Monday, August 30, 2010

Gettin' my re-ward!

Sometimes I take a look at my life and wonder how on earth I could possibly be a functioning adult. And then I look at my fridge and realize that generally, no. I am not, in fact, a functioning adult. More like a semi-functioning teenager.

The ridiculous thing about my fridge is that I actually really like cooking. I just hate grocery shopping. Especially when I have to carry it all back home by myself.

But sometimes, I can manage to work up just enough energy to actually make an effort to Do Things Adults Do. Like today, for instance. After trudging into work this morning, grumbling about the two days I thought I had to spend in my classroom doing nothing, I was told around lunchtime that I actually did not have to come in either today or tomorrow - in effect, I had two days' vacation before school started.

Let me tell you, two surprise days off is a pretty good motivator to Get Sh*t Done.

After coming home, I realized that I had quite enough time to actually run some bank errands that I normally put off as long as is humanly possible because the bank is effing FAR from my school and I have to take personal vacation hours to go do these tragically necessary errands.

ANYWAY. I got home, grabbed my bills, and slimed off to the bank (side note: I am over humidity. You would think I would have been over it after nigh-on 21 summers in the south/Gulf Coast, but I would give ANYTHING to have those back after this horrific summer). So I went to the bank, fought with the ATM, paid my bills, and withdrew the cash to transfer to my bank at home. After going to a different bank, since all the branches of my bank in my town conveniently do not transfer money overseas, I successfully completed the transfer of money, so now I am all set for Bank Errands for the next month. And all in just under an hour!

Of course, because I was such a Successful Adult, I determined that I needed a reward. Because that's how I motivate myself to do adult things like grocery shopping or going to the bank: rewards.

I feel that this only supports the thesis that I am more a mildly functioning teenager than a fully functioning adult.

It's mah re-ward!

So I stopped at the Paris Baguette on the way home from the bank, and grabbed myself a delicious nectar of the gods, the Peach Iced Tea. I will probably curl up into a little ball and die when they discontinue this stuff for the winter. But sometimes it's not just peach iced tea! Sometimes it's a snickers bar, or even a pizza! It really is a very healthy system I have in place.

There you have it folks. My admission that I am really not this fabulous, successful, well-adjusted and put-together person you all are convinced I am. I have to bargain with myself to do even the simplest tasks, like going to the bank. It's a little ridiculous, and a trend I do not see reversing itself any time soon. Ah well. Time for more cake.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Ok guys we need to have a discussion. As some of you may know, there has been a recent spate of Westerners (mostly Americans) sneaking into North Korea and getting caught. Perhaps the most high-profile instance was last summer, when journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee were caught and detained for several months before Bill Clinton had to go over to North (or "Best") Korea to save their asses.

A happy ending

More recently, however, an English teacher in South Korea from the States, Aijalon Mahli Gomes, was captured and sentenced to a labor camp for entering the country illegally. There has been much speculation as to why he went over - from 'he just loved Best Korea that much' to 'he wanted to bring the love of Jesus Christ to the poor heathen North Koreans' - but there has been no official word regarding what he was really doing in the north. So now President Jimmy Carter has flown to Pyongyang something.

 Apparently part of it is getting smacked by little girls.

Here's some interesting information about Carter and North Korea: back in 1994, he was sent to North Korea on a "covert" mission (covert in that it was ostensibly personal and not sanctioned by the Clinton administration) to mediate a conflict between the DPRK and USA (about nuclear arms, I believe - how things have changed!). He was extraordinarily successful, going so far as to negotiate the framework for a treaty (which was TOTALLY not part of his mission) of understanding between the two nations. Long story short (too late!) he's got a fair bit of understanding and insight into the situation up'air.

Of course his talents are being employed to go rescue some adventurer or thrill-seeker or do-gooder in North Korea. And I'm not arguing that homeslice should remain in prison, but I think our humanitarian former presidents probably have better things to do with their time than rescuing people who get themselves in these situations.

So here's the deal guys: QUIT DOING THIS. QUIT SNEAKING INTO NORTH KOREA. IT WILL NOT END WELL FOR YOU. I do not care what your reason it, whether it's humanitarian or information-seeking. The thing is, folks, we have professionals who are working to deal with North Korea. They are called diplomats, and they are FAR better trained than you are in bringing about peace or learning information or Jesus-ing people or whatever it is you think you need to do up in there. Now please, PLEASE just let Jimmy Carter take a nap. He looks like he needs one. Stay out of North Korea except through legal means. And make damn sure those means are really legal. 

