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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Just the Facts, Ma'am, Just the Facts.

It is testing time again, but this time it is my test.  I have time to write because my students are spread out, well behaved, and still right in front of me if I just look over the computer monitor.

My Uncle Bob complimented me on my last post, but asked for pictures of the kids.  Though I am writing this in the afternoon at school, I will post it later tonight from my home PC and tack on some pictures.  They will not match up with much of what I am posting, but that's OK.

No deep thoughts today.  My brain is not working in deep levels right now.  As Friday says, "Just the facts, Ma'am, just the facts."

Right.  As if any human being were capable of delivering facts completely divorced from emotion and interpretation.  Even spreadsheets reveal the expectations of their creators, how much more so our words?

Fact:  Horyon is taking a big, important test on December 8th.  This test is on education in general, and English specifically.  Not the fun kind of English where you communicate ideas and understand the viewpoints of those who have passed before, but phonology, the esoteric specifics of grammar, and the intricacies of translating complicated, stand-alone sentences from English into Korean.  And spelling, I think.

Fact:  Horyon took a big, important test on October 26th, just three weeks ago.  This test was on Korean history, covering... I don't know.  I assume it goes all the way back to when Koreans invented the knife, fire and kimchi.

Fact:  These tests are necessary for her to change positions from a temporary teacher to a permanent teacher.  In Korean schools, temporary teachers can be released from their contracts at the end of the school year for no reason.  Permanent teachers have the metaphorical brass ring, and may continue the ride until they turn 65.  Firing them is difficult unless they have done something very foolish.  Permanent teachers pay into a pension fund that is quite generous, while temporary teachers pay into a giant envelope under a giant mattress, I believe.  (I am willing to concede that this may not be an actual, true fact.)  Permanent teachers get to rock around the clock, shake their booty, feel the noize, get jiggy with it, and produce milkshakes which are indubitably better than yours.  Temporary teachers are low-quality Kenny G. covers.  In other words, these tests are Important with a capital I.

Fact:  Horyon does not take any tests lightly.  She's like the academic equivalent of a hard-boiled detective with brass knuckles in one pocket and a snub-nosed pistol in the other.  She figures out what she needs to know, then grabs its throat like a bull dog, never letting go until it is either limp in her grasp or she is called back by her master, Time: the master of us all.  For these Important tests, she is dialing it up to 11.

Fact:  Studying in the Sack Family home is difficult, due to the affections and needs for affection from the two shortest members of the family.  (Though Maxine may be looking to move up in the height rankings within the next couple of years.)  Our kids play well together for stretches of time, sometimes upwards of ten minutes without yelling, hitting or crying.  However, they frequently do things which seem to require the attention of a parent.  Sometimes this requirement is of an urgent nature, to avoid serious bodily harm or rifts in time and space, and sometimes it is more of an emotional requirement.  There are even occasional nutritional and medical requirements (e.g. snacks and owies).  These requirements can sometimes be stalled by allowing them to view a DVD, but inevitably the period following that viewing is used to make up for the previous 90 minutes without interruption.

Fact:  Horyon's parents' home has a computer room that does not get used much.  It has a big desk.  It is a good place to study.  Horyon has been going to her parents home after work and staying there until 10 or 11 p.m.  Sometimes later.  Since they take care of the kids for some time every day, and feed them dinner three or four times a week, they get to see their mother during dinner time.  Maybe even a little time before and after.

Fact:  By the time Horyon comes home from studying, I have put the kids in bed and tried to get some housework done.  Horyon has been awake for about 45 minutes longer than I have, but I am usually more tired.

Fact:  I am carrying around decidedly more weight than Horyon is, while she is carrying around more cuteness than I am.  I am also trying to do all of the dishes so that she does not have to.  By itself, washing dishes is a soul-draining exercise for me, but listening to podcasts while doing it keeps me entertained enough to not mind the work and dishpan hands.

Fact:  A normal day for us includes about 15 minutes of conversation, most of it just after or before one of is sleeping.  We send a couple of text messages if needed, and talk on the phone if it is urgent.  On a good day we will sit and talk after she gets home, adding another 15 minutes.

Fact:  I miss my wife.

Well, there you go.  How facty was that last one?  Not very.  But my last student is almost finished with her test, and I need to wrap this up.

