Saturday, January 28, 2006


The e-mail to my mother was well recieved. I called her a few hours after sending it to see if she was angry at me, and she wasn't at all. She said "how could I be angry, when you're absolutely right?" Love that!

I psuedo cleaned my apartment, and packed, and made it here, to the Port in record time. I'm sitting on one of the PC's here where I paid 500 won (about 50 cents) to use it for a half hour! I was the first one to check in, pretty much. Check me out, being on time for check in. Right on.

Anyhow, I'm off to peruse the Duty Free shop, and am looking forward to a nice nap on the boat. I'm starving, but am avoiding the instant ramen restaurant beside me. I want to save my hunger for Japan. I might get my friend Miyuki, who is picking me up at the port, to take me directly to my favourite sushi-go-round restaurant. That'll hit the spot!

Happy Lunar New Year to you all!


I'm officially on vacation. Wheeeee! I should be packing and cleaning, but I'm not. I like to leave everything til the last possible moment because that freaks me out the most. Usually, when I get my middle school girls to stop by and feed the kitty, change the water, and scoop the poop, I try to clean my place up nice. I just can't be bothered this time around. I've been tired and busy with extra classes. If those 13 year olds come in here and judge me, I'll deal.

I sent my mother an opinion laden e-mail tonight and am nervous about the fallout.

Mmmmmmm, sushi!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Crepe Day

Today with my special classes, we cooked. It's become a little tradition now that towards the end of the month long classes we spend one day making something. The kids are supposed to speak English throughout the cooking, and they learn some cooking terminology like "whisk, whip, flip, add, beat," and so on, as well as process language such as "first, next, then, finally." The first time we had this type of class we made salad and onigiri (rice wrapped in seaweed,) and the next two times we made sandwiches. Since this is the last bunch of intensive courses I will teach, I wanted to do something a little different, that was fun and unusual.

We made crepes.
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This photo and recipe is from here.
They turned out very well! I also made some delicious applesauce on Tuesday night, and last night, after shopping, cooked down 3 cans of pineapple with some maraschino cherries. The kids had these choices along with the creamy bananas, as well as sliced peaches, raisins, blueberry and strawberry jams, and fresh whipped cream. I even bought a little sieve and some icing sugar so we could have that snow dusted professional look.

The 1st class didn't start out too well. Our first step, of melting some butter to go into the crepe batter was funny. I looked up to see 5 boys sitting there as if the were the Food Olympic Judges overseeing the Butter Burning Competition. They just sat there, hands in their laps, transfixed by the blackening butter. I gave them a "manage, que catso fi?" (It's good, when you want to curse someone, to use a language other than Korean or English) and told them to get with it. "C'mon lads! We're COOKING!"

I was quite impressed with the end results, but the kids weren't so enthused, and as soon as one declared it was "mashi-opta" ("ick-o" in Korean) most of the rest of the students flung their plastic plates and forks with half-eaten crepes onto the table, plugging their noses and declaring in snooty French accents, "Ah cannot eet zis pile of 'orse manoooore."


(I thought it was funny that the mixed set of plastic spoons and forks I picked up at Wal-Mart yesterday was labeled "Pork and Spoon Table Were.)

They seemed especially unimpressed with the whipped cream (though, if you get a stick of french bread in any bakery in Korea, you get a container of the stuff to spread on the bread.) A few also complained about the cinnamon (called "ge-pi" here, which also means "dog's blood!"**)

The students actually did say that crepes are more suited toward a Western palette, and their Korean minds couldn't handle it, man. I reminded them they were ten, and what the hell did they know? Then again, when I was ten, if someone suggested I should munch a spicy squid-lollipop like the kids love to eat here, I would've thought they were insane. So what the hell do I know?

After nine classes today (but just 3 of them were cooking) and bringing home an hour's worth of sticky dirty dishes I wasn't going to "wash" for a 3rd time in the building's soapless cold water bathroom, I'm beat. Instead of making my own dinner, watching Oprah, and catching up on e-mails I am very very behind on, tonight, I crashed out and woke up in a pile of drool with a sore wrist. I fell asleep with my head propped up on one arm.

I've still got so much to do before I leave for Japan on Saturday, so the next couple nights will be a whirlwind of cleaning and packing.

I'm interested to hear how Kevin's day of cookery turns out!

