Wednesday, November 30, 2005

11:11 - make a wish

I wish that I never have to spend so much time in a salon again, and that my hair turns out okay when I wash it on my own.

The salon closed at 9 and I didn't get out of there until 10:30. And I couldn't understand what the two hairdressers were muttering to each other over my head. My shoulders are still tense.

I had a great post idea in mind but I'm not in the mood so it'll have to wait. Yesterday I bid and won a ridiculous item on ebay. I look forward to its arrival, and I fear a new addiction is on the way.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The package arrived!!!

I never forgave my parents for not sending me packages when I was at summer camp all those years. Everyone (yes, everyone) else got packages stuffed with candy, Archie comics, scratch and win lotto tickets, and gum except for me. Perhaps that longstanding grudge is paying off now, or my parents just rock.

Happy Chanukah to me!

Before you are the contents of my loot: socks, PC brand KD, Lipton Chicken Soup, two dreidels, one of which is hot pink, a calendar, three pairs of control top pantyhose, sweaters, a variety of candy, Aveda hair products that keep my curls (oh dear, what curls) looking good, my good friend Nyquil, more socks, and two pairs of Dish jeans, 36 inches long. Not pictured here is my winter jacket and a Chanukah Menorah including candles. I wonder if I should incorporate the holiday into the classroom... but, then again there are 100 Jews in a city of over ten million so I'm not sure if I'm prepared for that kind of education.

Thanks parents, you've really outdone yourselves this time! Too bad you couldn't get Kwinter in the box.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Things to look forward to

Every week goes by a little faster because of something. So usually when Sunday rolls around someone asks the question: what have we got to look forward to this week? Sometimes it's a long weekend, sometimes a field trip or special event, a birthday or a weekend plan. Usually there's something.

This week there's really nothing that school has explicity provided but luckily I have a few of my own.

1. A package is due to arrive from my parents tomorrow; my second since arriving here. I gave them a list of things I wanted/dreamed of and promptly forgot what I put on it so I'm excited. I do remember requesting Lipton chicken soup packages and Nyquil. Alright!

2. The completion of my Magic Straight process. I'm quickly becoming a greaseball and I don't find the look particularly becoming. Can I hold out until Wednesday? I'm not so sure. I almost caved just now and washed my hair but D'Arcy knocked the sense in to me.

Is that it? I guess it is, besides seeing the shining faces of my little kids every single morning. Maybe I can look forward to some absences due to sickness.

Oh, I forgot.

3. Payday is on Wednesday! And with payday comes my monthly anniversary, and this time 'round it's five months. And with this money I will be making a trip to the travel agent to lay down 600,000 won or so for the flight to Bangkok. Four weeks 'till Thailand!

Mom and Dad, book a flight to visit! I'll buy you dinner...

Saturday, November 26, 2005

The Details of my Magic Straight Experience

One of my curly haired, now departed coworkers had it done and it worked like a charm. I considered it, then forgot about it. Then remembered.

I hemmed and hawed thinking about it for the past few weeks, carefully weighing the pros and cons. What did it finally come down to? I didn't want to be on my deathbed knowing that I passed on the one opportunity to pay under one hundred bucks to have permanently straight hair. Thank you, Sara, for putting it into perspective. Sure my curls are fantabulous, but hey, I was looking for adventure, and it's temporarily permanent. I'll be dealing with curly roots in about three to four months.

So D'Arcy and I walked to the next city this morning; a nice walk in perfect cool weather. We were heading to check out the GAP which we finally located in the outlet district of Ori. Much to our dismay, every GAP item was no cheaper than $100 so we left empty handed. We found the first hair dresser on the stretch with a semi English sign and went in inquiring about Magic Straight. This is a famous process developed (I think) in Korea. There's a similar process done in Japan. And to get it done in North America sets you back at least an arm. Maybe a leg too. My mom asked her hairdresser and they said it costs a grand!

This picture is my hair before, on a rare occassion that I actually wore it down. Much much curly. So I was a bit concerned that the process would do a bad job but decided to go ahead with it anyway.

They said it would take two hours and would cost 70,000 won, which is about seventy dollars. Fine by me. The guy put some kind of paste into my hair, then wrapped my head in saran, then heated it for a relatively short while, then washed, then flat ironed, then creamed again, then washed, then blowdried. It turned out to be a five hour process! And the final blowdry still had a little bit of frizz and twist to it, though it was remarkable how much it did work. They were a little surprised, and commented on my quantity of hair. Very apologetically they asked me to come back on Wednesday to finsh off the job.

So far I'm very happy with the results. It's fun to have soft, shiny straight hair, at least for a change. I look forward to blowdrying my hair and leaving in the morning with dry hair; something I haven't done in years and years. And I even got hit on by a girl tonight. Okay, okay, it was merely a compliment and not even about my hair...

We'll see how it looks when I do it myself.

