I haven’t been posting much here lately since Julianne and I moved to China, but since things are so tense in South Korea right now with the whole North Korea nutbar situation I thought I’d post this awesome new flash mob video on youtube.

At the time of this posting it was at <span><strong>9,032,488 <span style=”font-weight: normal;”>hits and climbing . . . here’s the video.</span></strong></span>

<object width=”420″ height=”385″><param name=”movie” value=”http://www.youtube.com/v/SXh7JR9oKVE?fs=1&amp;hl=en_GB”><param name=”allowFullScreen” value=”true”><param name=”allowscriptaccess” value=”always”></object>

Whoever the brain was behind this promotional use of a viral flash mob they are a genius!  You can read more about the video and singers in <a href=”http://www.vancouversun.com/news/canada/Food+court+Hallelujah+Chorus+goes+viral/3918451/story.html”>this article</a>.

I’d LOVE to see this done at COEX Mall in South Korea–seriously, can you imagine the reactions?!

I normally tend to just post videos I see online on facebook, but decided that this one was worth reopening my Korea blog cause it’s so awesome.

PLUS, it’s fun to scoop <a href=”http://roboseyo.blogspot.com/”>Roboseyo</a&gt; with the whole finding cool and fun videos and posting them on my blog first!!!

Hope everybody back in Korisneyland is well, and that nobody decides to get all anti-Merry Ho Ho and start a war–even Scrooge would say that’s bad for business.

Stay safe, and happy.



It’s been quite a while since I wrote a post for my blog here, and I decided I’d write up a post since I left Korea and moved to China with Julianne.

We’ve been teaching at a military university’s English program, and it’s been good in many ways, and extremely challenging in others.

Over the course of the first two months of teaching at the university I met many Chinese English instructors of various ranks, and had several conversations. These conversations led to me being invited to give a presentation on my teaching methodology and philosophy of teaching. I should explain the larger context of the conversations involves a massive teaching reform project at my university that has been going on now for just over a year. The university powers that be want to update the teaching methodology that the instructors use, and I think also the English program’s textbooks, testing, and overall curricula design. It’s a massive project.

I decided that since I put about 3 weeks of work, and dozens of hours of reading and prepping a power point and handout, to post a story about the presentation, and my handouts, because I think other EFL/ESL teachers will find it interesting, and hopefully useful too.

You can see my handouts below, and also the list of my “Must Have Books” For EFL/ESL University Instructors.

Please feel free to comment and ask questions.


Last Friday morning I packed up a suitcase full of about half the books in my teaching library, and headed out to do a presentation on my teaching methodology. I was excited about doing this presentation because I’d spent the last 3 weeks reading, and re-reading parts of my methodology books to clarify in my own mind what my current teaching methodology is since it’s gone through quite an evolution during the time I spent teaching in Korea, and now over the last two months in China.

I was also happy that I was being given a forum in which I could explain how I see teaching through the framework of EFL (English Foreign Language) teaching (as opposed to the fractured and confused perspectives I’d been hearing from EVERY Chinese teacher I spoke to–I realized that there was an English program “identity crisis” as far as what kind of program we were all operating within, and I REALLY wanted to address that FUNDAMENTAL PROBLEM!). One of the major issues I wanted to foreground during my presentation was the fact that I thought my university’s English program was trying to function within three different types of English programs: ESP (English for Specific Purposes), EAP (English for Academic Purposes), and EST (English for Science and Technology). I got quite a reaction from my audience of teachers, and high ranking colonels and PhD professors when I talked about that, and later in the post-presentation discussion period I was really happy to hear others thought the same thing as I did!

I presented to 30 Chinese English teachers, some of who were the top ranking officers/administrators in the English program of the military university where I teach. Before I presented, two other presenters gave their content, and it was quite telling to see that they were essentially trying to introduce what native English speaking teachers take for granted about what a ‘good teacher’ is–for example, treating students equally. They were also touching on some aspects of CLT and TBL (Communicative Language Teaching Methodology, and Task-based Learning Methodology) but didn’t really do anything other than scratch the surface in a manner that I would think should be used for student-teachers, or teachers who have never taught before and are just starting their careers–not a room full of teachers with years of experience.

Over the past ten days or so I have been fighting a head cold and cough, and also dealing with my regular teaching duities and the problems I’ve been trying to address with course objectives being unclear, and invalid testing and lack of info I needed to know about the final grading and exams . . . this unfortunately made me tired, and I actually needed two or three more days to nail my presentation materials; I finished my prep and first draft of my power point with 177 power point slides of pictures of my students DOING the things I wanted to talk about, and my 10 methodology approaches and principles . . . I then smacked myself up the side of my head and said, “JASON! You ONLY have 50 minutes to present this material–you can’t present 177 slides no matter how good the material is in that time!”

Thursday night, the night before my presentation, I invited a Chinese English teacher over to the apartment so I could do a practice run through of my material, and try to get a clearer sense of what I needed to cut. I think I already knew what needed to be cut but by the time I was done my power point design it was Thursday at 6pm, and I didn’t have the 2 or 3 days I needed to mull over what I could cut, condense, and revise in order to cull it down to a manageable amount of presentation material.

I even went and re-read Jeremy Harmer’s “10 Things I Hate About Powerpoint” because I knew I was putting too much, lol …. but I was out of time, and too tired.

My Chinese teacher friend had a good response to my presentation, and good suggestions too. I cut as much of the material after she left as I could, but I could still see it was too much material. I forced myself, though, to go to bed and not kill myself for a presentation I was only giving once, and for a presentation I was not being paid a large fee for!

I printed off a two-page double-sided handout with some primary points from the power point, and a list of books I’d be referring to during my presentation (see below), and went to bed.

