Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas, Everyone

So, I'm a bit late with my well wishes but MERRY CHRISTMAS and a HAPPY NEW YEAR to everyone.

D and I are off to Tawain tomorrow evening and I can't wait. I probably won't be posting while I'm away so this will be the post 'in your face' until I return.

And, the joke that never gets old, see ya next year.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

I'm So Excited...and I just Can't Hide it

I'M ABOUT TO LOSE CONTROL AND I THINK I LIKE IT!

People, HOW GREAT is it to walk?

Last night, I was given the a-okay from the doctor to walk again.

"Good" he said "All finished'.

That's allI needed to hear.

I shreiked with glee, shook his hand and wished him a Merry Christmas. And I wanted to hug him. But instead, I just kept saying 'gamsahamneeda' and Merry Christmas, through a gigantic grin to all the hospital staff.

And although there is still quite a LOT of pain in walking (think of the entire bottom of your foot badly bruised. Then walk on it) I am amazed at how the ache is not affecting my ability to smile with each step I take.

I am me again. I haven't felt like this in awhile. And I can't tell you how grateful I am for the mobility. I suppose you can get used to anything and if I ever permanently lost the ability to walk, I know I would turn lemons into lemonade but just waiting for the cast to come off was more than I could bear.

I have a permasmile planted on my face and am slowing getting used to the fact that I don't have to perpare myself to stand up, I can just do it.

And so, it's time to get Christmasy! Off to the shops tonight to get myself in the mood. And the upside is, I won't have to wait TOO long for Christmas Day as it's 5 days away.

More on other excitement like kiddie Christmas concerts and plans for Tawain later...

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Holiday

You know that feeling that you get when you've been at work too long? When you know you need a break? When it's the little things that are driving you crazy?

Like, you're pretty sure you aren't NORMALLY this pissed off at an elevator that stopped to pick people up? Or the sound of your coworkers voice is becoming just too...much...too...bear?

See? Similarity. We are the same. Or I'm just the same crazy as I am everywhere else.

I suppose I'm lucky to get a week off at Christmas as our Korean teachers are only being given like 3 days - not really even enough time to jet off to Jeju Island - although, with tempertures trying their hardest to hit zero (people: I can't resist. I now have WINTER to complain about again), I can't imagine why anyone would go to an island.

That being said, D and I are set to spend a week in Tawain. Not exactly the Thailand I was hoping for but definitely a good deal since we only found out about 2 weeks ago that we would actually be let free for awhile.

I'm looking forward to being a tourist again. I've never really been all that good at this 'normal life' thing. Then again, I think I was never all that good at travelling for long periods of time either. And here's the part where I point to that blinking neon sign above my head that says 'Could she BE anymore Gemini?'

Speaking of totally switching tangents, I'm also off to see the movie Holiday with some funky ladies. Forget Jude, bring it on Jack.

And so ends another rather random post...I GOTTA get walking again..

Monday, December 18, 2006

Hite and Soju

I am now the proud owner of the tiniest fish you could every imagine, named in honour of all that makes Korea great, Hite (the beer) and Soju (the drink).

They were a housewarming gifts from the two Brit boys, B & M, who, after many late night trips to Homeplus, decided they needed to purchase something a bit more substantial then cabbage and soju at the superstore

I feel very lucky to have found such wonderful friends in such a short period of time.

Our house party was a magical night, full of laughs, drinks and unfortunately for my guests, TOO much Christmas music (Thank you DJ B for reasoning with me and getting some music that EVERYONE wanted to enjoy).

Plus, I have two little swimmers to remind me not only what a wonderful night we had but also, what great people there are on this planet.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Oh the Weather Outside is Frightful

But at least the sun is shining. And there isn't any snow.

But there certainly is snot somewhere in Korea because all my kids keep skipping school, only to return days later to say, "Teacher, skiing' or "Teacher, snowboarding". A bit surreal when there's no sign of the white stuff where I am.

I am getting a little more giddy about Christmas, if only because our advent calendar has gotten to the point where there are TWO chocolates each day which means I get one too and not just the chocolate monster I live with.

Also because I'm around kids all day and they're getting excited - so much so that they never sit down for more than 5 minutes and are continually saying 'game teacher game' or 'free time'.

Yes, free time. Trust me, I'd like some more free time too. But that will not help you learn english. And the nerd teacher in me is far too dilgent, even for a Friday afternoon.

So, I'm finished for the week and am ready to leave my cold desk (who knew your fingernails could go numb? more later on Korean heating systems) and enjoy what I hope will be my last weekend in a cast.

I'm planning a late night shopping trip this evening (read: going to the 24 hour place AFTER some socialising) just so I can hobble around without people in my way.

And on Saturday, I'm hoping to enjoy a lovely evening, in my home, with friends, gathered around my little Christmas tree, which has a few presents - no thanks to the no-shopping-me but more to the greatest-mothership across the water.

Until then, enjoy your weekends. Warm. Cold. Wet. Wherever you are.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Radioactive? No Problem!

You can never really get through a day in Korean without someone saying something is either 'good for health' or 'bad for health'.

They seem to be a culture obsessed with being healthy. That and if you're a woman looking younger and being skinny. So, not far off from Westerners then.

Except perhaps things that I've always learned make the most sense to stay healthy.

Like washing your hands before you eat. And after you go to the bathroom. Not sure what bathroom sinks are meant for as Korean women are usually stood in front of them, preening themselves, looking ready to pounce on you if you need to get through to wash your hands.

And then, there's the temperature. It's always cold. I have seen women in the saunas throw down cold water where they walk or where they were sitting after they leave, in an effort I can only guess to 'cleanse' the area so that someone else can sit in their place.

But, it's...cold...water. You can't freeze the germs away.

And now, after my experience with the hospitals, I guess radioactive rays don't exist in Korea.

I went last night to have my foot X-rayed again to see how well it was healing. There is a big yellow and red sign, with an image that looks like radio waves and some BOLDED KOREAN WRITING which I can only assume means DANGER or CAUTION or BAD FOR HEALTH.

But when you walk through the door, it's just a room. With an overhead projector like thing attached to the ceiling. And a medical bench.

And this man, who doesn't seem to have smile muscles and looks like he's constantly hung over from soju. I've seen him 3 times now and, except for a few grunts, he has never spoken a word directly to me.

The man has no protection. None of those bullet-proof-type vests that you put on to stop the harmful rays like back in Canada. (I always wondered why they protected your body and not THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF YOUR BODY: your brain. Like, if the rays are SO harmful, where is my rubber helmet?)

So, you sit on the bench, he positions your foot (or whatever you may need x-rayed) and this is the scary part.

He LEAVES the room. He LEAVES you with the machine-that-releases-dangerous-rays and gets as far away as he can from the danger. Either that or the button is in another room. Oh..ya..how conveeeeenient..

Then the machine gurggles and he returns to grunt you out of the radioactive space.

I can only suspect, consdering that this country has more doctors, pharmacists and xray professionals per capita then ANY OTHER COUNTRY that there is a perfectly logical explanation WHY you don't get the space suit to be xrayed.

And anyway, if you're THAT worried about, simply douse yourself in some cold water.

That'll do the trick.

******

Thank you all for your kind emails, txt and finger crossing. Although it was not enough sadly to get my cast removed, it was enough to have the bone healing VERY WELL as my doctor told me .

(which, by the way, gave me the 30 seconds of hope that I had last night of having the damn thing removed.)

Doc: Very good. Excellent. Yes, this bone is healing nicely. Here is you new bone. Your baby bone. It's all healed over

Me: OH GREAT! THAT'S WONDERFUL NEWS!! I AM SO HAPPY!

D: Yes, very good. I will be taking this (pointing to foot) off next week.

M: (a moment of slience) uh..next week?

D: (happily) Yes, next week.

M: aww. thanks

Perhaps it was the hope that made the tears flow a bit on my way home (god I'm a wimp!!) .

Or perhaps it was PMS.

Either way, I'm over it and happy to count down the days to cast freedom!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Cast Day - Not to be confused with Cast AWAY

People of the world
Every boy every girl

(Spice Girls? Anyone? C'MON who DOESN'T remember girl power all packaged up in skimpy outfits?)

Today is the day I go visit the doctor to see if I can become cast free.

I'm not getting my hopes up - as D and teacher B have been telling me all week, along with scolding me for any pressure applied to the foot by myself - so I'm really just looking for some finger crossing.

I have been a very good girl for the most part and have done minimal walking...I SWEAR...so please, Internet, if you could all cross your fingers and your toes that the TINY TINY FRACTURES will now be healed.

Either way, a big glass o' red wine is in order for this evening.

My Toys are Books

When D and I had a roomate P, I remember one of the running jokes was 'I didn't have any toys. Books were my toys.'

They used to say it in this voice that made it sound much funnier than it now looks on screen and I'm sure it was passed down from many a night with his O-dot friends but as with many of their jokes, I can never really remember who started what. I'm sure neither can they.

But the phrase struck me today, as I was observing one of my classes in what we call the Block Room - essentially a room full of oversized Legos and a great place to give the kids a 10 minute break from the insanity. Yes, because it's the kids who need the break from the insanity. Uh huh.

So, on this much needed break I happened to observe one of my bright young ones, Little B, kinda looking around at the other kids, nose scrunched, mouth curled, as if someone had just offered her the most disgusting thing to eat.

