Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Saengil Chukha Hamnida, Son

6:45 AM: I wake up, shower, put on a tie, and go to school.
7:30 AM: Devotions are supposed to start.
7:34 AM: Devotion start.
7:49 AM: All the teachers sing “Happy Birthday” to me. I know this is a persistent birthday tradition, but I still find it awkward being sang to. Unless it's by Colbie Caillat.
7:57 AM: Ms. Bigney, the art teacher, sneaks into my room with a pan of chocolate chip cookies. Count it!
8:00 AM: Home room begins.
8:15 AM: First hour with the seniors begins. Despite yelling from the front of the room, I fail to wake one girl up. Such are the results of many a project due at the end of the quarter, I guess. We play a vocabulary game most of the hour, and I throw candy at them.
9:10 AM: Second hour with the juniors begins. None of them sleep. We also play a vocabulary game, but it is not as fun because they know all the words immediately.
10:27 AM: As I walk to the copy room, Mr. Davis coerces me into the gym, where the fourth graders sing/bellow another round of “Happy Birthday” at me. Mr. Davis eggs them on, louder and louder. Count it!
12:04 PM: Upon realizing that no celebration was planned, Mr. Nola and Mr. Davis nobly take on the task of scheduling some sort of extravaganza for the evening.
12:23 PM: The bell rings after lunch and we all go up to our classrooms.
12:30 PM: The bell signaling the commencement of fifth hour sounds out, but half of the tenth grade class is not in the room.
12:32 PM: The missing half of the class finally shows up. I start writing out tardy slips but have to throw them away when I see that they've got twenty-four delicious chocolate marshmallow cookies stacked high as a nice present. Stallions, I say!
12:34 PM: The seniors burst into my classroom and sing “Happy Birthday.” Count it!
12:36 PM: Mr. Elie comes in and crushes several of my internal organs with a Michigan hug. Count...mmmm...yeah...
12:40 PM: We play a vocabulary game.
12:55 PM: The sophomores ace a vocabulary quiz, and then stream the Lakers/Nuggets game on my computer, without asking. Whatever.
1:25 PM: I administer an AP English essay exam that one student described as “physically taxing.” I feel like a proud father.
3:00 PM: The school day ends. Peer tutoring in my room begins.
4:00 PM: Peer tutoring in my room ends. I gather the forty-nine essays I have to read and grade over the weekend, take them home, and read a bunch of them. The first one that I pick up starts out: “Dear Mr. Birthday...”
7:00 PM: I arrive back at the school, tie still on neck, and Mr. Nola, Mr. Williams, Ms. In (not to be confused with her counterpart, Ms. Out), Ms. Gordon, Mrs. Napier, and I leave for Apgujeong.
8:30 PM: We arrive at our destination for our 8 o'clock reservations at Mercados, an all-you-can-eat steak buffet, at which Mr. Davis is also waiting, ready to neatly lead the charge.
10:15 PM: A thousand cows, pigs, and chickens lie slain in our path of gluttony. It is delicious. I notice that everyone and their mother eats much faster than I do; all of them are full, but I still have many pieces of meat on my plate. All of which I finish, I might add.
10:20 PM: The Mercados staff brings out a stealthily-concealed cake, and we eat it.
10:25 PM: Mr. Nola won't let me pay. Stud. Wait until his birthday, though. It will be a blood bath.
10:40 PM: Our van goes the wrong way. We experience a scenic tour through Seoul at night. Unfased, we press on.
11:30 PM: We arrive at Brixx and hang out there for a while, and then leave in an attempt to find my ex-co-worker Mr. Boyce in the chaotic mess that is Seoul at night.
12:00 AM: My phone runs out of minutes as the clock strikes Saturday. Hopes of finding Mr. Boyce dwindle.
1:00 AM: We miraculously locate the man in question and his cohorts, some of whom are from Iowa and some of whom went to St. John's/St. Benedict's. Mr. Boyce makes my day by reporting that Jae, a fifth grade dude we used to teach, still turns in extra credit assignments to him (for 100W each). Originally, the assignments were to rewrite narratives from the American Revolutionary War (why this was being taught at an elementary school in South Korea is beyond me), and Jae just kept 'em coming. The main item of interest that Mr. Boyce spoke of was that despite the fact that he himself had been killed off early in Jae's narrative, a character named “General Haggar” persisted in fighting in the revolutionary movement.
2:30 AM: Home, James.
9:51 AM: I get up and go up the hill to Mr. Williams' apartment in order to use his laptop to Skype home to Rock Rapids. He makes pancakes and shares with me while I talk to my mom, dad, and cat. Ding, ding!
12:30 PM: I go read papers for two hours and then fall asleep. No offense, kids.
5:15 PM: Mr. Williams, or perhaps by this point we could call him Jordan, and I ride to Gangbyeon and dine with Megan “What's the Square Root of This House?” Schwartz at a top-of-the-line, family-run, chicken-entre-sellin' establishment o'er there. The fine meal is completed with a delicious Cookies 'n' Cream cake from Paris Baguette that came with a hard plastic plate, a hard plastic plate that was no doubt a critical factor in young Megan's decision to kindly and considerately purchase that particular cake. Because I didn't have any plates at my apartment before this night, and now I do. Mad props.
9:50 PM: Jordan and I stop in at some Moroccan restaurant in Itaewon for a brief appearance at a going-away party for some of his friends, a going-away party that was riddled with beautiful women but, nonetheless, a going-away party at which we stayed for less than an hour. Because the next day was going to be a paper-grading extravaganza.
11:15 PM: I arrived at my apartment with my new plate and opened the presents that my mom sent me!

