Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Year 2 - Porn Taxi

I was reading through some old emails from my second year when I saw this gem.



There was something I forgot to mention in my last email. Porn Taxis. Hmmm, that seems to have gotten your attention. :)

Koreans are crazy about the latest in electronic gadgets. One of the latest is a car TV-DVD systems that also act as a GPS system. The screens are only around 10 inches or less in size. They fold up into the dash. The control system is not that large either, and usually rests between the front seats. A lot of taxis have these systems in place for driver and/or customer entertainment.

My friend Chuck had never seen one before. Yesterday we were going to Subway to meet some friends for lunch. The taxi had one, but it was stored and not playing. The case for it had the label saying Car Location System. Chuck assumed this meant GPS. So he tried asking the driver about it, and to see it work. Chuck thought it would just show our location on a digital map.

The driver got the screen out and fired it up. A Korean movie came on. Chuck realized it was a DVD system at that point and commented on how cool it was, especially if you were traveling a long distance by taxi. The driver kind of smiled and put on another DVD, a western porn. Chuck was in his glory. He ended up calling BumSuk to tell him we were in a porn taxi. Of course, BuMSuk made his replies loudly in front of everyone else so by the time we got to Subway everyone already knew about the porn taxi.

Chuck took the guys card so he could call for that specific taxi if he wanted to. Thus ended our trip in the porn taxi. :)

Take care

Monday, September 27, 2010


I was just watching a M*A*S*H rerun. Radar had hit an adjoshi on a dark road coming back to camp. The adjoshi didn't have any broken bones but you would have thought he was dying in his hospital bed. It turns out he was faking it and had jumped in front of the jeep to scam some money. This wasn't his first accident. I was reminded of how Koreans are today about blood money.

It reminded me of DongChim hamming up his injuries with the complicity of his doctor to get more blood money out of the guy who hit his car.

It reminded me of the asshole who started a fight with one of my friends so he could get blood money. A guy who had a history of doing that with people, the police knew about it, and they still pushed paying him blood money.

Watching it happen on TV brought all these things to mind. I wonder if the storyline was based on an incident from during the Korean War? I wouldn't be surprised if it was.

The more things change the more they stay the same.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Mook of the Week

Ah, delivery mooks. They are a dime a dozen in South Korea but sometimes they can still make you shake your head at their mookishness.

I was heading out to Road King one night and had to grab a cab. Usually, I get one at an intersection near my apartment. On one corner is a great seafood restaurant. Great, but it does seem to attract mooks. The urinating mook from last year was a patron there. In the summer there are usually a group of mooks outside drunk and mooking it up.

It also attracts delivery mooks. This guy was delivering some fish and shellfish to them and just had to park halfway out into the street. I suppose he could blame it on the mook who parked in the crosswalk and prevented him from parking there. After all, mooks don't usually accept responsibility.

So he parks with the ass end of his truck blocking one lane and almost into the second lane of the street blocking the crosswalk at the same time. He was there the whole time I was waiting to get a cab, about 15 minutes, and showed no sign of leaving then. It was hard to see a cab coming since you couldn't see down the street.

What a mook.

What the ... phone call?

Phone teaching has got to be the worst thing I ever did in Korea. It just isn't that effective for every student. Except for my first and last year every job (Hagwon) had phone teaching.

The worst was at my second job, that hell known as Ivy School in YongAmDong (Cheongju). We did phone teaching for ... kindergarten! These kids were still learning their Korean but we had to call and try and engage them on the phone. What a colossal waste of time.

The Korean teachers would spend the day drilling the kids on the questions they would be asked on the phone. It was the Korean teachers job to come up with questions to ask. We had no input. Our role was just to ask the questions. And what questions they came up with soemtimes.

"What are you wearing?"
"what is your mommy wearing?"
"Is your mommy pretty?"

At times I felt like a perv calling the kids and asking them questions like that. Even with the drilling, surprise surprise the kindergarten kids would have trouble answering questions.

Even with the higher level students phone teaching was pretty much a waste of time. Some, a few, it would work with. Most would just give a one word answer or you would have to pull an answer out of them.

Then you had the parents answering the phone and not understanding any English. I can't recall the number of times parents just hung up when we used English. Then they would have the audacity to complain that their kid wasn't called for phone teaching. What the kimchi??? Fucking mooks.

Why did my hagwon do it? Because another hagwon did it and you had to keep up with the Kim's. Once you started doing something like phone teaching it was almost impossible to stop ... because now the parents expected it.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I have been ...

