Tag Archives: EPIK


It’s been a lovely 10 weeks of vacationing, on-and-off deskwarming and general dicking around. But I think it’s accurate to say that most of us our Back now. Back to school. Back to teaching classes. Back to having no idea what the hell is going on (seriously, ever).  Back to  “Sonsaengnim! Sonsaengniiiiiiiiiiiiiiim!”. Back to feeling sheepishly exhausted.

For me, it’s a welcome return to a routine. Bad things happen when I have nothing to do, nowhere to go and too much any money to spend. I tend to flail when left to my own devices so I can’t say I’m sad that there is a structure being imposed on me.

But this is Korea and while I’m jumping back into a semi-reliable daily schedule, being at school from 8:30 to 4:30 is pretty much the only thing I can count on. A phonecall from a coworker late Sunday afternoon revealed that come Monday morning, I would have new grades to teach, new books to teach from, and different teachers to teach with. K…

Don Draper says, "What were you expecting?"

I think most people can relate: If you were feeling happy, comfortable and/or like you may have adapted after 6+ months, this week Korea slapped you in your face and called you a Waygook Fool!

But at least it’s the same for everyone. In that way Korea is consistent in its inconsistency. Korean Public School System’s mission statement reads something like,Lucky for me, I think this has resulted in changes for the better. Good-bye Lazy, Meanie Preggo Coteachers! Hello Friendlies who are aware that I am sitting at the table like a mute because I can’t speak Korean! It’s nice to be noticed.

I guess what I’m sayin (Warning: Please Don’t Choke on this Daily Dose of Positivity) is it’s good to be back and to have a purpose, and it’s nice that this year looks like it might be better than last (which wasn’t really bad). I hope that all my fellow waygooks find themselves in similarly improved situations and that the 2011 school year rocks the hardest! Cheers, y’all.

Apologies and the Return of Smallface

Part 1 – Repentance

So Megan & I took an unexplained and unplanned hiatus. We’we sowwy. Can you find it in your vastly superior and better-looking hearts to forgive us? The blog-apathy and disappearing act are what happens when you have a whole bunch of 6-day weekends thrown at you by your employers (Are you listening, potential EPIK applicants? 6 Day Weekends, or, Winter in Korea.) and also when the weather starts climbing up into the 60s. Also, I’ve been really depressed since I saw Eric Clapton take a sarcastic old man dump on maybe my favorite song ever onstage. Did you know it’s possible to ruin “Layla”? It is. And God is dead and we’re all alone.

Part 2 – Smallface Strikes Back

We haven’t entirely forgotten about you, faithful internet. Here, we have pictures about weirdos and their obsessions with smallface. (What do you mean you didn’t read Part 1 of Smallface?) One is from the bitchiest tv show ever, in which Korean celebrities had their faces scrutinized for who had the smallest face. One picture is from me clambering on top of people inside a bus in Seoul to get a picture of an ad. I also tossed in a few photos from my upcoming coffee table book “Megan Is Angry At Me”. It’s fucking brilliant and fun for the whole family.See if you can guess which ones are which.

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Ok, so anyway, all of this is a way to say that we’ll be back to your normally scheduled programming tomorrow. Peace out, homes.

The Humans Are Dead

It’s old – but endlessly amusing – news. English teachers in South Korea are being replaced by robots. This robot, in fact:


I kid, I kid. Meet Engkey:


Shit got real last fall in Daegu with 29 robots entering elementary school classrooms. You can read more about it at Weird Asian News and CNN (Honestly, the CNN one is more outrageous, with a super-obvious “But what will this DO to our CHILDREN?” fear-mongering bit toward the end. I highly suggest it.). Anyway, I’m not personally offended that the ESL job market is getting smaller due to machines, but this seemed like an opportune time to point out what a real live person can do that a machine cannot. Without further ado, I give you 10 Reasons Erin is Better Than a Robot:

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Think of the Children

My resume prior to teaching in Korea was a list of lame pre- and post-collegiate fuckarounds. Aside from having been in school in some capacity for 20 years, I didn’t have much commending me to this position. Not only was I not the most qualified individual in the EPIK applicant pool, but I hadn’t really been exposed to children since…I had been one? Which would explain why more than one person reacted with open horror when they learned I’d be teaching elementary school. (“But you don’t like kids….do you?”) Oh, naysayers. I ADORE kids. In particular, the kids I teach here.

examples of things I like

The last few weeks have been an experiment in “what would it have been like to come to Gwangju alone?” The answer is: pretty quiet and oddly productive in the confines of my apartment. But it’s been the random run-ins with students in the wild that fill me up with the warm fuzzies* and give me a sense that I’m actually part of the community here. (Cue this.) Also, no one has ever been so freaking happy to see me as some of these kids. For no reason. I could be walking to the bus stop, heading home, taking garbage out, and then all of a sudden there will be an overjoyed child from out of nowhere beaming up at me. It’s kind of like God parting the clouds, looking directly at you and giving you a thumb’s up. I mean, do you need anymore reason to come and teach in Korea?

