Your Mom, and other fun Summer School stuff

So rather than put the final touches on my open class lesson for tomorrow, I thought I'd do this instead. A girl's got priorities, right?

Anyway, last summer I came home to resume my summer gig with W & L. While I was away, the program name and location changed (thanks, BSD), but my two favorite ladies were still there to welcome me with open arms and plenty of sarcasm:)

I had another awesome summer with Kristi and Karen and the Hooligans, prolly the best ever. We had the most amazing, chill, cool group of kids who pretty much participated in all the projects we threw their way. (Even the last minute "sculpt a public art piece from your salty homemade play-dough and write about it's significance in a public space." This must have been the same day I brought the pedialyte to work...)

I took many pictures of our various projects with the hopes of posting them here. Three months later and I've finally gotten around to it. We did the usual FIMO beads and hemp necklaces (thanks Krista and Chelsea!), plaster masks and downtown scavenger hunt, but this year I decided to hit up my friends for more input. What ensued was the longest, most successful art project to date: graffiti. My friend Tony is an amazing artist who was all too willing to come kick it with some unruly high schoolers. He took time to prepare a lesson, a slide show of local artists, and some examples to help get the creative juices flowing. What was supposed to be a 4-5 day project took somewhere around 2 1/2 weeks! It was awesome to see the kids take the time to create something they felt worthy of display. The majority of them even became very picky about the size of their piece, color choice, and font style. They really took ownership of the project.

Here are some of the pieces they created. Oh yeah, none of these are graffiti pics. These are some of the other thangs they made. Kristi has all the graffiti pics on HER camera. If you're reading this Kristi (and I know you are), send them my way.

James Castle-inspired found art. I raided my recycling bin, K & K's garage and CCTD's trash for this project. I think the pieces turned out well, especially Eddie's charcoal sketch on cardboard and Jasmine's "Perfect Woman."

A tribute to MJ, inspired by Chuck Close. Each square contains a part of the larger image. Iconic, no?

Cat Saddle. Not a project really, but a doodle commissioned by Kristi. She heard Cameron utter the words "cat saddle" and had to see it for reals. This is the result. Cameron is an AMAZING artist -- quirky and quick and insightful. I hope his talent serves him well in the future. Oh, and he's a pretty awesome tech-decker.

Bastardized Art. I think Krista gave me the idea a few years ago. The goal is to "bastardize" an iconic piece of art. We usually choose pieces like American Gothic and the Mona Lisa, but opted for something different this year -- 1920's Uncle Sam and Michelangelo's Creation of Adam.
Please note that Uncle Sam is actually holding Mr. Hanky.

"Are those baked goods to have?"
"Are those cookies for keeps?"

The hands project. I like this one for a few reasons, but mostly because one of my "hands" sold for $165 at Valentine's for AIDS. But this isn't about me. The hands are a good way for me to get to know my students (in theory). For example, I learned that Luis thinks the Nazi symbol is cool and Jon is lazy (he glued a found jelly bean to his hand rather than actually filling the space with drawings and magazine cutouts.)

Downtown scavenger hunt. Mike suggested we make a star with our feet. Cool, huh?!

We happened upon an innocent game a of marbles on the Grove...

Lazy Summer School Dayz.

FIMO beads. This was one of three trays. FIMO for days, people.

My dear friend Krista giving her spiel. She's SO good at it, though!

As per usual, I believe this paper says "Your mom."


I'm going to hell for sure

My Friendly Building Ajumma just brought me a ginormous Asian Pear. She's gotta quit doing nice shit for me, or I'm gonna start feeling really bad for all those "Gee, I wish you were dead" thoughts I had last week.

God, I'm a bad tenant.


Just a friendly reminder...

My story begins Thursday night.

In my attempts to quit spending copious amounts of money on grossly overpriced western food (in my defense, I eat Krappy Korean food for lunch everyday), I had stocked my fridge with all the necessities for decent homecookin' -- avocados, chicken, milk, multiple cheeses, butter, mayo, various vegetables -- you know, the usual. I was all ready to whip up an extraordinary meal. When I opened my fridge, however, my nose was assaulted. WTF?! I frantically began touching everything in the fridge. Yep, all warm. Like "been sitting in a warm fridge in a warm apartment on a warm day" kinda warm. Fuck.

I quickly began tossing out anything that would make me sick/had grown mold/smelled raunchy and threw the cheeses in the freezer (I do have some standards.) I hauled my trash out to the curb and headed out to dinner.

Now the funny (and by funny I mean completely retarded) thing about Koreans and their trash is this: while perfectly content to cram landfills with partially used bookcases, Roly Chairs, and other perfectly recyclable furniture, they make a big 'ol fuss about separating paper and aluminum recyclables, food and general trash. So much of a fuss that they even provide color coded trash bags as a friendly reminder to separate that shit. And if you're too dense to understand the color coding system, you can usually find a bitter old ajumma squatting roadside, rifling through the trash and making meticulous piles as if Central Seoul were the side streets of Mumbai. (Sometimes I think Korea forgets that a passport stamp into the First World pretty much rules out the "ajumma as Waste Management Engineer" scenario.)