**Just to clarify, cinnamon doesn't literally translate to "dog's blood." I wasn't very clear with that. "Ge" means dog, and "pi" means blood, but it's different symbols for cinnamon. The word just sounds the same as if you were to say "dog blood," so the kids were joking around calling it such.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Squids and Vowels

I met a man outside on the street a couple weeks ago. He can speak fairly ok English, but is quite nervous about it. When he asks me a question, he listens very intently, and doesn't seem aware that I can see his tongue flicking back and forth inside his mouth, behind his partially open lips. He reminds me of a garter snake, which isn't to say he's a bad guy, he's positively giddy to talk to me, and I find his enthusiasm catchy.

In the summer of 2004, my foot had a run in with a step which left my big toenail pretty damaged. Finally, the doctor stuck it a bunch of times with a huge needle and yanked the toenail off. It's completely grown back, but is giving me problems, and I often have an infected ingrown toenail thing happening. I've been spending a lot of time soaking it in a bucket full of warm water with mineral salt. I wish that I could wear steele-toe construction boots at work, because I'm paranoid of the kids stepping on it. I'm sure the pain that would ensue would make me have to lie down on the floor and take a nap. If the doctor would agree to putting me out under general anethstesia I'd let him rip the thing out again for a do-over.

Today, as I was up teaching at the board, a little girl closest to me was sticking her leg out to try to play footsie with me. I asked her to please not touch my toe as it was very sore. I know she understood me, as I repeated myself in Korean. She kept gazing down at my foot - and finally, when I wasn't looking, she stretched her leg out far enough to bring her foot down on top of mine. She didn't stomp me, but still. I screamed.

I saw one of my little students outside in the hall today and I had to laugh, because the little guy's face was covered in chocolate. I was then reminded what a Westerner I was, when I realized it wasn't chocolate, but actually spicy hot sauce the kid had been licking off a squid.

I had been teaching the class that included the little foot-monster about the trickery of vowels in English. These kids often pronounce "good" and "book" with the same double "o" sound of "pool."
"Look kids, look how strange English is! 'Good' is not like 'boot,' but it is like 'could,' which is not like 'cloud.'"

In the previous class, we'd been working on long vowel sounds, and I was pointing out that often when a word ends in a "vowel, consonant, e" combination, the vowel is long, while the e is silent. Think "site" or "mate" or "cube." One of my very smart little students said "Teacha -- what about 'love?'"

I laughed, and told her "yes, 'love' usually comes along and screws up all the rules, eh?

Friday, January 20, 2006


Power = strength over time

Thursday, January 19, 2006

An Inside Joke for One

I think it's kind of fun to freeze your face into something interesting and really exaggerated- like a look of horrific disbelief, or like you're about to go down the big hill on the roller coaster. Then go into a public place, like a supermarket, say.

If you're a big conspicuous foreigner this is even more fun.

Then just walk around looking at stuff - but DON'T CHANGE THE LOOK ON YOUR FACE!

People will look at you, and then look at what you're looking at to see what could be causing such a facial effect, and then will look back at you. After staring for a bit, they'll resign themselves to the strange fact that you just always look insane.

I laugh my ass off in the taxi home.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Stopped Making Sense

One of my co-workers is a devout Catholic. Like, go to church 4 times a week kind of Catholic. That's fine by me, it's her life, but when we first started teaching together I didn't even recognize she was religious. She would refer to her Catholicism in the past tense, and I would later learn that she was in the midst of taking a break from the church because she lost her faith. Well it's back, in full force, and sometimes it grates on me how she can manage to swing any conversation back around to the Bible, or her "boyfriend" Jesus.

(She likes to brag "MY boyfriend is a CARPENTER!")

And I'm going to say this too, but I think that some of her ideas are "out there." When we were talking about a Jewish person having to "keep kosher" she told me that's like a prison. God intends for everyone to be free. (???) I didn't even know what to say about that.

She told me a story about something she had seen on TV, where a Korean woman had her baby adopted by an American couple. The child is thriving with it's adoptive parents and is well loved and taken care of. When the woman found herself pregnant a second time, she offered this child up for adoption to the same American couple, and they were thrilled to have a daughter and sibling for their son. Sounds like a nice story, eh? My friend told me that it made her ashamed to be Korean, because this woman would give away her children and would "make a mistake two times."

We've had similar conversations about other people, one months ago when a collection notice came to my apartment for a former teacher's student loans. She decided, even after having worked with him a whole year, that he is a "bad person," because he wasn't paying his debts. I said "maybe he IS paying, we don't know!"

