in a most welcoming manner. I had one of those great moments when you wake up and forget where you are, but this was the most startling one I ever had as I sat up, blurry eyed, to realize I was on the other side of the planet. I guess he woke me up because the bus station was now open, and they don't want people sleeping during business hours.

I was in Sokcho by around 11am, but had discussed with Justin (my supervisor) before I left Canada that I didn't want to work on Monday, so I had a day to recover. And a good thing, too.

Tuesday morning I came to my classroom to find a thirty to forty question evaluation sheet for each of my students, due on Friday. At 11 different classes of around 15 students each, that's a lot of evaluating. So I spent the last week rating each student from 1-7 on statements such as "Shows creativity and doesn't copy from existing material" and "Makes effort to pronounce new words" and the like. It was exhausting, it was mind-numbing, it was ridiculous. More ridiculous because looking at the names on each sheet, I only remembered who about half of them were. Korean names, to the ignorant Western eye, are quite difficult to attach a face to. For instance, in one class I have Eun-ji and Ji-Eun, sitting right beside each other. Dong-Hyeon, Hyeon-Dong, Kyeong-Mi, Min-Kyeong, you get the idea.

So that sucked, but it is really good to be back. It's funny, I was only here a month before I went back. But coming back, I definitely had that "good to be home" feeling. One of my plants is dead, but miraculously, my lavender survived. So, uh, then I played some football and watched porn and drank beer. Sorry, just needed to balance out that lavender sentence. (Miraculously?)
My students are almost all glad to have me back. The young ones especially, were really happy to see me. I told the class that I took pictures of that I showed the pictures to my mother, and they exploded. Literally, just exploded. Pieces of children everywhere. Alright, not quite, but it did take me a good couple of minutes to calm them down, apparently the idea of my mother seeing their picture was exciting. Who knew?

"The Sullen Class" as I've been calling them, is still sullen. A couple of them were glad to see me, but I asked Seung-eun (kind of a cross between Soong and Sung), a boy of about 13, if he was glad to have me back and this is how that went:

Joshua Teacher: Seung-eun?Seung-eun: (Sighs as if I'm interrupting him at something really important, he was examining the bottom of his shoe) Yes?
JT: Who was your teacher while I was away?
S-e: (blank stare)
JT: (slowly, with appropriate sign language) Whooo was yooouur teeeaaacher when IIIII was in Canada?
S-e: Oh, Oh, Uhhhhhhhhh Korean teacher.
JT: Did you like your Korean teacher?
S-e: (blank stare, goes back to working on his shoe)
JT: Seung-eun! (S.e. looks up) You had a Korean teacher while I was in Canada?
S-e: Yes!
JT: Good korean teacher?
S-e: Yes.
JT: Better than Joshua teacher?
S-e: What better?
JT: More good.
S-e: Oh. Yes.
JT: So you were happy with the Korean teacher?
S-e: Yes.
JT: And now you have Joshua teacher back, you are sad?
S-e: Yes.
JT: Awesome. Okay class, open your books to page...

So yeah, welcome back.

That's all for now, gonna go have a shower and enjoy the rainy day.