Me: Little B, what are you doing?

Little B: Teacher, no block room.

Me: (blink blink)

Me: (after I got up off the floor from FAINTING at the thought that a small little rascal WAS NOT INTERESTED IN PLAYING) Well, do you want to go to the library and get a book?

Little B: (face lit up like a Christmas tree) yaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

And off she ran, to get herself something more 'fun' to play with.

She came back, sat amongst the other students, content to simply read...her...book.

Who needs toys? I think I've found the child who has ACTUALLY REALLY invented: 'My books were toys'.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Korean Drivers Manual

1 - First and foremost, you are the only car on the road. Please drive this way.

2 - Be sure to keep a tally of the number of pedestrians you hit. 10 points for old ladies, 20 for young children (they can run faster you see). You can also add 5 points for each near miss and pat yourself on the back for trying.

3 - Red lights can tend to get in the way of your driving. Simply proceed through them if you need to. Honk your horn to make sure the cars that actually have the right of way know you'll be sailing through the intersection.

4 - Signalling is recommended but your car does not have blind spots. Just go ahead an change lanes.

5 - It works best if you keep one foot on the gas and one foot on the brakes at all times. This will allow you to continually pump the breaks all the way down the street avoiding 'other cars' while still revving your engine and going at the speed of light during those intervals when you are not slamming on your brakes. (By 'other cars' I mean ones that aren't 'really there' as, we'ver already discussed, you are the only car on the road)

6 - If you're driving a standard car, make sure you rarely change gears. If you must, wait until your engine sounds like the space shuttle and be sure to jerk and grind the gears to their maxiumn capacity.

7 - Lanes don't really exist. Just drive wherever you like on the road. If you find yourself amongst those elusive 'other cars' simply drive around them in any fashion if they are in your way.

8 - When turning right, never look to your left to see if there is another car coming. Simply pull out. Again, see rule 1.

9 - If you encounter the zebra-lined pedestrian crossing, be sure to ignore it. These lines are only to give the pedestrians a false sense of security that you won't hit them so they'll attempt to cross the road. We need them to cross the road. Otherwise, how do we tally up the points to win that karoke machine?

10 - As a general rule, never pay any attention to what's going on around you. Don't look or double check anything. Koreans must do all they can to keep up the reputation Asians have of being the worst drivers in the world.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Happy Anniversary M & D

When I was in my teens, I would get the occasional guilt pinge (well, as much as a self centred 16 year old can get) of not really DOING anything for my parents' anniversary.

I heard of friends buying lavish gifts, organising dinners, putting together surprise parties and I suppose I thought, 'am I sucking at this daughter thing?'

On her anniversary, my mother always used to say, "It's not today that matters. It's the other 364 days of the year."

Part of me thought that was a score for me - (my mother is the least guilting person in the world and we actually have to REMIND her that sometimes, as the person that laboured not only to bring us into this world but also to raise us right, she is, on occasion, entitled to throw some good old mother guilt our way.) Part of me wondered, oh my god, will Chris sit next to me in music class? (did I mention I was 16?)

But most of me didn't realise exactly what she meant until I fell in love with D. That it really is all those other days that are important.

And although it's very nice to stop and appreciate how far you've come over an nice dinner and some wine, it's also nice to make sure you do that every once in awhile, not just on the day you started the partnership.

The greatest example they have given me - besides being great people in their own right - is to always keep the laughter rolling.

Even to this day, I have seen my mother in tears, holding her stomach in laughter, about something my father did or said. To me, that's amazing.

Today my parents are celebrating 31 years of love, laughter and happiness.

And their 30-year-old daughter still feels guilt over not doing more. But perhaps, it just seems too overhwelming: How do you show appreciation to a couple who's partnership has overcome so many years? Who have set such an amazing example not only as indviduals but as a pair? Not to mention surviving four kids - four VERY LOUD THEATRICAL SLIGHTLY SELF ABSORBED KIDS? Can a bouquet or some dinner really show that?

To cliche it up, if I could be half as happy as they are today, I will be one lucky broad in 30 years time.

Missing you both and sending you hugs from Korea :)

Monday, December 04, 2006

What's Up With These Scary Animals??

I found another cheeky monkey:


Another day of kid pics - you'd think I was getting a bit broody? Ha ha...
Mostly I believe it's because I'm thinking of Little Miss NA, my middle-namesake, who has been very ill over the past couple of weeks - she scared a lot of people back home with menegitis and I wish I could be home to give her a great big hug.
But I hear she's getting back to her normal little cute self and for that, I'm very happy.
Fingers and toes crossed she continues to keep smiling.

And the pics are back...

Check out this cutie:





Welcome little Miss SC. Thanks for brightening my Friday.

You look pretty hip in this outfit:





I actually bought this for you when I was still living in the land of Green in Belfast. I had forgotten all about it but remember picking it out. You look even sweeter than I could have imagined the outfit looking.

And it was just the shot from back home I needed.

Keep up the cuteness!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

A Brighter Day

After a great weekend of mild socialising, a great movie and a Korean wedding I feel fantastically refreshed.

Now, if I could only get this new blogger to allow me to post pictures!! I think it partly has to do with the computer I'm on at work but it is only giving me a blank box with no editing functionality.

So, the cute picture I was going to post today will now have to wait another day!

The Korean wedding - mostly like a western wedding except that all of the guests have their picture taken with the bride and groom and immediately after the ceremony, people just eat.

There's no waiting for the bride and groom - they didn't even EAT in the room we were in. There's no speeches or fond farwells or boo hoos. There's just eating. A LOT. This wedding had EVERY SINGLE KIND OF KOREAN FOOD available for you at the buffet.

And of course hobalong couldn't really browse properly - although I must admit I did try and put a little too much weight on my foot I'm sure (but I promise Bone Gods, I am REALLLY trying not to become impatient with my foot and REALLY TRYING to simply use the crutches - which should also be known as wrist-wrentching-armpit-bruising-torture-devices).

But it was lovely to get out of the house. And see a lady from my work take her next important Korean steps towards enlightenment.

Because in Korea, if you're not married, you're not much.

Just another reason for me to celebrate on Canada Day.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Bad Foot Blues

I have been humbled by my recent foot injury. I am shocked and amazed how it seems to be taking it's toll on me.

A few things come to mind:

Of late, I have been an fairly active person. In Belfast, I went to the gym quite regularly. Not only was this good for the muscles but (and here comes the broken recored) it was good for my mental health as well.

Recently I've started exercising again and was feeling so much better, so level. Not irritable, not cranky, not anxious, not weepy. Just plain good.

I have also always been the type of person who does actually appreciate the fact that I CAN walk. That perhaps is sounds a bit more pretentious then I mean it as I can't really reach into everyone's brain and see if they perhaps have the same feelings but what I mean is simply this.

Whenever I would contemplate NOT going to the gym, I would simply motivate myself and say 'Well, at least you CAN run. Think of all those people that can't exercise as easily as you can' and off I would go, feeling better after my hour and a half sweat-o-thon.

And so, when I broke my foot, I tried to be positive and say 'Well, at least I haven't broken my leg.' Or 'At least I haven't broken both feet'.

But my positivity - and patience - is waining.

Imagine you get up every day. You struggle down a massive hill to catch a taxi to work. You struggle throughout the day going up and down the elevator which always seems to take FOREVER before it gets to you. Then, with your hands bruised from the crutches and your armpits even worse, you hobble outside - in the dark - catch a cab home and sit in front of the television, until you eventually get too tired and work up the courage to hobble off to bed.

No shopping. No popping down to get some chips. No last minute meeting of friends for coffee. No, 'oh I think I'll just walk by that store and see if they have that thing I was looking for'.

None of that. Nada.

You're big adventure is your weekly Friday night sessions with the other foriegners, the one night where you can feel like you're not trying to fit in and you can just be yourself. The one night during the week that actually prevents you from screaming at the top of your lungs 'KOREA IS DRIVING ME CRAZY' when you're amongst teachers at your school, because in reality, it's NOT driving you crazy. You would just feel like it was if you didn't have your comfort outlet.

Add into the fact that you haven't exercised and as proven by science THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT FOR YOU and what do you think you have?

Not to mention the culture shock that creeps up on you now that you're vulnerable and aren't keeping busy. Now that all you seem to have is time to sit around and wait until you have to stand up and hobble again.

Or the fact that tomorrow is DECEMBER and all that Christmas shopping you wanted to get done so you could surprise people back home is not actually working out the way you planned. You're too busy sitting. Or sleeping. Or sitting. Or hobbling. Then sitting.

I saw an x-ray of my foot on Tuesday night and DO YOU KNOW HOW SMALL THOSE BREAKS ARE???? They are tiny, people. I wanted to scold my foot for causing so much fuss over the tiniest of breaks.

And how can it possibly hurt SO MUCH?? I can't imagine what will happen if I am ever REALLY HURT. Like action-movie-still-walking-and-shooting-after-multiple-gunshot-wounds hurt. What then?

I have less than 2 weeks today. And I am so lucky to have something like D in my life who gets me everything I need, even when he's had just as long a day as me. And even when I pretend I can do things on my own just because I'm sick of not being able to do anything.

