Tuesday, September 24, 2013

a shite day

Tuesday started off badly, as I had to talk with my 9AM beginner's class about their awful performance on the quiz two weeks ago. I also had to call each student up, one by one, to discuss why so many of them hadn't done any of the online homework I had assigned them on the first day. Quite a few hadn't even bothered to register for the online component of their coursework. A month has gone by, and some students are just sitting there, doing jack shit. I'm trying very hard to avoid using the word stupid to describe these kids, but it's becoming more and more difficult to find an adjective that basically means "less than intelligent." These kids seriously lack common sense; they have no self-motivation at all.

Today, I drew on the board a circle of cause and effect for them: if the students fail their quizzes, it's because they didn't learn. If the students didn't learn, it's because their teachers (i.e., their classmates) didn't teach them well. If the teachers didn't teach well, it's because the teachers didn't prepare. I've told all my classes, over and over, that their teams need to meet and talk before every class—to familiarize themselves with the material and to formulate plans—but my beginners just aren't getting this through their thick skulls.

It's at times like this that I realize how good I had it when I was at Sookmyung. Sookmyung prided itself on being the second-best women's university in the country, second only to Ehwa Women's University.* The girls I taught at Sookmyung could evince their own form of lazy and stupid, when they wanted, but in general they were smart and driven and ambitious. On days like today, I long for a return to those golden, olden times.

I signed up nine of my students—who had all gotten "D"s or "F"s on the quiz—for extra tutoring later this week, starting tomorrow (Wednesday). I also signed up all four teams in my Tuesday 9AM class for extra tutoring: I plan to teach the kids how to teach, because what they're doing now is pure crap. I admit this was a mistake I had made early on: I should have spent a lot more time in training my beginners. That's a mistake I won't make again next semester. It sucks to realize how much time I've wasted.

With dark thoughts burbling in my brain, I ended my 9AM class at around 10:45AM and trudged back upstairs to gather my things and prep for the rest of the day. It was a big day: pull out cash from Daegu Bank, get my alien registration card from Daegu Immigration, get my mandatory hospital checkup out of the way, and see about resurrecting my cell phone.

I changed back into my street clothes, spent a million years at the bank before I could get my damn money, then went to Immigration, which sits close to Dongchon (East Village) Station. The wait at Immigration wasn't long, thank goodness, and I wasn't as sweaty as I'd been last time. I was given my card; I signed a register, and that was that.

I took the subway back to Anshim Station, then got in a cab and headed for Hayang Samsung Hospital, a place that, according to several colleagues, was dirty and grungy. One colleague mentioned having seen a roach crawling around on that hospital's floor. I wasn't looking forward to this checkup, mainly because I had never gone through such a procedure with a Korean medical facility before. The cab dropped me at the front of the hospital; two old men in hospital pajamas sat outside the front door, just hangin'. I went inside, found the front counter, and told the young ladies that I was a college prof at Catholic University Daegu, there for my checkup. I gave them the photocopied sheet that the school had given to me. Next, I filled out a form at the front counter and verified that my name was indeed on a list of foreign faculty at CUD. I was led upstairs, where I was weighed and measured; I was also asked to give both a urine and a blood sample. It had been years since I'd pissed into a cup, which felt unpleasantly warm as I carried it, grimacing, out of the restroom and back to the attendant.

When it came time to take my blood pressure, the machine proved unable to get a proper reading (despite squeezing my upper arm so tightly that my fingers turned purple and almost visibly pulsated). I was sent back downstairs to the naeshi (endoscopic) room, where another medical professional was supposed to get my blood pressure manually. The door to this professional's office had a cute poster on it that politely described the various ways in which an asshole can be probed. I hoped that a blood pressure check was all that I was in for. A smiling doctor popped out, took my form, and told me to wait five minutes. Some time later, she came back out and took my blood pressure by hand, frowning at my reading and telling me my blood pressure was high enough for me to require meds. I knew this already; it wasn't big news. I'm not taking any of your goddamn meds, thanks. If I croak or stroke out in front my students, I'll be content in the knowledge that I have only myself to blame. After a little homily about the need to diet, the doctor put on her smiley face once again and told me that my info would be sent to the university (why another person has access to my personal medical data, I'll never fathom), so there was noting left for me to do. I walked out.

I thought about catching a cab from the hospital back to my neighborhood, but after waiting like an idiot for five or seven minutes, and getting progressively more annoyed, I decided I'd just start walking back home. Somewhere early in my walk, my foot came down on a buckled asphalt surface, and I lost my balance and fell messily onto the gravel. Fucked up my right thumb and scraped my right knee, but my left hand and knee were both fine. The thumb bled a bit, but not much. I didn't even realize my knee was bleeding until I noticed, later, that my sweatpants were stuck to my knee. That bleed wasn't so bad, either: no blood was visible on the outside of my sweatpants.

At first I was disoriented as I walked along; although I've gotten to know a lot about Hayang, I don't know it thoroughly. Luckily, I saw a bus stop that showed the bus's route: one arrow pointed in the direction of the Hayang Town Admin Office, which was right close to where I lived. So I simply followed the road, more mindful, now, of the ground's unevenness. I passed several tempting restaurants, then found myself in an incredible part of the open market that I didn't even know existed: what little of the market I had seen was obviously only the tip of a very large iceberg. After that, I knew right where I was, and I followed the main drag, Hayang Street, to the local SK Telecom office to take care of my phone.