What you don't understand about this picture is that it is the result of countless years of conditioning. Every year my mom makes my siblings and I congregate all of our opened gifts together, whether it be at Christmas, a birthday, or Easter, and photograph the entire sundry* assembly. I did this last year for Christmas in Mok-Dong, too.



Owning the rest of the cake on our way out into the wilderness.



Ms. Gordon, my disgusted self, Ms. Napier, and Ms. In-Your-Face.



Mr. Davis, Mr. Nola, and the mysterious Mr. Williams.



Owning a piece of delicious, free, birthday steak. Get in my mouth.



Contemplating one of three wishes over Megan "Taste the Rainbow" Schwartz's delicious bakery gift.



*Vocabulary Word

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

October

How can I sense the arrival of fall?
All of my pictures fall straight off the wall.
The photos are peeled by the brisk autumn air,
My wall tack can’t uphold my friends’ smiles there.

Clearly there's not a better way to see
Changes of season in this concrete city.
Wild shades of orange and yellow and red
Are nothing but memories clumped in my head.

It's true that it's colder, but the fog from my breath
Is the Seoul indication of last summer's death.

There's no pumpkins, pumpkin pies, or homecoming games
Or grass frost or leaf piles or leaf pile dump flames.
My tuba's cold mouthpiece in our marching band,
Eight layers of clothing in the visiting stands,

Colors so somber o'er sem path at night,
My birthday, celebrated with a pop-bonging rite,
Pumpkins cut strangely, radiating candle rays,
The sky a gray liquid leering over the days,

The Twins make the playoffs, or maybe they don't,
Gloves and hats warm the body the way t-shirts won’t.

No! I find none of these traditions here,
But I'll bear the absence with good-hearted cheer.
I'll think happily, happily, happily back
And look onward and forward to pick up the slack.

Autumn is coming, I'll watch for it closely;
The changes are subtle, they come grimly and grossly.
Not as memorable, but they come, nonetheless,
And soon winter will be here, in a rainbow headdress.

So for now, I will bask in what evidence I see,
Sweatshirts and long johns, fallen photography,
Ten-Mile says it best: “Reub, break out the flannel!”
As the last of my photos falls off the wall panel.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Ode to the Metrodome

Today, tonight, at 9:36 p.m. CST, I put on black clothes. All black. Except for khakis...I don't have any black pants here. Not to commemorate the end of the weekend here in Korea, nor to acknowledge the termination of nice weather. Not even to mark the 9,446th consecutive day that Clayton has gone without a kiss. No. This day, ladies and gentlemen, is the end of an era. An end of something good. Today, tonight, the Minnesota Twins played their final baseball game in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.

“But Reuben,” many a Twins fan will say politely but sharply, “the Twins have a new stadium to play in next year!” And, honestly, you couldn't be more right. They do. The new Target Field or whatever it is called will be up and running by next April. I got to see a bit of it go up while I was on various commutes through the downtown area. It looks sweet. Yes, it promises to be something. Yes, it will attract more fans. Yes, it will be a better stadium to play and watch baseball in. Yes. Yes. Yes.

