Thursday, March 31, 2005

Boys and Girls: The Freshman Dilemma

In what is one of the oddities of teaching freshmen students here at CNU, I've found that it is practically impossible to get students of opposite genders to interact during classroom activities. It is one of the cultural differences between Korea and the west that I find hard to get my head around. It defies all the stereo-types about university life that I've ever encountered. I understand that culture and social norms define this issue, but it still is astonishing to me at the extent that the lack of interaction plays out among freshman students.

I give, as an example, the class I taught yesterday afternoon. The unit we are covering n class this week is about making, accepting, and declining invitations and appointments. The activity was for students to partially fill out a weekly schedule, then get up and ask other students to do things. The other students are to accept or decline according to their schedule. Seems simple enough, eh? After explaining that this was only an exercise, and that no one was under any obligation to actually keep the appointments (that was an issue in a class last year which needed to be addressed), I had the students get up and mingle.

Much to my amazement, the class immediately divided by gender with an empty, 5 foot wide slash down the center of the room. This center divide seemed like a static field that would turn any student that entered it into an over-cooked chicken mcnugget. In an effort to get some sort of interaction, I cajoled, threatened, teased, and basically did everything short of whackin'em with a big stick to get these kids to cross the great divide. Finally, since most of the students were hugging the walls like it was some middle school dance, I told them all to move into the center of the room. Feeling migty proud of my initiative and quick thinking, as the students shuffled away from the walls, I went to check some things on the attendance sheet.

While I did notice that a few brave souls had crossed the barrier without getting fried to a crisp (they got extra credit!!), I noticed an amazing phenomenon. The students had moved, but so had the divide. Now, instead of running the length of the classroom, this strange force field was now running the width of the classroom. I'm sure that some of the students in that class think that I'm desperately brain damaged because I could only stand there with my mouth hanging open making inarticulate sounds while my brain tried to comprehend this anamoly.

Fortunately for me, I glanced at my watch just before my head exploded and realized that the class was over.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

It's Monday....sigh.

Well, I'm back to work after a nice relaxing weekend. Mondays should be illegal.

I went out Friday night with the students from one of my classes. We had a very pleasant dinner of samgyup-sal (Korean bbq pork) and soju, and then headed off to Santa Claus where we played pool, chatted and drank some more. I really like this class. They're very good students and nice folks in general. After my students went home. I headed off to a bar called K.O.P. for a St. Paddy's day party. I don't really like this place. It's loud and the music sucks, but a good number of the people I know were there, so I figured I'd check it out for a while. I think I rolled in at about 4:00 am feeling no pain.

Saturday was a very relaxing day. The weather was perfect, so I met a couple of friends for a little frisbee. While it's still a bit cold at night, I think spring is finally here to stay. After frisbee, I went home, had something to eat, and then did my best impression of a computer nerd and played World of Warcraft for about 7 hours or so. :-P

Sunday was another beautiful day, so, as I do every Sunday, I went out to play Ultimate Frisbee with my friends. You can't imagine how wonderful it is to be able to play in shorts and a t-shirt again. Ultimate is supposed to be a non-contact sport, but I managed to involve myself in a number of collisions, both with people and the ground. Needless to say, I'm rather sore today, but it's that satisfying full body ache that comes from playing hard. Wooo Hooo! There's really nothing more fun than playing Ulti on a beautiful day.

That's it for now. I have a couple of hours before my ext class, so i'm going to take a nap. Naps are our friends!

Monday, March 21, 2005

Politics of Life and Death

In the United States, politics, whether you consider yourself a Replublican, Democrat, or Independant, can be many things: funny, annoying, enraging, or simply disgusting. In the case of Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman whose husband and parents are in a protracted legal battle over whether the feeding tube which has kept her alive for the past 15 years should be removed or not, politics has reached a level of self-serving cynicism that is stunning. I'm not here to debate the right to life/death issues that are in the forefront of this issue (although you can all take this as my call to pull the plug should I ever end up in a similar situation), I'm here to debate whether the President and Congress have any place in this fight.

