Uncertainty can be happiness

"Security is a false god," or running around the world as an FSO

Archive for the ‘Social commentary’ Category

What I wore to the Inauguration…

Posted by quirksalight on January 20, 2009

…was PJs, a shawl, and an ace bandage.
Sitting in front of my computer, with a cup of tea and my knitting, I watched the live coverage in the early hours of January 21st in Korea.

Listening to the new POTUS, I am still filled with hope. Which is what we, as a nation, is gambling on, isn’t it? We voted to choose a relatively inexperienced man as the leader of our country because we needed someone who would help us believe in us again. To really live and be “Proud to be an American”… which was hard, in a world that had slowly come to shun our policies and in turn, Americans. Now, it has come full circle, and we, the Americans abroad, can stop having to defend who we are and instead, promote that makes the United States that place that we all call home.

Pride in the nation that I call mine is something I took for granted until I left it. It bothered me, when I applied for my visa status, to sign away my Koreaness. Even stranger to realize that I didn’t exist anymore on my family’s geneological rolls…after so many generations, it ends. I felt that I was giving up a part of myself. But, as I lived here longer and longer, I realized that in my mind, I am and have always been, an American. Who I am, the way I think, the path I have always followed, has always fit more at home than in Korea.

And living out of the US for the first time in a quarter century, I had to defend my country. Anti-American sentiment wasn’t virulent, but existed. As a bilingual, I had explain why our export policies were solid, why we weren’t brash and annoying people, why our government was doing the things they did, to both Koreans and other expats. I received a physical attack for being a foreigner, and had to wonder, what friends meant when they said, “Oh, you’re an American? Really? I didn’t think you were.” Why? What is an American that isn’t I?

Instead of being pulled more and more between the two cultures I live in, I feel that my identity has been more solidified with my time here. I am a Korean-American. I treasure my heritage, the richness of the culture I was born in, and the diversity of the culture I have sworn an oath to. But when push comes to shove, the nation that I will promote and defend is the United States of America.

Posted in 2008 Election, Asian-Americans, commentary, election, election 2008, family, Korea, Korean, Mental Stream, Politics, Social commentary | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Cheating

Posted by quirksalight on January 5, 2009

Right on Christmas Eve, 10 of my 2nd year (8th grade) students got caught cheating on their final exams. Not 1 exam, but apparently it was a coordinated effort that had gone for two days before the students were caught.

Needless to say, the parents and the school were extremely upset, and the school was trying to think of a just punishment for the students.
At the school-parents meeting on the 26th, the school decided that the punishment should be getting zeros on all exams for the students. (which is pretty lenient in my opinion) Apparently the parents (!) thought this was too harsh and would mess up their chances to get into good high schools, and that it was the teachers (!!) fault for not observing them closely enough!! WTF?!?! Where’s the logic in that? The students planned and executed this – sheesh….

Posted in ancedotes, annoyance, Bizarre, Buheung MS, Bupyeong, commentary, education, Incheon, Korea, Social commentary, teaching, teaching english | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

20-20 can be painfully clear

Posted by quirksalight on December 6, 2008

A couple months ago, I wrote about South Korea’s Truth and Reconciliation commission on the investigation into the wartime (and post Korean-war) atrocities by the US backed S. Korean government. (“Sometimes you just have to force yourself to read it“)

More news is continuously coming to light about the sheer scope of what happened, and the role that the US and S Korean governments played in it. Keeping in mind, that this was also the height of the “Red Scare” and McCarthyism in the US,

On my vacation to Jeju Island, I went to the Jeju 4.3 Peace Memorial. I had thought that I had a decent grasp of Korean history, especially for a “gyo-po” (Korean foreigner), but I had never heard of an event on 4.3 that would be significant enough to warrant a memorial.

It turns out, Jeju Island had a brutal military crackdown against members of the communist party of Korea in the 1950s. However, like a lot of the political crackdowns and killings on the Korea mainland, many of those who died were tainted by associated; the families and friends of those accused. Tens of thousands were killed or died due to exposure and starvation when they fled to the countryside.

The memorial was full of declassified documents from that era, and everyone knew, but ignored it.

I left the museum, a little sad, and just sat for a while, contemplating.

Posted in adventure, ancedotes, death, history, Korea, Korean, Nerdity, Politics, Social commentary, travel, US history, vacation, world news | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Bond! Bond! Bond!