I have been damn busy the last couple of weeks and it will probably go on for a couple more weeks. Unfortunately, it means I have been neglecting the blog.

Why have I been busy you ask? Ok, you didn't ask, I did. I am getting my TESOL certification through The TEFL International Corporation. It was recommended to me by my buddy Spock.

After 9 years of teaching I figured what the hey. It may help me get a teaching job at home, or I can go abroad again. I am leaning towards abroad. Mind you, Mr. Wonderful's doom and gloom is scaring me off of South Korea. ;)

I held off getting the certificate for years. Part of it due to arrogance. I had taught ESL for X-number of years why the hell would I need a certificate? What could they possibly tell me that I hadn't already learned?

I managed to choke the arrogance down and convince myself to get certification now. There were still nagging doubts and I would be lying if I said I wasn't expecting to find it a waste of time. Luckily, I fought past those thoughts and dove into the work. It was a good decision.

I wish I had taken the course before I went to Korea in 2001. Even after 9 years of teaching there are things a person can learn. Sure, I know some, maybe even a lot, of what is being taught but I learned it through trial and error without learning the theory behind it. I have also learned some new things thus destroying the old adage about the dog and new tricks. ;) The review of what I do know has been helpful as well. All in all it is an interesting course that is worth the time and money I have invested.

If you are thinking of working teaching ESL I highly recommend getting your TESOL certificate first. It would have made my first year, or even years, easier.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Stig's Update

Well, it's been about a month since I left Korea, a time to rest and recharge.
I've been enjoying being back in the Great White North, but it sure is a change from the Land Of The Morning Calm and Afternoon Difficulty.
First of all, the weather. I went from wearing a t-shirt and shorts to slacks and a jacket. Brrrrrr! The days have been mostly cold, cloudy and wet. Today it's brilliantly sunny, but the weatherman keeps mentioning the word "snow" in his forecast. It's not even fall yet! I missed snow while I was in Korea, but this is ridiculous.
Secondly, my mook encounters have gone waaaay down. I was driving into town with my mother yesterday, and I only cursed once in the hour-long drive. In Korea, it'd be every minute or so. The mooks here are just as mookish, there're just fewer of them, that's all.
I was climbing up a hill, and just over the rise a tractor-trailer had pulled to the side of the road. His ass was still sticking out, though. The highway had just gone from three lanes to two, and this jackass had just cut that in half.
Fucking mook!
Third, I'm no longer living alone, with the luxury of doing what I want when I want. I'm staying with my folks until the next contract comes through. They've got a nice place, and it's a hell of a lot more comfy than a one-room con-apt in Cheongju, but sometimes the restrictions get a little confining.
I can no longer strut around nude, for instance.
Oh well. Adjustments have to be made everywhere I guess.
The big news, of course, is about my new job.
I don't have one.
I was all excited about being offered a job in England. It was pretty sweet. Fantastic money and extras like a car and a 'puter, not to mention being able to take advantage of life on the European continent, a particular dream of mine.
The post was supposedly the tutor to a family of Italians living just outside of London, and for about a month, preparations went well.
I was corresponding with the "employer" and his "lawyer," and they were asking me for all kinds of documents, and I was sending pictures and forms and so on.
They even sent me pictures of the family. It had a lot of authenticity to it.
And then they (or was it he? maybe it was a single person) proved themselves to be villains.
They asked me for money.
The lawyer claimed that I had to show that I as able to support myself in country until the first paycheck kicked in. He wanted me to send him about $1,200. Both he and the "employer" said it would be safe, and I could trust them, and they were so looking forward to my coming over, and the children were really excited and blah blah, blah!
I knew something was fishy, so I checked the requirements for UK work visas on-line, and told them that it looked like sending them money was unneccessary.
I so wanted to believe the job was legitimate.
But the "lawyer" kept insisting that I had to send them some dough. I had let Flint know about what was transpiring, and he went and called the British Embassy for confirmation about all this. They came back with the statement that dashed all my dreams. This was definitely a scam. Any time someone asks you to send them money, it's a scam.
Well, the disappointment was... well, I can't say just how bad it was. You can probably guess.
I turned my correspondence over to the police, and maybe they'll be able to do something, but... These cockroaches have plenty of ways of concealing themselves, and are pretty hard to track down and squash.
A few days after I had spoken to the police, somebody called me, asking if I was going to send the money. I told them no, and they said, "so I'm going to cancel the application?" I said yes. "I'm not sending you any money." This person had a kind of accent, thick and middle-European? They muttered someting unintelligible and hung up.
And that's the last I've heard from them.
All the time I was in Korea, I'd heard a lot of horror stories. Flint has recalled some hair-raisers in this very blog.
I'd only been badly cheated a couple of times. A recruiter kept my return airfare once, and a hagwon owner was late paying me. I never did get that airfare back, and I did a runner from that hagwon as soon as I got all my money. Being aware of all these things made me wary, and saved me from an expensive lesson at the hands of this latest scam artist.
So now I'm back on the unemployment line, looking for another contract... somewhere.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What the ... ricetardic name?!?!?!?

