Wednesday, December 30, 2009

NYE Itinerary

As excited as I am about everything I plan to do this week, I'm pretty bummed out about not being able to spend NYE with my friends. Thanksgiving and Christmas away from home didn't bother me any, but I have a tradition of hosting rockin' NYE parties, and I'm really going to miss that this year. I think maybe I'm missing my friends more than my family because I'm more used to time away from my family. *Le sigh*
nye07 009100_3513100_3516
1 p.m.- Take the train (green line to Samseong) to the COEX for the Seoul Doll Fair. The more pictures I see, the more I think my head may explode. I am SO excited for this exhibit. Squee! (I've been collecting teddy bears, Barbie dolls, and dolls from around the world my whole life. There are way too many boxes of these things in storage in the States right now.)
After that- some train hopping to Gwanghwamun Plaza (purple line) for a second shot at ice skating. I have no time constraints, so I can stand in line until I freeze to death, if I so choose.
Before midnight- some more train hopping to Hongdae (green line) to rock in the New Year.

6 a.m. Saturday- must find food and something to keep me occupied for a few hours. Mayhap a nap in a warm coffee shop?

12:30 p.m.- Pick up at Hongik Station for ski trip! I only found out about this Monday, checked with my stepmom to see if the price was as good a bargain as it seemed, and wired the money this afternoon.

I got a wicked cute magenta shell-style ski jacket for W39,000 ($35USD) and am totally psyched for 3 days of skiing, swimming, and drinking with a big group of foreigners I've never met. I almost bought a fancy ski mask for W19,000, but thought better of it and got a black knit cap that will stretch to cover my whole head for W4,000. All I need to do is cut some face holes.I spent a little more than I intended on ski pants, but the shop had one pair in my size, discounted by 70%. In total, I got ski pants, ski jacket, neck warmer, and ski mask for < $100USD. I figure it's a good investment as long as I don't gain more than 10 pounds or so for several years, and you really can't beat that price. (Bargain-hunting is a Paullet family pastime.)
Photo 17Photo 19
Not a day goes by that I don't want to rage quit this crazy country for some new reason. Today it happened while I was looking for sunblock. W9,900 for 125mL of weak-ass 35 SPF. That's less sunblock than would fill a cup of coffee. Fortunately, I made my way to the fancy, high end beauty products and found a small bottle of "olive mild FLOWER sun cream" 39 SPF broad spectrum sunblock for W4,900. Winna.

I'm hope everyone else in attendance will have a camera, so I can trade emails for photos.

I'll let you know how awesome it was when I return Sunday.

Monday, December 28, 2009

A Christmis-adventure

A teacher I work with gave me directions to a Catholic Church near me. I followed them with no luck until a Korean family turned onto the sidewalk in front of me, the two children wearing hand decorated felt Santa hats and the father carrying a Bible. Deciding this must be divine providence, I followed Dream Methodist Church. Meh. Christmas service is Christmas service, right? I witnessed no smiting, so I assume it's no biggy in God's book.

The preacher wore black slacks in the Korean style- poorly tailored and unhemmed, folds falling in bunches at his ankles, offending even my limited fashion senses- with a fancy white suit jacket and black bow-tie. He had a melodious voice despite the language- too many k's, ch's, and sh's, I think- but this quickly changed as the sermon rose to a zealous pitch. I didn't know a word he said, but I do know it was nothing to do with Christmas or love. I zoned out as he droned on, thinking what I would preach for Christmas. (I decided on the miracle of Jesus' birth with a focus on the reality Mary suffered instead of the pretty nativity pictures we see.) And then I wondered what the heck Koreans celebrate on Christmas, because I haven't seen a single manger scene all month.* Wtf, yo? And then cue eucharist preparation with the goriest scenes from some crucifixion movie on the jumbo screens. I found this vile and offensive on Christmas day. Oh well, it would probably be the last time I attend church while in Korea.**

I found the ice rink at Gwanghwamun with no trouble. But I failed to anticipate that half of Seoul would turn out for ice skating on Christmas day. I don't mind the crowds, but I would have waited in line for a ticket longer than I could skate, so I got back on the train to Itaewon.

I couldn't remember which exit I was supposed to take, but I guessed correctly, found Suji's, and still had two hours to burn. Luckily, there is a sizable market on the same street and hella good coffee. I got some awesome stripy socks for W2,000 but didn't care for the prices of anything else I saw on the street. Until I saw some coin scarves in the window. I went in, checked out their quality, and asked about the price. W30,000 for the white velvet one I was eyeing- I'll take it! I know you're supposed to haggle in SK, but that was half of what I could expect to pay for the same item back home, so it completely slipped my mind.
Photo 14
Now if I can only find a place to belly dance. Hell, I might just wear it to Hongdae.

Dinner was OK, but I can't believe I paid that much for it. There was pastrami, turkey, ham & pineapple, salad, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and a green been dish. The food wasn't as warm as I would have liked and was a bit bland, but where else am I going to get an American Christmas dinner in Korea? The eggnog was OK, and the pumpkin pie dessert was stellar. It started snowing while I ate, and the atmosphere was quite lovely. The baby at the table next to me had me laughing all evening while he played the "throw everything I can get my hands on onto the floor for the servers to pick up" game.

I decided to head home after that and spend the rest of the evening warm at my place.

*I asked a coworker the next day, and he explained to me that Koreans celebrate Christmas as a western holiday of gift-giving and don't know the history of it.
**Four days later my boss' wife is asking me to come to church with her family regularly because Dream Methodist is where they attend.

Why have you forsaken me?

Oh Lord, in your infinite power and wisdom, please have mercy upon this poor, tortured soul and smite my neighbors who run their laundry less than 6 feet above my head at night, who shower only after midnight, who defile my home with cigarette smoke, and who come in at the wee hours of a TUESDAY morning drunk as skunks and singing at the tops of their lungs. In your name I pray. Amen.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Wtf, Korea?

So you know, a 30% chance of precipitation today amounted to about 2 inches of snowfall. 2 inches of snow will not deter Koreans from wearing high heels or sandals or making speedy takeout deliveries by motorcycle or moped. Nor will it prompt anyone to plow or salt a single emeffing street or sidewalk. Wtf?

Also, what's up with men holding their girlfriends' and wives' shopping bags and purses? And I don't mean just holding them while she uses the ladies' room, but carrying them around the store and the whole subway ride home. Aside from the men seeming a bit effeminate or p-whipped from an American culture view, are Korean women really so weak from hunger that they cannot tote their own bowling bag sized purses?

Why would anyone. ever. push a 5-year-old child in a stroller? The child is too big for the stroller such that her legs hang over the front bar. Can it really be easier to push her than to tell her why God gave her legs?

Actually, I know this to be symptomatic of something larger at work. Korean parents baby their children so much that it is common for teenagers to be wholly unequipped to care for themselves in any way and living with one's parents until marriage is the cultural norm. It wouldn't be such a big deal except that in so doing, parents allow their girls to develop the obnoxious habit of whining and gesticulating to get what they want instead of using their words, English or otherwise, to ask nicely. I have several students who will whine and point until I do what they want; I never have a clue what that is, so I tell them as much and they will ask their peers to ask/tell me. And it's not just children. This behavior persists in some adult women, too. What. the. fuck.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Random poi practice

Things to do:

1. Get an iPod nano so I can get some decent footage of me doing cool things.
2. Practice more in hopes of a) not looking like I'm concentrating so much and b) developing my own flow/style.
3. Start my New Year's resolutions a week early with a daily one hour walk as long as the weather is above 20F plus adhering to my already written schedule to fill six days a week with various weights and high intensity exercises.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Super Smash Bros?

This is how my classes started, the only notable differences being the number and age of participants. And that this is the Korean Parliament. And you thought the U.S. Congress wasted time and money. Ha.

Spontaneous 'joy of shopping' photo dump

Photo 1
Spaghettini! I was overjoyed to find this in Asia. And sauce, too.
Photo 2Photo 3Photo 4
Disgustingly cute, no?
Photo 5Photo 6
I don't really like pink that much, but when it costs 75% less than all the others...
Photo 8
Christmas poo! I'm developing a habit of purchasing really random stuff to send to friends.

Today is AWESOME!