Posted by quirksalight on November 17, 2008

Ok, I love the James Bond movies. Probably has something to do with being indoctrinated in them as a child. (my mother also loves the James Bond movies – it was a surefire Christmas present hit until we bought them all)

(FYI – Spoilers are coming up)

Anyhoo…. the movie has been out in Korea since Nov 5th and a couple gals and I went to check out the classic agent No.1 last Friday in “Quantum of Solace”. Personally, Daniel Craig is my favorite actor playing Bond, though I had some reservations at first. But the lovely turn in “Casino Royale” erased my doubts. I like the fact that this incarnation of Bond had a bit of rough to it; the suave and the polish shown by the other actors is a bit less evident, and the capacity for ruthlessness more so. Which, in my opinion, makes the character more interesting.

“Quantum” does suck in comparison to “Royale”. The intro sequence is a bit choppy, and unless you’ve seen the first one relatively recently, it’ll take you a couple minutes to sort out where the opening sequence is taking place. The supporting characters aren’t introduced very well, and some, like Ms Fields, are just irrelevant. It’s also more flip rather than smooth transitions between sequences and scenes. The effects and things that go boom are well done (as always), with some neat little tricks with technology. (can we say, Minority Report??)

Definitely not in the top five of my favorites, but a fun evening with the girls.

Posted in amusing, Korea, Movies, Social commentary | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Hope…

Posted by quirksalight on November 5, 2008

…is a powerful emotion. One of my friends called it “too religious and wishy-washy”, but to me, it’s what keeps you going when times are tough. When you are hurt, stressed, fearful, and/or depressed, it is hope that keeps you taking that step after step until things improve, until you find your solution. It is the hope the drives your determination. You hope that your actions will improve your future, so you go on.

Today, was an amazing day. It was the election of the first African-American to the United States presidency. Do I think that there will a magical new day? No. I do believe that Obama will be the JFK for our generation; reinvigorating our generation into greater involvement in government, for public service.

In a nice bit of coincidence, I also took the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT), November 5th, 9am-12pm Korea time (GMT +9:00). Feeling drained, and pessimistic, I joined the Democrats in Korea at the Orange Tree in Itaewon for the live election coverage party. And felt hope. Listening to McCain’s and Obama’s speeches, I felt so much respect and hope for the future of our bruised and battered nation. We may be down, but we sure are not out for the count. And it made me want ever more to be in public service, to do something. Yes, indeed we can.
That, is my hope.

Posted in 2008 Election, ancedotes, commentary, election, election 2008, Itaewon, Korea, musings, Nerdity, Politics, Social commentary, thoughtstream, US history | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

It’s not just on our minds…

Posted by quirksalight on November 4, 2008

It’s Nov 4th, 2008, and election day in the United States. Three of my 2nd year (8th grade) students came up to me, asking, if I was voting. When I replied that I was, they got very excited, and said, “Obama, yes? Obama!” One student, Hae Mi, who has a better grasp of English than the other two, asked me if I was going to vote for him. I explained that because I wasn’t in the United States, I had voted several weeks ago by mail, so it would get to the US in time.

I asked the three girls why they were excited about Obama and the US elections. One thought he was handsome, another wanted him as the US president because she thought he was “very very smart”. But the most interesting answer came from Hae Mi, who told me (after struggling a little with her words) that she thought Obama would be better for Korea than McCain.

Interesting conversation and more proof how much our election is on the minds of people, young and old, around the world.

If you haven’t, GO VOTE!

Posted in 2008 Election, amusing, ancedotes, Incheon, Korea, Politics, Social commentary | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Duck and cover!!

Posted by quirksalight on October 15, 2008

I’m sitting at my desk, puttering around (b/c it’s exam week, and I finished my prep for my classes in the next 3 weeks), when I hear this loud whining noise that I haven’t heard before. First I thought it was a fire alarm, but just an odd one. But then it kept on going. So I asked two of the other teachers in the office what it was.
Turns out it was the “raid” siren. Yes, the one they are going to use in the likelyhood of an invasion by the DPRK. They were testing it out. Apparently it’s a regular thing, though they stopped doing it once and month and now it’s more 1-2 times a year. (Which makes sense that this is the first time I’ve heard it since I arrived here). Strange… makes it really clear that I’m living in a heavily fortified country.
Hmm? Ah… the siren is back on.

