Friday, May 30, 2008

Ugly Bike

I think the kid who owns this probably painted it himself. Nice work!


I don't know, maybe it's just me - but this doesn't seem like the best place for a soju-induced mid-afternoon nap.
This guy was insistent about sleeping in the MIDDLE of the road, too! He'd already been dragged to the curb twice by the concerned vegetable-selling grandmas who line the opposite side of the road (and hassle me as I walk by every single time!) Sleepy Soju Man would protest by screaming and trying to slap them away and then roll himself back into the centre of the street.

There are the grandmothers on one side and always a bunch of grandpas sitting on benches on the other side of the street. Most days they're all drinking, so things can get pretty interesting. Earlier in the week two grandmas got into a fight and ended up slapping each other silly.

Then there's this guy.
He's a regular outside my school. Sometimes he dances and sings and sometimes he fights. Someone usually ends up fetching his wife who comes around to shout at him and smack him around. Quite the daily show going on here!

Speaking of Z's, I was dozing off after I came home from work, so decided to turn off the TV and commit to a little nap, figuring I'd be out for an hour or so. I woke up SIX HOURS later! Holy Jelly Van Winkle! TGIF,'s been a long tiring week.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Latest

I finally got my computer back at home and she's all fixed up. That's good news! Now I can resume not commenting on my favourite blogs and not replying to e-mails from my favourite people. I'm awesome.

My co-worker Sunny had given her notice, intending to quit at the end of May. She was recently changing her mind, though - and had agreed to stay on until my boss found a teacher to replace her. It turns out that she wasn't planning on taking a course after all (I felt she was lying when she told me she was going back to school) and was instead going to look for a job that paid her more money. She told me last Friday that she was reconsidering, and was thinking about staying on at my school. I guess she changed her mind over the weekend, because she sent the boss a text message on Monday ten minutes before her first class was starting saying she was taking a week off to go travelling. If Karen still wanted her to work after she got back, she would.

Ballsy I tells ya!

Karen is finally fed up and Sunny is so fired.

I'm pretty ticked off at her as well. It's obvious she doesn't care about her students or Karen and I. She's such a chicken, and that's not a trait I enjoy in anyone. Actually I called her on Monday night and was surprised she answered the phone. She wasn't travelling anywhere either. I don't know what her deal is, but it's like every couple months she figures it's time for her to have a mini-vacation. I'm tired of covering her classes and I'm tired of her crap English anyhow. So buh-bye Sunny-pie.

I've been gathering all sorts of documents so my boss can visit immigration in a couple days and extend my visa. My contract expires on the 11th of June, but my visa always expires at the end of May. Karen's looking to submit another year-long contract, which I haven't totally committed to. We've been negotiating for the last few days and can't seem to agree on the details. We're stuck on money,...go figure, and I'm being quite rigid. I want to go home this summer and I want her to pay for the airfare and she's having trouble agreeing to that idea. It's not an insane expectation by any means. Schools almost always pay for the airfare of their foreign teachers from and to their home countries. I've been here four years, and Karen's never paid for a trip home. Granted, I've only gone home once but that was on my dime. I paid over two thousand clams at the time for my airfare, and with the way airlines have raised their fares, I'm expecting it'll cost even more. Karen's offered to let me go for two weeks of paid vacation, but that's not making me happy. She seems very stressed out by the whole airfare idea, so finally I said to her today, "Listen, this is non-negotiable. You're paying for my trip home one way or another. Either you buy me a return ticket or a one-way ticket and find a new teacher." Then I turned her upside down and shook all the loose change out of her pockets and said, "I'm taking this TOO!"

We're haggling over a thousand dollars or so worth of raise as well. When I speak to her about why I deserve it and how there's better employment deals to be had out there and how I often feel lonely and isolated in this silly little town I can hear a little voice in the back of my head yelling, "Why are you even bartering to stay here, you idiot?" I think I've got some weird version of Stockholm Syndrome.

Today I went to the hospital to get tested for the government regulations for foreigners here to make sure I don't have AIDS and I'm not high on drugs. I had to get my brother to go fetch me a Criminal Record Check from the Toronto police as well. Once I've got those in my silly hands I'm free and clear to change jobs, so we'll see what happens.

