Tuesday, May 31, 2005


Things have been a little tense at work the last couple days. It's report time. Actually, the end of every month is report time, and it's noticeable in the staff room. Everyone is quiet and gloomy. Except me, I'm always a ray of sunshine.

Actually, I do my reports at home because I'd rather spend the ten minutes between classes running down the hall to the bathroom, or eating a triangle onigiri I brought from home, or photocopying an extra worksheet if I think I might run out of things to do with the kids.

The past couple days I've been battling some kind of stomach bug, so although I've been my usual ray-of-sunshine self, I've also been running back and forth between the bathroom. And I'm exhausted.

So are my co-workers.

This month is particularly tense because it's quarterly-report time. These reports are a lot more detailed, with grading and comments sections for both the Korean teachers as well as myself to complete. The Korean teachers grade the kids on reading, writing and comprehension, while I cover pronunciation, speaking and listening. I do these reports because I have to, but I'm fairly sure the hours I spend on the comments section are wasted, as I'm fairly sure the parents can't understand what it means when I write "Jason is an enthusiastic student who is always willing to participate, but requires a stronger commitment to speak English exclusively in the classroom."

My friend and co-worker, Elizabeth, has been miserable the last couple days. She's been speaking with this feeble tone and seems as if she's been injured. I've asked her a few times what's the matter and she just gets this pained look on her face. She has been at my school for more what's headed on 3 years now, and I think she's just totally fed up. I'm sure I'm not helping matters either.

There are 3 Korean teachers and myself here. I teach all the students, while the other teachers divide the students in thirds and,...wait, that sounds barbaric. Each teacher has their own classroom. I have all the classrooms. Capiche?

Each teacher gives me their reports so I can fill out my portion. I appreciate that they seem to stagger the laying of the reports on me. The head teacher always gives me her incomplete ones first, usually the weekend before they're due, and then the other two teachers give them to me when they're done.

Today I asked Elizabeth when she was going to be able to give me her reports and she said "Thursday?" I screwed up my face a little and said "Ah, then "I'll have to get them all done that night! Karen says she wants to hand them out Friday. Hmmmm. Hey, if you're finished with some, could you just give me those ones and I'll work on them tonight?" She nodded weakly.

During the next break, she handed me the reports for our last 2 classes. One set was incomplete and she pointed that out to me. "Ah," I nodded, "No problem." She then asked me "Jenny, when is good I give you the others?"


I pretended to think. "Uhhhhh, Saturday?" She nodded ok, and then thought a moment, "No, Karen wants to give them on Friday!"

"Oh yah," I said, and then pensively scratched my head. "Ummm, how about Sunday?" She started to nod again but then looked at me, a little annoyed. "Jenny, Karen give them on Friday."

"Oh! Yah, ok,....so Monday's no good then eh?"

She dropped her hands to her side and looked at me like she was going to slap me one.

"Ok, ok, ok," I chuckled. After thinking for a couple seconds, I made my face reflect the lightbulb going on over my head, "Give them to me yesterday!!"


Not much to say. Another Monday. Hooray.

I spent the day teaching classes. I spent the night writing reports. Now it's Tuesday. I'm 99% sure I'll spend today doing the same repeat thing. Again, hooray.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Sunday, May 29, 2005


I had a very nice sized apartment in Japan. Compared to my current one room apartment in Korea, it was a mansion. Actually, apartments in Japan are actually called "mansions!" I'm not sure what that word literally translates to, but my adult students always got a laugh after I explained that "mansion," in English, means posh sprawling huge house.

I had 2 rooms in Japan plus a kitchen large enough for a dining room table. I suppose, technically, it was a kitchen/dining room. Off said room was my bedroom with nice soft tatami mats. These two rooms could be blocked off from the rest of the apartment by door made of glass and wood which stayed open during the warm months, but closed in the winter when I relied on my little kerosene space heater to keep the place warm enough to live in.

My back bedroom was pretty empty. When my brother and uncle came to visit me in May 2003, they slept in there on an air mattresses they actually brought from Canada. Other than that it remained unoccupied. There were a couple of big empty black bags, a closet with some of my clothes and things, and a nice low wooden table I had dragged upstairs from where someone had discarded it at the side of my apartment building. Off the hall, on the other side of the empty bedroom, were my toilet and laundry/washroom. In Japan, toilets, where the commode is, are almost always separate from the washroom, where one bathes. My Japanese students would always comment when I showed them pictures of my Canada bathroom where there was a toilet and bathtub with shower in the same room. They would be shocked to see how I shower, in Korea, with a hand-held shower nozzle, while standing almost right over the toilet!

In the empty room, on the low table, was my perfume...'Angel,' by Thierry Mugler. Yummy. This was my last stop as I was headed out of my apartment. There was no reason for keeping my perfume there as opposed to where I dressed. That's just where I unpacked it and where it stayed. At least my empty room was being used for something, even if it was just as a one-stop fragrance-shot kinda thing.

One morning (afternoon, to most of the world, but morning to me) I was heading out the door and stopped off to make me smell good, and after spraying, while replacing the bottle in its box, I noticed a little insect sitting inside.

There are insects all over the place in spring. But I was suddenly curious as to why this one had chosen the inside of my perfume box to hang out, so I had a closer look.

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It was a perfect miniature praying mantis. I was surprised. As I stopped looking at him, though, and expanded my field of vision to include the table I picked the box up off of, I noticed it was covered in little mantis-brothers. Looking around, so were my walls, so was the ceiling. So was the floor. It seemed like there were hundreds of them. I couldn't count, they were small and I had to go to work.

My adult students got a kick out of my praying mantis infestation story, and told me their Japanese name, Kamakiri.

When I returned to my apartment that night, the little kamakiris were partying it up in the room, mantis-style. I tried, as gently as I could, to coax them into my dustpan with a broom and release them outside.

Praying mantises (mantii?) don't freak me out that much. I know they like to eat other bugs. Any bug or animal that eats other bugs is cool by me. Especially if they eat mosquitoes. Mosquitoes LOVE me, but I HATE them. Bloodsucking bastards.

