Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Tooth and Aftermath ii

I opted for more sleep this morning, and skipped the dentist. I have to go to the dentist, and I will go soon, but I feel like I've had enough trauma since my last visit Thursday and I'm going to take it a bit easy on myself.

Eating is ok.
The hole in my tooth also creates this interesting suction thing against my tongue or the side of my mouth. Over the weekend, since my filling fell out, chewing things gives me a strange semi-painful but sort of pleasurable feeling. I imagine it's the same feeling my cat gets chewing on plastic-bag handles, with the material all mushed up against your gums.

Today I learned that Elizabeth will be coming back to work next Monday. I'm very anxious about it, and wonder how it's going to go. Tonight, after work, I went out with my other co-worker and had a nice bit to eat and a couple pitchers of beer. It was interesting to talk to her and hear what she had learned about last Thursday's events. My boss absolutely downplayed everything very much, and convinced her it had all been an accident. I told her what had happened as I experienced it. My boss hadn't made any mention whatsoever to Judy about the note, which I couldn't read, as it was in Korean, but seemed to be a clear indication of her intentions, judging people's reactions to it and it's careful placement in the room.

I hate the thought of lying about all this. I hate the thought that it needs to be covered up, at least amongst this small group of adults I work with. As I've said before, I understand the reasons one might feel to rearrange facts, but in the end, I don't think it serves anyone any justice, and doesn't create any measure of unified determination to encourage Elizabeth to get some help. As far as I know, one doesn't wake up in the hospital after a suicide attempt and *poof,* everything's ok. I think one's problems might be compounded in that situation, "What have I done? What does everyone think of me now? What a loser, I can't even kill myself right!"

Last night, I googled "normal reaction to attempted suicide," and was a bit comforted to know that what I've been going through isn't all that uncommon. Some of it hasn't been kind. I worry that when I see her again, my knowing that being compassionate as the right thing to do might be underwhelmed by my compulsion to want to kick her ass. Nice, eh?

I also know, as I've said, that she's my best friend here. I wonder, though, how much that means. If she were in Canada, or spoke more English, or we weren't bonded together by circumstance, things would be different. What is the true nature of friendship? I'm not even really thinking of her reluctance to share (and therefore unburden herself at least a little) about what's going on to upset her so profoundly. I'm more thinking of the fact that I wouldn't dare tell her MY truth because I know for a fact she'd judge me on it. Friends should have a level of trust, shouldn't they?

I'm bloody confused. A first year psychology major could tell you I'm attempting to distance myself from the whole thing, and they'd probably be right.

As I stood outside the door to apartment last Thursday and the locksmith pounded his way in, I imagined finding her hanging. I wondered if I'd be able to handle it. I don't want to have that worry again, and I'm truly concerned if life just picks up where it left off for Elizabeth I might have to go through the same thing. It frightens me, and I'm not sure what to do about it.

I did feel, today, like I wanted to get her a cat. She's said she always wanted one, and I very nearly convinced her to adopt the good (and now missing for months) Valerie. She decided not to, because the care of a cat can be expensive. But I would be happy to support her cat-care, and could give Elizabeth all the supplies (litter box, carrier, dishes, some toys, beds, brush, clipper, etc.) once I leave. I'd even be glad to cover the cost of feeding and vets if need be. I could get her the kitten she's always said she dreamed of, a white one with blue eyes, but I think in the end any cat might do. My cat, although being a bit of a pain in the ass, has provided me with a lot of comfort and companionship. I think maybe knowing you're resposible for the life and happiness of another living thing can provide a reason to keep on going.

We'll see.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Timmy the Tooth

I had a couple of "okay" sleeps over the weekend, including a 4 hour morning nap on Saturday, after I'd woken up after only a few short hours. I should have gone to the dentist at that time. All the dentists close at 1:00 o'clock on Saturdays, which doesn't make much sense to me. When do working people go to the dentist? Maybe they all get up bright and early Saturday morning and clog the waiting room at the dental clinic. Do people actually take time off work to attend a dental appointment? That doesn't seem very Korean.

I can't sleep again, but I'm shattered, and now have to decide to try for more sleep so I can semi-function at work, or to go to the torture chamber, uhh I mean dentist.

On Friday, while teaching, the nice shiny filling I'd had put in whilst in Japan fell out, and I was actually woken up just a couple moments ago, after less than an hour and a half of sleep, by another big chunk of tooth falling out. The thing's disintegrating in my mouth, and now I can stick my tongue into a hole surrounded by "tooth shell."

It doesn't help that I grind my teeth in my sleep, and I grind them when I'm awake, as well, if I'm feeling stressed out. At a couple points yesterday afternoon, I stuck a pencil in my mouth just to keep my teeth off each other. The dental assistants who called my boss to talk to her about the torture, ummm procedure that they'd just done on me last Thursday morning, requested that when I visit them again, I do so with a translator. My boss has already told me she's too busy to go there with me until next week. I'm not sure I can/should wait that long.

Today, we find out if Elizabeth intends to keep working with us. My boss did get to have a short visit with her this weekend. She's awake, and my boss says she's "fine." While there, she asked Elizabeth "Is it too hard to live?" To which, Elizabeth smiled. I was surprised, and asked "Why did she do that?"

My boss explained that in Korea, when someone wants to avoid a subject, they just smile and say nothing.
Interesting maneuver.
Now I've got to google "root canal," to see what they actually did this silly tooth in Japan. I want to know if the nerve is dead inside, because I'm afraid if I eat anything, and it jams up in the hole, my head might explode in white-hot pain.

It still might explode, food or not. You never know.

UPDATE: I learned about a root canal here. Check out the scary animated bit about placing a post in a tooth which has had a root canal. Jeeze. This website notes, "Teeth that have had root canal treatment are seldon as structurally sound as they once were." Mmmmm hmmmm.

Sunday, February 26, 2006


Left to my own devices this weekend, I'm feeling pretty awful. It feels like my brain has been hijacked. I wonder to myself how long it's going to be before I can think about something without my mind wandering back to the current situation.

