Brief Glimpses of Your Hero, and also Friends of Your Hero

While I am on the road, I thought I would share with you a few snippets from life as of late, both in China in general and in particular in the wild world of teaching Grade One.

My contribution was paper-and-popsicle-stick medal of courage.

My contribution was paper-and-popsicle-stick medal of courage.

Did we talk about Halloween at all? Timed just before Halloween, my school held Book Week, which we all took Very Seriously. As was apparently tradition, our team needed to dress up in a theme, which meant a story with six decent characters that would allow for costuming. Our Wizard of Oz crew looked pretty stunning, mostly through the careful, thoughtful work of other people. A speedy seamstress stitched together my custom lion onesie for the equivalent of 45 Canadian dollars. One of our ESL teachers followed me around outside smearing untold amounts of paint across my face. Another teacher invited me into the studio he set up in his classroom to shoot my get-up in full glory. Continue reading

The Gettysblog Address

Headless Buddha alley
Good day, compatriots.

I interrupt your usual flow of reading my mind-rending works of blogging supremacy to do a little housecleaning on what’s going to happen in the next few weeks. In quick summary: I’ve been offered a job in China at an international school, and unless I mangle the visa process or my blood test comes back positive for a whole whack of the syphilis, I intend on moving to China.

What does that mean for Michael, the man? Good stuff: employment. Money. Experience. More opportunity to travel Asia and the greater world. Access to endless supplies of Chinese food. A free apartment. Around 20 little kindling minds waiting to be sparked, and me with the flint.

What does that mean for Stupid Ugly Foreigner, the light of your lives? Hopefully nothing, other than a lot more posts about living in China. Obviously I will need to find some labyrinthine routes to get me back to WordPress from around the Golden Shield, but I figure if other bloggers manage, so will I. And if I am able to find the time and can schedule a few posts before I hop on the plane, the continuity of service here on SUF should continue uninterrupted. Before you know it, you’ll be drowning in noodles and baiju and stories about Chinese public transit, without even a gap as I am poked and prodded by Chinese doctors to make sure I’m not on the drugs. I can feel your excitement radiating through my computer screen like the warmth of an exploding star.

So hold onto your butts, SUFferers. Things are going to be getting China-centric real soon.

Brief Internet Sojourns and You


As someone particularly incapable at self-promotion, but still largely comfortable with mush-mouthed, wordy treatises, I’m left with kind of a ramble today. Occasionally I scour the internet for other writing opportunities — places where I might cast my dazzling, sulphurous glow upon new readers in new contexts. Often in my journeys I find things that don’t really work for me, either because of genre or limitations on word counts, or a necessary inclusion of certain products or space ponies or whatever. Other times I am scared away by any indication of an entry fee, which as someone who has taken many a voyage on these electronic seas, necessarily causes danger centres in my brain to fire and trigger my fight-or-flight responses. (Once or twice while becoming interested in a site or contest and discovering a solicitation of my precious lucre, I have actually had to physically leave the room with my wallet, so certain am I that my laptop will come snapping away at me and my money like a chattering pair of wind-up toy jaws.)

But recently I found a few places where things seemed not particularly shady, and where I have submitted my beguiling turns of phrase in hopes of showering myself with attention, and also possibly prize money. The pieces were not overly-constrained, and proved just limiting enough to present a challenge. Also they had small word count limits, which was the truest obstacle in my path. As many of you know, I have a tendency towards being verbose, and you can pry my thesaurus out of my cold, dead hands, etc etc.

Anyway. As people somewhat invested in absorbing my words into your Wernicke’s areas, like some delicious, life-sustaining pulpy syrup for your eyeballs and noggins, I present to you some gems I’ve cast out from the shore.

Take to the Ramparts featured on We Said Go Travel

The Maiden Voyage of the S.S. Pukebucket on Pure Travel

Comment, like, facebook, googleplus, shout from the rooftops, paste into your commemorative scrapbooks, tattoo directly onto your children’s adoring faces as you see fit.

A Brief Soliliquy on Losing

So, I come to you day slightly crestfallen, as I did not win The Big Blog Exchange. I can’t deny being slightly disappointed, but it was a battle valiantly fought, and some of the other contestants have some really cool content, and others some really dynamite motivation. So congratulations and bon voyage to them.

I lied awake at three a.m., considering that I was not getting a free trip, and feeling weird about feeling bummed. Nobody owes me this. This company is not duty-bound to fund my travel based on my mental assessments of merit. And really, this contest has always been an extrinsic reward I’ve tacked on to something I find pretty intrinsically motivating. The existence of this blog is not contingent on the creation of a contest on the internet. I will continue to travel, and will continue to write, because those are things I like doing and planned on doing anyways. A free trip to Iceland or Spain or South Africa might have been nice, but I know me, and I know that I’ll get to each of those someday. And I’ll be writing the whole time, and hope you’ll come along with me.

See you on the road.

Incremental Victory is Ours

Top 25 in North America. Top 100 in Whole World. Status in greater solar system blogging community yet unverified.