Believe me, a room full of millions of baby kamakiris is much better than one of these bad boys,

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which I found on my balcony last summer, drinking out of my laundry machine drain. I had to beat it to death with a slipper while trying to fend off the curious Kamikaze Kamiakiri Kitty with my other hand. These critters, I hear, can leave a nasty bite.

I wondered how the little praying mantis had gotten into my apartment, and then I recalled an anomaly on my wall I had encountered after I moved in. It was in a corner of the room, a hard white bump on the wall. I had seen it, poked at it, and finally just cleaned it, thinking it was a pile of wallpaper paste.

'Twas not. 'Twas a nest. 'Twas a nest just a 'waitin to hatch.

A couple months after witnessing my little army of kamakiris in my apartment, I was walking, before work, to the local video store. (God bless GEO, their 100 yen Wednesdays and massive amount of selection which kept me entertained during my stay. It puts my current Korean neighborhood video store to shame.) Walking, I stopped because I noticed a full grown praying mantis in my path. The praying mantis noticed me as well, and I shit you not, she ran toward my shoe and (happily?) climbed up my leg toward my head (dinner?) I brushed her off and she ran to the safety of a tree. Maybe she was the mom of my apartment babies? Maybe she was one I released? Regardless,...I know she loved me.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

More on Cats

I was just finished university, having spent the summer at my university residence, taking my final few English classes and working full-time as a Youth Outreach Worker at an AIDS committee. About half way through the summer, my good friend told me she had been seeing a little kitten around her apartment, and figured it was left behind by people who had recently moved out. She said she was bringing the kitten to me. Pets in residence were a big no-no, but I figured I only had a few weeks left, and we would take the risk.

Saffi, as I named her, was a really cute orange kitty. She was a little dog-like and would follow us around, even walking the 15 minute hike through the forest down to the lake and back. Smart kitty.

If you haven't gathered, I am a real sucker for cats.

Anyhow, I was moving to another city, about an hour and a half northwest of my university . I was moving in with a friend of mine for the first little while until I could sort myself out an apartment and make sure that working with my new boss, who had a reputation for being a misogynist prick, wasn't going to kill me.

Or cause me to kill him.


My friend I was moving in with was severely allergic to cats, though. What to do, what to do?

I enlisted the help of my very French friend Dany. He still had a couple years left before getting his degree and he was going to start this new year off campus in his own place. I asked him if he would help me out and look after my little orange cat for a couple months or so. Dany was not a cat person, never had one in his life, and was really clueless as to the raising of a cat. I filled him in on the basics, feed the cat, clean the cat's litter, play with the cat. What not. I gave him some cash to cover the cost of Saffi-supplies, and just before we drove the cube-van with all my stuff up to my new home, we deposited Saffi and all her personal effects at Dany's place.

I was going to work at my new job for about two weeks and then head back down to school to spend the week on campus for Frosh Week. I had pre-arranged this with my boss before he hired me, explaining that I had long ago committed to give a couple talks and help out with Froshing activities. This was true, but mostly I just wanted to party with my friends one last time.

I arrived back at the university on a Friday night, having managed to get laryngitis during my 2nd week at my new job, which didn't impress my boss. Even though he had agreed to let me have my 3rd week off, he wasn't happy about that either. Ohhhh, happy times.

After a night of shit and giggles with the newly arriving seniors, and the Dons (residence supervisors) who had been there the week previous training on how to not kill the fresh-faced-frosh who were set to arrive on Sunday, I crashed in my friend's room and had me a good nights sleep.

The next morning I was up before noon, and downstairs in the huge kitchen eating some breakfast and watching the television, when my friend Dany came into the room.

"Hey man, aye been lookin all over for you! I want to talk to you about you cat"

I looked up from my cornflakes, "Hey! Dany! How you doing there? What's up? How's Saffi?"

"Awwww man," he said, sitting down across from me, "I don't wan dat fuckin cat at my 'ouse no more, man."

"What? What are you talking about?"

"Awwwww, man, she 'ave da bay-bees and it all fucked up!"

"What? She has babies? What? Like, kittens?"

"Yah man, she 'ave da bay-bees maybe tree day ago!"

I was dumbfounded. I mean, this little cat was barely a cat, more of a kitten herself. Kittens having kittens.....oh the horror. I was wondering if maybe I wasn't understanding Dany right.

"She had kittens? Saffi? Where? At your place?"

"Yah man, she 'ave da kitten all over my 'ouse. She make two kitten in my laundree baskette, she make anodder one in my closet, and more on my couch. I got da cat juice all over my fuckin 'ouse man. Eets fuckin' sick!"

I was kinda thrilled! Saffi had kittens! How precious! Dany caught me smiling to myself and he flipped out a little, "Awwww Jenn, why you smiling for? It fuckin gross, it freak me out. I was sleepin an 'eard dis bad noise dat cat makin an I get up and she got dis 'ting coming outta 'er. Eet's sick. Why don' you tell me she gonna have da bay-bees?"

"Oh Dany - I'm sorry. Seriously, I didn't know she was pregnant. I had no idea. She's so little herself. That must have freaked you out." I did feel bad, Dany did look a little scarred. "So, what happened? How many kittens did she have? Where are they?"

"Awwwwww man, dats da ting, she hate dem."

"What? Ohhhh Dany, come on, Saffi doesn't hate her babies!"

"Non, non....she HATE 'dem!" I'm looking at him all confused still. "She HEAT 'dem!" and he raised his fist up to him mouth and mimed biting into it.


Dany explained that after dropping kittens and cat juice all over his house she then went around eating them.

It was horrific, but I laughed so hard I was crying, "Oh Dany! I'm sorry!! That's ha ha ha h-awful!" I asked the details. She had had, as Dany put it, "five an a 'alf bay-bees" (one of them was only half-a-kitten.) Dany managed to get two away from her before she 'hate' them too, and then he yelled at her for being "so fuckin bad mom." Saffi jumped out his open kitchen window, her usual come-and-go spot, and was never heard from again.