Judging people for their situations, or rather YOUR perception of their situation is pretty unfair, I'm thinking. I gently told her so. With the woman who gave her kids up for adoption, we don't know anything about her circumstance (I asked) and one can only imagine the possibilities. I mean, the alternatives to adoption - namely abortion is definitely un-Catholic n'est pas? And as for the former teacher, the current staff don't even know where he is, let alone what could be going on in his life.

I don't even bring any of this up as an indictment of my Catholic pal. What interests me far more is my reaction to it, (because, let's face it, everything is all about me!) and how hearing things like this feels like another pin being stuck in my pin-laden pin-cushion of a heart. The very wise Kevin over his Big Ho Blog recently wrote "religion is a tool." Please go read that post, and the ensuing comments as it's very interesting. Up until that point, in reading his "Is Religion Just One Huge Mistake?" I had been fairly, not un-moved, but more so just reading along without thought to my own opinion. The moment I read "religion is a tool," though, some voice inside me countered "religion is a crutch." I was sort of surprised at how quickly and strongly that thought manifested in my mind, and I'm not wholly sure where it came from.

I know there are a lot of religions out there, and I have limited experience with most of them, except for being born a Catholic, and attending Catholic school exclusively, from elementary school to university. There are aspects of any religion I've encountered that just don't make any sense to me, though.

I used to have a roommate in university. He would come home in the afternoon and head into the kitchen and grab all the fixins to make himself some tasty peanut butter and grape jelly sandwiches. I'd sometimes sit at the kitchen table and watch him as he stood near the sink, making his snack. He'd take a slice of bread, spread half of it with jelly, and the other half with peanut butter, fold the bread in half and eat it. He'd make six of them. It used to drive me insane.

It wasn't even that he was sticking the jelly covered knife into the peanut butter container and back into the jelly jar. Six times. (Though that in itself should be justifiable grounds for killing him.) It was the folding of the bread that made me mental. If you're going to eat six slices, why wouldn't you reserve one piece for peanut butter, and the other for jelly - and slap the two together to make one sandwich? If you're into eating halves, you could even remove the knife I stuck in your eye to cut the sandwich in half and eat it. Couldn't you? To me, there was something about the whole scene that didn't match up with my sense of logic. It's always the lack of logic that perplexes me in a thing, and I'm fairly quick to dismiss something if I don't find it logical.

My Catholic friend, a couple months ago was telling me something about the bible, or Jesus, or God, or something, and she stopped herself, saying "oh, but yes, you don't believe in God!"

I was surprised! "Hey! I never said I didn't believe in God! Why do you think that?" That's just what she assumed (I guess because I don't go to church 4 times a week, or ever.)

There's a lot of stuff in Catholicism that doesn't make logical sense to me. Get ahold of my former religion teachers and they'll attest to what a pain in the ass I was. ("So, like, you're saying they took 2 of ALL the animals on the whole EARTH, and stuck them in a boat that Noah built? How big was this boat, exactly?") There are aspects of all kinds of religions that don't make sense to me. I suppose religion in itself seems both logical and illogical for varying reasons. I'll tell you though, lately it's the people I'm meeting who are representing their religion who have stopped making sense.

The judgmental Christian. The violent Muslim. The gay Catholic. (And she's a NUN!)
Just to be clear, I'm not saying that it's WRONG to be any of these, per se; reconciling ones own self and actions with ones own faith is ones own business, but to ME it leaves me feeling confused. The Korean Jehovah's Witness who rings my doorbell 6 times on a Saturday morning who won't stop repeating "bi-bu-lah" and a whole bunch of Korean, despite the fact that I keep apologizing and saying I can't understand. So he returns to my door 10 minutes later with a woman who knows just a tiny bit more English than "bi-bu-lah." Great. Let's all stand here grinning at each other. Even in Canada I didn't think shopping one's faith door-to-door made much sense. Especially these days.

Or maybe it makes perfect sense these days. Who knows? I'm confused as hell.

A Wash - What My Day Was

And what my rug needs.



Pretty Much. After an uneventful, but pretty relaxing weekend (I was asleep for most of it,) I was actually kind of looking forward to getting back to work today. I taught my 1st bunch of intensive classes in the morning, and then met my Pharmacist for lunch. He's charming, and the soon doobu jighae was delicious.