Elizabeth is my best friend in Korea, there's no doubt about that. However, I feel guilty about the last few weeks. Her "mania" had irritated me, and I hadn't been overly kind to her. Most of it was in my own head, but these thoughts tend to have a way of seeping out. Often, when we were talking, I had the thought of "calm down, woman!" Circumstances over the last few weeks had cancelled our regular Friday shopping trips and dinner, which was our time to reconnect and decompress about our work week. I've missed them.

Last February something similar happened. She'd been noticeably upset for a few days at work. At one point, I left my classroom and sat down beside her in the teachers' room and asked her what was wrong. She initially replied "nothing," but I pressed her on it, and told her I knew there was obviously something upsetting her. She collapsed her face into her hands and started to cry, saying "Jenny, I want to suicide."

We talked a bit, but I had to get back to class. I worried, then, what I should do. Should I tell my boss? Would that jeopardize her job? What do I do?
I talked to a couple of friends. One advised me to be there for her, call her, counsel her as best I could. Good advice. Another, who has been teaching in Korea for years, told me that suicide is viewed differently here. As a matter of fact, I just checked my inbox and I saved his e-mailm dated February 14th, 2005:

"About your co-worker that is
talking suicide - is she foreign or Korean, cause
really that makes a big difference. If she is foreign
she needs to get the hell out of Korea right away. If
she is Korean, I would say there is not much you can
do for her being a foreigner - having a foreign person
tell her life has limitless possibilities is not true
in this culture, most Koreans only have about 20%
control over their lives through their whole life, you
may just make her more miserable. Keep in mind that
suicide in Korea as well as other Asian countries is
seen as romantic and dramatic, and that suicide has
been on the rise in recent years. You can't blame or
put pressure on yourself for any actions this person
takes, just have a good time in Japan cause I am sure
everything will be fine."

I was on my way for a weeks vacation in Japan during the Lunar New Year's holiday. Before I left, I took all advice I got to heart, and I called Elizabeth at home. She was sobbing and repeated her wish to end it all. I encouraged her to talk to a professional, and she said she had, but it hadn't helped. We had a good talk (though I never did find out what the real trouble was.) I assured her she could call me anytime and talk about whatever she wanted, and I would listen and not judge her for anything. We call each other fairly often, but we never have really talked about what had happened. She's been fairly stable since, with only a couple minor instances of extended and overt unhappiness.

My "being there for her" is still a true offer on my part, but I wonder if my distance lately prevented her from reaching out. While I may not have caused her current bout of depression, I certainly didn't help. Thinking about it makes me feel brutal, and I've been thinking about it a lot.

I want to talk to her, but I know I'll want to ask questions that she might not want to share. I know it will be uncomfortable for both her and I.
My boss promised that when she got the green light to go visit, she'd call. My phone didn't ring all day, save for my mom who is rightfully worried. It means Elizabeth is either still in ICU, or unwilling to have visitors. At the end of this all, I really do worry pride is going to get in the way of progress.

I wonder if I'll ever see her again, and if I do, I wonder what's going to happen.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Aftermath (i)

Work today was strange, and sad, and somber. I felt exhausted, both physically and emotionally, and I'm sure my other co-workers felt the same, but we all had our game faces on. I'm sure, though, that not one single minute went by that I didn't have some thought about Elizabeth. The range of my thoughts cut a wide berth on the spectrum of human emotion. I went from being sad, to being pissed off, to being sympathetic, and many more.

When I first arrived today, my boss greeted me and asked if I was ok. I told her yes, but I was very tired and had an awful headache. Then she asked me if I had been shocked by what happened the night before. I looked at her a little puzzled and replied affirmatively. Of course.

She updated me about Elizabeth. She's in the Korean equivalent of ICU. She should be ok. She had woken up - maybe this morning? Karen had sat with her a couple hours after the doctors pumped her stomach last night and she hadn't regained consciousness.

Then something a little strange happened. My boss started to downplay everything that had occurred. Elizabeth had only taken a little medicine. It had been an accident. She hadn't meant anything. It was all just a big mistake. I started to counterpoint, why had she written a note?
"It was like a journal entry," said my boss.
Ummm yah. Written on a single piece of paper with the pen left beside it, it was the only thing on the desk, in plain view. After I saw Elizabeth, that note was the second thing to catch my attention. We hadn't been in her living room for a full minute before I pointed to it and said "what does that say?" Before the paramedics even checked anything on Elizabeth, the neighbour handed them the note to clarify.
Curiously, there was also a yellow post-it note stuck to the mirror. My boss's little son read it aloud, and that I could understand. It read "why does my head hurt so much?"

I stopped myself from arguing about the details of what I'd seen the night before. My eyes were suddenly moist, and I echoed that post-it note in a way, "I really do have a very bad headache." The bell signaling the first class was about to ring.

I printed out word searches for most of my classes, which I almost never do. (I think it's been almost a year since they had one.) It's lazy teaching. I divided the class into teams of 2 or 3 and told them the first team to get 15 words, or the team with the most words when "times up" (see: when the bell rings) would get CANDY! As they work, the room is quiet, and I am left alone.

Breaks were spent quietly in the teachers' room. I spent a lot of time with my head in my hands.

After work, the three of us sat and talked. At some point this weekend, my boss will hopefully get to visit Elizabeth in the hospital. What will happen next is up in the air. All of us want her to come back, but we're all pretty sure she won't.

Again, my boss tried to soften the edges of everything. I told her I understood what she was saying, but that I disagreed. She had been told that they hadn't found anything in her stomach, just a little food. I told her that stood to reason, as Elizabeth has ingested whatever it was who knows when? It had been hours before we found her. It would be in her blood stream by then, wouldn't it? She told me Elizabeth had only taken a little something something. I couldn't argue, but know only Elizabeth knows how much she took. I told my boss I'd seen the paramedics grab the skin on her chest and shake - hard - and she'd only feebly lifted her hand. Her chest wall was barely moving. There was only barely visible movement in her diagphragm. When we first came in, I reached down and cupped the side of her face. She was warm, and I was relieved. I thought she was dead.

