Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Two's Day

I'm not feeling too great. I have a chest cold with lungs and face afire, and sleeping since Sunday night has been fairly miserable, as I can't breathe through my nose and have been waking up coughing with the most dry mouth imaginable. I'm not in a very good mood when I'm sick, either, and want to stay home in bed. My eyes were rolling into the back of my head in classes today; I wanted to sleep so bad!

When I was a kid, my father would have a passive aggressive freak out if we were sick and coughing at the dinner table. I mean, it didn't matter if you held your hand over your mouth, it was the coughing that bothered him, and so I always felt threatened when I was sick. Even now, my mom still says things like "Jenny, you're always getting sick!" which isn't true, but makes me feel guilty and defensive somehow. Short of a pre-surgical scrub down and donning a mask and gloves before entering my classes, I don't know what I can do to stop from getting sick. When I'm coming into contact with over a hundred kids a day, a handful at least are bound to have something. Today I witnessed one of my students who seems to be perpetually holding a chair up over his head outside him classroom door, tap his neighbour and motion for him to lean in so he could sneeze full force on the side of his head in the guise of telling him a secret.

Anyhow, yep, I'm sick. I'm not very patient when I'm not feeling well, and I can be snappy and irritable, which I was today. That makes me feel more miserable. I suppose my co-workers have worked with me long enough to know what I'm like when I'm ailing, so at least they're not shocked by my being short with them. I was pretty severe with my 2nd to last class of loud silly boys, and had 3 of them write lines in complete silence, while I played a game with the other two kids. Then we went back to work, with the 3 boys hating me, but I won them over by the end of class with a new game. They were all smiles and exclamations of "Teacha, very fun!" as they were leaving the class.

Happier news: I got my MP3 Player back. We'll see if it's all fixed up later in the week when I try to upload some more tunes to it. I got myself some new headphones tonight. Two pairs, actually. I wasn't expecting to go downtown to get my MP3 player, but when I got out of school and saw a bus waiting there, I hopped on. Since I didn't have my headphones with me, and wanted to listen to the thing on the way back home, I bought a new pair, the kind that hook around your ear and are large disks pressed up against your head. I hated them instantly. Too much outside noise gets in, and they make the tops of my ears too "busy" as they're competing for limited space with my glasses. My ear buds that came with the MP3 are better, but a bit too big for my ear-hole, so they're painful after I keep having to shove them back in when they're trying to slip out. So the next shop I passed, I went in and bought a different smaller ear bud and I like them very much. But they're not perfect.

Ultimately, what I'd really like in a headphone is an ear bud with a spike on the end of it that I ram about one inch deep into my cranium via my ear. Then a little umbrella should open up inside my head so they will never ever fall out and I never ever have to hear anything but music.

I'm going to take copious amounts of mystery-medicine my nice Pharmacy Man gave me, and cuddle up and watch "The Polar Express." Perhaps an animated Tom Hanks times 6 will lift my grumpy spirits.

**UPDATE**: Nope, no spirit lifting for me. Even though I checked in both English and Korean with the video store checkout girl that the brand new in-store "The Polar Express" was in English, and she said it was, she is a BIG FAT LIAR, and it is not. In the 3 or so minutes I did watch it, the animation looks spectacular. In the first few moments, a little boy spies a Santa's Cap in his dad's back pocket, and pulls out newspaper and magazine articles from his dresser drawer. It seemed like he had been collecting evidence to confirm Santa's a fake. I thought it was pretty cool the animated newspaper was in Hangul, even though it meant I didn't know what it said.

Today, my crap video store got 2 copies of "The Polar Express," (I hope so much they're not BOTH in Korean, though I strongly suspect they are) two copies of Brangelina's "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" and 4 copies of what looks to be an abysmal movie I've never heard of, and won't be renting, "The Cave." I dig the prices of renting a movie at my local crap store, but oh, what I would give for the bountiful selection of a Blockbuster.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Voice From the Past

I got an e-mail today from a dear friend I used to know when I lived in Masan in 2002. It's been ages since I last heard from him, so I was excited to read his news. I'm not entirely positive, but i think he used some kind of online translation thing to write to me. What do you think?

Report it wants and it is not small Nae Si Neun Ji... it is anxious during that time very
Not be for a while liaison and live how, it is anxious, the bedspread..
This letter to use the automatic compiler and to draw up.
Jennifer! It lives yet from Japan?
Recently the possibility of exchanging a with each other matter it is in the future it will exchange the letter frequently with the automatic compiler and the bedspread
Currently live how from where, it does not know but and to wish,
The lives which it shares from Korea are born thought yet freshly... report to want and the many thought is born.
It is a winter when Korea is cold now..
The friends who are in that time Korea yet, if in case which probably is to Korea yet it is in Korea and the possibility to teach their letter addresses it is?
It is born but in the future the reel which it will contact frequently ni also Jennifer liaison does as a favor difficulty is operating the anjunara frequently yet.. is like that, Goodbye
The many sides to send the news inside quick time the report which it will thank Jennifer who wants ~
From Korea bongho...

Am I the bedspread, or is he?

Schoolground Politics in the Staffroom

After work on Thursday I was talking to my boss about the groceries she was going to pick up at her local grocery store. Elizabeth interrupted us and said to Karen "I hope you're going to pay Jenny for her cooking lesson!"

I was a bit horrified, and started protesting "No, no, no!"

Karen joked that she would let me eat some of the food we'd be cooking. Elizabeth persisted and said "Well at least you should pick her up and drop her off at home!" I already knew that this was not the plan, as Karen's a VERY nervous driver, and only got her license re-activated once her husband left to work in China in the summer. She only drives when she absolutely HAS to, and is scared of things like rain, and wind,and the dark, and every other car on the road. I gladly offered to take a cab to her place before she could even think about driving the 20 minutes over here to get me. Cabs are cheap and convenient here.

Elizabeth went on, talking about how generous I am to give up my time to teach Karen how to make some Western food and that Karen should at least do something to reciprocate. Karen made a couple jokes, while I laughed uncomfortably and kept protesting, "No, it's not like that! No!" wishing the whole time Elizabeth would just shut up and mind her own business.

When Karen finally left for home, I turned to Elizabeth and said, "You know, that was really embarrassing!"

"What?" asked Elizabeth innocently. I didn't buy it, though. She thought she would stick up for me and put Karen in her place, which I think is a bad idea when Karen happens to be her boss. Elizabeth explained that my weekends are my free time, and going over to Karen's was kind of like work. And I should get paid. She figured.

She figured wrong. I told her I was really looking forward to the day, and any new thing that comes along to break up my normally boring and monotonous nap-filled weekend was exciting for me!

I knew Karen was already struggling with the idea of not preparing for my visit by having food and drink all ready for me when I got there, as is Korean tradition when inviting a guest over. Even though she warned me a couple times that she wasn't going to be making anything because we would be cooking, she eventually changed her mind and stuck with tradition. I scolded her when I saw what was going to be our lunch already laid out. She 'p-shawed' and said what she'd made was too simple!

I really think what the real deal behind Elizabeth's words was jealousy. She's a good friend, and I really do enjoy her company, especially outside of work. Though, if we were back in Canada I doubt we'd be hanging out because truthfully, we don't have very much in common. But she's very possessive, and I think it's a good thing my other co-workers aren't TOO interested in hanging out with me all the time, because it'd be like lions scrapping it out over the last piece of meat. The piece of meat being "me." That's a bad analogy, but you know what I mean. Elizabeth's told me many times it's a good thing I'm a woman, because if I were a man, she would be in love with me. I secretly think that she's conflicted because her culture and her Catholicism clash with her lesbianistic tendencies, but shhhh, don't tell her I said so. Ha!