What's more is that the aforementioned Dome is a crappy place to play baseball in! Up until a few years ago, the field was literally a thin piece of off-green carpet over concrete. The ball bounced over fielders' heads with regularity and tore up its fair share of ankles, knees, and hip pieces. I can't imagine what it was like to play football on there. Now they've got this mixture of fake grass and little rubber chunks, which is still inordinately bouncy. My high school baseball team had the luxury of playing there once, and the inordinate bounciness of this terrain contributed to several fumbled ground balls at third base, and one fairly painful smack to the cup. And three strike outs. And a loss.

But that is not all! There is the ceiling. A high school teacher of mine was at a game once and, due to a thunderstorm, the Dome began to come down, that great white canvas, the same color as the standard Major League baseball, adorned with lights as bright as twenty suns. As recently as two weeks ago, the Twins were behind the Tigers in a game at the Dome, and someone hit a flyball to left field. It seemed as though their ship had sunk, but the Tigers' left fielder lost the ball in the lights, many runs scored, and the Twins won the game.

Won the game. Because of a fluke play due to the rotten conditions that the Twins have endured since 1982! It's home field advantage! They play half their games there! They know the in's and out's of the field, which high hops to expect, how to keep track of errant hits. There have been other instances of deliverance from that awful playing surface, and, in those moments, Twinkies fans everywhere rejoiced that that dollar monger Carl Pohlad, may he rest in restless peace, hadn't sprung for one of twelve stadiums that he could afford.

However, I must confess that this home field advantage of awfulness is not the real reason that I want baseball in Minnesota to stay in the Metrodome. The nostalgic side of me, which has been rearing its decrepit head more and more lately, longs for the continued use of the stadium because that is where my love for baseball was born. The first game should have been a clue: my father and uncle and I went to see the Twins play the Mariners in 1991, the last year in which the Twins won the World Series. The game went into extra innings on a Scott Leuis homer and was won on a Kent Hrbek bomb. I cried because it was so loud. The next game we went to was against Detroit; after everyone had sung the national anthem, my sister asked if it was time to go. Another bout was a 1-0 loss against Boston; Scott Erickson and Roger Clemens, butting heads like wild men. The seed had been planted.

And no one did anything to stop it from growing and growing. One day, late in March, when I was in fourth grade, I was on my way out the door to a piano lesson when my dad said, “Reub, I know it's a Tuesday, but bring some clothes for an overnight: we're going to the Twins home opener tonight!” And a tradition was born, one in which my father and I went to the first (or one of the first) Twins game at the Dome every year until last spring, when I spent Opening Day teaching the Walruses how to make a spinning paper calendar at Poly School. For a long time, the Twins let us down on each April; once, despite the cheers of thousands of hopeful Minnesota fans, Brad Radke gave up a homerun on the first pitch of the first game of the season to Gerald Williams. We lost 7-0 that day. Sigh.

Eventually the 90's came to a close and the Twins started to make the playoffs. For those of you who have never been to a playoff game of any kind, let me highly recommend finding your miserable way to one. They are insane. The Twins playoff games were no exception. A point I have neglected to mention, perhaps because this rarely happens, is that, when full, the Metrodome is one of the loudest stadiums in the modern world. Think about it: all other stadiums have the open air to let the sound echo away into nothingness. Not the Dome. It is terrifically loud. Imagine what it is like at a playoff game, where every single play is grossly important and everyone acts as though they were on several different high octane drugs.

I never have been to a playoff game that Minnesota has won, but I remain hopeful. In 2002 they lost to Anaheim when I went, in 2003 they lost to New York when I went, and in 2004, when I obtained a ticket four hours before the game from the Hommes, God bless each and every one of them, the Twins again lost to New York. That was when I first was at Bethel, and when we all in the Twin Cities area discovered College Night/Dollar Dome Dog Night, which is exactly what it sounds like. Being a mere fifteen minutes away from downtown Minneapolis, folks at Bethel routinely attended the Wednesday night home games that cost a mere $3 to get into.

