Thursday, December 17, 2009

How It's Been

Oh, hai! Iz on da innernets, updating mah blog. If I wrote this whole post in LOLcat speak, that would be annoying right? I'll spare you then.

In the last installment I was walking along crying, unsure of what was about to happen at my school. If you've been following along, bless you. I'm sorry I suck so thoroughly at updating regularly. Of you've been following along, you sort of know what happened on Monday but I'll fill in some details.

I didn't get to say an official goodbye to my boss on Monday. He had already come in and collected his things before I arrived at work. I was disappointed, but also relieved because I didn't want for the waterworks to start up again and I knew they would have if I'd have gotten to watch him walk away. As it was, I still had to hurry down the hall during a couple breaks to have a little boo-hoo in the washroom. I'm not a overly demonstrative person when it comes to sadness, really - but for a while there I was having trouble getting a grip. I know it was everything that was happening; I was sick and in pain, unhappy with my boyfriend, and just flattened by what was happening at school. My nerves were raw, both literally and figuratively - and yet I didn't really feel like talking about any of it. I just wanted to get back home and back in bed as quickly as possible. I'm taking an anti-depressant for the shingles complications, and I suppose it's working. I just cringe when I think of what a total bloody mess I'd have been left to my own devices.

So I didn't meet my boss that first day or the day after. It was mid-week before he appeared in the Teacher's Room and we had just enough time to greet each other before I had to go to my next class. I'd been told that he couldn't speak English well, and that's the truth and a half. My first grade students are able to speak better than him or his wife. That's fine. He's not teaching any English classes. Still, it's a bit odd to own an English school and have to struggle to recall the word for "goyani." (That'd be "cat.") But my new boss is a Math Man. He's owned three math schools and I believe he was far more interested in acquiring our fledgling, and frankly failing, math school.

He and his wife have since completely moved in. All their stuff and all their students have been incorporated into the fairly empty shell of a math academy my boss was running and now, like Frankenstein, "It LIVES!" Things are hopping over there, with each of the four classrooms now filled with students. They've brought over two more teachers as well, and our first hwe-shick, which happened a couple weeks ago was a good time. I spent most of that gathering in silence, as The Princess - who had been getting on my nerves - was seated at the opposite end of the table. My other co-worker sat beside me, but I've never had much to say to her. Otherwise I was surrounded by pleasant yet reserved people who don't speak English. And don't drink. It was a regular yawn-fest, and I fought hard just to stay awake. (Which is pretty much my standard M.O. these days anyways.)

There was some concern for a couple weeks after my former boss walked out the door. They hadn't changed bank account numbers quickly enough and tuition fees had been deposited into former boss's account. He was not answering his phone or responding to their messages. I'd sent him a couple messages that week as well, but didn't expect him to reply. All I had texted was, "I miss you." He called me on Friday night, drunk, to ask me if I wanted to take a drive across the country the following day to visit some pachinko parlour his friend was managing. I declined, telling him I was pretty sure he wouldn't want to see me cry all weekend. He then told me that if he had the power to, he would destroy the schools. I said I understood, and made him promise not to drink and drive. I didn't tell The Princess or my new boss I had spoken to him, but I hoped he hadn't gambled away all the money that had appeared in his account.

I had a conversation the following week with a very agitated Princess. The former boss was still ignoring them and the new boss was starting to consider staking out his apartment. They connected on Friday when the old boss finally called in. The Princess was irritated he wasn't returning the tuition fees pronto with a big red bow on them, but instead was requesting the cash ledger from the months before he'd sold the school. "Some parents were late with their fees in September and October," the Princess explained, "but he signed a contract that said he would get no more money after Novemeber 1st," she complained.
"But that's technically HIS money, those late payments - since they were covering periods when he owned the school," I pointed out.
"Yes, but he signed the contract that said,..."
"You know," I interrupted, "I hope you guys go easy on him, since he's had a hard time. How much money are we talking about anyhow?"
"Yes, but the contract says,..."
"Princess, I know about contracts here. My contract," I said, nodding my chin toward the book that houses it still says that I have medical insurance, and we both know that I don't. I know contracts here are bendable and breakable. I bet it wouldn't be worth the effort to take him to court over those fees, and the truth is that should be his money, since he owned the school during the time those fees are covering."

I don't know what the outcome was. I haven't seen my former boss since. We keep making plans that haven't worked out for some reason or another. I answered my phone one cold rainy Sunday a couple weekends ago and it was him, telling me to go check outside. I opened the door to discover a giant bag filled with cabbage and radishes and a huge container of his mother's kimchi, which is the most delicious kimchi I've ever had. There was one more present tucked inside a cardboard cylinder. His father sent a long scroll of calligraphy on beautiful deep blue handmade paper. The characters are painted in gold. It's easily the most precious and gorgeous souvenir I'll take home with me. I'll have it framed back in Canada.

Speaking of Canada, it's on my mind. Last Friday I began counting down as I passed the sixth month mark until my last contract will finish. When my former boss sold the school I called my family back home and said they'd probably see me at Christmas. I was hasty and reacting on my jagged nerves and hurt feelings. With some perspective, I've reminded myself to quit taking things so personally. It seems I've lucked out once again, and my new boss appears to be a really good guy. My co-workers are in agreement, and they're far more able to make that call since they can communicate with him. I've really been given a lot of freedom lately. My boss spends almost the whole day down the hall at the math school and I see him at some point during the day when I say hello, and usually at the end of the day when I bow and wave goodbye.

Slowly but steadily the number of students at our school is increasing. Most are math students who are migrating down the hall to us. I think a new teacher is going to start tomorrow at my school. The Princess is leaving us next week. I sense that she didn't really want to go, but she told me she must - because of what happened with the old boss. His decision to give up was a reaction to her declaring she was quitting.

I've got just a few small things to write about before this particular drama is wrapped up neatly and can be filed under "O" for "OVER." I'll try to get that done tomorrow, and hopefully we can return to some lightheartedness 'round here, just in time for the holidays.