Back to Friday morning . . . I do my presentation and only make it to point 5 of my 10 points I’d used to organize my teaching methodology. With only 10 minutes left in my 50 minute presentation I skipped past several slides in each section, and got out the key ideas for my last five points, and was done. I was somewhat satisfied with my presentation, but knew that if I’d just had a few more days to prep I could have done something I think might have even impressed Jeremy Harmer a little–him being, in my mind, one of the best presenters I’ve ever heard and seen give a power point presentation (KOTESOL 2007, South Korea).

I’d been given 90 minutes to work with for my presentation, and I’d told the colonel and vice-dean of post-graduate studies at the university that I’d use 50 for my talk, then we’d take a short break during which the teachers could look at the 100 books displayed on a table at the front of the conference room. The break time was a rapid fire blitz of questions from THIRTY teachers all looking like kids on Christmas morning as they grabbed different books I had on the table, and began asking me questions about the books and different teaching needs they all had–holy cow!

I was really happy to see one of the high ranking teachers (not sure about the actual rank) ask me a lot about “A Framework for Task-based Learning” by Jane Willis. I referred to it as the ‘bible of TBL’ during my presentation, and THAT got her attention as she’s one of the teachers assigned to the current massive teaching reform project that my university is currently doing. From what I’ve been able to piece together, she has to ‘teach’ and ‘train’ all the Chinese English teachers on how to teach using TBL, and how to test students too. But based on the fact that the winter and summer breaks don’t seem to be used for in-service training, and that teacher training only seems to be done on Friday mornings each week of the semester with teachers giving lectures with no real training taking place in terms of trainees doing exercises and activities to apply what they’ve been learning about….well, I don’t see how the Chinese English teachers are going to be able to get a solid grasp on what TBL is, and how they can use it in their courses.

A major point that I stressed during the discussion period after the short break and book gazing frenzy was that the current curricula at the university, and specific textbooks I’d seen, were not suitable for use with TBL methodology and testing. This got quite a stir from the teachers, and the colonel tried to diminish my comment/criticism of the curriculum not being compatible with TBL–to which I said, “Sir, you teach post-graduate courses, right? Have you seen the undegradate textbooks? No? I’d suggest you take a look at them and then we can discuss this again. But until then I strongly believe there are major problems that need to be addressed.” I said this with as much respect, sincerity, and neutral tone of voice as I could, and he seemed to realize that he couldn’t back up his opinion cause he had NOT looked at the undergrad textbooks, nor did he seem to be familiar with their testing either.

Anyways, I think some of the big things I walked away from this experience with were quite valuable. Assessing and articulating what my current EFL/ESL methodology and philosophy of teaching was a good experience. It showed me what I need to learn more about, and what I need to read more. It reaffirmed teaching principles and approaches that I strongly believe and practice. And it allowed me to establish more credibility with the powers that be at my university so that when I say something, or criticize something, they know it’s not just a complaining foreigner who ‘doesn’t understand Chinese culture or the university’s English program and teaching culture’–the comments and criticisms are based on knowledgea and experience gained from hard work, and a lot of experience.

The conclusion I came to after a lot of reading and re-reading, and reflection on my teaching, was that I was doing what Harmer refers to in his fourth edition of “The Practice of English Language Teaching,” 2007: “We need to be able to say, as Kumaravadivelu attempted, what is important in methodological terms, especially if we concede one method alone may not be right in many situations” (page 78, my emphasis, Harmer).

Basically, I use a combination of CLT (Communicative Language Teaching methodology) and TBL (Task-based Learning methodology) with some of my own personal approaches to teaching all mixed up into one hybrid form of the two major methods. But in terms of how I practice and apply my methodology there is no fixed formula. How I teach depends on the needs and wants of the specific teaching situation, language learning situation and needs and wants, and the overall teaching and learning environment within which I’m operating. I think that I knew this before I began my prep for this presentation, but doing the work helped me to clarify and confirm what I do, and why I do it. I highly recommend other EFL/ESL teachers try something like this if they have the time and inclination.

Oh, a really bizarre moment occurred after the end of the discussion period. The colonel stood up, and walked to the front of the conference room. He then proceeded to say that he thought I had a lot of great ideas and opinions about teaching methodology, and EFL, and that he wanted to hear more about my ideas. He then said that “after learning more about Jason’s opinions and ideas we may adopt them here as policy and practice at the university”–HOLY SHIT!

Sometimes I really don’t realize how other teachers perceive what I say and do. Sometimes I really don’t give myself enough credit that the hard work I put into my teaching craft, and continually trying to improve myself as a teacher, comes across to such a point as that I’d actually have my methodology used as a part of the basis for an entire English program’s teaching methdology reform . . .

It’s humbling, scary, and thrilling all at the same time.

I just have to hope that some degree of success can be achieved in their reform project because based on this article, The Impact of CurriculumInnovation on the Cultures of Teaching (http://www.chinese-efl-journal.com/Vol%20%201%20January%202008.pdf), I don’t know if they can achieve their wishes.

But I’ll help–if they ask (and hopefully pay more too!).


What is a good man?

A teacher of a bad man.

What is a bad man?

A good man’s charge.

If the teacher is not respected,

And the student is not cared for,

Confusion will arise, however clever one is.

This is the crux of the mystery.

Lao Tsu 1997, ch 27

From “Experiential Learning in Foreign Language Education, General Editor C. N. Candlin

Applied Linguistics and Language Study, Pearson 2001

Different types of foreign language learning . . .

• ESP – English for Specific Purposes

• EAP – English for Academic Purposes

• EST – English for Science and Technology

• EFL – English as a Foreign Language

• ELF – English as a Lingua Franca

• ESOL – English Speaking of Other Languages

• CLIL – Content and Language Integrated Learning

EFL/ESL influences on my teaching methodology . . .

Jeremy Harmer

Scott Thornbury

Michael Rost

Sari Luoma

Penny Ur

Jane Willis

Michael J Wallace

Teaching methodologies . . . Which one? More than one? Or . . . Something new?