I'm so lucky to have found friends here, that take pity on me, that wait for me to hobble and so helpful. (We had a ladies wine and cheese night and I didn't have to lift a finger. The kindness of strangers really lifts my spirits more than I can describe)

I hate to throw the old negative out there. And yes, I do realise there are many people worse off than me. And I know that this will pass and I won't be so grumpy and tied down to doing 3 or 4 things a day.

It's just the headspace I'm in right now and I thought I'd share.

Thanks for letting me feel sorry for myself. Onward and upward to tomorrow.

A Bit o TV

D and I are lucky to have purchase a DVD player when we first got here and now, watch mostly TV shows that we haven't had time to watch over the past 4 years what with the travelling, and working and oh well let's get serious the DRINKING.

When we ventured up to Seoul the last couple of times, we headed to the electronics market, near Yongsan Station to stock up on movies and full series of shows. Can I tell you HOW MUCH I'm loving Sopranos and Six Feet Under? Both were shows that I would only catch on and off over the years and it's great to actually watch them back to back. Like a show is meant to be.

Next, I'm determined to stock up on Sex and the City, the West Wing and that new fun one Big Love.

(As I read this back, who knew I had something to say today? Sadly it's about television. At least I haven't mentioned the WEATHER in awhile...which if anyone is interested, is quite crisp but not yet that cold that I'm feeling like it should be DECEMBER TOMORROW!!)

My blogger friend L has written a good one today about the TV world over here.

Korean Commercials:
http://documentarist.blogspot.com/2006/11/korean-commercials.html

I will say I have seen this commercial and it is annoying. And with that, click away...

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Keep Up the Great Work!

I'm discovering yet one more teacher task that is much more difficult than I could have ever imagined.

Do you remember when you would get your report card? If you were a big nerd like me, you were waiting to read all the insightful and poignant words that you teachers would have written about you. Waiting to hear how they thought you were a 'genuis' and felt 'immensley fortunate' to have such a 'incredibly studious' student among their presence.

I'm in the middle of doing the kindergarten reports and I'm realising there are only so many ways to say 'you're kid's doing great' or 'you're kid needs to practice more' or 'your kid needs to stop punching all the other kids so he can avoid spending the entire class in the corner and then maybe he could actually LEARN something'.

Here's a few phrases that I've been using - translated from teacher speak to teacher thoughts in case any of you can't read between the lines.

"Bobby is an excitable boy"
Bobby spends most of his time running around the classroom, trying to make trades with his coloring pencils or candy-of-the-day. Please stop sending in so much sugar.

"Nancy is easily distracted but once focused, completes tasks on time"
Nancy spends most of the class staring at the wall, at other students and occasionally down at her paper. I'm not sure she actually REALIZES her name is Nancy, considering how many times I have to ask her IN MY OUTSIDE VOICE to pay attention and stop tapping her pencil on whatever seems to be intriguing her that day.

"Mandy is not afraid to approach me outside of class to speak English"
...that English being 'Teacher, can I have that chocolate? Teacher is that candy on your desk? Teacher, can I be the Captain today? Teacher GAME!!'

"Jeff is progressing nicely"
Jeff is neither bad or good and a slightly forgetable child.

I mean no offense and now, when and if I become a parent, will never actually be able to read these things in the same way.

Ignorance was bliss. Now, my children's report cards will be a source of nostalgia.

And amusement.

Friday, November 24, 2006

You're It

Well, I've been tagged. Basically like a chain mail except it's from another blogger that I read.

I've seen these before but have never acutally found one interesting enough to respond to. Not sure many people actually care what my favorite colour is or whether I like vanilla or chocolate. Then again, perhaps no one cares about the below but I suppose I'm partly posting for my own reflection in years to come...

Do you like the look and contents of your blog?
Some days. I read back on some entries and think, 'could I BE more boring?' I suppose part of me would love more pictures but part of me likes to create a image with words - how often that happens, I'm not sure. As for the look, orange and blue are my two favorite colours so couldn't really see it any other way.

Does your family know about your blog?
Yes, they do now. Since I've been in Korea a lot more have been reading. And I must say, makes it easier than the group email sometimes! I don't really censor myself because of that but then those who know me know that I'm a pretty open book to my family. What you see is what you get. And as the blog mantra goes, if they don't like it, they don't have to read.

Can you tell your friends about your blog? Do you consider it a private thing?
For a long time, I didn't tell people about my blog, only because I thought I wouldn't write the way I wanted to. Now that people do know about it, I don't feel I write any differently but it's a great way to let people who are close to me into my own little world of crazy.

Do you read the blogs of those who comment on your blog? Or do you try and discover new blogs?
I don't really have time to be blog-hunting at the moment. I find it slightly overwhelming sometimes that there are actually SO MANY PEOPLE out there with things to say. My Gemini distraction kicks in. Information overload. I have some blogs that I've been reading for a few years and if I find one that I can relate to or more importantly, makes me laugh, then it makes the cut.

Did your blog positively affect your mind? Give an example...
Yes. ('Give an example' sounds too much like an exam question and I can't really answer it on the basis that even reading it is making me break out in hives).

Writing is theraputic and therefore, so is writing on a blog. It makes me feel good to know that even though I'm crap at email, all those I hold dear can still keep in touch through my blog.

What does the number of visitors to your blog mean? Do you have a traffic counter?
I suppose it means people are reading. I don't have a traffic counter because I'd rather not know. I became very obessed during my canada.com days about clicks on pages and hits from countries and I know how addicting it can be. I suppose I figure if I'm too obessed with my audience, I might just start thinking too much about them before I just start writing. And I find it easier to just write something. Without too much knowledge about who's reading.

Do you imagine what other bloggers look like?
Yes - lucky for me the ones I read are good with pictures.

Do you think blogging has any real benefits?
It brings people together. I know it sounds very cliche but sometimes being able to write something and know that maybe someone else from all over the big wide world will read it makes you feel better about whatever you wanted to write about. Reading blogs gives you an insight into what other people live like. Kinda like travelling or living in another country without having to leave your computer. And if you can keep an open mind and remember that nothing you will ever read (and this includes ALL 'CREDIBLE MEDIA') can ever been objective, then you will learn things about the world.

Do you think that the blogosphere is a stand alone world community separated from the real world?
No. Not that I now socialise with some of the bloggers I read.

Do some political blogs scare you? Do you avoid them?
I read blogs to escape and political stuff is not an escape for me. I don't think I'm avoiding them on purpose, it's more that there are only so many hours in a day...

Do you think that criticizing your blog is useful?
As a writer, I have always found criticism useful. When you write something, you own it but you have to let it go. It now has to become a thing that can be improved. Editing and input is so important and if it creates a better end piece, why wouldn't you want to see something you created become better? If you have a child, you don't coop them up in the house and not give them exposure to anything outside your beliefs? I think people need to think about writing this way as well.

Have you ever thought about what would happen to your blog if you died?
No. Actually no. And thank you, like I needed more things to worry about 'after I die'...

Which blogger has had the greatest impression on you?
A few. All women and all blogs based on honesty, telling it like it is. And I like that. It's one thing to ramble on about how great your life is. It's another thing to be brave enough to talk about your failures...or those things you PERCEIVE as failures.

Which blogger do you think is the most similar to you?
Depends what day you hit me on.

Name a song you want to listen to.
Better When We're Together by Jack Johnson.

Tag some people
You're all it.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

It Could Have Gone Terribly Wrong

When it comes to 'stuff', a lot of it is important to children.

Take crayons, for example. Or should I say colouring pencils as they are now referred to. They have been upgraded since I was in love with the 124 colour wheel by Crayola (r).

They are now full fledged pencils.

I was doing a craft today with my little kindergarten Peach Class. My craft consists of colouring, cutting and pasting. Listen, people if TEACHER can't do the craft, then TEACHER looks a bit like an idiot so TEACHER chooses crafts wisely.

Things were going well. No one was fighting over whose colouring pencils were the best. No one was trying to make trades - say their 'nude' for someone else's 'sea blue'. No one was yelling (in Korean) at other kids for stealing/hiding/eating their colouring pencils. All in all, it was a good day for crafts.

Then it happened. Generally sweet and innocent, little K asked little R politely AND IN ENGLISH I MAY ADD if he could please borrow her brown colouring pencil because he didn't have brown and how could he possibly colour bread anything BUT brown, although I suppose white would do but he didn't have that EITHER and hey, his mom takes care of him and doesn't allow anything processed to pass his lips, except of course all that CANDY she sends in for him and the other kids and..

well, R was very sweet and said 'yes' (okay so she said something in Korean but I assumed it was cordial because he smiled and took the brown pencil).

Suddenly, he came back. Holding the colouring pencil. With the TOP HALF BROKEN OFF.

People, this could have produced bloodshed. You have not seen a child scorned until you see one that has had something broken by another child. Something as cherished and special as a colouring pencil.

Little K was trying to get Little R's attention and when he finally did, I thought it was over. The gloves were coming off, the tears were going to pour and the Korean words were going to flow and I was going to be powerless to stop it.

I braced myself for the inevitable. And waited in vain.

Because Little R looked up, saw the state of her precious pencil, gave a bit of a shrug, said something that sounded calm and cool and not at all like she was TOTALLY FREAKING OUT and then, she sweetly just took the broken piece from Little K.

What she did next astounded me. She actually started breaking the little piece into LITTLER PIECES and let out the cutest giggle I'd heard in a while.