When my old keyboard quit working I went shopping for a new one and picked out a fairly cheap model. I think I paid about fifteen dollars for it. It's a piece of poorly-made shit, and the letters have been steadily disappearing from the keys. Now only the ones in the middle can be faintly made out. The most commonly used ones, where you would rest your right and left hands, are completely gone. I've discovered it's very very difficult for me to type without being able to see the letters. I wrote my mom an e-mail over the weekend and she told me she was convinced I was drunk before she read my explanation at the end about the keyboard. I've got an early start tomorrow morning, so I'm not going to proof this properly, and there will surely be a lot of things that spell check misses. Forgive me, and I'll try to clean it up tomorrow. Until then, I'll just bow and wave goodbye.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

How it Went

Can I just say that if there were such a thing as the Sleep Olympics, I'd be a strong contender for the gold medal. I'm a champ!

So in the previous episode I arrived a little late to what had turned out to be our last work dinner with my former boss. The Princess was alone at a table reading a newspaper. The new math teacher arrived shortly after. (You might recall the Math Teacher Saga.) "Sol" (his nickname) stepped in to cover for the run-away. He's a church friend of The Princess and a genuine good fellow. He ended up staying on. Good. Soon after, my boss arrived with a friend if his and dinner commenced.

It went alright, pretty much. I suppose. I ended up being fairly angry at myself. What I really felt like doing was throwing a fit: wiping clear the low table covered with dishes of banchan, bottles, cutlery and cups. I wanted to overturn the tables and kick everything around the restaurant, screaming that I was uppppset and I didn't want my boss to leave. What I really wanted to do was to throw an absolute tantrum. What I did instead was make nicey-nice small talk with The Princess and Sol.

My co-worker showed up with her boyfriend almost an hour late and stayed for a whole 15 minutes. That really ticked me off and I wanted to ask her wtf was up with that. Instead, I tried to smooth the tension. The Princess's whole demeanor changed when my co-worker sat next to her. She stiffened and became non-verbal, not even once looking in the co-worker's direction to greet her or her boyfriend, who had taken over the grill duties for my boss and his friend. I spoke to alternately to the Princess and then to my co-worker, never involving them in the same conversation. I wanted to lunge across the table and snack the Princess for being so rude. But what I would have really liked to do was to somehow divide myself in two, leave my body, and punch me in the face for being so people-pleasy. I might as well have just added to the super awkwardness of the evening by sulking silently, or bawling quietly - which is what I probably would have done if my boss had spoken to me with The Princess's help, but he didn't. And, I was thankful for that because I would have lost my shit. Instead, The Princess visibly de-tensed when the co-worker left with her man. Just after, my boss got sloshed on soju and started speaking to the Princess who then re-tensed, staring down at the table only to occasionally nod to indicate she was listening. I stepped outside and then to the bathroom and then back outside to give them some privacy. My boss was confessing that he'd sold the school to spite her. It was all for revenge.

There was no "ee-cha." We would not drink beers together at a hof. There would be no singing at the karaoke. We all bowed and said our good-byes and it was barely eight o'clock. I walked a block up the street with The Princess and Sol, listening to her complain that she hated talking to anyone who was drunk. I wondered if that judgey attitude had prevented her from actually hearing what my boss had to say, but honestly I didn't really care. We said our goodbyes and I hoped they didn't notice that my voice cracked with emotion. I turned around to walk away just in time, as I finally broke down and cried. I was really going to miss my boss.

He wasn't very confident in his English ability with good reason. However, I could always understand him. We had jeong ( 정, hanja: 情.) Together, we'd saved Bella and her three puppies. (I'm sorry, I don't think I wrapped that story up properly, by the way. I will in the next couple days.) My boss had taken care of me. He introduced me to his family who spoiled me with the most delicious kimchi and wonderful fresh vegetables from the farm. And, I'd taken care of my boss, learning how to cook more Korean dishes and making sure he had a better dinner through the week than cups of instant ramen. I had wanted to work hard for him and to see him succeed. I'd signed on for another year here for him. I was so angry and hurt, I felt like he was abandoning me, and I was kind of jealous of how free he must have felt, not having to worry anymore about whether the school was going to do well or finally go belly up, and how he didn't have to deal with The Princess anymore.

So I walked up the street a lot farther than I had to, just letting myself cry. I didn't bother wiping the tears off my face and I didn't care what the people passing me must have thought. I tried to clear my head and stop worrying about what was going to happen Monday morning.

How it Was

So where were we? Man! It was over a month ago, yet only three measly blog posts since when I last wrote about the continuing saga of work. In case your scrolly finger is hurting, the brief re-cap is my boss suddenly sold the school on a Friday, the day before Halloween, and announced I'd have a new boss come Monday. I posted jut before I was about to walk to work and meet the new guy. My boss was going to be present one last day before I would officially bid him adieu.

That didn't go as planned. My boss was out the door before I even came to work. It turns out he was so disgusted with The Princess he refused to spend a moment longer there than was necessary. He had come in the morning, collected his things, and bailed. I didn't meet the new boss that day either, or the day after for that matter. He was busy with his other school and it wasn't until mid week that I finally met him and his wife. We spent about three minutes greeting each other. The Princess did most of the talking as I smiled and bowed.

For a couple of weeks I grieved. I couldn't walk into the building and pass the window where I used to smile and wave to my boss each day as he sat at his desk in his office at the math school. I'd hold it together fairly well in my classes and sneak off between them to cry a bit in the bathroom. I was a mess, pretty much. It all just had happened so fast and I felt so sad and angry, like I was some cow that had been sold with the farm.

The last hoe-down hwe-shick (work party) we had was the day after my boss sold the school. I REALLY didn't want to attend, but my boss had called a couple hours before and convinced me I should go. There were things he'd wanted to say to me, but he needed the translating help of The Princess. My other co-worker had begged me the day before to go as well. She was going to officially debut her relationship with the Taekwondo instructor from the school next to ours. They've been dating since the spring, and everyone knows about it but no one but she and I actually speak about it. The Princess disapproves of the relationship for some reason, saying it would somehow be bad for our school if people knew. I don't get it. Anyhow, when my co-worker had said she wished her boyfriend could come with her to the party, "Bring him!" I'd encouraged. My boss had invited my boyfriend, who couldn't join us until "ee-cha" (the 2nd party locale) so I didn't she why she shouldn't be able to bring hers.