• Grammar-Translation

• Direct Method

• Audiolingualism

• Behaviorism

• PPP (Presentation, Practice, Production)

• ESA (Engage, Study, Activate); Boomerang Procedure, Patchwork Procedure

• Four Methods: CLT (Community Language Learning), Suggestopaedia, TPR (Total Physical Response), and the Silent Way

• CLT (Communicative Language Learning)

• TBL (Task-based Learning)

• The Lexical Approach

• Teachers-Students Dialog Method

• Post Method ???

My 10 EFL Methodology Principles and Approaches to ELT

• 1. Fun and Interesting. The “Magic X” factor.

• 2. Balance of accuracy and fluency language goals and content in lessons/course design.

• 3. Communicative and interactive style of TTT and STT.

• 4. Task-based learning.

• 5. Transparency in testing/evaluation, rubrics, and process.

• 6. Recode EFL language classroom with communicative power dynamics.

• 7. Games and Activities are a vital learning tool for learning, practicing, and mastering language goals and skills.

• 8. The 7 P’s: Proper planning and preparation prevent piss poor performance. Lesson planning/course design are critical in achieving teaching success, and language learner success.

• 9. “Variety is the spice of life.” Using a wide range of learning goals, language goals, skills, strategies, tasks, games, activities, and topics.

• 10. Empowering language learners to develop meta-cognitive learning skills (or ‘learner autonomy), and EFL language learning skills.

CLT – Communicative Language Teaching, and interactive style.

NOTE: There was a diagram on my handout that I cannot copy paste into blogger.

Post-Method: 10 Macrostrategies?

• “What is needed, Kumaravadivelu suggests, is not alternative methods, but ‘an alternative to method’ (2006: 67). Instead of one method, he suggests ten ‘macrostrategies, such as “maximise learning opportunities, facilitate negotiation, foster language awareness, promote learner autonomy” etc.’ (Kumaravadivelu 2001, 2006)”

From, The Practice of English Language Teaching, Fourth Edition. Jeremy Harmer

Post-Method is my ‘one’ method . . .

• “We need to be able to say, as Kumaravadivelu attempted, what is important in methodological terms, especially if we concede one method alone may not be right in many situations” (page 78, my emphasis, Harmer).

• “We have to be able to extract key components of the various methods we have been describing” (page 78, my emphasis, Harmer).

“Must Have Books” For EFL/ESL University Instructors


Conversation Strategies 

David Kehe and Peggy Dustin Kehe

PLA (Pro Lingua Associates)


Basics in Speaking 

Michael Rost



Strategies in Speaking 

Michael Rost



Keep Talking: Communicative fluency activities for language teaching. 

Klippel, Friederike. Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers. Series Edited by Penny Ur. W30,000

Oxford Basics: Simple Speaking Activities

Jill Hadfield and Charles Hadfield. Oxford, 1999.

W5, 800

Getting Ready for Speech: A Beginner’s Guide to Public Speaking, by Charles LeBeau and David Harrington. Compass Publishing, 2002. W14,000
Pronunciation Pairs, Second Edition: An Introduction to the Sounds of English, by Ann Baker and Sharon Goldstein 

Cambridge, 2008


Conversation Gambits: Real English Conversation Practices. Eric Seller and Sylvia T. Warner. Thomson Heinle, 2002. W29,000 Small Group Discussion Topics for University Students, A Modern Approach to Fluency in English, Third Edition.. Jack Martire. Political, economic, environmental, and social issues facing the world in the 21st Century. Pusan National University Press, 2009. W12,000


Steps to Academic Reading Level 3: Across the Board 

Jean Zukowsky/Faust

Thomson Heinle


Steps to Academic Reading 4: In Context 

Jean Zukowski/Faust, Susan S. Johnston, and Elizabeth E. Templin

Thomson Heinle


Extensive Reading Activities for Teaching Language. Edited by Julian Bramford and Richard R. Day. Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers 


Reading Extra by Cambridge 

College Reading Workshop, Edition 2. 

Malarcher, Casey. Compass Publishing, 2005. W15 000

Curriculum Design

Materials and Methods in ELT, Second Edition. A Teacher’s Guide

Jo McDonough and Christopher Shaw. Blackwell Publishing, 2003.

W35 000

Games and Activities

Games for Language Learning, Third Edition. Andrew Wright, David Betteridge, and Michael Buckby. Cambridge University Press, 2006. Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers. Series Editor, Scott Thornbury. W28 000 700 Classroom Activities

David Seymour & Maria Popova. Macmillian, 2005.


Grammar Practice Activities, Second Edition, by Penny Ur. Cambridge University Press, 2006. Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers. Series Editor, Scott Thornbury. Cambridge, 2009 


Debate and Critical Thinking

Discover Debate. Michael Lubetsky, Charles LeBeau, and David Harrington. 

Compass Publishing, 2000.

W16 000

A Handbook of Critical Approaches to Literature, Fifth Edition

Wilfred L. Guerin. Oxford, 2005.

W22 000

The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms, Second Edition. 

Ross Murfin and Supryia M. Ray.

Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.

W25 000

Becoming A Critical Thinker: A Master Student Text, Fifth Edition. 

Ruggiero, Vincent Ryan. Houghton Mifflin, 2006.

W11 000


Tree or Three? Second Edition. Beginner Level. Ann Baker. 

Cambridge, 2006.

Ship or Sheep? An Intermediate Pronunciation Course, Third Edition.  

Ann Baker. Cambridge, 2006

Teaching Listening Comprehension 

Penny Ur

Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers


Dictations for Discussion, A Listening/Speaking Text, by Judy DeFillipo and Catherine Sadow. Pro Lingua Associates, 2006. W41,000 Listening

White, Goodith. Oxford, 1998.

