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?