You'll recall the phone's back-story. Or maybe you won't, so I'll summarize it here: my buddy Tom got me the phone mainly for temporary use back when I was in Seoul this past April and May. Tom and I had gone to Itaewon, where I purchased the phone, an old 90s-era slider, for about W30,000. It was a "prepay" phone, i.e., I would have to dump money into it periodically. The screen on the phone advertised SK Telecom, so I assumed that I'd need to recharge my cell at an SKT branch. When I tried this, however, I discovered that the phone wasn't actually on an SKT service; instead, recharging turned out to be a long, complicated procedure that involved going to a local 7-Eleven and asking the cashier to call someone who would help recharge the phone. I took the phone back with me to America, popping out the battery so as to keep the remaining money from draining away in roaming charges, but as it turned out, the money drained away all the same. I further discovered that keeping the phone at zero money for over 90 days meant that I'd lose the phone's phone number. At the end of August, I tried to "resurrect" the phone at a local SKT office, but was told that I'd need my alien registration card. So I waited three weeks—until today, really—and seized my chance when I was walking by an SKT branch.

I went into the branch and was told to wait. I waited. And waited. When it was finally my turn, I told the employee my situation; he listened, then handed me over to a cute female employee. She determined that the phone still had its number, despite having lost its service. Unfortunately, she said, there was nothing I could do to salvage the phone. She gave some reason for this, but I didn't understand the vocabulary she used, so that crucial reason will forever remain mysterious. I understood the upshot, though, because I asked her whether my phone was now just garbage, and she nodded yes while grimacing.

So to cap off my already-shitty day, I've got a useless phone. I could, in theory, go out later this evening and get myself a decent smart phone. I may still do that. We'll see.

After a day of slacker students, shooting out blood and piss for random women, being lectured about my blood pressure, suffering an embarrassing fall, and failing to salvage my cell phone, I came home, sweaty, exhausted, pissed off, and a bit depressed, just wanting to take a shower and to do some goddamn laundry. Now I'm pounding out this blog post, and not looking forward to the rest of my week, which is filled with student tutoring sessions. This includes Friday, normally my day off. Fuck.

I think I'll print some worksheets out, then get to bed early tonight. Yeesh.

*Technically, the formal name for Ehwa is the Konglishy "Ehwa Womans University"—yes, that's "womans" with no apostrophe. There's a history behind that misspelling, which I understand was supposed to be deliberate, but I consider that spelling so egregious that I refuse to repeat it. My apologies to friends of mine who teach there. I mean no disrespect to the school. In fact, it's precisely because I respect Ehwa that I call it a women's university.



John from Daejeon said...

More than likely, your phone does still work. It's just that they make no money off of you unless they manage to hook you into an up-sell which is why I stick to using Google Voice. It burns the hell out of them that I refuse to give them (those greedy telecom companies) any of my hard-earned money. It also pisses them off that I've managed to get many of my family members (and a few friends) to get no contract smart phones (I use a tablet) and just use Google Voice via Wi-Fi.

As for your beginner students, it's going to get a lot worse in the coming years. I can't believe how badly the overuse of smart phones (games, chatting, and who knows what) has become, and, coupled with banned corporal discipline in all schools, this current generation of young students is taking a turn for the worse. The North has meth heads while the South has smart phone zombies. It surprises the hell out of me that there aren't many more accidents (or robberies) involving those so obviously addicted to their phones. If the North ever disrupted the electrical grid on the southern peninsula, life would be absolute chaos in seconds.

Charles said...

Damn, dude. That sounds like a pretty crappy day. Here's hoping today is better.

Elisson said...

Please do not ignore your blood pressure. You're a young guy, and the possibility of a stroke does not seem real to you. But trust me when I tell you this - I've known several people who had cerebral hemorrhages at surprisingly early ages. High BP is not the only contributor, but it's a biggie.

And - you can also trust me on this - a stroke is no fun whatsoever. It would change your quality of life forever, and not in a good way.

Lose weight, take meds - do whatever you need to do to get the BP under control. The world would be a poorer place without a fully functional Big Hominid!

hahnak said...

strokes are bad news. i know you already know this. why not do something about it? maybe theres a reason for your being against the meds but is it just a knee jerk "i dont wanna take any goddamn meds" or is there a real good reason? anyway, just wondering about the attitude. if you can do something about the bp, why not? i wont make any more comments about this. i dont want to come off as lecturing or anything.

Anonymous said...

Just use the word stupid. Sometimes it really is necessary if only to vent.

Kevin Kim said...

Thanks, all, for the reactions.


Interesting insights re: phones. And I agree that our tech is contributing to the erosion of society. Society is steadily reconfiguring itself into something more distant and less human.


Thanks. Yes; Wednesday was much better.


You're right about strokes, of course; they certainly don't improve your quality of life. As for death, though: I'm pretty stoic about the prospect of my own demise. These days, I see death as a chance to rejoin Mom.


I don't like the idea of taking meds for my condition. Maybe I see the drugs as a cop-out or a cheat or something, but I think that, if I'm to reduce my BP stats, it'll be through old-school effort, not meds.


Heh. Of course, I should make clear that my students aren't stupid in the sense of having low IQs (despite my "less than intelligent" remark): they're stupid in that they lack basic life wisdom, e.g. retaining the notion that Cause X leads to Effect Y: if you don't prepare your lesson, you're going to teach a shitty lesson, which hurts your students and crimps their performance on tests. It's incredible to me that these kids can't see past the ends of their own noses. Was I like that when I was their age? That's a horrible thought.