Resource Books for Teachers, Series Editor, Alan Maley. W26 000

Pronunciation Pairs, Second Edition: An Introduction to the Sounds of English, by Ann Baker and Sharon Goldstein 

Cambridge, 2008. W20,000


Sentences At A Glance, Third Edition

Brandon, Lee. Houghton Mifflin Company 2006.

W10 000

Paragraphs At A Glance, Third Edition

Brandon, Lee. Houghton Mifflin Company 2006

W10 000

Share Your Paragraph: An Interactive Approach to Writing, 2nd Edition

George M. Rooks. Longman, 1999. W13 000

Effective Academic Writing 1: The Paragraph 

Alice Savage and Masoud Shafiei

Oxford University Press


Effective Academic Writing 2: The Short Essay 

Alice Savage and Patricia Mayer

Oxford University Press


Effective Academic Writing 3: The Essay 

Jason Davis and Rhonda Liss

Oxford University Press


EFL/ESL Test Design and Evaluation

Assessing Speaking 

Sari Luoma

Cambridge Language Assessment Series


Testing Second Language Speaking 

Glenn Fulcher. General Editor: C. N. Candlin. Applied Linguistics and Language Study. Pearson Education Limited, 2003.


Testing for Language Teachers, Second Edition. Arthur Hughes. Cambridge Language Teaching Library Cambridge, 2003. 


EFL/ESL Research and Teaching Books

Teaching and Researching Listening 

Rost, Michael. Longman, 2002.

Applied Linguistics in Action Series, Edited by Christopher N. Candlin & David R. Hall

W22 000

Teaching and Researching Speaking 

Rebecca Hughes

Applied Linguistics in Action Series, Edited by Christopher N. Candlin & David R. Hall

W22 000

Teaching and Researching Reading 

William Grabe and Fredricka L. Stoller

Applied Linguistics in Action Series, Edited by Christopher N. Candlin & David R. Hall

W22 000

Teaching and Researching Writing  

Ken Hyland. Applied Linguistics in Action Series, Edited by Christopher N. Candlin & David R. Hall. W22 000

Culture/s and Cross-Cultural Lessons

Crossing Cultures in the Language Classroom, by Andrea DeCapua, Ed.D., and Ann C. Wintergerst, Ed.D. 

University of Michigan, 2004.


Culturally Speaking, Third Edition, by Rhona B. Genzel and Martha Graves Cummings 

2010 Heinle, Cengage Learning


101 American Idioms Harry Collis and Joe Kohl. Compass, 2004. W7,500; 101 American Customs Harry Collis and Joe Kohl. Compass, 2004. W7,500; 101 American Superstitions Harry Collis and Joe Kohl. Compass, 2004. W7,500
A First Look at the USA: A Cultural Reader 

Milada Broukal



More About the USA: A Cultural Reader 

Milada Broukal and Janet Milhomme



All About the USA: A Cultural Reader Second Edition. Milada Broukal and Peter Murphy. Longman 


EFL/ESL Methodology Books

The Practice of Teaching English, Fourth Edition

Harmer, Jeremy. Longman 2007.

How to teach English

Harmer, Jeremy. Longman, 1998.

W22 000, 000

How to teach Vocabulary

Thornbury, Scott. Longman, 2002.

Series Editor, Jeremy Harmer.

W22 000

How to teach Pronunciation

Kelly, Gerald. Longman, 2000.

Series Editor, Jeremy Harmer.

W22 000

How To Teach Speaking

Thornbury, Scott.

Series Editor: Jeremy Harmer. Longman, 2006. W27 000

How to teach Writing. 

Harmer, Jeremy. Longman, 2004.

W22 000

Teaching English Through English. 

Willis, Jane. Longman, 1981.

W20 000

A Framework For Task-Based Learning

Willis, Jane. Longman, 1996.

W22 000

Listening, Practical English Language Teaching. Marc Helgesen and Steven Brown. McGraw Hill, 2007. David Nunan, Series Editor. W15 000
Speaking, Practical English Language Teaching. Kathleen M. Bailey 

. McGraw Hill, 2007. David Nunan, Series Editor. W17,000

Teaching ESL/EFL Listening and Speaking, by I.S.P. Nation and Jonathan Newton.
ESL & Applied Linguistics Professional Series. Routledge, 2009. W25,000

Teaching ESL/EFL Reading and Writing

by I.S.P. Nation and Jonathan Newton.
ESL & Applied Linguistics Professional Series. Routledge, 2008. W25,000

Haven’t been blogging regularly because I was unable to sort out how to upload pics easily and integrate them into my China blog.

Well, I finally got around to resolving that issue, and I’ve got several new blog posts up.

Check out “Chinese Remote Control Baby” and several others.

Hope you like’em.


Again, apologies for not blogging regularly . . . between adjusting to life in China, prepping for teaching, and the Net going offline for two days/being as slow as a snail overdosing on valium . . . yeah, my posting has suffered.

Anyways, here’s an excerpt from a blog about our first trip to a hospital.

Click on the link below to read the rest of the story–if you dare.


A few days ago Julianne and I were on our way home from picking up groceries at a department store called “Metro.”  It’s similar to COSTCO and carries a lot of foreign foods and other things that we can’t get at the other department stores in Changsha.

While getting into a taxi to head home Julianne’s foot slipped on the floor mat and went flying at high speed under the driver’s seat to collide with something metal and unrelenting–she let out a cry and immediately began sobbing.  Needless to say I was freaked out and tried to calm her down thinking that she just pinched her foot or toe or something minor . . .

It was NOT a minor injury.

PROVISO: If you are at all squeamish you should probably stop reading now.

Since it was impossible for either of us to see her foot, and in particular her big toe, because of the bags piled on our laps Julianne said she’d just wait the 3 minute drive till we got  home to look at the injury closer.  She told me she thought her big toe nail had been bent back, but she couldn’t tell how bad her injury was at the time.