So it was that I turned up at the restaurant downtown, exhausted and with red-ringed eyes. Much the same as I am right now, though my eyes are more bleary than they are swollen from crying. I'm posting this with the promise of continuing the tale later today. I've got to go back to bed now because I'll be using this here keyboard as a pillow very shortly if I don't.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Like a Dream

I just wish there was a way that I could smash my head against the keyboard and it would somehow form intelligible sentences expressing what's up. I promised to update on what's been going on, but I did so assuming that I was going to be able to stay awake to finish off a single post. Jeeze Louise, my sleeping is all mental. The weekend before last, when I was at home with the flu, I decided on that cold grey Saturday afternoon that I would have a wee nap. So, I curled up under the blankets with Kami the cat at about 1:15 and drifted off. When I woke up, I squinted at the clock beside my head and it read 2:30 which was fair enough, but I was so very confused. Outside my window it was pitch black. I thought maybe there was a terrible, I don't know? Storm? And then I saw the moon. My cellphone rang just then and I had to ask my boyfriend calling what day it was. Technically it was Sunday, 2:30 in the morning, and I'd been asleep for over 12 hours.

I had a similar problem Monday morning when I woke up at 2:30 in the afternoon. I had slept right through TWO alarms. Since I got shingles I've been setting my normal alarm and my cellphone alarm for 5 minutes later. In over five years I had NEVER not heard my alarm ring, and suddenly within the first two weeks of getting sick I'd slept through it twice. Luckily I'd woken up just a few minutes late, each time with just enough minutes to stick something in my pie-hole, jump into the shower and then into clothes and rush out the door. I started setting the cell alarm for back-up.

So, a week ago Monday I'd finally managed to somehow not hear both of my alarms. I had to call work and tell The Princess I was going to be late because my first class of the day was starting in about 30 seconds. The Princess was understandably unimpressed. I'd already missed work the previous Thursday and Friday with the flu, and now I was screwing her over again - requiring her to cover my first thirty minute class. She gave me some attitude about it, and because I am an asshole I served her up a triple serving of attitude right back.

The thing is I absolutely HATE being late for work. It throws my whole day off, and I don't like arriving to work feeling frantic and unprepared. So, I was already pissed off at having to call in late that Monday. I understand The Princess being ticked off as well, but really, what's the point in that? I didn't purposefully not hear my alarms. I could not get in my time machine and wake up two hours earlier. I apologized in earnest - but when she started in on me I snapped right back. Charming.

A few minutes later the hospital called to tell me I didn't have H1N1. I had figured as much. Except for the fatigue, I had started feeling a lot better by Friday evening. The Princess and I spent most of monday pretending the other didn't exist. I finally broke the silent tension by asking her something about one of my classes. She left a post-it note on my desk before she left, thanking me for speaking first. she wrote that she didn't know how or what to say to me.

Sleep stalks me these days, and he's no gentleman. He doesn't gently tap me on the shoulder and inquire "Would Miss be interested in a little nap?" No. He pounces on me and smothers me with a dirty old rag soaked in whatever concoction they use in action movies to knock the good guy out just as he's solved the mystery. I wake up groggy and confused, often in some chair, with a stiff neck and drool running out from the side of my mouth. I'm all-round charming these days.

So here's another update that doesn't really update anything. BUT!! I'm going to continue typing after I hit publish on this sucker, and providing I don't slip into unconsciousness, there will be another post,

Friday, November 20, 2009

Back and Blue

Man, I sure did fall off the blogging wagon, eh?

Truth be told, I've got about six started and either not finished or not published entries sitting in my folder. I'll have a look through them but it's doubtful I'll do much more than delete them. No doubt they're all rubbish.

There have been times in the past where I've been out around town and looked up to see someone I know - a good old friend. A blast from the past. A person I haven't spoken to in ages. And, instead of hurrying up to them and tapping them on the shoulder to greet them with a big smile and a "Hey!! How are you doing? It's been TOO LONG!" I turn and duck behind a building. I slither away. I run as quickly and as quietly as I can in the opposite direction hoping my friend won't recognize the back of me as I flee.

It just feels like too much has happened. It has indeed been TOO LONG. It would require too much energy to slap on a smile and try to explain all that happened between the time I last saw them and now.

It sort of feels like that with this blog. And, it's not even been three weeks since my last post. Weird, eh?

Thank you to the people who commented or sent me an e-mail wondering when the hell I was going to write something again. I want to apologize, especially to Kevin, who remains a good friend to me, expressing concern even when he's got so much more concerning things going on in his life. I really am an idiot sometimes. It was only this morning that it occurred to me that I could have sent him an e-mail telling him I'm alright, even if I didn't feel like writing anything on this blog. Total duh.

I'm sort of alright.

Earlier this week I missed a window of opportunity to write when I was feeling downright fantastic. On Tuesday and Wednesday I was clear headed and energetic. I kept commenting to my students and co-workers about how great I felt. It was just such a dramatic difference in the way I had been feeling for weeks and weeks before. I still had the shingles, which technically aren't even shingles anymore. I've now got post herpetic neuralgia, which is kinda sorta like Shingles: The Sequel. Or the third installment in the Chicken Pox Trilogy. It's just easier to keep calling it Shingles. There are too many syllables in post herpetic neuralgia, and no one knows what the hell I'm talking about when I say it. Granted, not too many people knew what I was talking about when I would tell them I had shingles either, which is called "teh-sang po-jin" in Korean. So I was just saying "soo-doo part two" (chicken pox ii) which sounds cute.

But anyways, despite the shingles and perhaps boosted by the drugs I'm sill taking which include oxycontin and an anti-drepressant, I was skipping merrily along for two days this week until Wenesday evening at 7 o'clock when I stopped mid-sentence and told my class, "Man, I've got a headache!" Thirty minutes later I had the students open their workbooks and get their pencils out because my throat was hurting too much to continue speaking. By the time I left work at 8:15 my teeth were chattering and I was shivering from a chill that was coming from inside my bones. Back home at 9:30 my temperature was up to 38.9 - about 102°F. Can you guess where this is heading?

When I say "H" you say "1!" (H-1, H-1!) When I say "N," you say "1!" (N-1, N-1!)