But we'll start with last night. I tutor my boss' son a few nights a week, so last night I showed him Act 1 of Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog. He loved it. I wish I had time to show him more, but we take a break from tutoring for the next month. :0(

His mom took us home and asked me about what I like to do. We discussed hiking, camping, and from there- Amtgard. The son acted as interpreter, so I had a fun time trying to simplify Amtgard into terms he can understand. I'm pretty sure neither of them got it. But him mom said I should join their family to for hiking and camping. She is so sweet; I would love for that suggestion to pan out.

I made my first trip to the post office today to mail a parcel to my sister. I was nervous about how many mail options and questions there might be and whether anyone would speak English. But I worried for no reason. Everything went simply and smoothly and only cost W9,000 ($7.64). I have a whole mess of things to mail home first thing next week.

On my way home, I passed a vending machine where you could try to win prizes by positioning a pole to push through a small plastic hole to push the prize from the shelf to the receptacle below. I am not the kind of person who indulges in midway games of skill. But two tries for W1,000? OK, I gave it a go. And then I had to have the unlicensed crappy crap prizes. 12 more tries for W5,000. OK. I got two prizes! But the toadstool remained behind the plastic, mocking me, and I was out of small bills. :0(
Photo 12Photo 10

I braided my hair on the bus today so it would stay tame beneath my Santa hat, and I wondered to myself why I had yet to see a Korean with braided hair. Sure enough, one of the students brought her friend to school who wore pigtails. It made me smile.

Today was Market Day at school. Instead of teaching, the children get to spend their accumulated "dollars" from the semester on crap to give their families for Christmas, including pens, erasers, notebooks, sleep masks, animal purses, and clocks.
Photo 9
And one of my students "bought" me this. I think it's a bastardization of "petit dejeuner," meaning "breakfast." What is a girl to do with a coffee mug as big as her face anyway?

Last night one of the teachers tried and failed miserably to teach us a polka dance. Instead, I taught everyone a Middle Eastern dance performed at weddings and such (I learned it from belly dance performances) that consists of five steps and is easy to teach and to learn quickly. Everyone approved, so for every class hour today, I taught the dance to a mass of children and led them through the different rooms.

Each new group of students was asked if they'd like to perform a talent. The first one of the day has made an indelible mark on my memory. Little 8-year-old Romeo got up and did an awesome sexy boy band kind of dance to some pop music. <3! Two boys did a karate demonstration and one did a card trick. I got to perform poi every hour. *Glee!*

After work, I swung by the Baskin Robbins for ice cream and to break a 10. You know where I went next... back for the toadstool! I got a pair of hula dancers in 3 tries, but in 9 more attempts, the toadstool still eludes me. I departed with a stony glare, planning to return tomorrow. I've only blown W13,000 ($11.06) so far on three toys with wins on 1/10 tries.
Photo 13

12/27 update: I wandered into a store last night that happened to sell these particular toys. Awesome, this will make things so much easier, though I was secretly disappointed at not having to win them. So I checked the price... W12,000 for one toy?! Didn't I just get three of them for that price? Today I spent W6,000 on 14 tries and got three more toys, improving my average to a 16% success rate (I had to hit one of them twice because it got stuck) and spending W3,167 ($2.70) per toy.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Superstitions and stupid beliefs

OK, so we're all familiar with the crazy shit Koreans believe in:

~Fan death- If you turn on a fan without opening any windows or doors, you will die.
~Kimchi is to Koreans as Windex is to that Greek guy in the movie- Kimchi is both a preventative and cure-all for everything from the sniffles to swine flu to plague.

I know there's more, but I'm still new here.

So I was thinking today, surely the states have some similar bizarro cultural beliefs. I had a hard time thinking of any, but I came up with a short list:

~Tapping a can of Coke will decrease the amount of fizz.
~Shaking a Polaroid picture will help it develop faster.
~In my home town, kissing your hand and putting it to the roof in the car when you drive under a yellow stoplight will help you accumulate "good sex minutes" for some imaginary bank.

But the difference is, nobody genuinely believes this. We all know it's just silly superstitious stuff. I know my grandmother's generation believed living under power lines could give you cancer or something, but that belief has died out, as far as I know.

The only thing I can think of are a few diet-related myths such as going to sleep shortly after eating will make you gain weight (In truth your metabolism is slower at night, but that doesn't change how many calories you've consumed and burned over the course of the day. The value of a calorie is not dependent upon time.) But anyone who reads health news will soon learn otherwise because there is a lot that has been published about the truth of things.

Koreans really believe their crazy things no matter what anyone tries to tell them otherwise. Is there anything like that back home? Anything at all?

(And yes, I know I'm ethnocentric and ignorant of many things. However, the latter is something I work to improve, so it's all OK.)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Can't wait for Christmas

Manhattan's is having a Christmas Eve party, so that's my plan for tomorrow after work. Hopefully a lot of foriegners will decide to come. Hopefully I won't run into the ex there.

A teacher I work with gave me directions to the nearest Catholic Church so I can go to mass on Christmas at 10 a.m. (10 a.m.? Koreans make for lazy Catholics. No midnight mass, no 8 a.m. masses. On Sundays, the earliest is 11 a.m.) No English masses, though. It's a good bit of a walk, maybe 20-30 minutes, but it's forecast to be a whole 41F with a 30% chance of snow. I've seen lots of snow on every 20% day so far, so I'm looking forward to a white Christmas.

Then I have some down time for a few hours, and I plan to go ice skating around 3 at Gwanghwamun to work up an appetite, Christmas dinner at 6 at Suji's in Itaewon with turkey, eggnog and pie. I have been missing pie so much since I got here! I actually made my first batch of homemade eggnog last night. Thanks to a poorly written recipe, I overcooked the first batch, but I modified the recipe and the second turned out very yummy.

Mix 2 eggs, 1/3 cup sugar, 2 cups of milk on low heat for 5-10 minutes while stirring. Chill (optional), add in 2/3 cup whipping cream and dashes of cinnamon, clove powder, and nutmeg to taste. Optional- tsp vanilla or rum extract. And yes, I found all the ingredients right here in Korea! I rock. And I bought WAY to much whipping cream, so I guess I'll just have to make more.

After dinner I may go back to Gwanghwamun for the lights show and holiday exhibits or chill at a coffee shop or something in Itaewon.

I wanted everyone to know I will not be sitting at home all alone for Christmas, and I will tell you how it all turns out.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Nutcracker

Yesterday I saw The Nutcracker performed by the Korean National Ballet at The Seoul Arts Center.

I left a little before 1 to get to the train station, and even in a knee-length dress, ankle boots, and stockings, I can tell you the snow falling and covering Ansan was quite lovely. I took line 4 to Sadang and transferred to line 2 easily enough to Seocho. The map I had showed the SAC about two blocks straight from exit 3. IRL it's closer to a mile, and halfway through that mile I realized I should have taken a taxi, but I was already halfway there and determined to make it on foot.

The folks at the box office spoke English and were very helpful in helping me choose a seat and buy a ticket. 30,000 won put me on the second row, middle of the second balcony. Should I decide to return, I'll definitely spring for opera glasses and a pricier seat. Programs were only 5,000 won. Yay!

In the theater lobby, there were four orchestra members playing Christmas carols and a man dressed as a 7- or 8-foot toy soldier posing for photos with everyone. The festive spirit boosted my excitement. I've seen The Nutcracker ballet live once as a child and watched it on TV every single year around Christmastime until I moved out. So I was very confused at intermission when I heard a lady behind me explaining to the plot to 6 of her baffled American friends. I had no idea people in the world could be unfamiliar with this masterpiece.

I was so thrilled to be going and wanted nothing more than to enjoy the hell out of the KNB, but this was not to be.

The orchestra was very good, aside from some weird acoustics at the very beginning. The young boy playing The Nutcracker toy in the beginning was hilarious and made everybody laugh. And Jung Young-Jae as the Prince was a fine male specimen, so good, in fact, that he neatly upstaged Marie (not that I'm complaining, mind you, but it is bad form). And that's everything nice I have to say.

Were this North Korea, four of the dancers would be taken out back and shot, along with the choreographer, set designer, and the interpreter/writer. The sets were distractingly cheap with lazy modern art probably designed by a 6-year-old, complete with Escher-esque stairs on the ceiling. Wtf? The Indian dancer had notably wobbly legs more than once. I understand that they probably haven't eaten in a month, but she and three others really made it look like work with noticeably stuttering movements.