Outside the taxi we looked down at her big toe to see a huge white crease running diagonally down her toe nail.  The toe was already swollen to twice its original size, and blood was oozing out the running edge of the nail.  We couldn’t tell if whatever had done a Godzilla on her toe had pierced the flesh underneath or if it had ‘just’ done a number on the nail . . .

Julianne hobbled up the four flights of stairs (no elevator in our apartment building, sigh) and after I got her sitting down I grabbed a lamp and we gave it a closer inspection.  Julianne had been saying she would just clean it up in our apartment and let it heal itself without a trip to the hospital, but after each of us took a closer look at it, and I pointed out we had no clue what had stuck her or how severely, we decided it was “first trip to a hospital in China time.”

I picked up my cell phone and called our university liaison.  I explained that we needed help to get Julianne to the hospital, and help transalting with a doctor.  Her reply was, “I have to go to a meeting.”

Now this probably where my blood pressure rose severely, and I began chanting to myself “don’t start yelling, don’t start yelling, be nice, be nice, be polite, be polite” .  . .

I tried explaining what had happened, and that the injury was such that it shouldn’t wait several hours until it was convenient for her schedule . . . and got the “I have a meeting in an hour” reply again.

Alright, when my lover is in agony, needs medical care, and might have an injury with infection setting in in a place out of sight . . . well, that’s where my cross-cultural diplomacy goes out the f’ng window.

I reply, “Okay. I’ll call ‘high ranking person X’ and ask him to help us.”

Suddenly everything is copacetic (don’t get to use that word every day) and Miss I-have-a-meeting transforms into Miss I’ll-be-there-in-two-minutes.  I hang up after telling her to let me know when she’s arrived with someone to drive us to the hospital.

One minute later, I’m not exaggerating, I get a call saying they’re waiting for us outside the apartment compound.  Julianne hobbles down the four fligths of stairs, and out of the compound to the car.  It’s then I find out we’re going to the campus military hospital.  It never occurred to me to be alarmed because in my mind I was doing the newbie-in-a-foreign-culture-thing and I assumed a military hospital would be similar to ones in Canada . . . yeah.

We drive about 200 meters to the clinic (hospital implies a large building in my mind, and this was not a large building).  Arriving at the driveway we have to circle around a portion of concrete that is falling to bits and cannot support the car’s weight . . . this should have been my first warning of what was to come.

Walking inside there are no lights, and no people.  My heart sinks and it’s then that I realize how all pervasive siesta time is in Changsha.  From lunch time till about 3pm everyone is napping or taking a rest from work–and this includes doctors and nurses.

Our liaison walks around knocking on doors and calling out for someone . . . and after a minute or two a doctor comes out of room dressed in a collared shirt and cotton pants with bare feet in sandles . . . nice.  He pulls on his white doctor’s coat (good thing, cause later on I would have been asking if he actually had a medical liscence based on how often I had to ask for him to do certain things) and we get Julianne into an ‘examination room’ . . .

Inside the room the doctor pulls out a package of q-tips and asks Julianne to sit down on a bed.  I look at him and wonder when he’s going to wash his hands . . . but after searching the room for a sink and soap the one I see in the corner makes me cringe like it’s crawling with vipers–it was filthy, and the bar of soap looked like a biohazard.

I wait one more minute, and then ask him if he’s going to put gloves on.  I think he understood some English because that’s when he reaches into a cupboard and pulls out a package of gloves.  By this point a nurse has arrived, and the room is getting crowded.  The doctor, nurse, liaison, and Julianne and I . . .

This is when Julianne and I begin asking questions.

1. What does he want to do?
2. Does he want to cut off the toe nail?
3. How will he do that?

4. Will he use sterile instruments?

The first three questions get translated and answered pretty easily.  The doctor wants to cut off the nail to see if there are any open wounds or punctures underneath it.

But ‘sterile’ was a word our liaison didn’t know and we had to try and explain it . . . and even after I tried several different ways of explaining and defining the term she didn’t have that glint of “I get it” in her eye.  Julianne and I give up temporarily and gesture for the doctor to get on with it.  Both of us watching like hawks to see what he will do, and where the instruments will come from.

The nurse reaches into a steel and glass cabinet that looks circa 1920′s and pulls out a stainless steel tray with a lid.  Inside it are surgical scissors and other tools . . . all of which are HUGE in dimensions.  I’m sure my eyes must have bugged out as much as Julianne’s were at that point because the doctor picks up scissors that looked like the kind you’d use to open up someone’s chest–not delicately cut off pieces of toe nail!

Julianne then asks “Do you not have anything SMALLER?” . .  . . .

Click on the link to read the rest of the story.

First hospital trip in Changsha, Hunan, China — “You wanna do WHAT with that?! Uh-UH! We’re outa here!”

It’s been a while since I blogged . . . sorry about that.

I’ve been having issues with trying to figure out how to continue blogging in the style that I enjoy.  I usually write my stories with pictures sprinkled liberally throughout the text.  But I’ve been unable to do that here because of the upload speed, servers disconnecting and reconnecting in the middle of uploading pictures (just one picture seems to be impossible), and some other issues.  I’ve been trying to figure a solution so that I can keep blogging in the way I enjoy . . .

But it’s not working.  Time to reinvent my blog style.

I think what I’m going to have to do is write my stories here, and upload my pictures to my flickr account.  I’ll try to write short comments, and in some cases short stories, under pictures that warrant them.  I think if readers of my blog finish a post and then go to flickr to look at the pictures that that will work for now.

Anyways . . . here’s a post I’ve been sitting on for a while.

First day of teaching Advanced Listening ESL/EFL to sophomore university students in China . . . wow, these guys are GOOD!