Little K had a sweet guffaw and the two of them were laughing at the insanity of the way the pencil was only broken once but ..oh wait for the hilarity..many..ha ha...many...aaaaa...times!! aha hahahaaha....

It was a bit of a moment in human observation. I think if it had been another kid in the class, Little R would not have been so kind. There would have been the pout face and the stomping and the 'A Teacher, (korean korean korean) A Teacher (korean korean korean).

But Little K is a little sensitive. Like WAY MORE sensitive than my little brother, who if you know me, grew up hearing me say that 'he's sensitive' but I didn't know what sensitive was until I met this kid.

And Little R knows that. So she sacrificed her drama moment to keep another child from feeling alone and alienated. And that touched me.

So much that it took me a couple of minutes instead of seconds to tell them to 'Stop chopping up that colouring pencil. You'll make a mess'.

Sigh. Always the teacher I guess.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A First Time for Everything

I spent the first quarter century of my life in a land with ample amount of ice to slip on. Never once did I break any bone.

Now, on the other side of the world and NO ICE to be found and guess what? I've actually taken a tumble, worthy only of ICE RIDDEN STREETS and broken my foot.

I was taking a quick break from class to stock up on some Vitamin C drinks (which you need I find GREATLY as you are constantly around kids who seem to pick up EVERY SINGLE COLD GOING!!) when suddenly, I lost my footing.

It was one of those really good falls too. One you wished you had videotaped so you could watch later along with the rest of the people who bit their bottom lips, stopping themselves from guffawing.

One of those arms-flailing-legs-balancing trying anything in your power not to go down and praying all thos crunches and plank poses you did will definitely how pay off and save your back.

Being a certified wuss, I don't know if it counts when I say the pain was un-real.

I'm thinking I need to go through childbirth or get shot before I can really assess pain.

Falling down is always a wee bit embarassing, whoever you are.

It's even worse when you're a 'waygook' in small town Korea.

People are already staring and now, there you are, your faced scrunched up in pain, trying to tell to the two people who have stopped to help you that massaging or TOUCHING MY FOOT IN ANYWAY will not actually be helping me.

The old man shop keeper and his customer came running out when they saw me face plant. The old man is such a sweetheart and is always practicing his English with me so I know him well enough. They helped me hobble back to the school elevator where I tried to pretend 'it's okay' and took it back up to the school.

The walk from the elevator to the front school lobby was like the length of the Wall of China but I managed to make it.

Cue sympathy givers: Koreans are known for being so concerned about you when you're sick. Imagine a white chick who can't walk. It's the perfect place for a hyprochondriac!

D ran to the rescue as well, finding no ice but frozen dumplings - which were working just fine. Except the pain wasn't stopping. And my wimp-factor being high, I felt a bit bad kinda saying, 'well, it still hurts'.

I was sure it was a sprain but the teachers insisted I go to see an acupuncturist. Okay. Whatever works.

I had never had needles stuck in me before to help pain but have heard others rage about it so figured this would be the place it would help. After assessing my foot, he asked if I had ever had acupuncture before:

Me: No

Nice-man-doc: oh..heh heh...

M:(blink)

NMD: This will hurt small.

As much as my throbbing foot? I doubt it but hey, my threshold for pain is so low, I might as well get stressed about that too!

I took deep breaths on the medical table, and was causing such a scene that the NMD had to tell me to 'be calm'. Oh, yes, famous last words.

But the pain was small, just like he said. And I tried not to think about the fact that I was now becoming a pin cushion. And, one pin went astray. And I let out a yelp. Like a dying dog.

NMD: Yes, sorry.

Yes that's F***IN RIGHT YOU'RE SORRY!! Can someone tell me when this is going to make the pain in my foot go away?

It felt like acid was seeping out of the pores of my foot - although that could have been blood - I was too busy whimpering too look down.

Then I imagined it was the pain in my foot, oozing out. Like some magic trick. Like magic acupuncture. (are there drugs in those needles?)

It did subside and after 20 minutes, we were told that I was finished, my sprained foot would probably be fine soon, to come back 6 more times and oh yes, please be sure to go and get some X-rays just in case it is actually broken.

Off we went again, director, driving receptionist and hob-along A to what we thought would be a waste of time.

We didn't wait very long at all - and the Xray man was certain to use the most up-to-date technology to make sure the Xray rays did not harm me...um..ya, I guess it must be that INVISIBLE protection...

10 minutes later and it was time to take the waygook into see the doctor. And then the Days of our Lives moment came when the doctor said (gasp) 'It's broken'.

My director and driver could not have looked more shocked. We were CERTAIN it was only a sprain.

And suddenly I felt vidicated. I'M NOT A WIMP. IT DID REALLY F***IN HURT!

The Xray showed that there is a small break across my metatarsals or toe bones. 'Very small' the smiley doctor said. And the good news is that it doesn't hurt unless I stand on it.

After he cast it, the friendly doctor let me know he was going to give me a good Christmas present. He would take the cast off.

Yes. Great. A hob along until Christmas.

How am I EVER going to hold my rum and eggnog at Christmas dos with these damn crutches?

If anyone can figure it out, it'll be me.

Friday, November 17, 2006

It Only Takes One Trip

I have a longer post to write, although it may not be until Monday.

I don't want to alarm anyone who may actually know me but for the first time in my 30 years I have broken a bone.

Nothing exciting, just slipped and fell outside the Family Mart and cracked my foot.

What we thought was a sprain turned out to be a break and now, half cast and all, I'm the hob-along-teacher, bossing children all over the place to carry my books and get me water.

If I knew the royal treatment I would get, I would have broken my foot months ago.

Mother Ship and family posse - never fear. Will talk to you tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Rude and Crude

When shopping for shoes on Saturday, K and I encoutered the most horrible lady I've ever met.

After saying our 'anyongasseyo', as politely and most accurately as we could, she just grunted.

I pointed to the bottom of a shoe, which had the shoe size I wanted, and she sort of just grunted again.

Moments like these make me want to scream 'DO YOU WANT ME TO SPEND MONEY HERE OR NO?'

But I was calm. I figured it was simply a culture miscommunication and so, I patiently waited for her to undo the plastic bag (no shoe boxes here) that had the pair of shoes I wanted.

I slipped on the shoe, which was most comfortable and actually had an open back that I thought would be easy and comfortable for teaching.

(Note: It seems many Koreans buy these types of shoes. I finally realised that the number of times they have to remove them to sit down in restaurants or going into homes, what's the point of laces and backs of shoes?)

K and I assessed the shoes a few more times and I realised that my North American feet would not be so warm in the shoes that act like sandals.

'Kam-samneeda' I said and smiled. And then I unleased the dragon. Dragon lady, that is.

The old woman started tsking and grunting and saying 'ga ga ga' , waving her hand at me like I was a dog.

We stood there stunned. I made a decision to contort my facial expression into the most disgusted I've ever been able to and to simply STAND THERE.

Stand there and let her bear witness to the fact that I thought she was crazy. That for once I was GLAD I didn't know what she was saying. That she could go ahead and say 'ga ga ga' all day and I still wasn't moving, or changing my expression.

I held my ground for a few minutes and decided that what I really wanted was to buy shoes and that I wasn't going to give my service to someone who was treating me like a canine.

We left a bit shell shocked, wondering what on earth we had done. Why was it that this woman was so offended? Why did she hate us so?

My Korean friends said she was just being rude. But it had to be more than that. I've never seen someone that angry.

Over the past four months we have been treated (mostly) with nothing but kindness, nothing but people who are so grateful that we are willing to teach their children our mother tongue.

Perhaps being foreign isn't always a good thing.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Oooo Ahh It's Friday..

When I was growing up I used to listen to a radio station in Toronto called 680, which was basically a top 40 station that included not only the most cheesiest songs of the day ( can you say New Kids on the Block and old school Maria?)

In my small town we never really got great reception so I can distinctly remember straining through the crackles just to hear 'the best' DJs - being 'the best' because I was like 16 and I wouldn't listen to like anything that wasn't like the best like c'mon are you crazy or what? du--huh...

One of the DJs' names was Tarzan Dan. If you're from around Toronto - or any small hick town that might have gotten the least bit reception - you may have heard of him.

I can't really remember much of his schtick when I was younger, I just remember his name, remember that EVERYONE loved him and that someday, if I could (sing it with me now) make it there in the big T. Dot, then I would have as fabulous life as he did. Or at least as fabulous as all the screaming girls that would call in to win tickets or to even meet the famous man himself.

During my last year of university, a new station, KISS92 FM, came out with guess who?

TARZAN DAN!!!

It was so poetic back then - here I was, getting ready to take on the world! And here he was, still making young girls dreams come true by sending them off to the concert of their dreams - by this stage it was now the Backstreet Boys.

There was a contest where you could register your phone number, if they called you, you had so say:

"Kiss 92FM plays today's hit music now give me my money"

And if you said, 'hello' or 'er' or something other than the catchy marketing slogan there was no money for you.

Everyone LOVED it if Tarzan Dan was the DJ on duty when they won.

And everyone also loved to hear Tarzan Dan and his morning show, especially on Fridays, when he would howl a the top of his lungs, like a monkey in the jungle:

'OOOOOOOOOOOOOO AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH IT'S FRIIIIIIIIIIIDAYYYYYYYYYY'

And you knew the weekend has landed.