Most of us, myself included, cannot possibly understand the pain and suffering that comes with having a spouse or child in a vegetative coma. Even fewer people could understand having that pain dragged through the justice system and then into the glare of public spectacle. The courts have ruled several times in favor of removing the life support for Mrs. Schiavo only to have the government intervene; first in the form of Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and now the Republican leadership (much to my dismay, I imagine there are a few Democrats involved with this travesty as well).

According to the Washington Post, which you can believe or not, a memo was sent out by the Republican leadership which called this case "a great political issue" especially in Florida where it would "excite" the Christian right and the Right-to-Lifers and make it hard for elected Democrats in the upcoming elections. I'm sure that this cynical use of personal tragedy for political gain has precedents throughout history, but it still doesn't make it right. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it is my understanding that the courts, not Congress, have jurisdiction over constitutional issues. The courts have passed their rulings, several times as a matter of fact, in this case.

It angered me when I read that the Govenor of Florida got involved in the case, and it angers me even more that Congress is sticking it's nose in an issue it has, in my opinion, no right to be. The sad thing is that no one wins in this case, not Mrs. Schiavo's husband, who is fighting for the removal of life support, nor her parents who are fighting against it. Congressional involvement only makes a sad and tragic situation worse, and apparently, for all the wrong reasons.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Christ on a crutch! What hit me??

Last night started out innocently enough. The staff at CNU went out for dinner to welcome the new members of our little crew. Given that winter fought back this weekend with a cold snap that would freeze a polar bear, inside activities seemed to be to be the thing to do. I should have realized that the bottle of soju I had with dinner was only a warning shot across the bow. For those of you unfamiliar with the little green monster that is soju, it is a Korean rice wine, that is, quite frankly, a train wreck in a bottle.

After dinner, we all headed off to Santa Claus, which is a local bar run by my favorite Korean, Mr. Ho. Santa's has been my second home since the first week after I arrived here in Korea. Mr. Ho has a genuine love of waeguks (foreigners) and amazing taste in music. Combine that with fairly cheap booze, and you have a recipe for warm and fuzzy contentment.

The place was packed to the rafters with folks engaging in all manners of alcoholic frivolity. Somewhere around 3 or 4 am, having taken several broadsides and listing heavily to port, I staggered out of the bar and headed for home stopping on the way for some dalkgochi (chicken on a stick) and a a couple of road beers (because God knows I needed to drink more beer! lol). I got home around 5:00 and ended up talking to my neighbor until I looked out the window and saw, that, much to my amazement, it was light outside. It was at that point that common sense fought its way into my sodden brain, and I crawled off to bed. Needless to say, when morning (5 pm) rolled around, I was not at my best.

Anyway, I'm off to join the Saturday niight madness. Woooo Hoooo!!!

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Rollin', Rollin', Rollin'! Keep them freshman workin'!

Ah, yes! Another fine day. Spring, it seems, has finally sprung. This is a glorious thing. I can finally open the windows in my apartment and rid my self of the odor of finely aged tobacco smoke and stale beer. Wooo Hooo! It's nice to be able to hop on the motorcycle without first having to put on 25 layers of clothes.

The semester is off to a booming start although the 7:00 am class that I have is, at times, a wee bit of a struggle. It ain't the students, they're a fine bunch. It's my "early morning, haven't had enough coffee, and forget how to speak English" thing. Needless to say, my students are somewhat confused when I open my mouth and say, "uyhekghgfdguyvbjbdfjkdsbv." I keep telling myself that it's only the first week of classes and it's going to get...umm, well... easier. Hope springs eternal as they say.

Oh! Look at the time. I'm off to class to warp the minds, curve the pines, and win the war for the other side. :-D

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Punchy and trying something new!

Damn!! This gittin' up before the crack of dawn stuff is affecting my brain's ability to send simple messages to the rest of my body. My fingers and tongue seem to be especially effected at this time. More nonsense to follow.