10 September 2009

Back to School Time

It's back to school time here in Korea and that means back to normalcy for teachers at private academies like mine. The summer break (mid-July to the end of August) is a time of chaos as the tight schedules the children keep become jumbled. Piano lessons, computer class, Math, Science, Art, Tae Kwon Do...most kids maintain a grueling pace during the school year. With the summer break, all the extra-curriculars become jumbled. At many small private academies it becomes impossible to maintain a schedule with leveled classes...you might have 5th year English students in the classroom with beginners. Thankfully, during this period I was given a lot of leeway in lesson planning. I was usually able to find material that was both interesting to the older students and accessible to the less experienced. However, I have nearly used up my giant bottle of Advil.

Thankfully, as I said, things are now returning to normal. As the new classes form I have been making careful notes in regard to individual assessment and class maturity levels so as to begin selection of teaching materials. Unlike at my previous school, where my opinion was not solicited, here I am consulted and expected to have an informed opinion about the students and their needs. That is incredibly refreshing. I recently took a trip to the teacher store with our head teacher and we looked over all of the possibilities and found some good stuff. I am looking forward to teaching with the new supplies.

In other news, my finger is still healing. I have lost a lot of mobility but I am surprised at how adaptable the hand is. Things that I thought I would basically have to completely relearn, like typing, have kind of adapted themselves on their own. And things that I worried would be affected by the loss of strength, like sailing, have come along as well: the other fingers seem to have picked up the slack when I pull a jib sheet or the like.

All in all, things are going well. I recently purchased another scooter (number 3!) and got a huge lock to put on it. I am being careful and hope that this one won't get stolen. It is sure fun riding around on that thing.

01 September 2009


I don't think I ever really discover anything new... I am only abruptly reminded of something which I had already learned the hard way.

When I got on the elevator last night at 1:30 AM (I don't usually come home that early but I had to work the next day) I was assaulted by a horrible smell. "My god..." I said, waving my hands around my face to swat away invisible swarms, the kind which in my experience always attend such a stench. When the elevator opened on my floor my knees buckled. Now I live on the eleventh floor of a twelve story apartment complex and if I could smell it on the first floor...

As I approached my apartment (retching-eyeswatering-gags) I began to suspect the worst: yep, it was coming FROM MY APARTMENT. At that point I seriously debated going back downstairs, taking a cab to the airport, and catching the first plane to Bangkok. The only thing that stopped me was the knowledge that the poor cat was stuck in there with that. If she was still alive.

I turned the key and opened the door. I am a farm boy. I have seen and smelled and done things that most people cannot imagine. But this was another level of stink. I quickly opened the windows turned on the fan and the oven vent and the bathroom ventilator and the air conditioner (it was quite hot in there) and tried to find the source of the stench. It didn't take long.

Here in Korea recycling is compulsory and all organic household waste is put back into the system as well, collected in tiny sealed buckets that you put by the curb with a quarter ticket stuck in the lid. I could never be troubled with that of course so I was in the habit of sticking everything in the bags you have to buy for your non-recycleable garbage (about $.25 a liter). The smell was coming from my garbage can.

I didn't take the time to do a complete autopsy but but when I pulled the bag I realized that something horrible had happened. In the bottom of the bag was another bag filled with the contents of my kitty's litter box. Around and in that was the contents of a bag of live clams that died in my refrigerator(dead clams and clam juice). In addition there was some rotten garlic and broccoli, cigarette butts, moldy yoghurt, and used toilet paper. (I had cleaned the refrigerator, bathroom, and litter box the previous night in a fit of domestic energy resulting from relationship issues).

When I got back from the dumpster and cleaned up the cat vomit I reflected on the lessons learned and fondly recalled the other times I forgot to take out the trash.