Sunday, May 22, 2011

Tripping Seniors

Between Saturday, May 13, and Monday, May 15, 2011, the senior class of Centennial Christian School went on a school-sanctioned trip to Jeju Island, which a) is off the southern coast of mainland Korea b) is overrun with black pigs, seafood, and Winnie b) was visited by a few of us a month or two ago.

Lord knows well enough couldn't be left alone, so, even though the trip was mainly during weekend days, two chaperons were elected from the vast plethora of those available. After weeks of discussion and several heated debates, one male supervisor and one female supervisor were chosen to attend the senior trip and make sure things didn't get out of hand. The elected were: Taylor Lautner and Sandara Park! Hurray!

Just kidding. The school secretary Miss Ahn and I were picked. So we left with the kiddies Saturday morning and came back with them Monday night. Between those two points in time, the group did many things, including but not limited to...

...bumper cars. To be honest, the "cars" were more like inner tubes with wheels. And LSD. The steering was tricky, the acceleration was mediocre, and the whiplash factor did not rate with some of the other vehicular activities in which we participated. Read on.

...Survivor. Not like the kind you watch with your family calmly during the evening on television. The kind with guns. It was basically a BB gun war between the two teams our group was divided into. It was fairly violent, although the most serious injuries I incurred were from tripping and falling on my own, which hurt a little but probably didn't solicit as much pain as the team I was on (Camo Team) inflicted on the other [losing] team. Boom.

...fireworks. Duh. The students purchased the Roman candle type that you can hold in your hand and feel like a wizard with. We shot them off the end of a long pier in the night and probably spent way too much money on them. No matter. There were no casualties aside from people hitting others with the extinguished fire shafts, but everyone almost got killed when someone lit mine and I pointed it skyward, only to be told, "Mr. Haggar, you're holding it by the wrong end!" I didn't know; fireworks are illegal in Iowa. No one took any pictures of the fireworks, so here are two random photos from the trip:

...Trick Art Museum. There were two parts: one was inside and was a conglomeration of cleverly-designed photo opportunities. Amusing. Probably your best bet is to just check out the pictures below; the English language won't do this establishment justice, especially considering my weaksauce command of it. The second part was a bunch of fake plants and animals outside. They had many animals but had no lions, lions being our school's mascot. Dang. Copious amounts of food. We had lots of seafood, for which some students had to give me a how-to tutorial, and we also dined on black pig, which is an animal exclusive to Jeju-do. The first night the students cooked up an enormous barbecued meal at our resort. I did nothing to contribute except cheer. And consume.

...go karts. Just like you'd experience them anywhere else in the world. I know I have exposed my incompetence at not falling and at shooting fireworks in this post already, so let the record show: I wasted everyone in this activity. Never mind that I was the only one in the group who's had a driver's license for nine years.

...the Ripley's Believe It Or Not Museum. This was the only overlap between my prior trip to Jeju and this one. But you know it's always a pleasure being shocked and alarmed at some of the things humanity is capable of.

...waterfalls. To be honest, I was the only one who saw the waterfalls. There were a couple different vantage points at the watery attraction for which we paid, and after the first one (pictured below), which completely and utterly lacked any falling water, the rest of the group didn't have any interest in lumbering up and down stairs to see the other two - but I did. So I ran around and saw them. They were okay. Didn't rate with Niagara, I mean, but. There was also a mongo bridge that provided maybe the best view of all.

...ATVs. It seemed like a blast from the past, back to rural Minnesota where all the CMCS boys had four-wheelers. The course we went to was complex and rocky but fun nonetheless. There were eleven or twelve of us driving, so a couple of us real men wisely separated ourselves from the group and got to go around unencumbered by a herd of others. I didn't flip mine.

...a jet boat ride. Um this was exactly what it sounds like, I think. A speedboat that some dude took us out on the ocean in. He did a couple sharp turns and blew up a bunch of wake and everyone loved it. It was fast and simple, just like Carlos Gomez.

..."Saw 6." If you go to Jeju-do, don't watch this.