Seriously, when asked why I chose Bethel, I often said that a major factor was proximity to the Metrodome. So many games attended. There was the time where a fan ran out on the field and slid into home, only to get laid out by the Red Sox's bat boy. There was the time where Sunshine, Lemke, and I snuck around to behind home plate in the upper deck and got told to “sit down...we'll cheer when it gets exciting” in the bottom of the ninth, which was right before a ball got by Jacque Jones and we lost. No one talked until we got home. There was the time that Paul Staats went to his first Twins game, and the Twins won in the tenth inning. There was the memorial service for the late Kirby Puckett that Jake and I went to one Sunday evening. There was the time Sunshine smashed a beach ball off some dude's face and over the upper deck railing. There was the time 316 won free tickets but then I forgot them in Lissner 313. We still got in, and still got in the Hormel Hot Dog Row of Fame. There was the time Tille, Hoff, J-Knight, and Roger tried to come up for a game but experienced extreme car trouble; we still got to the game the next day but it got stopped in the eleventh inning because the stadium needed to be made ready for the Gophers football game later. There was the time when Minneapolis experienced a blizzard on Opening Day, but the Twins and Angels still played. And the Twins still won. There were the many, many times that Jake and I waited with his stupendous mother Kay for bobblehead dolls. We got there as early as six in the morning once. There was the time that Justin, Lemke, Sunshine, Orvis, and I all went to the Dome dressed as up as absurdly as possible, despite the fact that we were on a big organized date. There was the last game that I got to attend, a game in which the Twins won 11-0.

To seal the deal, though, was the White Sox/Twins series on September 23-25, 2008. I made a Facebook event for it. The Twins had been out of contention for much of the season but, with six games left, had finally positioned themselves two and a half games behind the White Sox, who were in first place. Chicago came to the Dome to play a three-game series. The Twins won the first game easily and the second game without a ton of trouble. So, for the layperson, if they beat the Sox again in the last game, they'd be in the coveted position of first place.

Needless to say, Clayton, Mike, T-Duck, and I faithfully attended all three of these games. Work, drive downtown, yell and cheer and be happy, drive home, sleep, repeat. The Twins fell apart in the third inning of this last game and went down 6-1. We were devastated; had we spent all this time hoping only to lose this final match? No. The Twinkies chipped away at the lead and in the eighth inning Denard Span smacked a triple down the right field line to tie it. The Dome was literally going insane. I have never heard it that loud and thought maybe I'd never hear it like that again, until the tenth inning proved me wrong. Alexi Casilla blooped a little single into left to score Nick Punto and the Twins heaved themselves into first place. Obviously the crowd went berzerk. It was a moment I have very little hope of experiencing again: being with my friends, seeing my team come back and prove itself better than its most rivaled opponent, experiencing all this in a place that I had come to love.

But, nonetheless, a place I will never watch baseball in again. I will never get to walk through the concrete hallways and catch glimpses of the sea of blue seats in the massive cavity where the game gets played again. I will never get to see the towering photos of Puckett, Oliva, Killebrew, Carew, Hrbek, Robinson, and Moravec again. I will never get to witness hits shuddering off the baggy in right field, or the ball take a wild detour off a speaker, or leave the game in a violent windstorm of air pressure.

So, if you think of it today, tonight, observe a moment of silence. Cross yourself and perhaps utter a Hail, Mary. Put on that mourning robe that you always wondered what to do with. Do something to mark this, the end of an era. I know I will. For today, tonight, the Metrodome saw its final game.

Jesse and I in front of the baggy in right field after getting decimated by Sibley-Ocheydan.



A blurry picture of a pitch I threw on that hallowed ground. Pretty sure it was a ball, low and inside.



My father and I. He looks happier than I do because he didn't flub several groundballs, get hit in the cup, strike out three times, or lose a game just prior to this photograph.



Sarah Taxis pretending (maybe?) to throw up. She claims that pile of vomit was already there. Who knows.



Jake and I waiting in the early hours of some summer morning in an endless line at the Metrodome for a bobblehead doll.



From left: me, Bill Cook, and Sunshine. During each game at the Dome, as at countless ballparks around the nation, there are several clapping cheers. You know. We will rock you. Let's go. Charge! After we'd participated in many of these, Bill, who was not a regular game attendee, asked, “How do you guys know all of those?”



From left: me, Jake Hegman, and Dan Ochs.