Do you believe...?

Look what I did!

They said it would take two hours. Instead it took five. And I hve to go back on Wednesday to complete the job. It only cost $80,000 though and it'll be really good when it's all done.

What do you think?

Thursday, November 24, 2005

I look good in hats

I believe I forgot to mention that they dressed us as chefs, had a huge buffet brought in by the parent's, and fed us 'till we could almost be fed no more.

Here are all the teachers, from left to right: Jennifer, me, Kevin, Scott, D'Arcy, Sara, Barbara, and Kierstie.
And here's me and Sara manning the Japan table. I got stuck serving udon to totteling children laden with food. I handled it better than the time they asked me to cook pancakes.

Happy Thanksgiving

I am thankful that I love my kids once again, after a bad month of terror. Here they are.

Ashley: She still likes to push me at times, by running around in a circle and then looking up with a laugh. My favourite quote "Teacher, come here please". Did I teach her that? She's finally starting to warm up and seem comfortable around me. And she just learned how to write her name. But she holds her pencil in a fist.

Mindy: The one who was scowly and hated me in July is now a hilarious little happy kid. Except when she is "very, very angry". Why does she get angry? Because she's picky about her stickers. Or she speaks Korean and gets an X. Favourite Mindy quote "Teacher! Me mummy issa Korean mummy." No kidding? Your mommy is Korean? Oh, and also "Very very ouch! (pointing to nothing on her finger) Band! Band! (which means she wants a bandaid).

Yoon: An incredibly sweet little boy who has a very difficult time sitting still in his chair. He and I have a good bond. He cried a lot the other day when he got an x for speaking Korean because he was determined to have zero x's. Sometimes I pretend I don't hear the Korean he speaks. Why? Because he's teacher's pet, teacher's pet. Favourite Yoon quote "Teacher, me much much sad."
Stephanie stays in class these days and rarely cries, which I like. But she also brings many annoying things to school like lipgloss, sunglasses, candy, and other treats that I have to confiscate throughout the day. Favourite, and only, Stephanie quotes: "Nooo!!" In response to "Is Stephanie here today" attendance call. She can also say "May I go to the bathroom please" and she says it regularly.

Molly: Molly is so adorable I just can't take it. Look at that hair. Ha ha. She knows all the answers to all the questions. Lately, though, she freaks out if she hasn't had a turn yet and whines like crazy. "Teacher, me haven't had a turn!" Man, take it easy Molly. Favourite Molly quote "Yaw yaw yaw!"

Elizabeth: She goes through stages but currently she's in a smiley "I love teacher" stage. In the summer and Fall her mother dressed her in these hideous gold and other bad colour dresses. These days she wears jeans and sweatshirts so I feel happier for her, though this dress is not a good example. I have no favourite quote in particular but she tries hard to talk to me and her broken English is endearing.

Elliot: He's still a tough one to figure out, that Elliot. His mother brings him late to school every day which sometimes leaves him teary eyed and lost. Then, a period later he's causing mischief in gym class. He doesn't colour or write these days, but sits there holding a pencil as if he's about to at any minute. Favourite Elliot quote "I'm no finished!!!!" when everyone else is cleaning up and he still hasn't written a damn thing. He says this daily.

Brian: This little man is a handful. He is good natured and everything but he has a hard time controlling himself. He kisses and hugs people without warning and despite his best efforts he ends up with ten x's beside his name for Korean when everyone else has already gotten used to the rule. Poor guy's just chatty. Favourite Brian quote, from today, the first day I wore make up to work: "Teacher very very very very beautiful". Aww, thank you Brian.

Wendy: She has a bunch of fake teeth and this big unsightly scap on her upper lip. But she's a good kid. She likes to either pretend she's a baby or mother the other kids. Still the best writer in the class, she finishes her work fast and is pretty well behaved too. Sometimes she gets scowly and refuses to participate but this is rare. When she laughs you can hear her down the hall. Favourite Wendy quote, yelled to the whole class: "Be QUIET!!!"

Peter: He is a model child all around. He's cute, sweet, and smart. He knows words like trumpet and Japan and quilt and robot "lobot". I think he's brilliant, actually. I sang "There was an old lady that swallowed a fly" once for the class and he used the word swallowed in his speech a week later. He never gets any x's beside his name. Oh no. Favourite peter quote(s) "Lun, Labbit, Lobot, etc." Gotta get him using those r's properly.

Those are my kids. Aren't they charming.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Won, wo won won won

I thought perhaps some of you would be interested in the money situation for teachers over here in Korea. It is, after all, a relatively significant contributing factor to why I decided to come here.
After pension and taxes and things, I make about 2,000,000 won a month, which, at the current very good exchange rate, equals 2,258.83 CAD. Damn, on Monday it was worth 2,300.00, the highest I've seen it, and I should have sent home a wire transfer. Ah well.