Then back to work, where, as usual, the classes get progressively more challenging, and I get more tired as the day drags on. We've got a couple of boys in a couple of classes that are uncontrollable. One of them has grown so much since I started teaching, he's actually a couple inches taller than me, and I'm the tallest adult at the school. He's 13 and really strong. He's not even intimidated at all by the big boss, who is his regular Korean teacher. And with me? Forget about it. I could hear his screaming at the top of his lungs in the classroom next door as I was trying (and failing) to control my own class. I should just record a tape and hang the player around my neck and hit play as I enter the classroom. I'll teach my lesson over top the sound of my own voice hollering "SIT DOWN. STOP SPEAKING KOREAN. SIT DOWN. STOP SPEAKING KOREAN. SIT DOWN. STOP SPEAKING KOREAN,..." It's like those trucks that ride around the neighbourhood selling things with their speakers blaring out some yelly sing-songy Korean.

Between classes I head back to the staffroom where my co-workers speak only Korean, yukking it up and not including me. I should have a pull-cord attatched to my back which runs out just as soon as I enter the staffroom. Ten minutes later the Korean teachers can give it a good pull, and I'll head out to my next class, press play on my cassette player, and proceed on with my "I'm not a real teacher, but I play one in this asylum" routine. The K-teachers only usually speak English when they have some question to ask me about English, which happens a few times a day. Today I'm feeling used, and my misery is compounded by the fact that it's not like I even really want them to try speaking English more often and therefore include me in the conversation. I don't even want to hang out with me, I'm so grumpy. Even when I am privy to the conversation between the teachers I have to stop myself from rolling my eyes.

I've just written a few more paragraphs, but have veered off into a topic I didn't even realize I was going to write about. So I'm going to double post.

Continuing with this post, however, it's just to say that with the exception of a very nice lunch with a very nice man, today was pretty much a wash, and a fairly crappy way to start the work week.

I bought some ingredients to make some doobu kimchi; I'm loving tofu these days, but got unmotivated about cooking once I got home. So I made a big bowl of popcorn and ate half of it while watching,....wait for it,...."Garfield."

I had to stop the movie after about 15 minutes into it though, and try to collect the tiny shreds of self respect I had left. I remember hearing about how Bill Murray had not been asked back for Charlie's Angels 2 after he had made disparaging comments about his co-actors and the quality of the script. I like Bill Murray, and thought he was trying to demonstrate some professional integrity or something like that. But then he goes and voices a fat, obnoxious, poorly-animated cat.

In the short while I watched, I noticed that Garfield has no asshole. No wonder he's so fat, 4 trays of lasagna and no hole to expel them out of. He should come and hang out a day with MY fat cat, who can instruct him on how to crap on my once again freshly laundered rug 5 times before I come home. I opened my apartment door tonight and there was shit everywhere. He'd walked through it, so tracked it all around the place. No wonder I didn't feel like cooking after the clean up.

I sound bitter. I am. Bitter is boring. Luckily, the sun will rise tomorrow morning and I'm going to consider Tuesday as my do-over Monday. And I'm going to be Jelly-bloody-sunshine if it kills me.

How's YOUR week so far?

Sunday, January 15, 2006


I can't believe I slept all day and still want a nap!
Ah well, it's a good day for sleep, grey and pretty mild, I left the door open to let the fresh air in. Zzzzeelicious!

Ask, because you might be surprised

I stopped by the bookstore on Friday night. I had finished work, and had nothing really to do, so I decided to take a little bus ride downtown. The weather was so mild, but overcast and rainy, it felt like we'd gone one step forward to winter and two steps back to fall! I got off the bus near my favourite bakery in the city to see if they had a nice dense sunflower sourdough loaf for me, but they did not. As I walked past the bookstore, I decided to go in and see if they had a nice dense new novel for me to read, but they did not either. I've read just about everything in there that seems appealing to me. Good lord, they have a lot of John Grisham, Sophie Kinsella (described as "pink-covered girl-centric fiction") and Paul Coelho. Coelho had me at "The Alchemist," but lost me with "Eleven Minutes." I just couldn't relate to his main character, and I concur with a brief review of the book I found on amazon dot com: "I hated this book. I thought it seemed like it was poorly translated and seemed like a man's ATTEMPT to understand what a woman might feel." So screw Coelho and his massive fan club.