And they’re smart. SO SMART. And really funny. And young enough not to have had the personality drilled out of them from intense Korean schooling. And though I want to throw a bajillion examples of their brilliance at you, I won’t. I’ll just give you one.

In some tangent of a 3rd grade lesson, I showed students a picture of an alien. I repeated the word a few times for them. Murmurs from the back. “Eh-leen? Eh-leen?” Pointing at the screen, pointing at me, giggle giggle. Eh-leen might be a shot at pronouncing “a-lee-en”, but it’s also the way my name sounds in the mouth of  Korean child. This was awesome because: A) the kids were making a joke/pun in a language they don’t know, and B) they were unintentionally using the word alien (as in, outsider) correctly. I was thus moved to give them candy.

Of course there are good days and bad, but I promise not one day will go by without one kid making you glad you’re here. In conclusion, come to Korea for the good pay, the free apartment, the multicultural experience. But stay for the way hanging out with kids relieves you of your adult cynicism. And the ice skating in helmets.

sure, let’s be safety conscious here, but not outside where we use hoses to clear snow off the street that then leaves a sheet of ice. Hilarious double-standard!

*blah blah blah yes, Erin’s heart grew three sizes today. Go away. *fart noise*

Swiss Miss

Guys! It’s vacation time! Yes yes, potential EPIK employees take note: winter vacation comes with 2 weeks of paid leave. This is way more rad than all the other lame job benefits  I’ve had in the past. (You can keep that 20% off select entrees, Applebee’s. Jerks.)  While other people have decide to take this opportunity to go somewhere warm like Bali or Thailand, I, friends, am taking the road less traveled and less thought-thru – I fly to Switzerland tomorrow.

My feelings are neutral. *rim shot* <cartwheels off stage>

Why? I guess it’s because I really like hating snow and making myself miserable. Also, my friend is living there (Hi, Hayes!) and I will go anywhere that I don’t have to pay for lodging. I’m stoked, and I’m going to tell you why.

In Switzerland, things that should be made of wheat will be made of wheat: Things like bread, noodles, beer, grain alcohol, beer, BEER, flour, beer, bagels, cookies and assorted pastries, beer, and certain petroleum products used in plastics. (Beer!)

In Switzerland, there are white people the size of grizzly bears: Holy crap am I excited to feel small and anonymous. I’ve come to grips with being Completely Obvious the last few months, but it’s a lot of work to know you’re being looked at all the time, especially when you can practically see the exclamation marks over people’s heads as you walk past. “How the hell did that get here?!” has become the logical response to my face. So not eliciting that  reaction for a week will be great. And I’m not exactly a monstrous person, size-wise, but the Korean population is slight – a bunch of fine-boned, lovely bird-people. That means I kind of feel like a socially awkward Tyrannosaurus Rex. Self-esteem, you’re about to make a comeback.

In Switzerland, I will go beard watching: Damn do I miss facial hair on men. I realize that I’m in danger of sounding like a beatnik hipster type, but in this regard, I can’t help it. I remember last winter watching a friend’s band play (oh god, ouch, hipster, ouch) at a shady bar in Chicago. At some point I looked around the dark music hall and every. single. man. present had a full beard. I swooned. Megan was there, ask her. I also have extraordinary hopes that I will run into Pascal Baffert, the sole Swiss member of the Handlebar Mustache Club…just click on that link. Experience the magic for yourselves.

In Switzerland, there is cheese:

Erin: Man, I really underestimated how much I miss cheese.

Coteach: Korea has cheese. Korea has two kinds of cheese.

Erin: Yeah, but France has like, 500 national cheeses.

Coteach: The yellow cheese? Cheddar, you know it?

Erin: You mean those plastic-y Kraft-singles-looking-things at the store?

Coteach: What?

Erin: Nevermind.

Coteach: And we have white cheese too. It’s called….cream cheese?

Erin: <sigh>

Switzerland has it’s very own national cheese, just like America! Any country who takes the time to give their people a personalized dairy product is awesome in my book.

