Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Should I Just Re-title My Blog "Craptastic?"

Joy, in her comment on my last post was sweet enough to ask me how my pox was doing. I figured ya'll haven't read me complain about anything in almost a day now, so it's high time I get posting!

I guess things are progressing as they should with my shingles. The rash turned into little blisters that popped at some point, and now the rash is crusting over and in some parts fading away. So that's good. The thing is, I'm not FEELING very good.

This past weekend was not too bad. I took things easy and tried to get lots of rest. I went out Saturday afternoon for a very nice lunch with a couple of friends and then had a short leisurely shop at Lotte department store. I was feeling alright and surely the reason for this was because I was liberal with the pain medication. I wasn't totally drugged out by any means, but I was taking a pill when I started to feel moderately uncomfortable instead of trying to stick to two pills a day at 12 hour intervals. I sort of fooled myself into thinking I was getting much better because I hadn't had to really feel the sharp stabby fire knife pain (I know I've said that before but really, it's the most apt way I can convey the feeling. I'll try to come up with another description tomorrow.) in the front of me, or the deep constant ache that's going on in the back of me.

Then I woke up late on Monday morning and neglected to take a pill OR bring any of them with me to work. By five o'clock I realized that I'd been tricked and I was still in a very significant amount of pain. I took a couple of Tylenol that did pretty much nothing for me and otherwise just grimaced and moaned my way through the rest of the day until I could get back home and take my medicine.

So I went to the hospital again today and the doctor greeted me not with "How are you feeling?" but, "Why are you here?"


I've been getting the sense that the doctor doesn't even want to give me a prescription for anything. I mentioned it already, but I left the hospital on my first visit to him in tears, with him "permitting" me to take some Tylenol and advising me to "not focus on the pain and endure." Last Friday when I visited him he wanted to reduce the oxycodone down to 10mg twice a day, which is what he had prescribed on my second visit the day after he doled out his sage advice on endurance. I was angry at that second visit, and told him I'd already spent a week in pain that was growing significantly and had tried to quell that with muscle relaxants and ibuprofen my regular doctor had prescribed. Now that I knew I wasn't having a heart attack and was dealing with shingles instead, let's unlock the narcotics cabinet already. After the third visit he finally doubled the dosage and that's been almost masking the pain. "So, no." I said last Friday. "Let's not decrease anything please."

Today, "Why are you here?" he repeated.

What the fuck?

"Don't you remember me? I gots the shingles?"

He examined me and noted the rash was getting a lot better. I told him my left boob is numb. "Yeah." He said.
"Here. All here is numb."
"I can't feel this," poking the side of my breast. "It's numb."
"Do you know 'numb'?"
(Fucking Rainman!)
"Doctor, arrayo 'numb'? N-U-M-B?"
"Mwoh?" (What?)
So I looked it up on my phone's dictionary. (Oh, yah! My cellphone has been saved! The jury is still out on the fate of my camera and MP3.) "Look here: numb. Is that normal?"
"I think you recovery slow. It's ok. Five days medicine."

I counted out the days looking at the calendar on the wall. "What about Chuseok? (The three day "holiday" starting on Friday.) "Are you open Monday?"
"Yes. Open." he replied, "But after this medicine you must endure."

Oh, great! We're back to that? I said "Don't be like that, doctor. If I'm in pain on Monday I'm coming back here."

I went back to work feeling frustrated, like I've been given a cut-off point for treatment. I'm worried about developing postherpetic neuralgia, a complication from shingles that could leave me in pain for months or even (I'll surely go insane) years. The doctor struggled greatly on my first and second visits to explain neuralgia to me, but now seems to be dismissing it. Dismissing ME, to be more precise.

I just don't understand where he's coming from. Why would pain that's deemed treatable now have to be endured without medication in a few days? I'm trying my best to convey how I'm feeling (like shit) and he's decided that he knows better. I'm really hoping that by Monday I'm feeling completely better, but I fear that's not going to be the case. Nevermind that I'm unable to count properly and realized back at work that I only have enough pills to last until Saturday.