I have been really enjoying a book I picked up a couple weeks ago,
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it's a compilation of short stories selected, and introduced by David Sedaris. I'd only heard of him a few months ago and have been looking forward to reading his books. After finding nothing of interest, I turned to the dude at the cash register and asked, "Hey, can you order books for me?" I fully expected him to laugh and say no, but instead he said "sure!"


So I wrote down 5 of Sedaris's books, and he's going to call my school on Monday to tell me how successful he's been in obtaining them for me. I'm psyched! I'd place a good book before a good meal, or a good movie, or perhaps even a good roll in the sack. I'm half-way to two-thirds between about 5 different novels, because they're just not doing it for me. "Sex in the City?" I love the HBO series, but the book,...what a load of crap. "A Hundred Years of Solitude," despite being an Oprah Book Club selection, just hasn't held my interest. (Granted, I've heard it takes getting past the first hundred pages or so to be hooked.) I've put in on the backwarmer for so long I'm going to have to start it over again. I will. Even with brutally horrible novels I've bought I eventually get through them, just maybe as a lesson in perseverance.

Anyhow, pick up a good book. It's food for your brain.
If you want a humble recommendation of what's awesome reading, let me know, or if you HAVE a recommendation, please leave a comment!

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Not Funny At All

An open letter to my friend:

Dear Friend,

I'll start off by thanking you for your friendship, because that's nice, and I like to be nice. So, thank you!

I'll also thank you for thinking I'm so great, because, like, I SO am! But I'm also an asshole, and some of the things that go on in my brain make me want to spank myself. Some of the things that go on in my brain which make me feel like an asshole pertain directly to you (but a lot of them pertain to me, so there ya go!)

Here's the thing. I know I'm funny. Ha-ha hee-hee funny. I was excellently surprised to learn that my funny, which was prevalent all my life in Canada, translates to Asia. I was funny in Canada, I was funny in Japan, and thankfully, I'm funny in Korea. Yep, funny. Me, funny.

However, you, not so much.

We have a language barrier, because you can speak some English, but I can't speak Korean well at all. We also have a cultural difference, and I try to lay off the jokey-jokes that I know might go off well back home, but simply don't translate here,(ie. "a hooker walks into a bar with a poodle under one arm, and a salami under the other,....")

I can't tell for sure, but I'm thinking you're not terribly funny in Korean, judging from our associates reaction to your schtick. I'll tell you for sure that you're DEFINITELY not funny in English. I'll give you an "A" for effort. You command attention to your jokes (oft by demanding "hey, look at me!" or speaking so loudly no one can HELP but listen to you!) and you do your best with the delivery, but I have to give you an EFF minus minus for the material.

Today, at the end of a long week, you put on your black jacket and interrupted a conversation I was having to say "Hey! Jenny! LOOK AT ME, I'm your CAT!"

You're not funny, my friend. I don't know why some people are funny, while many are not, but I just have to slot you in with the "NOT."

And you put me in an uncomfortable place: I don't want to laugh. I don't want to, because (again) you're not funny, hence laughter is not necessary. I also don't want to laugh because I don't want to encourage you. It's so easy to be naturally funny back at you, but because the humour that comes out of me is mean spirited, I end up feeling bad. You may not realize this, because of the language barrier, and because mine's a subtle put-down.

Lately, I've not been feeling well, and my fuse has been kind of short. So when you're failing at being funny, I usually just look at you blankly. Or smile weakly. Then you think I didn't understand your joke, so you re-iterate. This hurts me twice.

It's painful. It's all painful. I don't know what to do about it.
You get the opposite of Ha-ha from me, which, I guess, is Ah-ah. (As in "ah-ah, someone get me a tourniquet because the vein in my forehead has sprung a leak!)

Sincerely, Pained Me.

Seriously, anyone reading this,....what would you do? Have you ever had a friend who try as they might, just can't BE the funny?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

On the Way to Work

I'm having to teach winter intensive courses while the kids are on holiday from their regular schools. It means having to teach an extra day and a half's worth of classes during the regular Monday to Friday work week. So, I'm busy and tired. But, I know, boo-hoo, so is everyone else. I'm just sayin.