So when I awoke at 7:30AM to my screeching doorbell, I pretty much figured it was my Building Ajumma calling to complain about my trash. But at that hour, who can be bothered to engage in a poorly translated conversation about "trashy?" Besides, I didn't even really care. I was still pissed about having to throw out my moldy avocados. And with that in mind, I pulled the Foreigner Card, pretended not to hear my doorbell and hopped in the shower.

But my friendly ajumma was not deterred. She rang the doorbell. She knocked. And then, as I was lathering up, I turned around to see her trash-picking little fingers trying to open my bathroom window!!

I couldn't help myself.

"What the fuck are you doing?!" I screamed.

Now, I'm not normally one shout obscenities at little old ladies, especially ones who bring me fruit and toothpaste. But seriously, WTF? I rinsed, turned off the shower, and towel dried all to the sounds of my incessant doorbell. I had to give her props; she was fucking persistent. Obviously she knew that I knew that she was there and she was in it for the long haul. I flung open the door. "Yes?" I questioned.

"Sorry. Sorry." She said with her syrupy sweet "why-didn't-you-open-the-mother-fucking-door-the-first-time?" smile. "Trashy. Separate."

"Neh." I said with my equally sweet "I-fucking-know-the-deal-but-don't-really-give-a-shit-it's-7:30AM" smirk, all while attempting to close the door. But then she pulled her wild card: my bag of trash, complete with moldy avocados, rotten chicken, tin cans, and stanky milk carton. Apparently she needed to make her point to this dense foreigner.

"Trashy. Separate. Food bag."

Yeah, got it. I nodded my head and flung the door shut.

*I just realized I swore A LOT in this post. But I have sailor-like tendencies in real life, so deal with it.


Oh, I don't watch TV

Arrggh, Surf the Channel has been down for DAYS. How can I be expected to survive abroad without Heidi and Tim Gunn and Tyra and GG and Cougar Town (Comic genuis, Courtney Cox. Really) and my new favorite, Glee?

I don't even know what to do with myself. (However, I do like being one of those people who says "Oh, I never watch TV." 'Cause, technically, I don't watch TV.)

I have low standards

*Disclaimer: this is something I would NEVER do at home (maybe). When living abroad, sometimes you get to play the foreigner card. This is one such time. Don't judge.

A few weeks ago my friend Jamie invited me for homemade lasagna. To say dinner at the Chef's is swanky is an understatement. In fact, sometimes I think my friendship with Jamie makes me classier, kind of like osmosis. Anyway, after preparing and rolling our own pasta and meatballs from scratch (see, classy!), we headed to the rooftop for some wine and to enjoy the sights, of, well, other rooftops.

After waxing poetic about the finer points of meatball assembly, it was time to check the lasagna. That's when I noticed her: the Finest Roly Chair my money could buy (that is to say, FREE). She was perched atop a pile of used shelving and cabinets that also looked mighty fine, but a girl's gotta draw the line somewhere, ya know?

"Jamie," I asked, "How long has that furniture been here?"

"I dunno, a few weeks maybe. Why?"

Score!! He'd spoken the magic words and that was all I needed to hear. I lifted that Fine Roly Chair above my head and lumbered down to Jamie's place, reveling in my new found love. I could already picture the laziness this new piece of furniture would afford me. See, my apartment, while bigger than last year's, is still quite small (think Carrie Bradshaw's bedroom and kitchen, and you've got the idea.) With this new Roly Chair I would never have to get up. I could literally roll ANYWHERE I needed to go: TV? Check. Computer Desk? Check. Bed? Check. Fridge? Check. God, the possibilities were endless. (In reality all these items are within six feet of one another, but do not underestimate my extreme laziness.)

So after a lovely dinner with good wine and even better company, I bid my friends adieu and lugged my Fine Roly Chair down to the street. And there, on the street, were THREE MORE Roly Chairs! It was like the universe knew how painfully broke I was and was throwing me a bone. Or four. Not one to make a snap decision in matters of Free Used Street Furniture, I tested each chair. Now, I prefer my Roly Chair to have a cushy fabric seat with armrests and a smooth glide, but beggars can't be choosers; sometimes we have to compromise. After much consideration and a fair amount of rolling, I settled on chair number 3. She had a cushy red fabric seat and an incredibly smooth glide, (but no armrests). I was elated we'd found each other.

My Fine Roly Chair and I headed home. Jamie lives in a quaint neighborhood (by Seoul standards), so I had no trouble maneuvering her down to the main drag to catch a cab. Hell, I even stopped at the Family Mart for an ice cream treat ('cause that's just how I roll. Ha!) And that's where I ran into trouble. Apparently Seoul cabbies have got a set of standards so high they are above picking up a Tasty Dish and her new Roly Chair. Whatever. After four tries, lucky cab number five got us home safe and sound. (And although Amanda put on a brave smile for me, I think she almost had a heart attack when I introduced a piece of street furniture into our shared space.)