Here's a new puppy. It's Buddy's replacement apparently.
Now I'm waiting to see what the replacement for Sunny's going to be like. When we find one, that is.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Good-Bye Good-Boy

I'm pretty sure Buddy: The Good Boy didn't pull through. I didn't see his corpse (thankfully) but I stopped to talk to the man who owns the land where Buddy, Circle-Gay and Big Jindo Puppy all hang out. I mentioned Buddy was so sick, and he said he knew. I asked what was wrong, and he said he didn't know. I said it was a shame, because he is such a good boy, and when I asked where he was the man bent to look in the dog house Buddy and Circle-Gay share. He wasn't there, and the man then told me "Maybe he's there," and pointed up to the sky. I sadly nodded in agreement. He probably was up in Doggy Heaven. The last time I'd seen him he seemed not to want to lie down even though he could barely stand. I wondered if he was hesitating, thinking he wouldn't ever get up again. I gave the note to his "owner" the following day, and he nodded and told me it was okay to take Buddy to the vet, but Buddy wasn't around. I never saw him again.

On Wednesday this past week, Buddy and Circle-Gay's dog house was gone.

In fact, I hadn't seen Circle for a long time, and when I asked that sky-pointing man where he was, he said maybe Circle was in the sky as well. That turned out not to be true, as Circle-Gay re-appeared on Wednesday night and followed me all the way home. He's skinnier than before, but has a great appetite and wolfed down a bowl of dog food in about a minute once we reached my apartment. I was worried that he'd caught what Buddy had, if it was a virus after all. It seems like Circle made scarce while Buddy was dying.

I don't blame him.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Computer Says No

I say, "Work, goddamn you! Liiiiiivvvveee."

But my computer,....well - see the title?

Friday, May 16, 2008


I don't think Buddy's going to pull through.

He just keeps getting worse. I wonder what happened to him. Was he hit by a car? Does he have some illness? His whole character has changed. He doesn't seem to remember who I am anymore. Today he was limping around in a slow circle, like he didn't know what he was supposed to be doing. He'd go up to the water bowl, but not bend to drink. I called to him and spoke in a low calm tone, but he didn't acknowledge me. He's barely opening his eyes. I told him what a Good Boy he is.

I was a tear stained mess by the time I got to work. I got my boss to write a note: "Can I take your dog to the vet?" that I'll show his owner tomorrow. But really, I need more help than that. It should read, "If the vet wants to put him down is that ok?"

It should read "If you took care of your dog I could walk to work and not have my heart break every day. TAKE HIM TO THE DOCTOR, ASSHOLE!"

Poor Buddy.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Happy Teacher's Day!

It's Teacher's Day here in K-Land. I'm going to go to work and maybe get me some presents. I'm not expecting much. I think last year I got a lollipop. I know I'm not going to get the present I really want, because that would be to stay at home in bed.

Bah, humbug.


I spent Monday, which was a holiday for me (Happy Birthday Buddha!) in bed. When I wasn't in bed, I was in the bathroom. On the toilet. Swearing and writhing. I started to not feel very well on Sunday and by Monday afternoon it was apparent I had picked up some kind of stomach bug. It wasn't pleasant.

When I wasn't gripping my mid-section and moaning, I spent a lot of time sleeping and I wondered if I was going to be able to make it to work the next day.

When I woke up on Tuesday, there was about five minutes where I thought I might actually be alright, but then suddenly it was like a fist grabbed ahold of my stomach and squeezed and twisted. Youch! I ran to sit atop my porcelain throne. I few minutes later I stood, feeling weak and shaky and turned to look into the bowl.

"Jesus Christ!" I thought, "I am soooooo sick. Look at that. It's purple."

This wasn't such a surprise, as all I'd consumed since Sunday afternoon was water and about a litre and a half of grape juice.

"But, that's messed up. It looks crystallized,....almost fuzzy!" I started to think about maybe going to the hospital. "I mean,...look at the edge there - it's black! Is that dried up blood? It's so fuzzy! What the hell is that? Oh, man. I think I might be dying!"

Was it my liver?
How'd my liver get out? There was nothing "solid" about what I'd just created in the toilet. How had my liver come out all liquid and reformed itself into this fuzzy mess?

"Ohmygod, I'm so siiiiiccckkkk, looks like a soooooccck," my brain shrieked.


"Wait a minute. That IS a sock! WHAT THE......???"

I was suddenly relieved that it wasn't my fuzzy purple liver, and it wasn't that I had eaten one of my socks while I was sleeping. When I pulled on my pyjama bottoms a few minutes earlier, a sock must have been balled up inside them and had fallen in the bowl when I'd yanked them down.