On my way to work this morning I stopped off to give some treats to the outside dogs and they stood up and wagged their tails at me, but wouldn't come close. Usually Barky Boyfriend comes right up to me, and sometimes seems more interested in having me scratch under his chin than the dog-snacks I have in my other hand. Today, though, they only took a couple little steps in my direction and then would come no further. I wondered why, but then noticed about a foot in front of me lay Brown Bunny. I was shocked, and let out a gasp and an "oh no!" I tossed the dogs their treats and walked around to look at the bunny cage. There was a half a head of lettuce preventing the door from closing properly. Big White Bunny was still inside, but the smaller Brown Bunny must have managed to wriggle his way out. He only made it about 20 feet away, where he was either hit by a car, or the dogs killed him. So "bunny" can now be added to the list of dead things on my way to work: giant toad, baby mouse, flat snake, magpie, chicken, kitten, dog, and various insects. I wasn't horribly sad, but found my eyes leaking involuntarily the rest of the way to school.

Once I got to school and taught the first class, I sent a student to make sure the cage was closed properly on her way home. It was, and Brown Bunny had already been removed. That was good. Bunny-owners will let the bunnies' water bottle lay on the ground for a week, so I sort of expected to have to witness the ashes-to-ashes-dust-to-dust of the bunny, I'm so glad that won't be the case.

I talked with my aunt over Christmas, and suggested that she and my uncle should really try to come over for a visit. She asked if I thought she could handle it, and I asked her what she meant. She said, "are there, like, many stray animals all over the place?" I remembered again what an animal lover she is, and wondered if she could deal with things here. I think so, just so long as she didn't have to walk my route to school every day!

She's worked as a volunteer with the animal shelter in her neighbourhood for a long time, and is often fostering stray mom cats with their newborn kittens. Her and my uncle have a big dog, two cats and a bunch of fish of their own. She's even rescued and hand raised two baby squirrels! The first, Wally, she fed with an eye dropper every couple hours or so around the clock. It was so tiny and helpless, but grew up strong and healthy. Poor Jacky finally set it free outside and happily watched it climb up a tree to a platform my uncle had built in a tree for the animals, only to witness it being snatched up and carried away by a hawk! She was shocked, but is hip to the circle of life, so recognized that's the way things go.

Anyhow, R.I.P. Brown Bunny.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Don't Say It, SING It!

This is fun! Type in a message and let them sing it for you!
**BONUS QUESTION: Can you tell me who's singing and from what song it is when you type in the phrase "I love your key number?"

Sunday, January 08, 2006


For the tens of thousands of you who are wondering how I'm feeling these days, I thought I'd update. I'm still sick, if you can believe it, but it's manageable. I went back to work this past week and did ok, though I still felt fairly shite. It's intensive winter classes time, and for me, waking up a couple hours earlier than usual was pretty brutal. I slept a solid 9 hours last night (Friday) and still had a deep 4 hour nap (filled with crazy dreams) today, so you can imagine what kind of rest my body seems to need.

The flu is pretty much better, but I've gotten a wicked sinus infection. I've read on the net this isn't that uncommon. It feels strange though. My left ear has been clogged up since Monday. Last Friday, when I went to the doctor, I had spent the day with a hot pad clutched to the side of my head, my ear was so sore! I whimpered when the doc stuck that machine in my ear to take my temperature. The pain is gone, but with the pressure behind my eye and the blocked ear, it feels like half of my head is out of commission. My lungs and head are full of bright green snot (which indicates infection, as my freaky-deaky-Dutch doc in Japan told me) but it's not going anywhere. I'm not sneezing, and blowing my nose just seems to re-distribute the crap in my head, as opposed to propelling it OUT. I'm still coughing a lot, but it's wet sounding, but not producing anything. I'm still going to the doc every 2nd day, where I get my usual ass-injection and bunch of pills, but I've also been holding what looks like a hair dryer, but is some sort of heat mechanism, to my left ear as I sit in the lobby and the other patients look on.

On Friday I felt like the perfect cartoon version of myself. I was exhausted and giddy and full of headache and earache. The sound my blocked ear produces is like being underwater. My breath is deafening, and my own heartbeat and voice is worse. Hearing a whole bunch of kids yammer at the same time makes me feel confused. I mean, it's always confusing, but even more so. I think the sounds enter my right ear and bounce around inside my head, where they would normally exit out my left ear. But they can't.

So that's the deal. I'm getting better, and I think, hopefully, this week I'll turn the corner. I really hope my ear unblocks while I'm awake, because I anticipate it'll be like a wacky head orgasm. I'll be all "aaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!" as I clutch a kleenex to the side of my head, hoping the release of pressure doesn't dislodge my grey matter.