So I spoke to my manager and she served me up a laughable dish of bull, saying that "Western people have a different attitude toward illness. We think we should endure. Western people go to the doctor often. We don't."

People here visit the "hospital" (clinic at best, but more likely a simple doctor's office) for everything! Then they go to the pharmacist to collect a hundred pills to be eaten four times a day with kimchi. In Canada I'd suffer through a cold or flu and just pop into the drugstore and get some medicine off the shelf. Here, the pharmacies are tiny and lack shelves by and large. You've got to describe your symptoms to the pharmacist and then HE or SHE will choose for you. With doctor's visits and prescriptions being so cheap here it's just easier to go see the doctor and get an injection on your ass before visiting the pharmacy with a prescription. By the way, I don't have health insurance. Having shingles has already cost me about four hundred dollars, so yah. I'd like to get better pronto.

I was so upset back at work, and feeling stressed about having to stress out for the next few days thinking Dr. Rainman was going to refuse to treat me. What I want to hear from him is, "Don't worry. I know shingles is oftentimes extremely painful. You should avoid stress. Get rest. Please don't worry, we will make sure you get through this as comfortably as possible until you're better." I don't understand the logic in withholding relief. I don't see how that's being very "doctorly." I'm sure I could endure the pain without dying from it, but it severely impedes me from doing my job well. It wrecks my sleep. It makes living unpleasant. It prevents me from enjoying ANYTHING. I'm not interested in martyrdom, give me the drugs already.

My manager agreed to call the doctor tomorrow but I know she won't be as direct as I'd like her to be. Afterall, the doctor is a man and he's older than her and apparently knows best. (Yeah.) I've written down some questions for her to ask, about the surface numbness and if it's normal to feel like I'm "flaring up" when I get stressed out and why I'm still not sleeping well at all, and about neuralgia. We'll see what happens, but if Dr. Rainman's going to be unhelpful I'm going to have to go into the city to a "BIG" hospital and seek out an empathetic and effective doctor before the weekend.

Monday, September 28, 2009

I Just Used Craptastic as a Title, Didn't I?

So let's call this one "Suckerrific."

I noticed on Brian in Jeollanam-do's site that he was listing more festivals here in Korea Schmorea that have been cancelled due to H1N1. I was reminded that I've been meaning to go check out the Ulsan World Music Festival's website to check out their expanding lineup and make sure i hadn't been cancelled. I was so pleased when I pulled the site up. No mention of cancellation and Bajofondo, who ROCKED last year was headlining again.

Then I noticed my computer was blocking a pop-up, and sure enough - there was the cancellation notice. It's in English, too. Korea has been advised by The Ministry of No Fun Public Administration and Security to cancel events that attract more than 1,000 people at a time and run more than 2 days. So we can now add the "Cheoyong Culture Festival- 2009 World Music Festival" scheduled from Oct. 9th - 11th to the long list of cancelled events. That SUCKS. Attending that festival was one of the best things I did in Korea in 2008, and I've been looking forward to going again for such a long time.

The Seoul subway system runs every day and surely attracts thousands of visitors hourly. When are they going to cancel that? Two different kids sneezed today, not ON me (for a change) but right beside me and they didn't make any attempt to cover up their snot blast. I could just imagine their swine flu particles wafting through the air and straight up my nose. When are they going to cancel my job?

I know you've all had "one of those days." You know,...the type of day that just flat out sucks ass? Well learning that my favourite festival has been cancelled was just the sucky cherry topping the sucky suck-ass sundae that was my Monday.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Optimism schmoptimism, I say. So far, forty has not been so hott. Thank you, to those who left them, for the birthday and recovery wishes. However, my birthday did not rock. It actually sucked quite spectacularly.

I ended up doing nothing on my actually birthday besides working. Oh, and I went to the hospital again. You know, when I discovered I had shingles I read up on it and concurred with the consensus that the pain is often severe. But holy hell in a handbasket,...I can't believe how whacked out I am on painkillers and yet, STILL the stabby burney fire-jab manages to punch through my nauseous druggy haze. Some of my rash is starting to fade up, but I've got blisters in the worst parts. I was hoping that as the rash recedes so would the pain, but so far that's not the case. I just feel like shit.