From left: Amy, Cari, Torey, Gwen, Emily, me, Grant. This was the game in '06 where everyone stayed to watch the Tigers lose so that the Twins could be sole possessors of first place.



From left: Clayton, Jake Hegman, me, Sunshine. My favorite part about this picture is that it was swiped from an album on Facebook entitled “Don't Be Sad That It's Over; Be Glad That It Happened.” I look sad that it's over (and that the Twins lost that game); Jake looks glad that it happened. The picture should have been the album cover.



From left: my brother, Dirks, me, Clayton. Despite loads of evidence that indicates otherwise, it was not the Fourth of July.



This is one of my favorite photos of all time. Jake's mom had it blown up to poster-size and it followed me around through different dorm rooms for years to come. From left: Justin, Jake, Orvis, me, Sunshine. What is making him, and, indeed, all of us, look a bit less than radiant is that the White Sox had just beaten the Twins before this was taken. Finally, this shot is commonly referred to as the “Faces of Glory.”



This is a picture of Brent, Sunshine, and I watching the home opener in 2008 from the Writing Center on Bethel's campus. The Twins won the game. We were pleased. Just so you know, April Schmidt, no one had signed up for any tutoring sessions that night, nor did anyone come. The critical element (no pun intended) here can be seen sort of near the upper left of the photo...out the window. The scene that lies behind the television screen is one of snow and bluster, conditions that outdoor home openers in the future will have a wild time dealing with, but conditions that were only problematic to the fans as they came and went, and not to the game itself on March 31, 2008.



The Haggar clan, in the ocean of seats that composes the Metrodome's seating area.



A nameless game, one of countless that have marked my journey as a Twins fan.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Current Events


As I left the GS25 near my apartment this morning, I saw an individual wearing a Yankees baseball cap. More so than ever before, I felt an urge to snarl at the wearer, and to snatch the cap, throw it to the ground, spit on it, and stomp it to oblivion. Then a different feeling came over me. It was a feeling of extreme longing; I wanted to be in Minneapolis, Minnesota, more than I have during my entire separation from it. Just for a moment.

Because I know what has been and is going on there right now. Or maybe it is beyond me. What I imagine is similar to what the end of September '08 was like, or what Bethel was like in 2006 when almost the same exact circumstances took place. That fall, the Twins played out of their minds for the entire second half of the season and went into the last game of the year tied with the ever-present Detroit Tigers for first place. I went to the last game; the Twins won 5-2. It wasn't that exciting. But what was exciting was that after the game, everyone stayed to watch the end of the Royals-Tigers game, which went into extra innings. The Royals, the worst team in the league, completed a three-game sweep of the Tigers, and we all watched, and we all went crazy.

The atmosphere around campus was awesome during the next couple days. Everyone gathered in the lounge under Market to watch an afternoon playoff game. People skipped classes. Emotions ran high. And I felt the same wild fervor last fall when, between September 23 and 25, the Twins swept the White Sox to move into first place, at least for a few days. Everyone was out of control, caution was thrown to the wind. I have a vivid image from the morning after that game, an image of parking the Buick in south Minneapolis on a street strewn with leaves, a perfect fall day, and feeling a sense of excitement rise up in me as I walked into the office, because I knew that everyone would be ranting and raving about what had happened in the thriller the evening before.

And I know that that is what it was like in the Twin Cities for the past five or six days! And I wish so much that I could be there, and partake in it, and embody it, and make bad decisions based on it! I get reports from Sunshine that say, “I am hoarse,” and I know he was screaming at one of the games. I get an e-mail from my dad that says, “It [the one-game playoff on Tuesday] was one of the best games I have ever attended if not the best.” I get a story from Jake Lemke about how he stole his dad's Twins hat for good luck at just the right moment: the result? Twins win. An inordinate amount of both smack talk and excited dialogue has passed across my Facebook wall from people I hardly even know or who I haven't talked to in a couple years.

