Tuesday, 24 March 2009

English Land 2

I know I've been in Korea for only a few months, but the novelty factor is still very much there. At least once everyday it hits me, when walking out my apartment in the morning or watching my classes talk amongst themselves. I still have yet to even explore the country, but spring is here now, finally, allegedly. But aside from the climate, it's great to be in Korea, and whenever the novelty of being here hits me, I can see just how lucky I am. As of now, I love the place.

But fuck me, catch me on a Friday morning around 11am and you'll see a young man wrecked to tears and losing his hair.

This is around the time when I am grappling with the monster known as the English Land 2 activity book. This yellow, happy looking tome has to be my only bugbear right now, and my god I hate it. Hate it as much as the English Land 1 activity book.

The student book I don't mind, featuring the extra-curricular adventures of the Toy Story gang and Lilo & Stitch et al (non-canon). Some of the songs on the CD get me singing, though really I'm always singing with the kindergartners, orders repeated and given a melody or ending in an upward lilt. Sometimes I rap a little too. The kidz rarely notice.

Amidst this singing & dancing, I have to make sure certain pages are done by the end of the week so as to appease the paying mothers and rightly so, this is easy enough. But my English Land class has 2 & a half hours a week to complete 6 pages in the student book, and an additional thousand plus pages in the activity book corresponding to that week's unit. And of course I have to make sure what I'm teaching actually stays with them afterwards.

I start as early as Wednesday to get cracking through the pages but even this isn't enough. The kids all work at different speeds with this particular book. Some of the smart ones are slow, and some of the smart are so fast that I have to tell them to wait for the others to catch up. This all piles up when there's a listening section and I have to ask the Korean whizzes to skip it because the CD tasks are best completed by the class as a group, not played each time one of them lands on that page when they then have to strain to listen to the poor audio as the other kids chatter with their crayons.

Ugh, just typing this is fraying my nerves. What makes it worse is all of the kids asking for help with everything on all these different pages when I'm trying to help 1 particular child, or just wanting me to draw a 'snail' on each page they complete (the snail being a big red crayon swirl).

And on Friday I devote a whole hour to this nightmare when I should be teaching one book per each half hour, English Land followed by phonic studies. The kids get restless. One girl inevitably gets up to write on the board how much she hates the other girls. They can see me turn from Mr Bean into Kim Jong-il. My guts tangle.

My school's solution was this - do the best you can and the kinder principal will catch up on the rest of the pages when she teaches this class after lunch on Friday. Ok I suppose. And last week I poked my head into her room, seeing the kids scribble away in perfect unison, feeling my confidence as a teacher wane a bit.

And then I heard her say 'spaceship'. The kids waited. And she said it again, in Korean. And they ticked the right picture. I realised her miraculous method. And sure, it's not helping their English that much, but it sure gets those pages snailed!

Friday, 6 March 2009

when we kiss

I rarely have a musical eureka, sucking the fun out of musical finds by trawling the Hype Machine or reading Pitchfork, 2nd hand tips at your easy disposal.

But a magic moment came in the CD shop in Seoul's COEX maze. I fell in love with an electronica tune that drifted over the in-store system like kisses and roses over a waterfall, smartly sweet like a shampoo commercial but one of an entire innocence, there for you to swoon over rather than sell! sell! sell! as a woman orgasms through her follicles. It drifted in innocently then began to stomp with its stabs of violet sugar in a basketball court. It was an indoor UFO, the spaceship in the room, pachyderm in size and character.

As this wonderful tundra of the strange and the beautiful progressed I couldn't believe when it got odder as the sounds became wrung with a Mouse on Mars grip, a wonky drench knotted with quirks and chirrupy sonics. Oh my oh my, I felt like John Peel discovering, like a boy again listening to his show, hearing MOM in the dark. I fell out of the store into a gaping beauty, a guy and girl in blissful hum, Asian Amelie, cross-legged floating over the poppy fields, under the gushing lagoon.

Detective work at the till pointed me to a screen at the back of the shop that announced each track's name being played -

When We Kiss, by Taxic.

It was on a compilation CD, 2004's Salon de Eastronika. Did anyone who worked in the shop know which rack I could find it? No.

After a good 20 minutes, it caught the corner of my eye, the cover having luckily been onscreen with the CD title.

It's a Korean compilation of dance stuff as opposed to any actual electronika, the remit covering downtempo cuts, instrumentals, trip-pop and...well I can't tell what the exact criteria is really, seeing as there's a song called Funky DJ on there by Zoara which sounds like 90s Italian pop. Ok it's groovy and for a few seconds the main vocal is looped up but I feel the CD's mixmastermind Midaas Jay simply chose anything Asian that didn't chart properly. Many songs are actually on Italian labels as well, which is odd as the CD came out on its namesake indie, Korea's Eastronika, yet very few songs were actually released by them (Taxic being one of their releases).

There's the very very good Saida by Czerkinsky which pomp stomps with the brass of Pulp's This Is Hardcore/Portishead's All Mine all staggered up into a brash big beat rush as a female aria repeats, Philippine over a dinosaur scene, Ray Harryhausen and the pre-millennium turntable, her vocal a wordless diet echo of the end theme to Stingray.

Falo Amen by Pat C is an Hawaiian thing, yet has that Japanese loungey style of 90s coffee table tinged pop like Paris Match or Pizzicato Five (or the song below by Korean vets 015B).

Taxic remains the only essential listening on the CD though, fittingly the final track. My investigations into this mysterious group/performer have hit a dead end though - unanswered emails, nonplussed DJs in small Bundang bars. When We Kiss is credited in the sleeve as being taken from a single released exclusively on Eastronika, as opposed to mentioning the name of an LP as done for the other 13 artists. But does the website hold further info? Does it fuck. Its discography is partial, missing out even the comp CD despite it's recent enough release. The artist section doesn't mention the group at all. But c'mon, they released it, no-one else!

Main avenue down, but my search will go on - I want to hear anything else, if there was anything else.