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John Buckley's Blog
This Bud’s for you, Mr. English teaching guy
The author at his teacher's desk, where brilliant lessons are planned daily.

This Bud’s for you, Mr. English teaching guy

By John Buckley

November 20, 2007 —  I’ve been in Korea for just over a month now. So far, I have shared stories with you about the incredible vibrating work-out belts that are whipping butts into shape over here (or not, I really have no idea what they do), produced video of a park that sang to me like an angel coaxing me to feed more ducks and also theorized that Rodney Dangerfield has set up post in Korea to host a series of “Welcome to the Afterlife” dance parties.

Though these are my stories and I’m sticking to them, they by no means encapsulate my entire time in Korea. I do, in fact, have another raison d’ętre over here beyond searching out Korea’s quirky little foibles. I am actually an English teacher, which is to say that I am a native English speaker in possession of a college degree; the adequate credentials for landing a job here. By this rationale, I’m now also considering myself a meteorologist. I’ve seen it rain and I’ve seen it snow. I’ve felt the sun on my face and the wind in my hair. And I have a college degree. I predict a heavy deluge of smartass with continuing flurries of sarcasm for the remainder of this blog.

For weeks now, I’ve been coyly dodging the question, “How is the teaching going?” Truth be told, it is a difficult question to answer, because I do not have one answer. I have four classes a day and they are all extremely different. I have some classes that I thoroughly enjoy teaching; classes where the students learn and I actually do a pretty good job of teaching. And then I have classes where I am just amazed that nobody got hurt, sometimes amazed it wasn’t at my own hands. Now, I’m not serious about wanting to harm small children, but I do find myself wondering “how can I simultaneously be a terrific teacher and a terrible teacher, all in the span of two hours separated by a 10-minute break?” Hmmm. . .maybe I should fall back on my meteorology background. There seems to be less guesswork.

This Bud’s for you, Mr. English teaching guy
The author arrives at school after deftly maneuvering through the streets of Daegu, Korea, his new hoome town.

Let’s take a look at today shall we?

9:30 a.m. - Woke up thankful for another 10 ˝ hours of sleep. It’s Monday, better check the NFL scores that took place while I was sleeping. Super, my fantasy football team is playing like a team whose manager packed up and moved to Asia.

10:15 a.m. - I rode my bike to the gym and then ate some apples with the ladies on the vibrating belts before going to work on the weights. Is there a vet around here, cause these pythons are SICK! (Mental shout out to Reid Greibling in Vail).

11:30 a.m. - Headed home. Stopped off at the corner market to buy some toilet paper. For some reason, in Korea they only seem to sell toilet paper in 24 packs. I mentally did the math: I’ve used one roll in a month, just bought 24 rolls and am planning on being here for another 11 months. Note to self, I better step up my wacky Korean food intake.

12-2:30 p.m. - Drank some coffee, responded to some emails. Made some tuna fish sandwiches (see previous note to self) and then took a shower. No, I didn’t eat the sandwiches in the shower, but it would have been entirely possible using the hand-held mechanism that controls what gets wet (not much, including me).

3:00 p.m. - Rode my bike to school dodging innumerable moving objects on the city sidewalks. Seriously, if a giant monkey appeared out of nowhere and started rolling barrels at me, it would not faze me at this point.

3:30-4:40 p.m. - Arrived at school and read through the notes I write down at the end of each class. Crap, today is Monday. Yep, somebody’s got a case of the Monday’s. No, not because it’s the first day of the workweek, but because I know that two of today’s classes would be better served by a referee than a teacher. On the upside, my last class gives me something to look forward to at the end of the day.

4:40 p.m. - I taught my E4 class. This is a higher level (but young) class. These guys get a little rowdy, but come right back to me once I need them to focus. I get by without incident. I can’t say these guys left class quoting Yeats, and if they did, it certainly wasn’t because of anything I said. I’d like to think that they did learn a little something about Ranger Day and how he saved a baby eagle.

5:50 p.m. - Deep breath. Time for my E3 class filled with 16 pre-pubescent, seemingly Red Bull-infused poster children for ADD. During my first week of non-trained teaching, I assumed dismissing a little horseplay as kids being kids would make me the fun, cool teacher. Fast-forward one month and I now realize this was the equivalent of chumming a school of piranhas and expecting them to go vegetarian at a later command. Needless to say, I’ve spent the last several weeks trying to restore some order and authority in this classroom. Today, I decided the piranhas would be switching to a kelp diet. I am no longer the “fun, cool teacher”, but have come to realize that was never in my job description. And I used to be such a nice guy.

