Friday, July 31, 2009


I'm so backlogged with posts I've intended to write. Oftentimes I'll take pictures of whatever it is that has inspired a thought about what to write about. After the uploading and copying and pasting and resizing I become distracted by shiny things. Or the TV with its sounds and words, and I just never get around to writing. Or I write and I can't bring myself to publish for some reason. For many reasons.

Here's my cake for my fifth birthday. I'm five.


I'm not five actually. (Just emotionally.) This was the cake marking my fifth year anniversary at my school. Cuh-ray-zee. I never never thought I would last five years here. It's as much a triumph as it is tragically pathetic. I remember my first day at the school, visiting the ladies washroom and encountering the first two stalls with disgustingly splattered squatty toilets and I swore if there was a third version in the next stall I was absolutely outta here. There was a Western throne waiting for me as I opened the final door, so I decided to wait and see.

That cake was good, though. My cake. My co-worker (manager?) celebrated her birthday this past week and my boss got her a cake and a big bunch of pretty but nearing death flowers. If there is a bigger fan of chocolate than my co-worker Cindy, I haven't met them. She spent some time in Australia and hath tasted the riches of a deep moist sweet dense chocolate cake. She's spent time here searching for such a brown unicorn, but I think it's a lost cause. Still, there's no question as to what kind of cake to get for Cindy, but leave it to a man - and you get sweet potato cake. An abomination regardless.

As it was, I woke up early and put together a giant pasta salad. I grilled up vegetables on my silly grilly sandwich press thing, and included smoked chicken and sun-dried tomatoes with a tasty dressing of garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, rosemary, thyme, and fresh parsley. After our little celebration less than one third of the heinous "goguma" cake was eaten, while two very big containers of pasta salad were gobbled up. Score!

So there. I've written something. Maybe it'll shake me out of my funk. I'm into my third day of a "staycation" - a term I just came across this week, and I've found that I've had too much time to hang out by myself considering how much I actually hate my current circumstances. Hate-hate.


Here. Look at this bug.


I don't even know what it is, but it looks like an evil flying newt. It's representative of my unhappiness. I coaxed it onto a piece of paper and set it free outside an open window at school. Not a bad lesson: capture the unpleasant and set it free.

**UPDATE: I received an e-mail from someone (perhaps an entomologist?) who points out that bug up above is actually a mole cricket! Here's a couple fun facts: these bugs are quite common, but rarely seen because they spend almost all their lives underground. They're commonly considered to be pests, except in Eadt Asia where they're sometimes considered FOOD! (Fried mole crickets, yum yum yum!) Thank you, E-mailer!**

Sunday, July 26, 2009

On the Farm

Last weekend I ventured out to the countryside to visit new mom Bella and her three little puppies.


She's looking quite a bit more svelte than the last time I saw her, but this angle is deceiving, as she's got some juggy pendulous milk filled boobs on her undercarriage. She's being a good mother. I watched her step into the box where her little puppies stayed and lick them awake before settling down to let them nurse. The pups can't see - they're eyes weren't open yet, and they can't walk either, yet they were able to wriggle their way toward Bella's teats to get their milk on. They look like fat little cows.


I had no idea what the puppies would look like. Bella's beau is a mystery. But they're very cute. Once I'd otten back home, I googled "newborn shih-tzu puppies" and I'll be damned, but I'm pretty sure Bella's puppies are the real deal. Here's one of Bella's:


And you can compare that puppy with the ones here.


So they're going to be super cute! I'm planning to go back there next weekend and play with the puppies. By then, their eyes will be open and they'll be mobile. Even though they were cute, on this last visit they just weren't very much fun. Sleep and eat and repeat. Still, I was so pleased that Bella's being such a good caring mother.


My boss's parents have a farm out in the country near Yeoungchun (which is about halfway between Gyueongju and Daegu.) They have jindos out back.


The jindos did not like me and barked their heads off whenever I went near. I just hate the idea that these beautiful big dogs spend their lives chained out back, and I wished they were friendly enough that I could take them all (or one at a time would probably be smarter) for a nice walk. Still, they seem fit and they have shelter and food and water. Actually, my boss's parents had ONE jindo - the one on the far right of the picture. Then one day they were surprised at how fat she'd gotten and wouldn't you know, she'd had a suitor swing by at some point and gotten herself pregnant. So now her two grown children live beside her.

I don't understand it, but I've come across a lot of resistance from folks around here about having animals spayed or neutered. To some, it's unnatural. There are lots of things I've come to learn and understand about K-culture in the near six years I've been here, but generally, their attitude toward animals is just something I can't get my head around. I try not to think about it very often becuase it riles me up something wicked. So let's change the subject for now, yes?

Pile of puppies, pile of puppies, pile of puppies.


(Oh, let me add that even though the Jindos live chained out back, Bella is being spoiled. She has free run of the farm and seems so happy! I was laughing at how she would come BOUNDING toward me when I'd call her. She's well fed and cared for. I just hope she stays the hell away from the big yellow dogs who seem like they would very much like to have her for breakfast. (Same goes for her puppies. I'm already worried that they won't have the sense to keep back once they're mobile.)


Out back, my boss's mom keeps pots filled up with kimchi, denjang, and gochujang. His mom is a fantastic cook, and we enjoyed rustic home-style delicious meals. With pork. Lots and lots of pork! No pictures, but we had fried fish and denjang jjigae for dinner Saturday. Kimchi jjigae for lunch Sunday, and (I forget the very long name for it) delicious pork bone soup and sliced steamed pork (bo-ssam?) for dinner. My boss's mom makes the best kimchi I've ever tasted and she's always so generous making sure I'm well stocked.


They grow grapes. Yeoungchun, I was told, "is famous for it's grapes, plums, and peaches."


They're not ready for harvest. Around Chuseok it's grape season. In the early fall these greenies will be purpley-blue and ready for eating. I still prefer sweet seedless grapes from North America, which I'm so glad are available at the larger supermarkets these days.

I don't think I'd ever seen a chestnet tree before.


And o'er yonder is a plum orchard.


I left the farm Sunday evening loaded down with plums, cukes, eggplant, and a massive amount of their spring harvested crops: onions, potatoes, and garlic. I've actually given about two thirds of my loot away and I still have enough to last ages. Oh, and I scored a nice sized tub of my boss's mother's outstandingly stinky denjang paste.

At one point Sunday afternoon I picked myself up off the livingroom floor where I'd been alternately dozing and watching a movie and walked outside with Bella into a field where I just stood for awhile and listened to the river gurgle by, and cows lowing in the distance. Hundreds of dragonflies flew around me. I felt so calm and content.

And hot.

My god, it was hot. I could have slipped into a joyous happy trance if it weren't for the fact I felt like I was bloody well melting. I had to go get some cream on Monday for the heat rash that had enveloped my mid-section over the weekend. Damn!

Still, good times.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Soft Core

My neighbourhood has recently become dotted with these punchey vending machine games things that have replaced the crane candy grab and slidey platform game things that replaced the old timey yellow crane dollar store sing a song grabby game machine thingies.

You know what I mean, right?

The new punchey vending machine game things are high tech looking neon lit boop-dee-boo happy la-la tune things.

*Excuse me a moment* "GAM-BEH! ONE SHOT!" *CLINK*

Where was I? *Hic!*

The prizes offered were these little animated cartooney things. You put the in the sunlight and they waggle their heads and maybe their feet and they also sing a happy song tell the time hold your spare change do nothing else. Their cute factor is engaging for about five minutes, but then they're fairly boring. I know this because I stupidly threw out my television when I won at the punchey vending machine, figuring I'd have all the viewing entertainment I'd need with Doraemon here:


Turns out, not so much. I keep violently shaking him, "DO SOMETHING ELSE!" But, he just smiles at me and wags his head and feet back and forth.

I guess the neighbourhood kids complained to the vending machine makers. In this age of computers and game-boys and cellphones, I imagine the solar powered bobble head animated character things aren't cutting the mustard. So there have been some new additions in the machines to please the kiddies:


Soft core pr0n anime dolls! Yeeeee haw!
(Money Box! Cherries! Bwa ha ha ha ha!)

They come in a variety of poses, and don't even move in the sunlight, but still - they're TAKING OFF THEIR CLOTHES!




I wonder what they'll put in the machines next?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Some Students

I shouldn't hate kids. I know this. I'm a teacher and I should embrace the challenge of bestowing some Engulishee on children in my classes; especially the ones who don't give a crap and are better suited to some sort of class where the goal is to wander around trying to stab other students with pencils. Pencil stabbing class. Fun!

Most of my students are great. Some are outstanding. I often feel like scooping up one or another into my arms and telling then how spectacular they are, but generally the scooping and the smushing is embarrassing for the kids - so I find another way to point out their awesomeness.

But there are some students,....hoooooo boy - I wonder what their mothers are thinking. By and large they are "first sons" which is a prized position here in Korea. Even more often, the ones that give me the most hassle are "only sons," and I think to myself,...well something about maybe the kid should visit a temple and praise Buddha they're not MY first son because I would smite them for their shitty behaviour. Smite, I say. ("Beat" I don't say, because that's not PC. I would never beat a child, but yet sometimes my imagination runs wild.) Still, I realize that my worse students have been somehow created to be wee monters, so I sometimes imagine smiting their moms who probably find their children's tantrums adorable.

It's the students who make me micro-manage my classes that bug me. The ones who can't stay in their seats. The ones who are compelled to hit their classmates. The ones who can't help themselves from constantly interrupting my lessons with their bad behaviour. I have one middle school student who just recently started, and I knew almost instantly he was going to be trouble when I tried to give him an English nickname. (This is fairly common in English classes, and I don't dislike it - it's so much easier than trying to remember 200 names that are foreign to my vocabulary. Regardless, that's the way it's always been done at my school, so I don't have a choice. "Be Yoon Ji" becomes "Joe." Fine by me. I like to provide the students with a few choices and let them pick their nickname. It takes a little more time than me just knighting them, "Ye shall be 'Donna,'" but I think it's good that make they own their choice. Usually I start off suggesting their name should be Spider Man.

So I knew my new middle school student was going to bug me when before I could get out the first syllable of my first suggestion of "Ja-son," he interrupted with his choice: "Hit-ler."
"Hitler! My name-uh is-uh Hitler."
"Are you kidding? Nong-dam?"

I assured him his name would NOT be Hitler, and asked him if he knew who Hitler was. Perhaps he did know, but he lacked the English to tell me. Hand to heart, he actually looked a bit like Hitler, with a severe side-part and hook-nose. Had puberty grown him a wee mustache, he could have entered a contest. I named him "Tony," after a thorn in my side boy I taught five years ago who has grown into a fabulous high school student complete with charisma and manners.

Long story short, Tony's new name didn't make a lick of difference. He railroaded my classes, and made teaching a most unpleasant experience. With four boys in that class, two of which lacked ability and the other two lacking interest (or enthusiasm or manners) they became my most hated class. They are my last class of the day on Wednesdays and Fridays. My second most hated class is chalk full of "first sons." I've got them first thing on Monday morning. They fight and whine and tattle-tale and take every liberty they think they can get away with. It's like my week is bookended by crap.

Yay, me.
And, "to be continued,....."

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bella's Babies

Bella had three puppies last Friday morning! There are two little boys and a girl! I haven't seen pictures yet, but I'm sure they're adorable. I'll share them as soon as I get them. Puppies!!

In other news, I stood outside for five minutes tonight hanging up laundry, and two hundred and forty three mosquitoes bit me.

That is all.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Bella's Belly

Remember the shih-tzu I rescued? She's so pretty! Things were moving along very well. An American military family who lives up in Seoul contacted me, very interested in Bella. They already have a shih-tzu they adopted from Animal Rescue Korea and with four kids and a mom who stays home, I knew it would be a great match for Bella. She's a very loving dog and really loves attention.

The Friday before last, we brought her into the animal hospital to get her a summer hair cut. I had wanted to wait, thinking that she might not get adopted as easily if she looked like a rat, but it turns out she's a pretty little girl under all that fur!


When I went to pick her up, I saw that her fur had also been hiding some massive nipples on her belly. I pointed at them and asked, "Is she pregnant?"
"No. Ande."
"Really? And she's never had babies before?"
The nurse confirmed she hadn't. I asked what was up, then, with the big knockers - and was told that she wanted babies.


So I later googled something about dogs wanting babies and discovered that indeed, unspayed females can conjure up phantom puppies in their bellies.


"And the bitch was all 'I gotz me some ghost babies! Boo!' (Yaka!)"

So, okay. I agreed to have Bella spayed down here before I brought her up to Seoul on Saturday to meet her new family. My boss took her in Thursday morning and the vet expressed surprise at how seriously Bella was growing up her phantom puppies in her belly. One ultra-sound later and guess what? The ghosts are not so much ghostly as they are actually. Puppies. Fur realz.

One week later,....


"But he was so sweet, and promised he would still love me in the morning!"

So we didn't know quite what to do. My boss and co-workers (and the vet) thought I was sort of a monster for suggesting a spay/abortion sort of thing, but turns out Bella's quite far along and it could be dangerous for her, as you'd imagine. On the other hand, if they'd confirmed her pregnancy over three weeks ago when I'd brought her in for health tests and asked if she was pregnant - and told no,...the spay wouldn't have been an issue because the puppies would have been tiny. They wouldn't have even known she was pregnant before they operated.

I LOVE animals - and puppies!! Well, who doesn't love puppies?! But with so many dogs being put down at shelters everyday, and so many dogs roaming around Korea without homes, what we don't need is more puppies. Still, I would never want to risk the safety of any animal, so if the vet says no-go, then okay.

"It's okay. You can haz puppies."

So Bella's been moved to my bosses' mother's house out in the country. It's not the first time that she's overseen dog labour and birth. I'm glad that Bella's being watched so closely, and know that she'll be taken to the vet's if there are any complications, which there could be. Since only Bella knows who the papa is, she might be growing some big puppies in her belly. It could be troublesome. Fingers crossed everything goes well, and soon!

Hopefully the family who decided to adopt her won't change their mind while they wait for her to nurse her babies until they're ready to be adopted. So one down and, according to the vet, maybe four or five more to go.

Anyone want a cute little puppy in a couple months?