As for the choreographer, do you just hate Tchaichovsky or what? Yuri Grigorovich is an acclaimed Russian choreographer and any scene with a dozen or more dancers on stage or just Marie and the Prince is lovely, but the duets of the foreign dancers leave something to be desired. He consistently fails to use the music to its full potential, failing to capture the full emotional depth and grandeur displayed in the score.

And to the writer, what a bizarro re-imagining of a 107-year-old ballet. For anyone unfamiliar, Wikipedia has a good, short synopsis. And the link above has the KNB's freakish version, replete with poised wives carrying their drunk husbands home after the party. Oh how very Korean. And the foreign dancers of the Land of Sweets have become "human-like dolls" that totter along awkwardly stiff-limbed, following Marie and the Prince all over, bearing little resemblance to the fine dancers they are in every other version. You're not supposed to know Marie's time with the Prince is a dream until she wakes, but the program spoils this for you from the outset! Gah.

Dear Korean audiences, "Woo"ing at the performers during applause is NOT APPROPRIATE THEATER BEHAVIOR! Geez, louise. Nor is clapping in time with the orchestra while the performers are bowing. I can name many a-teacher who, over the years, would not have hesitated to smack his or her students for such behavior. Thank you, Plano I.S.D.

It's playing through Thursday at the SAC and a few other places around town listed here. If you're a fan of ballet, pass on this one, but if you've never had the pleasure, I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

My first dedicated blog

I've been Xangaing, Facebooking, MySpacing, and LJing for years, so it seemed silly to add another blog. But I enjoy browsing other expats' Korea-dedicated blogs too much to go any longer without one of my own.

The blog title "Sarcasm doesn't translate," sums up my life experiences on the internet; my mouth is always getting me into trouble because I can't seem to turn off the snark. And now I'm in a brand new country where I can't even speak the language, much less express my amusement at every situation.

On to the basics:
Where are you from? How old are you? Why did you come to Korea? What's your blood type? Do you have a boyfriend? What do you like to eat? What are your hobbies?

Denton, Texas. And yes, I tell everyone I ride horses and wear cowboy boots to formal occasions, except Christmas. We wear flip-flops for Christmas because it never gets cold. (Not sarcasm, in fact. I bought my first ever heavy winter coat only a year ago because a store was going out of business and this green fleece and down number was just my size at just $17.)

I'm a 23-year-old 2008 graduate from U. of North Texas' journalism program. After being laid off from three jobs in a row because of the economy being the way it was and not even being able to pick up a job at a freaking gas station with my handy dandy BA, I got an email from a recruiting company that saw my resume online. I would have dismissed it out of hand, but I mentioned it to my friend, Nick, who looked into it more and decided, "Let's do this." Thanks to, I am now an English teacher in Korea. Nick's heading over in February.

I'm B+, which is supposed to mean I'm an outgoing player and men's lady (doesn't sound as cool as ladies' man, huh?), as does being a Leo. But you'd never guess it. I'm pretty quiet and am still struggling to make friends out here all by my lonesome. But that's OK.

I did have a Korean boyfriend for about a week, but that went south yesterday. I don't think I'll be seeing him again, but I haven't decided how to tell him that. I would thank him for being instrumental in my decision to become a shut-in for the remainder of winter and possibly even gay for the remainder of my stay in Korea, but that would be rude because I'm not being sarcastic this time.

I never would have admitted to liking American food before today. I hate fried food and greasy food and the salt-laden fatty foods that abound in the south. Mexican and Italian were my favorites. But when I decided earlier this evening to treat myself to an American grill & salad place, I walked right on by, unable to ignore the call of a "Giant Double Burger Set (Combo)" from the Lotteria (like a McDonald's). And holy crap, it was delicious.

Before the 20-hour flight here, my hobbies included belly dance, fire spinning, larping, and making various arts and crafts. Since I arrived, well, I've found that curling up in my warm bed and reading a book is about the most fun I can probably have in the winter. I kind of doubt my ability to find a venue for my favorite activities.

I'm staying in Ansan, which is about an hour south of Seoul by subway. This week has averaged about 20F every day, and my utilities bill is too high, so I've decided to forsake my heater (no small feat for a native Texan) in favor of more clothing and short spurts of exercise when I feel chilly.

Let me know if I've forgotten anything or if there's anything more you'd like to know. Let's end with a question.

Why doesn't Korea use postal codes? It's SO un-American. I want my books from Amazon, darn it!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Santacon Seoul 2009

At Hongdae station
Check out that bathroom sign!
Tracie and Me
Sexy Bubi Bubi Party?!
Yes, pole-dancing Santas.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Posterity, Pt3

MP can't wait to start taking free Korean lessons on Saturday. :)
December 1 at 7:47pm

MP DId you know Hagen Daaz goes for $16/qt in Korea?
December 3 at 6:46am

MP really needs a massage but doesn't know where to get one without a happy ending.
December 4 at 8:35am

December 4 at 8:58pm

MP stuffed herself on barbeque and got good and drunk for <$15, including subway fare!
December 5 at 8:31am 

MP is trying to psych herself up to go out today in the subfreezing weather because the sun is just so pretty today for pictures.
December 5 at 9:13pm

MP I was undecided on seeing Ninja Assassin. This is no longer the case.
Rain poses for Allure

(How do I make this smaller?)
December 6 at 6:42am

MP is torn between the urge to hibernate and the desire to exercise.
December 7 at 8:48pm

MP feels like a wussy girl because she's out of shape and easily maxing out on a 5kg dumbbell. Fortunately that's incentive enough to keep at it so I have to buy respectable weights before long.
December 7 at 8:56pm

MP can't wait for spring so she can try barefoot running.
December 9 at 8:42am

MP shakin' her hips like nunchucks.
December 9 at 9:02am

MP 's spirit roommate has decided that knocking shit over in the kitchen, repeatedly, is a fun new game.
December 9 at 9:21am

MP heard through the wall this morning her smoker neighbor cough up a lung. It sounded JUST like Ferris Bueller's keyboard. I am thoroughly disgusted.
December 9 at 7:55pm

MP How do you decide when your abdominal pain is bad enough to see a doctor?
December 10 at 5:19am

MP I freaking LOVE this bar!
December 11 at 10:33am

MP could write a book about the ways Korea makes her stomach hurt.
December 12 at 7:45pm

MP might have a Korean boyfriend.
December 13 at 7:28am

MP has decided to marry an Australian. Their accents are music to my ears unlike any other. I haven't got one picked out yet, but that's a minor detail. I dreamt of one last night and I quite like him- fella really swept me off my feet. *dreamy sigh*
December 14 at 6:46pm

MP totally saw the Samoan guy from "The Italian Job" today, or someone who sure looked like him. It was awesome. :0)
December 15 at 7:06am

MP is a millionare. Yay payday.
December 16 at 6:34am

Monday, December 14, 2009

Plumbing 101-2

I learned today why my kitchen has smelled increasingly strongly of feces and why the sink doesn't drain. Finally fed up with the smell, I crawled underneath and started taking things apart, when what to my wondering eyes should appear? But a *expletive* sponge shoved down the tubes, long collecting food matter to rot upon and in it in my sink. Who the *string of expletives* shoves a sponge down a drain? *Rage* What to do for the lingering smell?

Now if only I could solve the problem of the toilet. I told my boss last week it wasn't working no matter how I tried the plunger. He said he'd call my landlord, they'd come up while I was at work, and they'd fix it. I don't know about the first two, but the third on that list never happened. I've been going down seven floors to the public restroom on the main floor to take care of business.

The problem is when I flush, the bowl fills and fills and fills until I managed to Macgyver a spatula, a piece of string, and a bobby pin to stop the water flow. And if I walk away, the water will slowly drain, but there is no suction for anything else that goes in a toilet bowl. Directly adjacent to the main draining hole in the bowl is a hole that fills the bowl with water, creating a shape that negates the efficacy of a plunger. I have tried every combination of lever, stopper, and floater manipulation in the tank with no success.

I've never met a toilet I couldn't fix in the states and am so close to rage-quitting this country for its shitty (pun intended) plumbing. Argh!

So this is what hell is (or A cry for help)

I got my BA in journalism and went to Korea to teach English. I've been here for a month and have 16 manageable classes and one hellhole. I'm *this* close to walking out and refusing to go back, and I haven't even gotten my first paycheck. I have this 50 minute class twice a week, and the brats are (to my shock and amazement every time) progressively getting worse.