Oh, and one last thing.  The title of my blog is “Serenity in China”–and that’s what I’m looking for.  The little troll that’s been posting comments lately, on my old blog and new, can go elsewhere and prove that he’s right, and I’m wrong, somewhere else.

Disagreeing with me is one thing–but it’s how one goes about it that determines whether or not it stays on the comments section, and if I reply or not.

I finally broke down and gave up on uploading all the pictures I’ve taken with the new posts I’ve written at http://serenityinchina.wordpress.com/

Until I figure out how to speed up the uploading of a single picture from taking five minutes or more I’ll just be writing stories about the stuff going on as Julianne and I experience things in China.

I can upload some things to my flickr page but even that is slow too.  There are some pictures there of new foods we’ve tried, but not much else yet.

Anyways, I hope everyone enjoys the new blog.


Julianne and I have been in China now for three days . . . and it’s awesome.  My old blog, kimchiicecream, is pretty much near its limit for pictures and the name is also no longer suitable since the focus was on living and teaching in South Korea.

It’s time to get a new blog going, and post the link to it.

I chose the name “Serenity in China” because that’s what I’m searching for after leaving Korea.  It’s also a reference to Joss Wheon’s TV show “Firefly” and the movie “Serenity” that wraps up the show because it got cancelled by the evil powers that be at Fox.

Anyways, I’m going to go start writing about everything that’s happened since the flight out of Korea up till now.  I’ve got notes on about 10 posts that I’ve had ideas for over the past few days, and pictures galore.


A comment on my last post, 93 hours and 13 minutes to China . . . yes, I’m counting!, has kind of sparked me up a bit to write about why I feel like I’ve got ‘cultural exhaustion’ due to my experiences in Korea.

The comment begs the question, “What does it take to adapt, survive, and thrive in Korea as a long term expat?”  I think it requires several things . . .

One thing it requires is a desire to plug into the Katrix.  Expats who don’t plug themselves into the Katrix don’t last past the one or two year mark.

But some ways of plugging into the Katrix are . . . well, this illustrates what I want to say.

Cypher: You know, I know this steak doesn’t exist. I know that when I put it in my mouth, the Matrix is telling my brain that it is juicy and delicious. After nine years, you know what I realize?
[Takes a bite of steak]
Cypher: Ignorance is bliss.

If you don’t put on blinders and turn a blind eye to many of the things going on around you, I believe that as an expat you cannot maintain any semblance of sanity, or integrity of self, over the long term.  Yet you also have to let the Katrix alter your senses, your notions of gravity and time . . . pretty much everything about your reality has to be subjugated to the Katrix.

If you don’t learn to alter your perceptions of ‘good and bad’ and other dichotomies like ‘professional and unprofessional’ you simply cannot engender enough bliss to stay over the long term.

I’ve tried to plug myself into the Katrix but all I often get is a bad case of kognitive dissonance because a lot of the time I just can’t turn off the part of my brain that says “this is WRONG” when it comes to too many of the things I’ve seen in Korea.

Sometimes the blinders are actually part of the ‘uniform’ one must put on for the job.  For example, ignoring the fact that ‘nobody fails’ in teacher training programs, and not complaining about that to the administration and attempting to have ethical and professional ESL/EFL testing introduced into these programs.

All too often the blinders are not willingly put on but are forced on teachers because to speak up is to risk one’s existence in the Katrix–your plug will be pulled, and you’ll disappear forever (as in, “you’re fired”).

While some expats focus on becoming fluent in ‘Hangul’ as the best manner in which to survive and thrive within the Katrix, others look deeper into the code and attempt to work with it, manipulate it, and achieve the ability to dodge the bullets that fly when they say ‘no’ to a senior, or rather, an agent.  It is not enough to learn the language and culture, and then simply follow the conventions blindly.  One must learn to be an actor and not just a mindless puppet.  Saying “no,” however, can be fatal . . .

In fact, some expats learn how to read the code and manipulate it to the point where they can create enough status that they can stand and face an agent.

Expats who argue other expats that are critical of Korean culture ‘don’t understand Korea’ and haven’t adjusted properly to Korean culture essentially become ‘Agent Kims’ of the Katrix (most of the time anyways).

The motivations of expats who become Korean culture apologists and defenders of the Katrix need to be considered.  They have a vital interest in producing and reproducing a Katrix in which they can live and work.  They have a vital interest in maintaining the power dynamics of this Katrix because it gives them status and power that they would not have in their home countries.  When an expat threatens the status quo which they have embedded themselves within, or plugged themselves into, they then begin to fire ‘you don’t understand Korean culture’ rounds at those that threaten to create ruptures in the Katrix.

Imagine what would happen if all the native English instructors teaching at national universities of education and other places that train teachers were to blow the whistle on the day to day administrative and education practices they see going on, but do not speak out about because it would result in them being flushed out of the Katrix like they were nothing more than the waste product nobody wants to see or smell.  The ‘taint’ of truth contaminates anyone who speaks out . . .

Imagine what would happen if native English teachers organized protests about the still commonly practiced corporal punishment that is ILLEGAL in schools and hogwans . . .

But the odds are stacked against any of this ever happening.  The Katrix is a well-oiled machine, and native speakers cannot stand against the Agent Kims of schools/universities/hogwans and especially the agents of the immigration and justice variety.

I think some expats who are plugged into the Katrix are a kind of agent that has yet to be clearly seen because they maintain a high degree of tact and diplomacy all the while working within the system to try and slowly bring about an invisible revolution in the systems of the Katrix.  But they know that to speak out publicly and act in a visible manner immediately triggers attacks from the Katrix itself, and so they stay quiet and work towards their silent goals all the while appearing to be harmless.

Other expats have personalities that simply deal with the stresses of the Katrix better than others.  They don’t put on the blinders and plug into the Katrix bliss dream, and they do see what is going on around them clearly and know when something is simply wrong, and not something that they need to accept . . . it’s a ‘paradoxical truth’ for them in which they strongly dislike something about the Katrix and yet at the same time can coexist with it while not approving of it.