...beautiful coastal regions. There were lighthouses, rocks to be thrown, horses, and filming sites from Korean dramas that had been shot at certain spots. And cool views of the land and seascape, which was the main thing. At one spot, all the seniors were down by the water and I was back behind them a ways on a hill. Everyone was laughing and throwing rocks into the water and splashing and talking smack and illegally collecting sand and having a good time. My thoughts went back through the last calendar year that I'd spent with this group, a time during which they'd gone through the hell that was being a junior and senior in Korea: applying for top name universities, taking an endless lineup of standardized tests, completing everything we teachers could throw at them academically, participating in various extracurricular activities, and just generally standing up under a grossly unhealthy amount o' pressure. That had all been hard to watch. But there and then at that beach they were all so carefree. Seeing them at that moment made me glad.

...the beach. Here we went for an hour and bummed around. Most of the boys ended up in the water. They decided that I'd better end up in the water, too, so they threw me into it. A couple others got chucked seaward as well. Then they threw sand and seaweed and crabs at each other for a while. Everything a good experience at the beach needs.

...buggies. Okay. Korea is a pretty safe place, so this was the first time I had serious concern for my physical well-being. The cause: we basically rode in dune buggies around a driving track. The course itself was a nightmare. There were huge rocks and boulders all over the place right next to the path. There were some underpasses; one was protected by tires, thank God, but two others were not at all! They were just walls of sharp stony death. There were large pipes protruding from the ground; there were tires that were meant to protect but just ended up adding to the number of obstacles to run into; there were trees with support beams taking up space. For the most part, I try not to be an ethnocentric Western tourist, but I could not help but think about how many lawsuits any driving course like this would solicit in the States. Anyway. We geared up and got in. I figured I'd just go along for the ride; I got in with one dude and as we roared off, I casually asked him, "So, have you driven much?" He said, "No." And then we crashed violently off the dirt track. The course supervisor had to come pull us out. The next half hour was absolute mayhem. The tales of woe from my buggy riding experience included smashing into one of the aforementioned pipes but then pulling ourselves out on our own (woot woot!); almost destroying another buggy that had gotten stuck on a hairpin turn - my experience getting cars stuck in snowbanks in Iowa came in handy at this point; driving off the road and back onto it at a different point but not knowing if we were going the right or wrong way - so at every turn I was peeing in my pants, hoping we wouldn't die in a head-on collision; and rolling over a tire full of [likely stagnant, poisonous] gross water that splashed all over us. Those were all pretty bad, but the worst was going under one of the underpasses. My driver got too close to the stone wall and one side of our buggy crashed into it, jarring us violently all over the place. I figured we'd stop and recover for a second, but instead of halting, our buggy kept roaring forward, and while the student with me was screaming, "Get off!" Get off!", we plowed straight off the road, into the underbrush, over the next road, and finally came to a panting halt in a ditch seven hundred miles away. I didn't want to be too critical of the young lad's driving considering that it was his first time out, but I did yell, "What the crap! Why didn't we stop?" And he yelled, "Your foot! Why didn't you take your stupid American foot off the gas pedal?" Because that was where it had landed after the initial run in with the underpass wall. Oops. But we were alive, and that was the main thing. After that the dude let/made me drive; later I heard him comment, "Mr. Haggar's driving was smooth," a statement that has never been said before, ever, by anyone. Eventually we made it back to the pit stop, where we heard the stories of the others. One girl had gone with a guy and said he was "completely insane." Another guy said, "My foot didn't leave the gas the whole time"; he also pointed out that he'd wrecked two buggies. Like, they didn't work anymore and were still out on the course somewhere. A third tandem had come in because it was time to be done but had asked if they could go around one more time; the dudes who owned the place said, "We don't want you guys to drive anymore." As we stood around comparing wounds and sharing stories, we saw, in the distance, the figures of the last two students who had gone out driving; they were walking up the road toward us, the dust and sun silhouetting them perfectly. Everyone stopped and stared at them in awful wonder. When they reached us, they said they'd obviously crashed (it turns out it was into the tree with the support beams); we asked how bad it was, and the dude who'd been driving said that he couldn't get out unless he crawled through the passenger side. The end. If that place has a blacklist, I guarantee that CCS is now on it. At the top.