I experienced it for just a little while. I preach adamantly at my school about the winning tirade that Minnesota has been on, enough so that kids ask about them unprompted, so that Michigan residents who happen to teach at the school rise up in arms, and, to be honest, so that everyone is probably annoyed positively to death with all of it by now. So when Tuesday's sudden death match at the Dome was taking place, I kept the play-by-play from Mlb.com on during both of my first two classes. One of the Michigan teachers, Luke, sent a freshman from his class down to my room every time the Tigers scored, so he must have been keeping tabs also. But, as the game entered the ninth inning, I had to supervise study hall. Needless to say, several tenth graders were eager to help find the game live online, and so we watched the final three innings through a haze of buffering and tension. Luke came down to watch/talk smack, and I felt like I was in Minnesota. Some kids were pulling for the good guys, some kids kids were pulling against them; none of them were really for Detroit, but it was then that I was taken back to times past, when absolutely nothing else mattered but what happened to the next pitch.

When the game was finished and I had calmed down and gone back to the quiet of my classroom, I couldn't stop thinking about how insane it must have been to be at that game. The camera kept panning the crowd; I kept waiting to see my dad, waving his Homer Hanky (but maybe looking a bit fatigued, given the late hour), or at least someone I knew. I imagined that climactic moment when Casilla dinked it between first and second, and I knew what it was like, because it had happened before.

All of it makes me miss the deranged atmosphere of Minneapolis when the Twins are winning. I also must admit that all of this makes me miss the men who I have gone through so many trials and tribulations with, people who went as berzerk as I did when the Twinkies came through and who got as pissed off as I did when they let us down. I wish I could be there with them.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Bits and Pieces: August and September Edition

*DISCLAIMER*

The following is reminiscent of the stories I think I tell quite frequently. You may recognize similarities between this post and my reports on the day if you've had the misfortune to have hung out with me before. By that I mean that most of them are funny in context, to me, and I feel obligated to try to share them, but I know that most of them probably aren't funny to anyone except me.

*In one of my classes, it became time to study that age-old English class topic: plot. So I drew the chart that every high school graduate is familiar with on the board and asked the class for a book or a movie to use as an example. The first volunteer suggested "White Chicks," which I shot down, but the next student said we should do "Bring It On," and she was backed by a chorus of affirmation from the rest of the class, so we diagrammed the plot of "Bring It On."

*I gave a true/false quiz as a reading check for a short story we read, but I made up the questions as I went along. I also threw in random entertainment questions, such as, "The Minnesota Twins are the best team in the league" and "I loved this story." Afterward, I realized that I had no clue which answers corresponded to which questions.

*I went supply shopping with the science teacher and secretary from my school. The science teacher needed baking soda for an experiment, so the secretary found it for him in the grocery store. After starting at the small bags of baking soda for a moment, the following dialogue occurred:
Science teacher: "Don't they have more?"
Secretary: "No. People in Korea don't really use baking soda."
Science teacher: "Then what do they use?"
Secretary: "For what?"
Science teacher: "Neutralizing acid-base reactions."

*My washer drains onto my bathroom floor.

*Some mornings we go around the classroom and every kid has to share his or her temperature, on a degree scale of one to one hundred. One hundred is the best day of your life, and if someone says zero we put them on suicide watch. I have said that numerous times in numerous adult leader meetings...I feel cliche. Thus:
Me: "What is your temperature?"
Senior girl: "Eighty."
Me: "Why?"
Senior guy in front of senior girl: "Because she's short."

*Fellow teacher Mark and I were purchasing items at some convenience store. I grabbed a 900W bottle of water and a 1500W ice cream bar and threw these items down on the counter. The cashier, some male high school student, rang these items up, but then Mark tossed his 1500W ice cream bar in there as well, so the total went up to 3900W. I'd gotten 3000W out to pay for my items, but suddenly there was this added expense. I saw Mark getting change out, so I gave the cashier my 3000W and then gave him whatever change Mark had. The guy bagged our stuff, and we left. I asked Mark how much he'd chipped in, because I am a thrifty wench, and he said that he'd contributed 700W. Which means -there is a punchline coming- that instead of asking us for the 200W that we still owed, the cashier had just let us sail onward despite being a couple cents short. I pictured him being a person not unlike myself, a person who thinks, "Should I complicate things and try to tell these stupid foreign guys that they are 200W short, or just save myself the headache and let them go?"

*I'm kind of sorry that that was so long and that you took the time to read it.

*It also became time to study the ol' five-paragraph essay. As everyone knows, a sweet essay needs an enticing introduction, and I asked the class what would the beginning of a piece of literature have to have in it to make them want to keep reading. So one kid raised his hand and said, "Sex appeal." Sigh.