Ha Ha!

Someone found my site searching Yahoo for saggy jugs! Hee-freakin-larious!

Good Day

Holy schmoly today was a nice day! The weather was gorgeous, with absolutely clear skies and mild temperatures, I sat in a cab on the way to my boss's house with a bag full of groceries and enjoyed the beautiful colours on the trees and the hazy looking mountains in the the distance. I once again had the unbelievable sense of being reminded that I was in Korea, which is silly, since I've been overseas almost 4 years now. Yet I keep having that feeling, "Yo, check it out, you're far away from home."

I arrived at Karen's house and we set about cooking class. There were some fairly major screw-ups, namely that I forgot the printed out recipes for 3 of the dishes at home (the 4th, chicken cordon blue - my mom's best, is committed to memory.) No matter, I know how to make all the stuff. First up, we made shepherd's pie. The pie was a bit bland for my liking, and Karen had bought beef cream soup mix, instead of beef broth ~ so it was interesting. Good, though. Karen and I both agreed it would be better with some more spice. As it was, it was heavy on the veg (carrots, onions, and corn) and light on the meat. I had bought the biggest package of Australian ground beef available, for 6,000 won, and it was not very much at all. Next was a spinach quiche with a rice crust. It turned perfect looking. The mishap here was I forgot to include garlic in the spinach and onion sautee, but oh well. Karen liked the 'nurungji' (toasted rice) aspect of the quiche, but isn't a big fan of spinach I found out.

With the first 2 dishes complete, we sat down to lunch, and sampled them along with Karen's mom's excellent kimchi and slices of tofu, a crispy spicy Korean seasoned salad of cucumbers, onions, and carrots, and doenjang jjigae (bean paste stew.) Yummilicious!
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*borrowed from the 'net.' Karen's looked much more delicious than this, all salty and hot, did you know it's even better when made from the pasty water you get when washing rice?

After some conversation and coffee and the sun setting, we started in on the last 2 dishes. I forgot the cream in my fridge for the chicken cordon blue, and we used milk instead, but it didn't work out very well. The dish really does need cream. The chicken was good (though Karen didn't like the swiss cheese) but the sauce wasn't thick enough and had a few globs of gelatinous undisolved corn starch. Ick. I intend to make it proper, like, in the next week or two and give it to Karen to show her what it should taste like. The baked cod with broccoli was nice and simple and tasty. It, too, could have used more seasoning. Using a can of soup to cook is a bit - something - but tasty and convenient nonetheless. I wonder if the fact that all these Western dishes tasted just a bit bland is a testament to all the spicy Korean food I usually eat, or just that my sense of taste is off because I've got a bit of a cold.

While preparing the chicken we realized Karen didn't have a wine opener, so I jammed the cork inward with a screwdriver. So after adding the appropriate amount to the dish, we had to drink up the wine. We finished the bottle and I started drinking some cold beer as we sampled the two completed dishes. Karen's pretty sister showed up and ate a plate with a bit of everything, and seemed to really like it!

It really was a fun day, and I continue to realize that my boss is someone I'd be friends with. She's only a month older than I, and is really a great person. We're having the opportunity to get to know each other so much better because her husband has been working in other countries for the past few months. When he's here, she doesn't have time to hang out. He'll be back home for a bit in a couple weeks. I had a dream the other night that he was back, and looked exactly the same, except all his hair had turned white. I don't know what that's supposed to mean.

This post is long enough, so I'm going to save a little story for tomorrow. Or a little later. I ended up drinking about 2 litres of beer and half a bottle of wine, so typing is a pain in the ass right now!

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Cooking With Jelly

I mentioned in my last post that I will be visiting my boss's home to do a little cooking. Eva, my Blogging By Mail partner in Belgium, sent me a mix to make some Swedish bread. I don't have an oven to cook said bread, but my boss does, so the plan is to go over to her apartment tomorrow. Unfortunately, I forgot the mix, yeast, and ingredients at school tonight when I left, so there will be no bread baked in my boss's oven. I will still visit though.

My boss, Karen, has asked me to teach her how to make some Western dishes. This has been a long-time planned thing that has never come to fruition until now. I was going to have the co-workers over to my apartment for a little cooking and a meal, but really, that's silly, as I have almost no counter-space to work with, no oven, and not enough dishes to feed everyone on.* Oh, and an anti-social cat. Few Koreans like cats, and my co-workers actually quite hate them.

Anyhow, Karen, in our lesson last week, broached the subject of my teaching her a few meals and I said I was happy to!

I really do love cooking, and the thought of using an actual oven to prepare some dishes I haven't been able to cook in the whole time I've been in Asia seems to cool! There is added pressure, though, in that I'd like it if Karen enjoyed the meals we're going to prepare. So I put some thought and research into choosing some "North American" meals to make. I am limited by the ingredients available in Korea, and also the fact that Karen wants to learn some "quick and easy to prepare" dishes.

So tomorrow we will make 4 things. I wrote out two grocery lists, one that she will have to acquire at her local grocers, and another that I had to venture downtown to get at the larger supermarkets that have a smattering of foreign (and expensive!) items.

Her list included: onions, potatoes, carrots, celery, spinach, broccoli, corn, bread crumbs, salt and pepper, beef broth mix, ham, eggs, milk, white wine, and rice.

Mine included cheddar cheese, Parmesan cheese (crap-in-a-can,) Swiss cheese, chicken broth, cream, chicken breasts, ground hamburger and a little ground pork, Campbells cream of broccoli soup, frozen cod fillets, lemons, and nutmeg.

I was surprised to find nutmeg. I was unsuccessful in finding paprika, and learned that having a conversation about finding paprika is doubly confusing because Koreans call bell peppers paprika(s).

Tomorrow, we shall endeavour to create chicken cordon bleu (Karen requested my mom's best recipe, so I'm obliging. My mom's is different, because it's not breaded which makes it, in my opinion, tres more deelish; the sauce in itself is drinkable it's so good) shepherd's pie, spinach quiche with a rice crust, and baked cod with broccoli in soup (a la Campbell's Soup Site.)

It's not gourmet. But it's quick and easy and yummy, which was Karen's request. Actually, maybe for those of you living in Korea, you might want to visit that website to get some quick fixes about changing up your supper repetoire. If you have an oven, great, but even if you don't, there are some interesting skillet suggestions you can try with soup you can find at the larger supermarkets. By the way, can one FIND pork chops here? There are loads of pork products, most sliced right for the sangyepsal style grilling. I don't think I've ever seen a proper thick pork chop. Have you?

Anyhow, I hope the day goes well. I'll let you know. Doubly daunting is the fact that Karen wanted to test out these recipes before her husband, who has been away in Indonesia and Thailand for 3 months, returns next week. She wants to surprise him by "preparing something delicious and unusual," but I have a feeling that he will, like a good Korean man, have a hankering for good Korean cooking once he returns, and will think my (via Karen's) cooking is shite.

I'll let you know how it goes tomorrow and also tell you a side story related to this endeavor!

*Dishes don't seem to be a real barrier to enjoying food. Tonight I halted my last class 15 minutes early so we could all share in a large cake bought by Karen to celebrate Elizabeth's 3rd year anniversary with my school. Elizabeth blew out her 3 candles and cut up the cake into wedges. Then we stuffed the fat pieces into little dixie cups and ate them with chopsticks!