In Switzerland, I will sacrifice myself on the altar of travel: Like I said, I’ve been here a few months so the novelty has begun to fade. This vacation comes at the perfect time to throw myself back into the cold water of a language barrier and up against the wall of cultural differences (though after Asia, Europe seems really really mild, as far as cultural differences go.). When you travel, you’re forced to be the best version of yourself, trust people in an unquestioning way that in ordinary life doesn’t come so easy. I’m ready to be extravagantly uncomfortable again.

So peace out, homes. I will try and send you a line from the Alps, but I might also be lying dead in a cheese and beer coma. One can only hope.

The Wonder Year

Remember fourth grade? Me neither. Because it was unfortunately sandwiched between third grade, the only time that I was in the same class as my childhood BFF Jennifer, and fifth grade, when I ruled the school  in my super favorite look-at-me-I’m-hot-shit cut-off shorts.

Actually, I do remember two things about fourth grade. I was in Ms. Kavlick’s class, and she was the oldest and most decrepit teacher I ever had. All she needed to successfully pull off a ‘haggard witch’ look was a black hat, as her nose was already appropriately misshapen and her skin sufficiently warty to scare any student at J.P. Ryon Elementary. And then Ms. Kavlick told us a story about a certain eye problem she had recently experienced.

“The other day I noticed that my left eye wasn’t tearing up when I cried (??) so I went to the eye doctor,” she began. The eye doctor examined her eye and determined, as any genius might, that something was blocking her tear duct. He told her that there was nothing he could do and that it would probably fix itself soon enough. Ms. Kavlick was satisfied with this evaluation and got up to leave the doctor’s office. As she was leaving, she needed to cough so she grabbed a tissue and hacked really hard. When she looked at the tissue, there was “a small rod shaped ‘thing’ the color of a dark booger,” she told us. She showed it to the doctor and he announced happily that this booger colored stick was obviously what had been blocking her tear duct. I don’t think I need to explain why this has stuck with me for 16 years.

Fourth grade was also the year that my class dissected an owl pellet. For those unfamiliar with the procedure, it means that a class of 9 year olds used tweezers to pick apart and remove itty bitty mouse bones from the hardened, turd-like regurgitation pellets of an owl, which someone had to actively go out to the woods and collect. And if that’s not gross enough, we also cleaned the bones and glued them to a piece of black construction paper in a proper mouse skeleton form. I recall my mother trying to hide her horror when I whipped that paper out at the dinner table one night, and then various times years later when I refused to throw it away because I still thought it was neat.

Why am I telling you this? Because those really are the only two things I can remember about being a fourth grader. What I do not remember is that in fourth grade, you are still an exceptionally cute child with an awesome imagination and the attitude that anything can be cool if someone older and slightly interesting is involved.

Seriously, these fourth graders are really adorable. Like a teacup poodle or something else tiny and ‘awwww’ inducing. They’re way cuter than the douchey sixth graders who are currently morphing into snotty, evil monstershits. Fourth graders are still all baby-faced and small. Sometimes I just want to hug them for no other reason than their cute factor.



They approach everything with a sense of wonder and amazement. Everything in my English room is fucking spectacular to them: most importantly me. After three months, they still get really excited to see me. Like, can’t sit still in their chairs excited when I walk in the room. How can you not love someone who is so thrilled to see you? It’s like having a little puppy who jumps and yips and runs in circles when you get home everyday. (I’m sorry I keep comparing them to dogs, but really, in this case it’s meant in the best way).

Fourth graders think games like Simon Says are the shit, or better yet, “Disappearing Dialogue!” Disappearing Dialogue! isn’t even a game, it’s a dialogue practice cloze activity. But my fourth graders were tripping all over themselves last week to have the chance to stand up and recite the same boring, “Let’s go shopping! I want a chair! How much is it?” over and over again. Like, waving their hands wildly, whimpering and whining with their asses barely in their chairs trying to get me to call on them. Sometimes I call on the same kids over and over again because I’m afraid if  I don’t they are actually going to explode. And there’s no candy or stickers at stake. Nothing.

Hanging out with the fourth graders is fucking nuts, but it’s also why I am considering teaching as a deliberate career move now instead of just a means to get to the other side of the world. I mean, who wouldn’t want to spend their days with people that still like you even after your haunting eye-booger story and grotesque owl vomit project??

Verschwörungstheorie! (A Pictorial)

Fascism: Accident or National Concern? You decide.