I am the only foreign teacher at this private academy and have received no training whatsoever. The 3 other Korean teachers write the lesson plans for me to follow, which takes only the first 10 minutes of each class. After that, I ask the kids to play bingo or hangman, and they say "no." No? Wtf no? I'm the teacher!

The only logical conclusion is that these children were raised by wolves. How else can a class of coloring assorted animals so quickly devolve to coloring tables, tearing the coloring pages, and throwing about everything in sight? I am not being facetious when I say their parents have created an offense against humanity and the Lord our God in failing to beat the living daylights out of these terrors. I have about 36 hours to learn to hogtie seven 8-year-olds in record time. Do you think YouTube has a how to?

I know they understand "NO!" and "Sit down!" in English, but they ignore me. When I say it in Korean, they mock me. They have little to no English comprehension because they're answering questions based on key words as opposed to actually learning the vocabulary and the language.

They were banging and kicking the walls so hard (no matter how many times I told them to cut that shit out and moved them) that the teacher in the next class had to come in and yell at them. After class, I asked the other teachers if they had any suggestions what to do with these kids, and they just said they will scold them. Ok, that's all well and good after 40 minutes of chaos, but what am I to do in the meantime? They quieted down just a bit when I yelled at them for coloring on the tables, but then they were right back to the screaming at the top of their lungs contest.

(The silver lining is that this class will prove to be sufficient birth control for the remainder of my childbearing years.)

Please oh please there must be a solution out there short of cyanide. Can anyone offer some advice?

My life is a chick flick

In an unexpected turn of events, it would seem my life has been plagiarized from the script of a stereotypical chick flick.

Thursday Tracie took me to Manhattan's, the foreigners' bar across the street from my place. The music was good, the atmosphere was nice; I decided to return the next day because Tracie had other plans. The owner told me the place is hoppin' on Friday nights, so I looked forward to meeting people.

Friday night I arrived about 10:45 and the place was dead, and no one seemed to know why. I ordered a delicious, girlicious cocktail, watched people play darts, and made small talk with my bartender, Kai. I remembered that I am very introverted and terrible at meeting new people and buckled down for a dull, albeit delicious, evening.

Nearly an hour later, Kai introduced me to a Korean guy who had just walked in and sat two seats down from me at the bar. I slid over and started chatting with him. His name is Leo, and his friend bailed on him for the night. We ended up talking for the rest of the evening.

Aside: The bartenders put on a show of juggling booze bottles in the air and with sparklers lit inside them, and the owner did a bit of fire breathing. I LOVE this bar. And it would seem I'm a lush by Korean standards, as Leo was very concerned for me after my second drink. (Though it was really my third and I was feeling just fine.)

Leo recommended some places to see while I'm in Korea and offered to show me some of the best local cuisine. (I haven't gone to eat by myself because I hate fish and, frankly, am terrified of Korean food.) At one point in the evening, he said something I couldn't hear above the din except for the words "you" and "girlfriend." I smiled and nodded, because that's what you do when you can't hear someone in a bar, right?

Anyway, we exchanged info and decided to see 2012 Sunday. He picked me up and opened the door for me (he has a nice car but owning a car in Korea is like owning one in NYC- he searched 20 minutes for parking at the theater). I enjoyed the movie, and then we went for a late dinner of chicken and stuff. He gave me a proper lesson on the use of chopsticks, no easy feat considering my left-handedness. (I have been considering starting a web series called "Moniqa & Chopsticks. Comedy Gold, I assure you.)

Then he went to feed me the first bite when our chicken was ready. Really freaking weird in my book. But I suppressed the mental freak out, reminded myself he likes me and is being sweet, lots of people do that, I'm cool, I'm cool, just gonna go with it. (I am SO good at acting gracious.)

After dinner, he was kind enough to show me where the post office is that I've been trying to find for a month. Yay! (Gifts will be en route this week, dear friends.) And that was that. He works in Seoul all week, so we're going to do something next weekend.

Now what you've all been waiting for: Is he cute? Um, sure, I dunno. He's nice but I'm feeling nothing more than enjoyment of good company and conversation, and thrilled someone wants take me out and show me around. (This is par for the course for me. I think I can still count on one hand the number of men I've known whom I liked as more than friends.) What does he do? Um, businessman-y stuff. He told me the details but I have a habit of zoning out when men talk about their dull office jobs. (God, I can be vapid.) He spent some time in Australia studying English and is now learning Japanese. How old is he? I actually didn't ask because he didn't ask me. I think he's on facebook, though, so I'll track him down and delete this note before friending. Read it while you can!

I feel like I'm blending in with the locals. You know, except for being white. I expect my family and friends to be overjoyed when they read this. When was the last time I had any proper fodder for girl talk? Lulz. None of it's really a big deal. I just had such a bad and lonesome week and such a nice time this weekend at a few events that I felt the need to share the good bits so everyone knows I'm doing fine.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Korea agrees with me; its spawn do not

This has been going on 7 years too long

I wonder what the odds are of my finding a doctor to remove my right ovary. The severe amount of pain I suffer almost daily will probably be of little consequence to the conservative, agenda-pushing ass-hats of the medical community who would never see me as more than a woman of childbearing capabilities. Today it's hard to walk without a limp and I'm up to audible whimpering on a scale of 1 to kill me please.

The first time I complained about the pain was in high school. Years before I started a form of birth control that commonly causes the problem. My grandmother freaked out and assumed I had appendicitis, no matter that the symptoms are very different, and made me go to the hospital... where I sat in the waiting room for 3 or 4 hours until the pain subsided completely before being seen by anyone. They poked me a little, said it was probably ovarian cysts, here are some muscle relaxers, bubye now.

I mentioned the pain to my OB/GYN 3 years later. She said it was probably gas. I hit her in the head. Or I should have. I know what gas is and what it feels like- are you fucking retarded?

I mentioned it to my new OB/GYN this year, told her what I thought it was and that I'd read you can get a sonogram to determine if anything is wrong. She dismissed me and said I could do that if I felt it was really necessary.

Ok, so medically speaking, it's no big deal. Or at least that's the message I'm getting. What I don't understand is how my being in pain on a regular basis is not something to be concerned about.

I. Want. It. OUT.

(Sorry, I've had a pretty bad week, so this is the ONE thing I've chosen to gripe about.)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Apartment hunting

Tonight after work my boss took me to see the apartment he thinks I should move to. It costs 100,000won less per month than the current place, and he would cover the full cost of it, whereas if I stay here, I have to pay the difference. It's in the same area of town, which is great because I like it here and do not like the area near school. The new apartment is about 2 blocks west of the current one.

It's MUCH smaller
The stairs to the loft bedroom look like a deathtrap
The view sucks
It's 2 blocks further from the park I like
It's REALLY small (and seems even smaller because the current occupants have 2 pianos)
The bathroom is ugly
There is no bathroom counter
I don't know whether it has a convenient courtyard for exercise as I do here
I have to pack
I have to move
I have to move into a 6th floor apartment
I have to move out by Dec. 23

It's much prettier with wood floors, cupboards, and stairs
Do I really care about the view?
It's 2 blocks closer to the subway and a half block closer to the bus stop
It's 2 blocks closer to another park with workout equipment
Maybe I won't have a neighbor randomly blowing smoke into my bathroom
The rest of the apartment doesn't have a weird smell like this one that cannot be covered with any amount of incense, candles, or air freshener
Maybe I won't have an unfriendly spirit for a roommate
It's about $90/mo cheaper
My boss will help me move (not just the suitcases I brought with me, but the food and toiletries I've bought since I got here and the microwave, cookware, dishes, and bedding provided as per my contract).
One less flight of stairs
The blinds on the window at the new place work.
The new apartment does not face a busy street with ceaseless construction going on.
The management here has decided not to fix my toilet until after I move out.
I can start moving in Dec. 16
I can do a lot of partying and travel with an extra $90/mo...or pay off some loans

As much as I hate packing and moving, this apartment REALLY smells.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Random update

Monday: You know it's gonna be SOME kind of day when you would swear that's the smell of weed through the teachers' office window.

Yesterday I thanked God for my lack of food allergies because trying new and unidentifiable pastries has become one of my favorite activities. Today I sampled a pastry labeled "egg" something. It tasted like buttermilk pie. I also tried "vegetable bread." It had a big piece of ham in the middle. :0)

Today I'm thankful for a natural understanding of linguistics/phonics. Another teacher asked me to help teach one student f's and v's and I think I was mostly successful.