And my friend swears he will never ever have a cat of his own. "Ohhhh da 'orror!"

Friday, May 27, 2005


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Thursday, May 26, 2005

Fasten Your Seat-Belts!

There are some people who like to take risks. You know, bungee jumping, parachuting, and Evil Knevieling a motorcycle over a long row of parked cars through a flaming hoop into a champagne glass.

That kinda thing.

I challenge those thrill-seekers to really flirt with disaster and get their adrenaline pumping by coming to Korea and taking a taxi ride.

I remember when I first arrived in Masan in the spring of 2002 and would kind of chuckle at my Australian friend buckling her seatbelt up in the back seat when we'd get into a taxi. She'd even refuse to ride in a cab if she wasn't able to strap herself in because there were no belts or they were broken or whatever. I asked, "What's the deal with you and seatbelts?" She assured me I would soon find out.

I did.

There are a lot of mental taxi drivers here. I'll amend that, there are a lot of mental drivers here. Lines painted on the roads to make lanes are negotiable. Red lights are optional. Adherence to speed limits are only appropriate in the spaces just before and after speed cameras. And the speed cameras, from what I can tell, are advertised! "Slow down 500 meters ahead, as we will take pictures of your speeding-ass and send you a ticket!"

A couple months after arriving here, my Canadian friend came to visit me from Japan, and he loved Korean drivers, urging them on from the back seat, "yeah -- GIVE 'ER!! GO GO GO!!!" Even on highways in Hokkaido, the speed limits are very very low and heavily enforced. He loved the speed, he loved the danger, he squealed in delight every time a taxi driver would blow through a red light.

Me,...not so much.

My Japanese friend visiting me here last Chusok (Korean Thanksgiving) shared my terror, as she turned to me, grabbed my hand in a knuckle-white grip and sputtered "Jenny, I don't wanna die!" I have echoed her sentiment many a time, sucking in my breath sharply and, before I can stop myself, yelling out "SHIT!" as we narrowly avoid collision.

What's up with that?

I'm thinking about this because I had a particularly maniacal bus driver tonight who seemed to enjoy stopping short and making all the standing passengers smash into one another. As I was right near him, up at the front, standing on the crowded bus, I almost ended up smushed up on the inside of the front window like a surprised cartoon mosquito.

Ha-ha, very funny motherfucker!

Something about his drivers license and a Cracker-Jack box. We started out our journey with the driver yelling at someone in his cellphone and smoking a cigarette! I should have known what was to come!

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

What time is it?

There's an honest-to-god cuckoo bird who lives somewhere in the little wooded areas outside my apartment. I can hear him all through the night and day. What a maddening bird! I think he's a relatively new neighbour, as I hadn't heard, ever, an actual cuckoo before about a month ago.

By my reckoning, it's about 12,390:00 o'clock.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Flippy Flips Out

My project this week is to learn how to snag pictures and get them on my blog. Although I will give myself to the end of the weekend to get that done. I don't think it should be too difficult eh? Maybe I'll just ask some one I know with a blog. If I knew more about it, that "someone" of the last sentence would be a link to an actual someone.

I came home tonight and went through my normal routine. I unlocked the door, opened it, and flipped down the little stopper so that the door would remain propped open. My cat was waiting at the door. He came outside and proceeded to flip around and I sang my "Flippy" Song. It goes,

Flippy Flippy, Flippy the Flippiest Caaa-aaaaat

Let me tell you a little bit about my cat. His name is Kamikaze Kamakiri Kitty. Don't jump to conclusions about the KKK moniker...he is black. It would be cruel to name him after the Ku Klux Klan. He's Japanese. Hence, the Kamikaze, because he is stealth like a gentle wind. Ummmm, or not. Kamakiri was added to Kamikaze shortly after we met and he requested a name. I had just learned the word kamakiri, Japanese for 'praying mantis.' How I learned it is a story for another time. This cat, as a kitten, did like to wrap his arms around my wrist and gnaw on my hand - kind of reminded me of what a praying mantis would look like eating her mate. Kitty was added because that is his nature.

Mostly I just call him Baby, though.

I will share the full saga of Kamikaze soon (ahhh, so many promises of future stories!) But let's start at the here and now. There's no getting around the fact that my cat is a big cat. When he was tiny and fit into the palm of my hand I had no way of knowing he was actually from a prominent Sumo-Cat family. I had never met his parents, afterall. I found him, tiny and meowing and alone, on a busy street on my way home late one night in Japan. I think his parents abandoned him because he was so very tiny and they feared he would be a laughing-stock amongst his many much more robust family. If I met his parents I would show them that he has become quite the Sumo. He was, at his last vets visit, about 4 weeks ago, 13.86 kgs!

For a cat, that's HUGE!

He's now on a diet because he doesn't seem interested in the art of Sumo. He won't wear his loincloth and refuses to stay inside the circle, thereby losing every match I've ever challenged him to.

He's still pretty agile though. But not very bendy. When I had to take his to the vet, as I just mentioned, I had to cram his into his carrier. He was fine and easily able to turn around in said carrier when we first arrived in the Land of the Morning Calm almost a year ago. No more, though. He was jammed up against the back of the carrier because I had to stuff him in face first. It was bloody embarrassing.

So anyhow, back to tonight. Kamikaze had done his usual flipping and I had sang his song, and then I came inside to put my bag down, turn on the lights and stick a couple things I had bought into the freezer. I called to my cat, "Marshmallow? Come on in." He did not come! Usually he is pretty close behind me because he is anxious to have his dinner and also because he is very very very skittish around people. I called him again, and yet still, he did not come. I put my sandals on and went outside to see an empty hallway! Hmmmm!

Like many low-rise apartments in Korea, my door opens to an outside hallway with a couple sets of stairs leading to the ground. I walked over to one set of stairs and couldn't find him. I walked to the other, calling his name and, oh, there he is.