Top 25 in America. Top 100 in whole world. Status in greater solar system blogging community yet unverified.

Our purpose today is several-fold: self-congratulatory, mutually appreciative, valorous and ready for battle.

First, we did it! Stupid Ugly Foreigner made it into the top 100 of The Big Blog Exchange (84th in the world, 23rd in the America region). I say “we,” rather than the masturbatory “I,” in the sense that it is because of you that I’m in this place. My skill at vote-mongering is pitiful, and so I threw myself on the mercy of my readers, and you answered my plaintive wails with your votes, your shares, and your blood sacrifices to Pazuzu, the great demon master in charge of blood sacrifices and internet contests. (I am also saying “we” instead of “I” even though it is “I” and not “we” that will get to go on a trip if SUF wins one of the 16 winner spots. A totally minor distinction, I’m sure.)

So thank you. A million times thank you. If you were here, I would give you a high five. When I taught kindergarten, in order to get the little goons to stop hugging me all the time, I taught them that a high five is better than a hug. A hug just means I care about you, but a high five means that I care and that I’m proud.

So what’s next? As the scary Doom Clock on the Big Blog Exchange website indicates, shadowy jurors are now locked in some underground bunker scrutinizing the various merits of all the blogs entered in the competition. From the top 100, all but 14 will be culled. From all the blogs, two additional wild cards will be chosen based purely on awesomeness and motivation.

What are my chances, you ask? It is difficult to tell. I imagine this judging process happening even now, hundreds of kilometres below Hostelling International headquarters. These people have all been sequestered: they will not be allowed outside contact, conjugal visits, nor any beverage other than Dr. Pepper until a decision is made. On what criteria will they base their decision? Photography capability? Pure and simple word-smithery? Unbridled travel sagacity? Who has the prettiest eyes? It is not known. If a time comes when bloodsport or some sort of Herculean task is required of the contestants, I will be ready, rest assured. I’d gut the living crap out of any Nemean lion for a cool trip to the Philippines or Australia or Croatia.

What was I saying? Oh. Yes. Top 100! Top 25 of smaller geographic subset! Whoo! Stay tuned, the Grand Champions will be announced soon.

In Which Our Hero Requires Aid

Dearest compatriots,

I do not often write to you directly in this manner, for I feel it lowly of me to beseech you in such a fashion, but we have arrived at a time of need.

I know many of you hunger to assist me in any manner possible. Through many long nights you have sat awake at your windowsill, looking out onto the dark landscape with longing. Your thoughts were troubled, your heart heavy. You glanced back at your commemorative Stupid Ugly Foreigner shrine that you built in my honour. You clutched your handmade SUF t-shirt close to your heart. There was still a sting on your lower back from where you had your freshest SUF tattoo recently inked. But still you yearned. You wanted to do more for Stupid Ugly Foreigner, the man. Sending him disturbing nude portraits and locks of your hair just didn’t seem enough anymore.

Fear not, gentle reader. I bring you the opportunity you have waited for. For now is the time I sound the clarion, when I too sit at the sill and hope that somewhere, out there, my champions await.

The Big Blog Exchange. Hostelling International has opened a contest on the internet. Writers from around the world enter, call upon their devoted and ravenous fans to vote for them, and move up in the rankings. Those chosen few who vanquish others in their region have a chance of being selected to exchange blogs and lives with one of the other winners from Anywhere in the World. They fly these writers around the globe, put them up, feed them, and furnish them with all sort of zany hi jinx in which to engage. The only catch is: they must write about this experience.

Writing, you say? I have some experience with that.

And so, I throw myself before you, dear chums. Click on that glittering wonderbutton at the top of this post, or the one permanently and garishly lodged into my sidebar. Vote for Stupid Ugly Foreigner (and confirm via your email), then come back here and receive words of praise and adulation from the cult of SUF and perhaps even the thanks of the suave, Svengali-like master of this group.

Vote Stupid Ugly Foreigner in the Big Blog Exchange. It’s like democracy, except better.

A Return to Arms

Once in a while.

Once in a while.

Gentle jerkbots:

I have recently returned, via cloak and dagger, to the homeland. Sneaking hither (Mumbai) and thither (Frankfurt), I arrived in Toronto to much tumult and joyousness and chocolate. Did you know it’s Christmas? I had no idea until all of the Lufthansa stewardesses started yammering at me with their terrifying, Teutonic English with all of their “Merry Christmas!”es like it wasn’t the weirdest thing they could possibly say. Didn’t they know I had been in India, where Christmas isn’t A Thing? Didn’t they know I would need to be gently immersed in the hot, scalding bath of Western Civilization? It was cold, and I had no sweater, and I had no idea what to do with myself, either in Germany, or still now, here.

I am in a basement. I just ate a crisp, icy-cold apple, completely out of season, from an enormous refrigerator. There is snow on the ground, and Christmas in the air, and I really don’t know what to do about any of it. All of my friends are already in my grille. Their clamour and their elation at seeing me is appreciated, and no less overwhelming. (A salve: they all want to eat and drink with me. How long can I ride the wave of positive emotion to scoop free meals out of people? We shall see.)