It's not for sure, but it's probably almost surely and hopefully for sure that I've gone and caught the dreaded H1N1. Every week there are more kids coming down with the 'shin-jeon inplooenza" at my school, and it was just a matter of time, really. For sure I've got some kind of flu, but I'm not going to know if it's H1N1 until Monday morning. I said "hopefully" by the way, because since I have the flu - I want it to be swine flu so I can have it over and done with and not have to worry about getting it anymore. I'm taking Tamiflu plus fourteen other pills a day for whatever kind of flu it is I do have - and to be honest, it's not that bad. I'm not feeling too horrible at all. I'm just exhausted again and have already nodded off three times while typing this. Last night I decided I'd have a nap and figured I'd be down for about an hour, maybe an hour and a half. I wanted to try to eat some soup after my nap because I hadn't managed to eat anything all day. I didn't even bother turning off the television or turning out any lights. I woke up with the sun shining on my face almost 10 hours later.

I didn't go to work yesterday, and I'm not going again today. I'm sure my co-workers just adore me. In some weird demonstration of empathy my computer decided to die on Wednesday night as well. Luckily, my boyfriend showed up Thursday morning with his PC which he set up before driving me to the hospital, so I'm not entirely quarantined from the rest of the world.

In between naps I will march right up to this blog and say "Hey! It's been TOO LONG!"

We WILL catch up. I promise.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Write, Off to Work

I'm heading to work in a few minutes, and I'm going to meet my new boss. My real boss assured me that he is a "wonderful man," but he doesn't know that at all. From what I understand, he met the guy on Friday when he made an offer on the school - and my boss followed the advice of The Steve Miller Band: "Go on, take the money and run." So he did. Only he's not running until tomorrow, so I'll have one last day with him at the school.

I'm sad. Like pure and simple straight up sad.

I was out for a quick dinner after work on Friday night. The table next to us had four women grilling up their meat and drinking up their soju. Eventually two other men joined them. The women seemed happy to see them - one of the fellows made like he couldn't find the door to get into the plastic wall encased patio we were sitting in (can you believe they're forecasting for minus 2 degrees Celcius tonight?!?) and the women laughed at his little comedic entrance. At one point not too long after I said, "Ahhh, settle down!" toward the table of six, not loud enough for them to hear by any means, but more for the benefit of my boyfriend sitting across the table from me who I was having trouble hearing amidst the laughter and enthusiastic "GUMBAEs!!" coming from behind him. They certainly were having a good time, that other table, whereas I was sporting red swollen eyes and trying hard not to cry more while recounting the miserable day I'd had at work.

Soon, the mood at the table behind us shifted - and one of the women was clearly unhappy with one of the men sitting across from her. The other members of the party hushed up as she got louder and angrier, filling her speech with a lot of "YAs!" and "dog babies" through gritted teeth. At one point, she threw her napkin across the table toward him and started to gather up her belongings like she was leaving, but her friends reached for her arms and convinced her to sit down and stay, and she seemed to calm down for a moment. But the guy across the table said something that displeased her and she "YA'd" him just once more. He stood up very suddenly, knocking over his stool, and picked something up from the table. With the fluency of a major league pitcher, he wound back and hurled whatever was in his hand as hard as he could, which connected with precise accuracy on the woman's head. Chaos ensued, with all the women screaming and the other man ushering the attacker out the door. The ladies checked the injured woman's head (her ball cap had protected her well) and the object - what I thought was one of those heavy soju shotglasses - which could have been perhaps lethal, turned out to be a metal rice bowl.

The women all sat in stunned silence for a long time. All of them were crying, but the one with the sore noggin and the woman sitting next to her, holding her hand, cried the hardest.

I feel like that woman. I feel like I've been hit in the head by a sudden unexpected object, and the sadness I'm experiencing is a bit overwhelming. I'll write about the hweshick later, but after it I just felt exhausted. I turned off my my phones, crawled into bed before eleven on a Saturday night (unheard of!) and slept until the sun was well up in the Sunday morning sky. I kept my phones off all day and hid myself away in my apartment.

But now it's time to go to school and meet the new boss. Unable to sleep much last night (about 3 hours or so) and uninterested in eating anything since Saturday night - I'm feeling sad. Sad sad saddy sad. One of the drugs I'm taking for the shingles is an anti-depressant, enafon - and I'm glad for it. Praise Jeebus glad. Without it, perhaps I'd be a weeping blob of sad, instead of a walking semi-functioning mess.

There are lots of questions. What's the new guy like? Am I going to be three times lucky? (I've been incredibly lucky to have really good bosses two times already. I worry I might have run out of luck.) My initial inclination is to quit; give my notice and leave at the six month mark in December. That's still the leading horse in this race of unknowns. My boss expressed happiness at the work party on Saturday. I can imagine what he's feeling. He must be so relieved to not have the daily stress of this job. I think when the time comes I'll be elated.

But, now I'm sad. And I have to go to work. Before I do, let me say there's no point in laying blame - but let's do it anyhow. If The Princess hadn't started this all,...

To be continued.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Upside Down

I wrote about some of the turmoil that's going on at my school in a recent post. I got more of the story the following day and it goes a little something like this.

My manager, The Princess had indeed approached my boss about buying the school from him and apparently he said it was a good idea. I didn't know that he had initially approved the idea. Then a couple days later he changed his mind and told The Princess he wanted things to stay the way they are. Ever since my boss bought the school from Karen, there have been ongoing financial woes. I never knew the details, and since I was getting paid - even though usually not in full nor on time, I was eventually collecting- so I didn't want to pry. After I heard The Princess was interested in buying the school I was hopeful that things aren't as bad as I'd thought. We have picked up more students in the past few weeks, so I guess things are turning around. The Princess handles all the books, and she's a pretty savvy lady - so I'm sure she wouldn't be wanting to sink her money into a school that was bound to fail.

She wasn't pleased that my boss decided he wanted to keep his school, and made the decision a few days later that she wanted to leave and open up her own school with her sister in early 2010. This angered my boss, who really relies on her. She's a good manager and really does well with parents who bring in their kids to check out the school. I don't know why my boss doesn't take on more responsibility in the PR department; he's an amicable fellow - but I think his confidence was shaken by having his previous school, a large downtown hagwon that employed around fifteen teachers, go under in the spring of 2008.