Friday, November 25, 2005

Blogging By Mail, From Belgium to Korea!

I got a wonderful package in the mail from Eva in Belgium as part of Blogging By Mail! How exciting! Isn't it cool that I'm the only person participating from Korea, and she's the only only from Belgium! The odds were stacked toward me getting something from the U.S. so what a surprise to see a package on my desk after my 1st class postmarked from Belgium! My co-workers clustered around me, "Open it, Open it!" So I did,.....
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Ooooohhhh! Look at all these goodies!
"Let's eat them, let's EAT them," my co-workers chanted!
"Wait a minute!" I pleaded, "Let me see what I got first! Jeez!"
What a bevy of exotic treats! Included in this package were some lovely crispy lace cashew cookies, some spices, some interesting Russian tea, some little crunchy crackers, a jar of Eva's homemade plum chutney, a package of mix to make Swedish bread (Eva's actually Swedish, but has been living in various places the past ten years!) and a couple packets of yeast to aide the bread making. There was some Christmassy turkey and bacon flavoured potato chips from the UK. There is a gingerbread making kit, which is awesome! I haven't opened it, but hope it survived intact. Not pictured is a bag of ligonberry muffins which was a bit smushed, but still lovely and sweet-spicy. My middle school girls descended on them before I could take a picture. They declared them "delicious."
Look at my cute little students with presents from Eva! What do you have there Haley and Shelly?
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Mmmmmm, a dark Belgian chocolate bar with pink peppercorn! Pretty! No girls, you can't have any, it's all for me. Your palates haven't developed enough to appreciate it. What else do you have there? AH! Salami!

Honestly, it was just last week I was absolutely craving some proper salami. You just can't find it here. Lots of "sausag-ee," (processed pork ham style stuff) but no good smoky salty chewy salami. I was thrilled to see it in Eva's package, but in reading the description of the items she kindly included in the package, I did a double take, and wrestled the salami out of Shelly's hand to get a closer look...
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Reindeer salami!!

Well! I never!! AWESOME!!
Nobody here knows what a reindeer is offhand. Then I sang the Rudolph song, and most clued in and were shocked! There were jokes about Santa being mad and all that, but I didn't have to persuade my class full of grade six boys to have a try. They liked it, and would have gobbled up the whole thing if I'd let them. It fit in perfectly with our lesson on superlatives. I told them they now had a cool thing to say when asked "what's the most unusual thing you've ever eaten?" If asked by other Koreans, that is. If they are asked that in, say, Belgium, their reply should be "dog."

I could not get any of my co-workers to try the reindeer salami, which I found perplexing. No matter, more for me. And no, they can't have any chocolate either bwwaaa ha ha ha!

Eva included a snazzy booklet from a gourmet shop in Belgium which offered all sorts of interesting fare like pheasant, doe, wild boar, and rabbit, as well as some information on Saint Lucia and the Festival of Lights on December 13th and a couple recipes, including one for lussekatter, also known as "Lucia buns." I don't have an oven, but am going to go over to my boss's house this weekend to make the buns with the ingredients Eva included, and have already started the search for icing sugar to see if I can put the gingerbread house together before Christmas!

It was such a thoughtful and generous package, and really made my day. My co-workers commented they wished I would get things in the mail everyday, since it put me in such a fantastic mood. Thank you so much Eva, and I hope you enjoy some fantastic holidays! Also, my thanks to BBM3's host Cathy over at My Little Kitchen. It was a blast!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Blogging By Mail, From Korea to California!

My package arrived at its destination in San Francisco! I'm kind of surprised at how quick it got there, considering I mailed it last Wednesday here, and it arrived there in Monday's post. That's 6 days! Last year, my Christmas gift from my mother and grandmother took 3 months to the day to get to me from Toronto. (Granted, they sent it via the slow boat to China, but still!)

So check out Anne's blog and see what she got from yours truly. I really hope she enjoys it.

When I found out that I had been given a swap partner whose family is from Korea, it made me kind of nervous. I had imagined getting paired with someone in, say, the Midwest, who would pull out the contents of my package and be all, like, "Oh! What on earth is this?!?" (It's BONDEGGI, baby!)

However, Anne is surely familiar with Korean fare, as she was here with her family not too long ago. So I tried to get some things that I enjoy and some things she may not have tried before. (Have any of you here seen that Jeju tangerine or cactus chocolate? I actually bought it at LotteMart, but saw some just tonight at 7-11!)

So, if you're interested in seeing some of the packages that are flying around the world, check out the BBM3 round-up post over at My Little Kitchen. I'm happily awaiting getting my own package, as are my co-workers and students. (The students are asking me everyday "Teacha, you is mail get?")

I've heard the next Blogging By Mail (4) will be sometime in January. I'll keep my eye open for it, and when I know you will too. I recommend joining. I mean, who doesn't love a nice care package?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Hanging Out

When I was in high school I would sometimes head over on the subway to my best friend's house. When her father would come home, he would wrap his arms around his daughter and give her 10 kisses on one cheek, talk to her a bit, and then give her 10 more on the other cheek.

I loved her dad because he was funny, and even more so because he dis-liked my dad.

He would ask us what we were doing, and my friend would reply "Oh, we're just hacking around."

He would feign anger, and say, "Now girls, I've TOLD you about that. I DO NOT WANT anyone 'hacking around' in my house! Especially when I'm not here. If you want to 'hang out,' that's ok. 'Hacking around' will not be tolerated. Don't let me catch you doing it again."

My Wing and a Chestnut

I slept poorly last night, which means it felt like I spent more time awake than asleep. When I was sleeping, I must have done so in an awkward position, as I woke up this morning with a really achey left shoulder blade. (I just googled shoulder blade to make sure that's what I meant. I generally think of that area as the place wings will eventually sprout out of my back.)

While lifting my arm to wash my pit, I heard a little crack. I think my muscle went into spasm then. Trying to dry off, sort out my hair, and get dressed was a challenge that made me about 5 minutes late to work, and I ended up walking there as if I was the Crooked Lady coming from her Crooked House. At least I looked interested in the kids today, as my head was cocked to one side, like a dog.

Speaking of dogs, I ran into Mamadog today. I'd seen her last week hanging around with Barky Boyfriend, and she was sporting big saggy jugs on her undercarriage. I had wondered where her puppies were, since she had been obviously pregnant, and I had heard puppy-wimpers last month.

Today, though, we had "the big reveal," and I came across Mamadog and her lone puppy relaxing in the sun in the small overgrown field near where the rabbits are caged. I wish I had a camera, because HOLY CUTE! It's as if Mamadog cloned herself, she's got one little fat white with brown and grey splotches puppy. A Mini-Mamadog! The puppy did indeed seem interested in playing with me, but stopped short when Mamadog growled a warning to go no further. After I've been giving her treats for months. As if! That's ok. My arm hurt and I was too late for playing. Puppy is in it's obedient uuber reliant phase. Soon it will rebel and we will get our play on.

I ended up postponing my dinner out because I was feeling crap, but after a few advil and some stretching I was feeling quite a bit better after a few hours and was able to straighten out my noggin. I felt bad about canceling, but I called 5 hours earlier than we were supposed to meet, which is better than the 5 minutes they gave me before they postponed last Thursday. It's all good.

So I went downtown to get some bread, and I did. Sourdough sunflower. Mmmmm. As I walked down the street, a lady called out and smiled and held out her hand to me. She gave me 2 roasted chestnuts from her Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Chestnut Roaster. I thanked her and was happy to try them, as I've never had one before. I recall the smell of them in Toronto from the Popcorn/Chestnut Roaster carriages they have on the streets during the winter. They smelled great back then, but I wasn't about to buy a whole bag. I'm glad I never did, because I wasn't very keen on them! Something about the subtle sweetness combined with the texture. Not for me.