I'll tack some pictures on before I post this.  Horyon twisted or sprained her ankle on a school field trip, and she took a great picture of her foot while getting acupuncture treatment.  Enjoy.
Quinten's new favorite game: Pregnancy.

Horyon's new favorite game: Needlework.

Maxine's new favorite game: Spying.

She has a combination of Rob and Horyon's teeth.

Scary Monster!  Quinten-made Mask!

We scored us a Christmas tree!

Maxine eating Japanese noodles that SHE MADE!   IN JAPAN!
She was so good they offered her a job!

Sleeping for two.  Don't worry, I took the pillow out after taking the picture.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Where are you from? Really?

This week four of my classes have had to take mock TOEIC tests.  The TOEIC (Test Of English for International Communication)  is a 200 multiple-guess test with a 45 minute listening section and 45 minutes of reading questions.  I don't know about the real deal, but our mock version's listening section is crazy difficult, and the reading comprehension part is riddled with mistakes.

My school sets the value of this test at 10% of the grade I give to my students.  So I do.  I tell them that if they put their name and student number on their paper I will give them 8 out of those 10 points.  I then give 9 points to the students who score in the top 20% of each class and 10 points to those who score in the top 10%.

It is an embarrassing waste of time.  I could be doing so much with this time, when the semester total is only 15 class sessions.  Seems like a lot of time, but then you have to subtract this TOEIC test, the first day of classes with abysmal attendance, the midterm, the week off while the Korean professors give midterms, the final, festival, national holidays, and student field trips. This leaves some classes with a total of six teaching days, though some have as many as nine.

My favorite listening question so far:  "What will kids receive when they sit on Santa's lap?" I'm sure it made sense in the context of the story, but I had to cover my laugh with a small cough.

Yes, I am writing this post in the middle of administering this mocked test.

I decided that it is a better use of my time than just reading on my Kindle, which I've done for the previous three classes.  And so I am writing about Maxine's week off from school.  (Her school has fall break this week.)

Maxine's friend at school is Japanese, and her visa was about to expire, so she had to renew it.  Due to extremely clever planning by Korean Immigration, many foreigners living in Korea can only renew their visas at a Korean embassy or consulate.  Since the definitions of embassy and consulate include being in another country, this means spending the money for a plane or boat ticket and accommodations as well as the visa fee itself.  How is that for friendly and welcoming?

Anyway, Maxine's friend, Macheeyae (not sure of the spelling) has to renew her visa.  She is travelling with her mother, Maxine and Macheeyae's teacher, and her son and mother.  Since three adults were going, the ferry tickets are not expensive, and they are staying with relatives, they invited Maxine to come along.  Horyon was not thrilled with the idea, wondering if the radiation could cause long-term health problems, but they are not going North, and are staying for just 3 days and 2 nights.  I thought it sounded like a fantastic experience, and was actually kind of jealous: I didn't leave America until I was 24 years old, and now Maxine is taking in her third country.

They left Wednesday morning and should be back in Korea just about now (5:00 on Friday).  I am excited to hear about her experience, though the 8-year-old point of view on these things is quite different from a more adult perspective.  She was very excited about going, though she said she would miss us.  I think it was probably more like an extended sleepover, with late nights and giggling and junk food.  Maybe she will have some new favorite snacks from Japan?

Maxine already has some basic ideas about how Korea and America are different.  While I was growing up, the idea of cultural differences was like knowing the difference between conditions on Earth and Mars: all theoretical.  As I got older, the ideas grew as well, but I did not and could not really understand what culture was about until I left my own to live in another.  Likewise, I did not really learn another language until I was in my 20's.  (I don't count the 8 weeks of Spanish I took in jr. high.  Lo siento Senora Elmer!  Thank you Google Translate!)  I consider myself to be more aware of the world at large than most people I grew up with, but Maxine and Quinten are growing up to be seriously international, citizens of the world!  How can that not be exciting?

I imagine that when she grows up and people ask her "Where are you from?" she will either say, "I was just at the store." or, "When a mommy and a daddy love each other very much..."  Because a straight answer to the intention of the question could get pretty complicated.  And what sort of answer will her children give?

It makes me happy to realize that there are more and more people with complicated answers to this question.  It takes me back to my Peace Corps days.