So he decided The Princess is selfish, which is surely true, but I can understand how she's thinking. When she originally agreed to work at our school it was in a managerial capacity. She didn't want to teach classes. If you've followed this blog for awhile, you'll know I used to lament that the size of out school didn't warrant a full time manager - and indeed, for a short time we did have enough teachers to cover all the classes and so The Princess got her wish and was able to spend a large portion of her day sitting at her desk examining her fingernails. That didn't last (I can't remember why. At this point it's all fuzzy - I feel like we're gone through a billion teachers) and she's been back in the classroom for months. Still, on her busiest teaching day she only has three and a half classes - so, I'm not going to cry her a river. Anyhow, she had decided it was time to move on, and told my boss she would be finishing up with us at the end of the year.

Even still, my boss was pissed off. And worried. He went back to The Princess a few days later and told her he'd changed his mind: he'd decided to sell the school. Only thing was, he wasn't willing to sell it to her. (He probably phrased it cleverly - like "I hope you'll be happy in your future business, now that you've made up your mind to leave us I've decided I want to leave as well - so I'm looking for someone (not YOU) to buy the school.") This, of course, enraged The Princess. The two of them have been walking around for a couple weeks like Grim and Grimmer. It's been a real goddamned pleasure to be at work with them.

So I found out some of the story last Friday from my boss. The Princess filled in the gaps on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the boss pretty much asked me to be the manager. I agreed that I could administer level tests and meet prospective parents who surely couldn't speak English but might enjoy my pleasant Charlie Brown's Teacher "Mwuuuu mwuuh mwuh" voice as I speak to them. I can't answer the phones and I can't speak to the "omoni's" (mommies) about their kid's progress. I can't do a whole lot of stuff that a manager needs to do - and frankly I don't want the job. I'd prefer if they didn't add one little iota of more work right now. I'm still fighting the shingles and I'm exhausted. I need calm. I need peace.

On Thursday night, the boss asked me to lend him a thousand dollars. "This isn't going well." I thought. I avoided answering him, but knew I wasn't going to do it. The boss was freaking out, and I tried to get him to calm the hell down. "Don't worry. We'll find a manager. We have time. Everything is going to be all right."

When The Princess told me on Tuesday the boss was considering selling the school, I immediately told her I'd quit if he did. One of the main reasons I even agreed to re-sign for one more year was out of loyalty to him. I didn't think he could really bear the cost of getting me back home and hiring a new foreign teacher, and frankly - I didn't want to add to his stress. (Plus I'm lazy and going through the rigamaroll of securing a new job seemed like too much of a hassle, having gone through it the previous summer.)

On Friday I woke up even stuffier than the day before - I'm fighting a cold - and I had only a squeak of a raspy voice. "No worries," I thought. "Today is our lame-o Halloween thing - so my classes will be shortened by a good twenty minutes." With only one day before the weekend, I figured I'd wing it.

Three minutes before my second class of the day, The Princess rolled her chair over to my desk and whispered, "He sold the school." I used all my "W" questions in two seconds flat. "What? When? To who? When will he finish? Why? What? Huh?" I sat there shaking my head as she told me the new boss would start "probably next month."
"What? November?!? That's next week!"

The bell rang signalling the start of the class.

I grabbed up my stuff and headed toward the classroom, but stopped short. I suddenly felt like I couldn't breathe. I slipped into the open door of an empty classroom just before I burst into tears. My co-worker found me there a few minutes later and seeing the state I was in, asked if she should go mind the class. I thanked her and asked her to just give me a few minutes. I spashed some cold water on my face and poured some Visine in my eyes, but in the end I cried all goddamned day long. In my classes, I passed it off as my part of my bad cold and I think some of the students actually bought it.

And right now I've got fifteen minutes to get into the shower and get dressed for this sham of a "hweshick" (work party) that was planned weeks ago. The first sign of a tear, though - and I'm heading back home.


Nevermind "two shoes," I've got a massive backlog of posts. I was having a look around my site and started feeling guilty that I only have four measly posts for October, and here we are on the last day of the month. Remember the good old days when I'd churn out double digits in a month? Sheesh. So I'm going to try to squeeze out a few entries today, and figured I'd start off with some nice lighthearted ones. Things are about to get especially sucky up in here at I Got Two Shoes, but for now let's all take a deep breath and relax.

Many moons ago, sometime in the spring (see how bunged up I am?) I walked in on my boss having some dinner in an empty classroom. He had a big container of kimchi, an open package of "gim" (roasted and salted delicious sheets of seaweed) and a square Tupperware dish of rice. "Oh! Dinner time!" I said. "How is it?"
"Bad," he replied. "I don't have soup."

For pretty much every meal Koreans consume, the holy triumvirate of rice, kimchi, and soup must be present for the meal to be considered, well, a meal. Because I am a Fixer of Problems, I started to think about how this lack of soup issue could be resolved.

My boss didn't normally eat dinner at work, unless you count a cup of instant ramen to be dinner. I knew that three nights a week my boss would leave after my last class which ended at ten o'clock and head down toward the university where he would wait to pick up his daughter, a second year high school student, who finished her after-school-extra-school classes at midnight. They'd get home around twelve thirty and she'd probably study some more because being a high school student in Korea sucks ass, and eventually they'd go to bed knowing that their six-thirty alarms would be ringing all too soon. Anyways, this tough schedule combined with the stress my boss was experiencing at work and home (his wife had left him) meant that he wasn't eating regularly, and had lost about forty pounds in just a few months. I was feeling bad for him.

A couple days later while shopping, I bought him a present - a thermos! I figured he could make soup at home and bring it to work so he could enjoy a somewhat satisfying meal. I brought the thermos home and made some soup to fill it with and brought it to school all proud at having Fixed the Problem. He was pleased, and told me my soup was delicious. So I got to thinking again, about how I really enjoy cooking - but because I'm cooking for one (me) most of the time I can't be bothered and opt instead for a dinner of toast, or popcorn, or bits of dust and lint I find under my bed. So I took the thermos back from him and told him I'd make more soup for the next day. The next day turned into another day and so on, and soon I had become the permanent Maker of the Soup. But still, my boss's dinner looked unsatisfying because it lacked banchan.

Banchan is the term for all the side dishes that accompany a Korean meal. I love banchan, and my favourite restaurants are the ones that serve up a nice variety. If you're someone who's in Korea, or have ever eaten at a Korean restaurant, don't you just love it when your sitting on the floor in front of a large table and the whole thing is covered with dishes? I'm reminded of a post I did a loooong time ago about a Korean breakfast I'd enjoyed.