While I try to fathom what the hell it means to be home, and begin looking forward into the dark, scary world out there for new jorbs and moneys and travels, I will write. I will edit photos. I will shove words together and artfully relay tales of the road for you, the hungry consumer. Did you know I lived in Korea? Did you know I just backpacked through Asia? The Meat People I know will grow tired of that shit in like a week — but you won’t! The entire purpose you’re here for is to read things that begin with thos very sentences. And boy howdy will I provide.

It’s good to be back. Holidays may hamper me, but prepare for the deluge. It begins soon.

Strange Voyages on the Internet Seas

Haeundae Beach
Of those few meager hits that I accumulate, I often wonder how people came to find me. Sure, there are people I personally harangued in the real world, and some who have gotten through this, the great series of tubes, via vigorous linking. But some people stumble here on the sandy shores of Stupid Ugly Foreigner purely by chance, by looking out into the great waters of the electronic world and forging forth in search of the weird, the sexy, the funny, the gruesome, and usually some gangrenous, misshapen mixture thereof. How exactly did they end up here? How happy were they that they arrived? Let us cast a look upon these wayward travelers and remark upon their glorious sojourns.

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Nuggets of Pedagogy: The Party

As the semester wore down, we discovered we had more grade 4 classes than we had grade 4 curriculum. We were scheduled for at three weeks beyond what could feasibly be stretched out from our textbooks, and thus we spent two weeks covering extra material. With an additional class left-over in the inexplicable final 3-day week of school, we had no idea what to do.

The last week of school, students can taste summer. The weather heralded it: the monsoon season broke, and suddenly every hour of the day was one of verdant splendour, of glistening sunshine and the smell of grass, and dirt, and ice cream, and freedom. Kids are generally useless the closer the summer gets, and when the weather becomes perfect, they come to see adults as the enemy. We are obstacles standing in the way of fun, robbing them of precious, non-raining time outside. Time away from school. Time in the park, or huddled over gameboys, or in PC bangs, or out ruining everything, like children desperately want to do.

Knowing this, the prospect of actually teaching them something on one of the last buffer days of the school year seemed preposterous. Their quivering, pneumatic child brains had already evacuated, and were waiting to meet their bodies out in the sunshine. Teaching them English would be throwing handfuls of sand into the ocean, granules of knowledge instantly swallowed and lost to the vast, unending knowledge that summer was upon them. Instead: a party.

One of the best parts of teaching in Korea is the low-level expectation in terms of entertainment value. Given the amount of time spent in hagwons, and the lecture style of a lot of their classes, it doesn’t take much to trick them into thinking they are just playing games. I use this to my advantage, and thus the daily agenda includes at least two “games” which are loosely concealed speaking or writing activities. But they get up, and they move, or there’s a ball involved, and suddenly they don’t think it’s learning anymore.

By the same token: a party isn’t that hard to assemble. Tell the students to bring a snack, move the chairs to face the projector screen, find Korean subtitles for How to Train Your Dragon. Done. Where at home I would have had to assemble my entire collection of board games, call in for seven classes worth of pizza and show up with face paint and water balloons, my kids are happy with air conditioning and no pressure. They tremble with excitement, and give to me and my co-teacher their supplication: handfuls of chocolate chip cookies, Doritos, Pringles, and whatever bizarre bagged offal they have compelled their parents to buy for them. They leave my classroom docile, placid, eager to come back in the fall and earn another movie and quietness day, and happy that we didn’t try to actually do any of that learning nonsense.


[Sidebar 1: Currently on the road again. Posting may be sparse for a week or two. I will be back with oodles of content and my peculiar brand of neurotic larfs in no time, trust me, no really.]


[Sidebar 2: you guys probably don’t care about this, but:


You like me! You really like me.

50,000 is ultimately a big, meaningless number without context, but it still makes me feel pretty proud in a vague, undefinable way. People on the internet clicked on something I put together! All of my dreams are coming true.]

Super Happy Fun Interesting 100th Post Extravaganza!


It’s a banner day here at SUF Headquarters (SUFHQ, by the way, is the dining chair in front of my laptop where I sit in my underwear, watch Mad Men, and type blog posts: titillating insider scoop!). According to my obsessive checking and WordPress’ slavish record-keeping, this is my 100th post at Stupid Ugly Foreigner. Fun has been had. Lessons learned. Tears shed. Weird, writhing things eaten. Alcohol consumed, and in turn, memories poorly reconstructed for the reading public. I graduated teacher’s college, road-tripped across Canada, moved to Korea, travelled around Asia some, did a 4-day dash back to Canada, and met exactly 8-bazillion and three people. Let us celebrate this momentous occasion in true SUF style: through neuroticism, humorous tidbits of life in Korea, and gimmicky photography from my travels! I can feel your excitement radiating through my computer like the warmth of the sun. Let’s go!

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