"Hi, my adventurous little boy!" I said happily. I like to see him out wandering around and exploring things. He walked back to the apartment with me but didn't come inside. I did a couple other things with my door still open and then went out again to see what he was up to. He was at the other end of the hallway again, past the set of stairs! I walked down to see him. "Hi K, what are you doing, you silly monkey??!" He rolled onto his back so I could pet his big Buddha-belly.

I wish I had a video camera to catch what happened next. Suddenly there were footsteps on the second set of stairs, beyond my open apartment door. Kamikaze rolled upright with more grace than I knew he had, glanced briefly at me, and started to scramble back toward the apartment. Meanwhile, the footsteps coming down the hall toward us from behind my open door were approaching fast. Kamikaze bolted toward the stairs nearest to us, and then thought better of it. He faltered a little bit as a man sidestepped my open door, but then gathered his courage and ran, grunting, toward this man in the hopes of bypassing him and making it safe into the apartment.

The man was looking at me. Not uncommon. I'm a big white red-headed chick in a land filled with un-white non-red-heads. He didn't see Kamikaze's considerable bulk running toward him, and when he finally looked down, he let out this noise, like, "Myuuuh yuuuhh uhhhh uuuuuhhh AHHHH!" and he did this funny 'I'm terrified' dance.

I laughed my ass off, between apologizing in Korean.

The man went to the apartment at the end of the hall to pick up the dishes left outside, and was again walking toward me as I was lifting up the door-stopped to close the apartment door (and still laughing my head off.) I again apologized, and he chuckled, put his free hand on his heart, and said something to me in Korean. I don't know what it was exactly but I imagine it was something like "Holy shit man, that furry black pig just about made me crap my pants! Did you see that thing??!?"

It took a few minutes for Kamikaze to stop groaning. He grunts and sticks his tongue out when he's anxious. You should have SEEN him at the vet, making all kindsa crazy faces, and noises varying from grunts and hyperventilation, to screams I didn't know a cat was capable of making. (This, in protest to being placed on the X-ray table for the fourth time.)

He also semi-transforms into a squirrel. His tail bushes up to about three times it's normal size.

It's something to see, I tell ya!

Monday, May 23, 2005


If you've ever lived in a country where you can't speak the language, you will probably quickly find out how hopeless things can get. Spending time in one's home country, where most of the people can speak the same language as you can generate some "taking it for granted-ness" about what you can do. Are you sick? Go to the doctor and tell him or her what's wrong. Are you hungry? Go to a restaurant and browse the menu and tell the waiter or waitress what you want. Are you in need of other services? Open a yellow pages. Call someone. They'll sort you out.

Not so here. When I'm sick, yes, I go to the doctor, and I point at where it hurts and say "apumneeda" -(sick.) When I'm hungry, I can go to a restaurant and point at something on the wall menu (usually) and hope for the best. If I need other services, I am useless and require the assistance of others who speak the language.

The extent of my uselessness was oh so apparent recently. As I mentioned previously, I had a university pal come and visit me recently. He was here about a week and a half and we had a great time. It was especially nice to speak rapid-fire English with him. It was also great to get out and about and show him around interesting Korea. Highlights of his visit were walking around Gyeungju (I have heard it described as to Korea as Kyoto is to Japan) and it was very interesting. Not a high-rise in sight, traditional old houses and architecture, and a lot of grass covered huge mounds, which were actually royal tombs! Walking through the vast markets in Pusan was great, as was having a good ole all-night dance and drink fest at a cool club near Pusan's University.

Actually, we had been walking so much over the past week and all day in the markets before heading to the club, that I was tired and my legs were aching. There were a couple of cool "pump-up-the-crowd" live bands we enjoyed, but the music afterward wasn't to my liking. I don't know how to describe it, maybe "latino-jungle-trance?" Does such a beast exist? My friend G got his dance on. Having spent the last 3 years in a city in northern Japan sans dance club, he was overdue. He danced and I cheered him on. With my barking dogs, and lack of excitement over the music, I just couldn't feign enthusiasm.

Watching G, though, made me so happy. The joy on his face and the unlimited amount of energy he had was something to see. I'm sure the crowd thought so too. The smallish dance floor was super-crowded (which was another reason I wasn't on it) and so G jumped up on the stage. Because he was so hyped up, and because he is a really excellent dancer, they let him stay there. Everyone was watching him, and he pumped them up. I'm sure they enjoyed him, but I'll tell you, I adored him. He's such a good man, I hope he finds a great girl soon, because I know he'd like to.

Anyhow, I have gotten off-topic again.

G was set to leave on a Monday night. I had to work, but he came down and met me. We were going to do a little shopping at Wal-Mart, which G had said he wanted to check out, just to say he'd been in a Wal-Mart in Korea! Then we would have some dinner and I would take him to the bus terminal where he would take an overnight bus right to Incheon Airport in Seoul.

Things went as planned. We did some shopping, had our so-so last meal at a 5,000 won all-u-can-eat bbq place where an old drunk Korean man kept coming over to give us soju and share all his learned English phrases with us ( a lot of "I love you's" and "I am Korea's!) G and I took a taxi to the bus station and sat outside talking for about half an hour before his 12:30am bus arrived. We actually had a conversation along the lines of what I was talking about at the beginning of this post.

I bid G a sad goodbye with promises of meeting up again soon...probably in Canada, as that's where he's headed after a month or so of dancing his ass off in Tokyo.

I headed back to my apartment in a cab and got ripped off by the cab driver. A normal 12,000won ride came up to over 20,000won on his meter. I knew he was ripping me off as soon as I got in the cab and realized he started the meter at 2700, where it should have read ,1800 (the price goes up a bit after midnight.) I couldn't just jump out of the cab, though, as the route home from the bus terminal goes quickly from downtown to industrial complexes. If I had insisted on his stopping, I'd be stuck waiting for another cab to roll along indefinitely. I did protest in my very limited Korean and sulked and sighed a lot as the meter flipped up and up, and when we finally arrived at my apartment he handed me back 5,000 from the 20,000 I had given him, with a lot of apologies.