Then I came home and crashed out for a couple hours.

Now I'd like someone to come and stick one of these bandage style medicine patches on my shoulder-wing, because I can't reach. Ah, yet another drawback of being alone. Not entirely, but the cat is useless helping out with things like these.

Rest well and don't sleep funny.

Monday, November 21, 2005


Another weekend has slid by in the Land of the Morning Calm. Why do they go by so fast? I'm tired in a general weary sense and find myself thinking a lot about being back home. I feel guilty that I've missed so much of my beautiful niece's young life. She was born 3 months after left Canada and is 3 and a half years old now. I've only met her for the one month I was back home in the spring of 2004. When I hear about the tough time my brother and his wife are having with daycare and their jobs, it makes me want to get on the next plane home to look after her. I'd love to be her teacher. We'd have extended art and music classes. As it is, I send her lots of clothes. I'm the Clothes Genie.

My brother told me his brother-in-law was stopping by a couple weeks ago and bringing his son who is about the same age as Leah. Jeff said "Hey Leah, someone's coming to visit us today, guess who?" Leah's face lit up and she asked "Is it Auntie Jenn?" I got teary eyed, hearing that story. I also like that my name sounds like antigen.

We're headed toward the most difficult time if the year, for me anyway: the holiday season. What makes it even worse is that I DON'T GET ANY FRICKIN HOLIDAYS! That's not entirely true, actually. My school should be closed for a couple of days right after New Year, but then I come back to the dreaded Winter Special Classes schedule. By the time I get to that short vacation, it'll have been 3 months without a holiday. Brutal.

Those of you living in Korea already know how boned we've been getting on holidays this past while. Out of 8 possible days off between Chuseok, Xmas, New Years, and the Lunar New Year, we get 2. Again, brutal.

Ah well, it's not like I'd probably end up doing too much anyhow. Today was a beautiful cool sunny day, and I spent about a half an hour of it brushing my cat while telling him his entire life story. He seemed to fall asleep about three quarters of the way through. He looked peaceful and comfortable, so I joined him in his nap and woke up about 4 hours later. Now THAT'S a nap!

I spent over an hour making dinner tonight. It was very Korean, in that I had a rice/barley mixture with a bunch of side dishes: spinach, tamago-yaki (fluffy rolled egg made in a square pan) sauteed enoki mushrooms, seasoned bean sprouts, grilled fish, and, of course, kimchi. It was labour intensive and only slightly yummy.

Tomorrow night I'm supposed to be meeting a couple for dinner after work. They are a couple of 'gyopos' (Korean=Americans) who I've bumped into a couple times in my neighbourhood. I'm not sure how old they are, but the girl says things like "I ain't trippin' over it," so I'm gathering they're younger than I. The husband works at a church, though I'm not sure in what capacity. My co-workers are anxious for me to meet up with them and find out as much about them as I can and report back. They're terribly curious about them. Much more so than I am. At any rate, I think it will be good to speak some rapid-fire English. Should be fun, I hope.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Do You Think It's Funny?

When I was back in Canada in April 2004 I spent time with my family, and about two of the four weeks were entertaining and showing two of my Japanese friends around.

It was goooooood.

One Sunday afternoon, my Japanese pals, my brother, his wife, their daughter and I were milling around down near Harbourfront in Toronto. Actually, as I recall, we were kind of wasting time before we would head over to the airport to bid adieu to my Japanese pals.

While we were strolling, we came across a sign for a Native Canadian Sculpture Museum. Free Admission! Open Sundays! Allllright!

So we went in.

Turns out, it was just a facade for a Native Soapstone Sculpture store. All the "pieces" had a price on them, and a hefty one at that. We spent some time, though, looking at the goods.

We came across one that depicted a man laying atop a woman. It wasn't a porn piece. In my memory, the figures were clothed, but they may have actually been under a smooth soapstone blanket. It was man on woman though, without a doubt.

My brother picked up the little sculpture and said, to his wife, "Hey! This is what I'm gonna DO TO YA when we get home!"

We laughed.

I told this story recently to a friend when we were talking about Harbourfront. He was horrified. "Your brother said this in front of his child?"

"Yes," I replied. "But, like, she was not even two years old, and really wouldn't get the joke."

"But he said it in front of you? I would NEVER say such a thing in front of my sister!"

I then explained that my brother and I are really close, and also that my sister-in-law has been my friend since grade nine. In fact, she was my friend for years before she was ever my brother's lady. Really, no subject is too personal to not have been up for discussion, whether in general or specifically, over the years. Our Japanese visitors had been amongst us and other friends of mine to realize how frank and (sometimes) crude we could be. Regardless,....

I just thought my brother was funny. In this case, what do you think? Vulgar and inappropriate, or funny and, well, funny?

Foot Fashion Gone Wrong

I have an infection in my 2nd toe on both of my feet. It's bothersome, and seems to have a lot to do with the way my toenails are growing. They seem to be growing "hook" fashion in the corners. Stupid toenails. It's been pretty bad on and off the past month and a half or so. I think it's because they're rebelling about being enclosed in shoes and socks after having freedom in barefeet and sandals since last May.

I've mentioned it before, but I've got big feet. Therefore, I Got Big (2) Shoes. They're on the big size by North American standards, size 9 and a half or 10, so they're impossibly big here in Korea. Therefore I am doomed to search out men's shoes that aren't disgusting. I also mentioned before I got myself some nice classic Airwalks. I love them, actually. They feel good on and they're the right size for my feet, with my big toe (now) about a finger's width away from the end of the shoe, which I just heard recommended on TV a few days ago. Yet throughout the day my toes are bothering me! (My 2nd toe is a bit longer than the big toe. I'm not sure what that indicates, if anything.)

When I come home and take off my shoes and socks, it feels much better! I finally realize the thing is MY SOCKS! I'm wearing women's socks, and it turns out they're too small! Arrrrgh!

When I was working in Japan I wore a lot of black bell-bottomed cotton pants. I used to paint the bottoms with glitter. They were funky, and I could get away with wearing them at work where we had a more strict dress code. Wearing anything other than black socks drove me mad, as it was distracting to me to see brightly coloured socks pointing out from under my black pants, much in the way I can't wear nail polish because it distracts me when I'm doing things with my hands. "Ohhh! Shiny!!" When I finally went back to Canada in the spring of 2004 I bought a bunch of jeans, knowing I would probably head back to Korea where the dress code is a lot more casual. (Don't let recommendations of "business casual" attire fool you if you're planning on coming over here to work with kids at an English hagwon.) I can now handle funky bright coloured socks with jeans, so I've stocked up on funny 1,000 won socks. Women's socks. On my man-sized feet. It's not working out. My toes rebel.

Speaking of not working out, my MP3 did indeed go back to the store. They filled out a form and are sending it off to be looked at. I wanted to throw a little tantrum after learning they'd keep it for a week. It makes me wonder how I got along tune-less here for so long. Walking around tonight, I felt kind of naked.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Back To the Store

Everyone say buh bye:
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I love it, but we're fighting all the time and I can't handle it. There's something wrong with it, because it isn't recognized on any computer I've tried lately to connect it to. Tonight I came the the PC Room and the computer I was successful in uploading from before was being used, so I patiently waited at another computer, downloading MediaPlayer 10 in English, and then Limewire and trying to sync one lonely song. Nope, it wouldn't work. So I played (and beat) Feeding Frenzy.

