I am frequently amused by things I see the students bring into the classroom. The English that is printed on these school supplies and shirts is astounding. Check out this proclamation on a Betty Boop pencil case.

This has been a very busy week for us. We both have been tired, and the wedding trip had already exhausted us.

I bought some contact lenses on Wednesday. I had given my eyes a two year break from contacts, but I really want to have the option of wearing them still.

On Thursday, we went back to Suwon to apply to freeze the assets inside Unnamed Hagwon. It was a morning of running back and forth between district court offices, being redirected, redirected, redirected. We were told it would take three hours to process the paperwork. Eun Jeong said we both had to be at work. So the process was cut down to twenty minutes. They then said that it would take two to three weeks before the assets were officially frozen

Eun Jeong got a call later that day that the assets would be frozen the next day. I guess that Unnamed Hagwon Owner had already made a reputation for herself (we’re not the first to freeze some of her assets), so it went lightning fast. They wanted us to meet the sticker guy the next morning to sign off when he puts stickers on all her furniture and equipment.

I already had a busy schedule for that day. The first taping of the TV shows was that day, and I luckily got Christina to substitute for me. I met her early that morning to show her how to get to CEA. She then dropped me off at Unnamed Hagwon, where I met Eun Jeong. We got a call from the sticker guy that he wanted us inside the school itself.

I didn’t want to do that. I was afraid she’d try to suck us into an argument that would result in her getting violent with one of us. We walked in, and we saw the sticker guy talking to her.

She was doing the usual “poor me, I didn’t know” routine. As predicted, she tried to provoke Eun Jeong. She didn’t fall for it, though. We just stayed in the lobby while she followed the sticker guy around. She then came up to me and said, “Do you really think I owe you 8,000,000 won?”

“Well, the judge thinks so.”

“Do you want to see this through to the end?”

“Pay us our money, and this will all be over.”

Eun Jeong and I headed to the elevator. Unnamed Hagwon Owner pushed the doors open and got in with us, ranting and raving. We got to the first floor, where she blocked our way out. I pushed the button to hold the doors open. Unnamed Hagwon Owner held on to my wrist tightly, begging us to talk.

“Pay us the money, and we’ll leave you alone. Please remove your hand.”

We escaped. She actually hurt me a bit, she held on so hard.

The sticker guy came down, where I signed on his pad that everything was over and done with. Eun Jeong then went to have a lunch of spicy stir-fried octopus (nakji bokkeum 낙지 보끔).

We then said goodbye, and I headed to Anyang Station. I took the subway to the studio a bit early, just in case things screwed up. I got there wa-a-ay early. The lone dressing room was already full of stage moms and their kids. After a while, the make up girls asked me to try on my costume. I had previously given my measurements. Nonetheless, the pants were two sizes too small. They weren’t that uncomfortable, but the tighter waist made my gut protrude even more than usual.

Even so, the costume looked cool. My partner, Young, showed up and also got into costume and make up.

The kids also got ready. They wore their own clothes but were supplied with sunglasses (not pictured).

Say what you wil about child actors, I found that they were all very bright. Most all of them did multiple shows. One of them did a show that had her traveling all over South Korea, all expenses paid. I want a job like that.

Since this was the first day of taping, things didn’t go completely as planned. The studio itself was brand spanking new and state of the art. Yet all these programs had to share the same studio. EBS had it booked for most of the day for its new programs. We were in line to go on when the other programs were finished. Yet they hit snags, and we had to wait a long time. When they finished, it turned out that the home shopping channel had a scheduled time slot. So we had to wait for them too. We didn’t get into the studio until 9 PM.

When the home shopping thing finished, I was waiting outside the door with our show’s writer, Dohee. The host of the home shopping show came out and shook my hand, saying (in English) that he knew me from TV and was happy to meet me.

Yeah, yeah, he had me confused with someone else, but I played along. Really, what can you do?

Now, I have had a good bit of TV experience, working for a news station in Alabama in the production crew and working my way up to director. Yet I had never worked in front of the camera. I walked into the studio, and it felt like coming home. My instinct was to take control of a camera, but I resisted. The studio smelled of ozone and fresh paint. Our set was put together quickly and looked professional. It reminded me of kids shows on PBS, specifically Barney. The colors were bright and bold, and everything was well lit.