So now, without fail, every Friday morning, I continue the TD's mantra, perhaps not quite as loud and long but it's what I hear in my head that counts.

***********

I leave you with a funny post by a very funny lady, as I found it so inspiring today. And she's just a riot. Is it bad that I picture myself doing this?

**********

I also leave you with a quick link to one of my newest blog buddies. She's much better at the pics then I am so if you want to actually SEE what I've been talking about, check her out.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Some Potty Talk

We all do it - just perhaps a bit differently in each country.

I'm hoping to eventually get a shot of a public bathroom here in Korea but I think I will save that for a picture day.

What I can tell you is that as easily as picking up chopsticks and not thinking about it has become, so too has squatting to take a piss.

For most comfort, Koreans sit on the floor. They have rubbery bending legs that allow themselves to sit in the frog position the majority of the time.

Or if they're not squatting, it's the crossed legged look, backs straight, legs intertwined.

As you get older - well as I'VE gotten older - sitting in this position has not really gotten easier but I am constanly amazed at the speed and gracefulness with which these Koreans fold-and-sit as though they were as limber as a kindergartener.

So it makes more sense to not have a toilet in most public washrooms but to have a squatter or perhaps the more polite term would be 'female urinal'.

This is perhaps the best way to describe them as well.

Imagine a urinal you would find in any male toilet. Ladies, pretty sure you can use your imagination or perhaps have at one time stumbled drunken into the men's OR our of sheer drunken need chosen NOT to wait in line and simply use the men's stall, after having someone carefully look out for you in case any males actually tried to use the bathroom (no? no one? oh, right just me then...)

So, imagine a urinal and then imagine putting it in a photocopier and shrinking it by 50%.

Now, instead of putting it on the wall, lay it on the floor.

The 'bottom sticky out bit' where the direction of the liquid then flows down the drain remains and also acts as the drain.

Now, build a stall around it.

You have your female urinal.

When faced with this for the first time, there will be three questions you will ask yourself:

Where do I sit?

Which way do I stand...er squat?

Where the hell am I and how the hell are my North American legs ever going to master this?

(not NECESSARILY) in that order.

Ever been camping? Okay, well then you know how to pee in Korea. Just like peeing in the bush. Except there are no bears. At least not that I've seen. And you don't have any 'emergency' leaves so BE SURE there is toilet paper otherwise, you'll be outta luck.

It shouldn't take long to figure out which way you should squat. The ceramic piece that comes out of the ground like a dome (usually the bottom bit of the male urinal) acts as a deflection device for...well...as a female you probably have never really THOUGHT about the speed at which your stream can flow. And it can get height too. Like you're going up on the backboards to slam down that rebound. Your stuff got game, yo.

So, all of this is very overwhelming, in addition to all the OTHER things that are overwhelming you when you arrive in a strange country.

But four months in, I'm going 'camping style' like it's nobody's business and like I've done it before a gazillion times.

And it occured to me last night, how totally unforeign it has become and how I would probably forget to tell a new person here about them before they went in. And I had to think to myself, is that a good thing? That squatting has become second nature?

Well, at least you know you can always take me camping.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A Whole Lot of Pointin Going On

Now that we've been spending time with other foreigners, I realise how LITTLE we actually know of the Korean language.

We have, for the most part, been able to get by with what we know (this seriously consists of 'thank you' 'hello' and 'yes') and I suppose one could continue down this path but I figure if people will take the time to speak English, the least I can do is try.

Numbers seem to be weird. There are two sets for two different types of numerical meanings. Great. So not only do I have to memorise the words that mean the numbers but I have to figure out whether it's talking about what time it is or what number of soju bottle I'm on.

The ignorant part of me thinks, hey, fingers work! 'I want 2 beers. Yes 2. See? I'm holding up 2 fingers. I can't imagine needing any more than 10 of anything at one time. I am blessed with 5 digits on each hand so I'm in a pretty good position to not have to master numbers.

But then the worldly part of me thinks no, A. You conquer your fears. You go near those numbers you avoid like the plague and you get em tiger. Maybe they'll make more sense in Korean! Maybe that's been the problem all along. These Asians are pretty darn clever with those numbers. Maybe it's easier to understand them!

Then of course there is the endings of words. I have now learned that how you end a phrase is actually expressing to the person how much RESPECT you think they are owed. I can't remember the endings, but one is highest and one is lowest (yes, this makes sense in a hierarchal system) and the one in the middle must mean you're not quite sure but don't want to offend.

Great. So not only do I have to learn how to say how are you? I will also have to guess how much I want to KNOW how the person is. And how nicely I want to ask. Just another thing to panic about as I'm already thinking of the sentence structure, sound emphasis and words: Whether or not Mr. Korean Man will be offended by what I've just tried to garble out.

I've been told learning the sounds is easy. That all of the characters have a sound and you simply LEARN the sound then string them together.

So if the symbols are 'shape-like-small-l' 'shape like t' 'shape like an E missing the top and the bottom' the sounds would be something like 'ta' 'ya' 'ree' and so if these three sounds are side by side on a billboard you can then say with confidence, 'Oh, that sign says ta'ya'ree' smile at your party trick and be none the wiser that you've just pronounced the word for whore house and are smiling and pointing about it in public.

Then you could buy the Tshirt 'I learned how to read Hangul and all that got me was some unwanted female attention'. Great.

This learning the language is sounding easier all the time.

Thank goodness for pictures in restaurants. Pointing rarely offends and certainly won't pronounce something incorrectly. And hey, two fingers always means two....or peace sign (which the Koreans love).

Although I guess in England, it's also another way to say f-off.

It's settled then. Learn Hangul. Or never order two of anything.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Click!

It was like a switch just went off in my brain and suddenly I just felt like I was at home.

Perhaps it was last week planning Halloween, a holiday that was so wonderful in my youth but was a bit lost over the past couple of years. Well, not so much lost as there was always a party but I hadn't really dressed up and didn't EVER see trick or treaters.

And I just suddenly felt like a kindergarten teacher. Just that.

Perhaps this is weird to say (or read) because well DUH isn't that what you do?

But it was like I no longer felt foreign. I no longer felt out of place or amongst strange people. It was like I have this job as a teacher and in the evenings I go home and watch English tv and on Wednesdays I meet up with other foreigners and on Fridays I meet up with them again and life just continues on.

This is the first time in years I've been hanging out with North Americans and I forgot how much easier it is sometimes to just be with people that have grown up similiar to you - even if they are miles apart on the other side of the country, there is still a common bond that, as hard as I try, I don't know if I'll ever because able to articulate it.

It's not that I didn't love living in Leeds and Belfast. I did. There were so many amazing memories and experiences.

But I always just felt that little bit out of place. Well, not in the moment. I liked being a bit of an outsider, standing out a bit, Gemini attention thing I guess.

It was only in coming here that I realised that I really did miss my life in Canada.

And that I'll be happy and excited when we go back.

Perhaps I was always nervous that I wouldn't fit in back home. In some ways, I'm sure I won't. And realisitcally, the people I'm meeting here are well traveled and perhaps more than anything have so many common interests with me that maybe THAT's why I feel so comfortable and 'at home' around them.

I'm not sure but it was a pleasant curve ball in this experience that I wasn't expecting. I was so worried scary culture shock would last so much longer.

It is sometimes the 'giving in' to the universe. Just admiting that you are prepared for life to be difficult and then it becomes 100 times easier than you ever expected it to be.

Strange feel. Slightly philosophical today. And not many jokes.

But tune in again this week because I'm researching my thesis on 'the worst drivers in the world' and 'being a pedestrain among them'.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Dragon, The Tiger and The Korean Lady

This is the scariest dragon I've ever seen. (Thank you E for sending me a shot of the Tyeger)



This Tiger might scare me a bit more if it could stop smiling with those cute dimples. (Thank you S for sending me a shot of Mini Skinner)

The scariest picture I could find this Halloween has go to be The Korean Lady:

This is me dressing up in Korea. The kids looked at me a little strange as to them I was not 'dressed up' but hey, could you imagine me walking up Yonge street in this outfit? Or perhaps down Boar Lane in Leeds? No, I know, DEFINITELY my shopping outfit for Castle Court in Belfast.

Then it's off to White's Tavern for a pint of Guinness and perhaps some kimbap....do you think they have it?

Monday, October 30, 2006

C'est Halloween

It's been a long time since I've actually been excited about Halloween.

They don't really DO the holiday in the UK, except of course to have people dress up and get drunk at parties but that can happen on any random weekend so it doesn't really count. I think more and more kids are getting used to trick or treating but not in the extravagant way it happens in North America.

But this year, as last minute as any Korean event can be, we are gearing up for a big party and haunted house at the school...tomorrow. Too boring to explain why but the good news is that it gives us another day to prepare ourselves...since we only started planning YESTERDAY!!!

Needless to say, although it's tuesday I probably won't have time for a longer blog and thought I better get something up here since I haven't updated since last week.

Looking forward to getting dressed up, handing out candy and scaring the pants off little children.

Also battling the bird flu virus of colds (which is not to say it's that terrible just that it's lingering...and every morning is a hacking coughing phlem filled occasion) so hoping it will go away by at least next Monday.

3 months till I'm back in Chicago for my sister's wedding...wow...can't believe how time is flying. And this also means I only have 12 weeks to fit BACK into any of the clothes I lugged all the way over here.

