You know, it wasn’t a strange day. But it certainly wasn’t normal.

It wasn’t strange that my “Monkey Class” again did horribly on their grammar quiz. What got me angry was that after all we had gone through grammar-wise, this was supposed to be easy for them. It’s the last major grammar unit in “Up and Away 4.” The kids had just gone through the pain of adverbs, superlatives and comparatives and all their spelling rules. This next one was just turning sentences into future tense by adding “is going to.”

Example: He is riding his bike. He is going to ride his bike.

I blew a rare gasket in the class. Kicked a desk (just enough to make a serious noise). There was even some spittle in my rant. There were 24 points, and the highest grade was 20. The average grade was between 3 and 16. This is what they’ve been working on all week. The test was almost an outright copy of their homework sheets. Yet I still got sentences like, “He to be riding going his bike.”

There is one girl in there who has been at the school for three years. She keeps getting knocked down and down. One of her original classmates from 2006 is now in one of the most advanced classes while she is in the Monkey Class. Three years of studying English, and she still doesn’t start her sentences with capital letters, even though I tell her every week.

Too bad for the class that I have been on a steady diet of Gordon Ramsay TV shows lately. I gave a typical Ramsayan punishment. I wrote the correct answers on the board. For each sentence with a single mistake, they had to write it correctly five times. When they were finished, I inspected them. If one thing was wrong, if one word was misspelled, if one word was not properly capitalized, I made them write the sentence five more times. I’m getting tired of them being so lazy that they can’t even copy a fucking word.

We were supposed to move on from the unit, but I’m making them repeat until they get it right. I’m tempted to knock them down a level and repeat “Up and Away 3.” But I’m sure there would be major parental revolt for that.

I used to think it was because I’m a bad teacher. I know I’m not a great teacher. Yet other classes have been able to learn this stuff much faster. Monkey Class is the fourth class I have taught this material to. The other classes almost all got perfect scores on this very same test, and I didn’t change how I taught it.

What’s funny is that I remember how hard it was to teach them the final units of “Up and Away 2” back in 2006. I now have two classes that are going through that. I prepared for a grueling few weeks of teaching the nuances of telling time two different ways (It’s one forty-five. It’s a quarter to two.), teaching about syllables and teaching the spelling rules for “ing.”

Yet both classes went through that quickly with little pain. And one of them was a Tuesday/Thursday class, which are notorious for being slow learners.

I’m again going to have to clamp down hard on Monkey Class and do something drastic. I took away their game time yesterday. I should make that a general rule. I get tired of them piping up during a break in a lecture, “Teacher, game!”

Playing games is a privilege, not a requirement.

Wow, I ranted a lot about that class.

For dinner, I met my old friend SJ. We see each other maybe once or twice a year. We bitch about our lives, and it’s good. I’m able to get a Korean woman’s perspective on things, and I’m able to give a third party view on her problems.

We tried this new “ethnic” restaurant/trendy bar called 2nd. It looked promising. The interior was done in a Persian style with tables surrounded by mesh curtains and water flowing throughout the restaurant. Great atmosphere.

The menu looked too ambitious. They tried to cover as many different world cuisines as possible without telling where they were from. But looking at the hot dog wrapped in a tortilla called “Sausage Burrito” gave me an idea of what this was. It was another Korean interpretation of the outside world. Take something that is a little ethnic and smother it in rice and ketchup-like sauces. Make it all sweet. Even the canned nacho cheese was sweetened.

While I was paying, a British man came up to me.

“Are you ZenKimchi?”


“Your taste is horrible!”

I felt so embarrassed. Honestly, it is true. I plugged the local restaurant Tikiti as a way for someone to get his Indian food fix. But I didn’t write the disclaimer that it is far and away from authentic. It’s just as close as you can get in the area, and I wanted to encourage more places like this to stay in business so we don’t have just more and more Gamjatang restaurants pop up and get a little more variety.

So he went there and said the food was “shit.” And it’s sorta true. I wouldn’t eat there if it was back in the States. I guess it’s just how Korea has changed me. I’m freakin’ desperate for non-Korean food.

SJ asked if he wanted my autograph, which made me even more embarrassed. I’m realizing how shy I am in public.

But anyway, the guy was cool, and I wish I got his name. That’s how off balance I was.

I got home and watched some Tony Bourdain in Berlin. Glad to see his likes German food. I got ready for bed. I heard more strange sounds to complement the ones that rudely woke me up that morning. They were coming from outside. I thought maybe some sleet storm had started. I opened the balcony door.

The shower head thingie for washing stuff on the balcony had frozen and busted. It looked like it had been spewing water all day long. There were icicles on the washing machine, and my clothes were encased in ice. Luckily, the pipe itself was not busted, and I was able to turn it off by turning the right spigot.

Cleaning up the balcony is today’s project.

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