Isn't she beautiful? And for the price, she can't be beat.

On second thought, maybe Jamie's classiness is not rubbing off.


At least it's not kimchi

I have officially been single for too long. My standards for what now qualifies as "dinner" have hit rock bottom: a toasted tomato sandwich with bread that tastes vaguely like the overripe bananas in my fridge; a small bowl of what I call cereal, but which is actually sold to Korean children as snack food; a handful of sour cream and onion Pringles. And for dessert? Black jelly beans, as those are the only ones left after a week of me picking out the better-tasting tangerine beans.

Bottom of the barrel here, people.



A hot second to be serious, if I may.

I never came to Korea with the goal of experiencing a different culture or learning a new language. Truth be told, I came here to pay off The Man. And not The Man who helped finance my education, The Man who helped finance my "other" travels abroad, ones where I chose to learn about a different culture or language.

The funny thing is, I didn't learn much about those cultures. Traveling for a few weeks can open one's mind, but it can never truly provide one with the insight that only full immersion can. I am in no way an expert on Korean culture and I never set out to make friends outside my expat bubble (it's not that I didn't want to, it was just never a priority), but my friendship with the Hans is something I cherish more with each passing day, not only for the companionship, but for the opportunity to catch a glimpse of something real and true.

Thank god for pushy Korean mothers.


A Day at the Han's

I just saw a Korean chick wearing the same shirt as me. Does this mean I've been in Korea too long, or that my Fly American Style is finally translating across the pond? Stay tuned...

Back to blogging.

My Chuseok Holiday is in full swing and I've. Done. Nothing. Seriously, I have spent the past few days successfully polishing off a loaf of chocolate chip pumpkin bread my mom so graciously sent me, starting AND completing 10 crosswords, and, um, that's about it. Oh, and I visited Yura and Dongwook.

If you've been reading for awhile, you'll know I've developed quite a friendship with one of my students. There's a significant age difference, but we don't let that stand in our way. Anyway, I texted Yura a few weeks ago, letting her know I was back in Seoul. Her mom returned my call instantly. We chatted; she asked about my vacation, my nephew and my new school, and then she asked when I was free to visit.


Anytime, I gushed. I was very excited to see my favorite Korean family.

Well, the Golden Child had a very important math test October first and he was full of stress, she informed me, so our rendezvous would have to wait until later.

So for the next few weeks I waited patiently. Yura was not so patient. She called many times to confirm that I would, in fact, be visiting her house. Finally, Thursday rolled around, and true to form, Yura phoned.

Yura: Mindy Teacher, when can you come to my house?

Me: I am free all weekend. When would you like me to visit?

Yura: Can you come to my house tomorrow and have lunch?

Me: Of course! Where do you live? (The Han's moved to Bundang in August. I needed directions.)

I cannot possible recount the entire 'directions' conversation, but it was stinking hilarious. Yura insisted on relaying the info from her mom, rather than handing off the phone. She talks a mile a minute with a bit of a speech impediment, so her directions were sketchy at best. Just when I had decided to wing it and call her when I got to the subway station, Dongwook got on the line.

Dongwook: Teacher? Is that you?

Me: Yes, who else would it be?!

Dongwook: I think it is not you. (He's very dry. Love it.)

Me: Who do you think it is?

Dongwoook: I think it is... a man. Ahahaha.

Smartass. Then he asks of Yura's directions, "Did ya get that?" Ha. I recounted her directions and said I'd call if I got lost, then we hung up. But that was nowhere near the end. Friday morning Yura called again.

Yura: Mindy Teacher, do you remember how to come to my house?

Me: Yes. I wrote it down.

Yura: Tell me. (She is so direct and matter of fact. It kills me!) Then: Mindy Teacher, do you like cereal?

Me: Yes! It is my second favorite food!

Anyway, I made it out to Bundang without a hitch and was greeted by Sweet Yura in her signature ponytail and sandals. Like a Dutiful American Guest, I picked up some Korean snacks and songpeong for the kids, and also packed a big 'ol bag of American Halloween candy my mom sent. She was elated! And she had a present for me: a box of cereal and milk. God I love her! I literally squealed with delight.

We played some games and I chatted with her mom. They asked to see pictures of my family and then we had homemade chopchae and mandu for lunch. It was a beautiful day in Bundang, so we headed to Central Park. While her mom and I chatted, Yura asked questions about my family, told me about her new school (she hates it), and asked me multiple times to race. She showed me the traditional Korean Village at the park and then we played "Korean Photo Shoot" and a rousing game of "I Spy." And then I thought it was time to head home. The Han's weren't finished with me yet. Mrs. Han offered to cook me my favorite Korean food, chamchi kimchi bokumbap, and the chance to watch the movie August Rush, one of her favorites. How could I say no?!

Yura and me playing games.

Yura found that noisemaker on the ground. It occupied her for a good hour.

The Hans.

My Favorite Korean.

After dinner and a movie, we were all exhausted. The three of them walked me to the subway and Yura invited me to her birthday in a few weeks. I was elated. And that was how I spent my Chuseok Eve.