Yesterday was my sixth birthday in Korea–wow.  Actually, my 2008 birthday I spent with Julianne in Atlanta, USA (which was quite the experience, lol), so I guess I’ve technically had five birthdays in Korea.

Anyways, I went to work and taught my classes for the day.  To be honest I began the day at work with one wish, and one wish only: that I wouldn’t have to deal with any issues or problems while co-teaching on my birthday.  Unfortunately, this was not the case . . . I’m not going to tell the story of what happened just before 11am but suffice it to say that it involved a complete and utter lack of consideration for myself as a teacher, and completely disregarded an agreement I had made with a co-teacher to do something he asked me to do that didn’t need to be done but that I did so he could save face . . . after sacrificing my own time and energy and doing extra work because of this co-teacher’s bad planning he then came to me Friday morning to ask me to do something else as a result of his own errors in judgment and planning . . . anyways, I said I wouldn’t get into the details so I should shut-up and talk about the more positive stuff that happened on my birthday.

For the first grade classes I planned and designed a final exam game review lesson using a power point Jeopardy template.  I used candy as prizes and the guys loved it.  They especially loved that I’d take back candies when they got a question wrong because to them it was like gambling–a VERY popular past time for many high school boys in Korea.  They guys totally went bonkers over the “Daily Double” squares I had liberally spread all over the Jeopardy board (I think I put something like one in every four squares as a daily double).

I had the guys divided into teams of 5-6, and made sure to break up the clustering of students by levels (friends usually sit together, and they often have very closely matched language learner levels) so that I wouldn’t have just one team dominating the game thereby guaranteeing the majority of the class giving up and disconnecting from the review lesson game.  Another reason I put so many daily doubles into the game board was because it helped level the playing field.  If a team with a slightly lower overall level of language ability got a daily double it could help them catch up in points with other teams that might be doing better getting answers right.

Anyways, it was really fun to see which teams and students would go ‘all in,’ an expression I didn’t know they knew and one that they LOVE to say, and whenever a team would balk at going all in I’d start making chicken sounds (which they thought was quite funny, especially my co-teachers, lol), and try to get them to go all in so I could recoup some of the candy I’d given out . . . one kid, in particular, wanted to go all in for every daily double his team got (about 4 I think), and I told him that he should avoid poker and Las Vegas in the future cause otherwise he’d come back to Korea to find his wife and kids waiting for him with shotguns–at which point I mimed loading a shotgun and made the sound–and again, the guys thought this was very funny.

After my review classes I ran into the co-teacher that put a damper on my birthday, and then it was lunch.  After lunch my day suddenly did a radical turnabout as ‘someone’ knocked on my classroom door, handed me an envelope with a note wishing me a happy birthday AND five bills . . . NICE!!!  It’s always nice when the ‘powers that be’ at your school do something to show they appreciate the work  you do, and are happy that you’re a teacher at their school.

After school I jumped in a taxi and headed to Yongsan to run some errands.  While driving past Gyeongbuk Palace I saw a Korean woman driving a hog–nice!  There are a small number of Koreans who drive around Seoul on Harleys but I have yet to see a female Korean rider . . . very cool.

Later, while stopped for a red light I was looking around trying to amuse myself and saw the “Essential Slim Suit”–something I’ll likely never be able to wear, but which I find to be a mildly amusing piece of Konglish.

Arriving at Yongsan I walked around running my errands, and took a shot of the train yard . . . the day was pretty hazy, hot, and humid.

At this point I decided a snack was in order.  I really like the Korean summer snack stand culture because you can get ‘fruit on a stick’ that’s kept on ice.

After running my errands I went to Itaewon to meet Julianne for dinner.  We decided to go to Sorrento’s and get some pasta.  I ordered their lasagna which is absolutely AWESOME!

Julianne linguine with four kinds of cheese sauce . . . also VERY good.

When we got home Julianne surprised me with my presents and some cupcakes that she picked up at the Lotte department store in central Seoul.  They were pretty good.  Two of them were chocolate, one was mint, and the red one was ‘red velvet’ which apparently tastes . . . well, I don’t know cause I stuck with the chocolate and mint.

You’re probably wondering what my gifts were . . . I got Calvin Klein “Eternity” cologne, a jar of dill pickles (yes, they make an AWESOME present if you’re living in Korea!), and A&W Rootbeer (also an awesome gift if you’ve been living in Korea for a while).

The first couple of years I was in Korea I’d go out for an all-nighter in Hongdae’s clubbing and bar area, or Itaewon, and have drinks and dance and hangout with my friends till 2 or 3 am in the clubs and then hit a nore bang (karaoke room) for a couple hours of singing after which we’d get some food and then call it a night around 5 or 6am . . .

The past couple years, though, I’ve toned things down partly due to the fact that the four most awesome people I had met in Korea and gotten really close to all left Korea at the end of my second year/beginning of the third . . . and well, frankly, I wasn’t able to meet anyone else like them in the years after that (friendship and the constant coming and going of native teachers is something I think I might blog about in the near future).

Anyways, an evening of good food, some drinks, gifts, and spending quality time with my beautiful girlfriend–who needs to go out when what makes you happy can be found in one place.

All in all it was a pretty good last birthday in Korea.  I wonder what my first birthday in China will entail?

As long as Julianne’s with me I know it’ll be good.

J

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