Taping itself was exhausting but fun. We had to get through two shows, and each show took over three hours. We didn’t make as many mistakes as we thought we would, but we think we can streamline it more in the future. It was funny. In theatre, you have to know all your dialogue beforehand. For the show, we memorized as we went along. We came up with clever ways of hiding our scripts. I’m afraid that when the shows air, there will be many shots of me looking down at something mysterious.

And things were not done in tight segments. We just started a scene and went as long as we could until someone forgot a line. We then backed up a bit and went back into the same pose before the forgotten line (the director put it up on the monitors for us to see). Usually, I would restart at the wrong part because my Korean is not good enough to understand the floor manager properly, and my co-hosts were already occupied with memorizing their parts. It did remind me of the commercial shooting scenes from Lost in Translation (“Cut-o, cut-o, cut-o”).

We just chugged and chugged along. When we got through the script, we did a song and dance number, similar to Barney.

It was disheartening when we finished the first show after midnight. On the other hand, I figured that I had already missed the last subway train back. Maybe we’d finish soon before the subways opened back up again.

I was almost accurate on that hope.

The poor kids powered through until we finished the last scene shortly before four in the morning. I was impressed by their professionalism. And it was a great feeling when we heard the stage manager say it was wrapped.

We went upstairs, got out of costume and make up, got our stuff together and headed out. Four of us lived too far away to get home without cars, including Young and one of the kids and her mother. They decided we should take a taxi to a close by area and find a place to hang out until 5:30.

They were looking for something like a coffee shop and then walked into a HaejangGuk (Hangover Soup) restaurant. They talked to the owner, and we went upstairs. We ordered some soup and ate a little. Then Young said that she would lie down for a bit. The mother and daughter did the same. I took out my MP3 player, set it on some relaxing music, and stretched out on the floor, using my bag as a pillow.

Yes, we all slept on the warm floor of the restaurant for an hour and a half. I regularly woke up thinking, “Who’s that snoring? Oh, it’s me.”

I was thinking of going to a sauna and sleeping there, but I like my bed. We all got up and went to the subway station. The mother and daughter took a bus. Young and I went to the subway platform. Her train showed up immediately. Mine took thirty minutes. Thankfully, the seats were heated, and the ride wasn’t that long. The sun was up when I got to Anyang, and I easily got a taxi home. Took a long shower, washed my hair multiple times, and went to bed.

At around 10:30, my phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number.


“Jo-o-oe, it’s your mom.”

I had forgotten that I set up a time for them to call me on Skype last week. My sister had gotten a web cam, and we talked that weekend. We had planned for mom to come over there and call me the next weekend.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I forgot. We didn’t finish until four in the morning.”

“Don’t worry. We’ll call you some other time.”

I was tired, but I knew I was at the point where I wouldn’t go back to sleep. I might as well wake up and call them back. Yet when I called, they all had gone home. I was too late for the party.

Nonetheless, I had some coffee and nursed my aching feet. Bandaged my blistered toe. I had to be back at the studio by four.

I was early again, and I used the time to sit down and eat some good nasty Lotteria junk food. Shrimp burger and Frico cheeseburger. People started trickling in. It was a different show, so some new kids arrived. Two were from the previous day and there were two new ones. One girl spoke good English, as did her mother. So we talked for a while. I then took out my Korean study book and worked on my Korean. I really need to improve my speaking skills. I had run out of books to read, so I brought my James Beard Cookbook. Thought I’d read that.

I started getting some attention from reading a cookbook. Everyone thought that was strange, as I’m sure you do too. Hey, I’m a food nerd. Dohee asked me more questions about my food background. She was impressed yesterday to find out about the New York Times interview. She said she had remembered reading about it on Naver, the Korean web porthole. She liked talking food with me.

“So, do you think you know enough to teach people to cook?”

“A good bit. I’m always studying. I like to compete with my brother, who is a talented chef in Atlanta. He’s way ahead of me.”

“Hmm… well, that’s good to know. I want to keep you in mind in case anyone’s looking for someone to do a cooking show.”