Talking with my boss, I thought to myself, "You can take a shit-cake and frost it with lovely pink cherry icing, and decorate it with pretty sugar flowers - and it will still be what it is: CRAP."

I told my boss, again, that I understood what she was saying. And - I think I understand some of the reasons she was saying it. Saving face on Elizabeth's behalf, re-arranging events for her own mind, creating a path - an "out," that will make it easier for Elizabeth to return if she chooses to, especially in the mind of her younger co-worker. It makes sense, and anyone is certainly free to think what they want.

However, I told my boss that there was obviously something wrong with Elizabeth. I'm glad to know that she will be physically ok, but I'm concerned for her mental health. I don't want to pretend it was less that it was because I am painfully aware that there was intention behind her actions. I don't think anyone should be glossing over anything, and all concerned - family, friends, and co-workers should be on board to ensuring she gets some help. I've been told that a shrink will not visit a patient in hospital who has attempted suicide in Korea. Once her body's ready to be released, then that's what will happen, and this concerns me.

It concerns me a lot.
Actually, right now, it consumes me.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Shook Up

I could barely sleep last night. Stands to reason, but I think I only got maybe a couple hours.
I would pay my boss to cancel classes today.
My boss is a very kind woman, and I feel awful for her, too.
I don't know how we're going to manage, but am sure we will.
Thank you for your kind comments, they help.
But still: fuck!


I'm posting this because I feel awful.

Small things first, the dentist was as I thought it would be: horrible. He did indeed come at me with a giant needle and the nurses did indeed hold me down. They yanked part of my tooth out and then drilled me. The worst thing was I didn't know what they were going to do and the second worst thing was they tipped the chair so far back (I was in a lying position) I had a recurring overwhelming feeling of falling back. -Like when you're just about to fall asleep and all your muscles jerk at once. As they worked on me, tears slid out of the far corners of my eyes. Two nurses mopped them up once the dentist was done with me.

Here's the clever quip I thought of after the fact: even though I was terrified and pretty much a baby about the whole ordeal, they must have been pretty impressed, and wanted to coronate me, as they told me I will need a crown. Queen Me.

After leaving the dentist, I had a good cry in the stairwell.

I went to work. I had already been there, 2 hours early, telling my boss I was headed to the dentist, and getting her to call ahead to warn them a waygook saram was on the way.

I knew today was going to be a challenging day, as the boss was meeting with the K-teachers to divvy up classes and assign texts. As I arrived to work, early, I was surprised to see no meeting going on. My co-worker hadn't shown up yet.

The minutes ticked by, and finally the bell rang, and still, no co-worker.
My boss took her classes.
As the first class ended, and there was still no co-worker, and no phone call, panic set it.

It was panic in general, because having a K-teacher not show up is unheard of, especially Elizabeth, who's never missed a day in 3 years and 3 months at our school. She's super-responsible, and will call if she's even a few minutes late for being early. It was panic personally because she's my best friend in Korea, and I knew if she wasn't there, there was something awful going down.

After the day ended, with no word from Elizabeth, my boss and I and her young son took the bus downtown to try to find her apartment. I was the only one who had ever been there before. We got all turned around, and walked for so long, but finally ended up right in front of her place.

The lights were off and there was no answer at the door. We knocked on the neighbours' apartment (her friends) and they joined us in our concern. We finally called a locksmith, who took about 15 minutes to get into her apartment.

We found her on her living room floor. She was barely breathing and there was a suicide note written (in Korean) lying on the desk above her. I was the first to notice the note, and asked my boss, "What's that?" She read it and said, "I can't understand it." (I think she was in shock.) A few moments later, the woman-neighbour picked up the note, read it, and started to wail.

The whole scene was horrific. My whole day was horrific. More than horrible, goddamned horrific.

The ambulance came. The papramedics checked her eyes with a pen light and then grabbed the skin on her chest and screamed at her. Elizabeth weakly lifted her hand toward the paramedic. Response to pain. Good.

They took her away in the ambulance with the lights and the sirens.

I walked up the street, found the first bar I saw and had a shot of Henneseys with a beer chaser. Then I cabbed it home. The cab driver kept turning around and saying "What?" to me because I had developed Tourettes and busted out with soft compulsive "fucks" and "goddamits."

I post this now because I'm freaking out. (I really am.) I post it now because I will take support in any manner and any fashion it comes. Bring it. If you pray, pray for my friend. I'll support her best I can....you support me. It's a chain.


Thursday, February 23, 2006


God obviously doesn't think I'm funny, and He doesn't like me blogging about Mary's hoo-hoo either. Just after posting that last entry, He broke my tooth in half. You might think it was the popcorn that broke my tooth, but I know it was, in fact, the Almighty. He was only using the popcorn as a conduit of retaliation.

I don't have many fears, and I certainly can't really relate to people with irrational fears, like, toward spiders, or bees, or Martha Stewart.

I do have what I think is a very reasonable and rational fear of dentists.

My childhood dentist was a sadist, and the only reason he still has (as far as I know) all five digits on his hand is because he was saved by that styrofoam thingie they put on your teeth filled with "bubble gum" (read: vomit) flavoured goo, when your teeth are getting cleaned. As it was, I drew blood from his hand by my lower teeth which didn't sport styrofoam protection.

Going to a dentist in a land where you can't speak or understand the language is so daunting. Whereas an English dentist might normally warn you, "Now I'm going to jab this 5 inch needle into your gums, and then I'm going to drill up into your cranium" here, they just come at you with it while the nurses hold your limbs down.

Alas, though, I'm going to have to go to the dentist in the morning. I'm not kidding, I'm quite terrified. My heart's racing as I even type this.

Holy Mary Mother of God, Pray For Me.
And I'm sorry about mentioning your vagina.