Monday, August 23, 2010

I'm gonna try a new thing: Foreign Lands Roundup

So here's the deal, folks. I'm currently living in a Foreign Land. And I like learning about things going on in other Foreign Lands. So I'm going to start a new, probably weekly, blog feature called the "Foreign Lands Roundup" where I attempt to give some of you uncultured cretins an idea of what's happening in the world beyond your own backyards. The idea is that it will be a few short, possibly funny blurbs about some Important Things that have happened in the last week that You May Have Missed since CNN fired Octaiva Nasr and Christiane Amanpour is now doing something (possibly the weather?) on ABC. I'm going to try this out for a bit, and I'd love to hear some feedback from you guys - what do you think? Worth including in the blawg? Let me know!

So, without further stalling for time, here's your Week in Foreign Lands Roundup(TM):

  • So Australia apparently had an election this weekend. Which, first of all, who has weekend elections? What is that? And second of all, good for them! Apparently there was no violence at the polls, but there was a political-candidate-eating-crocodile or something. Also, Australia, I think we need to talk. Look guys. Just because Britain does something doesn't mean you have to do it too. I know, I know, you still insist on being a pretend constitutional monarchy or whatever, but I think the whole world knows that you only do it to keep the queen's picture on your money. What happens when she dies, god forbid? You'll just have to print up entirely new money, and no one wants that. But I digress. See, earlier this year, the UK held elections that resulted in a hung parliament. Naturally, then, when Australians had a choice at the polls last Saturday between a mildly nice lawyer lady and a Literal Crazy Person, they chose...a hung parliament. ATTENTION PEOPLE WITH FUNNY ACCENTS: MAKE POLITICAL DECISIONS.[BBC

Viktor Bout being led off by Thai police. Photo via
  • Comically James-Bond-villain-esque Viktor Bout will be extradited to the United States to face charges related to decades of arms smuggling in conflicts around the world. Seriously, if you take a look at any of the major (and many of the minor) conflicts from the last 20 or 30 years, you will find that Viktor Bout has, in some way, been evilly involved in every one of them. From Colombia to Afghanistan, including stops in Angola, Sierra Leone, and almost certainly any of the conflicts resulting from the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, Viktor Bout has been there, smiling his smarmy smile, looking out from his creepy mustache. This would be an example of an Actual Evil Person, and it's probably a good thing that he's going away for a long, long time. Unless, of course, the sharks with lasers are a success and manage to free him from his prison cell. Best evidence that he's evil? Nicholas Cage played him in a feature film. [Reuters]

  • The Roma are the redheaded stepchildren of Europe. No one wants them, and everyone wonders about that smell that always seems to crop up when they are around. Mostly, they are just "tolerated" in polite European societies (by which I mean "routinely beaten by the police, arrested, and used as political scapegoats"), but last week, President Sarkozy of France decided to really get back to his nativist, immigrant-bashing roots and just cold deport a whole mess of 'em back to Romania or whatever. They come from Romania, right? That sounds right, anyway. Of course, when you deport people in the EU, you have to give them 300 Euros for their hassle. And when you deport people within the EU, you can't really keep them from coming back to your EU member country. So basically what's happening now is the Roma are getting kicked back to Romania, where they will wait in the airport for like a day or so, and then go back to France using their gypsy magic (airplanes) or something. It's all a beautiful part of the natural cycle of labor migration! [France24]

Saturday, August 21, 2010

An open letter to the tree in my school's playground

Dear Cicada Tree,

You used to be such a good tree. I rather liked you, in fact. They way you stood apart from the stand of trees in the garden, lending your own shade on the pathway around the field up to my school. You proudly stood for an independence and self-sufficience that so few trees these days are willing to take on. I admired you. I enjoyed walking past you, not just because it meant I wouldn't have to get my shoes dirty on the constantly sandy or muddy field, but because you provided a brief but welcome respite from the relentless Korean heat. I enjoyed that I could look out of my classroom window and see you standing there, proud and alone.