So Saturday I got a text from one of my friends that she was coming into town and wanted to meet to celebrate my birthday. I only get to see her a few times a year, and we usually try to have dinner around each other's birthdays. So I agreed.

I know the saying, "It's the thought that counts" but seriously, if YOU'RE not going to put any amount of thought into giving your friend a gift, I think there should be an amendment of: "but, if you're being thoughtless then don't even bother." I got a couple presents this year that when I opened I realized there was no possible way whatsoever that the gift-giver had walked into a store, picked up the thing they would then wrap up and give to me and think, "ZOMG!! Jelly is going to LOVE this! This is just what Jelly needs!" unless it turns out that what they think I need is crap. And I wish I could be honest (yet rude) and say, after I open their crap "What exactly the hell is this?" and furthermore, "Who first gave YOU this crap that you are totally re-gifting to me?"

So we ended up having dinner at my friend's restaurant and toward the end of the night I headed over to talk to her. I had to give her a business card I'd tucked in my wallet, and as I grabbed the wallet out of my bag and left the table my crap-gifting friend said "Ohhh, thanks for dinner Jelly!" I stopped short and said "Seriously?" hoping she was joking. She was not! Ha! So I got to take my shingley self out, get gifted crap AND buy dinner. AWESOME!

As we were leaving I grabbed the 500ml bottle of diet coke I hadn't opened and stuck it in my new oversized bag that I hate. It's the first time I've ever owned one of these big over-the-shoulder messenger style bags, and it's going to be my last. It's like a black hole and I spend most of my day with my head stuck in it rooting around for my stuff. So I'm walking along after dinner and notice suddenly that my thigh feels wet. What the fuck?

The unopened bottle had somehow opened itself (or more likely, my crap gifting non-dinner-buying friend had helped herself to a sip and hadn't fastened the lid on properly) and more than half the contents were now splashing around in my stupid giant bag.

This is the stupid giant bag that's continuously hiding my wallet, cellphone, digital camera, and MP3 player; all things that do not enjoy a bubbly carbonated drink like I do. So all those things excepting the wallet (which actually wasn't too bad off) are in their respective repair shops and it's unclear if they'll survive. If not, that'll mean I'm out about 850 bucks for the night, including the dinner I bought.

Yet the re-gifted crap came out unscathed - as it was wrapped up safe in a plastic bag.


Friday, September 18, 2009

Jelly 4.0

Lawdy, lawdy - look who's fowty!

That's right: ME!

I can't even believe it's my fortieth birthday. I still feel like I'm a stupid eighteen year old most days. So far, my mother and brother (who is still five and a half hours away from his fortieth birthday, and e-mailed me to ask how it was to be so goddamned OLD?) have contacted me with birthday wishes. This year was really set up for a fabulous celebration, as well. My birthday falls on a Friday, which means I could spend the whole weekend kissing my thirties goodbye. My co-worker's planned a party for tonight, and other friends are staging a late night fête at their restaurant on Saturday. It should be a veritable whirlwind of presents and cake and well wishes and soooooju.

But then shingles came to town. Are you sick of hearing about the shingles? Too bad! This is Shingles Central up in here. Did you know Dooce has shingles? All the cool kids are getting it. You should get some!

No, don't. They suck.

So my birthday festivities have pretty much been called off due to rain pain. My boss cancelled tonight's party, and the Saturday shindig is up in the air right now. If I feel like I can handle it we'll have it. I'll do my best, but there's a good chance I'm not going to be a helluvalotta fun. Mixing painkillers and alcohol would be bad, right? But would it be "bad" in a good way? Hehehe.

I thought that I would buy myself something special tonight when I went downtown to HomePlus to fetch cat food. Since Tesco bought this Korean supermarket, they've been stalking a lot more British products, which makes me happy. In the freezer section, they have Tesco ice cream and some frozen Tesco cakes. I've bought a couple of those small-ish cakes and brought them into work. The black forest cake didn't go over so well with the co-workers because they said the cherries were too sour, but I thought it was pretty decent. I decided I would buy myself a cake and have myself a big ole' hunk of it at midnight to kick off my non-festive birthday. Then I'd come back after work on Friday night and eat the whole damned rest of it as I sat weeping and feeling sorry for myself. But, I was FOILED! The freezer section was filled with big packs of Chuseok meat gift-sets and there was nary a frozen British cake to be found. DRATS! Nothing seems to be working out these days.

So I'm going to get a T-shirt printed up that reads "I turned forty and all I got was this lousy T-shirt. And shingles. And a stye in my eye. And a cracked tooth from eating nacho chips." This has been a banner week!

I probably sound bitter, but actually I'm not. Version four point oh should be pretty awesome: new and improved. I'm optimistic. I think we just need a little more time to work out the bugs.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Lazy Lugs

I'm wholly absorbed in feeling sorry for myself. Shingles completely sucks, and has sapped just about every molecule of energy from my body. The fatigue is surreal; if I'm sitting down, then I'm struggling to stay conscious. Yesterday the doctor doubled my pain medication so I'm going to head into work for the first time this week and see how it goes.

I hear my co-worker is throwing an absolute tantrum at having to cover my classes. She spent Monday sulking and asked as she was leaving that day if I was going to come to work on Tuesday. When the manager said she didn't know, my co-worker started whine-yelling, saying she couldn't handle another day of working back to back classes. Poor thing.

I didn't go yesterday and at the request of the manager, sent her a long text message thanking her for doing her job helping me out and taking care of the students. My absence meant she had to teach a whole HOUR and FORTY minutes more than usual. Poor little lamb. If I could gather the strength, I'd smack some perspective into her pouty self. I've been suffering for about a week and a half with hands-down the most strange and all-encompassing pain I've ever felt and she's taking it personally, crying that she's having to endure working a six hour day.

Honestly, though. I'm going to give these little 20mg oxycodone pills two thumbs up. Waaaaayyyy up. Without them, there wouldn't even be a chance of me going in today.

Meanwhile, have you ever seen these?


Please contemplate them while saying, "Busy butterflies flutter by, but baby ladybugs are lazy lugs" over and over and over and over as fast as you can. Thank you.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Pills, Pills, Pills

Day- I don't know - with the shingles. It's the start of day 5 with the rash, but maybe day 11 since the first symptoms started? Something like that. I went to the doctor again for the third day in a row.

I went to the hospital on Friday kind of annoyed. I had gone back in to work that day. I probably shouldn't have, but I did. I was still in pain and I spent the day just trying to get through. I was guarding my body from the students who are always happy to see me and often gregarious in their greetings. The girls especially like to get a hug and were doling them out freely because they'd missed me the day before. I assumed a defensive posture like I was surrounded by ninjas ready to take their turns attacking me. "Don't touch me, please!" I wasn't so concerned that they would catch something from me, but knew that if they touched me I was going to curl into a fetal ball with the pain.

My manager asked me how I was and I told her "crappy" and showed her my back. She said "well at least your not contagious!" I told her I certainly was contagious and she said "no." The doctor had told her the day before I wasn't. "Well he's mistaken," I said ("I don't think so, he is doctor," she countered) as I googled to prove my point.

So I ended up going to the hospital just to argue with the doctor, and to get him to hook me up with some proper pain medication. He had told me the day before not to focus on the pain and I should "endure." I wanted to say "Okay. I'm going to follow you around for the day and keep kicking you in the nads. But, like, just ignore me. Focus on the patients." The thing is I'm not a wimp, and I'd been in significant pain for almost a week by that point. When I learned it was shingles and that intense pain was often the norm I was relieved and looking forward to some medicinal relief. We ended up arguing for a while about the contagiousness of shingles (and I mean really, either something is contagious or it isn't. Granted, it's not AS easy to catch as chicken pox - but still.) and then I petitioned him for some druuuuuuugs. He finally obliged and gave me oxycondone which makes me truly spacey, but makes life alright. It doesn't completely block the pain, but it dulls it. Me likey.

During the consultation, the doctor reached into this little mini fridge in his office and offered me one of those little bottles of "health" drink. (Black garlic and ginseng in this case - ugh!) I thanked him and set it down in front of me on his desk. We talked, he wrote down his notes. He told me he was prescribing me calamine lotion with would have a cooling effect. I thanked him, and stood up and he picked up the little drink, said "coooool" and rolled the bottle over my boob! I had shown him my breast when I went in there, because the rash had spread since the previous day, but still! Weird.

But this development - the speading rash - which now is about 3 inches wide and travels from my spine all the way around on my left side to the centre of my chest is going to be a problem. The rash hasn't yet turned into blisters which will eventually burst and crust over. That's going to be SO FUN! I barely got away with wearing a bra all day Friday. It's just not going to be possible on Monday and I just can't bloody fathom going into work without one. Seriously. The other problem is that the oxycondone makes me deliciously and helplessly sleeeeeeeepy. Like, nod-off junkie sort of sleepy. I don't know how well that's going to work out in class. Can I call in "bra-less and druggy?"

The doctor also warned me to be very careful about getting sick. I gather my immune system is currenty out of order. Wash my hands and brush my teeth (?!) a lot, he advised. He didn't mention specifically H1N1, but out of curiosity I asked if they'd had any cases at the hospital. I was told they had, which surprised me. This is a countryside hospital.

Another visit today, and thankfully nothing was rubbed over my boob. File this under "oversharing" but I've got a lesion right on the "pencil eraser" part of my nipple which is most unpleasant.

And pills. I gots oodles and oodles of pills.


That's five days worth. I should have a contest so you can guess how many I'll be taking, like the jellybeans in a jar,...but I'll just tell you: 115. One hundred and fifteen and a half pills, as a matter of fact!


Pills. They're what's for dinner.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Shingled Out

I've got the fever for the flavour of a shingle.

I had my friend text me the Korean word for "shingles" and I just opened my phone and showed it to the doctor at the big hospital. He said "odi?" (where?) and I pulled up the back of my shirt. He said "yeeeaaaah."

He prescribed acyclovir - an anti-viral medication, but he wasn't sure it would be effective. Even though the rash just started to appear sometime on Wednesday, I've been feeling the shingleness for a week. If one takes an anti-viral early enough it can slow the progression of shingles, but it's not effective after a certain point. So who knows? I've developed a new rash on my chest that started this morning. I also got some other pills but can't remember what they are. One does something good but will also make me dizzy and vomitty, so there's another one to counteract.

I also took the day off work. I've only managed to get about six hours sleep in the past couple days, so I'm just not sure I can handle hearing my name shouted at me all day long by my loud hyperactive students.

I wasn't very successful in canvassing the doctor for some hardcore narcotics. I don't know what his reluctance was in just giving me the druuuuggggssss. I'm supposed to go back on Saturday morning so he can see how I'm doing, but I'm going to head back there tomorrow with the texted word for "morphine" typed into my phone. I'm kidding. Sort of.

I really wish we humans would evolve to the point where we could telepathically share the actual feeling of what's happening inside us with each other. Buddy would say, "Hey, Jelly! How's it going?" and I'd say, "Ah, not too great. It feels like someone has peeled off my skin and is sticking red hot iron skewers into me." So, Buddy would say, "Aww, that's a real shame." and he'd wander off in search of more pleasant conversation but I'd say, "Hey! Wait a minute! Here, check it out!" and I'd manifest the feeling inside his brain and he's be all, "Aaarrrghhhh owwwwww aaaaccckkk!"

It would be great if you could send it over the phone when you're calling in sick. "Sorry, I'm not going to make it into work today, I'm feeling,..." *WHOOSH* And then your boss would start to cry and order you to stay in bed. My manager seems sympathetic, but really she would like me to come in regardless of how I'm feeling.