Bums and Bummers

At work today I saw a headline on the MSN site which read something like "Catholics Angered by TV's 'South Park.'" I laughed, and wondered if this was the new style of reporting things: "News of the Obvious."

"THIS JUST IN: Bananas are yellow!"

Though I didn't read it, and by the time I got home, the link had slipped off MSN's site, I gather that it's referring to an episode which aired back in December. Here's some details via Boing Boing and here's a press release from the Catholic League For Religious and Civil Rights, where they note, "The episode in question featured a statue of the Virgin Mary spraying blood from her vagina."

I do believe that is the first time I ever read anyone make mention of the Holy Mother's vagina. Usually, it's "womb," which I mistook as an Elmer Fuddsian mispronunciation of "room" when I was a kid.

"And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her room."
""Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your room!"

(Which also reminds me of the time when I was about 10, reading the newspaper in the living room, when I came across an article about a man being charged for animal cruelty after he left his German Shepherd outside in sub-freezing temperatures and the dog was found with parts of him frozen to the ground.
"Mom! What's a scrotum?" I called out to her as she cleaned the kitchen.
After an extended pause, she walked into the living room with a worried look on her face and said, "It's a man's front bum. Why?")

Finding out that men had two bums confused the hell out of me. But I've gone off track, haven't I?

Which is more offensive? A cartoon with Muhammed sporting a cannonball head, or the Blessed Mother spraying blood from her front bum? When are the Catholics going to start rioting? Should I be (more) concerned?

In other Catholic news, my co-workers funk was not lifted with the appearance of delicious macaroni salad. She was in a dreadful state today. I think she may be ill, which happens, but I can't understand why she just won't say that. The rest of us are walking around on eggshells.

In all honesty, I wonder if she's manic depressive. Her behaviour is usually right over the top. I offered her a baby dill pickle on Monday, and you'd think I'd just given her manna from heaven. She marveled at its size and it's cuteness, and then its crunch and its sourness, and, with exaggerated hand gestures, "Ohhhhh! I have never tasteed anytheeng like dis! Ohhhh!" Comparatively, the last two days she seems to have shrunk in size. She speaks in a small voice of a tiny scared helpless child. I empathize, I do. But I also want to give her a good shake and a "snap outtuv it" slap.

However, something I didn't expect today was what a very good day I had at work compared to just the average day I normally have. With my co-worker's gloomy silence, compared to her regular gregariousness, I was actually able to talk to the other two of my co-workers in English. Every break. We bonded with wrinkled brows and nods toward the Sullen One with secret gestures meaning "What's UP with her?" (Replies were shrugs of "I dunno!")

I hope she's feeling better tomorrow. We've got a big week coming up with class changes, new texts, and a new "school year" starting. I'm looking forward to the change. It'll shake things up a bit and re-energize the kids. The first couple weeks will be a breeze, as the kids are usually a bit subdued when they find themselves with new classes amongst new students. Should be interesting!

*UPDATE: I found the link to the MSN story. It's because the episode is set to air in New Zealand.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Today's Highlights

My boss gave me some silly English stuff to help her with, riddles and such. Like "Can a kangaroo jump higher than the Empire State Building?" She had written "No, it can't," beside the question, but I crossed that out and wrote, "Yes it can. A building can't jump." I've heard that one before.

Another task was to write the main theme or topic beside a list of 5 words. I know I got one of them right: "accident, stock market, car, loud noise, airplane: CRASH." Two others I was unsure of: "snowstorm, winter, white, wind, cold: BLIZZARD(?)" "proof, legal, born, document, old: CERTIFICATE(?)" and one, I just don't know, "drink, inn, bar, pub, England: (?)" I thought "lager" automatically, but I don't know. What do you think? Anyone?

One of my co-workers was in a horrible mood today. When asked what was wrong, she said "nothing," though obviously it was something. The teachers' room was filled with bad mojo, and I wasn't the only one who noticed.

I stayed and chatted with my boss for about an hour after work, and finally left the building to find the street permeated with a delicious smell. Ah, "Chicken Man," with his giant oven filled with rotisserie roasting little chickens on the back of his "chicken truck" was in the neighbourhood. I wondered what they're seasoned with, it smells a little cinamonny.

I stopped to pet a terribly thin dog, standing statue-still on a white bench in front of the street-video games. Chicken man offered me the dog to take home. I declined, telling him I have a giant cat at home. Cute dog. Chicken Man told me it was a Pomeranian, but it looked more like a Poodle.

If I had all kinds of money, I would open up animal shelters here and start a massive PR campaign to attempt to change Korean attitudes about stray animals. (I've been told they're "dirty" and therefore un-adoptable.)

I had dinner outside, sitting at a bench at a food stall. I ate chap'che mandu (glass noodle dumplings) and hunks of squid, as a massive tray of bright red chicken feet sat in front of me and threatened to ruin my appetite. Three different drunk Soju Men separated from their groups of Other Soju Men to come over and comment on the book I was trying to finish. I think they felt that James Frey betrayed Oprah and should have ensured his book was published as non-fiction, rather than a personal memoir. That, and the hand displayed on the front, covered in tiny multi-colored balls you'd normally find in a capsule, was kind of pretty.

I came home, did laundry, washed dishes, wrote student reports for two and a half hours, and then chopped vegetables for a giant pasta salad as I watched The West Wing. It was a Christmas episode, and it made me cry.

Tomorrow I'll bring the pasta salad to school, and hope the bad funky aura my co-worker was sporting today will lift. No one can be unhappy in front of tupperware filled with pasta salad, eh?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

When It Rains it Pours

Holy Blogging Batman!

I just wanted to note, I came home tonight and found two little yellow "stickies" on my door. The first note reads:
Hi Jane!
Good afternoon sir- My name is Sun Hwa Park. Long time no see. We help people to understand the Bible~ are you ok please! I would like so return visit your house p.m. BYE~ see you again

The second reads:
I am Jehevah Wi---.
See you next time please!
I would like to see you ~very very!~

I don't want to be rude, but I would like to see her never never.