When I joined the Peace Corps in 1993 (20 years ago this month!) I learned that the Peace Corps was established with three goals (if you don't count siphoning off young dissidents):  1) training people to help themselves 2) teaching those people about Americans, and 3) teaching Americans about people in other countries.  Though I haven't been in Nepal for many years, I feel like these goals have woven themselves into my life.  I believe that this blog helps some of you to better understand Korea (3rd goal), my daily interactions help Koreans better understand Americans (1st goal), and one goal of my teaching is to help my students to know how to learn English, so that they can improve on their own.

In the end, the world will be a better place if more people better understand the world outside of their country's borders, because the better you understand someone, the harder it is to hate them and the easier it is to cooperate with them.  That's my dream for my kids.

I believe that they will be attracted to the different because wherever they go they will be the different.  When they see conflict their first reaction is to build bridges, not walls.

My intention is that they will seek out new life and new civilizations, boldly going where no one has gone before.  Mostly with their tricorders out rather than their phasers, of course.

And now, the last student has turned in his test, so the essay writing portion of today is finished.



Friday, October 25, 2013

Faith (a poem)

If you want a faith that you do not have to struggle with, the solution is simple:
Grab it by the throat and squeeze.

When it can no longer eat or drink or breathe
its resistance will falter, weaken and cease.

It will lie there limply,
not moving, not changing, not growing,
and never challenging you to change.

You must take care to properly preserve it:
drain the meaning from the rituals,
replace the organs of flesh with improved ones:
organs of wood, stone or iron.
Put it on a pedestal under glass
so that no one can approach it or touch it,
perhaps inadvertently breathing life back into it.

Because in the end, the only faith that doesn't grow you,
that doesn't challenge you,
that doesn't bring you to tears or your knees...

The only safe faith is a dead one.

Of course, safe for you is not necessarily safe for those around you.

Consider yourself warned.

Monday, September 30, 2013

RadioLab--Dear Hector

A few days ago I was doing the dishes.  It was late at night, Horyon and the kids were sleeping.  I was listening to a podcast from a program called RadioLab, and the episode was called "Blame."  The whole episode was very good, though also disturbing.  The first part of the show was largely focused on brain chemistry, and why we do destructive things even when we don't want to.  This led well into the last segment of the show, Dear Hector.  I have to warn you, this is not a piece to listen to lightly, or if you are in a sensitive mood. I don't want to take away any of the impact of the story by sharing the details, but I feel that I must warn you that there is very frank talk about a violent crime. I was just listening because I get bored doing the dishes, but I was in tears by the end of the program.

I had trouble finding it when I searched the site a few days later.  The word "blame" had not stayed with me at all.  When most of the details of the story had melted away in my memory, the solid core that I was left with was forgiveness.  Hector is one of those people who has taken forgiving to a level that is incomprehensible to most of us, myself included.  Hand in hand with forgiveness he brings humility to the table.  Not a slobbering, self-deprecating humility, but a genuine, Christ-like humbleness.  Everyone around him questions him, and encourages him to follow the wisdom of the world, but he doesn't.

I have not listened again, but I believe that Hector only mentions his faith in passing.  His actions speak louder than his words.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Most Surprising Additive

Recently I learned that there is something we all add to our food that makes salt, pepper, MSG and curry powder completely irrelevant.  It makes food addictively tasty, and not adding it leaves most foods unappetizing, or even disgusting.  I recently discovered the amazing powers of this incredible additive when I failed to add it.

By now you may have some guesses regarding the identity of this additive, but in case you have not, I will supply a few more clues.

A few days before my discovery we took Maxine and some of her school friends swimming at a big, indoor water park.  It was very fun for the kids, and I had fun as well.  I swam a couple of laps in an Olympic sized swimming pool, which wore me out.  The next day my neck and jaw hurt.  I figured that I had overdone it on an exercise that I don't do regularly enough.  I stretched as much as I could, but the next day the pain was worse; it hurt to open my mouth wide enough to eat, and the sides of my face were red and puffy.  I looked like me two years ago before losing more than 30 pounds.

Horyon was guessing that I had mumps, but I was pretty sure that the mumps was a disease out of history, like polio or the black plague.  She was actually pretty close: I had a viral salivary gland infection, which is a good description of mumps, only this wasn't mumps.