A big tip of the hat to Brian in Jeollanamdo for the post about an unusually named South Korean snack called Dick Sticks. I wonder if it is from the makers of Ricetards?

Dick Sticks. And Koreans wonder why people make fun of them at times? I have said it before and I will probably say it again, there is really no excuse for this level of stupidity. There are so many English resources available for companies in Korea that it just boggles the mind that they put out such stupidly named products.

Ricetards. Dick Sticks. Lee Hyori's Hyorish album. The insane t-shirts. The list could go on and on.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

CheonYeon Cider

I found myself with some stomach problems lately. (once again, nice to NOT have a "friend" around going on about how great their health is and mine (and others) sucks.) It made me think of CheonYeon Cider ... or Ciduh.

When I was first in South Korea a few Korean co-workers went on and on about the benefits of drinking CheonYeon if you had stomach problems. Well, one day I did so I decided to try and and lo and behold it helped! I was pleasantly surprised.

In the West CheonYeon would be called cream soda. As a kid I can remember mom giving us cream soda or ginger ale (just a little) when we had an upset stomach. In the late 80's, at least where I lived, it became hard to impossible to find cream soda. Sometimes you could find the fruit flavoured crap version but not basic cream soda.

Which brings me back to the beginning of this post. My stomach has been botehring me, kind of gassy, and I thought of CheonYeon when what do I see on the shelf at the grocery store ... no not CheonYeon, I WISH it was CheonYeon ... regular cream soda. Bloody expensive for a little 355ml bottle, almost $2.

I am drinking it as a write this post. Letting off the odd belch. Stomach starting to feel better.

CheonYeon Cider ... it does a body good. (And tastes better than the cream soda I just had.)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Undousuru anyone?

I saw a great way to learn Japanese on YouTube. The word of the day was undousuru which means exercise. After watching the video I had to do some private undousuru. It was better than the Japanese Learning English videos I have seen. :)

I wonder if a Korean version of Jwow is in the works? There was already a hilarious Korean version of 'Take Anything you Want" done. :)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Pet Peeves

One of my nieces is a teacher. The other day we were talking about teaching in Canada and South Korea. Now my experience hasn't been in Public Schools and there are some distinct differences between Canadian and South Korean Schools. But there are some topics that work to get kids (and adults) talking everywhere. Pet peeves is one such topic.

Everyone has a pet peeve. Something that drives them crazy. Whether it is people picking their noise, tapping their toes, or even wearing stupid clothes. (Ok, for some reason I wanted it to rhyme and that is the best I can do.) Some peeves are rational some aren't. Regardless I have found that no matter the level of the student (English level. This topic won't work with Kindergarten kids.) people will try and talk about what annoys them.

It can be used as a discussion topic or a writing topic. Or both. The main difference would be the level of expectation based on their English ability. Low level ... well getting them to express their dislike and make a sentence with help would be about what you could expect. Mid level ... express themselves in a sentence and write a few sentences giving some reason why they dislike it. High level ... it is a good paragraph writing topic, or even short essay depending on their ability.

I have had this topic work with everyone from mid-level Elementary school kids to business men. From low level ability to very high level ability. My niece mentioned she has used it as a writing and discussion exercise too. She teaches English at a Junior High (Middle School).

Sunday, September 5, 2010

What the ... banking bullshit 2?!?!?

Then I told my niece about an incident when trying to transfer money home. In all my years in Korea I never had a problem wiring money home until a new guy started working at my bank in 2008. (By new guy I mean new to the bank. Not new to banking.) He had great English, but was a bit of a dick.

Up to that point I had been wiring money to my bank account in Canada every month for 7 years. They never needed to see my passport as long as I had my Alien Registration Card (ARC) with me. Without an ARC they would need your passport. Basically, they photocopy the picture page, or front of the card, to put with your paperwork. To keep track of how much money you send out of the country.