When she comes here, she speaks very bad English with a very serious accent, and I really can't understand her. I do marvel at the amount of spittle that forms in the corners of her mouth. I also marvel at the amount of gold in her preaching-partner's mouth. He doesn't speak English at all. I've mentioned them before, we all just stand around grinning at each other, while I try to use my jedi-powers to will them away.
Yah, thanks, no bi-bul-ah study today! Or ever. Thanks!

Ajummas Gone Wild

Oh, by the way, me renting all these movies have meant I've been dropping by my local neighbourhood crap video store quite a bit these days. Mostly I've been paying them late fees, but I'm not even bothered about it. Being a day late returning one of their brand new releases costs only 700 won. Not even a buck Canadian. No worries!

I was on the phone a couple weeks ago with my friend Jason in Canada. He was working at his job at a video store. He only works there to support his real job of being a writer, director, producer, actor. Check it out. He and his brother have 3 films under their belt, and are working on a 4th one now (in post-production, I believe, which is why he's too busy to e-mail me.)

Anyhow, all that to say I was surprised to hear him charging the customers who kept coming up and rudely interrupting our phone conversation five, six, seven bucks in late fees! Yowzers! I guess the customers put up with it because it's a hip and trendy video store in their hip and trendy neighbourhood.

MY video store is neither hip, nor trendy. It is chalk full of Jean Claude Van Bad.

There are a cast of crazy characters at the video store though. The owner used to shake my hand and do that secret scratch-my-palm with his finger while he shook. I always slapped him on the arm. Lately he hasn't been doing that, which is fine by me. I really like the young woman who works at the cash register, she's so nice and friendly and can speak a little English. She's always laughing at me, and we talk about videos. Her favourite English movie is "Alexandria." I'll have to try to watch that again. I fell asleep in the 1st 30 minutes last time I attempted it.

The video store is attached to a little restaurant where I usually go after lessons with my boss. They make a delicious soon doobu jjighae (soft tofu stew.) One of the waitresses at the restaurant is so cute. She has spiky orange hair cut into a mullet of sorts, but the mullet part is pulled into a small ponytail. She always greets me with a sing-song "hiiiiiii!" when I come in, so for the purpose of this story, let's call her Mrs. Hii. If I get anywhere near Mrs. Hii, she grabs me and hugs me. When she hugs me from behind, she mauls my breasts. I turn red, laugh, and try to peel her hands off me. She's kind of short, so I just figure that's where her hands naturally land. I've given her the benefit of the doubt thus far, but what I witnessed tonight has me second guessing!

As I entered the store tonight, Mrs. Hii was on the video side, and she greeted me with a "hiiiiiii" and then kind of reached around and slapped my ass. I laughed, and she headed back over toward the restaurant, but jumped behind the video rack when the washroom door opened. She motioned for me to "shhhh" with her finger over her lips, and when her co-worker, a middle aged lady with dyed black hair and bright red lipstick, passed by the end of the rack, Mrs. Hii kind of jumped out at her and yelled "hiiiiii!"

This startled the co-worker, who retaliated by grabbing Mrs. Hii from behind around the waist, reaching between her legs, and (I'm guessing) grabbing all her pubic hair and giving it a good YANK! I couldn't really see what she did, as I was behind the two of them. I initially thought it was a one-handed dong-chimee (where you poke your fingers up someone's bum) but Mrs, Hii's resulting complaining "Ouuuuch" and holding was definitely more in the vaginal region than the derriere.

Lesson learned, though. I shall never jump out and yell "SURPRISE" at anyone over here. Never ever ever.

Weird, huh?

Books and Movies

I've been lost in books lately.
I never did get any of the books my bookstore was happy to order for me. they ended up calling the school a couple days after I got so excited when they said "Sure! We can get your books fer ya, Missy!" and they clarified, "No, we cannot get anything fer ya, SUCKA!"
So sad.
My uuber Catholic co-worker was interested in obtaining an English Bible, so I helped her find one on Amazon. She ended up getting the "Catholic Youth Bible," and says its very difficult. I agreed, the Bible is a tough read, but leafing through her version I thought it was fairly cool, and included little "fun facts" and trivia. Kind of like the "Pop-Up Video" version of the Good Book. I guess you have to make things catchy for the youth of today, what with their nano-second attention spans!

Anyhow, I tagged along on her order, and a couple books were delivered to me about a week and a half ago. Here they are lying on my desk.
Image hosting by Photobucket
And there's a lollipop there as well. And some batteries.

I'm almost finished James Frey's A Million Little Pieces. I like it. You've probably heard about all the controversy. Oprah picked this book as one of her Book Club selections. It was published as a memoir by the author about his stint in drug rehab, but it turns out he fabricated and embellished quite a few of the details, as noted here, on The Smoking Gun website.

I don't really care about all that. It's a good read. Dark and chilling, and I'm going to pick up his other "memoir," My Friend Leonard when I get a chance.

I should be finished Frey's book tomorrow, and maybe will write something about it (but probably won't) and then I'm going to read David Sedaris's Me talk Pretty One Day.

I could use a week on a beach doing nothing but reading, as I've got a massive stack to get through.

When I haven't been reading, I've been watching a few movies. Last week was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Tim Burton is on DRUGS, right? The Oomaploopa(s) creeped the hell out of me, as did Johnny Depp's "Michael Jacksonish on thorazine" performance. I probably would have liked this movie a whole lot better if I was high.

Last night I watched a film I'd never even heard of before, Broken Flowers. Directed by Jim Jarmusch who was just probably on drugs, it starred Bill Murray, and it was OK. It was one of those movies, though, that you might watch and think "I don't get it," as the closing credits roll. It's a quiet film, and a lot of time is spent with the camera following the scenery out of a car window and through the car's side view mirror. Perhaps there's some deep message there about traveling forward while focusing on the past. Surely there's lots of symbolism and depth in this movie, but I'm fairly two-dimensional, so I'm all, like, "HUH?"