My costume for this show didn’t look as cool, but it was more comfortable. The pants were still too tight, but there was less vinyl. In this show, I play Dr. Einstein. Dr. Einstein always comes up with discoveries and inventions that he thinks he’ll win the Nobel Prize for, like, “I discovered that ice changes into water. I’ll get the Nobel Prize for this! Ha, ha, ha!”

It’s cute. They really transformed me for this role. Good thing I had the long hair. They also gave me a mustache.

My old friends would think that this is all too familiar.

That’s me as King Pellinore in a 1992 production of Camelot. Sigh… type casting.

In my old theatre days, almost every part I had required the use of fake facial hair. I hated it because I had to put on liquid latex, which burned and smelled like balloon mixed with ass, and it always came loose at the first beads of sweat. For this production, they just used what seemed like sticker adhesive. And it worked. It was comfortable and stayed on the entire night.

And this is also why I am not complaining about the long production shoots. My last theatre production was in 1994. I have badly missed acting. I took acting classes while in college, but that was it. I had been waiting for my life to stabilize enough so I could go back into doing community theatre. Now I’m getting paid to do something that I used to do as a hobby for free.

But yes, the same things happened on Saturday. The other productions ran late, and we got into the studio at 9 o’clock. We shot until 4 o’clock in the morning. Yet I wasn’t as tired as I was the night before. I was starting to get used to it. And the Dr. Einstein character is — well, a character. A fun character role. In fact, I just plain outright grafted my old Pellinore character into this one. It felt exactly the same. And it helped me keep my energy up for the six hours of midnight shooting.

When we had finished our first show that evening, it was soon after midnight. I called Eun Jeong and wished her a happy birthday.

The kids, though, were getting delirious as the night wore on. They played more and more with the set and had a hard time keeping up with their lines. Some of them started getting irritable with their fellow junior cast members when one flubbed a line.

The crew kept in good humor. By 3 o’clock, they had visible sweat on their foreheads and were yawning a lot. Yet they smiled, even when telling the kids to stop goofing off.

It’ll be interesting to watch the final edits of these shows. I barely remember the details of the end of both those shoots. I’m sure you will see the visible sweat and fatigue on our faces in parts.

The final shot ended after our song and dance number. Everyone applauded, bowed, and thanked each other. Karen and I were the only stranded ones this time. She also lived in Incheon. She decided to get a taxi to her brother’s place. She helped me get a taxi to Anyang. My Korean is okay, but I’m horrible with negotiating late night long distance taxis. The taxi arrived in Anyang at half the fare I was expecting. I had him drop me off at E-Mart, and I walked the rest of the way home. I bought a beer and enjoyed my first beer in a week, a well deserved one at that.

The question on Sunday was what Eun Jeong wanted to do for her birthday. She mostly wanted to just lie in bed and relax. She didn’t want to go out and get her birthday present (we had decided a while back that she should choose her birthday present, not me). I suggested we go out for her birthday dinner. She was ho-hum about the suggestion until I mentioned having steak. She then perked up and thought it would be a good occasion to have a steak.

Beef in Korea is more expensive than in most parts of the world because of protective tariffs to protect the Korean beef market. Normally, I agree with tariffs to balance trade and stabilize local economies. But I also miss affordable beef.

We had dinner at Sizzler. In America, it’s not that high class. In Korea, it’s a classy exotic place to go. And like other American chains, it’s a bit Koreanized in a way that I like. Food sharing is encouraged. We ordered a couple set of steak, lobster, and chicken. Their salad bar was great. It had a good bit of Asian salads, along with a little taco bar, soup bar, and ice cream station.

Eun Jeong had a great time with all the salads, as did I. They were pretty decent, especially compared to buffets back in America. I particularly liked the roasted vegetable salad and the chili shrimp salad. Eun Jeong liked the sweet potato salad, and we both loved the caprese salad.

The main platter was also good. It was Eun Jeong’s first taste of lobster, and she instantly became a fan. She’s also starting to appreciate the glory of rare beef. She has so far gone from preferring well done steaks to eating medium steaks.

We then had some fruit and ice cream. Eun Jeong asked the waitress to take a picture of us for her birthday. The waitress said that since it was her birthday, she would get a cake.

So she came out with a little cake and took our picture with their camera, giving us some prints.

We left happy. Eun Jeong had a good birthday dinner.

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