The doctor prescribed medicine, and I started looking on the internet.  Unfortunately, the virus must have been looking as well, because it figured out what it should have been doing: blocking the production of saliva.  Of course, saliva is the one thing we all add to our food, the moment we take a bit.  And until you have tried eating without it, you cannot realize what a difference it makes.

Of course soups are fine without saliva, as are a few other naturally wet foods: watermelon, oranges, ice cream,  But pretty much everything else takes a quick detour from dessert to desert; it was like chewing on a mouthful of cotton.  And so with every mouthful of food I took a sip of water.  Sounds like a good solution, but water is most definitely not saliva.  My food was moist, but not flavorful.

I spent almost a week not really tasting much, struggling to chew, and swallowing with difficulty.  As it happens, God was simultaneously using this disease to not only give my immune system a workout, but to give me a physical reminder of the daily spiritual additives that I need: prayer and reading the Bible.

I am embarrassed to write this, but when summer vacation started I completely lost my routine of reading and memorizing scripture.  As it lost this additive, my life also began to lose flavor and moisture, but in a more insidious way than my food did.  Instead of the Bible, I spent time reading other books, watching some videos, and playing a few computer games.  Like sipping water with my food, it sufficed.  Unlike food without saliva, I quickly grew accustomed to my revised (non)spiritual diet.  Once my kids went on vacation, I didn't even think about making Bible time, it just slipped in occasionally.

Thankfully God keeps looking for me, the shepherd seeking that one foolish lamb that keeps wandering off.  I needed a reminder that my daily bread can easily lose its taste.

On a final note, thanks Mark Pedal for asking me how the Roblog is going.  Gave me the impetus to sit down and finish this post.  Because if you can't stay up until 2:40 during vacation, when can you?

Monday, July 15, 2013

Why I Ride

Today I rode my bike with Maxine to her school.  It is oddly inspiring to ride behind her, watching her scrawny legs pump away, her bike wiggling like she does, the sidewalk racing by.  Any day that we eliminate two trips in the car (because I have to go back to pick her up) is a good day for me, and knowing that I am building healthy habits for both of us makes me feel better as well.

After dropping her off, I rode up Igi-Dae.  I tried a new route today that ended up being more mountain bikey than I like.  I ended up carrying my bike over some steps and pushing it up some nasty bits.  However, I was inspired by the scenery, and decided to stop and try to capture the feeling of my ride to better communicate it to my readers.  So here are the pictures I took.  I didn't take pictures of the more urban bits.  Sometimes they are beautiful as well, but I often feel rushed in the concrete jungle.

Map of the park.  My route followed the orange line along the shore.

A view from the first summit of Igidae.

First glimpse of Oryukdo.

Riding doesn't seem so hard when you can look around and see sights like this.

Man made frame for a natural view.

Closer view of Oryukdo.

Now I'm climbing on the railing in a most unsafe manner.

Wave for the camera!  (Sorry)

Bumpy, but ridable.  Though not for long.

Looking back down the track.  No little green bag.

Yeah, I rode this.  I need a mountain bike for days like this.

The actual shore is out of sight, but the sense of a boundary is here.

Sea and stone, permanence in motion, permanence at rest.

I had to get off and push up this one.

Made it to the rest stop, map and vending machine!

I chugged me some Gatorade and got some shade and rest.

The sea side exercise area near our home, my cool-down ride.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Summer Movies!

Summer is movie season, though for me that hasn't been true for the past few years.  This year I'm making up for lost time.  I've seen four movies in three different theaters in the past month!  And at CGV this summer, movies starting before 1:00 are only 5,000 won, a great deal for people capable of getting out of bed early enough.  I'm eating way too much popcorn and drinking way too much Coke, but I am having a lot of fun.  I'm enjoying myself enough that today I'm just going to write about the movies I've seen recently.  I'll be dropping spoilers on "Iron Man 3", "Star Trek: Into Darkness", "White House Down", and "Man of Steel", so if you are even slower than I am to get to the movies, you might want to skip this bit.  If you are interested in more deep thoughts, this might not be the post to read.

Horyon and I saw Iron Man 3 on opening day.  This was not a deliberate attempt to be a fan boy, but a confluence of circumstances: Horyon had the afternoon off, most of the movies available were Korean.  I enjoyed the original Iron Man, but hadn't seen IM2 or The Avengers.  It didn't hurt.  I watched them on video later, and they filled in some gaps, but the movie was still enjoyable.  I just had trouble with the ending: I don't care how rich Tony Stark is, breaking all those suits was just plain stupid.  Once you realize that you are in a world with hostile aliens and Gods that stop in to visit and the Incredible Hulk, it just doesn't make sense to throw away your best defense in a fireworks display to propose to your girlfriend, who just sort of became a superhero.  I've heard that Robert Downey Jr. has agreed to be Iron Man again, so I guess he'll make some more suits.

A couple of weeks ago I saw "Star Trek: Into Darkness" with my friend, Lewis.  I had to go to two different theaters, but I caught it on the big screen!  I saw it in regular old 2D, missing out on both 3D and 4D, but at least I managed to find one of them fancy theaters with the color projector.  The movie itself was very good, better than the previous one.  Of course, Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan was better than Star Trek 1: The Motion Picture, then it went downhill.  Hopefully the new franchise will not follow that trend.  Ideally it will spawn a Star Trek tv series with the same cast.  There were some good action scenes, great special effects, and not too much technobabble, but there was also some serious character development in this movie.  Spock and Uhura's relationship was fleshed out more, Kirk's There were some scenes that were in homage to The Wrath of Khan; tastefully done, and not so hooked on those scenes that new viewers would be confused.  I liked bringing Section 31 (the Federations secret service) into the big picture; this rebooted federation is a lot darker and more paranoid than the old version.  I don't think Gene Roddenberry would be too happy with it, but a government that keeps secrets and prepares its own weapons of mass destruction feels not only possible, but somewhat inevitable.  It is very interesting to see the Star Trek material being treated by people who grew up watching the originals, yet are not so attached to it that they can surprise the audience.

Yesterday Horyon and I saw "White House Down."  My goal was to see the new Superman movie, but it had moved on.  I might have picked "World War Z", but Horyon told me she didn't want to see a scary movie.  I bought tickets to "Big Picture", a drama about a man who takes the place of his murder victim and learns some kind of lessons about himself, but turns out it is a French movie with Korean subtitles.  We walked out after the opening credits, and the theater people were kind enough to exchange our tickets.  Luckily, we were in time to sit through all the advertising again.  The movie itself was entertaining enough.  If you haven't seen it, you might consider just watching the first couple of Die Hard movies, because this could have been a sequel:  The hero's name was John, he was divorced, he was the lone opponent of a big group of bad guys (until the President joins him, because couldn't you kick more ass if the president was helping out?), he stripped down to his undershirt, he took way more beating than he should have been able to, the bad guys were ridiculously well armed and planned, the hostages included someone John loved (his daughter), there was some classical music played, there were explosions.  Lots of explosions, and shooting guns, and Black Hawk helicopters and a tank and...  I wasn't too thrilled with their characterization of the President.  Jamie Foxx played President Walker.  He was a little slow on the uptake sometimes, but maybe that's realistic for a president who is not a combat veteran.  It wouldn't have been my first choice, but maybe I'll go see the zombies get nuts next week.

I saw "Man of Steel" this morning all by myself today.  It was produced by Christopher Nolan, who directed the latest Batman trilogy.  Like Batman, Superman has become a character with more depth than we are used to seeing (with apologies to my comic-reading friends, who will no doubt lecture me on the advantages of their medium of choice).  I liked that the movie started on Krypton and stayed there for a while.  It very much emphasized that Superman is an alien.  True, he's from a planet that just happens to have people who look just like us, a very Golden Age of Science Fiction approach, but let's face it:  it is very generous to put Superman in the SF tent.  Flying?  Heat vision?  Absorbing strength from the sun because it is very young compared to Krypton's?  Fine, I'll take them all, because I like fantasy too.  I was there for the story, and was not disappointed.  It felt like the most realistic application of Superman's powers that I've ever seen: he is just casually aware of everything nearby, seeing through anything in front of him easily, but sometimes missing things coming from behind.  The super-speed thing got annoying at times, hard to follow, but I suppose that real super speed would be that way.  I thought that the reactions of normal people to the idea of a Superman were well done, as well.  It took an alien invasion for him to go public, and now that he is, everyone is just going to have to deal with it.  I did find one thing disturbing: I wish that they had more directly addressed the hundreds of people who must have been killed in the background while Superman fought with Zod.  Seeing what Nolan did with Batman, it is likely that he is taking this into consideration for the sequel, which can't come soon enough for me.

I had the feeling today that I am living in a good time for movies.  Special effects have become cheap enough that movie makers are no longer relying on them alone to make their movies work.  However, there is one boundary that has been hard for Hollywood to cross:  main characters who are good guys don't die.  White House Down was a bit exceptional.  There were a slew of characters with names and some backgrounds at the beginning, but once the action started most of the "old friends" didn't last long.  Two made it more than half-way through the movie, long enough to make a bit of an impression.  Not bad, Hollywood.  We're starting to see the Game of Thrones effect, to a very minor extent.

As I mentioned, in Superman the body count must have been in the quadruple digits: multiple building collapses in Metropolis, gravity tricks (that only affected cars and stuff, but not people?  Oh yeah, fantasy, almost forgot), super battles at street level, bad guys who are already working on a genocide project so don't mind squishing some humans on the way there.  But the Superman origin story has the death of Pa Kent, it's expected.  In Man of Steel, this death was brought to the screen in such a meaningful way that I cried a bit, even though he was played by Kevin Costner.

Iron Man 3?  Nope.  If anyone (other than black-hat dudes) died there, I'm afraid that I don't remember.  I'm sure there were casualties, but at least the final battle was in a shipyard at night.

Star Trek is last for two reasons: first because it's Star Trek.  You can't kill the regulars:  Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, Uhura, Sulu, they have to make it.  Carol Marcus was thrown into the mix in this movie, and I think they will keep her around long enough to have Kirk's son because that's an emotional lever you can't afford to not pull at least once ("Klingon ba**ard killed my son!").  So I wasn't expecting to see anyone die, and it would have been a cheap shot to have Carol Marcus die, because the non-Trekkie audience wouldn't have seen it as a big deal.  The second reason is who they didn't kill:  Kahn.  They put him back in cryogenic suspension, foreseeing the need for a plot device in the future.  Because he was an awesome plot device.  He crashed a starship into San Francisco because it was the easiest way for him to get from orbit to the ground.  It bordered on unbelievable that Khan didn't escape, but it helped to emphasize that Kirk and his crew are working together well and becoming more awesomer.   Khan is a worthy foe, and if we can see him again after Kirk has more experience under his belt, it could be quite a match.  So the lack of death can be forgiven.  Of course, by "lack of death" I mean other than all the Klingons (oh yeah, it had Klingons!), a room full of captains and admirals, and whomever was unfortunate enough to be in the path of the starship that Khan slammed into San Francisco.

So in conclusion, I love my new job.  It gives me time to go to the movies!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Now that's a pretty big Pinocchio.

As I was coming to work on May 7th, I saw something unusual.
 Some guys were putting together a giant Pinochio.
 I stopped and talked with them a while, and took some pictures.  These guys were the fabricators, out of Oregon, I believe.  As soon as they email me the truth, I will correct my post!
It was a bit surreal, seeing the wooden boy who longs to be real, fully realized in bronze, and laid out like a prizefighter.
 I would have liked to talk more, but I had a class to teach.

I was very happy to come back the next week and see that P. was on his feet.
 I thought to myself, I need to get someone to take my picture as I'm being trod upon by this demonically animated marionette.
 I would have looked awesome under those stylish boots.
 I was also fortunate to meet the artist who designed this work.
 Being a total numbskull, I didn't write down his name.  I'll have to add it once the fabricators email me.
 This was how it looked as I went in to class.
 By the time I came out, the landscaping guys had started to unload.  No chance for my dream photo shoot.
 By the following week, the landscaping was complete, and the artists had returned to their country of origin.
 And we are left with this reminder...
 That once...
 The gods strode among us...
In Centum City.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Ride and Embarrassing Moment

Today I rode with Maxine to her school, came home, got my act together, then rode to my Tuesday class.  It's only a 15 minute ride to the Centum City campus.  My other classes are all across town, probably a 90 minute ride on six-lane streets with cars and smog and yech.

After class I rode up the river a bit, then went to Costco.  I've been needing real cheese for some time, but not enough to pay the high prices for imports elsewhere.  I got a block of sharp cheddar, monterey jack, and a bag of shredded Mexican cheese (yeah, I'm sure Mexico is proud of that one).  I also got a three pack of bacon, because a house without bacon is like... not good.

So I'm checking out with about 40,000 won (~$35) worth of food, and about 70,000 won  in my pocket.  Surprise!  I need to renew my membership!  Taking my total up to 74,260 won.  I have exactly 74,000 in my wallet, so I did through my backpack to find the coins needed to finish this transaction.  I don't usually spend much time wondering what other people think of me (as my friends well know), but this time I had extra time on my hands: I had to pull my pants out of my backpack and unroll them, then dig in the pockets for change, roll them back up, and pack pants, cheese and bacon into my bag.  I was imagining the thoughts going through the cashier's mind as she smiled at me and rebuffed my apologies:

"Wow, this crazy American has NO idea what he's doing, he barely has enough money, he's disorganized, he smells bad, and he's buying a bunch of bacon and cheese.  Stupid Americans."

My only consoling thought is that she might have assumed I was a Canadian.

The good news is that I saw a giant Pinochio...

With the arrogance born of high stature, he
stode the city, a giant among men.
 and a giant onion thing...
It would be so cool if we got some translucent plastic
and made a giant onion!
 with a disco ball inside.
We could light it up at night and have
dances inside!
Life is sweet, is it not?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Bicyclist in Training

On Wednesday May 22nd, 2013 Maxine and I rode our bikes to her school in the morning, then back home in the evening.  The distance for our route is about 4.5 km (2.8 miles), keeping to bike paths, wide sidewalks, and very occasionally riding on roads when there is no other choice.  It took us a bit over 40 minutes to get there.  Thursday we cut it down to 35 minutes.

Maxine's teacher told me that Maxine was not as active as usual in the morning, but seemed fine in the afternoon.  I'm guessing that if we do this regularly, she will become a monster, with just as much energy as before after taking 20 minutes to ride to school.  Now I have to slow myself down to keep down with her (is that a proper expression?).  She maxes out at about 20 kph (12 mph).

This makes me unbelievably happy.  I want her to enjoy biking like I do, so that we can bike together, and so far we are on target.

But Thursday night Maxine was wiped out.  She is normally somewhat moody, but that night she was just a mess.  In hindsight, we should have aimed to put her in bed by 8 or so, to give her body a chance to recover from all that bike-muscle building, but we didn't.  I had to go teach a class and didn't get home until 9, Horyon came home at her usual time, around 7, so the kids had dinner late and didn't get into bed until after 10.  Horyon was frustrated with Maxine's moodiness, and her own moodiness kicked in, and she handed down a ruling:  No biking to school two days in a row.  Probably a good idea, at least until she builds up some endurance.

I'm a bit sore, after two days in a row.  After dropping Maxine off, I did some riding of my own on both days.  Wednesday I rode Igi-dae, my old warm-up ground.  I consider it a baseline of sorts: if I can make it all the way around the car road without having to stop and push .  I did it.  Minor woop.  So on Thursday when I got up to the walking trail (that is mostly paved, and has some seriously steep slopes), I decided to give it a go.

I had to get off the bike three times to push it up hills that were calling me a sissy boy and stealing my lunch money.

So now I've got two goals to work towards:

1)  I will get back my hill-climbing biking body, legs, lungs and head.
2)  I will get Maxine on her bike as much as she can take, and give her the life-long love of it that I had forgotten for so long.

And my other goal, of putting random pictures with every blog post, is coming along nicely, thank you.

Maxine and her posse be workin' the wild strawberries, yo.

Horyon takes the best pictures of the kids.
They just look extra cute for her.

Maxine is quick to lead the way up the trees.

And Quinten is following in Maxine's footsteps
as far as climbing goes.

A Brief Introduction

Roblog is my writing lab. It is my goal to not let seven days pass without a new post. I welcome your criticism, as I cannot improve on my own.

Here is a link to my cung post, which remains the only word which I have ever invented, and which has not, as far as I know, caught on. Yet.