So, cold cold go away, come again...oh no wait, piss off.

Then I get get back to getting huge at the gym. Er, rather, getting huge in my living room listening to Madonna and pretending I'm in an aerobics step class.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Panic Attack

So, I attempted to update my blog last night AND this morning to find that there was something up with the site.

It wouldn't have been SO bad if I hadn't just recently realised that I don't have a back up of the writing that goes on here and have only started to back it all up.

What weird karma it would have been if it was all lost just days after I decided to keep. The universe really works in weird ways.

So, I'm off to finish backing up all the content today, now that it's back up and running.

In the meantime, I'll leave you with a few things weirder than the blogger karma that was bestowed upon me.

Lately I feel a bit spoiled for choice on what to write about here as I've got this energy back that keeps me observing things left right and centre. And of course, I'm not one to keep quiet about my observations!

But since I just uploaded more pics I thought I would bring you the weird wacky world of English Signage in Korea. Call in konglish, call it grammatically incorrrect, call it whatever you like. An English speaker can always find a bit o humour amongst all the hangul signs.



Kraze Burgers. They're Kraze about everything. Their the latest Kraze. Or maybe they mean Krazee. Certainly they're Krazee about burgers. So Krazee they'd be insane not to INCLUDE A PICTURE OF A BURGER. Yup. Pretty Krazee. Word.

This was from a new bar in Seoul called the U2 bar - it spread across the bar but I caught it in two pics:

I'm pretty sure it's not the ceiling, or the stars or the BRIGHT YELLOW PAINT that is the reason I'm drunken, although the paint could send someone on a mad acid trip. I would guess that the SERIOUS AMOUNT OF SOJU SHOTS have something to do with it. Never mind the fact that I didn't realise there was anything really wrong with the word DRUNKEN until I saw this the next morning.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Another Lesson in Taking the Simple Things for Granted

I have never really been vain about my hair. I'm always quite confident that no matter what happens, I will like the cut and hey, if all else fails, it WILL grow back.

When I was younger, I would go for months at at time without getting it cut. This is why in many of the photos of me in highschool you'll see a very Crystal Gayle looking figure. That's until I got the Jennifer Aniston, which sadly, after most cuts, my hair seems to still look like after all these years.

(Ask my sister C about when I get my hair cut and I'm confident she will roll her eyes, smile and say, oh, so you're back to the Jennifer look again?)

I went through a dying stage but it was VERY brief as I suddenly realised there was UPKEEP involved. C'mon people UPKEEP. You mean I have to SCHEDULE IN hair appointments to keep it looking like this? I've now decided no dying until I see a gray hair. Sadly, I can't go by when my mother first started going gray because she was a 'natural' red head for as long as I can remember.

(It's always funny when people look at my mother's hair and say, 'oh, that's where you get your red hair from'. Yes. That's it. From the chemical bottle at the hair dressers...whoops! Sorry Mother Ship, I think I just gave you away...)

My hair certainly wasn't something I was even thinking about when coming to Korea.

It was only after the America teacher L began talking about her nightmares that I stared to become a little cautious. Then again, she seemed a bit OBESSESED with her hair so I took her word with a grain of salt.

The most important thing I was told to ask for a 'trim'. For some reasons, Koreans will just start chopping and next thing you know you've got the Demi Moore from G.I Jane.

So, I stumbled into a place that had English on the sign and was pleasantly surprised to find that the woman spoke English. She had lived in Toronto for 7 years and was able to translate quite well.

I walked out of there, with little difference as I had only asked for a trim but certainly not with a style that I couldn't live with.

I decided last Friday to get my hair properly cut, as the trim had been about 8 weeks ago and the hair was become an unruly nest.

My friendly Toronto lady translated my Aniston-esque cut (just to my shoulders and layered around the front) with little effort.

I sat in the chair, confident that I would walk away with my usual.

I've never cut hair but it's funny how you can tell HOW people usually cut your hair. I noticed he was not doing the same thing that other hairdressers do. He seemed to be cutting very little off the ENTIRE head and more concentrating on the ends.

To make matters slightly worse, they don't actually wash your hair before the cut, so it's bascially a dry cut with some spray-bottle wetness, leaving the top of your head basically dry and the ends (where most of the cutting was going on) wet.

Stream of consciouness time...

'He's not actually cutting all the hair...why does he seem to simply snip at the ends but not take the weight of the top?...why am I seeing two of...oh yes, glasses off...

'The top is really looking much bigger than the bottom....like reallly a lot bigger...WHY is he STILL cutting the ends????....He's been doing that for the last five minutes????...this does not seem right.....

'It's just because it's dry....I'm not used to seeing my hair half wet and half dry.....but he is still hacking away at the ENDS!!! I WON'T HAVE ANY END LEFT!!!!...oh, more water...YES!! Make it all wet then perhaps it will make sense to my fuzzy eyes...

'Okay, it's official. I'm getting a mullet. A MULLET!!! BUSINESS IN THE FRONT!! PARTY IN THE BACK!!! I'LL BE ABLE TO PLAY FOR AN NHL EASY!!! IT'S THAT UGLY HAIR CUT ALL THE KOREANS HAVE THAT IS BASICALLY A MULLET!!! I CAN'T BELIEVE IT!!! I CAN'T STOP IT!!

'Okay so what? So I'll have a mullet. I'll be in fashion. I'll look hip. Everyone will say, 'Oh Teacher, very beautiful'. It will be just fine. It's just hair...

'BUT IT'S A MULLET!!!! A MULLET!!! YOU WILL BE GETTING YOUR PICTURE TAKEN AT SOME POINT OVER THE NEXT MONTH AND YOU WILL HAVE A MULLET!!!..'

'It's a talking piece. I'll just point my mullet out every time someon asks so that THEY will know that I KNOW I HAVE A MULLET!...

'Maybe it's not a mullet. Maybe it just looks that way. Maybe I will be saved from the mullet...'

(after wash and dry)

'Okay, it's looking kinda mullet-y. Okay, don't panic remember? Rise above the hair vanity. Think of the starving children in Africa. Think of all the poor people in the world. They wouldn't be complaining about the mullet. They'd just be happy to have the lice removed from their heads....

'Oh, he's going to straighten it. Okay, look SEE? SEE? IT'S FINE!! he he he IT'S NOT A MULLET!!! IT'S NOT A MULLET!!!..

'Well, it certainly isn't a mullet when it's straightened. No problem. I'll just straighten it every day...

End stream of consciouness.

For two days my hair looked un-mullety. Then I washed it.

I've a a semi mullet. There I've said it. Now I'm off to find a hair straightener so I don't get drafted to the Toronto Maple Leafs....although D would be my biggest fan.

(ps. I thought about posting a picture, and for humour's sake, I probably will, but I need it to look it's mullety best...and perhaps have the straightened version for you. Watch this space)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

That is So Typical Me

I have this annoying habit (okay I have many but this one of them) of simply trying to 'do things my own way'.

I have never been good at direction and for some reason I have this part of my brain that when I take on a task, no one else has ever done it before. Or more importantly, they may have done it but I can figure it out myself, without assistance.

Sans help.

Uno. Just uno.

Last night when we were out with a bunch of foreigners at this cheezy American style bar (which, we have discovered, has foreinger night not just on Friday but a good crowd comes on Wednesday and it so breaks up the week. Plus, D found not only dudes to play basketball with but their Canadian AND they walked in with hockey gear last night after some ice time at the local centre. And he wanted to go home after dinner....thank goodness for my rubber arm!)

So we're out with these foreigners and this lovely lady L who is 60 and has been teaching for probably about 40 years starts telling me about all these games you can play and these exercises you can do with kids.

I was happy when I figured out my 'come up with as many letters as you can that start with this letter' game.

And suddenly I realised, people HAVE DONE THIS before. People ARE DOING THIS right now. And she had actually gotten her ideas FROM A BOOK.

Oh. You mean people acutally SEEK OUT HELP for this whole teaching ESL thing? Like, publishers have put money, time and effort into compiling methods THAT WORK and DO NOT NEED TO BE INVENTED AGAIN?

Today I was searching for materials for my class. And I stumbled upon GADS AND GADS of websites that contain exactly the type of information that is useful for classes that have already finished their books.

And I had to laugh at myself. Because it's so typical of me to assume that I could just figure things out on my own and reinvent the wheel.

And yet I was so pleased with myself that I had FOUND the information.

Because, you know, no one ELSE is using the resources online. I guess only SUPER GENUISES like me can type in a search in Google.

Ya, that's it.

See? Still so me.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Some Random Facts about me Today...

Four jobs I’ve had:
* Babysitter
* Waitress
* Reporter
* Telemarketer
(funny enough in that order)

Four movies I can watch over and over:
* Office Space
* Dirty Dancing (of course I'm a girl from the 80s..or is it the 90s? Okay I'm just a Dirty Dancing girl)

Four places I have lived:
Ingersoll (okay, if people don't know my real identity now, I think I've just given it away)
Toronto
Leeds
Belfast

Four websites I visit daily:
www.crazyauntpurl.com - cause she's so crazy
www.dooce.com - cause Leta's just too cute
www.canada.com - woo hoo! Canada rules!!
www.bbc.co.uk - a bit o unbiased news...well, as unbiased as news can be...