. . . .

Anyways, I think the point I’m trying to make is that I’ve never been able to completely plug into the Katrix because of my personality, and my philosophy of life and teaching.

The way I see the world, in particular the Katrix, is what makes me unique, and has enabled me to help improve different aspects of ESL/EFL education in the places I’ve worked.

At the end of my time in Korea I know I am leaving behind a small legacy that will continue to produce positive ripples and ruptures in the Katrix.


Scribblings of the Metropolitician articulates a lot of what I’m trying to say in a much more clear manner.  What I’ve experienced during my time here PALES in comparison.  I strongly encourage you to read his two posts.

Why You Should Always Do the Right Thing, or Why You Shouldn’t Fuck the Bears

Excerpt, “But on a few things, I won’t budge. To some people, me criticizing the mental (and formerly, physical) violence of the school system, or the ubiquitousness of prostitution, turning a blind eye to obvious and clear human rights abuses in the North, or the fact of the massive corruption that continues to eat away at Korea’s own values of equality of opportunity — makes me some kind of cultural imperialist. To me, these are either people who just don’t like me and will attack me anyway, or they assume that I haven’t thought about the fact that these values are shared by many Koreans themselves. The “right thing to do” is often clear and obvious, actually — the only thing that makes certain issues huge contestations is the fact that on one side stand people who want to do what everyone agrees is the right thing, and on the other side stand those who simply stand to use their power to exploit others.

To return to my question — what does living in an environment that forces you to make huge moral concessions do to a person — this society has huge moral and social problems that one either accepts or fights against. . . .” (my bold).

Also, “For all those who sit on the sidelines, criticize those who criticize Korean society — you all have the luxury of truly being outsiders. This is obviously the case. Because my social criticisms aren’t rooted in some abstract, America-based objection to the way things are in Korea because of the ways I think they should be in my own country — I’m not that fucking stupid. But I’ve been here long enough to see bright-eyed, eager children chewed up by the system and become the sad and cynical teachers who abused them; I’ve seen kids beaten within an inch of their lives and known of one who was literally murdered by the teachers who are supposed to love and nurture them; I’ve been forced to sit and accept a policy that would make me an accomplice in such huge corruption that I could scarcely feign moral innocence, even if I didn’t stand to get any of the money; when you’re deep enough within the system, you don’t have the luxury of choosing whether or not to take a position, or to be on one side of the fence or the other. You’re already there, and you make the choice whether you sit on your ass or standing up for what you believe in. For those who think it’s wrong to do anything, you’re deluding yourselves” (my bold).

More on the Fucking of Bears, or Do the Right Thing II

“The entire point of that post wasn’t really to talk about whistleblowers and grand solutions to corruption; more to the point, it was about the moral/ethical slides one has to make in order to live deeply within a foreign society for an extensive amount of time.

In order to adapt somewhere, one needs to make concessions, to make compromises. I do it all the time, I have for a long time. But you also learn which of those many things one cannot change, nor can be found acceptable” (my bold).

I haven’t been blogging much over the last week or so cause Julianne and I were packing up my apartment and cleaning it, and taking taxis with the stuff I want to take with me to China, and other stuff we still had to sort through at her apartment . . . and so on and so forth.

We’re in the last stretch and the finish line is looming in terms of finally finishing up dealing with my pack rat issues. UPDATE: This is NOT normally how the apartment looks! We’re packing . . . and it’s nutbar!

Looking at all the stuff I’ve accumulated I’d have to say that I truly made Korea my home after arriving here back in March of 2005.  Anyone who tries to say all native teachers just come to Korea to take take take needs to take a look at my 3,000,000won teaching library of ESL/EFL books, and all the other things I’ve spent my income on in Korea and shut their ‘cake hole’ as we used to yell at campers when I was a summer camp counselor during high school, lol.

I had been thinking about selling some of my books but I decided to ship them to China after learning that ESL/EFL books are really hard to get over there, and VERY expensive.  I may sell some once I’m in China, but Julianne and I are hoping that we’ll like our new jobs and the culture enough to stay for at least two years, maybe three, so keeping these books a little longer is in line with our job plans.

After looking at shipping prices at EMS and FEDEX, I found out that the post office will ship 20kg boxes (it’s less if it’s lighter in weight) for 40,000won each surface mail (by boat).  Julianne and I have sent seven boxes so far with books and things like winter clothes that we won’t need till later this fall (apparently the city we’ll be in is colder than native speakers expect).

We also took two full COSTCO bags of novels and what not to What the Book in Itaewon to sell.  The original value that I paid was something like 500,000won for the pile of books I was offloading, and all I got was 150,000won in store credit (which is ONLY good for used books!), or 75,000 cash . . . yikes!  I took the in-store credit, and Julianne and I grabbed some literature titles (I got a nice volume of 18th century poetry) that we’ll take with us to China to read.  I know that used bookstores always give less than the seller wants, but damn . . . oh well, live and learn, eh?

While Julianne and I were in What the Book? two readers of my blog said hi to me.  I’m always surprised when I’m recognized because of my blog, lol.  I was actually a little ‘bashful’ about it, and laughed at myself later.  We chatted for a bit, and then they went off to look at books, and Julianne and I paid for our books and left.

Later, though, we ran into the same two people at a Greek restaurant–what are the odds?  Lol . . . of all the restaurants we could have chosen we chose the same one as them, wow.

After eating, Julianne went to the New Balance store to get new running shoes.  I’ve read too many stories now on Chinese expat blogs about scams and rip-offs to want to go shopping for anything in China till I’ve been there for a few months and have some sense of how to avoid being punk’d.  Plus, imports are more expensive in China, and it’s likely we’re getting better prices on stuff in Korea.