With that kind of monthly salary, plus a one month bonus and pension refund at the end, I should be making around 31,000 CAD this year. In Canada that would be hovering around the poverty line but you must remember that here I do not pay for rent or car insurance or any major expenses at all. All I am responsible for are a few bills which equal no more than seventy five bucks a month, plus food, entertainment, and extra travel.

I am consciously trying to save 1,ooo,ooo (that's a million) won from every paycheck so that I can leave here with fifteen Canadian grand. Perhaps I'll spend five of that travelling next summer and then blow the rest on who knows what the following year. Or invest in a condo. Or invest in something else. Or pay for tuition. Who knows. But it'll be a nice change to have more than three or four digits in my bank account.

As for costs of things, you can get away with spending very little here. A mandu dinner costs 2.8 Canadian dollars, and a bibimbap meal about three or four. A huge glass of beer, as long as it's local Cass or Hite, can be less than three bones. Oh, and of course you can opt for soju instead, purchased at the convenience store for just over a dollar and a half. Cheaper than water, they say. What kills ya is eating out at non-Korean places. Indian buffets, that Turkish place, etc. Oh, and Hongdae party nights where you pay for cover, drinks, and an expensive cab ride back to Suji. It's helped that we've befriended people with floor space in the city.

I spend most of my money on sending mail and peppero, buying food both from restaurants and grocery stores, and alcohol. And my flight to Thailand will set me back a bit too; at 600 dollars it leaves me with, technically speaking, four hundred dollars for the rest of the month of December. That is if I want to send home 1 million a month.

Oh, I also line my bed with chon won-rul.

Monday, November 21, 2005

My apartment is an oven

I left my heat on full blast throughout the day and when I got home I considered baking an apple crumble on my floor. If only I knew how to bake. It's still a sauna in here and I turned it off three hours ago. That's fine.

Everything's great! There has been a real turn around in Happy class and I'm more than relieved because I was starting to wonder what I would do with if the crying, hitting, yelling, and complaining kept up.

I have extended English Time into the entire day, figuring it would be unnecessarily confusing for the children to have to understand and differentiate between English and Korean Times. Jessica Teacher Time is Korean Time. They're still not quite, okay, not even close to, ready for the dreaded Open Class but with two weeks until the day I think they'll be just fine. I hope, I hope.

In my older elementary classes I have been seeing some really encouraging progress. Remember Eugene, the girl? She arrived in class and couldn't even name the letters. She had no English confidence and never participated. Now she's a reading, participating machine. Go Eugene! There's power in the name!

The other E1's (elementary 1's) were able to handle a simple conversation with me today about their Korean school and whether their teacher is a boy or a girl, who goes to the same Korean school, etc. May not impress you much but that's a serious step up from the usual Korean chatter and blank stares.

And my E2 class of four kids have taken extremely well to the no Korean rule. They are speaking more English and making sure to report any utterance of Korean that might slip out of someone's mouth. I better teach the word tattletale one of these days.

Up for tomorrow, and I'll try not to forget: How much money you typically make as an English teacher in Korea.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

What's for dinner tonight?

Yesterday I had a dinner to remember - Turkish food in Gangnam at a restaurant called Pasha. Wow. I've never had Turkish food before, as far as I know, but the meat melted in my mouth, the rice was flavourful and hot (my school chef could use a lesson or two) and the bread was unbelievable. As was the yogurt dip. Wow. Go there, people!

If anyone (someone, please!) came to visit I'd take them on a food tour of my life in Korea. Some key spots to visit:

1) Isaac's or Cafe con Leche for a toast: basically a grilled cheese and egg sandwhich but something about it takes my breath away. Maybe it's the kiwi jam.

2) Kalbi at our Suji Kalbi place with the white sign and the service ice cream. Extra red sauce and corn nibblets, chuseyo.

3) Shabu shabu at the shabu shabu place above the KFC and next to the DVD bang. Mmm.

4) The little mandu place with the nice man who speaks English and knows us well: There we'd get gogi mandu, kimchi mandu, and tolsot bibimbap. Also, of course, there'd be yellow radish, kimchi, and oniony soup.

5) Taco Chili Chili in Itaewon: A tiny shack with five tables that serve wonderful burritos and things. Or Lamerce in Samsung Plaza for Burritos, not sure which I like more. Then again Lamerce has the 'endless chip' and you can't go wrong with endless chips.

6) And now, newly added to the list, is Pasha for Turkish delights.

So come on, people. Rick, you've got time to spare and a healthy appetite... do it!!!

They play good music on television commercials in this country. Jack Johnson and Cake, for instance. I dig it.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Five little men in a flying saucer

Good day. Good week. Feeling good.

Last weekend at the bar I got "So what are you, Greek or American?"

Are those my only options?