*Some of the veteran teachers invited me to go play basketball with them at another international school, so, against my better judgment, I went. Between games, one of my teammates, this older gentleman who introduced himself as John, started talking to me. The first thing he asked me was if I attended the high school we were playing at. Maybe I should grow a beard. But, upon further conversation, it turned out that he'd been the principal at Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis and knew my esteemed cousin Rebecca. Additionally, he lived across from Bethel and was leasing out his basement to three attendees of that glorious institution. Small world.

*Tie-Day Friday is not that much fun when many of the other teachers wears ties every day of the week.

*I was walking to the copier room to grab some papers and I couldn't help by look into the room that passes as a gym in our school. I heard the song "Cupid Shuffle" blasting from within, and when I peered through the windows on the door, I saw the gym teacher doing the accompanying dance to the song, and all the third graders spread out behind him, also doing the cupid shuffle. There was a time in my life when I was forced to learn this song (Mr. B.U., 2008), and I noticed that Mr. Davis wasn't just having the kids do random dance moves to this song; he had the thing down and was leading them in a large, elementary, choreographed rendition of the song. When I walked back, papers in hand, I observed that "The Electric Slide" was playing, and that there were actually multiple teachers in the room, breaking it down.

*I hung out with Bethel alumni Tony Hanf a week or two ago. We swung by my apartment for something and he saw a picture of me in full D.C. garb, and he remarked, "Ah, that's the Reuben I remember. You'd always have a rack full of cups, and you'd always be filling the baskets up real slow while you thought of something to say." I hope you are well, Dining Center. I hope you are well.

*This wild Amazon man named Erik who I get to hang out with after church told me that he was in an orchestra playing the violin on the semi-professional level despite the fact that he could not read sheet music. He said he just memorized all the music beforehand and went at it. I was amazed. Erik explained more about this orchestra and about his time there, like that it was hard and time-consuming to memorize all the notes, and if one were to miss a performance, one would be fired, and that he figured the director would always look out over all the violins and all their bows would be going in the same direction, tilted to the same degree, except for Erik's, which would be doing the opposite. He thought maybe this was the case, but he didn't know for sure. Erik ended by describing his exit from the orchestra: they had somewhere to go play and the director told everyone else that the bus left at 7:15 a.m. but told Erik that it left at 7:45 a.m. And that was that.

*There is a dog in the apartment next to me that, without fail, barks every time I enter or exit or even make any motion to do either of those two actions.

*In order to plug my laptop in, I have to plug this little Asian-to-North American converter into the wall, then plug my western power strip into that, then plug a long computer cord into that, and then another computer cord into that, and then stick it into my Korean-bought computer, which did not come with a cord, though I saw the guy who sold the PC to me forget to put it into the box. It's a huge hassle to drag around, if you can imagine that.

*There was a test on the parts of speech. One question demanded identification of a linking verb in the following sentence: Despite her wicked and deceitful actions, Colbie Caillat is still my beautiful hero. One student circled the linking verb and wrote "amen" at the end of the sentence.

*I was in the shower and, to my right (please do not visualize, just read) I saw a fly resting on the toilet seat. Anyone who's known me for two seconds knows that I will not stand for that sort of thing. So I grabbed the shower head off the wall and swung it over to nullify said fly, but in doing so, I sprayed myself in the eyes and also got shower water all over my last roll of toilet paper, thus rendering it useless. I think the fly got away, too.

*Check out Orvis' blog! It's about the Vikings and it's stellar, even if they are not...

*At yet another point in one of my classes, it came time to study transitive and intransitive verbs. I used the sentences "I vomitted" and "I vomitted my breakfast on the floor" as examples to illustrate how the first sentence does not have an object, so it is intransitive, and the second second does have an object, so it is transitive. I was insanely pleased to discover that on a subsequent quiz, six or seven students out of the twenty in the class wrote down some form of that sentence about vomitting a meal back up. I hope they use it on the SAT's, too. I think it stuck so soundly in their minds because objects receive the action, and there is often some discrepancy about what gets the action in a sentence: is this an object? a preposition? an adjective? But in the sentence I happened to use, the reader can fully grasp the it is not the floor, nor is it I, but, really and truly, the breakfast is the only thing that moves in that sentence.