Four places I would rather be right now:
With my family
On a beach
In a pub
In my bed

Four bloggers I am tagging:
Umm...I'm not sure any bloggers acutally READ this site but hey, if you do, go for it..

Friday, October 13, 2006

Get a Load of this Cute Face

How could you ever get angry at this one?


(And um yes, I'm talking about the kindergarten student. The Korean one.)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Fat Wrist Girl

Just thought I'd share with you all my most recent lowest of the low.

You know you need to lose weight when...the bracelet that once slid with ease up and down your forearm is now stuck in its place.

Oh dear. Too bad I all my fat pants are in a box on its way back to Canada.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Get a Life

The past week and a half have been so dramatically different than our 3 previous months here.

We have been out pretty much every night, not exactly Belfast style, but just getting out of the house and enjoying adult English conversation.

With our new teacher B and my new best friend K - she's a girl from Michigan who we met a few weeks back by chance and we clicked instantly. She's Korean American teaching here and lives right near our hogwan so it's easy to just meet up with her. Plus, she's a fellow Gemini and you know how us crazies get on - anyway, with their introduction into our lives it feels a bit like we now have some...lives that is.

I suppose that was one of the biggest adjustments. Not having a social life and not being able to switch off from work. D and I did a good job on the weekends simply saying that on Friday night, no more school talk. But during the week, we couldn't help but moan a bit about our days. And we had holed ourselves up in our apartment, watching DVDs and not really venturing out during the week for fear exhaustion would kill us.

I suppose I feel a bit more tired since we have been out during the week but at the same time, I don't mind being tired as long as it's from enjoying life and not from stress, work and worry.

Last night I had a strange worlds-colliding moment as I met two of my dad's business associates out for dinner with a Korean business man who is working with them. I sat through dinner, happy to have a chat with a couple of dudes from Chicago. I watched them struggle..and succeed..with their chopsticks and thought of how many different countries and cities and cultures my dad has been through. He must have been just like them.

(Okay, well not EXACTLY like them with the chopsticks thing because for as long as I can remember, our family ate Chinese food with chopsticks. I grew up thinking everyone really already knew how to use chopsticks and even still find it odd when people ask if I know how. Then, I feel like I sound a bit pretentious when I say 'Yes. I've been eating with them for as long as I can remember. Now pass me my mallet Jeeves, it's time to play some croquet with William and Harry. I think Charles is sitting this one out however. And don't let old Lizzie in. She'll surely whip our posh derrieres.')

So I felt a bit closer to him all the way in Korea and made the two dudes promise to say hello and let him know I missed him and although they drew the line at giving him a big hug for me, they did promise to let him know that I was looking happy and healthy.

There is talk one of them wil be back in a months time and with a little presuasion (and I suppose work justification) I'm hoping maybe my dad will get back here with him.

Dinner was finished early enough that I headed to our 'local', this cheezy American-style place called Beer and Girls where D, teacher B and Korean Best Friend K were waiting.

It reminded me of so many times in Belfast on a Friday night, when I would be getting back late from work and D would already be out with the gang and then I would arrive a bit later.

It kinda felt just like that.

So I'm certain I've almost found my place in Korea. My comfort space. A way to call it home.

And somehow, that makes the kindergartens all that more cuter.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

I'm Such a Star Sign Junkie

Okay, my favorite crazy aunt posted her usual monthly horoscopes and I just couldn't resist posting mine. If you know me, it's not really that far off...

GEMINI (May 21 - June 21)My most favorite Gemini recently turned 62, cashed out all his stock in a Big High-Tech Company, and bought himself a brand new Corvette. HE IS SUCH A GEMINI. Hi wife, a darling Cancer, probably had a near heart attack. Geminis are always being characterized as impulsive and selfish. But I'm going to teach ya'll a great Southernism you must embrace: ya'll are just particular. It's not that you fly by the seat of your pants, always running afoul of the boring signs with your hedonism and impracticality. Ya'll are just particular, see? You have needs, and while they may not mesh with anyone else's vision of reality, ya'll just keep on down the path to crazybones because you know, you KNOW, that when you find happiness you better damn well be driving a fun car. Amen.

See? I'm just slightly misunderstood.

A Clear Head...almost..

Any of you who know me well, or perhaps have read this blog for awhile will know that I have recently (meaning in the past two years) become a fitness freak. Actually, FREAK maybe a bit harsh as i'm not the 5-hours-a-day type freak but I'm certainly one that feels my brain needs activity to function normally.

Our school has finally hired one new foreign teacher which has a) lightened the workload and b) given me a social outlet - two things I was in dire need of at the end of September.

A relaxing week of shopping, eating and drinking in Seoul didn't hurt my situation either.

But now, after waking up last night about 4 different times, I realise that I need to become active again.

Insomia is not a cool thing and mine stems mostly from anxiety which I seem to not have any of when I've got the good old seratonin going.

In Belfast, the gym was right across the street from my house AND had all these amazing classes that kept me interested and well, fit.

I'm not really that happy with the fact my clothes aren't fitting but I'm more worried about 'going postal' if I'm not getting some regular cardio into my day.

The gym here is not great and it's inconveinent, especially with the hours I work. So, in Seoul, I treated myself to an MP3 player. Now, I just have to get songs on it. The new teacher B has been most kind as he has many songs on his laptop and said he'd be happy to put some on their for me now.

I figure with some kick ass music and good earphones, I should be able to get back to running outside, actually running for longer than I did at the gym.

Life in Korea is definitely changing all the time and for the better. I have more of my day back, which makes me feel less like a work horse and more like a human being.

Now, I just need to get my nights back.

***********************

In light of the fact that this ENTIRE post doesn't really have an interesting Korean angle, I thought I would post you all a picture of the recent kids cutlural event. How cute are they in their outfits????

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

And Then There Was 3

We welcomed another foreign teacher to the school on Sunday night. We went with our director to pick him up from the airport. And then in Korean style, we went out for food at 10pm.

I already feel lighter. Things feel like they're coming together.

To make matters even sweeter, he's from England, near Leeds and is everything I have missed about the old place. What a great reminder from the 'old country'.

We have a break after today and I don't expect to be blogging much. We're off to Seoul and then maybe to Busan on the weekend - I never turn down an opportunity to get to the beach.

Thanks to everyone for your emails, comments and maybe silent thoughts. Your karma and kind thoughts have lifted me just as much as the bloke from Yorkshire.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Never Ending Quest to Save the Planet

This is a picture of our sink.



It's quite large in size and is actually much better than two sinks beside each other. (A's Kitchen Remodelling Tip #1.)

This is what you would assume is a garbage disposal - and what we assumed the first day we moved in. You should have seen how apprehensive we both were to put our fingers near it. Suddenly turning into one of those bad sitcom jokes where the dumb dude puts his fingers directly in the sink only to have them sliced and diced by the disposal.

Ah, but presto as in the magic world that is Korea, things are not always what they seem.


TA-DA! It's a removeable basket. So the food can collect and get all gunky in here as opposed to the pipes. Just another way you can SEE and SMELL the way you are making a difference.

You cannot see from his picture but the deep cylinder in the sink has two holes along the side to let the water through. Well, that's after the water gets through the mesh.

This is a must for the lazy cooker. Potatoe peels? Just wash them down the sink. Tops of carrots, tomoatoes, peppers 'insert any other vegetable here'? Just push it down the sink!

Okay, so I suppose this is how a disposal works but what fun is it when you can actually BRING UP all that food all over again? Just so you can see how much food your wasting?

Here's another angle, sans basket:

And here's a closer look at the basket:

And once the thing has been cleaned - again, notice the soap suds - it's time to replace the disposal-looking top to its rightful place.

As good as new. Ready to scare the next foreinger into sticking their hand in and mashing it up.

Monday, September 25, 2006

This is the Way Spa-ing it is Done

They have places here called jjimjilbangs that are essentially a little piece of heaven and are exactly what spas were meant to be.

Imagine 5 different whirlpools, all with different temperatures, a hot sauna, a wet sauna, various 'vanity' sinks at which you can sit and groom yourself and to top it off, two ladies at the back giving the best scrubs, rubs and massages you can imagine.

Massages and rubs that cost LESS than 3 gin and tonics at Morrisons in Belfast. That's only 2 hours worth of drinking...

Okay, now suspend belief a little while longer, try not to get weirded out and just simply take all your clothes off.

Then, just walk around like it's totally normal, because everyone else there is naked so there's nothing really to the fact that you're naked.

I'm think this may actually beat out Body Pump at the gym. I never thought I would say that.

But skin has never looked or felt better. I was so relaxed and yesterday, I could even feel the toxins leaking out of me.

Belfast had the 'work less, party more' attitude. Korean has the 'work like you've never worked before' and then go and relax in a hot sauna, with a bunch of other ladies you don't know but who will see more of than most of your close friends in your lifetime.

I am imagining some of you reading this and I'm imagining myself reading it before I actually came here and thinking, 'are you nuts?' but I guess, as the old V joke would go, 'it's a location thing'.

Get here and you'll get it.

Now, if I could just figure out this whole working culture thing...maybe I could mash the Belfast work culture with the Korea relax culture and just create my own island somewhere.

Friday, September 22, 2006

What 5 Minutes is Worth

I decided I would begin to write a blog exactly when the class bell rings just to see how much I could actually write in 5 minutes.