But not lately. The last couple weeks, I've noticed that things have changed. I cannot walk past you without a gnawing fear growing in the pit of my stomach. And it's not you, per se, Tree, that is causing my anxiety. Rather, it's what is living amongst your branches. And I think you know what I'm talking about.

The cicadas.

Those hideously loud, nasty, enormous devil bugs that let us know the hottest days of summer are upon us. At first, I thought it would be okay - you are a strong, independent tree, and you know how to take care of yourself! And when I first heard the air-raid siren-like screech of the cicadas, I did not hear them from your branches. So I thought to myself, "Thank goodness. Tree is alright."

But no. As I was walking home yesterday, I thought I would pass underneath you to take some shade and avoid the recently rained-upon mudpit field. But as I got closer, I noticed that the cicada noise was louder than ever, and it was coming directly from you. I thought that perhaps I was just hearing things - my hearing isn't the greatest to begin with, and I had been sick for the last couple of days.

As I approached your branches, though, I saw them. The Monsters, screaming their screams and dive-bombing their...dive-bombs...

I was devastated.

Et tu, Brute? Are you, too, housing these horrible devil-monsters? I can't believe it. I won't believe it! I am sure you are infested against your will...and if that's the case, well hold on. Wikipedia tells me that the mature adults will generally live only a few weeks above ground before finally, mercifully dying off for the rest of the year.

But not before having laid their eggs.

Oh you poor tree. You must go through this every summer! This macabre Rob Zombie-esque annual fight with what can only be described as the forces of Satan. Stand well, my friend, and continue to fight the good fight. Rest assured that we are hard at work finding a "final solution" of sorts to the Cicada menace. One day, you too will be free.

Sincerely looking forward to fall,

Friday, August 20, 2010

Sick Blogging

As I am sure anyone who has seen me at my illest (and not the good kind of illin', I'm afraid) can attest, I can be...a bit of a bear when I am sick. It's probably a good idea to leave me alone, but I'll be honest: nothing makes me more of a mama's boy than being sick. And you guys, I was MAD sick the last couple of days.

It started on Tuesday. I wasn't feeling great when I woke up, and after having to deal with a class of (almost exclusively) 6th grade girls, I was about ready to die. And then the body aches started. As the afternoon wore on, I found progressively more ingenious ways to lay down at my desk without it looking to anyone passing by that I was laying down. Not that anyone passed by. And not that they would not have looked in and gone "WTF is he doing in there???"

I believe at one point, I was on the floor, with my head in the chair. Why I didn't just lay down is beyond me, but my fevered brain decided that this was a good idea, so I just went with it.

Another thing I'm particularly good at when I'm really sick is convincing myself that I will be okay if I just go home and sleep, and that I will be able to go to work the next day. This is pretty empirically false, but I keep on believing. Even as I was staggering home, noticing that the colors were in much sharper contrast than normal, sweating profusely, walking in nothing that could be considered close to a straight line, I just KNEW that if I only slept a lot that night, I'd be fine the next day.

 This was the view from my walk home.

Cut to the next morning, after a horrible night's sleep from which I was constantly woken thanks to the pain in every one of my joints and my throat. I finally decided two things: a) I needed to go to the doctor, and b) I would not be going into work that day.

Of course, it's August, and it FEELS like august outside, so not only am I miserably wracked with fever, but it's also abysmally hot and uncomfortable outside. So I'm trudging my way over to the taxi stand to get a ride to the hospital when I hear air raid sirens go off.

"Well crap," I think to myself. "I'm gonna die here. Wonderful."

Undeterred by the impending North Korean-caused death, I make it to a taxi and ask him, in pitiful Korean, to take me to the hospital. Once he finally understands where I want to go, he declares that he cannot take me there. At this point, I nearly break down. What do you mean you can't take me? I just need to go like a half a mile and YOU CAN'T TAKE ME??? THIS IS A TAXICAB JUST DRIVE!

Meltdown. But without a Joe to keep me from going literally insane.

But instead, he makes me get out of the cab and I end up walking to the hospital (which is where you go in Korea to see the doctor). In the heat. It's a miracle I actually survived the trip, but I did, and I got diagnosed with tonsillitis, and I was given my prescription for lots of drugs.
Lots of drugs for low, low prices!

Oh and I got a shot in the a**. Yes, that's right folks, when you go to the doctor in Korea, no matter what ails you, you will leave with a shot in the a**. But hey. Whatever gets the meds into me the fastest is fine by me.

And, to top it all off, it was SUPER cheap. Only about 18000 won for the whole deal - examination, prescriptions filled, shot in the a** - which equals about $15. Hooray for socialism or whatever! But SUPER hooray for health insurance.

Anyway, I'm back teaching today. Which means my throat feels like it is on fire, and I mostly want to go back to bed. But I will have all weekend for that, so whatever. Here I will hang out for a little bit longer. And try not to die.

Monday, August 16, 2010

In which I am mean to a manatee, or A Day At The Aquarium

Possibly one of my favorite things in the world is ocean life. There is very little that fills me with more awe and wonder than the oceans. I'm fairly convinced that sea monsters are real, and that we encounter them quite often. We have just come up with other names for them, like "sharks" and "sting rays" and "craplobsters" (though that last one might just be me, dating back to a particular childhood trauma where a relative had a lobster pinch her toe). Suffice it to say, I love oceans.

I love fish so much!

And aquariums (aquaria?) are some of my favorite places on the planet. It is my greatest sadness that I lived in the DC area for 5 years and never actually managed to visit the Baltimore aquarium. So I made sure that I took time to visit the Seoul Aquarium in the COEX mall here in South Korea. And it was pretty awesome...except for all the people.

Apparently, THE thing to do on a rainy Saturday afternoon in Seoul is to drag take your children to the aquarium. And THE thing to do once there is arrange 50 billion posed photos with uninterested children and parents in front of various sea life. Poor children.

You can see the excitement on their face when they first arrive. "LOOK AT THIS LOOK LOOK LOOK A WEIRD FISH!" (pause) "LOOK LOOK LOOK ANOTHER WEIRD FISH LOOK LOOK!" But then the parents! UGH THE PARENTS! Ruining it for the children. Shoving them through the exhibits at a pace that is either too fast or too slow, but definitely not the pace that the children want to go. Forcing them to read all the boring ass writing on the tanks and not learning any of the SERIOUSLY COOL stuff about the fish they are seeing (and will promptly forget). It made me very sad.


The worst part, though, was just how crowded it all was. Being body checked through exhibits is definitely NOT my idea of fun, but I guess for some people, a crowd is just another thing to shove through. Because that will create the best museum experience for everyone.

But despite all that, I still had a great time at the aquarium. How could I not? GIANT SEA CREATURES and also some small ones. Here are some photos, courtesy of Meg:

 These are some monsters:

How is this not a monster?

It will totally eat your face.

They are small, but still monsters.

There were also some less threatening monsters, like penguins and sea turtles. Though they weren't threatening to eat my face, you could see the monster gleam in their eyes.

 The smaller turtle we saw that day.

  King Penguin.

This penguin was the best penguin ever. He basically just sat up there, watching all the loser young penguins swimmin around, actin like fools, and saying to himself "Yes. I am cool. I am way cooler than you penguins and I do NOT need to go swimming like an idiot. Have fun, nerds."

But ultimately, I showed the penguins who was REALLY boss here.


And then there were the manatees. Here's the thing about manatees: they are dumb creatures. Oh look at me! I'm a manatee! I'm gonna skim the pool for mold! WHATEVER SHUT UP, MANATEE. 

So here's a video of me being mean to a manatee.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Promised birthday update

After some relaxing Body Design noodles and Doctor Who Season 2, I'm feeling much better about this Friday. Still torn about whether or not the sun should come out and dispense the gloom (but really jack up the temps), but either way, I'm in my classroom with my airconjuseyo set to Antarctica, so life is much better.

As I may have mentioned before, I had a birthday recently, turning the big 2-5. One fun thing about being out of college and in the "professional" world is that I am no longer the oldest person I know! So exciting! See, I had this issue where I was always slightly older than my peer group, which (due to my weak psyche) gave me something of a complex about my age. Now, however, I have close friends who are both older and younger than I am, so I'm feeling much better about my age.

Anyway, my lovely friends took me out to a wonderful samgyeopsal dinner on my birthday (think thick cut bacon on lettuce leaves filled with deliciousness). It was so nice to be stable and in one place on my birthday, and to be able to plan this sort of event. You see, for the past 6 or so years, right around my birthday, I've had to be preparing to move from one place to another. First it was from Houston to DC, to start school in the fall, then moving apartments in the DC area, until I finally moved back to Houston for a short time before coming here.

But now I'm here, and for this birthday at least, I don't have to worry about uprooting my life in a few weeks. Which is wonderfully liberating.

So anyway, here are a few photos from my birthday dinner:

Ajumma visor, sunglasses and cupcakes. What more could you want?

My good friend Jill gave me her most prized Korea posession - her ajumma hat. I could not have been more touched. But then I saw them. CUPCAKES. Which are my favorite things EVER. She and another of our friends, Andrea, had baked them for my birthday, and they were DELICIOUS. Hippy Barfday, Oldy indeed.

And yes. That can of pringles was full. I HAVE THE BEST FRIENDS EVER.

So awesome.

Anyway, that was my actual birthday celebration. Well part I, anyway. Part II will be this excited! 

Oh another fun thing about celebrating a birthday on the other side of the world: You get to have a birthday for about 36 hours! Fantastic! 


I cannot believe my students.

This was supposed to be a fun post about my actual birthday celebrations that did not involve Miss Havisham. But I need to get this off my chest just now.

Picture, if you will, a group of students just finishing the second-to-last day of their summer camp. They are excited about their English party tomorrow, where they will get to watch a movie and eat food and just have fun. But they will also have to do some learning! And one of them asks me "Teacher tomorrow workbook?"

And I say "yes" in a kind of sympathetic, I'm-sorry-but-we-have-to tone of voice. And they groan, as kids are wont to do. And I think the matter is settled, glad that someone had the presence to ask about it before they just straight up didn't bring their workbook.

Now flash forward to this morning. I'm at the front of the class, getting ready, writing the schedule for class on the board. The first thing I write is, of course, workbook time - get it out of the way so that we can have fun! Behind me, I hear a gasp. I turn, and see 7 confused faces (in a class of 7). Now I'm a little confused. They know what a workbook is - we've been using it for the last two weeks, for crying out loud! So I ask them to show me their workbooks.

More confused silence.

Now I'm getting frustrated. I ask them where their workbooks are, and one of the students tells me "Teacher workbook home!"

I'm stunned. Every damn one of them, apparently having gone outside their minds, has left their workbook at home.

So now I'm going Breakfast Club on their asses.

Yeah, Molly Ringwold. Yikes.

No movie, no food. They get to sit there and write lines. And I get to continue to be upset about this.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Birthday post!

Argh it's been so long since I last posted! I know, I'm sorry. But the thing is...nothing much of consequence has happened around here lately. I know, I know, there are plenty of things that I could bring the funny on, like the dead atmosphere of the casinos around here, or the time I nearly was straight murdered by a taxi cab speeding through a red light, but I'm just feeling a little...uninspired lately. Deskwarming = not the fun ride you'd have thought it was. Basically I teach for a few hours in the morning, then go downstairs and do some coloring with smaller children for about 45 minutes, and then eat lunch, and then I watch Buffy. For hours.

But today! Today is my birthday.

Well sort of.

Technically, I was born at 9:15pm CST in a hospital (from what I understand, the same hospital as Garth Brooks) in Tulsa, Oklahoma. People of Earth, you're welcome. What this means, though, is that because of time travel, I will not *actually* turn 25 until 11:15am tomorrow morning. But the numbers on the calendar are right at this moment, so today's the celebration day.

Side note: given my awesomeness, why isn't this an intergalactic holiday?

So what am I doing for my birthday, inquiring minds want to know (and also the National Enquirer). Well let me tell you how my day is gonna go: when I get home from school, I will go home and have cake. I'm envisioning something moldy, out of Great Expectations.

Taste my delicious sadness!

And then it will be time for the main event. At this point, I'm imagining me in tattered clothes that were once nice, with a crazy look in my eyes, half-weeping and half-singing over lopsided candles on a lumpy cake that probably was made out of old rags and bits of garbage.

Channeling Miss Havisham.

I might put up a video of this, but it all might make you guys just too jealous. And I wouldn't want to that.

(Post-Script for people who might be a little worried, I will actually be celebrating with friends. But afterwords! Dickensian dystopia HERE I COME)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Summer tiiiiiiiime

And the livin is easy...

Well relatively easy, at least. I started my Summer Camp on Monday, and that's been going pretty well. I come in to school in the mornings (lately drenched in sweat) and get into my classroom and set the airconjuseyo on ICE AGE. Then I slime down towards the teacher's lounge and begin my morning struggle with the copier machine.

I swear, human life would be made so much better if we just destroyed all the copy machines in existence.

This particular model likes to make about 3 copies before it decided to make those folded paper fans (you know the ones you'd make in school, to pretend you were fancy Old South old money? And fanned yourself on the po'ch? While "pretending" to sip mint juleps? No? Just me?). And then I have to stick my hand in the burning hot copier to try to unjam the damn thing. Which usually results in the paper tearing and creating a new jam. So the unbearably frustrating cycle continues.

My childhood fantasy.

But then it's time for class, and lately the classes have been going pretty well. I think it's partially because I don't have great expectations for the class, and there's really no pressure, so we can just have some fun. But it also may have something to do with the ease of the lessons - there's plenty of stuff for the kids to do, and they seem mostly willing to do it. But the biggest plus to the summer camps is that I have a (different) coteacher who will actually help translate directions! It's so nice to have that assistance in class.

And after about three hours of teaching, I have...nothing. My day is over. Well, over except fotr the fact that I have 5 more hours of SITTING AT A DESK until I can leave. So I have been watching teevee. A lot of teevee. But guys, there's only so much of this I can take...I can feel the craziness coming over me. Pretty soon, it's gonna get REAL in here.

Bored now.

So anyway, mostly I think I'm going to practice some impossible feats, like flying. Or kissing my own elbow. Or advanced calculus.

Wish me luck!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Wedding Update (For real)

I suppose I'm at that age. My current total is: three weddings in the last year, one engagement, and several other long-term committed relationships. Wedding season has arrived for my peer group, and this summer, I got to spend my summer vacation travelling back to the States to be best man in one of my closest friends' weddings. Naturally, this involved approximately 6 years of travel through three different countries, using buses, planes, trains, and automobiles.

What I'm trying to say is, it's not easy getting to and from America. Especially getting to America. A journey that took me approximately 24 hours, from Seoul to Tokyo to Atlanta and finally National Airport in DC left my brain in a puddle of goo. But I suppose that's what happens when you leave Tokyo Narita airport at 3:30pm and arrive in Atlanta at 4:30pm ON THE SAME DAY. Time travelling sucks. I do not recommend it (unless you're trying to become your own grandfather. I suddenly understand how that one can happen).

The wedding itself was great. Three days of parties and a fantastic ceremony, combined with most of my friends from college and a brief visit to DC made for a wonderful break from reality in Korea.

Well, wonderful and a bit melancholy. Knowing it all would end VERY soon and I'd have to leave these people who'd come to be a second family for me during college...well, let's just say that I miss those misfits like crazy. Homesickness and nostalgia aside, it just feels somehow "right" when I'm back in DC. So maybe that's the place I'm supposed to be? I'm not really sure...I like travelling, and I love seeing the world. And I think that for right now, it's just nice to know that I still have a place (well, at least a futon to crash on) back in DC, should I need it. And every once in a while, I think it's good to go back to the familiar and remind ourselves where we came from.

Weddings, too, are always a weird time for me. There's nothing that really shoves the fact of my single-ness in my face more than a wedding. As much as I love the weddings, and as happy as I am for all my friends who have found that Special Someone (gag me with a spoon), I always feel just the teeniest bit resentful toward them for it. Mostly, though, I feel like WHY DON'T I HAVE A RELATIONSHIP YET??? I mean, I'm kind of pretty, and pretty damn smart. I like romantic things like music and art!

And then I take a step back and tell myself to stop being ridiculous. So here's to you, J & was a great time, and I can't wait to see you again as Old Marrieds. And here's to all my other Old Marrieds (L & P, R & M), I hope you have all the happiness in the world. And J & J, I'm looking forward to your wedding. In several years.

And who knows? Maybe one day, I'll be able to have my own wedding (in DC, at least). Till then, here's to some great parties to come.

Oh and here's the actual wedding: Pittsburgh + Catholic + Money Dance = awesome.