Friday, March 16, 2007

first week

Not a bad first week, especially when compared to last summer and fall. Classes have been good overall, though I've already got one or two students skipping out (including a goofy one who used to skip a lot several semesters ago; she hasn't changed, and she's still Level 1 because she has never completed one of our courses), as well as two students who have not even shown up for class yet. The latter students will remain on my roll for the next two weeks; experience has taught me that some students will register, then not bother to show up until Week 3.

My last class on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays is by far the most pleasant class to teach; I'm glad that this group, which meets at 1:10pm, is so cheerful and naturally engaged. Sometimes it takes a real effort to motivate a group when the collective psyche is dull.

One girl in my CNN English class looks to be troublesome. My prediction is that she will weed herself out of the class, perhaps within the next two weeks. We're following a curriculum by YBM Sisa, and the first topic we hit yesterday was "artistic robots," based on a 2006 CNN broadcast about robots that play guitar, visually render sounds by drawing them on paper, react to human facial expressions, and so on. I overheard this girl whining about how she didn't want to talk about this topic. I said nothing to her this time around, because she also confessed to her partner that she was feeling depressed about some job hunting-related problem or other. But the next time she whines, I'll have to give her my "don't be lazy in my class" spiel. Bellyaching about the discussion topic is pretty childish.

Aside from her (and truth be told, she wasn't a big problem), I have no real complaints. We'll see how the semester unfolds.

I'm told that, starting next week or the week after, we might have new classes added to our schedule because more students-- the stragglers-- have registered. We're all teaching far below the minimum number of weekly contact hours: 13 instead of 18. If we're unable to teach the minimum number of hours, we will be given extra duties and assignments. This isn't always a bad thing, but it can be annoying sometimes.

Oh, yeah-- today, while sitting by myself at lunch and minding my own business, I was accosted by a small crew from KBS. They were there to film a segment for a weekly broadcast; the theme for the 21st (when this particular broadcast is to air) is "rice." I had ordered two menu items; when the crew accosted me, they gave me two more plates of food to eat, as well as a can of Pepsi.

"We need a shot of you eating," they said. So I chowed down a bit. "We need you to answer some questions about Korean food and this restaurant," they said. I insisted on conducting the entire interview in English, so if you catch this show, you won't hear me speaking any Korean (as I did a couple years ago, when KBS caught me at a Buddhism conference in Anyang), though you might be able to hear the interviewer posing his questions in Korean. I gave the thumbs-up sign way too many times, so unless they edit me down to size, I'm going to look corny as hell.

Then came the final request: "We need you to say, 'Korean rice is the best!' into the camera." They made the request in Korean. Feeling somewhat contrary, I said in English, "Korean rice is excellent!" That's the honest truth as far as I'm concerned; Korean rice is excellent. But I wasn't about to contribute to a propaganda campaign that makes Korean rice out to be "the best."

I had to do this twice: once as a dry run, and once while eating. I felt like a whore when the segment was done and the camera crew had abandoned me to my meal. They never once asked me my name, so I shall be one of a long line of Random Awkward Foreigners to appear on TV. If you want to have a good laugh, check out KBS 2 TV on March 21st at noon, a show called "Gamseong Magazine." The episode is titled "Haengbok-han O-hu" (Happy Afternoon). Then write me about how much I suck.

Funny thing is: I'm not camera shy. What took me aback is that I was eating alone and was suddenly shanghaied by these people, including the restaurant's owner, who was dressed up more snazzily than usual. I'm happy to make faces for the camera (later on, my coworkers told me I should have retched and heaved), but I also require a minute or two of prep time to put on my game face. Oh, well.

And now: lesson plans and finalizing my book. Not to mention a Namsan hike tonight.


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2 comments:

usinkorea said...

I think they were evil agents sent to throw you off your diet...

You post recently with images about that topic, then suddenly KBS is forcing food on you? Coincidence? Hummmm....

Charles said...

I know it's probably going to be a huge mistake saying this in public, and if this ever gets traced back to me (which shouldn't be too hard) the rice nationalists are going to fire bomb my house, but Korean rice is not the best. Japanese rice is better. And I mean hands down better. When my wife and I visited Tokyo for a few days last summer, we were shocked at how good the rice was. It beats the pants off of Korean rice (and I've had some high-quality Korean rice, so I know what I'm talking about). There's a good reason the Japanese are so finicky about their rice.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go coat the outside of my house with flame-resistant material.