I'll let you know!

Saturday, January 07, 2006

R.I.P. Mimi

Mimi's dead. The first time the little girls put that tiny sleepy hamster into my hand my second thought was "ohhhhh, how cute!" My first thought was "this thing is gonna die~!" And I didn't mean that in a random accepting means of the non-permanence of life in general. I meant eminently. A thing too small to open it's wee eyes is far too small to have a five year old human as its caretaker.

I was a new teacher in Masan in 2002 when one of my little students came into the staffroom and tugged on my sweater. I was busy e-mailing my friends back home, uhhhh, I mean, preparing my lessons for the day, and said "What, Chloe?"
Chloe tugged on me again, and said "Teacha, samool!" (Yo, teach! I gotz you a present!) I held out my hand, without turning my head, expecting a candy or a note, or a bit of pocket lint. I was surprised to feel something warm and fuzzy and alive.
It was a baby chick. And it was FUCHSIA. And it promptly pooped in my hand.

In the spring, people (farmers?) set up little stands where other people (little kids) can buy brightly dyed chicks for about 50 cents. I was fascinated, wondering what my students' parents were going to do with fully grown chickens in a few months. My boss's son bought two chicks, green and blue, as I found out when I followed the chirping sounds to the school's kitchen with my fuchsia chick (quickly named Ruby) in hand. I laughed and asked the boss's wife what she was going to do with two chickens in her apartment, and she replied:

"Maybe, next week, it will die."
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Turn, turn, turn, they did die, as did Ruby, in her little cardboard home with the middle school student I re-gifted her to a few classes after Chloe's. I suppose these chicks are the "runts" whose continued existence is doubtful to begin with. Without heat and food and coddled care, they die quickly. All of my students who bought chicks handled their pet's death very well. I guess that's how life goes here.

Mimi has been replaced by two new hamsters with Korean names I can't pronounce. It's doubtful I'll get to meet them, as the Korean teacher threatened to throw them in the garbage if they came to school. Two thirds of the Korean staff at my school dislike animals so much they wouldn't even look at sleepy baby Mimi.

But I saw her. And today I missed her.

Thursday, January 05, 2006


Mimi, the tiny sleepy baby hamster came to class today again. All the little girls demanded I should give it a Christmas present. I kept saying I didn't have any Christmas presents, but they explained I should give it the top of one of my "sha-puhs."

I "sha-puh" is a mechanical pencil. For little kids in Korea and Japan, a pencil isn't just a pencil. Usually it has some sort of glitz and glamour to it. It lights up, or has shiny dangling jewels hanging from it, or it sings a catchy song. Pencils are magical here.

I looked inside tiny sleepy baby Mimi's cage and saw that she had gotten a good haul of Christmas presents, as there were at least ten little baubles in there. I laughed.

I asked what Mimi ate, both yesterday and today. "Cookies!" I was told. Today, just to clarify, I asked if they were hamster cookies, and was told no, they're cookie cookies. That can't be very good for a tiny baby hamster can it? Oreos?

So tonight I went to the pet store and got Mimi a proper Christmas present. A bag of fancy "Vitalkraft" hamster food, all the way from the Netherlands, no less! Poor Mimi's got some fine digs, a spacious cage filled with clean wood shavings, and a ramp that leads to a metal deck and a plastic pool house. She's got all that Christmas bling, and a water bottle to boot, but all she had was cookies to eat. I guess that's what happens when your owner is a little five year old girl. Style over substance.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


The cutest girl at my school brought a tiny baby hamster to class today. It's name was Mimi, and the girls all kept telling me excitedly that its age was "one." I asked "What? One week? One day? One hour? Is it a minute old?" They didn't know what I was talking about. When babies are born here, they're already one year old right away, so it's hard to know how old little Mimi was.

I empathized with the poor thing, who kept getting hassled by all the students, when all it seemed to want to do was sleep. (Or start to die. Again, hard to tell.)

I thought about running outside with the little hamster and setting it free in a field. Very 'ode to Mariah Carey's new CD.' The critics are all ga-ga over it. Have you heard it?

I spent some time tonight watching crabs in a tank. I thought about what their life used to be like, with a whole ocean of possibility surrounding them. I empathized with them too, as they climbed over their tankmates with their long legs reaching up toward the top, and freedom.

Then I remembered how damn delicious they are, and I got hungry, and imagined them boiling in a pot with me smiling over them.