My stomach still hurts, but at least my liver seems to still be in place.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Moo! (Boo!)

Recently, a ban on the import of American beef was lifted. The ban on U.S. beef had been in effect since 2003 over concerns of mad cow disease. Now that the ban has been lifted, the import of beef on the bone from cattle under 30-months-old will be allowed.

I wouldn't really care about this, except if it means that I'd be able to buy me some cheaper meat - that's a-ok by me. Korean beef is expensive, and even though I don't eat it very often, it's never really stood out as being especially delicious. On the other hand, my brother - a steak aficionado - who has eaten at many of the primo steakhouses in North America, declared the Kobe beef he sampled in Japan to be the best he's ever tasted. The Japanese knows them some steak. The last time I ate steak was a few weeks ago at some shabu-shabu buffet. I tried a bite and then tucked the two pieces into a bag and fed them to my outside dogs. Blech.

So, as far as I'm concerned, I don't really care one way or another about imported U.S. cow. Do you know how many Koreans care about it?

All of them.

Well, maybe not all. The little babies don't care. But otherwise the rest of the population is fired UP! I wasn't even aware of the problem before my former co-worker Joy got on MSN messenger with me last weekend, bitter and outraged. While she typed out her anger, I googled "mad vow" and "Korea" and got the gist of what she wsa on about. There had been a TV show that aired, From the linked article,

"PD Diary," an in-depth current affairs program on MBC, reported that 94 percent of Koreans have genes that make them more susceptible than Americans or Britons to Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), which is the human variant of mad cow disease. The report claimed that this physical trait makes Koreans two to three times more likely than Americans or Britons to contract the disease.

Many elements of the American beef horror stories aired on "PD Diary" were exaggerated. Some 100 million cattle are bred in the U.S., but so far only three have been discovered to have been infected with mad cow disease, and one of those had been imported from Canada. The other two were born before 1997, when the U.S. government banned cattle feed containing meat and bones, found to be the source of mad cow disease. The rate of mad cow disease among U.S. cattle is far lower than in Japan, where around 20 out of a million cattle were discovered to have been infected

About 10,000 people gathered for a candlelight vigil in Seoul recently.


And the thing is, it seems like most Koreans could recognize that they're angry. However, they're having some trouble figuring out who exactly they're angry at. Just like Dokdo unlaced everyone a couple years ago, the issue has quckly trickled down to my students. This past week my middle school students have been blurting out "America crazy cow!" in my classes. I think they want to talk about it, get all pissed off and loud about it, but their level of English prevents them from taking me to task. As if it's my fault.

Which it might be. Who knows?

One of my students is celebrating his birthday today and on Friday I asked if he was having a party. He told me he was, and when I asked where he explained it was going to be at Lotteria (kind of like the Korean version of McDonalds) but because of "crazy cow" they weren't going there. I'm just about positive Lotteria doesn't use U.S. beef. (Frankly, if you've ever had a burger there you'd know it's more likely comprised of sawdust and mealworms.) However, because there's "beef" there, it must be boycotted. Another student told me a list of other products that must be avoided: candy, jelly,...anything with gelatin in it. If you eat it, you will die.

Anyone I've asked about this gets pissed off. My boss, who I've always thought to be fairly rational (kind of sort of) told me that because Koreans prepare beef dishes differently, (like, they make soup and drink the broth!) they're more likely to contract Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (the human version of mad cow) and they will die.

There's quite a hate fest that Koreans have towards some other countries. It's a complicated thing that comes partly from history, but is perpetually passed down from one generation to the next. My middle school students have no reason to be pissed at America, but they are. If I were them, I'd be more pissed at my parents for making me go to five different academies to study after my school day ended, so I get home at eleven o'clock, study for a couple hours before bed and then get up at seven to do it all over again.

Childhood, schmildhood.

The top three countries hated by Korea are Japan, America, and China, and it seems like many Koreans will gather up any cause to display how much they distrust and despise these other nations. And they'll do it despite being fed fallacies and not needing to know the facts.

Facts, schmacts.

What I'd like to see is Koreans get fired up about some cause that benefits Korea. Nevermind the outside world. Can you imagine the goodness that could come if parents would pass on some enthusiasm and passion about not littering? Recycling? Animal welfare? Women's rights?