Tonight's selection will surely be a lot easier to grasp. Fever Pitch, (which is named "The Perfect Catch" here in Korea for some reason) stars Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon and is directed by The Farrelly Brothers. They're probably on drugs as well, but it's just high-grade weed, compared to Tin Burton's LSD and Jarmusch's smack.

And them's the facts, Jack.

Friday, February 17, 2006

BBM4 More Presents in the Mail!

I got my package for BBM4 from the talented Santos, over at The Scent of Green Bananas. Check out her wonderful blog, but be warned, if you go there hungry, it's going to make you even hungrier. She's in Guam! How cool is that? Where is Guam?
Oh, here it is!
Image hosting by Photobucket
I know of Guam. I heard a lot of talk about it while I was living in Japan. The overwhelming consensus was "we should GO THERE!" and if you need any more convincing of that, please visit the 'visit Guam' website. It looks niiiiice.
And speaking of niiiiiice, check out the goodies I got in my BBM4 package:
Image hosting by Photobucket

Santos was so thoughtful, and had a look around my blog and found out what it was I was jonesing for! Hence, I got some ROCKIN' Parmesan cheese. 2 year old cheese. Delicious cheese. And some dry salami with green peppercorns. Outstanding!

I didn't mention this, but upon returning from Japan, I filled out my customs card truthfully and fessed up that I had MEAT in my luggage, 2 things of salami, and a vaccuum sealed package of pastrami. The last time I came through (in August) I answered truthfully about possession of meat (that time, it was bratwurst) and was let through, no problem. Now I'm thinking the customs dude didn't really look at my customs card, because this time I got pulled over and my goods were confiscated. *SOB!* I argued a little bit, saying "I'm going to go home and EAT this! What's the big deal?" But, no go. I would have been able to eat everything right there in front of Mean Mister Customs, but, like, that would've been weird.

So I celebrated when I saw my salami! Happy day!

I also got some little bite sized Macadamia and choco-chip cookies, and 3 packages of various delicious chocolate covered McAdams. They were so delicious, 2 of them leapt right from the box into my mouth and didn't make it to be photographed! I also got a can of Butter Crack Cocaine Glazed Macadamias. WHOOPS!!!! I mean Butter Candy Glazed Macadamias!

I've heard crack cocaine is so dangerous because it's so terribly addictive. One can become addicted with the 1st hit. It's the same sort of thing with these candy-nuts. Unbelievable. If you can, go get yourself some Mauna Loa brand macadamias, but don't say I didn't warn you. You'll be a macadamioholic.

Finally, I got some fancy fancy tea. It is exquisite. Look at it...
Image hosting by Photobucket
I've never seen tea like it! It's in a silky pyramid shaped bag. Two of my co-workers, when I showed them the tea, said "Oh! Can I have one?" I said "Sure!" I love exposing my friends here to new tastes.

Turns out, the bags are so pretty they want to hang them from the rear-view mirrors in their cars! They like the smell! Ok.

Anyhow, many thanks to Santos. I LOVE my package, and really appreciate all the thought you put into it. Oh, I should mention, because BBM4 is a music-themed exchange, Santos was kind enough to include a CD with 80's and modern tunes she likes. I haven't listened to it yet, but will this weekend as I read my book and sip a good cup of tea. Thank you, Santos!

For more information on BBM4, check out the round-up over at The Food Ninja's site.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

I'm OK

I didn't really intend to take a break from my dear blog. I opened up the posting page numerous times over the last few days and stared at the blank screen for awhile before confirming what I already knew: I had nothing to say.

That's not entirely true. I've got lots I could say. I'm just not motivated to say it. Or I don't know how to properly organize my thoughts into any level of coherency. We'll see if I can manage to properly pull out of my slump in the coming days. Truthfully, I am sloth-like. I should be living in a tree in South America. I'm more tired than I have any right to be. I come home, tuck my massive cat into the fold of my arm, and sleep for 2 or 3 hours. Then I wake up, watch TV for a couple hours, and go back to sleep.

Happy Belated Valentines Day! (Or, as I like to call it, "Valentines Schmalentines Day!")

In Korea, there are 2 days set up for friends and lovers to bestow gifts on one another. Valentines is the first, and is meant for womenfolk to show their man they care by giving them chocolate. C-H-O-C-O-L-A-T-E. I gave some of my little boy students candy yesterday, and it was noted that it was NOT chocolate.

Exactly a month after Valentines Day is "White Day," where men reciprocate by giving their ladies candy. C-A-N-D-Y. I have to clarify if white chocolate is ok on White Day. Should be, eh?

Anyhow. I'd like to thank Cathy, over at
My Little Kitchen for the unexpected and wonderful gift she sent my way a couple weeks ago. I had sent her a tiny little gift at Christmastime, as a little thank you for hosting Blogging By Mail 3. She did a GREAT job, and really made it fun for me. I thought that updating and going through all the e-mails she surely got must have been time-consuming. I really didn't expect anything in return, but was so stoked to get a box full of goodies! Check it out:
Image hosting by Photobucket
It was a box full of Valentines treats for the kids! There was a box of Disney girl-heroines for my little girls, and so cool little sports themed cards for the little boys. (For the boys, there were little foil covered chocolates that looked like baseballs, basketballs, and soccer balls you insert into the holes in the cards. The boys loved them! The girls' cards folded in half, and were secured by a little heart shaped sticker. I slid a heart shaped foil covered chocolate on the inside.) There were enough cards for all the kids in the first 10 classes! Cathy also sent enough chocolate and little candy hearts for ALL of the students. THANK YOU!!!

I'll tell you, it really made me happy to give the kids Valentines treats, and gave me the opportunity to tell them about Valentines Day when I was their age, and the fact that we don't have "White Day" in Canada in the States, so giving the girls treats was fine. (The kids then asked what other holidays we don't have: "Teacha, Peppero Day? (Chocolate Covered Cookie Day, Nov. 11th) Samgyupsal Day? (Grilled Pork Belly, March 3rd) Jajamyun Day? (Noodles with Black Sauce, April 14th) Nurungii Day? (Burnt Rice Day, the 8th of every month.)"