A friend asked me about the cultural differences earlier this week. I said people spit in the street, piss in the alleys, and pass out drunk on the corner. There's trash all over the ground and where the outdoors do not smell like fish, they smell like feces. So it's just like a college town, he quipped. Yeah. Pretty close.

Today I saw TWO fatties! Two! Ah ah ah! (The Count laughs.) But, Moniqa, how can you be so mean? OK, I'm not even talking about overweight people or Rubenesque people; I mean actually rotund. And I'm being objective, not mean. On a related note, people here genuinely like you better as a person the thinner you are, which means I have some catching up to do. Fortunately, I can easily increase my walking week to 30 miles and still have 3 days left over for other exercise.

While going for my morning walk, I found a pretty little seashell on the sidewalk. We live about a 30 minute drive from the sea, though I'm told ocean fish swim up into this river. Whatever. I took it home and hope to find some thread for a pretty little seashell necklace.

I found a place where I can take free Korean lessons on Saturdays. It will cost maybe $3-$4 per week in subway fare and is not far from Hongdae (nightlife central). I can't wait to start.

Hagen Daaz goes for $16/Qt. Lame. Flavored milks and drinkable yogurts are really big here. I want to increase my protein intake but am not ready to brave the meat market yet, so my plan is to phase out pastry sweets in favor of dairy sweets and go from there. EVERYTHING in Korea is sweet, so limiting sweets would be an exercise in futility.

The ladies I teach with want to hang out, see a movie, and go to dinner on Sunday. Fun times ahead!

This morning, as I lamented the fact that every day is dull and gray, a breeze blew through and knocked the leaves from gold and red trees before me like a scene straight from a movie. I nearly wept for the beauty of it. Not really. It was a very cold wind stinging my eyes.

There's a lot of foot traffic here, and everyone stands very still while waiting for the crosswalk light to turn. I've noticed that I stand out not because I'm white, but because I have my headphones on and cannot help but bounce and dance and groove in place while waiting for the light to turn. Meh. The folks in my neighborhood can get used to it.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Untitled haiku

I wonder, in time
If missing you will hurt less.
Do I want it to?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Falling in love with Ansan

Today has been great.

David took me to lunch at this FABULOUS Italian place down the street. And I mean ITALIAN. Not Olive Garden American-style Italian smothered in cheese. I had spaghetti pomodoro with lots of veggies and spices.

I learned that David is 45, married, his son has recently joined the army, and he has a daughter, too. He studied philosophy in school and values happiness in life; he likes to read, spends time at the library, and has been teaching English for 8 years.

After lunch, we went to the city hall, which he told me is open to serve the public 24 hours a day, and he picked up a map and tourist's guidebook of Ansan. It's all in Korean, so I will have to step up and learn the language.

Then we went to the library, which is within walking distance (maybe 30 minutes) from my place. <3! It has several racks of English books, with a LOT of fairy tales and classics. This might be my weekend hangout until the weather warms up. There is also a sizable DVD library with private viewing areas and lots of desks to study or connect to the internet. I will have to wait until I get my Alien Registration Card before I can get a library card, but I can go there to sit and read. And there is a cafeteria in the basement. The fourth floor of the library has a GORGEOUS view of Lake Park, and I will definitely be returning for pictures.
(OK, so it's pretty ugly in winter.)

The sun was out today, though everything was hazy, and it was kinda nice weather. We walked a bit in the park. It was really pretty today. Last time I went was too gray. David told me 5 years ago there was nothing here. Ansan is a new city and I live in the downtown part of it. It is based on Melbourne and is the first planned city of South Korea.

Next stop: Hongdae? Seoul? Yongsan?

Posterity, Pt2

MP is safely in Korea. It's 10 p.m. here. Video upload forthcoming.
November 14 at 7:02am

MP The previous resident left me quite a bit of what looks to be booze- a bottle of wine, a handle of Sagatiba (looks like vodka), and a fancy bottle of possibly anything.
November 14 at 8:08am

MP is now on Skype. Search user name TheMonBelly
November 14 at 9:15am

MP has never lived alone before. And I can't even walk around naked because the blinds are jacked up. :(
November 14 at 9:43am

MP 's assigned bed is hard as a rock. Love it.
November 14 at 5:01pm

MP <3s Korean boy bands on the TV. November 15 at 2:00am MP For two whole days I've been looking out my window at the blur of store signs and ads across the street, and it only just dawned on me seconds ago that some of them read "Wine bar" and "Live bar."
November 16 at 8:23am

MP is filled with joy. The Dunkin' Donuts clerk speaks English.
November 16 at 7:10pm

MP If day one was "I'm not sure teaching is for me," then day two is "I got this," with a smug nod of the head.
November 17 at 4:42am

MP So who wants the loaf of bread with a face and arms plushie from Korea?
November 17 at 6:04am

MP bought her sis a smiley face "Have your a smile" t-shirt today.
November 17 at 6:29am

MP found out her local mart sells bunnies. Can anyone think of a reason I shouldn't get one except that I'd stay in all day and cuddle it and become a recluse? It's too cold to want to go out and explore anyway.
November 17 at 7:09am

MP just spent $12.41 on a personal cheese pizza from Pizza Hut and is not ashamed to say so. They wrapped up the box in a little red bow. Do you know what is wrapped up in this bow? That's right- happiness and joy.
November 18 at 5:29am

MP needs to learn to go to bed earlier and get up earlier because this not having blinds thing means I wake up at dawn, dawn:20, dawn:40, and so on.
November 18 at 8:01am

MP Freezing rain.... it feels just like home.
November 20 at 5:26am

MP is steeped in apathy
November 20 at 8:45pm

MP is trying to psych herself up to venture into the cold.
November 21 at 4:08am

November 21 at 6:27am

MP "Ha! I am amazing," I exclaimed after successfully finding the key combination of 7 switches and 2 buttons in my breaker box to reboot the electricity. It only took 25 minutes, but I didn't have to call my boss to ask him to call maintenance. Yatta!
November 22 at 4:17am

MP saw a pheasant today.
November 22 at 7:35pm

MP wonders how she ever found her way ANYWHERE before satellite imaging maps.
November 22 at 7:36pm

MP has acquired precision screwdrivers and will now be cracking open her busted up camera. Wee!
November 23 at 6:55am

MP just won the "Sniff this Chemical to Determine if it's Bleach" Game!
November 23 at 7:37pm

MP loves how cheap Coke is in Korea. About $1 for a liter. :)
November 23 at 9:04pm

MP Help! I cannot upload to YouTube because I'm in Korea. I cannot upload my vid to Webshots because at <5min and 134Mb, they say it's too big. Suggestions where to upload? November 25 at 9:18pm MP is celebrating Thanksgiving with Uzbek leftovers.
November 26 at 5:09am

MP ventures forth in search of ice cream.
November 26 at 5:43am

MP Oh, dear Paris Baguette/ Won't you be my frenemy?/ Gluttony divine
November 26 at 8:48pm

MP is ever falling more deeply in love with Korean boy bands. For shame!
November 27 at 7:54am

MP is learning to jump rope. Her record so far is 18 skips without tripping.
November 27 at 8:15pm

MP Oh! The problem is that it's catching on my ponytail and randomly slowing the interval. Genius!
November 27 at 8:19pm

MP 36!
November 27 at 8:28pm

MP saw her first fatty in Korea today.
November 28 at 2:31am

MP WTF?! Why do I sometimes smell cigarette smoke in my bathroom?! It's bleeping disgusting.
November 29 at 8:30am

MP finally acquired an American-sized pillow! It was all rolled up and disguised in "Pillow Stuffing" packaging.
November 30 at 7:00am

MP is oh so envious of all her friends who got to go to TRF this year.
November 30 at 7:22am

MP can't seem to stop puking. There's nothing left in there! Gah, remind me never to get pregnant.
November 30 at 8:55pm

Thursday, November 26, 2009


In one class today, we were learning about music genres with audio examples. I pressed "play," and the first example was a well-known classical piece I can't name because I'm just not very cultured. The rock example was Bon Jovi's "It's my Life." Pretty cool; I'm bobbing my head. Next is a smooth jazz example.
0:33- 0:40

Example number four blares out, "And I was like, good gracious/ That ass is bodacious..." Picture my jaw on the floor. Shifty eyes- left, right, left. OK, none of these kids know what just happened other than they should write "rap" in the appropriate blank in their book. Now, the question is: Do I tell someone this is inappropriate? Or do I just leave it as a surprise for the next English teacher who rolls through this program?