Maybe someday.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Poor Buddy

Buddy: The Good Boy is so sick. I finally caught up with him today when I spotted him lying under a parked car. I greeted him and could see him wag his tail a bit, but he wouldn't come out. I couldn't even lure him to stand up with a treat. I tossed the treat to him and told him I was sorry he wasn't feeling well. Later on in the day, I headed back over to see him during a break. The treat was still under the car but he wasn't there. He was under a parked van nearby and when I went over to see him his eyes were barely open and his nose was dry and chafed. He stood up and walked slowly over to a tailor's shop and went inside. I followed.

The tailor is and older guy with a wheezy voice. Buddy had already crawled under a table and I noticed a container of dog food at the door. I asked him if Buddy was his dog, and he said, "yes." I asked if he was sick and was told he was.

"Where is he sick?"
"I don't know."
"He looks sick. I'm so sorry. He's a very good dog and I like him very much."
"Well, please take care of him.

I never knew if Buddy had an owner.

If I could speak better Korean I might have gently suggested he take Buddy to the vet. Poor thing. He really looks terrible and has lost so much weight in just a couple weeks. As I was walking away, I noticed there were a couple piles of puked up dog food on the pavement.

Kamikaze's lying beside my feet now, meowing when I stop petting him to type.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Let's Have a Snack

Do you want the great big giant octopus/squid thing

or do you want the babies?

Maybe you want the turtle.

Sunday, May 04, 2008


That's what I am. I can't breathe through my poor nose. Oh, woe. Sleeping sucks. I drift off only to wake up a very short time later because it feels like someone coated the inside of my mouth with sawdust and then stuffed it full of cotton.

I did go to see Dr. Dolphin on Friday. I was feeling like I wanted to jam a pencil into my jugular because I was feeling so brutal! I had a plastic bag folded up in my back pocket because I wasn't entirely sure I wasn't going to puke. Dr. Dolphin sonared me with his bulbous forehead and then started screeching at me and pointing to his mouth. Finally I figured out he wanted some fish, so I tossed a couple into his mouth from the bucket I carry around with me. He swaggered around the office with a ball balanced on his face and gestured to the curtain where I went to get an ass injection. Then I went downstairs to the pharmacy where I got my prescription for 18 pills a day. I don't know what these pills are, but they're pretty good! I downed the first six right about six o'clock - and by the time I finished work a couple hours later I felt significantly better. Not right as rain, but not like I wished the earth would swallow me whole, either.

Now I feel sick, and I miss all the nose breathing I normally do, but it'll pass. I'm not going to complain too much about it, since this is the first wretched virus I've had in at least six months. I've got a long weekend to sweat it out, so hopefully I'll be much improved by the time I head back to work on Tuesday.

I stopped by to see Buddy before and after work on Friday, and again on Saturday - but he wasn't around. I hope he's alright.

So here's some awesome Korean T-shirts:
Be the MikaHo. You know you want to. It's so Wolec!

"They call it "PMS" because "Mad Disease

One of my ten year old girls was wearing this. I'm not sure what any of it has to do with friendship, but, ah well!

Friday, May 02, 2008

My Buddy

I'd been worried about Buddy: The Good Boy for over a week now because he hasn't been around to walk me to school. Every day I asked Circle where Buddy was, but all he'd do was pant at me and turn around in circles.

Well, I finally met Buddy today. He crawled out from under a van where he'd been sleeping and came over to me very slowly. Usually he gallops at me from great distances like a whippet. Oftentimes seeing him running toward me is the highlight of my whole day. It always makes me laugh and I praise him and scratch him and tell him what a Good Boy he is - his excitement and enthusiasm at seeing me just fills my heart up.

But, something's wrong with Buddy. He's not walking on one of his hind legs and he's so thin. I'm worried he may have been his by a car. He stood in the middle of the road and let me pet him while he wagged his tail, but barely opened his eyes.

I gave him a bunch of treats, but wasn't able to stick around for too long because I had to get to work. I'm going to go early tomorrow and see if he's any better. If not, I'm going to try to take him to the animal hospital. I hope he's alright.

Here he is a few weeks ago enjoying the bones I brought him after a work dinner.
I'm so worried about him.

Meanwhile, I'm so sick. I was woozy with fever all day and have a brutally sore throat and ears. I can't breathe and my nose is leaking all over the place. Everything hurts. Really. Even my toes hurt. Worst of all, I felt so guilty all day because I have no patience and my students are so loud and I was so grumpy and all I wanted to do was crawl under the table and cry myself to sleep.