Thursday, July 14, 2016

SNU: first of four classes (then dinner & dessert)

My Seoul National University (SNU) class ran about thirty minutes overtime today, but it was enjoyable enough. The students, unlike the group I had in April, were prepared for the class this time around: everyone had brought a laptop and a résumé in electronic form. One girl's laptop broke down during class; I ragged her about it, telling her she should've had a Mac instead her crappy Samsung. She took my jibes with good humor and ended up visiting the program coordinator's office to borrow a laptop.

Like in April, some of the students impressed me with their breadth of experience despite being so young. One girl had traveled and done service work in several African and European countries; another had a language background in German and Russian; I spoke some phrases to her in both languages. One guy, who came over an hour late to class, turned out to have studied in Paris. I spoke full-speed French with him and was impressed with his speed, his listening comprehension, and his natural accent. (Most French-speaking Koreans that I talk with usually have disappointingly bad accents when speaking in French. Occasionally, though, I'll meet someone who has internalized French extremely well—in some cases better than I have. But such Koreans are rare birds indeed.)

Class began with my 40-minute PowerPoint presentation (on how not to write—and how to write—résumés), then we moved into a 30-minute workshop: pair work for fifteen minutes followed by "alone" work for another fifteen. After that, the students enjoyed a ten-minute break, then we moved into the one-to-one consulting phase of the class, during which I sat with each student individually for about ten or twelve minutes, working on their résumés with them. Some students got it: their CVs were nicely polished when I saw them, and I had almost no complaints. Other students, though, seemed to think they could buck the system and hand over idiosyncratic résumés that had hard-to-read formats and were rife with silly errors. Luckily, Korean students tend to take correction very well; they are, in fact, suspicious when a teacher seems to be praising them too much, so even the wayward students appreciated the constructive criticism that I applied to their résumés.

It was the one-to-one consulting period that caused me to run overtime: some students' résumés needed a lot more help than others' did. I managed to finished everything before 5:30PM, after which I trudged across campus to visit my buddy Charles, who is a prof at SNU. Charles and I hung around in his office for a bit after I had changed into my walking clothes, then we took a crowded shuttle bus to a neighborhood that had a kimchi-jjigae restaurant called Baekchae (white cabbage), which Charles likes. We met Charles's wife there; Hyunjin had kindly saved a table for us. Charles had talked about how the kimchi-jjigae here came with a ton of meat; when our order came out, I saw that he hadn't been joking: there were literal slabs of pork hunkering down inside the spicy cabbage stew. Hyunjin gamely cut the pork slabs into bite-sized chunks with meat scissors; we then waited for the stew to boil until the meat—initially raw—had been thoroughly cooked.

Along with the stew, there was a sizable side of scrambled egg slathered with sauces, and we all had metal bowls into which to ladle our stew when it was ready. Three metal bowls came out; only two had rice in them, so Charles and Hyunjin split one bowl of rice between them like the cute couple they are, leaving me with a full portion of rice. We also passed around a container of dried seaweed. When the pork was ready, we began ladling the stew into our bowls: spicy broth, huge leaves of kimchi, enormous monoliths of tofu (called dubu in Korean), and those lovely chunks of dead pig.

I ended up having two bowls of stew, then I began rooting around the bottom of the large stew bowl, looking for stray bits of cabbage and tofu and pork to eat. We all had our fill, then we adjourned to a gelato place across the street, also recommended by Charles. I ordered a 300-gram triple-scoop (about the size of a Baskin Robbins pint) that Hyunjin gasped at; she and Charles were more modest, ordering only tiny cups of gelato—pistachio for her; dark chocolate for him. My triple was dark chocolate, strawberry, and cookie. All three flavors were delicious, and I destroyed my 300-gram monstrosity before Charles finished his tiny cup. Hyunjin, apparently still hungry and claiming to have a special second stomach exclusively for desserts, slaughtered her pistachio gelato well before either of us guys had finished.

Conversation was mostly about food, as it almost inevitably is when I'm around. Charles noted that this is a Korean thing: Koreans will talk about other food even while they're chowing down on something delicious right at that moment. Who can blame them? Food is life.

Now replete, I waddled away from the gelato place and—at Charles and Hyunjin's behest—over to the main road to hail a cab. I had taken a cab to SNU earlier that day; the cabbie had missed a crucial turn, which had cost me twenty minutes. Being almost an hour early to class, I was relaxed about the whole thing, but the cabbie felt guilty and charged me for only part of the entire ride, even trying to force some cash onto me as a further refund. I told him to keep his cash, and I said I was fine with paying the truncated fare since it was close to what the actual fare would have been had we not missed the turn. Fast-forward to the evening, and a cab zoomed up as I said my goodbyes to Charles and Hyunjin. The ride home occurred without incident, and was a few dollars cheaper than the inadvertently meandering ride that I had taken earlier in the day.

Expect pics of the meal and dessert momentarily. Meanwhile, I've got a week to prep for next Wednesday's course on how to do presentations.



Charles said...

Glad you could come out for dinner and dessert! We debated walking home, but I was so stuffed that we ended up just taking the bus.

(For the record, we deliberately only ordered two bowls of rice--HJ and I had intended to split one all along.)

Kevin Kim said...

Thus reinforcing my "cute couple" observation. Awwwww.

Charles said...

Less "cute couple," more "small stomachs."

Kevin Kim said...

Oh, yeah: thanks again for that cookie. Most tasty.