Well this guy seemed to want to make a name for himself or put the foreigner in his place. When I gave him my ARC he asked for my passport. I don't carry my passport with me. According to Immigration you do NOT need to carry or present your passport if you have a valid ARC. The bank should accept the ARC. Well, Mr. Attitude didn't agree with that. He started telling me that the LAW, funny how the banks always seem to fall back on this in the hopes it will scare the foreigner off, that they HAD to photocopy my passport picture page. It was THE LAW. He actually spent 10 minutes arguing with me about it. THEN he said that THIS time he would put it through but from now on I had to bring my passport.

At that point I told him to fuck off. If I believed him and it was THE LAW then he couldn't just "do it this time." Which means he was lying about it being THE LAW and my ARC was acceptable. The bank had never needed my passport before. Immigration said the ARC was good enough. There was NO LAW saying it had to be the passport. If he was going to try jerking me around I would go elsewhere, after going over his head.

For some strange reason he continued trying to argue about it with me. He went on about how it was illegal. Blah blah blah. I stood up telling him he was an asshole. At this point the bank guard, she is a combination guard and info person, came over to see what was wrong. He babbled at her in Korean. Her English isn't that good so I used my bad Korean to tell her the guy was an asshole and asked for the number for the bank manager.

At that point he started to change his tune. He realized I was going to be complaining over his head. I think he also realized he might be ... wrong. He started sputtering out excuses. It was a misunderstanding!!!! It was too late though, he had showed his ass.

I went to work and talked with my boss about what happened. He called the branch manager for me and told him what happened. I was right, the ARC was perfectly acceptable. The guy should have processed my transfer no problem. The manager apologized through my boss. I accepted, and had my boss tell him that the new guy needed a refresher on bank policies.

I kept banking there. Until this twat I had no problems transferring money, and had none after that. It was kind of funny when he was my teller again and had to put the money transfer through the PROPER way. I could have rubbed it in, part of me says I should have, but I didn't.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Mook Of The Week

When Koreans move house, it is quite a sight. There are two vehicles involved. One is the van with all the furniture, etc., and the other is a lift which can reach as high as the top of a 15-20 story apartment building. The movers load as much stuff as they can onto a platform that goes shooting up into the air, to be unloaded through the window into the "balcony."
I say "balcony," because most Korean apartments have a storage space/laundry room where you and I expect a balcony. It seems very strange to me to waste the area that would provide a view of the outside world.
But then most Koreans seem to close off their windows rather than open them up. Businesses cover them with signage, like my hagwon. Instead of a big window, my students and I get to look at the reverse side of "CIA."

But anyway, the mook that we're looking at this week is the driver of the moving van parked squarely in the only travel lane available to anyone who wanted to use this road. The driver and his two children were milling around in front of the truck, selfishly oblivious to the bottleneck they had thus provided.

I had first seen this truck from the rear, at the far end of the street. As I approached I thought surely he must move before I got there, but no. He was still there by the time I had passed on up the street to my con-apt, about the same distance the other way as when I had first sighted the vehicle. The driver and his kids were still milling around, seemingly wothout a care in the world, and still selfishly oblivious to the world around them.
What a mook!

Hurricane Earl is hitting town.

If I am not around for a while it is because we are getting hit by Hurricane Earl. The Weather Channel is already reporting power outages and our lights have flickered.

Last time I was home for a hurricane it was Hurricane Juan. The worst one to ever hit the Maritimes.

Take care

Added 8:43PM September 4th, 2010.

Bah! The hurricane was a disappointment. Power was only out for 1.5+ hours.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Sick Days

Then you have sick days. I know I have touched on them before but it bears a second look. Any contract I have seen or heard about includes sick days. Of course, we all know how binding contracts are in South Korea. Sick days are treated a little differently from vacation days. That is, no employer seems to like you to use them.

From what I have seen and heard you get the least hassle from Universities about sick days. Mainly because you will have to make up the classes if they want you to.

Public Schools and Hagwons seem to share the view that you should come in to work even if you are dying. Death is the only excusable abscence. I can't speak for Public Schools but in Hagwons I have worked at, the Korean teachers come in feverish and half dead instead of staying home and recovering. (Students too.) Regardless of how infectious they might be. The foreign teachers are expected to do the same. One place I worked at wanted you to bring in a doctors note if you couldn't work. All of the places I worked at would want you to come in THEN go to the doctor (preferably with them) before taking a sick day.