Uhhhhh. "No, no, no, no!"

Today, when I went into my 2nd class, though, I got annoyed. I saw 2 bags of the candy hearts I'd given the last classes, in the garbage! I asked the Korean teacher what happened, and she said two of the boys didn't like the smell of them, so they threw them away. (They were the very popular brand "Sweet Tarts" candy hearts, with little messages on them.) I LOVE those candies. I ranted a bit in the staffroom about how rude it was to toss them where I would see them. When I went into the classroom this evening I started right into the boys about "manners" and how they'd hurt my feelings. They understood, and were embarrassed, hiding their faces behind their bags. I said "you're not ostriches, get your head up and say 'sorry' to me!" They did.

And then I said "now you two will spend the rest of class eating everything in that wastepaper basket!"

No, I didn't.

Forgive their manners, Cathy. They're at the age where they're "too cool for school." Had they tasted the candies, they would have known what the rest of the class confirmed, they were delicious.

I hope everyone had a Happy Happy Love Love Day, and no one threw your stuff in the trash!

Thursday, February 09, 2006


Earlier tonight, standing at a crosswalk waiting for the long light to turn green, I thought about how cold it was, as the wind ripped right through my fleecy zip up thing. A man and a woman, snuggling up together against the cold, squished between the lamp post and I so that they could stand directly in front of me. I mean, there was about 6 inches between my chest and the guys back. There was no one in the 12 or so feet of space on the other side of me.

He had his hands in his pants pockets, which made the split in the back of his plaid suit coat open in a wide "V." It was very "Hey! Look at my bum!"

I had a sudden urge to place my foot on his plaid ass and gently but firmly push him into oncoming traffic.

That'd learn him to buy some mittens and allow me my personal space!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Domestic Disturbances

Apparently, the latest cool new thing to do at my building is practice your taekwondo on the huge metal doors leading to people's apartments. Last Thursday, at about 4:30 in the morning, a very very angry man started to take out all his pent up aggression on a poor door on the third floor. He was so angry, and kicked the shit out of it while screaming obscenities. His attack lasted about half an hour! Can you imagine? I was so surprised nobody called the cops, it was LA-HOUD! There's no way I was the only one who heard it, though I can tell you I was the only one who snuck outside a couple times to see what was going on!

Finally, whoever was on the other side of that door let him in, (or he finally managed to locate his keys) and I could hear him assaulting the inside of the apartment. (I hope it was just the apartment!)

Tonight, at about quarter after three, I heard the same sound. "Oh no!" I thought, "not again!" The sound seemed closer, though, so I slipped on my sandals and gently opened the door. Nothing down the one side of the hallway, so I peered around my door to the other side and sure enough, there stood a woman with a cellphone pressed to her ear, kicking the crap out of the door to an apartment 2 doors down from me. When she saw me, she turned her back, but continued to vent her anger on the door. Unlike the angry man of last week, though, she wasn't screaming. Her attack only last about 5 minutes, and I was relieved to hear the pounding stop. Then I heard a ruckus outside at the front of the building.

She had switched the target of her violence from the door to a car downstairs. Perhaps she couldn't find anything to throw up at the balcony attached to the apartment attached to the door she hates. So she dismantled a car and whipped it at the side of the building piece by piece. Go Uma! Kill Bill's car!
Image hosting by Photobucket
Bill has a Musso Sports Beast. It's an odd looking pick-up truck of sorts. Odd looking, but also expensive looking.

Bill is not going to be happy in the morning when he discovers his license plates peeled off, his side-view mirrors smashed and bent in the other direction, and his antenna ripped out.

A taxi pulled up and Uma hopped in. I went downstairs to see the extent of the damage, and she heavily keyed both sides of the truck, front to back, just for good measure. Uma should be a pitcher, she's got a good arm, and connected with the balcony more times than she missed. And we're 4 floors up!

Hell hath no fury, eh?

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


Today, my co-worker told me that over the weekend she had seen a guy and a girl, who looked young enough to be in high school, standing on the street cuddling. Like, with their arms around each other. In the daytime. With the sun shining on them.

She told me this with a look on her face as if she were telling me she had witnessed them holding hands while taking a dump on the street. With the sun shining on them.

She told me she was shocked. I told her I was a little shocked at her being shocked.

I wonder, when she tells me things like this, like the time she saw some Korean woman kiss a black man in a cafeteria (!) what sort of reaction she expects from me? I wonder if she expects me to commiserate, and if so, I wonder if she's really gotten to know me at all over the last 20 months I've been here. I wonder if she's telling me these things in an attempt to remind me what a fine upstanding decent person she is.

I don't know, but it reminded me of the same reaction I had way back in the "dark ages" when Dan Quayle described Candice Bergen's character "Murphy Brown" as being a poor role model for young women. (Sorry to bring up such a dated reference, but it's what immediately popped into my mind. Or rather, perhaps my eyes rolled back so far in my cranium (just as they did back then) that they actually saw the portion of my brain storing the early nineties.)

I recently read that gays and lesbians in Canada are rushing to the altar to marry, because they fear the new Conservative government will reverse the legalization of same-sex marriages. For real?

Feel free to explain to me what the deal is, why gays and lesbians shouldn't have the right to have their unions recognized under the law. Convince me that they shouldn't, and I'll buy you a beer. Hell, I'll buy you a porsche.

I don't get into politics too much. I think I heard about the Canadian election the weekend before it happened. I would have voted if I were there (against Harper) but I didn't. However, hearing all this somehow reminded me of watching the Toronto's Caribana Parade (so fun!) but seems to be going in reverse as it's all one step forward, two steps back.

I miss Toronto.

As for everything else, "C'mon peeps!" *clap, clap* let's get with the times!

Friday, February 03, 2006

I Wish Jann Arden Was My Friend

She's just so funny. And likeable. And honest.