We are now being told that as of November, we will have the same schedule every day and it won't include any breaks from 2pm to 7pm (or roughly there about). This is not including the two hour long kindergartens classes we have to teach in the moring. I guess we do prep time in our sleep????

But we WILL be given 10 minutes in between each class.

This is 'a lot of time', as per the new manager that started when we did at the school.

I'll be interested to see if this makes me more tired or if 10 minutes is really enough time to regroup and get your energy back in front of kids.

As usual, we weren't going to be told until the last minute. It was only because we asked for a meeting and because we impressed the importance of us having input into the schedule considering we do teach the classes.

Korean culture is very much 'do as your told' and I've been fairly good at that my whole life, as long as I'm being respected and what I'm beign told makes sense. It's a bit difficult for us to know what makes sense if we only find out about massive changes to the school the day before they're about to happen.

all in all it was a good meeting and we made some progress. Still learning the politics of the wholething but there's politics in any job isn't there?

There goes the bell. So, according to the new schedule, I should be able to write twice this amount.

Lucky you.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

This is the Way We Compost our Food, Compost our Food, Compost our Food

(facinating how teaching kindergarten gives you this 'gift' to turn every normal sentence into a song. Sing it with me now people....early in the morning)

I thought I would give you a little glimpse into the Korean proceedure for disposal of your food garbage. When I first arrived from un-green Belfast (yes, I said it. Belfast is not green. I don't care what the leprecauns told you! them or Westlife!) I was at a loss to figure out just HOW I was going to manage all the extra time and effort it takes to actually NOT BE A TOTAL WASTER.

Now, it seems a bit like second nature.

In every household in Korea (or at least every KOREAN household as the foreign one we moved into was NOT equiped with the following device giving me an ever needed excuse to A go shopping and B spend money) the following bucket.



This looks like an ordinary bucket but I can assure you my friends, it is not. Watch as the magic unfolds:

There's another bucket inside! This smaller bucket is where the food sits. Scraps from dinner. Food that has gone off. Any item that can be composted.

And here is where the magic begins:

We have a special colour coded handle which allows us to lift out the black bucket when it is full. Let me clarify here that while you're in the house, you RARELY keep the lid off the bucket for very long. These pictures were taken AFTER I had gone outside to the green compost bin to dispose of the daily food waste. It's amazing how DISGUSTING it smells when there is rotting food in it so I avoid at all costs opening it for more than the millisecond it takes to put the food in.

(yes, you read right MILLISECOND. Amazing how fast you can master something when gagging comes into play)

So, as I was saying, when you are OUTSIDE you can easily lift the black bucket out to dump the garbage in the compost bin.

And here it is. All squeakly clean. And dish soap smelling. It's hard to tell from this image, but it's built a little like a colander, with net-like holes for the liquid to drip out. The liquid then runs into the main bucket - here's what the bottom looks like, again, freshly washed:

I haven't quite figured out why the liquid needs to drain out. I just end up pouring the liquid in the compost bin as well. Perhaps, just like laundry, the Koreans like their dirty things separate. Dirty food. Dirty liquid. Separate containers.

Once you're finished, the black bucket fits nicely back into the green one. (notice the soap suds on the metal sink - this blue bucket wouldn't be withint 100 feet of that thing if it hadn't been disinfected)

And finally, the lid retuns to it's rightful place, ending the daily ritual in a effort to keep the earth clean.

Doing my bit for the environment. One rotting apple at a time.

Tomorrow: the SINK compost and the story of how what we thought was a garbage disposal on our first day in the house, turned into just another way to have rotting food lying around.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A Little Bit Fishy


We spied this beauty in a fish market near our house. I don't know if it really illustrates just how weird it is to walk along a vegetable market and come across this. A squirmy, squiggly, live octopus. Just out there. To be bought.

When I took this picture, the woman who runs the stand came over and started speaking to me in that-language-I-cannot-speak. My instinct was to get scare, as I always do when I 'get in trouble' and apologise for taking a picture of her wares.

D pointed out that perhaps she just thought I wanted to buy it. Umm ya, well I guess that would make more sense.

What brings me to finally post it today is that we have not only witnessed an octopus-to-eat live, we've EATEN it. Okay, well when I say 'we' I me D but since we do the highs and the lows together, I might as well take credit for his bravery.

We were out with the teachers the other day for a much needed bonding eating session. They took us for sashimi, kind of like sushi but without the rice so as one of the skinny-weight-conscious Korean teachers said 'it's not as many calories'. Nuff said.

The fish was absolutely delicious. The best full I've ever had.

But before they busted out the pieces of fish, there were many courses of things, things which we just dive in and try most of the time and which brave D can say he ate all of.

It was when they brought out the 'live octopus'. People, understand this. IT IS LIVE. IT IS MOVING. IT IS TRYING TO LIVE.

In a little dish, tiny pieces of the octopus squirmed and squiggled around.

'Live octopus' one of the teacher said.

In my most polite - although high pitched - voice 'Oh, so they are live?'

'Yes' he nodded in the same way one might confirm that one would in fact like cream in the coffee.

And, since in comfortable company, I felt comfortable saying I would pass.

What I would have liked to say is that if that squirmy thing passes my lips, all those other wonderful fishes and vegetables and who knows what I've just eaten will most certainly come right back up. And then I will ruin everyone's meal.

But there was D. After struggling with his chopsticks, he finally nabbed one and threw the slimy sucker back.

After it was in his mouth, the aforementioned teacher let us know that sometimes, you can be 'suffocated' by the suction of the octopus. SUFFOCATED??? WHY DOES THAT SOUND WORSE THAN CHOKING??? ANYONE WITH ME HERE??

And so he chewed. And chewed. And chewed.

And I did a quite side 'how is it?' to which he simply nodded, as he was still chewing.

He didn't get sick. He was in great form all night. And I'm sure he didn't give a second thought to the little guy he 'killed' in his mouth.

Braver than I. Although, I'm not sure he'll try it again. One of those 'only live once' moments.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Rainy Sunday

The weather gave us a gift this weekend. It was horrible.

We had planned to head straight from work on Friday to take in some sights in Busan, but the rain poured down and threats of a typhoon kept us away from the seaside town.

It was a blessing in disguise as what we both really needed was to do nothing all weekend. We are still covering off shifts which means we are working a lot longer with a lot more kids and that means more energy and time spent not only teaching but perparing.

By Friday, we were both so wrecked. We made a pact that there would be no negative school talk - sometimes we can't resist telling each other what our little ones do like when James tried to eat paste or when Alex kept 'cheating' all the other students - but it was more to keep the negative vibes of the politics surrounding the current work environment.

It amazed me how on Friday night, after a couple of glasses of wine and a hour of no negative work talk (NNWT), we felt refreshed.

For the next few weeks, our weekends will be our peace time. And, as much as I'd love the weather to explore, what I needed were two days of crappy stuff to regroup.

I keep telling myself this week will be better. It's only Monday but I'm not feeling AS drained as I did last Monday. Fingers crossed.

I'm also struggling with the culture shock side effects I think. We were listening to a Westlife song on Saturday night and I burst into tears, thinking about everything and everyone in Belfast we left behind. I was homesick for a place that I only called home for 2 years.

And, as nostalgia always is, I was forgetting all the reasons we wanted to leave. The monotany of drinking every weekend. The frustration of work life in a place where innovation is slightly lacking. The lack of ANYTHING to do but go to the pub. The costs. The weather. The feeling that if I'm going to simply set up a life, why am I not setting it up near my family? All these things escape your mind when you're looking back fondly

Culture Shock hitting me harder this time then it ever has before. I suppose on one hand it's good that I can recognise that this is what's happening.

I have a friend from university who has lived in much more exotic places then I - Rwanda, Papua New Guinea, China and most recently Kuwait - who I've had conversations with about the culture shock thing.

Although hers has been much more extreme, I feel like I can relate to a recent email she sent me, saying that she was having culture shock worse then she'd ever had it before. I can only imagine the differences in living like a place in Kuwait but I also feel like we're in a similar position.

You start to think it gets easier. You've done this more than once. And then it hits you like a brick wall. And you feel al bit helpless because you know how long it's going to last. And you know the types of things that will fix it. And you know how long it can take to make those things happen.

So just in the waiting game at the moment. The change is what makes it hard and I'm sure it will change all over again once the new foreign teachers arrive.

So I know this isn't over yet.

As a little hero I used adore once said, 'The sun will come out tomorrow'

Let's just hope I'm not in need of another vegging weekend when it does.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Let's Lighten it up, People

So, I've had a few intense blah blogs and thought I'd lighten it up a little with these pictures:


Nothing says hot holiday like a tank top. This was in a historic village in Seoul. I could have hung out here all day. It was so peaceful.



Sleeping area - hmmm..not quite sure about that. Bascially a gym mat on the floor. No wonder they drink so much Soju here. Makes it easier to just pass out on the floor.


A little proud moment - our Canadian representation in the Korean War. This was at the War Memorial in Seoul. Such a fantastic museum.

The gate of a tomb of some famous dude. I find the wood work facinating. After seeing it in pictures so many times over the years, it is quite surreal to actually see it in person.


The birthday boy's food spread. I'm telling ya, I'm getting to love all this food. And the whole chopsticks thing? Well, it feels TOO WEIRD to even use a fork now. Although, the Koreans are still kind enough to always bring them to us.