7:00 p.m. - The good old one-two punch. I head to my C1 class and struggle to understand why this class (who are in theory at the same level as my other C1 classes on different days) look at me like I’m trying to teach them nuclear physics in an Algebra class. And those are the students who actually choose to look at me. I find it hard to blame these kids for their apathy, as it is 7 p.m. and they’ve been at school since 8 a.m. I could go into more detail on the issues of this class, but I’ve run out of fun analogies.

7:45 p.m. - Ah, my Monday vacation! Though Monday’s are tough for the above reasons, I can always look forward to coming to this C2 class. Every student in the class is quite likeable, participates though the whole class and jokes around with me as we get down to the business of learning English. Now this is what I thought teaching would be like.

8:30 p.m. - Whew, rough day. Four hours of work and I’m spent! Time to pedal myself home for a Korean-brewed Budweiser. That’s if I manage to dodge all of the darkened figures that spring out of alleyways, cartwheel out of buses and stumble out of restaurants. Seriously, I think ninjas are trying to kill me. You think I’m kidding, but I’m not.

Addendum: I’ve been watching a lot of Dr. Phil lately on AFN (Armed Forces Network) and he has taught me to never go to bed mad. So I’m posting this on Tuesday. Incidentally, I had a great day at school today.

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Annyong Haseyo (hello!):
John Buckley hitting the streets of his new home country, South Korea. A long time Vail local, John is now teaching English abroad looking for adventure.
Photo by John Buckley 

Annyong Haseyo (hello!):

By John Buckley

November 4, 2007 —  First, I'll admit that that is about the only Korean I have learned thus far, and at that, I had to take out my phrasebook for the spelling.

I had been meaning to get a blog entry put together by now, but for some reason I am unable to access the website that I use. I'm not saying that Korea is trying to silence me, but it's definitely suspect. I'll try to figure out why I can't get on travellerspoint, or perhaps, I'll have to set up a new blog entirely. For now, I'll resort to the ever-popular mass email, as well as posting on (For those of you who actually have jobs and are short on time, you might want to just watch this: Link to YouTube.

Life in Korea - Bearing in mind that everything that follows is based off of one man's opinion after 10 days, I have to say that Korea is a random hodgepodge of total awesomeness (is that a word? I'm the English teacher now, so yes), complete bafflement (again, these are words, I promise you), organized chaos, and surprisingly, much that is just like home.

What has impressed me from the very beginning is how safe I feel. Though the Koreans may not be the warmest people in the world from first glance, not one has seemed menacing. I walk around freely with as much money as I like in my pocket, and think not once that I need to be on my guard. To be perfectly honest, my only fear from day-to-day is that I will get smoked by a passing car or motor bike.

It is an over-used phrase over here that stop-lights are just a suggestion, but it couldn't be more true. Even sidewalks, the refuge of the tame at home, are fair game to everything from cars to motorbikes, to (gasp!) pedestrians over here.

Annyong Haseyo (hello!):
Showing true colors and true form, Buckley boasts the Colorado Flag with what looks to be Budweiser bottles. Coors was not readily available.
Photo by John Buckley 

One of my favorite things about Korea so far is that just about every day you see something that makes you think, hmmm. . .that's weird. Example: apparently whenever a new store opens, said store hires two hot girls to stand on a platform outside wearing matching outfits and go-go boots and then has them dance for hours on end to techno music. I don't know what this does for business inside the store, but it's damn fun to watch.

Second example: Koreans love to work out. I've joined a gym where I can do pretty much everything I did at the Vail Athletic Club back home. There is one thing, however, that I was unable to do back home; and that is to watch people do the strangest crap you can imagine in the name of "working out".

Do you remember those Popeye cartoons where they had those exercise machines with the vibrating belts? Well, that seems to be the number one "work out" for middle-aged women in Korea. I have no idea what these machines actually do other than just shake the living daylights out of you, but it's really fun to watch. In addition to the vibrating belts, they also have vibrating platforms you can stand on that essentially make a person involuntarily do the "booty dance".

High comedy, I assure you. I don't mean to downplay the actual serious endeavors that many Koreans put forth towards exercise, but it seems to me that the over-riding opinion on exercise is that if you are moving, you are exercising. My other favorite is the giant hula hoop that does, in fact, look like it takes a Herculean effort to keep suspended in the air.

Other interesting things I've seen over the past few days in no particular order: an elderly woman driving an ATV down a major city street; a "no swimming" sign with a crazed fish jumping out of the water located next to a small cesspool; and a "don't walk" sign where the illuminated red man's physique was reminiscent of a young Schwarzenegger. I could go on.

I had intended to go into more detail on things like my apartment, my teaching gig and the interesting cast of characters I've met so far, but I fear I've lost most of you already. I'll save that for another blog.

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