Thursday, December 9, 2010

Oh, Tannenbaum

It snowed last night - quite a bit actually - but I was determined to head into work on my bike today. I took it rather slow and noticed that cars were thankfully (and surprisingly) doing the same. I've taken a few photos of Dobong-san (Donbong Mountain) from my apartment window by the elevators, but this one is noteworthy because it was the first lasting snow of the season, and it put me in a good mood - along with the fact that I was able to locate one of my favourite Christmas CDs: Wynton Marsalis' Crescent City Christmas Card on itunes. While there I learned that he has a new holiday album from a couple of years ago which is equally great if also a very different feel.

Anyway, with the onset of winter in Korea comes a dryness that is hard to explain. I've lived in Calgary most of my life, and it's dry there through the year, but not like here in the winter. Perhaps it's the "in the winter" that's the problem. Maybe my body gets used to the humidity of the summer and then gets the shock of its life as fall suddenly shifts into the driest climate imaginable. You would think being on a peninsula would mean moisture in the winter, well you would think wrong. It's all about that dry/cold wind from Siberia, blowing down from the North and right into Seoul.

Anyway, a few things suck regarding that: my hands being one of them. They don't even look human - more like they belong to Chief Woodenhead from Creepshow 2. Apply hand butter and hemp hand protector as I do, it's not really helping. Any suggestions? And don't tell me to pee on my hands.

School was okay today - had a few too many students who couldn't even bother to wake-up for Mr. Bean - well, "wake up" isn't really the right term. It was more like they were more invested in being "too cool" for it. "Too cool" for this crew today involved sitting slouched at the desks, arms folded, and pouting while EVERYONE ELSE around them was howling with genuine laughter. Who doesn't like the T-Rex in the manger bit? How could you not? Anyway, this was classic pouty-pout mode - the kind where you want to speak to the student like he's 3: "Come on... why are you so upset? Use your words..." Some students don't take kindly to being told that they can't sit with their friends because they are acting like buffoons and causing a ruckus.

Yesterday, I was notified that we would be having a pizza party for the English Teachers in the English Only Classroom (the one I teach in) after school. This was to mark the last day before grade 1/2 final exams which also happens to be the last day for half of our teachers as they are annually brought in on temporary contracts to assist with level-differentiated classes. After the exams are done, so are they. Some might be back next year, some won't - so I took it as an opportunity to say a little goodbye in the form of a Christmas card and a shortbread cookie from Canada - my mom having sent some of her specialty a couple of days before. They were nuts about the cookies - and don't worry, I have plenty left in the freezer, but I had to use these 10 in an attempt to warm the wintry hearts.

I will just say that I like all of my co-teachers as people, though our teaching styles aren't always on the same page, and we often have greatly differing standards of what we expect from the students. There can be friction, but more often than not, we are genuinely happy to see each other and are supportive of each other's needs etc.

I guess by the distance in the language I'm using, you can glean that we are not the world's most tightly-knit group. True, true. Today was just a chance to say goodbye, really, but being as it is December, I put some traditional carols through the speakers form my ipod, got the table ready near the tree, and had a little card and cookie for each teacher (I also added a small Canadian flag pin to each card just for fun).

It was all fine and good, but in the 30 minutes we were there, I have to say that conversation died more times than I can't count on both hands. Perhaps this shows how often we are all together (ie: never) and reveals that it might be part of our problem.

I know I shouldn't compare my situation to that of others, and I am grateful to the teachers who have gone out of their way to converse with me at lunch time etc., they are all lovely people, but I do feel that there's a great deal missing in terms of the potential social camaraderie that we could be enjoying, and should have been by now. I know it's not just me. Sometimes the right dynamic just doesn't take-hold.

Not to be too negative, but not everything I'm going to write here is going to be sunshine and roses.

But as for the sunshine, got a package in the mail today from Douglas from the 13th floor who now resides in Munster, Germany - that's "Moonster", as I can't seem to find a way to add the funky two-dot punctuation above the "U". It's been my lucky week for packages, that's for sure.

Douglas was kind enough to send me only the very best: German gummy bears, German chocolate, and German tea, with a scantily-clad female on the box. What would a package from Douglas be without it? Also - an inexplicable card with spear-chucking dancers on the front, the Pope on the back, and homemade references to Nike in the strangest of places. It all only made me miss the Douglas more, and I hope we get a chance to skype soon - if only so that we can sing a bilingual duet of "Oh Christmas Tree" because I'm sure that by now he's got those lyrics down-pat.

You've only got a card on its way in return, but I'll return the treat favour in due course.

It is bed time.


Douglas said...

Great to see you got the package! Sorry that I didn't wrap them. Two other notes.
1. It looks like the Nike shoe fell off the tribesman's foot.
2. I forgot to translate Schwangerscahftstee. It means Pregnancy Tee. I bought it in one of these very progressive/homeopathy stores and it's for women who are currently pregnant. The contents, if I remember correctly, are mostly herbs.

Don't worry about sending me anything. This package is part of the "Sorry for not telling you I can't go to Thailand and thus caused you to go there in February instead of January" reconciliation.

I also happened to see a German musical of A Christmas Carol, full with an orchestra ensemble. I have a crush on a girl who was playing the cello in the ensemble (only real reason why I went) but during intermission I was subjected to listen to her talk with her friends next to me (who I also accompanied) about a guy she's really into (not me).Awesome.

Let's definitely Skype sometime. You set the date and I'll be up to it. Preferably weekends.

George Bailey Sees The World! said...

Dude - she just hasn't gotten a true tase of the Douglas yet. Give her time. You will make here swoon. When all has failed, there's always a pear.

Thanks for the gifts, my friend. I will share them with good people on Christmas Eve.

And I thought there might be something revealing in that tea translation. I can always use a good herb infusion. Thanks, man.

Also, I'm glad to see that the package was only "part" of your Thailand apology. For the record, I do completely understand, but your actions have repercussions, my friend. Jisun just backed-out, saying that it's not turning into the reunion trip she thought it would be. Shabby.

Whatever - white sands and blue tropical waters are calling.

I'm going to send you a Korean Lunar New Years package anyway. Any special requests?

PS - I did see the shoe, but it fell-off somewhere in school.

Douglas said...

You'll be getting more than one package, trust me. I'll also make sure it's more than just gummi bears as well. Unless you really like them.

A Korean lunar new years package? Aww schucks is that nice, but you don't have to do that. There's a Korean store here in the city that supplies the basics. So save your won.

Anonymous said...

Is there a way you can get Burt's bees over there? If not, any ol' lip balm might do. The dryness in winter always seems to give me fissures adjacent to my fingernail, and the only way I can get them to heal is with that wonder-paste.

I don't know if you were having that problem, but I suppose wearing gloves everywhere is another answer.

And are you eating enough? Carb up!