I think the answer is clear.

Turkey Day update

Monday, November 23, 2009

Have you seen Paranormal Activity?

Otherworldly thing,
Annoying me in my sleep.
Cut it out, wanker!

Last night the power went out while I was making dinner. I don't necessarily find anything spooky about that. However, something turned on my radio to loud static in the middle of the night. I am not pleased.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Lazy Sunday

Walking, nice cold day.
Exploring my town, Ansan.
Parks, stadium, arts.

About seven miles,
Exhausted, then fourteen flights.
Time for a nap now.

Also, they spit in the street here. It's gross. But they don't blow their noses because they think that's gross. Which means I hang around a lot of little kids with snot running down their faces. Awesome.

Last night's haikus

Please, what is this place?
My heartbeat thrums familiar
Drowned out by this place.

Bedding smells like me
Finally comfortable
And so fall asleep

Can he forgive me?
Still berating myself here.
And how long will I?

The stuff of nightmares and unwelcome guests

While I am loathe to put myself out there like this, I need to know why this happened and if it's preventable.

I have a history of having nightmares that could probably be classified as night terrors happening twice a year or so, usually focusing on an apocalypse type of event and/or people I love dying horribly.

But I think this one was worse.

The first thing I remember was walking with a child on my right to see a white rabbit in the forest. As we approached, there was a blur of motion and in the blink of an eye, the rabbit was mauled. Dead. Then the child turned and looked at me in horror. I couldn't understand why.

Back among other people, they accused me, but I couldn't understand why. There was no evidence to point to this. Then I felt pieces of something in my mouth and spit them out. It was chunks of meat. I wiped my mouth with my white sleeve near my wrist and saw gobs of blood. More when I wiped with my other sleeve.

Cue consuming fear and self-doubt as to my sanity.

There was a skinny old priest yelling at me, much too close to me, for my evil actions.

The vision went on very long and I tried several times, unsuccessfully, to rouse myself. The events in the middle are fuzzy.

Later I visited a gorilla habitat after hours but the night watchman said it was OK. He let them out (15) and they lined up against the wall. For a moment they were men, convicts, unshackled. And I knew something about this wasn't right. Then two started to fight. They were gorillas again. I tried to back away but more appeared behind me, fighting. I was boxed in and they drew nearer, crushing me. I fell. I can't remember what was after that.

The last thing I remember was lying down, on a couch it seemed. Something or someone was on top of me. It seemed like the priest from before, but it wasn't. It seemed like a man, but it wasn't human. It was dry and thin and shriveled. But it was pressing me down and I couldn't move. My arms were free and I summoned all the energy I could, physical and otherwise, to push it off me, but it didn't budge, didn't react. I know I could have moved anything that was real. Terror and panic. I had gone to bed naked but was wearing clothes throughout the dream. Still, it felt as if the thing were violating me and I felt it moving atop me.

I continued to struggle to wake myself. I finally succeeded, breathing hard and searching the room, panicked, with my eyes when I came to. I awoke lying flat on my back with my hands resting atop my hips. I never sleep like this. As long as I've been here, I sleep on my side or stomach. My body still felt violated. I don't know what else to call it. My skin crawled with the memory of being shamed. And it was irritated and breaking out between my breasts and belly button. There was a small scratch.

I woke around 4 a.m. and curled up on my side after a while when I no longer feared to move. I had to get up and put clothes on before I could go back to sleep. It seemed so real. I really thought something had attacked me there in my room and was lingering, watching, waiting. But I didn't know what to do.

I put on an ex's t-shirt. I have very few things belonging to exes, but I associate the clothing with comfort. I wished so hard I had packed the ex's sweatshirt. But it had been so long since I felt I needed it, I didn't think I would while I was away from home. Maybe 30 minutes later, I finally fell asleep.

I got up about 9 a.m. and my skin still feels weird. My stomach feels queasy in relation to it. My hands are shaky. Still. I can't summon the words to explain the depth of the fear I felt that continued on and on in several situations. A highly stressful emotional state summoned again and again.

I hadn't eaten close to going to bed, and before I did, I was reading web comics, articles on life in Korea, and listening to the movie "Shakespeare in Love." I went to bed with a bout of homesickness but calmed myself by composing haikus before I fell asleep. So about this nightmare- wtf?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Freezing rain- it feels just like home

My boss was pleased to drive me home today. And I got my first feedback of the week; he said he thinks I am a quick learner. We didn't play hangman in ANY of my classes today! (Hangman is the goto when I fail to have enough material.)

The bus to work was infinitely better. Lots of red lights, a better driver, and a seat! I still got off a few blocks early because I worry about missing my stop. And it occurs to me that walking two blocks is probably a good thing.

What's 14 flights of stairs at 13 steps apiece? It's my having a rock hard butt by the next time you see me. Scratch that. By the end of the month probably. Or a heart attack.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Have I mentioned I live on the 7th floor?

Because I decided today there is no reason at all that I shouldn't be taking the stairs up to my apartment unless I'm carrying groceries. What I failed to account for, however, as I began my ascent, was the issue of loft-style apartments being about 70% taller than the average 8-10 foot ceiling. Meaning I just walked up an awful lot of stairs and am huffing and puffing a bit.

Also, I don't like to tell stories chronologically. Today was the first day I tackled the bus on my own. EEGAD! Instead of lining up to get on when it stops, people jostle and push to get in front of you to get on. And then I found out why- it only stops for about 7 seconds before tearing off to the next stop at lightning speed, and heaven help you if you're not holding on tight and don't have the reflexes of a stuntman. (I don't, but I expect practice will help.) Not only does the driver speed up and slow down like someone trying to throw a zombie from the roof, but it's a manual transmission and he shifts HARD.

I had to get off 2 blocks too soon because I just couldn't take it anymore and was halfway to an anxiety attack. I kind of wanted to cry. This certainly settles the question of whether I'll be moving closer to school next month. I knew there had to be a reason why I was hesitant to settle in, unpack, and decorate here. I just didn't know the reason until today. Which is marginally unfortunate because, at second glance there are closer to a dozen bars on my block alone.

Classes went really well today. Not perfect, but I think I will have mastered the art of planning adequate activities to occupy a full hour if (read: when) the lesson does not. This being the fourth day of classes, I only just learned that I am supposed to be cleaning the same classroom before school starts everyday, not the first one on my schedule each day, as I had previously been doing. Nice.

I started tutoring the boss's son today. It will be 30 minutes everyday after classes. No pressure, Mon. And in addition to the unstructured tutoring, I have a class full of 14-year-olds who have neither a textbook nor a lesson plan. Fun! (read: sarcasm)

I discovered an acquaintance from Denton lives in the same town as me, so I'm hoping we can get in touch and maybe she'll show me around a bit. I'm really excited about this development as my introverted nature is probably not the best-suited for the adventure of a lifetime that I chose. Nor is my stomach. It's pretty pissed about that pizza. Blegh.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Korea: day 4, School: day 3

So today was mostly good except for my first class was total anarchy. They had a test yesterday so nothing on the docket today. They are young (8ish) and wild and couldn't even play a civilized game of hangman. I've never wanted to hogtie anything before today.

Half my last class fell asleep. They finished what was needed for the day, so I'm hard pressed to give a darn.

There's a small parking garage in the basement of my building, and lots of people double park. I saw the weirdest thing in Korea thus far today. When my boss picked me up, he went up to a van in the way, stuck his hand out, and pushed the van back out of the way. *Jaw drop* I guess they don't use parking brakes here?

Yesterday I went shopping by myself for the first time. I didn't really need anything, but I wanted to familiarize myself with what's available. The answer is pretty much everything. And then some. I got "Hot choco" for me, a "Have your a smile" smiley face t-shirt for my sis, and a loaf of bread plushie for Sam.

Then I got home, decided I didn't have enough milk for hot choco and would pick some up. Then today my boss brought over 2 cartons of milk, saying his sons were sick and couldn't drink it. (?) Cool. Then I looked at my hot choco and asked myself how in the world would I prepare it without a microwave. After work, my boss brought me a microwave and showed me how to use it.

Being now overstocked with milk about to hit its expiration date, I decided to pour myself a glass. I poured what was given me. Man, does it smell weird. I don't know what yonsei milk is, so I really don't know whether it's weird or bad. A friend told me it's soy milk. Oooh. I hate soy milk. Like really hate. I've been staring at this glass for probably 15 or 20 minutes now. I pick it up now and then and put it near my face, but I just can't bring myself to drink it. What a waste.