Overall, let's be honest: it was an awesome trip. For one thing, all the stuff we did was sweet and fun, even/especially the buggy riding. For another thing, all the people who went were sweet and fun; I knew the senior class was a bunch of ballers, but it was even more awesome to get to spend time with them outside of a classroom setting. It was the opposite of school, really: the students took care of everything and they also behaved great. Miss Ahn and I didn't really do anything; we just followed them around and hung out with them. They chose what to do and when. Quite relaxing. I even felt cared for at many different points during the weekend. They'd be grilling and chuck a bunch of meat on my plate, as if to say, "You probably couldn't handle getting this on your own, so here ya go!" Or when I was trying to figure out how to eat a shellfish or some crab, someone would show me the way; on the last day, one dude remarked, "Do I have to teach you how to eat this again, Mr. Haggar?" And he did have to. But they were cool about it. Because they are cool. Thanks for being studs, Yoomi, Jessica, Brian, Joseph, Kyeimin, Kyeihong, Taegyoon, Eugene, Sunkyu, John O, and Andrew! And thanks for letting me come with ya'll. I hope you enjoyed the Jeju excursion as much as I did. And remember, your research papers are due next week.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Throwing in the Towel...Again

To Whom It May Concern:

I have made the executive decision not to return to the high school English teaching position I currently hold at Centennial Christian School next fall*.

Instead of flying back to Seoul in August, I will go to Beijing World Youth Academy** in - you guessed it - Beijing, China, to teach middle school language art classes at that international school.

BWYA appears to be a good school. Beijing appears to be a good city. China appears to be...yeah.

There were several factors. Factor Number One: it's time for me to leave Seoul. Do not get me wrong, I think this place is an awesome city and have greatly enjoyed my time here. But the values in Seoul at large are clashing with my own. Consumerism and obsession with the external...not for me. The things that are considered important here have sadly been getting in the way of things that I consider important.

Factor Number Two: I'm twenty-five, I'm single, I'm unattached. There's plenty of world yet to see, and - while Korea is pretty ballin' - there's more to investigate.

Factor Number Three: I haven't actually heard a lot of awesome things about China in general. It's a communist country. This blog could go on a long-term hiatus. And people don't give a crap about baseball there****. But. But. Things are happening in China. The growing middle class. Rivals that need each other. Etc. As much as we'd all hate to see America challenged for lone superpower status, if it's going to happen, I think that it would be interesting to be on the Chinese end of the affair.

So. Let's keep in touch.

I am processing my decision more and more every day. There were, of course, many good reasons to stay in Seoul as well; everyday stuff happens that makes me second-guess this decision. But. It's time to go. I will most likely write a longer and more boring post about it as I continue to feel it out. There are more details, some serious, some mundane, but those will be put into print at a later date.


Mr. Haggar

*Probably anyone unfortunate enough to be reading this blog is also someone close enough to me to already know about this. Sorry, sorry.

**Sounds like a hagwon but isn't***.

***Do I sound insecure and defensive??

****That article is actually pretty interesting; I mean, who knew Stephon Marbury went to China to play ball? I didn't.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

English Vocabulary Story Assignment

Write a story that follows the plot chart and uses each of the twelve vocabulary words from the present unit.

Mr. Haggar, sweat trickling down his hands, slowly loaded the last two shells into the twelve gauge shotgun. He could hear the door giving in in the distance. The zombies flooded the room and started banging at the door of the musty, secluded storeroom. Then, reason and logic imparted the unavoidable truth to Mr. Haggar's head: he was going to die. But he wasn't going to die alone. He contentedly patted the cans of propane by his sides and stood up to barricade the door with the corpses of his dead comrades.

It had all started when he came back to his classroom at about 9 p.m. to get something he had forgotten in school. As he approached his classroom, he saw a sitting against a wall. He carefully opened the door to find a man in what looked like a police uniform poised against the wall. The shirt, which was once blue, was spotted with blood. Mr. Haggar pondered what he should do. Finally, he approached the man and shook his shoulders, recoiling as the head fell clean off the body. Blood cascaded down his shirt, and a shocked Mr. Haggar realized that what he thought was a bloodstained shirt was not a shirt at all. It was the man's red insides; the whole front part of his body was ripped open. Out of the corner of his eye, Haggar spotted a shotgun, some shells, and a bloodstained note. The note had directions in what to do; it was then that Haggar realized that the school was infested with zombies. Haggar began reciting the note verbatim in order to remember how to get out of this alive. It was then that a zombie walked nonchalantly into the room, showing no indication that it noticed him at all. Haggar stood up, and with trembling hands, shot the zombie in the head. The next few hours were like hell on earth. Haggar ran around the intricately-designed buildings, exterminating zombies while looking for the exit. The zombies were surprised by the brashness with which Haggar approached them and responded with matching fierceness. Along the way, he met several of his students, but they were tragically killed off. Now, Haggar stood alone.

Haggar sighed as the zombies broke through the door. He made a last prayer, and shot the cans of propane next to him. He sat mesmerized by the fireball that began to form in front of his eyes. The school exploded.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Bits and Pieces: March and April Edition


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 actually humorous to anyone except me. Oh, and happy Mother's Day. Mom, I love ya!

*A dude had to give a speech in English class. He went up to the front and began by saying, "Alright, how many of you have Facebook?" Many hands eagerly went up as the audience sensed that an entertaining social networking speech was imminent. He then continued, "Okay, good. Today I'm going to talk about self-defense." And then he gave a wicked good speech on that topic.

*Blanks for "Name" and "Favorite Political Figure of All-Time" appeared at the top of a quiz in English 10. One girl wrote her name and then for the second blank wrote, "Nobody, nobody but you!? Teehee." Another kid wrote his name and then wrote "Hitler." A third student wrote his name and then - thank the Lord - wrote, "Arnold Schwarzenegger."

*In the middle of class, I mentioned Jordan Williams in an affectionate way, and a female student blurted out: "Mr. Haggar, you're so gay."

*A month or so ago, CCS had a spiritual emphasis week. Each day of said week, we sang some songs, the chaplain took prayer requests to compile into a list, and a different teacher began the day by giving his or her testimony to the student body. I gave mine on Tuesday; it involved certain romantic failures and how God took those losses and used them for good. The next day, a prayer request list was printed, and at the top of it was this item: "Mr. Haggar's future wife."

*Next to my school's Xerox machine lies a sheet on which teachers can list problems that they have experienced with the photocopier. My head teacher wrote the following complaints: "A million locusts poured forth from the machine, consuming all in their path, only to return to their master on his obsidian throne" and "All your staples are belong to us!"

*Almost every day after lunch, the boys in the eighth grade class - whom I do not teach - physically block me from passing by them in the hallway to get to my room. There are six or seven of them, and I am weak. Sometimes I sneak by them behind other students, sometimes students from other grades help me through, and sometimes they just plain stop me. And once they picked me up, carried me to my classroom, and dumped me on the floor.

*Different sample sentences taken uncensored from different students' papers and assignments:

1. Have you ever gone through a violent breakup or become dissatisfied with a loved one? Well, I haven't either, but I hear that it is a far from pleasant experience.

2. When the bell rings, I pack my bag along with rest of the boys and all the girls are like ZOOOM and they are running down the hallway to feast in the lunch room. It’s like seeing a zombie running for human food.

3. I shaved his hair nonchalantly without any permission.

4. I imparted my very own secret to elementary kids; I carry honey badgers in my bag.

5. Let us be very realistic on this: the tang of arm pits is never bearable at any time.

6. By the money I made from the cheese factory and museum, I would send 2 tons of cheese to every undeveloped country in the world.

7. Her eccentricity was first seen when she showed everyone how to eat glass and plastic.

8. But old people should also be able to use Facebook. Legally, they are of age. There are no restrictions. If they wanted, old people can register at the click of a button. Also, old people have friends too. They want to meet their old friends, Bob and Mike, instead of wondering what happened to them after Vietnam.

9. Pimples never pay rent for dwelling on my face.

*Last but not least: haikus from AP English:

Dead you are to me
Person I see in the day
Ghost of memory

I bought a goldfish
And got another one too
They were really fast

I am really tired
I want to go home real bad
Kill me now, right now

Eating beans and fries
I walk in a cornfield
And see a beaver

I ate cherry pie
And then I got sick and barfed
Hungry, I ate barf