Anyhow. Tired and sad I climbed the 4 flights to my apartment only to search for my key. My key. Where the fuck was my key??!?!

I'll tell you where it was. It was asleep in sleeping G's pocket on a bus to Incheon.


I have no cell phone, and stupidly, also did not have the numbers of my boss or any of my co-workers in my bag. Besides, it was about 1:30am by this time. The gruff old man who sleeps in the "management" office was no help at all. He wrote down note in Korean with a number for me to call in the morning. I was embarrassed to almost start to cry in front of him, pleading in English for him to "help me" and miming a "lock-pick."

Too bad so sad. He resumed his sleeping pose on the couch in the office, pretending I wasn't there anymore. I stepped outside into the chilly night to go over my options, while staring up at my balcony with my open door way up on the 4th floor. Could I convince my sleeping neighbor whom I'd never seen to shimmy over? No, that's dangerous. Could I climb up there? No, that's super-human. Spider-woman, I am not.

The Mystic Being who controls the universe (Yoda?) smiled on me that night, though, because after about 20 minutes standing outside trying to figure out what to do, a couple drove up in a car, parked, and were walking toward the apartment building beside mine. I quietly said "Hi, do you speak English?" To which, the female said, miraculously, "Yes, I do!" Her fiance did not, but this woman's English ability far surpassed even the English teachers I work with! Amazing. After placing a few calls on both of their cellphones, (I think they even called 1-1-9, the Korean equivalent of 9-1-1) they established I was indeed SOL for the night, but they drove me to a yogwan about 10 minutes away, and she returned for me in the morning after visiting the local locksmith and arranging for him to meet us at my apartment. He had me back in my digs in about 30 seconds.

I wanted to squeeze the locksmith, and my beautiful Korean angel so hard that their ears popped, but I refrained and instead gave them many deep bows and thank you thank you thank you.

Five minutes inside and the phone rang. It was G at Incheon saying how sorry he was. He didn't realize he still had my key until he emptied his pockets at the security check.

Ah, these things happen, and all's well that end's well. I guess the morale of the story is, make sure you have the phone number of someone who speaks the language and can help you out. Better yet, get off your lazy ass and learn the language already! Oh, and make copies of your keys! I've made one and taped it to the roof of my mailbox. If you can figure out where I live, come on over and come on in. If your intentions are not pure though, Kamikaze the Sumo-Cat will bite your ankle off.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Awww hell

I think I may have waited too long between posts and now I forget how to add a picture. Damn me.

My week went by quickly, as it usually does. I actually have my one year anniversary of being in Korea this time around, coming up in 3 weeks. What should we do to celebrate? Nothing, you say? Ok! I can do nothing! I'm pretty good at doing nothing!

Today, however...I did something! Weekends go by here all the time without me even leaving the house! I don't even have to fight the urges I had when I first came here to go out and meet people and socialize. It's kind of interesting, considering I am, by nature, a fairly extroverted individual.

Today I met my co-worker for a nice lunch and a bit of a shop and walk around downtown. I really like my co-worker, but, unfortunately her English is pretty crap. (Keeping in mind she is an English teacher!) When we hang out it sometimes feels like I am giving an hours-long lesson. Often, we go out for dinner on Friday nights and to do some grocery shopping. After a long day and an even longer week my brain is taxed, and I feel bad if I seem impatient or a little unwilling to help her sort out exactly what she wants to say to me with correct grammar and pronunciation.

Anyhow, I shouldn't complain as she is one of my only pals here, and she thinks I'm bloody hilarious.

Thinking about things at this moment, I can tell you three reasons why I'm not getting my ass out doing meet and greets here. Let me lay them out:

i. Location, Location, Location

I didn't know it when I first arrived here, but I am quite a distance away from downtown. Downtown, like most downtowns, is filled with things to do. It takes about 40 minutes by bus to get downtown. Granted, catching the bus isn't a problem. Its last stop on its route is right outside my work. But I finish work at 8, and then thinking about going downtown to meet up with friends I don't have, and have to take a taxi back because the buses stop running at around 11,...accckkk - seems like too much effort. So I pretty much stick to my little neighbourhood where I am 1 of 2 foreign teachers. I know there is another here, but I haven't met her or even seen her. She is mythical. And maybe magical. I'm unsure.

ii. Getting to Know You, Getting to Know All About Youuuuuuu

It seems to me I've been on the move for years and years. I shall now do a little counting. I have moved 11 times in 9 years. That includes 9 different cities in 4 different countries. With each of those moves has come new jobs and new experiences and new people! Starting off at zero with a new person can be an exciting and interesting thing. Getting to know them, and them getting to know you can take a looooong time. Or not. I prefer to have non-superficial relationships with new friends, you know, asking questions about who they are, where they've been, what they've been up to etc. etc. Fair enough. But this takes time. Time that I have but energy that I find myself lacking in. It's not that I'm not interested in meeting new people, especially if they're funny. I'm really kind of sick of MY STORY, actually. It gets exhausting if you really really want to get to know someone. As I get older it seems to get a little more difficult as well. Recurring situations that allow to get to know people over time, such as school or work, these are good things in allowing people to get to know one another gradually and decide if these individuals are the type you'd want to hang out with or not. Here, though, other than heading out on the weekend and getting all ass-drunk, there isn't another regularly occurring situation to make meeting people easier. If you have been ass-drunk, you know the kind of love that can spill out of people, "I know I jesss met schu, but you are really really really cool. I love shu man!" That usually wears off in the morning and you're left with a foggy recollection of the previous nights events. ("Whose phone number is this?")

Traveling and living in a foreign country can be a real bonding experience with those who are doing the same. I can tell you I have met fantastic people in my journeys. It's a real drag, however, when they move on - or YOU move on, and you have to say your goodbyes, knowing how unlikely it is that you will ever have the opportunity to live in the same place as said fabulous again. Sad. Sure, there's the telephone and e-mail, but it seems like my phone and inbox are broken, because one's not ringing and the other taunts me with (0) e-mails. Fuckin technology.