Alright, I’ve pretty much satisfied my urge to blog and updated nearly everything that’s been going on lately.  One last story, though, about the as#ho#e taxi driver we had to deal with a couple nights ago . . .

Julianne and I were moving two suitcases, and two large bags of stuff, from my apartment to hers a couple nights ago.  It was raining, and we had a hard time getting a taxi.  Finally, a taxi pulls over and I open the door and begin lifting an insanely heavy suitcase full of books we hadn’t had a chance yet to sort what we’d be shipping and what we wanted to sell.  I get all our stuff in the taxi, and we pull away after telling him where we want to go.

During the entire time I’m putting our stuff into the taxi (at least a minute and a half) the driver says NOTHING.  But about a minute after we pull out into traffic he says in perfectly fluent English, “This is not a cargo taxi.  You should have called 120 (I think) to book a cargo van.”  His tone was very hostile and rude, and I could tell he was pretty peeved off at us.

Now why this yokel didn’t tell me to stop putting our stuff into his taxi and to take another taxi or to call 120 . . . I don’t know.  I mean, based on the ajusshi-does-whatever-he-wants-code he could have done this and driven away.

But he didn’t do that.

Instead of getting out and helping me put our stuff into the car (it was really REALLY heavy) he just sat on his ass and watched, and said NOTHING.


Now I know I shouldn’t generalize comments about groups of people, but in Korea there is a sub-group of ajusshi that just crawl under my skin like toxic maggots every time I  have any kind of interaction with them–which is far more often than I wish.

There are other sub-groups, or types if you like, of ajusshi who are awesome human beings and share behavior patterns and personality traits that rock.  Julianne and I love these guys when we interact with them during taxi rides or wherever we happen to be in Korea.  They make us laugh, and we always leave these interactions feeling good about Korea, the culture, and its people.

But  the scumbag sub-group of ajusshi . . . they, unfortunately, have left such a bad taste in my memories of Korea that I will forever always have this nasty taint in how I see Korea and its culture and people.

I will not be able to, at least for a long time anyways, leave them out of conversations I have with others who ask me about Korea.

Getting back to the bad ajusshi taxi driver . . . I said nothing in response to his rude and hostile comment.  I had PLENTY OF THINGS in my mind that I wanted to say, but I kept quiet.

When we finally turned off the main street and began driving down the tiny side streets towards Julianne’s apartment we had one last dose of rudeness from him.  When I asked him to take one last turn up the side street to the apartment he stopped the car, sighed, glared at me viciously, and then made the turn.

Normally, I’d have been really angry about the whole experience due to the cultural exhaustion I’ve been fighting for the last six months or so . . . but I actually just shrugged it off.  He’s the one who was damaging his mind and body with anger.  He’s the one who was damaging the reputation and image of Korea with foreigners who are leaving and will talk to others outside Korea about the culture and people.

You know what?  It’s no skin off my back.  We got our stuff safely to Julianne’s place, and that’s what counted.

92 hours and 32 minutes to China–and goodbye Korea!


On the last day of my contract my primary co-teacher took me and five English co-teachers out for a last lunch.  She chose a raw fish restaurant, and the food was really really good.  I brought along with me my Canon 400D and Sigma 10-20mm wide angle lens to take pictures.  I had considered doing a group photo but the vibe didn’t feel right, so I just took pics of the food.

A while ago I wrote a post called, Raw fish lunch with Korean English co-teachers . . . and a discussion about being a “little too strict., and funnily enough the same young male Korean English teacher had to make some passive aggressive digs at me.  After I took the first picture, the same teacher leaned over to me and says, “Jason, do you know that in Korea college girls like taking pictures of new foods when they try them?”  I looked him dead in the eyes and said, “I’m not Korean, and I love taking pictures.  Anyone who uses Korean culture to judge what I’m doing needs to learn more about English culture.”  SNAP!

Anyways, I let him have what I’m sure he thought was quite the smart and lethal winning comment–right, I’m going to lose face because some insecure wanker wants to try and upset me with comments that I’d expect middle schoolers to crack, NOT–and kept right on snapping pictures of the awesome food.

I enjoyed chatting with the other co-teachers about my upcoming move to China.  And then the conversation moved on to co-teaching and new native English teachers–all of them seemed to be concerned about my replacement and how he would do if he was totally new to Korea and to teaching in general.  I tried to reassure them that natural raw talent and a good attitude are far more important most of the time than a lot of training and experience (which anyone can get).

English accents, of course, also came up because the new teacher is from Australia.  Inwardly, I was laughing a fair bit at the anxiety that this seemed to be causing because even native speakers of English from North America have trouble at times understanding the Australian accent, and it has nothing to do with your English language abilities in terms of whether or not you’re a native speaker but more to do with how much experience you have communicating with a native Australian speaker of English, and whether or not you have been exposed to the idioms and cultural background info you need to have to understand them.  I offered reassuring comments, and I hope they don’t worry too much about the accent thing.

The overall experience of my last lunch was generally positive.  A lot of that had to do with the fact that the co-teachers who came along were ones that I had formed positive relationships with, and/or had co-taught with in a positive manner.  Some co-teachers hadn’t been able to come for the lunch.  One of them in particular didn’t come because of some ‘issues’ we had with each other while the English speaking tests were on at my school; the sad thing about that is that during the first semester I was at the school (and when there were no speaking tests) we got along great.  But once the testing prep and testing periods began I ran into several problems . . . personally, I like the guy . . . but professionally, ugh.

Anyways, it kind of sucked that other co-teachers were busy or teaching and couldn’t come to the lunch.  I ran into some of them later and we chatted at my desk for a while before I had to leave, and said our goodbyes then.

It’ll be interesting to see if any of them email me in China asking for tips on how to co-teach better with a native teacher–though I’m not holding my breath.



Flickr Photos