Since the seafood noodles incident, I'd been planning on treating myself to an American pizza, and there's a Pizza Hut on my block. I finally got one tonight after work. The hostess was immensely helpful in pointing out the pictures and prices on the menu for me. Thank goodness Korean for "take out" is "take out." I paid $12.41 for a personal cheese pizza (marginally bigger than Pizza Hut drive-through pizzas at home) and did not feel the least bit guilty.

They wrapped the box in a little red bow! I walked home, eager to unwrap the happiness and joy contained therein. They gave me a baggy of condiments, including a side of sweet pickles. I don't know either. But they were awful tasty. The pizza itself? Well, it was crap. You know how Pizza Hut changed its crust to yummy in the last year or so? Well, not in Korea. C'est la vie. There are easily at least a dozen other American style pizza places within a mile radius of here.

I had a Coke today. It was AWESOME.

I've counted a half dozen bars within 100 yards of my place, too. My boss said there are several foreign teachers in my building, though I've yet to stumble across a single one. The other teachers at my school said the foreign teachers all hang out at one bar, but they didn't know which.
Looks like I'll have a busy weekend ahead of me.
I am up to the challenge.

Monday, November 16, 2009

First day of school

I feel a deep and abiding shame and disgust, revolting repulsion for the sickening, nigh unspeakable horrors inflicted upon my poor, fragile mortal shell this day.

Rape? Kinda. Really I just need a pizza. Stat.

My boss took me to lunch today. He asked what kind of food I wanted, assured me we could get American food, but I said I wanted to try Korean food, how about noodles. So he ordered for me noodles with seafood. There were dead creatures in my dish! Scallops, a prawn, and the pointy half of a crab. But I ate. Only the noodles. I mentally coached myself around the disgusting creatures contaminating my dish and only gagged once. I'm not sure what exactly that says about my character that I can choke down the most disgusting stuff on earth for the sake of being polite, but I feel I need someone to say to me that I'm a bigger man than they.

Also, our server made fun of me for eating the noodles first; supposedly that action makes people fat. Horrified, mortified, whatever, I laughed along with him.

Cheese sandwich, you are my sunshine in this God-forsaken land of fish.

To school:
It's a lucky thing I'm thin-ish because my boss parks so freaking close to other cars. Also, they drive like fucking maniacs over here. There are signs at many intersections that allow for unprotected left turns on red lights. And they only pay heed to any red lights as they see fit. And they turn from whatever damn lane they please and cut others off often. But there is no rage. It's like the Twilight Zone or something.

When we pulled up, I decided I would move to the apartments by the school for sure, an option I've been given for the end of the year. I could open my window there and spit on the school. But later my fellow teachers asked about my current place and said they heard it was expensive. What? I dunno.
I was told I'd be teaching 10- to 12-year-olds. By that, they mean 8 to 14. The first class was the worst. The kids were so much younger than I expected, so adorable and exuberant and LOUD. The academy is set up with 3 Korean teachers and me. Annie was there to help me through the first class, only she had no idea what the foreign teacher's role is supposed to be, so that went poorly.
I spent 2 whole classes playing hangman. And 2 half classes. These kids LOVE hangman. It's nuts. The class the other teachers warned me about having ill-behaved children wasn't that bad.

My last class was 13- and 14-year-old boys who gave me crap for not knowing Korean but phrased it so well in English that I can't help but want to smack the one upside the head. Whatever. They're not so bad.

I tried Kimpa (sp???), rice and stuff wrapped in seaweed. It tasted ok except for the seaweed, but now I'm having gross tasting burps.

My boss gave me a prepaid cell phone. After 3 days of peaceful separation from one, I am loathe to carry this one.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

First day in town

My first meal in Korea consisted of scrambled eggs and dry cereal I found in the apartment. And then I couldn't figure out how to turn off the stove. Every time I fiddled with the knob it got hotter, so I just walked away for a while. Eventually it turned itself off.

Walked around my neighborhood for about an hour this morning. It's a good thing I have a good sense of direction because I don't know where anything is, don't know my address, and can't read the street signs. The wind chill was 27 degrees F, and my camera does not work in cold weather, might be permanently damaged for all I know right now.

Pizza Hut
Outback Steakhouse
Baskin Robbins (In a food court overwhelmingly permeated with the stink of seafood)
Dunkin' Donuts on my corner
lots of pizza places
lots of coffeehouses/cafes
walk/bike trail a mile or 2 long with workout equipment in the center (There is workout equipment sitting all over the city for public use. Too cool.)
a number of shops specializing in awesome activewear
Kim's Club- "This Korean—style warehouse is operated by New Core Company and is open 24 hours a day. It has 12 local branches and offers more than 3,000 kinds of merchandise including groceries. Shoppers can purchase electronic appliances, sportswear, clothing and household items at discounted prices. You are sure to save plenty of cash, so buy everything you intend to!"

My boss showed me around and took me shopping later in the day. Riding in a car with heated seats is a very unusual experience for a first-timer. He showed me where the school is and where the bus stops are to get there, also the subway (train) station and two 24-hour convenience stores near me, which he said were expensive. Found a stand-alone Robbins and a KFC. A big thank you to Coca Cola for conquering the globe. (Imagine double chest pound and peace sign.) Much love.

The next building over from my apartment is a many storied store like a department store and grocery and bed and bath and has a food court, dry cleaning, photo processing, and I don't know how much more. They sell hula hoops everywhere here. I might need one. I know it's much to early to say so, but I'm gonna pull a Moseby. I think I'm in love.

Ask me about my flight

Friday, Nov. 13
4:19 a.m. CST - My ride is here. I didn't sleep last night because it's easier for me to stay up until I have to leave than to try to sleep for 3 hours.
5:20 a.m. CST - I can check two bags free of charge, but they amount to 1 pound over the weight limit. The ticket lady doesn't charge me. <3 This means I have packed my weight in luggage.
7:12 a.m. CST - It's dawn and my plane is backing out from the terminal. A sense of finality sets in; I could have backed out any time before now, but I am encapsulated and well on my way. I feel alone (but not lonely). I feel the weight of everyone else's worries for me.
7:17 a.m. CST - As the plane lifts off and away from what has been my only home for as long as I can remember, I take note of the internal monologue running through my head. My day will amount to 24 hours total spent in airports and in the air. I may as well tell you all about it.
8:50 a.m. PST - The plane touches down in San Francisco. I suppose it was a good flight; I slept through the takeoff until initial descent.
9:05 a.m. PST - A lot of cute Asians at San Fran Internt'l, Nick. Look at all the my size people!
9:17 a.m. PST - I just spent $11 on a plate of eggs. I will even go so far as to say they were nearly worth it. Breakfast is my favorite.
9:48 a.m. PST - What am I going to do with the remaining 3.5 hours of my layover? Walk laps around the terminal and check out the duty free shops. Boy, if you like liquor, cigarettes, fancy fine chocolates, or perfume, this is the place for you.
11:26 a.m. PST - The motion activated toilet flushed before I was finished and splashed potty water all over my hiney. This is my sad face.
12:28 p.m. PST - There's a man waiting to board my flight wearing a Metallica tshirt, jeans, black combat boots, black trench coat, and sporting a partially shaved head, long ponytail, goatee and sunglasses indoors, carrying an orange duffel bag. He looks so menacing.... I love it.
12:46 p.m. PST - Boarding. Look out Korea. Here I come.
2:27 p.m. PST - I didn't know why airline food has such a bad rap, until now. Yuck.
4:08 p.m. PST - I got to watch the second half of "The Time Traveler's Wife." I don't know if I'll ever be able to watch it again without getting all teared up. There's a cool screen feature that shows a map of our plane's position over the Pacific in real time. The outside air temperature is -59 degrees F or -51 C. Fucking Celsius. Fucking metric system. Who thought up that bullshit anyway?
7:42 p.m. PST - We've just crossed the international date line. That makes it Saturday.
8:07 p.m. PST - We're being served Chinese noodles and given a spork and chopsticks. It's become painfully obvious that I can't eat noodles with a spork. I stare at my food in frustration. I don't do chopsticks. I say it's because I'm left handed. But the ladies on either side of me are slurping away, so I cease to worry about looking like an idiot with chopsticks and follow suit. (After landing, I heard some other American passengers complaining about the same issue. One guy said he couldn't use chopsticks and his friend asked him if he had ever eaten Chinese food. I almost turned around and said that's what forks are for.)
10:02 p.m. PST - I've been on this plane for 8 hours, 27 minutes. I would kill for a neck massage. And a shower. My own skin feels greasy to me. I found out I give a damn good self massage.
12:36 a.m. PST - HOT turkey sandwich on sourdough. Black Eyed Peas' "I got a Feelin'" in my earbuds. Does it get any better than this?
6:56 p.m. Korea - Turbulent landing. I think I'm gonna puke.

A guy name John (I think?) met me at the airport and put me on a bus. He said my stop is Ansan and it's the last stop. I asked how long the ride would be, and he said maybe 30 minutes.
It was closer to an hour. I waited outside for a bit but did not see any signs with my name, so I wrastled luggage weighing more than me inside to wait for my ride because it was damn cold, deciding it was my boss' job to find me now, not the other way around.

Welcome to Korea

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

For posterity

I will be compiling my Korea-related Facebook updates and posting them periodically. Also, I left Facebook on CST. So ignore the time stamps, I guess. Here is the pre-Korea list.

MP just had an interview today to teach English in Korea. This might be one of the coolest jobs ever. Send some "land the job" vibes my way if you have the chance! :0)
June 8 at 6:15pm

MP is going to Korea in September! *JOY!*
June 9 at 7:07pm

MP Do you ever have the feeling that maybe your life has no greater purpose than being the butt of some cosmic joke? That's what my week has been like. I can't decide whether to laugh, cry, or glower at the skies.
June 17 at 8:36pm

MP spent $150 on a damn passport today.
June 23 at 6:26pm

MP is broke and desperately seeking work. :-(
June 29 at 1:56pm

MP This is for everyone who was worried about me being sold into slavery.
Footprints Recruiting | Better Business Bureau Review | Vancouver, BC BBB Rating
Based on BBB files, this business has a BBB Rating of A+ on a scale from A+ to F.
August 31 at 11:02pm

MP made her first trip ever into a pawn shop today. It wasn't nearly as seedy or shady as she expected, and they paid her exactly what she was expecting.
August 5 at 9:32pm

MP Needs to make a daytrip to Austin this week to get shit certified for Korea. Anyone want to come with?
September 8 at 11:33am

MP put in three applications today. Woo.
September 21 at 5:10pm

MP is not looking forward to writing a cover letter
September 21 at 3:28pm

MP got a job offer for a school about 40 min. south of Seoul. :0)
October 13 at 4:37pm

MP is going home to pack. Can anyone recommend a cheap, climate-controlled storage place in or near Denton?
October 13 at 4:43pm

MP can't believe she's willing to get rid of ELEVEN pairs of shoes. Awesome. That perfectly halves the space they take up under my bed.
October 16 at 7:26pm

MP wishes she owned more pawnable stuff.
October 21 at 4:31pm 

MP is frustrated with paperwork, red tape, and bureacracy in general.
October 22 at 3:25pm

MP is packing. Bah humbug.
October 27 at 6:50pm

MP is contemplating how long it will take to bicycle 280 miles to Houston. For the record, getting information on/from the Korean Consulate is a bit like shooting craps.
October 30 at 2:14pm

MP will TELL you as soon as she knows what day she's leaving. Stop asking or I might have to sign up for Twitter.
November 2 at 7:19pm

MP is headed to Houston in the morning. Bleck.
November 4 at 8:01pm

MP "They’ve decided to change your departure date to the 13th because it’s easier for them if you arrive on a weekend. This way, you have some time to relax. :)"
November 5 at 10:05pm

MP has the appropriate power adapter. Woot!
November 8 at 5:52pm

MP is straightening out the turmoil.
November 10 at 12:41pm

MP has her flight itinerary. Depart DFW 7:16 a.m. Friday the 13th, arrive Seoul 7:15 p.m. Nov. 14. 4 hours to San Fran and 13 to Seoul. I'll be living 14 hours in the FUTURE!
November 11 at 11:41am

MP On Saturday, it will be 57 degrees F in Seoul with scattered clouds.
November 11 at 12:37pm

MP genuinely believes the airwaves are conspiring against her today. She was only in Albertson's for a few minutes total, and they played Green Day's "Time of Your Life," and the radio has been playing similar noise designed to elicit an emotional response.
November 12 at 11:19am

MP splurged on 2 pairs of new boots but won't get to wear them until she is in Korea. Omg they are sexy. *Joy*
November 12 at 11:29am

"You're so much braver than I am"

Am I? It's what a handful of people have said to me about my leaving. I generally dismissed it, not really understanding what they meant. I've never lived more than an hour from home and never been away from home for more than 2 months, and that was with family. It could be awful for me over there, but I won't really know until I get there, will I? So what is this you mean about my being brave?

Except that it's started to creep into the pot simmering on the back burner in my mind. I'm pretty sure if I watched the pot, I'd start freaking out. So instead I'm keeping myself busy doing other things. Don't really want to think about it for fear of incapacitating...fear? I guess. Choosing not to address the issue because I see no sense in worrying over how I don't know I'll feel a week from now seems like a waste of my energy. And that's different from denial, isn't it?

My aunt went to teach English in Japan at about my age and had to come home after three months. Yikes.

I'm banking on being too busy learning to teach, learning my surroundings, learning the language, and trying to stay afloat once I arrive to be rightly homesick.

Oh my God, I hate this medication. I started the pill last week and I am miserable. Depression, fatigue, serious weight gain, upset stomach, and more- I really hope the symptoms even out soon because I feel like a wreck.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Preparing the way

A few nights ago, a guy asked me what in the world would I do in Korea without a "real" (read: caucasian) man to satisfy me. I am not concerned and told him I doubt there will be any problem, but still he pressed, going so far as to suggest he come visit me there. Awkward.

I was exceedingly offended by his remarks (The very idea that a woman should need a man to satisfy her- ha! as if), and the feeling stuck with me for days until I had an epiphany last night.

As laughable as I find the matter, I understand why you (all you men, really) have to believe such a thing is true and go on joking about endowments as they relate to ethnicity. It's a bit sad, really, because it's clear now that you have little self worth except for that defined by your perceived value to women. Is your penis really the best thing you have going for you?

I don't expect any of you to believe me because it just might shatter your worldview, but here it is: women don't need you and can, in fact, live without you. We don't love your peter half as much as you do, and I'm not sure that we could even aspire to. I understand how a man would be threatened by such a revelation, so I have no intention of telling you to cease your delusions of being God's gift to women.

Personally, I must say I find the notion of my only being God's gift to men tragically depressing. I am my own, and my self-worth is not measured by how pleasing others judge my physical traits to be.

Perhaps I am remiss in not sooner mentioning that I'm no man-hating, liberal, hippie feminist of questionable orientation; I'm really not. Don't get me wrong; I love men and I love to love them. But the only downside I can see to not having one around to "please" and "satisfy" me, as it were, is more free time. And I have been wanting to write a book.

Sorry, fellas. Women being able to take care of themselves and solve their own frustrations probably threatens the world order and your life's purpose. Perhaps some of you ought to consider higher aspirations. If this bothers you, if you have a problem with my being a whole person, complete and self-possessed as an individual, well, it's not my problem.

That being the case, we will now part ways. But please know that I wish you the very best of luck in finding converts for the cult of your cock.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

It just doesn't math

From my recruiter:

Your documents have been received in Korea and everything looks great. They are currently at immigration, and your visa reservation number is expected on the 30th. The school would like you to arrive on November 5th.

From the Visa application guide:

Once you have your visa reservation number, the process from here is to send the items below to the
Korean Consulate. You will then be contacted for an in-person interview at the consulate...

Once the consulate receives your application and paperwork( including visa reservation number), they will contact you to arrange an interview. Some consulates will let you call to book an interview before you have your visa number, others will not.

You will be required to visit the Korean consulate IN PERSON unless special arrangements can be made. We are not trying to get your hopes up but there are some Korean Consulates who have become sympathetic to teacher applicants who have to come from a LONG way.

The visa will be processed after that. Each consulate has different processing times (from one hour to 5 days), so ask them when it will be ready!

So I'll be making the phone call tomorrow to find out just how lenient our local Korean Consulate is. It's in Houston, btw. Do you think they'd count Denton as "a LONG way," considering I have no car and no way to get there in person?