One thing that doesn't sit so well with me is that she actually called the doctor I saw this morning after I called in sick. Like she needed some confirmation from him. And the doc went ahead and told her all about what's wrong with me. So much for doctor-patient confidentiality, eh? I had a moment of being pissed off with her, but then realized I couldn't muster enough energy to really care. I get the feeling if I try to take another day off I'm going to meet a lot of resistance. As it was, my boss and manager wanted to come by for a visit after work. I told them that wasn't a good idea.

To be honest, I'm relieved that I know what the hell is wrong with me. I'd been getting steadily worse - and shingles symptoms are unlike anything I've ever felt before: sharp stabbing pains and then a rush of burning goosebumps. Without the goosebumps. I actually thought on Wednesday night that I might be having a heart attack.

Good to know I'm not.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Pox on Me

I mentioned in the previous post that I obtained my PhD in Psychology from an order-by-mail website. What? It's legitimate! I took a test! Ink blots and stuff! Don't judge me.

While I was at it, I decided to get a few more designations out of the way, so I'm also a minister, a marine biologist, a pilot, a tree surgeon, and a family physician. So, like, if you need my services in any of these areas just let me know, mmm'kay?

Last week I wasn't feeling totally awesome. Thursday morning I woke up all achey, but I just figured I had slept funny on my left arm. I still felt weird Friday, and I spent all Saturday traveling clear across Korea and back on trains and buses. By the time I dragged my ass home the upper left side of my back was very angry indeed. Sunday was worse, and so on Monday I paid a visit to Dr. Dolphin (named thusly because he uses the sonar in his forehead to diagnose me.) His full name is Dr. Anti Dolphin Biotic. He gives me a red and yellow antibiotic for EVERYTHING!

I explained that the worsening pain was now wrapping around from the back of me to the front. He asked me three times what trauma had caused the pain, and I told him nothing had happened. He prescribed some pain medication, muscle relaxants, and of course the red and yellow capsule. I don't know what the pain pills are but By George they worked alright on Monday! Except they start to wear off after about four or five hours and then I'm reminded I'm messed up. It feels like someone is jamming corkscrews in me. And the pills aren't being as effective as they were on Monday.

I took the last packet of pills early Wednesday morning after a fitful sleep. Those had well worn off by the time I went to work in the afternoon and HOLY CRAP I felt bad. So I went back to Dr. ADB and he gave me more pills. Yay.

It's good that I'm by and large not feeling the achey fire burn of what the doctor said was a muscle problem, but my body is still acting all weird. I'm wobbly, and my arm is shakey. My skin is crawling. I've pulled muscles before but this feels different. Bad, bad, different. Tingle fire deep-rooted bad bad very bad different. Tonight when I got home I pulled up the back of my shirt to have a look and see if maybe I've finally started growing the big glorious angel wings I've been hoping for, but no.

I'm growing an angry looking rash. Too bad Dr. ADB didn't use his eyes instead of the sonar.

So I diagnosed myself and used the google on this Internet machine for a second opinion and I'm fairly sure I've got shingles. I called my mom who knows of these things. My grandmother got shingles about five years ago and she's still suffering from it. She has postherpetic neuralgia which occurs in about 20% of people who get shingles. It's ongoing pain caused by nerve damage. I'm off to the big hospital this morning, despite my mother's commands of "NOW! GO RIGHT NOW!"

If I've got shingles, I'm contagious. I can spread chicken pox. Shall we wager on whether or not I'm going to get some time off? (Not bloody likely!) Truly I'd settle for some opioids. If I don't get time off work, let's start a pool on how many kids I share my pox with.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009


If I was walking around in Itaewon, I certainly wouldn't greet every foreigner I saw. That would be crazy. When I'm downtown in my city, where foreigners aren't as common, I'll often say "hi," or give them a nod as we pass on the street. There isn't any use, in my mind, in pretending that we didn't notice another one of ourselves walking toward us. There have been debates about this on Dave's Cafe: "To Greet or Not to Greet." I say why not err on the side of friendliness? At the very least, what's it going to hurt to throw someone a smile?