The making of the soup was going well, and I would fill up the thermos with whatever I'd prepared that morning or the night before, and then I'd have a nice bowl of it myself for breakfast. I decided that I wanted banchan with my breakfast as well, so I went out and bought a nice plastic compartmentalized container meant for banchan, and then I started making that as well. It was good!

I took a couple of pictures a long time ago, thinking that I'd post about banchan eventually.


Here, we have stir-fried garlic stems (maneuljjong-bokkeum) pickled cucumber (oijangajji muchim) and some fish cake/mushroom stir fry thing.

And here's another example:


That's seasoned green bean sprouts (sukju namul muchim) fried slices of tofu, and acorn jelly (dotori mook) pictured.

Some days I did really well with the banchan, and other times I'd really miss the mark, but my boss was pretty gracious and would eat most everything anyhow. He was pretty honest, though - in telling me when something I'd made kind of sucked. I didn't mind the constructive criticism, though, and was really enjoying browsing the Internet to put together a mini-menu and learning more about Korean food and how to cook various recipes. Almost every soup I made was delicious and I'm now a bona-fide ddenjjang jjigae expert. Sadly, my mi-ok gook (seaweed soup) which is one of the easiest soups to put together, never tastes right. Perhaps me not liking it has something to do with not being able to cook it properly. One other thing that bugged me was my boss's reluctance to enjoy non-Korean soups with his meal. I once made a roasted red pepper cream soup that was outstanding, but my boss wouldn't admit it. Likewise, my creamed zucchini soup, and roasted pumpkin and carrot soups were snubbed, but my manager (The Princess) would always happily eat 3/4 of the thermos. Despite what my boss, an old-school Korean dude would tell you, cream soups - especially those made from fresh vegetables with a little white wine, some herbs, and homemade chicken or vegetable broth then blended into a lovely rich thick bowl of goodness, pair wonderfully with rice and kimchi.

Anyhow, why not have a look around the web and try out recipes for yourself. You could start with two sites I visited frequently: Maangchi or My Korean Kitchen. Or pop on over to Zen Kimchi, a site that always makes me hungry - and he's got some great Korean food links as well. There's another site that I can't find right now. It's bookmarked on the PC at school, and I'll update on Monday. I made just about every recipe there and it's a good 'un. Happy cooking!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Will Old Habits Die Hard?

For all your up-to-this-minute information, don't forget to check back right now at this blog. Oh! You're here! Excellent. Now I shall give you a mini up-to-this-minute update.*

The number of students infected with H1N1 (aka Shin-John(g?)In-ploo-enjah) at my school is now FIVE. Up two from yesterday. Keeping in mind I work at a small private English academy (hagwon) that's a pretty high number.

There might be something going on to commemorate Halloween Day this Friday at my school. It's too early to discuss what that will or won't be and what might or might not be happening. Face painting was mentioned, and then promptly cancelled when they realised that would require me to have the student's faces right in front of mine. So something else might happen instead, or nothing will happen. It's all a secret mystery.

I'm not overly paranoid about H1N1; I figure I'm probably going to get it, but I really have to try to NOT to. With shingles, I know my immune system is currently fooked - even catching a cold could be very bad for me.

The Princess (my manager) wasn't honest about how ill she really was feeling Monday when she came to school. She said she wasn't worried that it might be the flu because she didn't have a cough. I told her, "you don't need to have a cough to have the flu. You don't even need to have a fever!" I pulled up a site showing the symptoms related to H1N1 and she checked off nearly all of them in relation to how she was feeling. I told her I thought we really need to encourage our students to stay at home if they're not feeling well and really, she should be setting an example.

I think it's going to prove SUCH a challenge here to try to avoid catching and spreading the flu. Koreans are going to have to change their attitude about work and school. Most people believe that showing up is very important. It doesn't matter if you're not being productive because you're ill. You're THERE, and that's what counts. However, it seems to be common sense to stay home and rest when you're ill and avoid people when you're contagious. But these ideas go against Korean thinking. I wonder if H1N1 is going to be the catalyst that promotes conversion to a healthier and more logical attitude. Also covering one's face when coughing or sneezing, and washing one's hands frequently are good habits that don't come naturally here. I wonder if these practices are going to take hold quickly. I certainly hope so. **Hand to heart, as I typed that last sentence, the 1st grader getting his online homework done behind me in the staffroom just sneezed all over the keyboard. Fabulous!

Right now, the news is reporting that H1N1 is spreading very rapidly in Korea. My boss told me the government had advised schools to close if H1N1 was present, but is now re-thinking and debating that advisory. Just like our planning for Halloween festivities - and as is the tendency for things in general in Korea, confusion and last minute decision-making seem to be the way it's going.

*I started this post at work on Tuesday evening, but had to put it aside when the bell rang for my next class. So really, this was an up-to-that minute update. For up-to-this minute news, you'll have to look somewhere else.

Update: Oh! It seems there has been a decision made! It's a relief to know what's going on!


I still gotz da shingles. Same same. I went to the hospital on Saturday and the waiting room was JAM PACKED with sick people. I remarked to the doctor that they were super busy, and he said it was H1N1. I haven't gotten a proper handle on what they call it here, even though I'm hearing it numerous times a day. Sounds something like "Shinjeong Inploo-enja."

And, guess what? THREE of my students have it! They're all middle school girls, and the three of them hang out together a LOT. Actually, two of them are identical twin sisters. I was the last one to teach them last Thursday night, and when I heard on Friday that one of them had tested positive I was regretting sitting beside her and patting her back as she took the test I was giving them. She looked pretty miserable, but told me it was just a bad cold. D'oh! So far, though, I'm pine tenk you, and you?

My manager's sick, but she says it's just a bad cold. I played it safe and did not pat her back encouragingly yesterday at all. Turmoil abounds at my school. From what I've heard so far, the Princess (manager) told my boss a couple weeks ago that she wanted to take over the school. He told her it wasn't for sale. So she came back a few days later and told him she's going to quit. My boss is really upset. My other co-worker is supposed to finish at the end of November, though if it were up to the Princess she'd be fired two weeks ago. The Princess does not like the co-worker, and the feeling is mutual. Now there's also a rift between the Princess and the boss - so the Staff Room is all round completely miserable. Except for me. I remain a brilliant ray of sunhine.