Back to life, back to reality. Today happened. I witnessed it, and a few people got to witness me witnessing it, sort of.

Work was a little strange. I have to use my sense of sensing to determine what the mood feels like on any given day, since I am rarely told what's happening. I decided today what I should have decided a long long time ago: to not let it bother me that the teachers speak Korean 90% of their time to each other and exclude me. You'd think I would have gotten used to it in the last 20 months, but I haven't, really, and it twists me up in knots too often. So I'm going to attempt to insulate my brain with the thought that ignorance may very well be bliss, and just take it moment by moment.

Anyhow, the mood today at work was dark. There's a very large new shiny English school just opened somewhere near us, it's one of the largest chains in Korea. I think it's worrying the boss and teachers, and we've already lost our most brilliant enthusiastic student to them. The most unruly class today threatened the K-teacher with "now that we can go to the other school, you have to be kind to us." Mmmmm-kay kid.

I'm feeling like I already have one foot out the door anyhow. It's 18 weeks and 1 day left here, which equates to about 88 days of teaching. It sounds like a lot, eighty eight, but 8's my lucky number, so it's gooooood. 18 is a great number too, so it's double goooood.

Being in Japan amongst friends and able to communicate with so much more ease, even with people who barely speak English reminded me of who I am. Here, it seems attitudes get in the way so often, mine included. It was nice to have the feeling of being totally excited to be somewhere and knowing that the people I was with felt glad to have me there too. I surprised myself with the number of times I felt compelled to say "I'm so HAPPY!" aloud while I was away.

But now, back to now.

I stopped by my Craptastic Video Store on the way home and meant to pick up "The Island" which might be ok, but got distracted by a couple of middle school girls chatting with me, and mistakenly rented "Wise Girls." With Mariah Carey. 'Nuff said. I don't know why there are 3 copies of this NEW RELEASE, which is actually from 2002. Maybe it was just released to video?

I'd like to release it off my balcony by whipping it into the forest.

Are cuckoos migrating birds? I miss the sound of the cuckoo who lived in the forest. I wonder where it went.

It's Friday now technically, but totally feels like Tuesday. I feel futuristic. And clairvoyant. I see eminent sleep in my immediate future.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Japan: Food You Can't See

Yep, I'm back.

And I'm sad. Not SAD really, more maudlin. I'm sure I haven't got a real reason to be like this, but I am. My vacation is over and I'm not getting another one until I'm finished my current contract and find myself back in Canada, or wherever.

Japan was great. I love it there. I surely hope that anyone who is in Korea working seizes the opportunity and close proximity to go and have a good visit. Every time I'm there I remember how in love I am with the place and the people. I want to chop up Japan and its people and whirr it up in a blender and spread it on toast. And eat it. YUM! Sweet!

I saw a bunch of my friends, including the fabulous Lala. We spend a lot of time not talking enough, and then I get the chance to hang out with her and remember again how much I love her and how she continues to impress me so much with her honesty and affection. Plus, she's so super cute. Sexy.

I saw my adopted Japanese family. Things didn't go as smoothly as I would have liked, as I had a blow-out with my great friend which I'm still not sure what it was all about. She was pissed at me, which made me pissed at her, and resulted in a drunken tear-soaked explosion of "I love you's" and "I'm sorry's." It's all good now, but I hate when stuff like that happens, especially if I suspect the hard feelings aren't genuinely warranted but are, rather, projections of ones feelings about other things. Knowing that I tend to be more of a "flee-er" than a "fighter," I had visions of me boarding a ship back on Monday. I'm glad that didn't happen.

I've been wanting a digital camera for quite awhile, but this weekend was an example of why it would probably be quite a drag. I had access to a camera, my friend offered to lend me hers, and we even charged it up so it was ready to go. Then I spent the weekend forgetting to bring it along, and thinking "man, I wish I had a camera so I could blog this!"

I would have shown you the food at my friends' Izakaya. I didn't order it. If I had ordered, we would have had "yakkionigiri," (grilled rice balls) eggplant gratin, beef on sticks with garlic chips, and "buta burra" (pork.) All deeeeeelicious items on the menu. I would have taken photos of the "basashi" (raw horse meat) my friend Dai-chan was eating, and the big pigs feet the table of businessmen were eating next to us. As it was, we got a smorgasboard of meat on sticks - all yummy, save for the chicken hearts. We ate "tebasaki" (chicken wings on sticks) which is one of the best things at my friends' restaurant. Outstanding. I was wondering why the bones looked so clean on the plates of my Japanese friends compared to mine. Then I realized they eat everything besides the bone, that cartilage "knuckle" thing included. In fact, you can order a whole stick filled with chicken cartilage. Ick.

I would have taken photos of the two lunches of ramen. When I was in Japan, I didn't eat a lot of it, yet find myself CRAVING its salty goodness since I've been living in Korea and all I can find is instant (let's face it, crap) ramen. The shop we went to today just REEKS as you step in the door. It offered "tonkotsu" (pig bone) ramen. After it comes to the table you press whole cloves of garlic and sesame seeds into it. There was a small glass container of the shop's special spicy miso on the table as well. My friend and I ate almost the whole think with our ramen and gyoza (fried dumplings.) Mmmmm mmmm mmm!

If I had brought the camera, I would have snapped pics of our Monday meal at our favourite Chinese restaurant. Their "ebi mayo" (massive shrimp tempura in a mayonnaise sauce with broccoli and cashews) is to die for. As is their "tantanmen" (spicy noodles in a peanutty ground meat and green veg soup) and their "mapo tofu" and "tenshin han" rice covered in egg and brown sauce. Again, mmm mmmm mm!

I would have also taken pics of our meal at the "sushi-go-round" where I was the champion and ate 6 plates full compared to Lala's hungover measly TWO!

Tomorrow I'll tell you more. For now, I must take my maudlin ass to bed. I hope you had a great New Year. I was looking forward to seeing the new year's 1st moon, but it was cloudy in Japan. Did you see it? Did it look full of promise and excitement?