I live in a little town. It a suburb, really of a larger city and foreigners are like unicorns here. Rarely spotted, I sometimes have a hard time believing that I'm not just the only one of my kind. So when one unicorn spots another 'round these here parts it's a special day. A rainbow day. With butterflies!

Or not.

Yesterday I was walking around in the daylight, which is sort of unusual for this here vampire, and I spotted another unicorn. A white one! A NEW ONE! So I trotted on up to the crosswalk where he was waiting for the lights to change. He turned to look at me and nothing registered. El Cara Blanco. And then he turned away. And then my brain went "OH NO HE DI'INT!!" So I stuck my cara in his cara. "Hi! I'm Jelly!"
He stuck out his hand and said, "Jason. Where are you from?" (I then half expected his next three questions to be "Teacha? How old are you" and "Are you married?")

He told me where he was from, but I don't remember what he said. I asked him if he was new around here,...because I KNOW he is new around here. He said, "No. I've been here a couple weeks."

Huh? So then I asked him if he was an English teacher, because, like, he doesn't understand the meaning of the word "new?" Turns out he teaches at a very small school in the countryside. My co-worker was telling me yesterday that there are "only seven grade fives." and I asked "You mean seven classes of grade five students?"

"No. Seven grade five students!"

I can't believe that school even has a foreign teacher! Maybe Jason is freaked out about how easy his days are. He told me he was a teacher and "I taught grade 2, 3 and 5 today." I couldn't decide what to do with that information, so I told him I had toast and eggs for breakfast.

I know I only got my PhD in Psychology through an order-by-mail website, and that I only met Jasonicorn for about 5 minutes, but I feel confident enough to diagnose him with severe Autism with a side order of weird. Either that, or the guy is seriously depressed. As I smiled and spoke calmly, he'd screw up his face - knitting his eyebrows and wrinkling hs nose, shaking his head back and forth as if he was going to answer "no" regardless of what I was asking. As the light changed and we crossed the street I noticed a big glowing ball in the sky setting through the haze and maybe Jason thinks I'm weird now because I said aloud "Is that the sun?" and he answered "Probably." (It was glowing so bright and whitish it could have been the moon. I didn't think it was a UFO or something.)

Jason asked in monotone (Aspergers?) if I was going that way, because he was going the other way and good-bye, and he shuffled off.

I guess I'm not going to be friends with the new kid in town.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Run Away

I've got things to complain about. Who doesn't? So before I start complaining, let me share one thing I am NOT going to complain about: the weather! Haven't you guys who have been reading me for awhile noticed the lack of "Ohhhh my Gawd it's So Freaking HOT I want to Go Out and Commit Crimes" posts this past summer? No need, my friends. Not this summer.

As I understand it, people in other parts of the country haven't been as lucky. I know Seoul was pretty muggified for much of the summer - and Daegu? Well, that's just a bowl of soup. But down 'round these here parts we've had an easy breezy time. The rainy season started late and lasted a long time. Many a day has been cloudy and mild, and there has been an ever-present wind that has kept things very tolerable. This has been my most favourite summer thus far in Korea. For the last couple weeks the temperature at night has even dropped enough to be deemed "yummy sleeping weather." There's a hint of fall in the days here, and it's even occurring in the big city, as my buddy John takes note of.

Alright. So that's the not complaining. Moving on.

I've got a real challenge in my adult class in the form of a new student who is driving me crazy. I haven't had a problem student like this for quite some time. If it were a child, like most of my students are, I wouldn't be having such a difficult time. He just joined my class a couple weeks ago, and I sort of knew something was up when he insisted on having a 30 minute meet and greet with me before the class started. Fair enough, I suppose, but usually the sorting of levels and initial interviewy type things are left to my manager, The Princess. So he spent 30 minutes with her and another 30 with me, and then entered the classroom and monopolized the room for the next 50 minutes.