By the way, did you know that with the Real Arcade site you can download a "trial version" of a game which should be only 1 hour long, but you can actually keep playing indefinitely as long as you don't exit out. Of course, this means you can't do anything else online BUT play the game, but still. I've wasted a few hours over the weekends downloading games and playing them until I WIN!

Anyhow. The computer I wanted opened up, and I did the rigamaroll downloads, and this time no dice. The computer saavy man who was trying to fix it up in Korean last week did say something about drivers. I found some information about a firmware upgrade that may or may not apply to my MP3 Player, but I can't even do anything with it since I can't get the computer to recognize my device, even though the screen on my T10 says "USB Connect."

I've got about 5 hours or so of music already, and I do love listening to those tunes, but I've already completed the rotation numerous times, and without being able to upload new songs and alter my playlists, this MP3 Player is not going to work out for me. We'll see what those jokers have to say down at the place I bought it. If it turns out I'm going to have to deal with Iriver Korea, I'm going to be really bummed.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Mmmmm Stoup

Only about a month and a half ago, I noted on this blog that "fall fell" when suddenly the weather turned from t-shirts and sandals to socks and jackets. Riding that same vein, this week winter crashed like a big ole' jet airliner done run outta fuel! Added to the socks and jackets are scarves and mittens, at least at night. Portable heaters were rolled into the classrooms today, which I like. Last year we did the central heating thing and the kids always gave me grief when I was closing the ceiling vents with a ruler. I can't handle hot air being blown on me, and my spot at the table or in front of the white board is right under the vent. With the portable heaters, I can switch them off when I come into the room, and they'll still retain their heat for most of the class. I think it's more cost effective for the boss, but even more important than that, it makes me happy!

So what goes better than winter than soup, food wise? Maybe stew, but, as they say here, "same same but different!" Tonight I enjoyed my usual Wednesday 'soon doobu jjighae (soft tofu stew) but last night in my little kitchen I made what was intended to be a soup, but turned out to be a stew.
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This was made by browning a bit of minced pork with garlic, diced onions, and ginger. I added some white wine, black bean paste, red pepper paste and a bit of oyster sauce before throwing in some pieces of tubular rice cake and mushrooms and a few cups of soup stock. After letting that simmer for awhile, I added some pre soaked 'chap'che' noodles (made from sweet potato I think) and a splash of sesame oil. By the time I was ready to eat it, the noodles had absorbed a lot of the liquid, so it was a lot less soupy than I had intended, but no bother, it was still hot and delicious. I ate it with mool kimchi (pictured) and baechu kimchi (my favourite, the older and stronger the better!) Yummy!

Another treat I've recently found here is a little 'cup noodle' made of thin glass noodles (called harusume in Japan.) I love it, and usually buy a bag full of instant 'tantanmen harusume' from the 7-11 when I'm in Japan. I don't know what flavours they're featuring here, but so far I've found 3 of them, green, red and black. They're quick and hot for my breakfast, and only 120 calories each! Mmmmm mmmm! I thought I would like red the best, as it's spicier, but in this rare instance I prefer the milder tasting black container. Sometimes when I'm feeling saucy I add a bit of peanut butter before I pour in the hot water and it tastes a little more 'tantanmen-ish.' If you can find them in your supermarket near the ramen, give them a try!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Brand New at My Horrible Video Store

Oh joy! They just got in a few new movies after a few weeks of nothing. About half of the new ones are Korean. I'd love to watch Korean movies, but don't have a DVD player. No matter, really, the selection of DVDs at my backwards little store is pathetic.

They've got two copies of War or the Worlds, which I've seen, but would watch again. I'd like to rent it on a night I can watch it early or maybe in the afternoon. It's a loud 'un. Both copies were rented tonight, so no matter on that either.

They have 3 copies of a movie I'd never even heard of, but starred Gwyneth Paltrow, Mark Ruffalo, Christina Applegate, Kelly Preston, Candice Bergen and Mike Myers. You would figure, with that highly recognizable cast, you couldn't go too wrong, eh?

Well, sheesh. It was so pointless and lame I slipped into unconsciousness about half way through and slammed my head on the coffee table and gave myself a nosebleed and a concussion. Then when I came to I stood up and slipped in all the blood and fell over and broke my leg.

Actually, I didn't. But I sort of wish I had. It probably would have been both more entertaining and less painful than watching that movie. "View From the Top" came out in early 2003, how on earth is it appearing as a brand spanking new video at my store? They must be getting any old video and passing it off as a new release, yes? That's alright, I guess, there are a lot of really great movies they don't have, so I don't mind if they go back in the archives and yank a few, but I wish they'd get good ones instead of, well, what they're getting.

Does it cost more to buy blockbusters or critical acclaimed movies? These all seem bootlegged anyhow, judging from the screens at the beginning of each tape.

Anyhow, there's 87 dreadful minutes I'm never going to get back.

Saturday, November 12, 2005


I forgot to mention, after the gremlins ripped my lungs to shreds but I combated it with good Korean medicine, and got myself a couple more hours sleep, I went to work.

And I passed rabbit. Which is now actually 2 rabbits. The big white one and a smaller brown one. I look at them everyday on my way to work.

It infuriates me.

For the last 3 weeks their water bottle that I bought for them and left anonymously, has been laying on the dirt ground out of their reach. It rained here for a little while last Saturday, but other than that it's been sunny and nice for the past month or so.

These rabbits live in filth. They hop around in an inch of their own caked down feces. The bamboo umbrella above their cage has been hanging down broken for over a month. I've NEVER seen anyone caring for or playing with or even looking at these rabbits.

Today, as I passed, I saw the little brown bunny licking rain off his rusted cage.

Eye for an eye, schmeye for a schmeye, but I want to put these rabbits owner in a filthy cage without water.

I feel the same passing 2 dogs on my way tied up on impossibly short leashes. Forever.

Why do these people have pets? It makes me crazy.

Feels Like Heaven

Or not.

Today wasn't so good. Not at all. It wasn't utter CRAP, just it wasn't so good.

I woke up about 2 hours before I HAD to wake up feeling like I had a gremlin in my chest chewing my lungs to bits. I got a bit dizzy with a coughing fit so bad I thought I might puke blood. This was after 6 hours of rather deep sleep, so it was a cruel awakening. I'll tell you, though, I don't know what is in that green/brown bag of sludge my pharmacist gave me that I heat up in boiling water, but it WORKS! It reminds me of Buckleys back home. What's their slogan? Something like "Tastes like HELL dipped in CRAP, but it works!" I think the sludge is even more effective, as I was drowsy with that and 2 more of the green and white pills within 15 minutes of taking them. My chest-fire subsided. I got a couple more hours sleep. I went to work. I continue to be a trooper.

Today was another day I was sensitive. Hyper sensitive, I suppose. If I haven't said it here before (I may have, I just can't be asked to go back and read every post) but I certainly have written home that an average day here is a challenge. It is. The fact I can't speak the language is a constant reminder of where I am. When I'm not feeling well, forget about it. Every little thing bothers me.

I've heard that things that annoy you in other people are important, particularly because they're actually MIRRORS as to what you need to work on in your own life. For example, if someone's jealousy bothers you, it is, in fact, because your own feelings of jealousy are an underlying issue in your own character that needs to be examined. What do you think?

If that's the case, then through my feelings I can surmise that I must be the most oblivious, self absorbed, whiney, noisy, bullying bitch ever. Those are some of the things that bothered me today. More so, actually.

I got through the day at work, barely. I'll write about that in another post because I want to try to be kind and gentle, and I'm not feeling it tonight. I will mention that in one of my classes, when the kids were all speaking Korean amongst themselves and I was feebly telling them to cut it out, a mini argument broke out. Granted, I couldn't understand it, but I definitely knew what was going on when finally Tony closed the argument with a flipping of his bird right up to the cheek of his adversary. I gave him a "yellow card."

Earlier in the day I ran to the grocery store under the school to get something to munch on and 3 little boys followed me hoping I'd buy them something. (I did, a 15 cent pack of gum each.) While we were in the supermarket aisle, an old woman tried to pass, and said something to the boys. I don't know what it was, but it wasn't kind - I could gather that from the harsh tone she said it. As soon as she turned her back, Paul, one of my actually quite kind students, flipped her a double bird. The other 2 boys laughed, and I gave Paul a little thump on his chest with a stern look and a "HEY!"

The thing was, I was presented with probably about a dozen situations today where I was tempted to do the same thing: flip people off. Sometimes it was a secret flip off, sometimes a blatant right-in-your-face-up-yours, and a couple times it was even a teeth-biting-lower-lip enthusiastic-arm-pump double eff-you eff-off give 'er kind of thing.

But I didn't.

Walking, after work, downtown, I had 3 people cut me off. Like, I was walking a straight and steady line and they just cut in and forced me to come to a stop, lest I plow into them. Not a tete a tete collision, I'm talking where you're just on your jolly way and someone else saunters in your path diagonally. They should see you there, (and in fact, I think they did) but they don't alter their pace or their directive. It's like a challenge (read that in French.) I don't know if it's oblivious or purposeful. Either way,....

Is it the universe sending you a signal to slow down? Is it the universe testing your patience to not let your flip-off fly?

When the fourth obstacle, in the form of a older guy with his swinging umbrella held behind his back with both his arms, veered out of his way to crack me in the ribs I gave up. I knocked him over and gave him forty fingers complete with a commentary on why he sucked. Then I stomped up and down on his umbrella.

I didn't, actually.

I did pull off my route to sulk in the darkened doorway of a not-yet-opened nightclub and smoke a cigarette. When Fiction Factory's "Feels Like Heaven" played into my ears from my MP3 player, that was all she wrote. I turned my back to the cars and the pedestrians and let my fat tears roll down my cheeks for a few minutes.

Almost all the time, my life here is not enough. Yet sometimes it is just too much.

Later, at WalMart, a family pulled up at the cash register behind me. The middle-school aged girl saw me all at once, and turned to tug on her mom's shirt. As she did so, she raised her arm to point directly at me. By the time she and her mother turned to look at me I already had my arm raised and finger pointed back at them. They smiled, and I smiled back.

But I didn't mean it.

Thursday, November 10, 2005


I had what looked like the start of a cold last week, and it's hanging around, but hasn't really developed into anything. Or it's slowly developing into something. Really, it's a fairly constant sore throat and throughout the night I get all stuffed up and wake up with puffy eyes and an even more sore throat. Since Monday or so I've got a cough which is worsening, and today it feels like my lungs are on fire. Quick, someone call me a wahmbulance.

I was too late to get to the doctors, as they closed the same time I got off work, and were unwilling to stay open the extra 3 minutes it would take for me to dash over there, have the doc listen to my chest, stick a thermometer in my ear, look at my throat, and then direct his nurses to hook me up with an ass-injection and a prescription. My boss called over there to see if they'd see me, but nope. Too bad for me.

So I went to the pharmacist underneath the "hospital" and coughed at him and clutched my chest, complaining "apumneeda!" He gave me some green and white pills and two baggies full of sludge to warm up and drink. I gave him a lemon Chuppa Chups lollipop.

I want someone to rub me down in Vics Vapo Rub.

So other than that, not much is going on this week. On the way to work on Wednesday, I saw Mama Dog and her Barky Boyfriend scratching at and nosing something on the ground. It turned out to be the biggest fattest green caterpillar I've ever seen!
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He looked angry, but he didn't have a hookah. I picked him up and he gripped my palm with his fat little legs appreciatively. He looked relieved. That's right, appreciative and relieved. I can feel the feelings of the bugs these days, that's how in tune I am with nature. Yuh huh. I deposited my green buddy in a tree where Bitch and Barky couldn't terrorize him and continued on my way to work. Good deed done for the week.

In other news, jealousy flows through me, as right now my mother and her boyfriend are on a plane destined for here:
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San Andres, an island off the coast of Columbia. I've sent her an e-mail to ask her to make sure she brings me back plenty of seashells and cocaine.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


Even though I requested luck on the previous post, no one wished me luck. I can tell. Because I had none. On Saturday night it was late when I went to the PC Room - so after uploading a couple of songs and found that I couldn't sync them to the MP3 player, I just gave up.

So I came back here tonight and chose another computer but was once again met with defeat. So I asked the girl who's usually here, but turns out the guy at the computer beside her is actually working tonight. He's a real go-getter! From what I can tell there are at least 3 employees here: the girl, a younger guy, and the go-getter. The girl will usually check out a few things on the computer when I ask her for help, and a couple of times even got the thing working. The younger guy is pretty much no help at all. The first time I dealt with him he told me "chang-ee compootah." This was after more than 3 hours of my collecting music I couldn't transfer to another computer, so "changee compootah," not so helpful. The second time he shrugged and smiled at me. Thanks buddy!

Go-getter tonight, though, got right in there and spent about 20 minutes clicking and typing and he really seemed to know what he was doing. In the end, it's something about a driver and WindowsXP. He didn't get it to hook up, but he seems to find the problem a challenge, as he's taken my MP3 player to another terminal.

Oh, he's just brought it back without comment. I think I'm SOL again.

At least I know there's ONE computer here that has co-operated with me a couple times.

For all I know, my MP3 player might be getting angry with me. I keep introducing it to new computers, whereas perhaps the idea is to just have it meet one computer and give them time to get to know one another and get all cuddly before they start syncing it up together. Maybe my MP3 player thinks I think it's a whore.

I'm going to head home now and see if we can talk things out.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Wish Me Luck!

I'm going to the internet cafe. In the rain. I needs me tunes.

Saturday, November 05, 2005


Last night I had a dream that I was going to interview for a job at an international elementary school. The Buddhist temple at the bottom of the hill leading up to my apartment had been converted to a school. I showed up for the interview and was disappointed in myself when I looked down and noticed I was wearing my pajamas. I was greeted by my grade eleven math teacher, Mr. Brady, who was doing the hiring.

I looked up on the chalkboard and noticed Shawn, of China Life Blog was scheduled for an interview right after me. Rory was scheduled for later in the afternoon. Mr. Brady and I chatted a little while and then he sent me out to dig up some worms for the next part of the interview. I didn't even question that, it seemed just right.

As I was digging in a pile of dust by the road, Shawn and his girlfriend walked by chatting and leading a mule on a gold cord on their way to the school. I was really surprised to hear Shawn spoke with a heavy Jamaican accent. I got a handful of worms and returned to the school and was informed we were going bass fishing. Surely that's a hat tip to The Lost Nomad. Shawn and his girlfriend and I waited for the shuttle bus to take us to the lake. Shawn's an entertaining guy, and kept taking things from his cargo pants pockets to juggle, red-white-and-blue balls, big glittery silver rings, handguns (which made me nervous) and blow-torches.

