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.

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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?

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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?