*We were studying different sentence structures, and some dude wrote the following examples. Because of potential lawsuits and such, I have changed the names in the sentences to protect the writer's identity:

"Clayton likes skinny girls, such as Jessica Alba, who is pretty and slender.

Jessica Alba, who is pretty and slender, is Clayton's type of woman; Clayton likes skinny girls."

*I was talking to a man at church whose name was Jon. As everyone, including myself, always asks upon meeting someone new here, Jon asked me where I was from. I said, "I'm from Iowa. Ya ever been to Iowa?" Jon thought for a minute and said that yes, he'd been through Iowa. He then told me that his lasting impression of that respectable state was that as he drove down the interstate, he'd seen a huge turkey barn. On one end of the turkey barn, a huge truck was unloading lots and lots happy, gobbling turkeys into the barn, and on the other end of the enormous edifice, a truck was being loaded with frozen turkeys.

*I had the students write about what they thought they'd be doing in ten years, and one girl wrote that in ten years she'd be on a plane flying to Iowa to attend the wedding of Mr. Haggar and Jason, another kid in the class. Sigh.

*I left my room during the last period and ran into Ms. In and a crowd of seventh graders. They were congregated around another teacher's door. Ms. In pulled me aside, told me that they were all locked out, and asked me to get the door open. Where was the teacher whose room it was, and how had it gotten into the state that it was in at that moment? Don't pester me with these silly questions. We told the seventh graders to go down to my room at the end of the hall because there was cake on the table in my room, and when they left, I slid my credit card in between the door and the lock so that the door would open. They all came back and went in, but when I went back to my room, I realized that I, in absolutely no relation to what had just happened, had left my own keys on my desk and locked the door to my classroom behind me.

*As if that wasn't ironic enough, here is another example (there will be a test later): I had about a half-hour to kill with the sophomores, so I printed off "The Sniper" from the internet, which is a short story I remember reading and enjoying in Mr. McDonald's class at Central Lyon. First I wrote the definition of irony on the board and explained it. Then I passed out "The Sniper." When they received it, everyone exclaimed, "We read this last year with Mr. Kim!"

*Jeff told me this story about how he was backpacking through the dead of winter with two of his friends. It was very cold and they were all very hungry and tired. They stopped, made a fire, and decided that their best bet was to heat up the last three cans of chili that they'd brought with them. They all sat around the fire and the chili and stirred that crap up in a big pan, all the while hunched over and warming their frigid fingers up. As one of them stirred the chili and thawed himself, a large droplet of snot slowly fell off the end of his nose and right into the chili. They all saw it happen. After much debate, they decided to still eat the chili. Jeff tells this story to people he plans on traveling with; he uses their reactions to gauge how high-maintenance his listeners will be on the trip.

*One of the older teachers and I have run into each other in the print room at 7:15 a.m., making last-minute copies of worksheets and manifestos. We decided that we'd keep score for a while; whoever gets there first in the morning gets a point, and whoever loses has to buy Starbucks for the winner.

*This one goes out to all of you who have mocked my inclination toward flannel pattern shirts: a girl in one of my classes asked me, "Mr. Haggar, when that shirt gets too small for you, can I have it?" But, while on the subject of wardrobe, students in this class also pointed out that I only seem to ever wear two pairs of pants, which is an accurate observation.

*As of October 1, Mr. Williams still does not have enough books for all the students in one of his English classes.

*I left my room during my free period; as I did, I saw a female teacher entering the bathroom, which is right next to the steps that lead to the fifth floor. I went down the stairs, got the copies I needed from the printer, and was walking back toward the stairs. As I walked, I heard footsteps coming down the stairs. Thinking that the footsteps undoubtedly belonged to the aforementioned female bathroom enterer, I waited until right when she would have been on the second-to-last step, and then I jumped through the doorway to the stairwell, right into her path, and yelled. It was not the female teacher who I'd seen moments earlier. It was the middle-aged, Korean-speaking janitor, who uttered a startled cry, but then laughed. Now it's awkward when we see each other.

*Thesis statements for papers that got written and turned in: "Why I hate the soccer team Manchester United," "Why I hate my school uniform," "Korea should have garage sales, too!" These rock, and so does this sentence that wrapped another solid essay: "To me whoever invented ice cream is a genius. I feel sad for the people who lived before it was made."

*I think that my bathroom door was stolen from a public restroom and placed in my current apartment: