The Lab

Friday | July 5th, 2013


Inside the coffers of Valhalla with glowering screens waiting for another batch of students wishing to conquer and subdue the English machine. TOEIC is part ideology, part Western reeducation, part faux test—it’s less a measure of intellect than of language prowess and assimilation. You can’t get far in the test without being able to articulate Western and more specifically American culturalisms in a coherent manner.


The Lab is where the students get their feet wet, in a simulation of what their real test will be. It is as close a simulation as can be made, down to the timings, the pressures, and the exasperations of students when they know they didn’t nail a section of the test.


For students this test is a paltry fifteen minutes of their four hour class. They arrive, fill out their paperwork, give their name and teacher, then test, then leave. For me this testing time is about being trapped in a room with not much to do for 4-8 hours (dependent on the presence of a second tester to cut the time down).

It’s a hollow experience. I enjoy the time to myself, but I can’t really relax in that time. Either batches of students are on their way in or I’m processing files generated from the tests. The Lab is ten days in the summer in an air conditioned tomb or ten days in the winter in a meat locker.


Since it’s vacation, the campus is mostly empty; looking out the windows at the summer I’m not enjoying or thankful that I don’t have to stagger through the wind is how most of the looking outside time goes. The day this photo was taken (above), the student had started a controlled fire outside, below me. Then emptied an entire fire extinguisher into the parking lot to put it out.

Daily Report

I didn’t sleep last night. I struggled to write or create a script that would grab an .mp3 from a folder, open it, insert markers in pre-determined places, split the audio file into eleven segments based on those

View all


Out beyond the fake lake (Bomun) for Christmas Day lunch at a place called the Healing Kitchen. It’s all farms and hilltops here. And roads to more farms and hilltops. Except for the noise from the cars, I

View all

The Fourth Wall

I’m here and alive. Ten days behind the reality of my written life, yet here and alive. TOEIC is the predominant motif of life from the end of the semester until … today. This is the end, after

View all

This Old Hanok

When we had the bathroom done, we wanted to design our own window for the part of the wall which straddles the storage space along the side of the house. This way we could have clean airflow through

View all