Tuesday, October 09, 2007

I can't believe I'm home

It's hard to believe, but I'm actually not in the office right now-- I'm at home, and it's not even 6:30PM as I type this. This has been one hectic semester for me, and it has everything to do with the amount of prep I do for my "Easy English" classes and my Pronunciation class.*

The transcript prep for "Three's Company," which I didn't finish during our week-long Chuseok break, takes roughly seven hours from start to finish. I'm typing the 3C scripts from scratch-- I type the transcript, proofread it, add commentary in the margins, design homework exercises, and write up a long list of questions for our Friday classes, which are devoted entirely to discussion (I'm following, roughly, Bloom's Taxonomy in my weekly setup: we move from low-level cognitive skills to higher-level skills as the week goes on).

Pronunciation class, as I mentioned before, takes a lot out of me because the class has 19 students and I reply individually to each student over the course of the week. They make recordings for me; I make recordings for them. "Time-consumptive" is an understatement when applied to this class. To think it meets only once a week!

My CNN English class doesn't require much in the way of prep anymore; I managed to get that class entirely mapped out before the semester even began, right down to the worksheets and homework assignments for each session (many simply recycled from a previous semester). However, I do require this current crop of students to keep a journal in which they write 15 practice sentences per lesson along with a short essay about one of the topics discussed in class. As you might imagine, that means more work for Godzilla.

But I've managed to catch up enough to take a breather, so today I schlepped over to the Costco not far from Mok-dong with Tom, thereby popping my Costco cherry (neither of us could do the Costco run this past Sunday, as it turned out). I've been to Costco any number of times in the States (at least two of Costco's warehouses are within easy driving reach of my parents' residence in northern Virginia), but had never set foot in one in Korea.

The Costco we hit seemed about the same as what you find in the US, yet somewhat smaller on the inside-- I didn't get the same Vaulted Temple of Consumerism** feeling I normally get in a US Costco. The Korean Costco did smell the same, however, and as some commenters pointed out, the encroachment of Korean products was in evidence.

But this Costco had the familiar bakery section where quantities are huge and prices are cheap. I didn't buy any bakery items, but lest you wrongly conclude that I escaped the experience carb-free, I admit to buying an eight-pack of pasta for an insanely low price.

I was disappointed to see American meat yet again marginalized; the ground beef on display was Australian (no dig against Oz here; I've had to become familiar with Aussie and Kiwi meats, and I find them all invariably delicious), and the US section was tucked into a corner, with ground pork being the only US ground meat visible.

I saw some amazingly huge jumbo shrimp ("jumbo shrimp" is not an oxymoron, by the way) that looked as though they might have undergone some sort of radiological experiment; trouble was, they were way expensive at twelve for W26,000.

Because neither of us had eaten lunch, Tom and I lumbered over to the chow line where I ordered a single gargantuan slice of cheese pizza and a p'ok baeik, i.e., a "pork bake," which is something of a fusion of a wrap and a calzone. The meat, along with cheese, sauce, and some green onion, is wrapped inside a vaguely calzone-like shell that completely seals the filling inside itself; the exterior is sprinkled with cheese, and the whole mess is baked. Quite good. I assume this was the local equivalent of the "chicken bake" I remember from US Costcos.

In the end, I stocked up on some items (including cheese) that would have cost me dearly had I shopped at Hannam Supermarket. I'm thinking I should get my own Costco membership, but again, I wonder whether the effort is worth it, considering that I'm leaving next April.

So now I find myself at home-- belly full, fridge stocked, and little to do except iron some shirts and contemplate a hike up Namsan, which is something I haven't done with any regularity in recent weeks.

Ah, bliss.

*A commenter asked what accent I was teaching. I teach a "standard" American accent, which in my case means the more or less neutral pronunciation of people in the DC-Metro area (for you dirty furriners, that means, roughly, the area encompassing Washington, DC, southern Maryland, and northern Virginia).

The commenter also wondered whether I make students aware that other legitimate accents exist. Yes, I do indeed make them aware of this fact, even to the point of attempting those accents myself, Robin Williams-style. Any Brit or Kiwi or Aussie would sniff me out immediately as a faker, of course: I'm not nearly as adept as, say, the fantastic Minnie Driver at imitating accents, but my purpose is just to provide the students with a bit of awareness that millions upon millions of people get along just fine without the admittedly bland "standard" North American pronunciation. (To be fair, North America boasts a variegated palette of accents and dialects, though a case can be made that some forms of "news" and "theater" English might be considered representative of "standard" North American English.)

God bless variety, I say. The past few months, because I've been working with my buddy Tom, our department has developed a heavy American slant (Tom and I are both Yanks), but before Tom's arrival, I was in the linguistic minority, having been the only American in our department for over two years, and therefore the only one not speaking and writing the Queen's English. I think students should be exposed to a wide variety of accents, and I ask my students to give me examples of regional dialects here in South Korea. I love different accents. It makes some folks nervous, I think, because I like imitating what I hear-- not to mock it (though I occasionally do mock it, good-naturedly), but to enjoy the simple fact of variation.

Accent and dialect are, of course, different things. I take accent to refer primarily to pronunciation and rhythm, while dialect is a broader category referring not only to pronunciation and rhythm, but also to things like vocabulary, diction, and so on. For instance, the expression "[to be] fixin' to," meaning "intend(s) to," would be a function of dialect but not of accent.

**I credit Dr. Steve with this expression which, if I recall correctly, he applied with a wry grin to the Pentagon City shopping center in northern Virginia. Being a rather high-end center, Pentagon City does indeed have a temple-like air about it.



Unknown said...

If you want something from Costco, I go pretty regularly and can easily pick something up for you.

You know where I work.

daeguowl said...

FYI most people I know spell it Aussie...

Jelly said...

Dear Joe in Korea,
I want English Muffins! I know you didn't offer to pick things up for me, but Kevin and I are practically the same person.

Kevin Kim said...


I think I caught the wayward "Ozzie" and changed him to an Aussie. I'd spelled it "Aussie" elsewhere in the post... apologies for the inconsistency. We can chalk that up to a brain fart.

I am, however, keeping "Oz," as I think a lot Oz-- uh, Aussies use that term.


daeguowl said...

Yep, Aussies come from Oz...and they call us Poms...