23 November 2008


It has been a weekend filled with serendipity.

Friday was the 2008 English Teacher's Meeting, a conference for all of the native speaker teachers in Jeolla-nam (my province here). It was held in the capital, Gwangju, which is about a two-hour distance from Yeosu. It fulfills the "orientation" bit of my contract, amusingly enough: after almost fully half of my teaching is finished (the term ends soon), I am finally getting oriented in what I am supposed to be doing.

Originally, there was supposed to be a bus of some kind to take the Yeosu elementary teachers to the conference that morning, but as it turns out the person in charge forgot to requisition the bus or some other such nonsense. So I had to haul myself up at six that morning and schlep my butt to the express bus station, to catch one of the ones to Gwangju. They're very cheap (10,000 won or about $6.00), but it was an enormous hassle. My feet already hurt, since I experimented with walking to my Thursday school this past week (the first and only time I will attempt such.)

The conference itself was not too bad; it lasted until shortly after noon, with three lectures and a distributed little bag of Korean "pizza-toast." I actually received some pretty useful information that reminded me that I had absolutely no formal training; these education majors blew me away in their use of applied theory. It made me reflect that teaching here wasn't the same for me as it is for a lot of people: it's something I'm doing, not what I do. Next year at this time, I'll have moved on.

After the conference, I was just going to catch the bus back home. There's not really a whole lot I wanted to see in the city, and I just wasn't feeling it at the moment. But instead, I met up with a fellow teacher named Mark with whom I was acquainted, and he offered me a lift home in his car later that day. I was pleased to accept, kicking in a bit for gas. Mark is a big guy with three years residence in Yeosu and an amiable temperament.

Mark had two other people also carpooling, one of whom I had recently met, Robyn, and another who was new to me, Fazil. All three of them are extremely pleasant and happen to be gamers/roleplayers, and so as we wandered around town going to markets, we had a very good time. In the evening, we had sushi for dinner, and then went on home. I was pretty tired, so I puttered around playing a new game, Dead Space.

To digress for a moment, Dead Space is one of the best games I've played in years. It's your basic horror survival game, set on an abandoned industrial spaceship. One of the most immediate things that jumps out is the combat system: almost all enemies must be dismembered in order to kill them, a feat achieved with saws, laser cutters, and the like. It necessitates a lot of blood, of course.

What really makes the game stand out, though, is the immersion of it all. The graphics, sounds, and the interface make it very easy to get sucked into the tension of it all without becoming tedious. Unlike Silent Hill, which was also frightening but tended to grind on interminably in my experience, Dead Space keeps a much better progression of rising tension and conflict.  This is aided by the sci-fi setting, which allows the game to justify shortcut mechanisms to eliminate tedium.

On Saturday, I was supposed to take Lizzie to go see one of the big Yeosu attractions, Odongdo.  She's only been in town a month, and had never seen this staple of the city: an island park, Odongdo has a lighthouse and a "dancing water show" of a music-and-light-accompanied fountain display.  The idea of the trip was relatively simple: I meet her at her place, and then we take the bus to Odongdo.  Ah, the hubris of planning.

Lizzie and I actually ended up at the end of the wrong bus line at a famous local temple called Heunguksa instead.  Fortunately, the place turned out to be damned beautiful, with immense golden Buddhas and elaborate carvings preserved from the ages for our view.  And even more fortunately, when we left a few hours later, the same wrong bus took us straight to Odongdo.  And yet more fortunately, we were just in time for one of the water shows.  Blasts of water, lit in a dozen shifting colors, lifted and fell to strains of Tchaikovsky.  After dinner, we went back to her place and watched Labyrinth.  Bowie becomes more awesome with every viewing.

So, pleasantly wearied, I settle down tonight to work on some lesson plans for the upcoming week, and consider the beneficience of some surprises in life.

Oh, and Lizzie found four buttons while I was with her on Saturday.  Damndest thing.

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