This has become his M.O. now. He usually shows up about a half hour before the class starts and wanders into the Teacher's Room, helps himself to a seat, and starts chatting. I'm usually busy preparing for the lesson and I'm not really keen on giving him a mini-conversation class before the actual class begins. I'm always apologizing, and saying I have some work to get done so can't really talk. Sometimes he takes the hint and leaves. Other times he says, "That's okay," and then just hangs out watching me do stuff.

My adult class in an Introductory one. We tend to spend about 5 or 10 minutes conversing and then we hit the book. My new student, however, would prefer to have a conversation for the whole 50 minutes, and doesn't' care that he's railroading the class and shutting out other less-confident students. As a matter of fact, I've had three students drop out since New Guy started, and I know it's because they dislike him. I resent having to try to disengage myself from his one-on-one yammering and refocus the class on what we're studying. Last week we were working on the future tense with "going to" and we were talking about special occasions. The format was "What are you going to do for New Years? Where are you going to go? Who's going to be there?" and so on. We're going around the room asking each other questions, and it's going well - but when we get to New Guy he turns to me (of course) and says, "Do you believe in Jesus?"

I said, "Awwwww come on. The question should be 'Are you going to believe in Jesus at Christmas?' but I'd like to focus on the textbook, New Guy." Sheesh. When I try to gently correct him or guide our conversation toward the group, he gets pouty. Yesterday I said, "Hangul mal hajima-seyo," (with a smile on my face) -- "please stop speaking Korean" and he said "yeaaaahhh," and then zoned out, jamming his finger into his ear, inspecting the treasure he had dug out, and then rolling it into a ball before flicking it on the floor. Awesome.

He wears his shoes in the classroom. It bugs the shit out of me. The taking off of the outside shoes and putting on of the inside shoes is a Mister Rogers Korean thing. My brother doesn't mind if you walk your outside shoes right on into his inside home in Canada, (I can't bring myself to do it anymore) but here in Korea we do no such thing. We've got big shoe shelves at the entrance of the school and all my students are wearing the provided-for slippers. So, why do I have to remind New Guy that he's Korean and needs to take off his (big ugly) outside shoes?

Whereas I used to end off my work day three times a week feeling really good from having completed a productive and enjoyable class with people taller than my elbow, I'm now heading home pissed off and feeling like a crap teacher because I can't wrangle the New Guy. I don't want the students I actually do enjoy very much to keep dropping out.

A big part of the problem is the way my manager (The Princess) will stick students in a class that's not appropriate for them. I've got Elementary school students who are the same age, yet aren't at the same ability for our classes. At five o'clock I've got eight students who can read well and understand the direction I'm giving, but there are a couple who have serious trouble with even alphabet recognition. I'm spelling something for them (trying to move things along) and I say "E." They write an "i." "No, E. Not I." They erase and write "g." Arrrgh. When I bring this up to The Princess I'm told the student can't join the earlier lower levelled class because he/she can't "make the time."

So this is what's happened with my adult class. New Guy wants an intermediate conversation class (and really, he could well benefit from the introductory one if his ego wasn't an issue) but we don't have something suitable - so we stick him where he doesn't want to be, and we're all suffering.

Anyways. We broke a new record today at my school. I mentioned it before, but almost a year ago we took over the music school down the hall from us, and my boss converted it into a math school. Recently, The Princess fired our spirited math teacher because she's got a problem showing up to work on time and there were some complaints about the way she dresses. She does kind of look like she's going to a nightclub, but whatever. She agreed to finish working at the end of August and we found a replacement teacher just in the nick of time. New Teacher signed on just last Thursday. She came in Monday for a bit of training and the 1st was her start date. I was hanging out with the middle school girls before their math class started at 8pm. The bell rang and there was no teacher. Five minutes passed and still no teacher. Another five later, and I asked them, "Where's your teacher?" Shrugging of shoulders. You know where she was? She was gone, baby, gone! She had taught four classes and decided that was quite enough thank-you-very-much. She left a note saying buh-bye and turned off her phone as she ran out the door.

I don't know WHAT is going to happen tomorrow!