Okay, I lie.

But my doctor did up my prescription for painkillers. So whereas I started out taking 20mg a day under Dr. Rainman's care, I'm now up to 120mg a day. It's really getting the job done and for the most part I feel fiiiiine all day long. Finally. I can tell the pain is still in there somewhere, but it's properly muffled now.

I am bothered by the presence of H1N1 at the school and the absence of any sort of plan of action. I don't know if I should be talking about it with the other students or not. The upper grades seem to already know because the younger sister of one of the middle school girls who has it has told everyone. I wonder what's going to happen when the kids go home and tell their parents. Are the parents going to be upset? Are we supposed to be thinking about closing temporarily? I have no idea.

I'm upset that we aren't having any sort of Halloween celebration this year. I was told yesterday that it's cancelled, but no one is telling me why. The Princess told me to "ask the Wongjangnim" and I said "really? Can't you tell me?" She said "no." My boss's English ability isn't good enough to communicate complicated things in a short period of time. I usually only interact with him in brief five minute intervals because we're both busy and our break schedules don't mesh. So all I know now is we're not doing anything fun, and I expect our students are going to be more disappointed than I am. They really look forward to the Halloween party. I do, too. And the thing is, I have taken over all the planning and preparation for it over the years - so it's not like it's a huge amount of work for any of the Korean teachers. Total bummer. I'm still bummed out that my favourite music festival was cancelled. I wouldn't have come into close contact with anyone there - for sure not closer than I do with the kids every day at work. Yet, the festival was cancelled on the possibility that some attendee might have H1N1, however at my school there's the actuality that students have it,..and I'm still going to work. Like a jerk.

It feels like just everything is coming apart here, being undone one stitch at a time. When I'm not feeling apathetic, I'm feeling pathetic. Overall I'm feeling burnt out.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Update Schmupdate

Sometimes I hate coming up with a title.

I shouldn't have promised that I wasn't going to write about shingles in my next entry. It made me not want to write at all. I've been taken over by shingles. I'm all about the shingles. Shingles, shingles, shingles. The funny thing is I think the name sounds sort of fun, don't you? Shingles, jingles, pringles! Wheeee! The reality is it sucks dong-dingles.

I suppose I'm now into the realm of postherpetic neuralgia, though no doctor has actually said I have it. And, I haven't asked any doctor because I don't want to hear it. But my rash is almost all cleared up and yet the pain,...ohhhhhh the pain, it goes on.

But it doesn't constantly go on. The drugs, they are strong and good and fine and good. Yes. They're double good. They really do fool me in to thinking that I'm all better and ready to rock n'roll. I feel sort of guilty taking them because I actually feel a lot better - but I've learned, and keep re-learning that I'm very much NOT BETTER.

Last Saturday I visited the fancy downtown hospital like I do every few days. Unfortunately, my kind young doctor was away on a conference so I was ushered into see an old stodgy looking guy who ordered me to sit and then seemed to be very put-off that I couldn't speak Korean very well. He spent a few minutes scolding me about it and I inwardly groaned, knowing that we were not off to a good start. As he spoke to me in halting English he wrote out everything he was saying - in that scrawly cursive docwriting that they must teach in medical school. I couldn't read what he was writing even if I'd wanted to. His idea was that the medicine wasn't getting the job done and so we would increase the remedy. I was fine with that, even though the oxycodone almost smothers the pain and I was quite satisfied with how it was working. He was going to change the meds, and described the patch I was going to apply and leave on for three days in lieu of popping pills a few times a day. I was interested because I'd been secretly wishing that they would just give me an IV drip that I could drag around. A three day bandaid that would seep narcotics into my bloodstream through my skin sounded intriguing. So I walked out of there with my usual 12 pills a day and two Duragesic® patches. back at home, google told me that the patches would deliver fentanyl into me. Fentanyl: approximately 100 times more potent than morphine. Hello!

So long story longer, I spent another day finishing up my oxycodone and then opened up one of the Durogesic® patches and stuck it on my upper arm. It was just like a bit of tape, clear except for the name written in orange, about 10cm long and 3cm wide. Around 11 o'clock I went to bed and slept for about 12 hours. I noticed when I got up around 8 for a mid-slumber pee that I was wobbly and had to halt a couple of times on the way to the loo to stop myself from careening into the wall as if my apartment was on a great big slant. Around 11, it wasn't an alarm clock that woke me, was more like a fire alarm. The usual fire that was my shingles was back, but in addition all of me was on fire! And freezing! And just crawling! It felt like my skin was trying to abandon ship. I was having side effects, but even worse - the patch wasn't working! I had full on stabby shingle fire, which was something I'd managed to avoid on the oxycodone. I sent a message to my awesome nurse and told her what was happening and she told me to come back in to the hospital and they'd increase the fentanyl or change meds again.

So I went down and saw my favourite doctor who questioned why I'd even been put on the patch anyhow - as it was very useful for people taking scads of pills who couldn't handle all the swallowing, but I can handle the 3 tiny oxy (plus 12 other pills) I was taking a day. He put me back on oxycodone and sent me off to the nurse who puts a needle in my ass and spanks me bye-bye. I went into work to try to beg to NOT be there, as I was feeling creepy and crawly and frankly flu-like. My co-workers eventually conferred and told me I could go home if I needed to, but about 20 minutes before that whatever they'd given me at the hospital had kicked in and I was feeling a lot better. By the time I started my last class at 9, I was feeling pretty fine. Just after I thanked my co-workers for their willingness to cover my classes, I was told that we'd all have the following day off!

The government is proposing to pass laws to regulate private study academies in Korea. Surely there is more information on other sites and when I come across it I'll update with some links. To be honest, I don't care one way or the other - but I thank the hagwon associations that advised everyone to close up shop for a one-day strike and head up to Seoul to protest. None of us went to Seoul, and I sure wasn't going to protest about my unexpected one-day holiday! I decided to lie down around 4:30 Tuesday afternoon for a little nap - and I woke up around 9:30. IN THE MORNING!! That's 17 hours. It seems I'm training for the Sleep Olympics.