So what's a girl to do?

iii. My Reputation as a Thief!

Yes that's right. I have, even though I rarely go out here, a reputation for thievery. Let me explain about a night of unfortunate events. I had met a nice fellow one night when I had dragged my ass out to go dance. By myself. Pathetic, but true. Nice fellow and I exchanged numbers and a few weeks later I found the number and gave him a call. It was a Saturday night and he was going out to meet up with friends at a bar that I've been to before, but never really had a good time at. OK! Let's goooooo! So I met up with him and some friends, and I was a little late and everyone seemed to be appropriately saucified, myself included. (I had had a few glasses of wine while getting myself ready.) So we sat at the table and did some smalltalk, see title of (ii). As happens, people wandered off to talk to other people and I was left alone at the table, not having any other people I knew to talk to! One person came over to me at my now empty table and invited me over to another table where half the people previously occupying my table were sitting.

So I gathered up the contents of my empty table, a pitcher of beer and a few half filled mugs, and I spied a cellphone that had been left there. Having no third hand, I picked it up and dropped it in the little pouch I had tied around my waist, with the intention of dropping it off on the new table. Our previous table was right beside the door out, and I figured it would not be good to leave it there.

Anyways, a few minutes later, I smiled at one of the former occupants of the first table who was walking toward me with a cellphone in her ear and a look of concentration on her face. I realized my pouch was ringing just as she reached her hand in and grabbed her cellphone out. Awwwwww, fuckin great! I apologized profusely and tried to explain. I mean, if i had wanted to steal her phone, wouldn't I have, like, high-tailed it out of the bar, or hidden it in, maybe, my shoe?

The most unfortunate thing was that the nice fellow I'd gone to meet that night came to tell me he had his cellphone AND his digital camera go missing. I knew, of course, how it looked. I did let him search my pockets, including the suede jacket I hadn't been wearing since I arrived at the bar. I didn't allow, per his suggestion, a visit the ladies room with the girl whose phone I had accidentally stolen. Maybe I should have, just to ease his mind I didn't have his shit, but I stuck with my initial reaction of "no fuckin way!" Strip-search,....uhhhh,...no thanks. I felt bad about the whole thing, and I said to "nice fellow," "if you knew me, you'd know I didn't steal your stuff." But he didn't know me...and so he thinks I stole his stuff.

I know better though.

Afterwards I gave much thought to the unfortunate night of stolen things, and I wondered just what I would DO with a cellphone I had stolen. Really. Call people? Everyone I know lives in other countries. As if I would be stupid enough to dial my friends and family. Surely cell-phone companies have records of numbers? Could I have a stolen phone changed into being my phone? Maybe,....but I wouldn't even know HOW to do that here, seeing as I don't speak Korean, and don't know how one would go about doing such a thing. Besides, wouldn't someone who had their phone stolen have the phone reported as stolen to their cellphone company? I don't know. It doesn't matter anyhow. I have no stolen cellphones to worry about. Nor digital camera. And I do especially feel bad about that - for the nice fellow. I don't have a digital camera, but I want one, and I can imagine how pissed off I'd be if mine was stolen. However, I can also imagine that I'd be very careful about leaving my valuables alone in bars filled with people. I'm just saying. It's a fuckin drag having stuff stolen, but, really, isn't it YOUR responsibility to keep your shit safe? It's one thing to have some asshole break into your locked apartment and take your stuff, but I think it's quite another to leave, say, your purse in open view in your locked car, or your wallet on a table in a bar, while you visit the washroom or whatever.

Anyhow, because of that night I really thought about my experience here. I thought about going out alone and trying to make new friends and what a drag that is, and how many times before I've had to do just that because I have been a stranger in strange lands. I thought about people that don't know me, except for seeing me out a couple times a month when we're all drunk off our faces, and I thought "screw it!"

In this case, with how I'm feeling these days, the results are not worth the effort.

And so I laid low, which was good for my liver and even better for my bank account. When I first came to live overseas, it was really much more about the experience and a little about the money. Now it's almost all about the money, because I can envision the end in sight.

And so I laid low, which, I'm sure, managed to reinforce my reputation as a thief. "Oh look - that chick stole all our shit and now she's in hiding taking digital pictures of our stolen phones!" Yah- errrmmm, ok. Actually, I didn't know for sure what people were thinking because I wasn't associating much with people!

To end this already-too-long-saga, I'll tell you that I now know. Recently I had a friend from my university days come to visit me here, and therefore had reason to go out and about. We stopped by the dance place which is my favourite place here. The owner is a friend of "nice-fellow", so I was very pleased when he greeted me with such warmth, holding my hand and remarking on how long it had been. Gooood. After the dance place we went down the street to visit "the scene of the crime" and I ran into a very nice British guy I know. I was happy to see him, but after our exchange of hellos and how-are-you's he put his arm around my shoulders and said "so what's this reputation of you being a thief?"

Ahhhhhhh, so it's like dat, eh?

I quickly retold my version of events that night, and he suggested I don't worry about it, and I should show my face more often. He's probably right, but I remain unmotivated.

And so,...

I am often alone here, and to be honest, sometimes quite lonely. But it's ok. I'm coping well.

In my travels I have met some fantastic people and even though they don't call or e-mail as much as I'd like, they can all attest to the fact they've been out with me often, had me in their homes and such, and never had their valuables go missing. Unless you count cheese as valuable. God help me, I love cheese!

Monday, May 16, 2005

Alright, I think I got it?

Something about the colours makes me happy!
Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Sunday, May 15, 2005


I actually figured out how to put that little mood icon on my blog. Check me out! I've been spending too much time trying to figure out how to post my picture here. It doesn't seem to difficult, except I can't get Picassa or Hello to work on my computer. I'm thinking of looking into Flickr, we'll see.

Menwhile, I look like my mood icon thingie. Relaxed.

I am hungry, but I am also lazy. Right now I am more lazy than I am hungry, but hunger is slowly creeping up and overtaking lazy.

Yes, indeed.

Rosie O

I've been enjoying Rosie O'Donnell's website and blog: http://www.rosie.com/ I like it because I like her, and I like her art. It is the kind of thing I would have on my wall. I like colour. (By the way - I like how us Canadians spell 'colour', as far as I'm concerned, more is more and I dig the extra u.) So would U.

What I hate about Rosie's site is the trolls. What a bunch of wankers. I'm all for discourse and disagreement, but just to be spiteful for the sake of being thus? Fuck off already!

I applaud her for putting her thoughts out there, even if she does it in a dis-jointed kinda free-form rambly style. Little hard to read, and the "codes" are hard to figure out,....AVAM, chv, "joyce", for example, on the first page currently. A lot of the time I don't know what she's talking about -- because I'm not there and not privy to current pop culture events. Even so, I dig her. I think if we met we'd be instant friends. I think she'd let me play around in her art studio. I think we'd collaborate. I think it'd rock.

I think she'd turn on her comments if it weren't for a bunch of shitheads with black cold hearts who revel in the thought of making other people sad. Fuck you, trolls. And bless you, Rosie.

Cloning Cotton Balls

I'm thinking now about this past Christmas!

Christmas is a non-event in Korea. Many people don't even have the day off. I have noticed an increase in Xmas decorations in Korea from when I first came here. I think the commercialism of the West is catching on here. Students I surveyed, half of them, or so, reported having a Christmas tree in their house (though it may have been a mini-tree, or a picture of a Christmas tree, or a fern). In Japan, Christmas is a time for lovers. I don't still know how the birth of wee baby Jesus equates to a holiday for those and their beloved to pay a visit to the local love motel after an evening of cocktails and perhaps Christmas cake, but, whatever.

I haven't explained it yet, but I spent 6 months back in 1992 in Korea, and then moved to Japan for almost 2 years, and have been back in Korea now for almost a year (just one month shy of a year now). I will post more later about all that, but in the meantime I am thinking of this past Christmas in Korea. I was lonesome. I was looking forward to the call from my family, which has happened every Christmsa since I've been gone. It came. It made me happy.

It was great to hear from them, but it made me blue that I wasn't there.

My brother's cat's name is Mittens. She's a really good cat he and his (then) girlfriend (now, wife) rescued from The Humane Society. The reason they picked her was because she looked like a pretty orange striped little tiger with a freckle on her lip. Really what sold them though was when they called to her and she came right up and licked my brother's face through the cage. Coooool.

So - turns out she has been a great cat for them. She licks everyone with such an unchecked intensity, they have decided she is a stylist. Not just hair, but goatees, sideburns, arms,...anything with even the slightest of hair.

My brother was telling my on the weekend that he had read an article about a woman who had her pet's DNA saved so that they could make her a replicate pet someday. We got into this talk about saving Mitten's DNA so that once she "goes to California," (my brother's euphemism for dying) they could get a replacement. Thing is, it costs about 50,000$. Jeff decided that in order to cover the costs he was going to take orders for replicate Mittens, and he asked me if he could sign me up for one. I ordered 2. So he said he'd have to take her into the doctors to get the DNA collected. I told him all he had to do was get a cotton swab,...I mean, that's how they always find out 'who da baby papa?' on Montel eh? Jeff called me a dumbass and said he'd have to have the DNA frozen until they had the technology to mass-produce Mittens. "Like, as if - I'm going to get Mittens to lick a cotton ball and put it in a zip-lock bag for a few years and then go to the lab and say 'hi!' hand them my cotton ball, 'can you make me some cats?'"

Ha ha ha.

How many Mittens would YOU like?

Meanwhile my fat sumo-cat is lying upside down with his little legs in the air and his fat belly hanging out making piggy little purring sounds. He's a good cat, but I doubt I could mass-market him. He's so fat, (how fat is he??) everytime he poos, if I'm not there to wipe his huge ass he leaves hershey-poo-kisses all over the apartment. Yum. More on him later too. I loooove him.

Maybe once I get my Repli-Mittens she will groom him up for me. Maybe I can sell them as a pair -- some kind of Laurel and Hardy cat-clones. What will we think of next?

Purple Mice

A couple weeks ago I almost stepped on a mouse on the way to work. A baby mouse - and I mean so baby it hadn't even opened it's eyes yet, I'm sure. I was lucky I happened to be looking down, I let out a shreik and double stepped out of the way to avoid stepping on it. It was lying on the steep paved hill to my apartment which is, essentially, a driveway. Perfect place for mouse squishing, if not by foot, then by car.

So I picked the little thing up in a handkerchief I had in my bag, and carried it away. I was walking to school wondering what I would do with the little thing. I couldn't bring it back to my apartment. I knew it would make a really fun toy/meal for Kamikaze (my giant black sumo-cat I rescued from Japan) but I couldn't bear the thought of having mouse bits scattered all over the place. Or worse, scooping mice bones and fur out of the litter box. Gross. Yah, I know.

So I was thinking maybe I could convince one of my students who had had a hamster to take it home and raise it (as a hamster?) in their now defunct hamster things. I thought it was more probable, though, that the kid would promise me they were taking it home, only to take it out back and devise a contest with his classmates as to who could make the baby mouse the most flat in one stomp. My students are a little like that.

So while thinking about all this and looking down at the sleepy baby mouse I looked up long enough to see a cat looking at me in a vacant overgrown lot. I spied the cat and the cat spied me and then I spied another cat spying me too. I've seen these Harold and Maude cats in the neighbourhood before, wild, and far too skittish to approach anyone - even a kind foreigner bent down with food "here kitty *kiss kiss* kitty" like.

So I showed the cats the mouse, and I left it on a rock in the sun on the edge of the lot. I love animals, but I'm hip to the food chain, too. I don't know if the kitties got it, but I'm going to assume so. Baby Mouse was not there when I passed by on my way home. Poor mouse. Quite like the rest of us, eh? Plucked from one disaster just to be dropped into another.
Damn. That sounds so pessimistic.

I do know that on the very same driveway I found Baby Mouse, I daily pass over a sewer grate where I see little purple flowers growing. I relate to them. Pretty and light seeking, they grow up and out - only to get regularily smashed down by tire treads. SUCKERS!!!! I'm sure it's just because I'm headed to work when I see them,...why I feel so bad for them. Otherwise I'd just look down and think "oooooh - purple (duh) pretty!!!"

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Bloggy Blog Blog


I don't think I'm going to be able to stick to that posting every 5 minutes commitment. I've been thinking about it these last few minutes, and while I do have a lot of time on my hands, I think I'm going to have to commit to other things, like work and sleep and such. Oh well. So for anyone who is clicking on my bloggy blog every 5 minutes looking for an update, I fear I will have to disappoint.

I tried to d/l "Hello" to publish some photos, but it will not work with my computer. Actually I tried to download Picassa last weekend to remove some red-eye from one of my friends photos, but it didn't work on my computer then either. Bloody computer.

I'm not extraordinarily computer literate, but I am a fast learner. What makes it doubly challenging, is that my computer is largely Hangul, or Korean language inclined. And although I have lived in Korea for almost a year and a half in total, I can't speak the language.

The Hangul alphabet isn't that difficult to master. There's fewer characters than the English alphabet. From http://www.omniglot.com/writing/korean.htm :

Notable features of Hangeul
There are 24 letters (jamo) in the Korean alphabet: 14 consonants and 10 vowels. The letters are combined together into syllable blocks.

Visit their website if you want to learn more.

So, even though the alphabet isn't that hard to master (my Australian friend had it down pat within a few weeks of arriving in Korea) I didn't think mastering it was that important. Even though I might be able to sound out what is written, I still don't know WHAT it is. Know what I mean?

Anyways, point being, error messages and what not pop up in Korean on my computer, and I'm all, like, "molayo" (which is the handiest of handy phrases for me, meaning "duuuuh, I don't understand") and so,...

Maybe it's for the best that I can't get Hello to work on my comp right now. I think it would make me even more jonesy about getting a digital camera. I want one I want one I want one I want one I want one.

I have a very very nice camera, a gift from my beloved brother, a Canon EOS. I love it. It takes a great photo. Thing is I rarely develop the rolls of film I take. I have about 10 here, undeveloped. I left about 20 more at my mother's place the last time I was in Canada (about a year ago) that I haven't developed. Basically, the majority of my life overseas is undeveloped. Rolls of film are easier to lug around than suitcases of photographs. Once I finally return to Canada and settle down I will get to a photo lab. Looking at all those photos will be a joyous walk down Memory Lane.

I look forward to it.

Anyhow, what was I talking about in the first place?

Surely my postings might go like this. Ramble shift ramble digress. It's all good.

A lovely compliment from my mom in an e-mail today:

"I let Anna (her co-worker) read your email about the glass in Kamikaze's food. She said you are a very good writer and should be writing the greatest novel ever. I agree."

Awwww, mother-love. Goooood!

Flaky Journaller (No more?)

I have an actual journal that I've been dragging around with me for years - probably just to prevent it from getting read by anyone. (It's one of those pathetic pour-out-your-guts-poor-me-what's-it-all-about-melodramas.) Let me grab it, and you'll have an idea about the sporadic nature of my journalling...

Okay - started journal September 21st, 1992 with the words "It's kind of funny that I have to write a journal for this class, because for the past few weeks it seems like everyone under the sun has been bugging me to start one." I don't know which class that was, I assume it was an English class - and I'll further assume I didn't get high marks for my journal from the prof - as I see no comments under the 1st entry.

The second entry is January 29th, 1994. So there ya go!

There are a few long and rambling entries over the next months until June 7th/94, and then BLAMMO...

Fri. Dec. 8th, 1995. Guess I wasn't feeling so happy then: "I hate Sault Ste. Marie. There is no fathomable reason to stay here. This place sucks, my job sucks, I'm lonesome, I hate Peter, I hate work, I hate the weather, I hate snow and I hate shovelling. I hate my car tonight, I hate Bell Canada. I hate Algoma Steel and I hate the icicles on the roof!" That's a whole lotta hate!! Looking back on my short stay in Sault Ste. Marie, it wasn't all bad. It was pretty bad - but at least it was quite a learning experience. I wonder what my beef was with Algoma Steel?? Sometime I will write about my experiences there: angry lovers-spats at work with coffee cups a' flyin', a bearded lesbian who cooks moose spaghetti to bring to pot luck lunches, and a man who looks at wolves and tells me, drunkenly, "Dem's my brudders." Good time, good times.

Next entries, Dec. 15th, Jan. 13th (96), April 20th, May 21st, 22nd, 23rd, 25th, 29th, oooohhh I was on a roll!

Uh oh,... Tues. Feb. 10th, 1997: "Yah I think the thing with me not writing regularily is because I lack focus," (no chit Cherlock) "I feel like the whole writing thing should be incorporated into some sort of routine, which I'm lacking in my life." Hmmmmm,....seems so.

Very next entry, July 28th, 1998.

Followed by Thurs. July 27th, 2000.

Re-reading the final entry from Dec. 9th, 2001 makes me wanna puke. I was on the verge of a major upheaval, namely leaving Canada for Korea - but I didn't know that then.

So, point is I'm a flake when it comes to sticking to a project. Kinda, sorta,...but I'd like to think I'm getting better at seeing things through. I have, after all, committed to posting every 5 minutes. I'm going to be a busy woman!

Count me in...

Yes yes count me in! I spend time most days checking in on my favourite blogs to see if they've updated. When they don't, I'm disappointed and have nothing to look at. I stare at the screen filled with stuff I've already read and cry. And then my eyes hurt. Screw that!

So I am now throwing my hat into the ring of the newest craze, la blog. And I intend to update every 5 minutes.