The bus took us all to a lake where we all got on a rickety old barge. Mr. Brady gave us string with a hook on the end and told us the person with the most bass after 3 hours would get the job. He also mentioned if any of us hooked a pirannha would immediately have the position.

I don't know how it turned out, because I fell in the lake as soon as I dropped my line, and the cold water woke me up.

Speaking of Passe

I'm growing kind of tired of how my blog looks, and yet, my computer design skills suck! Anyone passing though with some creativity who wants to make a few dollars and has a Paypal account, let me know! On the otherhand, if you're loving me because my blog rocks, and you want to get to know me in the hopes we'll end up married with gorgeous kids, or we'll end up being BFF (and you therefore want to re-design my blog for free) send me an e-mail! If you're neither, just carry on my wayward son!

Upload Schmupload

So I just spent the last almost 4 hours here and it all amounts to nothing! I'm annoyed, and more so at myself than this stupid peice of crap computer. As if my 3 previous visits here didn't teach me anything!! Test, test, test! I'm an idiot.

Here's how it should go:
-Download MediaPlayer10
-Download Limewire
-Run IRiver Media Player Software*
-make sure MP3 player has sufficient battery life
-Plug in MP3 player, make sure the display reads "USB" or something similar
-Upload songs to Limewire
-Transfer to MediaPlayer10
-Sync to device
I missed steps 4 and 5, so had to run to the store to get more batteries (4 bucks for 2 AA Duracells at a convenience store, grrr!)
Step 5 ACTUALLY should be step 1, as it will tell you if the computer is ok and if your batteries are cool. Once I got the batteries in my MP3 I discovered the USB hookup on this computer is fooked.

So I've spent another 4 hours wasting my time.

And by the way, I wish I could google "Songs I Love" and have it come up with every song I've ever liked. As it is, I am overwhelmed everytime I have to pick and choose from the universal library of (free) music available on Limewire. Any suggestions?

Oh, and in my running to the store, I found out where all the computer game guys are. They're drunk on the streets yelling obscenities into their cellphones (2) or starting loud slappy fights with each other (2) or throwing up into an empty ramen bowl (1.)

*Iriver's Media player CD that I was so concerned about losing last week is only necessary if you want to preview music uploaded from Limewire, and truth be told it's not even imperative, as you can listen to it on the MediaPlayer10. I just find Iriver a litle more user friendly in that case.

** I would, in any other situation, demand compensation. For example, I'd hope to get my money back for the hours wasted here with a defective computer. However, the hourly rate for being at a PC Room is ridiculously cheap,...about $1.15 an hour or so. I remember paying about 10$ an hour back at The Bean in Toronto in the late 90's. As if! So with my crappy korean skills and my not-so-serious sense of outrage, I'll pass.

BTW- no need to click the Bean link, it's boring and now very passe....I was just saying.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Purr Eye Day

Im updating from a PC Room. I generally don't come to PC rooms unless I want to grab some tunes for my MP3 player (meaning I've been to the PC room 4 times in the last year and some.) Usually it's smokey and noisy. People start to leave around midnight or so, and the place quiets down some. They turn off most of the lights around 11, and then it's quite dim with mainly just the monitors illuminating the joint. I've never been here on a Friday night, because usually I'm shopping downtown. I decided to skip shopping this week, as I've got a freezer full of food and don't really need anything at all downtown.

Anyhow, I'm surprised, because this normally crowded internet cafe is virtually empty! Lucky me! Where are all the usual video game guys? Are they out drinking soju? Are they out on a date with their women? Are they going to show up here any minute?

I don't know.

Speech Contest Day at school was pretty normal. The microphone broke, surely from the kids trying to yank it out of my hand on Halloween. (The boss's kid is the worst.) I tried to fix it, and took it all apart, but the wires are mangled. I think some sodering is in order. The usual stick-hitting went on, and at one point I had to laugh, because lookng around the room, one might have guessed I was working amongst a bunch of Three Stooges. Everyone was hitting everyone.

Poor Ted, on his way back to sit down after having performed his speech ( which was actually titled 'Ted and Star' this month ~ about a kid who wants to be a cowboy, but only has a pet goat named Star to rise around on) had his pants pulled down by one of the other student. You know, track pants, no drawstring, I see London, I see France, I see Ted's underpants. Elizabeth beside me actually pointed and broke out laughing. I tried out my "angry eyes" on the pants-puller-downer. Ted cried. It should have been his glory moment too, as his name was mentioned about 100 times during the speech he and his classmates delivered. Poor lamb.

Otherwise, Friday nights ROCK. They are my favourite time of the week. Oh! i just noticed because Blogger is in Hangul here, I can't spell check!

Funny Voice

I followed a link on the Big Ho'sBig Ho's site to make a police sketch of myself. I couldn't get it to work, but I did see this which cracked me up! I don't know how 99% of the studio audience can remain so stoic! (It looks like one guy behind Funny Voice's head may have caught the laughing fit.)

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Have Mercy

Yep, I've got a cold. My lungs, throat, muscles, and head hurts. Seriously, on the best of days working at my school is a challenge. Days like this past one, I wish my kids would give me a break, but they're just not having it.

Truth be told, I worry about these kids. Perhaps all kids are worth worrying about, but it's been quite a long while since I hung out with any school aged children back home. I wonder if they're as merciless as some of the kids here. Probably. I can remember back to my own experience in elementary and high school, and I really don't remember all the HITTING going on. Teasing, sure. Taunting and threatening, definitely. But I know when I was in sixth grade I was for more interested in kissing the boys than I was in hitting them, and I didn't even go for that 'I'm hitting you because I like you' sort of thing.

Tomorrow we'll have "Speech Contest Day," which happens once a month, I've mentioned it before. All the kids from the classes going on during their hour assemble in the lobby to read out the speeches we've been practicing in class. The kids who aren't reading, should be listening quietly, but that never happens. To discourage their chatter and horsing around, the K-teachers walk around rapping the kids on the head with a stick. Sometimes I laugh, and I shouldn't, but I found it exhausting to be continually shocked and a little outraged. Daily, I see the K-teachers slapping the kids a good one on the back, or grabbing the kids by the ears, or one teacher grabs the kids' cheek between her fingers, and chops it with her other hand. It's a genuine losing battle for me to try to have a "no hitting" policy in the classroom, when they're learning from all the adults around them that hitting is an appropriate response for whatever it is that's annoying you.

I think what gets under my skin even more than all the physical battery is the emotional crap. I have one class that I barely made it out of in tears today. Like I said, I'm sick, and PMS has been kicking my ass lately, but I was overwhelmed by my students lack of compassion, for me or for one little girl who is the target of their nastiness.

This girl, Leila, is really affectionate and sweet with me, and she generally seems fairly well adjusted most days, despite the fact that everyone picks on her everytime she opens her mouth. I, on the other hand, can't even handle it.

The kids aren't supposed to be speaking Korean in class, but they get away with it quite a bit when I'm teaching. If I "checked" them for every time they spoke Korean, and sent them out of class after 5 checks, as is the rule, I'd have no students in class in some cases, at least not any boys. Leila can barely THINK a word in Korean, before all the boys are flipping out, pointing at her and screaming at me "Teacha! Leila Korean speaking!" Then they freak out when I don't give her a check, because she really just uttered a single word or expression. (For example, today she stubbed her toe and said the Korean equivalent of "ouch.") Meanwhile, they've been carrying on secretly in Korean with each other, and I've been pretending not to notice, for the past 10 minutes.