So that's what I'm like these days. Slow and dopey. Prone to naps. I've been hoarding sleep like it might not be available anymore at some point in the near future. I can't really not think about shingles, because it has pretty well consumed me. And for the time being I'm okay with that. It's still just one day at a time over here at Shingles Central. I'm just meandering through whatever it is I have to do - shower, eat, work - until I can lay my head down for another nap.

Thanks again to those of you who have wished me well and hoped for my speedy recovery. Your comments and e-mails have meant a great deal to me, really. Being sick anywhere sucks fo sure, but I think it especially sucks in a foreign country. I think I might elaborate on that when it's not time for another nap. I need to especially thank Kevin for his really wonderful and most appreciated e-mail. He's a generous guy, that Kevin is - for even considering me and taking the time to write such a concerned and encouraging note while facing far more serious health issues with his mom. Thank you, my friend.

Let me finish this off by saying that I wish zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Shingles Central

Hey there! For those of you in Korea, let me welcome you a belated "Happy Chuseok!" For me, Chuseok meant having a four day vacation and there isn't anything wrong with that!

So, I'm still in the "Shingles Saga" here at I Got Two Shoes. After I wrote my last post I found myself getting angrier and angrier. What sort of of doctor was this Rainman asshole anyway? I just couldn't believe I was getting the brush-off, and I couldn't understand why. To boot,I noticed I had another rash on my left foot. I was hoping it wasn't a new outbreak of shingles, but it looked very similar. I went into work all fired up and, frankly, on the verge of tears because I was so exhausted and frustrated. My manager hadn't called the doctor yet, and so once again I told her how upset I was and showed her the new rash on my foot.

A little while later I walked back into the Teacher's Room and noticed that Cindy looked upset. She said, "That doctor is SO RUDE!" I practically shouted, "I KNOW! RIGHT?" He'd told her that he has been a doctor for thirty five years and has never seen a case of shingles breaking out in multiple locations. He basically called me an idiot, and told her (with a sigh) to tell me to come back in and see him.

And then he hung up on her!

Cindy said what I'd already been thinking, that I should go find a new doctor at one of the big fancy downtown hospitals instead of this pathetic countryside hospital with their bloodletting leech cure-alls. I asked if she could call and get some sort of records of the treatments I'd had thus far so I didn't have to try to explain everything to the new doctor. So she called Dr. Rainman back and requested a file and he barked, "FINE!" and then hung up on her again!

I picked up my records a couple hours later and made plans to seek help elsewhere the next morning. Cindy recommended a hospital downtown that her family had been to, telling me they had all sort of shiny new medical machines. I didn't really care about that. I just wanted a decent doctor who was willing to treat me until I was better. Cindy kindly wrote out a page long letter, including some questions I had wanted to ask Dr. Rainman, and also explaining about the new rash on my foot. She warned me that the last time they'd visited there they'd waited for more than two hours, so I should make sure I went early.

And so I did. I checked in at the front desk early the next day an was immediately led by the hand to some benches outside an office door and they made me wait a whole FIVE minutes to be seen! The doctor was very kind and read through the notes I'd given him. He looked at my foot and confirmed it was a second outbreak and told me he was putting me back on a course of antiviral medication. This second rash isn't very good news. It is uncommon to have shingles in multiple locations, and especially so considering I'd already taken a seven day course of acyclovir. The second episode means that my immune system is definitely weakened for some reason or other.

Dr. GoodGuy also tripled the amount of pain medication that Dr. Rainman had initially and reluctantly prescribed. So I'm taking lots of oxycodone and it feels like we may have finally gotten it right. I still feel the pain, but now it's time to take another pill when it starts to feel really horrible. Another bonus is I'm able to sleep. In fact, I lost Sunday because I slept through it. All of it. I woke up from a Sunday afternoon nap to a dusky grey sky and figured the sun had just set, only to realize it was actually about to rise, shining on a new Monday morning. I'm still flat-out exhausted. My whole four day weekend was spent nodding off in various furniture around my apartment. Good times.

I've been using a wooden spoon to scratch my back. I'd like to attach spikes to it. I think that'd feel reaaaallll goooood. It's weird. Parts of my body where the rash was are numb. My left boob is numb. Still, it begs to be scratched. Sometimes it feels like I've got worms crawling around inside me. I just paused for three minutes to spoon myself. Just typing this is making me itchy.

The only really scary thing about visiting the city hospital was the bill when I went to pay it. Whereas I was shelling out about 45,000 won a visit at the country hospital, the new place rang up 269,000 on the cash register. I just about screamed. When they figured out I didn't have insurance they called over to Dr. GoodGuy and played around with the medications he'd prescribed and got my bill reduced down to a slightly more reasonable 115,000. Still. Blech!

The nurse was awesome and asked me to come back on Tuesday afternoon to see her and Dr. GoodGuy again. She even asked me for my phone and punched in her own cell number, telling me to call her if I had any questions. I texted her today and asked her if it was alright I visit a day early because I'm working tomorrow afternoon. (I could have gone in Tuesday morning, but then I'd be seeing a new doc, as Dr. GoodGuy was on the afternoon shift.) She texted back that it was fine, so I went in and was hooked up through to Saturday for medications. I'm taking twenty pills a day. Nurse Lee texted me this evening, apologizing for not spending a lot of time with me during today's visit, explaining that they were so busy after the Chuseok vacation. What a doll! We ended each visit with an ass injection and a good slap on my rear. I don't know what it was they put in that syringe (I was told it was for pain) but for a few hours I felt finey-fine-fine. I wouldn't mind at all if they set me up on an intravenous drip of whatever that was.

Anyhow. So that's how things are going over here at Shingles Central. I hope you're having a better time than me. My next post will be non-shingley related, I promise.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

What the fuck?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 28, 2009

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

So let's call this one "Suckerrific."

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, September 23, 2009


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Friday, September 18, 2009

Jelly 4.0

Lawdy, lawdy - look who's fowty!

That's right: ME!

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

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

No, don't. They suck.

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Lazy Lugs

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, have you ever seen these?


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

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Pills, Pills, Pills

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And pills. I gots oodles and oodles of pills.


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


Pills. They're what's for dinner.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Shingled Out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good to know I'm not.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Pox on Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 08, 2009


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

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

Or not.

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

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

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

"No. Seven grade five students!"

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Run Away

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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