Ivy School ... I had pneumonia and they STILL wanted me in working. In one breath they said I should be in the hospital, and they meant hospital not clinic. In the next breath, since I am not in the hospital I should be at work. I was addle minded enough from the illness that I did work a few days when I should have been hoem recovering.

Now bring in the aforementioned government policy on contracts and how binding they are and see what that means for your sick days. Yes, you get them. No, you can't use them. Fine, we will let you use some of them ... but we will never forget your "never give an inch" attitude.

It is even worse for students. Parents usually send them to school even if they are feverish and passing out. The ONLY exception to this was during the Swine Flu scare of 2010. If you tested positive for Swine Flu you were not allowed to go to school. If you had the regular flu, well get your ass in your desk and study. It is pathetic to see how Korea dealt with Swine Flu, and deals with illness in general.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

What the ... banking bullshit 1?!?!?

I was talking about living in Korea with one of my nieces and the subject of banking came up. She works for a bank. So, I told her about some of the trials and tribulations of being a foreigner doing banking in South Korea.

I banked with ShinHan Bank, and after the merge ChoHan Bank, for about 8 years. When I lived in YongAm-Dong I got both a credit card AND an international bank card. Something foreigners were saying that they could NOT get in Korea.

When I went to renew my credit card in 2006 I was told that it was against the law in Korea for banks to give credit cards to foreigners. Yes, they said it was ILLEGAL and I should not have been issued the credit card. Of course, that was just so much bullshit. It was bank policy, not the law. (There was a newspaper (Korean) article about this topic where the government said it was NOT illegal for foreigners to get credit cards or international bank cards. It was bank policy. The banks tried passing the blame.)

A year or so later I was home and tried to use my international bank card. It didn't work. When I got back to Korea I went to the bank to find out what was wrong. I was told that it was illegal to give international bank cards to foreigners. That struck me as strange considering I had been using it with no problem for 3-4 years. The teller's English wasn't all that good and I knew the manager's English was shit.

I went to work and got one of my co-workers to call the bank's customer service number and get me an English speaker. She talked to someone, who wanted to know the problem WITHOUT getting me an English speaker. The person just parroted the party line that it was against the law. My co-worker insisted that they either get an English speaker online, give me a number to call, or have one call me. 10 minutes later I was called.

I explained what happened to the person who called. Her English was ok and she seemed to understand the problem. Unfortunately she started parroting the party line. So, I told her that according to her government (I had a copy of the newspaper article then) that was a lie. It was not illegal to give a foreigner an international bank card. Then she gave me a new reason that had me laughing at her.

She told me that they couldn't issue international bank cards to foreigners because they have no way to properly track the money taken out abroad. They have no system able to accurately figure out amount withdrawn, exchange rates, and all that good stuff. Which means they would have no idea how much was really withdrawn.

That is when I started laughing at her. She seemed a bit taken aback. I could tell because she got quiet. Then she asked me what was wrong. I told her that I never realized South Korea was such a technologically backward country that it can't do what we have been doing in the West for over (at that time) 25 years. Her silence was deafening. Then she asked what I meant.

Well, I have had a bank card since 1985 with the Royal Bank that enables me to take money out anywhere in that world that allows for PLUS or INTERAC. I have used it in the US, Japan, China, Thailand, and even in South Korea. In fact I used at it at my CHB branch just the month before with no problems. Our banks have no problem figuring out how much REAL money is withdrawn, taking into account exchange rates and all that other stuff.

I told her that I assumed the South Korean banking system had access to the same modern technology that Western banks had. Then I apologized for assuming they were a modern, 1st world bank. I would never have expected them to be able to issue international banking cards if I knew their technology was so old, backwards, and 3rd World.

She stuttered something unintelligible. I thanked her for her time and hoped that one day her bank would modernize and become the equal of a Western bank. Then I hung up because I couldn't hold back laughing any longer.

Yes, I could have mentioned to her that they ARE able to track the money Korean's take out with international bank cards but why bother? If they are going to make up such pathetic excuses to deny a service nothing you say or do will get the douchebags to change. Not even their own government telling them it is ok to give the cards to foreigners.

I have heard that KB Star will issue the international bank card and credit card to foreigner but never checked it out. Also, I have heard many people complain about being told by a bank that something was the law just to get them to conform, shut up, or go away.