Heading out.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

July 1st 2005

Can I write in my statement of interest that I'm the best procrastinator that will ever grace their campus?

I just found this picture of me and my class on my very first day of work. It also happened to be my very first day in the country. I was nervous and tired and full of different emotions, especially when they threw me into teach math with absolutely no prior warning. I sucked. I don't even know what I taught for the first month or so. Hell, I still don't know what I teach.

Can you tell it was also their very first day of English kindergarten?

Open wide!

I shudder at the thought.

Today Alice approached me with the calendar in hand - never a good sign. "Is December 6th a good day for your open class?" "Sure, sounds fabulous." Shoot me.

The dreaded open class. The mom's pile in to the already too small classroom and observe the forty minute lesson where the children are either angelic or little hellions.. and from my recent track record I'm none too excited. Another problem: they do not want their children speaking Korean, obviously, since it is an English language school. Well well well, if only I could get that system going.

As luck would have it I have begun a serious Korean language crackdown in my classes. I'll describe the five year old's system. I know it'll be a tough transition so here are the rules: Sharing Time, from 9:45 until 10:25 is strictly English Time. I began today by writing all of "apple" table's names on one side of the whiteboard and all of "ice cream" table's names on the other. Anytime any child utters even a word of Korean they get an X next to their name. By the end of the forty minute class the table with the smaller number of X's get's two stars next to their table name, also written on the board. Complicated, I know, but you'll get through this. As per usual, the table with the most stars at the end of the day gets two stickers and the other table only gets one so this is a big deal thank you very much. And two stars right off the bat in the morning is a highly coveted prize.

Today ice cream table had 10 X's and apple table had 14. I hope to see drastic improvements over the next few weeks. Slowly but surely I'll force English Time upon them until the entire day, yes, I mean business, is English Time.

Hopefully by the time my open class comes around in two and a half weeks we'll have graduated to Language Arts English Time as well as Sharing Time English Time. Or at least Mommy-in-the-room English Time. Canada Time??

In other news, my professor recommended that I apply to the states for graduate work. Why? Because the programs in Canada aren't so great and any graduate work I do here wouldn't transfer over to a PhD program in America; I'd have to do the same work that I would if I just started right now. There are a number of problems I see here. First, I'm a lazy sloth who always trys to find the easy way out. Second, I haven't written my GREs and I called the Korean testing centre today but they hung up on my English speaking self. Fourth, I can't count so maybe I'm kidding myself by taking up demography. Third, I don't really really know what I want to do with my life. Fifth, I miss my mommy. Sixth, I'm a cheap bastard and don't want to incur student loads. Seventh, it would be a lot more work that I'd have to get done right now. Eighth, if I don't do a PhD I'll probably want to work for a Canadian research company, or likely the Canadian government so why not study in Canada? Maybe that's a cop out.

Mrs. Rudolph, my fifth grade choir teacher, told me that if I quit now then I'd always be a quitter.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Things are looking up

Yes, they are. This has been the best week in weeks. Perhaps due to the absense of some children (hooray for flu season!) or perhaps just because these things happen in waves. I hesitated to comment here in case.

I haven't gotten a postcard in ages.

I'm considering having Magic Straight-uh done to my hair. What is that, you ask? A chemical process that makes even the curliest tresses broom-stick straight for approximately three months.

Pros: hair I can blowdry in the morning and avoid leaving the house with wet hair, the chance to see what straight hair feels like, looking instead of like the girl next door, the GIRL next door (as quoted by my eighth grade classmate)

Cons: mucho dinero, my curly hair gets me compliments and telephone numbers (that I never use), uncertainty about its potential to damage permanently. Plus, why haven't they brought this magic to North America if it's so amazing?

Decisions, decisions.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Moon is Full

If ever there's been a theme to this blog it has been time. I'm way too time focused. Especially lately. I think of everything in number terms.

I've been in Korea for four and a half months, one and a half boxes of laundry detergent, not even one (crazy, I know) bottle of dish soap, about ten boxes of cereal, two bottles of hair mousse, two bottles of Nyqul, one and a half tubes of Crest toothpaste, thousands of won, mountains of rice and kimchi... okay, that's enough.

I notice the moon here too, which I never do at home. About two weeks into my stay here we were sitting around a plastic table at the imart. It was tall Barbara's last Thursday and we were saying goodbye. The sky was clear for a rare moment in the July humidity and the moon was full. Since then I've seen a full moon two or three more times, including now. I don't know anything about cycles of the moon but I notice its fullness and am reminded of the passing time.

Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday...

I emailed two past professors to ask them to write reference letters for me. Asking is getting easier the more I do it but it still makes me uncomfortable. I asked my stats professor who taught me twice and knows me quite well. Last year he told me that since I was struggling with the material of the class I might want to rethink my demography plan. But it was a PhD level course... He replied this morning and said he could honestly write a strong letter. I also asked a professor who I TA'd for and had a class with. He agreed to write the letter as long as I provided him with a bunch of supporting documents like transcripts, biographical sketch, etc. etc. He said "I know a number of people who find demography interesting" or something that sounds kind of questionable. He's into qualitative sociology.

That's one thing out of the way.

Negotiating through the different school websites is proving to be a frustrating and interesting comparative activity. Some make it near impossible to locate the online application form and others make you feel as though it's not even worth applying because everyone who applies are much MUCH smarter than you. U of T's department of sociology states in bold that consistent A grades are preferred but excellent grades alone do not guarantee admission. So, what, you have to have all A's in addition to glowing referals and flawless writing samples? I'm screwed. I thought I'd get away with not having to provide writing samples but alas it looks like I was mistaken. Maybe I could submit my blog entry about being naked in the sauna? What do you think?

Okay, enough about this. You're here for Korea talk, right? Well, my apartment is dry and my mouth is parched. My children seem to be improving and we made some pretty damn fantastic puppets that would be difficult to rival. It's amazing what you can do with a sock. My puppet's name is Kimchi, for lack of anything more creative, but the kids laughed. Then again they laugh at the Korean word for fart. Pangoo, in case you were wondering. Titter titter.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Made in Tibet

Here is my new box. It's a deeper orange than it appears here. It's a treasure chest without treasure.

So I went to the show Nanta yesterday. We had pretty decent seats which set us back 50,000 won a piece (about fifty american bones). The show was a medley of things, mostly rhythmic chopping of vegetables. I particularly enjoyed the flying cabbag-ee. Sara was selected as an audience volunteer and got to wear a thoroughly embarassing outfit on stage. When she thought she was in the clear they posted her picture on a large screen that all could enjoy for at least a minute or two. Ha ha.

Classes were fine today.

Graduate school applications are due on February 1st so I have begun the process. I have to get my references in order, write a statement of interest, make sure I have enough sealed transcripts and anything else I need. Last week I felt like I had no idea what I really want to do. This week I feel more confident about my decisions.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

I have a blender!

The other week I went out to buy a plunger only to come home and realize I had one all along. A few days later after lamenting over the fact that not D'Arcy, Sara, nor I own a blender, I found one taking up most of the top shelf in my cupboard. Miracles, I tell you. Or blindness. Not sure which. Today that blender made some killer banana smoothies while we listened to music and hung out instead of boozing it up as per usual. It's too bad none of us own Monopoly. I bet I'll find the game under my bed tomorrow.

I was roused from sleep this morning by a call from my momma. Always nice to talk to her. Every time I do she tempts me. "Why don't you come home now?" "Haven't you had enough?" "We had Swiss Chalet for dinner tonight". I can withstand the temptations, however tantalizing they are.

Today I went in to Itaewon and spent too much money on gifts for others that I want to keep. And a gift for myself. It's an antique (whatever that means, exactly) wooden box that's maybe about the size of a large tissue box. It's handpainted orange with a flower and vine motif, it has a crooked latch on the front, and the inside is decorated with inked mountains and clouds and other things I can't quite decipher. It's made in Tibet and I'm sure it was once touched by a sherpa. I quite like it. Right now I have a seashell from Jeju, a stamp with my name in Korean, and a necklace I bought in Insadong inside it. I don't know what I'll keep in it one day.

Tomorrow I'm going to see my first live performance in Korea so I'm looking forward to that. And I have been promised banana pancakes. You can't go wrong with a day like that.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Peppero blows

I didn't get quite as much as I expected but regardless of that, the thought of another stick of Peppero makes me want to hurl. Friday's here again and I couldn't be happier. Not too much on the agenda for the weekend. Can you believe there are only six weeks before I'll be making my way through the Bangkok streets? It will be the one year anniversary of the tsunami. I easily could have been there one year ago instead of this year. A year's worth of time is nothing. That thought is more than I can handle. I wonder what sort of things will be going on at that time in commemoration.

Everyone is falling sick at work and I'm finally coming around. Though my head is hot and heavy right now, which may just be an indication of my need for a nap before I hit the town tonight. A big night at the WA bar - it's been a while. I'll be sure to bring my camera so I can capture the same people doing the same things under Cass' influence.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Peppero Day is coming!!!

Yeah, it's a completely fabricated and commercial celebration but I don't care. Any reason to celebrate is fine by me. I don't know any details of how it came to be, though I feel like it's a competition with Japaenese Pocky Day, but what I do know is that everyone gives and receives lots and lots of chocolate covered cookie sticks. It's delumptious. If not everyone then children and teachers of those children. Yes!

Look at the insane madness inside the stationary store that's by my school. Usually there are approximately five to nine shoppers in there at any given moment.

What kind of Peppero shall I choose?? I can understand their dilemma.

And the display outside the store...

Surprisingly enough, all these fancily packaged cookies are not outrageously priced so I'm jumping on the bandwagon and buying Peppero for everyone I know! Hip hip hooray, it's Peppero Day!! Well, tomorrow. We'll see what kind of goods I rake in tomorrow since I've marked it on our calendar, scheduled it into our day, and have been reminding the children since October.

Oh right, it's also Remembrance Day in Canada, lest I forget. I'll always remember the time I played Taps in front of the whole school in the eighth grade but since Mrs. Baskin had only taught me the notes at recess that day I screwed it up. Just a little, of course. I'll forever hang my head in shame.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Everything's fine

Nobody even believed me that I'd do the midnight run. It's true, I'm not that spineless. Or is it brave?

I forgot to mention a funny thing. At the temple in Busan D'Arcy and I were taking a break from all the stairs and were leaning up against a wall reading a brochure when along came a young couple. I figured they wanted us to take a picture of the two of them or something. Instead the girl sidled up next to us with a quick nod of acknowledgement and her boyfriend snapped a picture of we three. I guess they thanked us and trotted away giggling. Foreigner freak show! There were fewer of us kicking around in Busan than in Seoul and Suji.

My floor is slowly heating my room.

I'm trying to organize a field trip this weekend to see the long running show Nanta. It's apparently set in a kitchen and is something akin to STOMP though with knives instead of garbage pails. Sounds good to me. Ten people equals a group rate so if anyone in the Seoul area, strangers or not, want to get in on this then drop me an email.

Monday, November 07, 2005


Like a slap in the face I returned to work today after a really wonderful weeked to face my badly behaved crying children. Stephanie cut Ashley with scissors and drew blood. This evening I watched an emotional movie and cried more than I normally would have.

So, let's go back to the wonderful weekend for a while and forget about my unhappy fate for the next seven and 3/4 months, shall we? Jack Johnson and dim lighting are doing their best to make me happy.

I'll show you my favourite pictures from this weekend though they can all be found here.

Here is an assortment of side dishes and things for sale at the market. Anything look tempting to you?

How about this fish? My, what big eyeballs you have.

This is my favourite picture from the weekend. Look at Busan piled up on that hillside, and the shabby looking boat bobbing in the water. That's a serious fish-bearing Sea of Japan, known here as the East Sea.
I thought the boats would look nicer but most of them were like these.

Look at this smiling happy man in his boat! This is the boat we took a ride in without knowing where we were going. We were two of four passengers and were glad to find out it was a ferry to the other side of the bay.

Here is a view of the love hotel we stayed at one stop South of Busan University. Look at that fancy laz-y-boy... That foot rest doesn't look too comfortable. You can just see the edge of our circular bed.

After the whole spa fiasco we treated ourselves to a very fishy sushi dinner. Raw fish and sushi, which are apparently different things, udon soup, fish head soup, tempura and other things. D'Arcy's smile is fake.

I like lights in Asia.

On Saturday night we followed Lonely Planet's advice and went to "Soul Trane" bar near the university. We met this girl and her sleazy cousin. She speaks fluent French! We also met a couple of foreigners who were also at the bar as per the LP recommendation. Funny how that happens.

On Sunday we went to the beautiful Beomeosa temple. There are some different opinions about the date of the construction of Beomeosa, but most believe that it was constructed by some great priest in 678. It burned down and was rebuilt about twice since then, most recently rebuilt in 1613. I took that from the brochure so you can count on me.

We also took a cable car up to the top of a mountain. Look at how white the city is. I considered how a city looks at home and couldn't quite recall. All I see here are white apartment buildings it feels like. Then I remembered mirror and glass. Oh that.

Then we went back to the train station and returned home. Then I downloaded my pictures. Then I slept. Then I woke up and had a bad day. Then I watched Crazy/Beautiful with Kirsten Dunst and cried while eating a very tasty salad. Then I wrote this post. Then I did the midnight run. What?

Sunday, November 06, 2005

My First Sauna Experience Part 2

If you haven't read the first part of this story I suggest you scroll down first to catch yourself up.
We left off at the part where I was becoming more comfortable in my public nakedness and was wandering around with D'Arcy checking out the large spa area. We crossed an overhead bridge, much like a stage for all those below in my opinion, and arrived in the massage services area. Here there were four beds lined up in a row with four naked women lying on them receiving either an exfoliation treatment or a massage. Working on them were four older women, also naked. I had heard about this exfoliation process where you get scrubbed down until all your dead skin is peeled right off; skin you didn't even realize was dead. This is what I had been waiting for, though I wasn't at all sure I would ever actually come to do it.

D'Arcy 'let' me go first so when a bed became free I was told to lie down on my back. There I was, lying totally naked on this public bed, and my 'scrubber' woman said she'd be back in five minutes. Where'd she go, for a smoke? Honestly! When she finally returned she doused with with a bucket or two of warm water, put on some gloves reminiscent of sandpaper, and began her work. She left no patch of skin untouched, and I mean no patch. I wonder if anyone's ever touched me quite so thoroughly.

What was truly amazing was the amount of dead skin that was coming off me. I couldn't believe it. It was remarkably easy to relax in this highly foreign environment, despite her chuckle over my rear end. Frankly it's been getting a lot of compliments these days so I don't know what was so funny. My mother will not appreciate this post. Another fascinating thing was the woman receiving a massage on the table beside me. Her (naked, of course) masseuse was straddling her, standing on her, kneeling on her; the works. Like nothing I've ever seen before.

I came out of the spa feeling exhilerated, liberated, accomplished even. It felt wonderful to go in with a racing heart and a mind full of insecurities and to come out clean and more confident about my self and my body than I have been in a long time. I was loving Busan.

Here we are leaving the spa. There's my new green tshirt with Hangeul on it, too.

We had more fun that night, if more fun was even possible, but I'll save that for tomorrow. Next up this week: A field trip to the fire station!

Saturday, November 05, 2005

My First Sauna Experience

When I read about Asia's biggest spa in my Lonely Planet a few nights ago I had a nightmare about having to be naked. I'm not big on public nudity.

But I've heard a lot about Korean saunas and really wanted to see what it was like. I was ready to pass on the idea yesterday but D'Arcy wouldn't give up and we had nothing particular to do in the early evening.

We jumped in a cab and asked to go to the specific spa that is apparently famous. The driver kind of chuckled and pointed to a building down the street. Apparently we chose a well located Love Hotel. (I liked the round bed, by the way).

So we hesitantly walked into the spa and received a key. We first locked up our shoes in one locker and then proceeded into the ladies changeroom and grabbed the ugliest pair of shorts and tshirt I've ever seen; pink, floral, and hideous. We walked downstairs into something called a Resting Room where men and women were all lying on the floor, resting. Not too thrilling. But there were three sauna rooms lining this resting floor. One at zero degrees with snow in production, one at somewhere around forty or fifty degrees celcius, and one at eighty two degrees! I wonder if I've ever felt such heat before. The saunas had curvaceous ceilings and dim lighting and we laid on the floor with our heads resting on wooden blocks. It would have been a very relaxing experience had there not been a television in each room and children coming and going constantly.

Soon we had maxed out in the saunas and knew the time had come to take the plunge. I had serious nervousness. Did I mention why exactly? Here we go.

We went back into the women's changeroom and disrobed, then proceeded into the women's bathing area. Naked women were everwhere. Children, adults, seniors, and two foreigners. Children giggled and stared and a few even dared to say hello. Get outta here, dealing with this is hard enough without blatant mockery!

We jumped into the closest pool possible only to be told that we first had to shower, so shower we did and then back into the pool we jumped. Time passed and I started to feel more confident in all my naked glory so we went for an exploratory walk and checked out the rest of the facilities. There were different pools at different temperatures meant for different things but the most memorable for me was a waterfall type area where a very hard stream of water pummeled your back. Or your bum, stomach, and any other variety of private parts as some women chose to do, lying on the floor in all kinds of strange positions to get the best pummeling possible.

The next part is what really changed my life. But it's time to check out so I better leave you at that for now.

Dynamic Busan!

On Friday afternoon Sang Kyu checked the internet and told us that there were no seats available on the super speed KTX train. We had arrived at school packed and ready to go so we decided to have no faith in the internet and go anyway. Worst comes to worse we'd take a slow train or go somewhere else. We were getting out of town one way or another.

We jumped on the bus and got into Seoul Station at approximately 8:20. We reached the ticket counter and held the printed first class (60,000 won) tickets in our hands at 8:25. And our train pulled out of the station at 8:30. I got stuck next to a damn baby and cursed my luck though I guess getting on the train at all was a lucky break. First class has lots of leg room and complimentary orange juice. But it still has crying babies.

My camera appeared to be broken, but I knocked it and it works again.

It was just after 11:00 when we arrived at Busan station and easily found the love motel as recommended in Lonely Planet. It was adorned with strip club adverts and the room came equipped with hair gel, shampoo, and toothpaste. All for the low, low price of 30,000 won (approx. 30 USD). We jaywalked and nearly got arrested in search of some food and found ourselves mysteriously in what looked like little Russia. Russian on all the storefronts and Russian people everywhere. What's that about? Anyone?

An early start today led us to sprawling Gukje market where we bought lots of cheap things. I got a purse made in India that'll knock your socks off. Yes, yours. We smelled the ocean so we headed in its direction to find ourselves in the "World Famous" Jagalchi fish market and beyond into the port where fishing boats were coming and going and we had to carefully watch our step. The fish and the vibrancy of the market was quite remarkable. I'll post pictures to prove it when I get home. Home.

We ended up boarding a small boat at the encouragement of some smiling man and found ourselves across the bay and unsure of our location, but after a bit of walking we located a bus stop and jumped on a bus headed for Haeundae beach. If the Marriot's prices were just a bit cheaper I wouldn't be typing this from my pink love hotel room with D'Arcy asleep on our circular bed to my left and a strange looking chair with stirrups tempting me to my right. The only thing missing is a mirror on the ceiling. The orange mood lighting that lines the ceiling and the closed garage (for modesty) are definitely nice touches. But I really would have gone swimming in the East Sea. It's warm down here compared to Seoul.

So that's where I'm at right now. It's ten after five and we're taking it easy before we hit up the town tonight. Pictures will surely follow tomorrow evening so fear not!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The next old man to walk by is your boyfriend

They were angelic during gym class. You should have seen them. Then during third period I had eight criers out of ten children. You're not cool unless you cry. I wanted to join in the festivities. Eight!!! Can you believe it? What's going on here? There have been some serious trends in Happy class, from classroom foulings to excellent behaviour, to yelling, to hitting, and now on to crying. Ahh, what will come next?

I am currently listening to the television broadcast of a Korean version of "How am I Supposed to Live Without You?" It's a beautiful thing.

Speaking of television in Korea. All I have to say is that I'm thankful I didn't regularly watch TV at home. Now I can bask in the glory of Friends, Sex in the City, Summerland, One Tree Hill, and any number of reality programs that I missed the first time 'round. When the pickin's are slim sometimes you just gotta settle, you know?

Today's picture is of the old men at Old Man Park. Look at them all sitting there. Being old. Not a bad life, to sit in a park with all your old friends and watch other old people dance around you. Sara danced in that open space there.

Can you spot the women? I think there are about five in this picture. Maybe less. See if you can do it!

When I was a kid I distinctly remember waiting in the car for my father to come out of a store in DDO where the big yellow Super Carnival was, kitty corner from the Wendy's that we went to once right before parent/teacher interviews. My mom played the "the next person to come out is Dad" game. It was an old lady or someone equally hilarious. These days it's my "boyfriend", not my dad, but it never fails to add to my people watching experience.

The next old man to hobble by is your boyfriend.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Hitting, Punching, Kicking, Pinching... Crying

It seemed to go downhill as soon as I took it upon myself to add the words "kicking, hitting, pinching, and scratching" to the kids' vocabularly.

Today Brian said a bad word to Peter so Peter hit Brian and Brian cried. Then Yoon, I guess in Brian's defense, walked up and whacked Peter one in the jaw. Peter burst out in tears and I sent Yoon out in the hall to get a Korean talking to which caused him to burst into tears. Molly cried sometime during that same class because of something to do with Wendy.

I can't control the words they say to each other because I don't understand them. It's really a problem. How do you keep hitting from being a first reaction to anger? Mom?

Aside from this things are going fine this week and I'm doing great. The theme of the month is "Let's Play" so that's exactly what we're doing. Playing! I like playing. And, surprise surprise, so do the kids! Who's got some fun game ideas for little kids?

Looking forward to this weekend's getaway. It's just Darce and me so finally we'll get some alone time. Traveling in packs is not so appealing to me because I like to make decisions and mistakes; either way I like to be the maker.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Some pictures

I've recently read some controversy over the ethicacy (ethicacy?) of posting student's pictures online. Imagine how you would feel if it were you or your kid. I've thought about it. And decided I'm not ethical.

Here is Mindy on her birthday earlier this month. That cake might weigh more than she does.

And here we are together in the obligatory teacher-birthday girl/boy photograph. Peace!

Happy Birthday to Ashley. She definitely had the most elaborate party of the three October celebrations, with pizza and bread and lots and lots of other things that I can't even remember.

Here is Yoon, one of my favourites, minus his usual mischievious white-tooth smile. He just couldn't take the birthday stardom pressure. I don't blame him. It's his party and he'll cry if he wants to, dammit.

Just thought I'd share that with y'all. No more birthdays until December so it's going to be a dry spell for the next little while. I apologize in advance. We will, however, be celebrating Peppero day on 11/11. Forget Remembrance Day, let's feast on chocolate covered cookie sticks! Yay!!!

On Friday I'll be taking the super speed Korean Train Express (KTX) to Busan. It will take only two and a half hours when a regular train takes five. Wow! It travels at 300 kilometers an hour and the only other countries with such super fast train technology, according to the website, are Japan, France, Spain, and Germany. Maybe I'm more excited about the trip than the destination. Will my head be plastered to the seat head rest and my face contorted? I sure hope so.

Today is a special occassion for one and all. It marks the first time my little brother (okay, older but shorter.. mwa ha ha) is moving out on his own with a girl. Good luck, guys. Knock 'em dead. :)

Good morning rabbits, rabbits, rabbits.