Korean kids have mastered what I call "angry eyes." You have to experience them to get what I'm talking about, but they're unnerving. Even the other girls in class, who are good well behaved students (like the majority of my girls) will break out the angry eyes for Leila if she does anything, meaning speak, look at them, or crack a smile. If I'm passing glue around for the kids to affix a paper inside their texts, the kids using it after Leila has won't touch it. Classic cooties. Leila's gotten wise and brings her own glue now, but sheeeesh.

I remember walking home from elementary school a long time ago with Ivy DeLaCruz. She lived in the apartment building next to mine and we were pals. One day, for whatever reason, I decided to bully her. I told her she had a chicken in her nose. Then I danced around her chanting "bok bok, there's a chicken up your nose." I'd scooch down in front of her to catch a look up her nostril to confirm the presence of poultry up there, and yep, "Bok bok, chicken up your nose!!"

When Ivy finally started to cry, I accomplished that I had set out to do, yet I felt like a real jerk. I recall thinking that making her cry didn't make me feel good. In fact, it made me feel horrible. So I half-decided to never pick on anyone for sport. (I say half decided, because it wasn't really a conscious rule I'd outlined, just more of a general learning experience.) It would take a few more years before I would even begin to wonder what joy my father got out of making me feel worthless. I suppose that's perhaps a topic for future discussion, but definitely some insight as to why the bullying of Leila is such an issue for me.

And hey, it's not like I gained some great insight at 8 years of age on my way home with Ivy and put it into everlasting practice. I can still make people feel bad. Ask my university roommate Gino. Guilt is not always as immediately prevalent as it was with Ivy. Sometimes it's slow coming, and stalking. I still feel like an asshole, even though I apologized a couple years after when I happened to run into him. With my car.

I'm joking.

He said he forgave me, and I believed him. However, he also gripped my arm and shouted into my ear (over the DJ) "I used to love you SO MUCH!"

I believed that too, because I had felt it. Probably part of the reason I was so horrible to him was because of that fact. I suppose that's a topic for future psychoanalysis. I have issues. I do.

But today my issue was with the bullying of a little girl. I don't really know what I can do. I praise her for her effort and let her know I like her. Maybe that's not even helping her out with the other kids who now think she's a teacher's pet. Whatever. After Leila and I had a laugh about something in class today, she got up out of her chair, walked around the table, and hugged me from behind. That got all the other kids started in on her again. I punish her tormenters and let them know they're behaviour isn't cool with me. If I could, I'd spend five minutes of every class talking to the kids about compassion. I can't, because lectures from me sound like Charlie Brown's teacher to them. I would talk to them about their worth and the worth of those around them. I'd tell them life is short, and time is precious and all they have is their choices right here and now.

If for nothing else, so that maybe they will understand when one day Leila comes looking for them with a shotgun.


I have the beginning of what looks like is going to be a very bad cold. Last night was a wicked sore throat, and this morning I've got the stuffy nose and a slowly climbing fever. I slept 10 hours until the alarm woke me, and I feel like I could sleep 10 more.
~ Off to work now. *SIGH*

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


*Whew!* I'm glad that's over. Helloween is finished. GOOD!

It was an interesting day, and I think the kids had fun, but MAN, it was CHAOTIC! I wore my makeup and costume to school and got a lot of funny looks on my way, but curiously, not too many smiles! Koreans don't like cats. Ok.

Once I arrived at school, though, I got fussed over. A lot! I have to say, I do make a pretty good looking cat, so I understand. When I told the kids I was going to be Kamikaze Kamakiri Kitty for Halloween, some of them misunderstood and thought I was going to be bringing him in to school for the day! No, no, no...he's not very "child (people) friendly." It's good I didn't bring him in either, he would have been mauled.

Actually, I feel kind of violated tonight. Within the first ten minutes of being at school today, my "tail" had been lifted up about ten times so everyone could get a good look at my ass. Even two shopkeepers and an old woman selling vegetables on the street did that to me when I ran to the store to buy some scissors. I think they were just trying to see if I had actually grown the tail over the weekend. I had not. It was a real fur (rabbit?) muffler I bought in Japan a couple years ago. I've never wore it as a muffler, but have worn it as a tail a few times now. I spent the whole day trying to defend my tail. Now I know the rule for Korean children is, "see a cat, yank it's tail off." Good thing Kamikaze stayed home lying upside down in his sunbeam. He'd be all manxy now.

We had, during the afternoon, a series of "Golden Bell" competitions, where I ask a bunch of questions in English and the kids all scatter to either the true or the false half of the lobby. Trouble was, they all acted like sheep and just lemmed over to where the majority headed. I don't know where the term "Golden Bell" came from. Nothing was golden, and there was no bell. There were whistles though, and they were loud. There was also a microphone I had. Both whistles and microphones are meant to be stolen by children so they can get the whistle shrilling as loudly as possible, or scream into the microphone with the same fervor. Holy hell it was a loud day.

In the evening, many of the kids returned in costumes to participate in the games and crafts. Here's a run-down:

Scavenger hunt was good and crazy. Kids spread out over whole 2nd floor of the building to find cardboard pumpkins I'd hidden all over the place. The pumpkins were assigned points, with the smaller and harder-to-find ones being more valuable. The kids liked it and had a sceamingly fun time.

Bobbing for apples was a success as well. I was talking to my friend Herb in Japan over the weekend, and he said they'd done an apple thing for their Halloween event, but the kids were really reluctant to get their faces wet. Those are Japanese kids. My kids were scuba diving for the apples, which was hilarious, but meant the school was quickly soaked. Still, it was fun.

Bingo, good. Pass-the-Pumpkin-Relay (orange balloon, really ~ and sans hands) good! Ghost-Bowling, good....but all the ghosts started falling off the plastic diet coke bottles once the balls made contact. In the end it was just bowling, really.

Make a skeleton,
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good, but messy!

Glass Deco, messy, and not very good at all. I had imagined a nice calm craft workshop where the kids were busy using these glue paint things to fill in the outlines I'd made yesterday. Then we would put a sticker with their name on their work, set them aside to dry, and the kids could take them home tomorrow. Fuggedaboutit! The kids wanted them NOW, so were carrying them around by the corners with all the paint sliding off onto the floor and getting all over everyone and everything. I think I salvaged about 8 out of the 30 or so that were made.

The costumes were cute, those that wore them. I had a very funny moment when I stood talking to one of my little boy students in a "Scream" mask. Then his buddy showed up in his scream mask. I said "Oh! Sangdoonhees" (twins!) Then another Scream mask showed up, and another. Honestly, I was surrounded by 7 or 8 scream faces looking up at me! Otherwise there were devils and angels, witches and skeletons, and one pumpkin. Oh, and a few ghoul masks. There wasn't anything creative or home-made at all. Pity.

Elizabeth was going as a gypsy. Then she told me she was going to be an Indian-gypsy. Actually, she unintentionally turned out to be a funky African tribal woman. I thought she looked great.

I was harried. If I wasn't busy trying to keep the kids from snatching the tail out of my pants, or my ears off the top of my head, I was pushing knives, swords, machetes, and scythes out of my face. Even when they're plastic, having them shoved in your face isn't too pleasant.

On a positive note, a lot of the kids kept staring at me. I wore contact lenses and makeup (including big fake feathery eyelashes) which I never do. I'm usually all about the glasses and ponytail. I was told I was pretty many times today. Yes, pretty kitty indeed.

Pretty tired kitty with a backache, actually.

(Back home, my mother sent my cute niece a Halloween package. She was going to be a unicorn, but now she's going to wear her new ballerina tutu as well! Excellent!)