Posted in ancedotes, Buheung MS, Bupyeong, Incheon, Korea, Korean, Mental Stream, military, Social commentary, teaching english | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Minus 9 in 10 minutes

Posted by quirksalight on October 12, 2008

This semester, I instituted a third rule to the “No throwing” and “No hitting” rules in my class. The third one is “No bad words”.

Now, you must be wondering why I put this rule in place when I’m not supposed to be understanding Korean in school. However, it’s apparently rather trendy for the middle school students to swear in English. The most popular being “sh&t”, followed by “f@#k”, and “b#&ch”. Yeah, yeah… I know, I do swear myself, but I know that the students swear b/c they watch movies where the characters say various profane words in a multitude of situations, and think it’s OK. But… it’s not really… and I don’t want to encourage it.

So a violation of one of the rules would lead to that group being docked one point for each infraction. One of my 7th grade students from the “New Zealand” team (I have the team names as English speaking countries), gotten a question wrong, and blurted out, “Oh, sh&t!”

To which I replied, “Excuse me? What did you just say?”
Upon his look of horror, I said, “Right. I thought so. Minus 1 point.” And walked over to the scoreboard and took off a point.
He was so annoyed that his outburst lost a point, he exclaimed, “Oh, sh&t!” once again. So I shrugged, walked over to the scoreboard, and took off another point.

At this point, the entire class, including my co-teacher was laughing at the boy’s exclamations. Especially because, once again, he swore when the second point was removed. This happened several more times, with his teammates getting angrier, the class laughing harder, and I, continuing to take off points as he apparently could not stop repeating the phrase, “Oh, sh&t!” again and again. Finally, after 8 points had been removed, he literally clapped his hands over his mouth to stop himself from saying anything.

Oh, the ninth point? After he had managed to stop swearing, one of girls on his team had gotten so angry with him, she punched him. Minus 9.

Posted in amusing, ancedotes, Bizarre, Buheung MS, Bupyeong, english, EPIK, Humor, Incheon, kids, Korea, language, school, slang, Social commentary, teaching, teaching english | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The halfway point

Posted by quirksalight on September 8, 2008

It’s the halfway point in my contract, with the second semester starting. And… I’m a bit mixed in my feeling for teaching in Korea. Personally, I’ve got a pretty good situation with the middle school that I am teaching with. The principal and vice principal are both really supportive, and all my co-teachers are friendly and are very fluent in English. The students act up a bit, but they do behave at the end. And the majority of them genuinely try to learn, and practice a sentence or two whenever they see me, in the halls, on the bus, on the street, etc.

However, I’m still disputing my pay for teaching at the district camp, over a month after the fact. I have problems with the bureaucracy that’s paying unequally for teachers doing the same amount of work. I have problems with the lack of transparency with the compensation for work and the lack of documentation of pay and work. Sure, we should be asking for our documents. But I am getting sick of repeating myself for the same thing again and again. Not with my school. Just with the district.

Do I want to be teaching as a career? The answer is no. Do I like teaching? Yes. The question now is how long do I want to teach? There are several avenues I want to explore, the foremost being getting my Korean language skills up to native proficiency. Staying another year is a hard thing too decide, but my decision point is coming up soon.

Posted in ancedotes, Buheung MS, Bupyeong, Incheon, Korea, Social commentary, teaching english | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Palin = Palliative

Posted by quirksalight on August 31, 2008

McCain’s choice for VP is the Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin.
Why pick such an untested candidate? Hmm… maybe b/c the GOP is looking for a palliative?
Female, check. Young, check. Religious, check. Global warming skeptic, check. Hmm… union, check. NRA, check.
They kind of forgot about experience.

The New York Times quoted Scott Reed in the article, “Choice of Palin Is a Bold Move by McCain, With Risks” :
“In a way, McCain has set a trap on the experience argument,” said Scott Reed, who managed Bob Dole’s presidential campaign in 1996, “because if they start picking on her on experience, it’s going to backfire with women.”

Umm…she doesn’t have much experience. She was a mayor of a small town before she started her term as the Governor of Alaska. But the idea that picking on her lack of experience will drive women to the arms of the GOP…. thanks for the pat on the head, GOP. It’s that kind of condescending attitude that drive women AWAY from the GOP.

Posted in election, election 2008, opinion, Politics, Social commentary, US | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »