Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Year!

I'm sitting here in the balmy Phuket air, with Korean television to my left and loud Thai music coming through from the open air billiard and bar next door. Everything is open air, in fact.

It's been a few days since we've last spoke, hasn't it? In that time I've seen paradise, swam with the fishies, had a full body oil massage, ridden an elephant, kayaked through caves, eaten heaven also known as fried pineapple, and a few other things here and there. This has been a great trip and I can't even remember my life back at home in Korea. It actually feels like home, despite that.

It's my sixth month anniversary today, too. Wow! Sorry this has been brief. I tried to post a picture but this internet is not cooperating so you'll have to be patient. Talk to you soon!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The plan

Maybe we won't have to go somewhere else after all. After a day spent relaxing and swimming on Karon beach we've come to terms with the tourism and are ready to embrace it. Not the sex industry, of course, but the touristy daily activities. Since daytime activities are more important to us that nighttime drinking, etc. we are sticking it out in Phuket. And we have plenty of activities to do.

Today: Snorkeling around the Southern Phi Phi islands, one of which they boast as being where Leo's "The Beach" was filmed. I hope its even half as beautiful as the Blue Hole was in Sinai, but I wonder if that's even possible.

Tomorrow: Kayaking around some other beaches to the East of Phuket island.

Saturday: Elephant trekking through the trees. I love elephants. And trees.

I also have a surprise from yesterday but I won't write about it until I can post accompanying pictures.

Still itchy, but less fresh bites tonight!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Don't let the bed bugs bite??

It's four in the morning but a full body itch/bug attack has woken me up and I figured the computer would probably be free at this hour. What better time to fill y'all in on the past two days.

I have very little concept of time and dates, but I think it's almost Wednesday right now. So on Monday I had another great day. I spent the morning at the Grand Palace, a truly grand and palatial complex of gold and buddhas and magnificence like nothing I've ever seen before. From there we ate some lunch (I had a cashew nut something) and then headed to China town. It was insane! Cars and signs and dirt and crumbling buildings everywhere. And huge crowds! And fried bananas in the street that I'm really regretting not trying. Ahh well.

Then we went to the Thai Boxing Stadium where we watched Muay Thai for hours, beginning with fifteen year old boys dualing it out. Kicking, punching,the works. Kinda crazy. We paid a lot of money for Thailand (sixty bucks or less) to sit ring side and we were front row. We could taste the blood and sweat. We could see the water spray off the face of each hit man. I didn't mind the real life violence as much as I do the pre-recorded variety.

We went 'home' to Khoa San road and ate Phad Thai off the street for 20 baht.

Yesterday after some quick morning tshirt shopping, we headed to the airport for our flight to Phuket. Everything was fine except for Sara's near loss of her backpack, and we arrived in Phuket, a Southwestern Adaman sea coast island, at around 5.

You may be wondering about the one year anniversary of the tsunami and what I've seen going on. In Bangkok I saw nothing and I'm not sure that something was going on, but I saw on BBC the events at the beach. When we arrived here we saw lanterns being released into the sky - very beautiful and touching - and that's all.

There was some concern that we would be unable to find a decent place to stay, and by decent I mean cheap, because we'd heard of the crowds and that everything had no vacancies. But we had an airport bus bring us to a hostel we'd read about somewhere, I think a Lonely Planet, called Bazoom on Karon Beach. This Beach is known for being quieter than the more famous Patong.

Happily, the hostel had lots of space and we booked for 150 baht a night - about six dollars. Here's where it gets hilarious. The woman couldn't speak English so we figured she was Thai. Fair enough. Until we realized she was speaking Korean. A quick look at the guests and the guest book indicate that EVERYONE who comes here is Korean!!! We are the only non-Korean guests and we delight in tricking them with a shot of Korean here and there. If only I were fluent it would be even better. What kind of a coincidence is that? Then, if not enough, we were sitting out on chairs in front of our hostel when a man came by with a Canada shirt. We called out to him, as we always do, and it turned out he was German. Then we asked him to take our picture and he counted us in "hana, tul, set..." The Korean 1,2,3. What? Are we starting to look Korean?

I'm getting tired here... and the bugs are following me.

So Karon beach bites the dust, at least at night. We ate dinner surrounded by families on holiday and worse than bad live singing of really bad eighties rock sung in thick Thai accents. Fat people are everywhere. And blondes. We're in America. We jumped in a tuktuk headed for Patong, where we thought the party was at, but to our dismay found ourselves in a freakish carnival full of the same "American Tourist" variety, though more multicultural than that, and sex workers. It's like we're in hell. Where are the chill pot smokers in fisherman's pants and hippy shirts that we'd counted on? Gone are the gorgeous men of Khoa San road, having been replaced with the men of the world who can't get any on their own accord. Why did nobody warn me of this fact?

So tomorrow we're going to have to make some decisions about where to go next because there's no way we're staying here for this many more nights. Anyone know where the young backpacking crowd is to be found?

I don't know what's up with this itch but there are bug bites springing up all over me and I'm not too thrilled by the whole thing.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Tuk Tuk-tastic

After a quick breakfast of muesli and yogurt provided free at our guest house, we set off on our way for the Chatuchak weekend market. Having been warned about the rip-off tendencies of taxi cab drivers we insisted, hard, to drive by the meter and the twenty five minute ride cost us about three dollars. Pretty steep.

The market itself was sprawling, with sections dedicated to all kinds of things. I don't even know which sections we happened upon, as we walked through stalls and alleyways without worrying about getting lost. We already were, technically, lost. The markets here are very different from those in Korea because in Korea everything is the same. Same same. Same shoes, tshirts, knockoff clothing, food. They use the same spice in everything. Everyone dresses the same way. In Thailand there is style and hipness. This market had many private label stores selling one of a kind designs. The most incredible part of it was that everything was dirt cheap. No article of clothing that I saw was over 200 baht (about five dollars US). Most tshirts were between 100 and 150. I couldn't believe it.

There were so many things I would have loved to buy but there was no way I could see and buy it all, because of time not money. I did buy a small print of an elephant and Thai person and two beautiful Thai silk pillow cases. The print was four dollars and the two pillow cases were five all together. Tell me about crazy.

We stopped for lunch at a packed little restaurant and ordered blindly off the menu, ending up with some great food - a lime flavoured salad, a chicken with some great sauces, a pork dish of some kind, and another salad with peanuts and other things. I don't ask questions, I just eat. The tables were wooden and wobbly and the plates were mismatched and chipped. I loved it.

We left the market and returned to the room for a bit before heading out on foot towards the grand palace, one of the most popular temples in the city. Along the way some tuk tuk driver stopped us. (Note: tuk tuk's are essentially golf carts on the road, speeding along, open to the air, and the traffic.) We had heard to seriously AVOID these because the drivers will tell you all of kinds of lies to get you to go with them. Well, a driver told us all kinds of lies to get us to go with him but his alternate plan sounded pretty good - a bunch of stops and we'd owe him only five baht a piece - essentially nothing. Less than twenty cents, I don't even know. So we hopped into the tuk tuk and sped off around the city. It was seriously like being on a roller coaster in real life - I loved it! The breeze, the risk, the Thai traffic. We stopped at a few temples and things, one where a man asked how we ended up there because it's not one many tourists visit. We also were taken to a silk store and a tourist office where we didn't really want to be but managed just fine. At the end of the ride we were dropped off at the Siam river and paid eight bucks each for an hour long private river cruise. I'm not sure exactly how this tuk tuk driver earned his money's worth, but I guess we were ripped off on the river boat ride. Who cares, it cost nothing to us anyway! And it was so amazing to see the houses on stilts right along the canal, and families going about their regular activities. It was really great.

We were going to head to Thai boxing but got caught up in a tattoo parlour and missed the chance. There's always tomorrow. I ate some tasty, albeit greasy, pad thai for dinner with a coconut shake on the side, and then treated myself to mango sticky rice from the street. The mango was soft and sweet - much better than any I've had at home. Sara and Barbara ate a cricket but I... was full.

So how do I like Bangkok? I'm really enjoying it so far. The people are warm and friendly, and not at all pushy like in other places I've visited, even in the markets. They don't bother you to come into their shop or anything! I like the eclectic feel of the foreign population because I hear languages and accents all over the place; not at all like the selection of either Korean or Canadian that we've got back in Korea. It's particularly exciting for me to hear Hebrew all over the place here. Shalom, chaver! The city itself is sprawling with no evident central area, and it's kind of difficult for me to get a bearing on where I am, but it's lush and vibrant, and I like that. There are pictures all over the place of the king who is very much revered. Pretty incredible.

I got this mammoth zit right in the middle of my forehead. It's so beautiful...

Now we're taking it easy and might go out dancing in a little while. We shall see, we shall see.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Arrived Alive

Here I type from an old and dirty computer terminal in the front lobby of my Cozy Hostel. A few computers down is the long haired Thai man with high cheekbones reminiscent of MJ who checked us in. We're paying 35$ each total for three nights here; a little more than we intended to spend but we have locks on our doors and showers.

The flight here went without a hitch. I woke up earlier than necessary at 5:45 yesterday and we jumped on the airport bound Suji bus at 7:00. Arrived at the airport at 8:30 or so, bought a re-entry visa for thirty bucks, and checked in. The flight was fine with not so fine airplane food - I was expecting Thai Airways to have delicious extravagant food, who was I kidding? There was kimchi and seaweed as per usual. At the three and a half hour point we stopped in Hong Kong, deplaned, walked through a security check, up some stairs, around a loop, and back on the exact same plane again. Silly. But I was in Hong Kong.

Another few hours later and we landed on Thai soil at about 5:00 Thai time. It is two hours behind South Korea so now it's twelve hours ahead of you folks at home. Exactly the other side of time.

We took a taxi from the airport to Kho Saun road for 400 Baht. We bought our Baht at the exchange rate of 40BHT to 1USD, for the curious. So Kho Saun (sp??) road is this traffic-less one teeming with tourists from all over the world. Much different from Itaewon in Seoul because it's all travellers instead of military types. I prefer it, with the casual dress of the backpackers and the useless souvenirs to buy everywhere. I guess in that respect it's the same as Itaewon. I'm a sucker for useless souvenirs. There are also street vendors every step you take and I'm hungry just thinking about the steaming noodles and spring rolls and sticky rice with mango. I had a pineapple dish last night that was pretty good but I'm expecting better.

Oh, we also found this hotel randomly with no problems and the woman knocked the price down from 750 Baht a room a night to 700 if we booked for all three nights in a row and paid. Wow, what a deal! that's a savings of 150 Baht for two rooms! 150 and fifty Baht is worth something like four dollars. Or less.

So what did we do on our first night? By the way, I'm traveling with D'Arcy, Sara, and Barbara, my friends and coworkers. We went to a ping pong show. The illustrious sex show of Patpong road. And it made us sick. This is what it was:

On stage about six or seven bikini clad women stood around with no expression on their faces and very little enthusiasm. One by one they would perform various 'tricks'. The first woman pulled a string of pins out of herself. The next blew a horn, the next used chopsticks (!!) to pick up rings and drop them around the neck of a bottle. It went on and we saw women do things with eggs and ping pong balls that we never thought possible. We left early before the candles and darts.

I spent most of my time trying to figure out where to look. Not at their eyes, that's for sure. At the trick area itself? I'm not so comfortable with that. At their bodies, some for better wear than others? I chose to look more at my friends than the ladies. One particular performer looked particularly sad and caused three of us to give her sympathetic smiles. She returned with a look of 'hey, don't worry about it.'

So I felt really bad about the entire scene. There was prostitution going on under our noses and some men's behaviour was quite sickening. I would never go back and wouldn't recommend it to anyone, even just for the 'show'.

We headed back to the hotel, shocked and dismayed, and fearing for our lives as our cab driver zipped between tuk tuk's and other cars at a frightening clip.

It's now 9:00 and this internet cafe is smelling and reminding me of my travels through Israel and Egypt. The same sounds of traffic, the same smell of heat. The same hunger in my belly, somehow. Something about that makes me slightly sad. It's Christmas today, so merry xmas to those who celebrate it.

Time to get going. Up for today? Muay Thai boxing, temples, and markets, I hope I hope.

Friday, December 23, 2005

King Crab

As seen on the walk home from work the other day. I was really tempted to buy one, just for the sake of buying a big steamed crab out of the back of a truck, but I wasn't sure how I'd eat it. Any suggestions for next time? I don't know if it's one of those street foods you're to eat right on the spot or not. There's only one way to find out.

I should go to bed - I have to be awake in six hours.

Happy travels to me!

I made it

I wasn't sure if I would but I did! I remember thinking that this holiday/trip was six months away, and then three months away. At the three month mark I thought "man, I have as much time to go until my holiday as I've already spent here - that's long!" and here I am. Amazing.

I'm pretty much all packed and ready to go with no real plans for the evening.

Oh, are you concerned that you won't hear from me for a week? Don't be. We all know I can't stay away from an internet connection for too long. I won't make any promises, just in case.

Santa came to school today and the kids got some great gifts. Except Ashley who got a classroom sized pencil sharpener. What a kid pleaser that is. I found out that today was her last day so when we return from the holidays I'll have a new girl who I met today and seems pretty good. At least she knows some English!

I'll leave you with another time delayed video. I hate that it's time delayed but I don't know how to fix the problem.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

My grandmother

My grandmother had a stroke the other day. They said it was a mini-stroke at first, whatever that means, but from the looks of it I doubt it was mini. Apparently she's still in the hospital, two nights later, unable to walk and incapable of making good use of her left side. Not that she was such a great walker before, but still. She'll need rehab, and that's all the details I know.

It just so happened that my parents were in Montreal (where she and my grandfather live) when my grandfather noticed her slumped at the computer not playing her pogo solitaire as usual. It just so happened that I talked to her on the telephone for the first time in six months that very morning.

So my mother is still there spending her time in the hospital and my father went back to Toronto. My poor mom must feel alone. And this damn time change doesn't make it any easier.

I wonder how you feel when you're an 84 year old woman who has just had a stroke. Does she think of it as the beginning of the end? Does she think of it as something she'll get passed? Does she even think of it at all?

My grandmother has been in the early stages of Alzheimer's for about five years now and when I called she wasn't sure if she'd received any postcards from me. Early shmearly. She's received six. I told her to tell my grandfather to tape them to the fridge so she doesn't forget. She hasn't forgotten me but she forgot what she ate for lunch the previous day.

As a girl she had a dislocated hip, resulting in a childhood of casts and then one leg longer than the other. She's always been cared for by my grandfather who cooks and cleans and, well, does everything.

How does a man feel when his wife of sixty years who is steadily losing her memory suffers her first stroke at the age of 84? Is he afraid of being alone? Does it mean he's next?

My grandmother has always been into positive living and bunch of other new-age things I never understood. Her bookshelf is stocked solely with self-help books. Her favourite things to say: God Bless. Long life.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Almost there

Another day bites the dust, and I'm one step closer to Thailand.

The dilemma of the day is: wear our jackets to the busstop and then be stuck with them on the trip, or freeze for the sake of a lighter load. I'm willing to freeze.

So, if you were to bungee jump would you prefer to nose dive or go feet first? Can you go feet first?

Today I sent out two packages for my referees with my resume, transcripts, CV, a writing sample, drafts of my statements of interest, and referee forms. That's a serious load off and now I don't have to think more about grad school until I get back from my trip.

I had a cold and I still do but it's improving. Except today I had a bloody nose for most of the day. Sickitating, I know.

We are in need of a Santa at my school for Friday morning. Anyone? Anyone? Dad?

Wow, am I ever tired. I just ate turkey - that's why.

How about a video?

So long!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Last one of the day

This video is actually from the summer time, hence the summer time clothing. But these are my kids as much in the flesh as you're going to get them! Now that I know I can post video I'll be carrying my camera around even more! Whoopee!!!

Let me know if the sound and everything is working. I know that there's a delay, but I don't think I can fix it.

Well, now I'll go crazy with videos

Will it work?

Monday, December 19, 2005

Five Days 'till Thailand

I just talked to Bubby and Zaidy on the telephone - hi again Bubby and Zaidy!

I'm just about finished writing statements of interest so I'll be able to send out packages to my referrers on Wednesday, or maybe even tomorrow. I haven't yet finished Carleton's though, since there's no professor that has any interests that interest me. It's my fallback plan but I don't really want to go there after all. But my chances of getting into U of T are nil, to McGill slim to none, and to Western just slim. So I guess I better come up with something. I go from feeling uber positive to completely useless and back again all the time.

This morning I trudged through the fresh snow to work only to find the heat, internet AND photocopier all broken. Luckily, this week of all weeks I can handle any bad thing that comes my way. Why? Well, Thailand, of course. See you soon, elephants.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Not a decent shower in weeks

My showers do not stay hot for more than thirty seconds, tops. I get wet, turn off the tap, shampoo, turn on the tap, rinse, turn off the tap, conditioner, etc. I miss good showers.

I was just looking at my little 32mb memory card that came with the camera and stumbled upon some old pre-Korea photographs. Check 'em out.

This is my good ol' room at home. Sorry about the crookedness - I don't know what I was thinking. I think it is bigger than my entire apartment here in Korea. In fact I'm sure it is.

And here is my mom and I in the car sometime in June, waiting while my dad 'ran' into a car dealership to check things out. Ha ha mom, you're on the internet!

Although I feel quite comfortable and happy here, I do miss my people and things. I wish I had my dogs on that film, too.

Techno Mart

I went to Techno Mart today; nine stories filled with all the electronics you can imagine. That's reason enough for my dad to come here. I was on a mission, though, and pressed for time, so I hurried up to the 2nd floor (Domestic Home Appliances and Wedding Goods) and found what I came for. I was concerned about my picture taking addiction needs in Thailand. First, I didn't think my battery would make it and I'm not sure about the plugs in Thailand. Second, my 256mb memory card might not cover the nine days. It was just enough for Mexico, and I only left the resort once!

So I got myself another 256 card and a spare lithium ion battery for 75,000 won. A decent price, I think, considering in Canada a battery like that goes for $60, I think. Let me check.... Well looks like is selling them for $30 USD down from $70. I spent about $25 USD on mine. Anyway, the point is that now I'll be hassle free in Thailand and full of pictures and videos. Excellent.

I just got back from a birthday celebration for Cara at a place that serves decisious skewered lamb and veggies, and other things.

By the way, all the pictures from the bachelor auction can be found here.

My nose is plugged. I cannot breathe. Goodnight, folks.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

A look into my mess

My brother and his girlfriend recently moved in together, and in a package they sent me they included pictures of obscure things, like under their bathroom sink and the door of their fridge. Interesting pictures, I must admit! So, guys, here are my obscure things, though definitely not as tidy as yours.

Here are the contents of my fridge. On the door you see Laughing Cow cheese three pack, gochujang sauce, pizza sauce, salad dressing, butter, soy sauce, picles, feta cheese and olives. Inside the fridge is strawberry jam, green peppers in a bag, a head of lettuce, salsa, water, milk, apples, and more peppers. I love them peppers.

I apologize now for the terrible organization of these photos, but I can't seem to get them straight and I want to go to bed. So here you see my fridge door. What a surprise, my fridge is made by Samsung!

There's my incredibly messy apartment. People say there is a difference between dirty and messy. Well, I'm both.

There's my freezer. I have bagels, ice, half a bag of mandu, and some noodles with black bean sauce.

And since I can't seem to get this working properly, and as I said I'm so exhausted (big Christmas dinner today... turkey.. tryptifan) the rest of the pictures are self explanatory. Enjoy!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Going once, going twice...

This morning I woke up feeling like I'd been slammed in the head with a baseball bat. Or perhaps pummeled by the grill of a big rig. Like I tumbled town a rocky cliff, or was attacked by a pack of rabid dogs. Like...

Last night I went with the ladies to a bachelor auction. Throughout the day I developed a cold and I didn't really feel like going out. That early-cold-stage achy body was not feeling so hot, especially since my body was aching anyway from all the iron I've been pumping at the gym. ;) But when we got into Itaewon I guess I felt re-energized.

To make it snappy, I drank a hell of a lot and can't account for anything that happened after, say, 10 o'clock. The four of us paid 80,000 won for a table that came with a bottle of wine, hors d'oeuvres, and our own private waiter. His name was Chad. Chad is cute. I feel like I might have said embarassing things to Chad, but there's no way to know.

I've never shot tequila before, or Jaggermeister, but there's a first time for everything, and why not do it while drinking beer and red wine?

I think it was when the bachelor's started to come out that things got out of control. Cara was up on stage with a microphone and dancing it up with the muscley bachelors, Sara was straddeling some guy. I only know these things from the pictures. At one point the four of us were given shots of something straight from the bottle, on our knees in front of the crowd. I'm not sure why.

At some time D'Arcy and Cara left. I don't know why they left and I have yet to hear from either of them.

Oh, and Sara bought herself a bachelor for what I feel like was 200,000 won (about $200) but how can that be? Does she have that kind of dough? I guess I'll have to wait to find that out, because she and her bachelor started their date immediately. I took a taxi home and was happy to see that I could communicate where I live effectively in Korean, despite the lack of street names in Korea.

Which brings me to waking up feeling like I'd been slammed in the head with a baseball bat...

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Cap n' Gown

I didn't get to wear a cap at my university convocation, but I did get to today. My five year olds had picture day, and what did that mean? Full academic dress for all. I don't know why. They've graduated from nothing. They have simply completed their first year, or more precisely, their first six months, of kindergarten.

The end of February is graduation time here, and the beginning of a new school term. For some reason winter break (for elementary age students and higher) in Korea lasts for about two months and the summer break is only for one. So the seven year old classes graduate and move onto elementary school in March, and my kids move up to the six year old class.

Have I ever described the age system here in Korea? Despite all the birthdays that we celebrate, every person in Korea calls themself a year older on January first. And when they're born they are considered one year old. If you were born in November, then, you'd be one year old, and then when January rolled around two months later you'd be two years old. Then you'd start kindergarten as a three year old.

We just celebrated Molly's birthday on Tuesday. That means she just turned four years old Western age. Unbelievable.

Anyway, we all wore caps and gowns today for our class picture and I look forward to getting a copy.

Oh, I just made my first packet of Lipton chicken soup sent courtesy of my parents. I have no measuring cups so I eyeballed it, badly, and had to add another flavour package. Instead of my regular frozen peas and corn addition, I Asianized it by adding those skinny, long, white mushrooms and green peppers that are much thinner-bodied than at home. Quite tasty, I must say.

Thanks to Rick and Carina for the package that arrived today. Your apartment looks cool and your pantry looks like a foreign goods market. I was wondering about that blue toilet water. And who knew how delicious sea salt and pepper would be together in one??

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

It's like I'm home

According to the weather network, it is -7 degrees celcius in Toronto, Canada. It is also -7 degrees celcius in Seoul, South Korea. In Bangkok, Thailand, on the other hand, it is 28 degrees celcius.

I like soccer

For the most part I feel unlucky that I got stuck with all the lowest level classes in the school. But sometimes the situation allows for some hilarity.

Today an elementary kid was trying to write the word soccer. Look, teacher! COCCK, he wrote. "That doesn't say soccer, that says cock - kuh aw kuh". Ah ha ha.

Today one of my bratty and annoying 9 year olds called me fat or something. On some days I just can't be an adult. But she doesn't understand the retorts. It's like calling my dog a "moron" in a sweet voice and she still comes running.

You think I'm bad? You should hear what the other teachers say.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

My kids

Left to Right: Mindy, Wendy, Molly, Brian, Jessica-teacher, Elizabeth, Elliot, Yoon, Ashley, Peter, Stephanie.

Do little kids smile in pictures in Canada? They sure don't in Korea. You should see them when we're learning letters. All smiles I tell you.

Who's your favourite? Poll! Poll!

Goffman versus Gottman

My ridiculous ebay item arrived today! If for no other reason, I should continue to shop at ebay because of the excitment a package brings to my day. And the daschund ring fits like a charm. (You read that right, I assure you.)

So I've decided to apply to McGill University as well as Carleton, Western, and U of T. I was in contact with a professor there, inquiring about the program's suitability in relation to my interests, and he responded very positively, so that's that. I'm happy to have another possibility to add to my list, though they, like U of T, are intimidating on their admission requirements. I just hit the cutoff for their 'generally accepted GPA's' but with TAing and a grad level stats course under my belt I think I have a fighting chance. I will not be intimidated!

Montreal would be nice - my granparents and brother and sister-in-law are all there, and it's my hometown. In fact I'm already a graduate of McGill, though it was daycare, not grad school, I was accepted and did quite well there. And not because my mother was the director.

Also I've had positive feedback from my previous professors about the appropriateness of those five page papers I wrote about the other day. One professor said that page length is less of an issue (at least at McMaster) and that papers on theoretical topics will be impressive. Another said that he thinks they're fine as long as I clarify that I had no opportunity to write a paper on demography because of the course offerings at my school. It's funny because one of these papers is about how qualitative research is better than quantitative - a view that's not exactly in line with my area of interest. Maybe you don't find this funny. I find it funny.

I also find my papers damn funny (and brilliant!) after re-reading them this afternoon. One is on Goffman's views of self presentation, written in the fifties, related to current online self presentation. The next is on Goffman's famous analogies of social life as a drama, a game, and a ritual related to the 'party', and the third is Goffman's research methodologies (haphazard and hardly described) versus Gottman's - a crackpot psychologist who claims he can statistically analyze how and why marriages fail. Gottman verses Goffman. I love it. The last is about how Goffman's views can be related to racism, but it sucks, so I won't use it.

Alright, back to work. Eleven days 'till Thailand!

Monday, December 12, 2005


What I will do if I don't get into grad school; an imaginary list prepared while putting off applying to grad school.

- stay another year in Korea (what!?!?)

- Get SCUBA certified, then instructor certified, and teach Scuba diving in Thailand like my coworker did

- join an Everest expedition

- travel for as long as my korea money will take me... and then...

- apply to work at Statistics Canada and reapply to school another time

- sign up for interior decorator courses as per the psychic's prediction at Joanna's sweet sixteen

- pick avocados/dates/olives/oranges on an Israeli kibbutz and have a love affair with a 19 year old German chap

- work on a cruise ship singing Disney songs/selling alcohol/babysitting/lifeguarding

- start online dating as a serious full time career

- get a job in some city, any city, selling coffee/beer/books

- start my own dog walking business in the busy streets of Thornhill, only this time I'll be more aggressive than I was when I was ten and got not one single telephone call

What would you do? If you were me? If you were you?

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Peace Pedalers

There were five of us sitting over sushi talking about the cause and preparing for our evening of fundraising. The closest I've ever come to doing something like this was cold calling to sell life insurance and I can't say I was ever too successful. I had no particular expectations.

We started out at Gecko's, a bar overflowing with young military types, and the response was impressive. For every table we talked to, usually at least one sale was made. I never realized how generous people are. I was hesistant to march right up to a table of drinking guys, even more hesitant towards girls, but when I got over that it was easy. In fact, the boys usually seemed quite pleasantly surprised to be approached by a girl, and perhaps slightly disappointed to find out they were being asked for money. I think we might have ignored the girls more than we should have... ah well.

We went from bar to bar and sold bracelets like crazy. We were annoying, I'm sure, but people had a hard time saying no.

That charity, for those interested, is for an organization called Peace Pedalers; a group that is biking across the world to spread peace and cooperation between countries. This particular bracelet campaign is to raise money to purchase one hundred bicycles for poor children in South Africa who otherwise have to walk to school more than ten kilometers each way.

Some people criticized the necessity of such a donation, legitimately I suppose. Don't they need food instead? But with a means for transportation people have more time for farming, better means for accessing food and hospitals, collecting water, and it's very cost effective. A good cause, I say. And the Itaewon partiers seemed to agree.

It was funny to note that if one person at a table was listening and buying a bracelet, the others looked the other way or did not agree to buy as well. I often have that feeling myself; that if someone I'm with has given to someone or something I'm thereby off the hook. I'll try not to do that anymore. As a "salesperson" I tried to involve everybody at the table, not just the one who seemed to take interest, so the others had less of an escape. A good tactic, I think.

At 3,000 won a piece, we managed to raise over 700,000 won! Pretty good for four hours of selling.

The next stage of the fundraiser is to sell packages that are basically meant to raise 120,000 won to buy one bicycle for a child. The bicycles will be hand delivered and the donators of this money will sign a card that will be presented directly to the child. The idea is that a leader finds twelve people who are willing to support the cause for 10,000 won each, and they all pitch in to buy one bicycle. There is also an auction/party in Itaewon on January 14th with lots of door prizes and things that should be a lot of fun.

If anyone wants more information, email me ( or the organizer Vanessa (

On the way home this morning from Seoul D'Arcy and I stopped finally at Hannam Supermarket, another foreign goods store that's popular. I got spaghetti, pimento stuffed green olives, and vlasic baby kosher dills which are not crunchy enough or very good even. I can't get the olive jar open yet.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Fundraiser in Itaewon

Last night I looked on as a nasty drunk birthday girl decorated the WA bar floor with her evening's dinner. I didn't get a good view of what that might have been. The sound was the worst thing of all - it reminded me of my not so impressive shower head.

Tonight will be a little more classy as I join a small force of bracelet sellers. We're going to be hitting the bars in Itaewon selling bracelets to support a charity that purchases bicycles for the needy in Africa. I've never been a natural saleswoman but perhaps my sleek, straight hair will be of assistance. Is there a magic cleavage procedure that grows out in six months?

To all those who might happen upon Itaewon tonight, look for us and buy a bracelet. You don't even have to wear it.

Today's agenda: clean up, write some things for grad school, take a bus into the city and perhaps check out a museum of some sort, head to Itaewon around 8:30.

Calling all those in the know

Having attempted to be responsibly early in completing my graduate school applications - and failed - I am now scrambling to get things in order asap. Alright, I still have a bit over a month and a half until things are due, but I can forsee this becoming a problem.

I got Carleton's application in the mail today (thanks, Dad) and am saddened to see that I need to send a writing sample there as well as U of T. But I don't have any decent writing samples. Except for something. And I want to know what you guys think about its appropriateness.

I'm not sure how long these samples are supposed to be. I'd heard 20 pages but then I also heard 10. The papers I have that are well written and well supported come from a theory class that focused on one theorist. (Irving Goffman for the curious). I wrote a series of four five page papers that reference only Goffman's varied works. But they're interesting and read well. Can I submit two or three of these five pagers as one writing sample? There is no stipulation about length or composition.

While I think I might score points for creativity and craftiness (I have to say, they're quite crafty) I might lose out for submitting something too light and effortless; something that doesn't show my abilities of research and structure. 'Cause I got none of them - my abilities at those things are the pits.

Flaunt what you've got? Or submit a more traditional essay that's not very good? What do you think?

I'm banking on Western...

Super slammer

If you want to hold onto your pogs and marbles, just don't bring them to class! It's not that difficult, kids, come on!

What am I going to do with all these damn pogs? It's not my fault my room's a mess.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

I will find my one and only!

I have spent the last two and a half months watching the speed at which my nails grow, with my traditional Korean orange nail to guide me along my path. All the while I had no idea what the tradition was for. But I found out! The story goes that women stain their nails usually in late spring/early fall. If by the first snowfall they still have orange on their nails they will be destined to meet their true love, I guess that season. Let's assume it's this season for my sake and interest's sake. This blog could use a little romance to spice things up, n'est pas?

Check out how much orange is still on my nail. I went to the mountains in mid September and had this done and still I have half an orange nail. I hate my orange nail, really, but have grown quite accustomed to it over these months. Of all colours, why orange? Maybe I'd prefer pink, or a subtle mint green, but orange? Where'd I put my black nail polish?

Today we went on a rather unremarkable field trip, but I did manage to snap this picture of the kids waiting for the elevator. Only when I uploaded my pictures this evening did I realize how hilarious it is. Where in the world did five year old Peter learn that gangsta hand gesture? Even Elliot looks pretty rad in his silver astronaut shoes. And Yoon has his 'possessed by the devil' expression on but I don't know why. I love Yoon and Yoon loves me. He wrote Jessica (heart picture) Yoon the other day. He's even hip with the I heart you bullshit that's been going around.

For the curious out there, here is my straight hair. Looking straight. It looks a little dull when it's dry, sadly. I think I need to find either a really good moisturizer or some glossy something or other. But alas, it is pretty straight.

And finally, here is another shot of one of my favourite 'walk to school' views, now adorned with snow. I think I probably have three views already of this river and cluster of businesses. Deal with it.

Thailand is two weeks and two days away. Today it finally hit me that I'm going there. I remember watching The Amazing Race and perceiving Thailand as a place I'd love to go but probably never would. I once claimed to be a person who likes traveling but I'd hardly traveled. This Korea experience is becoming more irreplaceable and worthwhile as time goes on.

I can't wait to eat fried banana and green curry and coconut things and peanut things, to walk through the Thai markets and buy things that I never knew existed let alone knew I needed. To get a Thai massage involving knees and elbows and sore muscles. To see a live sex show where woman extinguish candles in ways I never knew possible, or something equivalent. To ride an elephant, or at least touch one. To swim! I can't wait to swim, and hopefully snorkel. To partake in whatever Tsunami anniversary events are going on in Bangkok. To celebrate new years eve and my six months in Korea and to arrive back at 'home' three hours before I'm due to return to work. It should be quite a trip.

Everything's a mess

That's an overly dramatic title because everything is not a mess; just every place that I spend my time.

My apartment, my kitchen sink, my bathroom, my desk at work, my classroom. I can't keep things clean. And it's not like I don't try. I don't like the mess and I often.. okay, well sometimes... make the effort to clean it up. But it comes back in less than a day.

Right now I have more clothes on the floor than on my shelves, more dishes in the sink than in my cupboards, and more hair in my drain that on my head. Ha ha. I probably have ten thousand won worth of coins scattering my floor and counter tops. Socks, random papers and belts and cups and books, shoes, towels. Argh.

But there's nothing I can do except learn to embrace and love my sty. Embrace it and love it. I love you, sty.

Oh, looks like Tommy Lee is registering for university in Nebraska. Gotta run.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Jewish in Korea

I mentioned the other day the low number of Jews living in South Korea and have been meaning to write about this for some time. How does it feel to be Jewish in South Korea?

The background is that I've always grown up in Jewish communities in Montreal (DDO) and Toronto (Thornhill) thus never fully comprehending my minority status until attending University in Hamilton, Ontario. Even then there was nothing too shocking except for some ridiculous questions posed out of ignorance more than anything.

I'm not a religious person, but I do feel a cultural bond and value that part of myself. I feel like it does separate me from others, especially here.

I've found that my being Jewish comes up a lot more here than I think it does at home, or at least I'm more aware of it here. People constantly ask me my heritage, not only because we're all from somewhere else but because I guess I look relatively ethnic (especially compared to most teachers here who are whiter than white).

A recent conversation:

"Where are you from"


"No, but I mean, what's your background?"

[At this point I can say Polish, and also Russian, but I don't feel as though that is really what people are looking for. It would stop the line of questioning but those places are not something I relate to or consider a part of me. I used to avoid it, but these days I don't.]

"Well, I'm Jewish."

"Ohh, Adam Sandler!"

What the hell?

Some guy was talking about how there aren't enough Jews in Korea (before knowing my religion). I told him and how did he respond? "No you're not." Okay, if you say so. Another guy said that in Thailand there are signs on brothels denying entrance to Jews because they're known for being "very aggressive." What? Can that be true??

So far in Korea I've met three other Jews and that commonality definitely brings us together in certain ways. We can gripe about Christmas and the expectation that we treat Christmas as the only option at this time of year, we can show off our upside-down dreidel spinning skills, and we can not be the only different one for a change.

So how do I feel about it? I feel more different here than I do at home, which is to be expected. I don't mind my being different. It surprises me when people say dumb or completely inappropriate things, but it makes me realize what living in a homogenous community is like. And it reinforces my desire to not live in one. Not a strictly Jewish community nor a strictly anything else community.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Open Class

Yes, it went great. I'm a super star teacher. Everyone breath a sigh of relief.

Here's what happened.

First period was business as usual. The kids arrived, they were excited about their mummy's coming, but all was normal. The moms were set to arrive for second period. For the most part I never see the parents; they arrive by school bus and leave the same way, except for a few kids who get picked up. So it was the first time I've met a lot of their parents. Too bad the most I could say was hello. I don't know what extent of English they have but they didn't have too much time to chit chat. They came in and sat down and the class began.

I did pretty much exactly what I laid out below (which was written for the parents). The moms were sitting along the back row of the classroom and the kids were at their tables in front of them. They behaved like angels! Angels, I tell you! It was incredible.

They used English, they raised their hands to speak and weren't too shy that they didn't talk at all. They had fun while following the rules. They said thank you and please and they were fully alert. One mom had a video camera, which kind of cracked me up.

Every kid contributed in some way to the lesson, and no parents complained about one kid having a longer pencil than another... because I had brought in brand new pencils this morning.

Afterwards the director and his wife said that I did very well and all the mothers were happy. They all thanked Sang Kyu individually and they all want me to continue as the children's teacher in March (when they move up to the six year old class). Obviously I'm very pleased and relieved. I love my kids.

After work today the director and his wife took us on a field trip... to Costco! It looks pretty much exactly the same as it does at home besides the larger selection of kimchi. I got a few key items including feta cheese, marble cheese, laughing cow party pack cheese, peanut butter, Honey Nut Cheerios, and bagels. Alright! I was a little disappointed that they didn't have Kosher dills or Ruffles/Doritos/Lays. Can't win 'em all. The baked goods section and meat sections were pretty impressive, but their taste tests left something to be desired. I always enjoy a trip to Costco, at home or here.

A good day, it was. I feel like it should be Friday.

Monday, December 05, 2005


I rock. My kids rock. I'm happy.

The plan

The class you will be observing is Language Arts. The purpose of this class is to introduce and familiarize the students with the English alphabet. We focus on letter recognition, sound production, vocabulary, and writing during each class.

Today we are studying the letter T. We will first discuss the letter and the sound it makes, and practice producing the sound. Then I will ask the class for a list of English words that begin with this sound. After collecting this list of words, we will practice producing these words. When everyone has had a chance to contribute and is familiar with the words, we will discuss and then complete a worksheet from the Scholatics Phonics K book. The paper and pencil helpers will distribute the materials and the children will practice both writing the letter and distinguishing “T” words from “non-T” words.

If time permits, each child will be given an opportunity to write the big and small letter T on the white board. We will then recite the story Brown Bear, Brown Bear for our parents. This is one of the children’s favorite books that they have become very familiar with.

Thank you for visiting Happy Class!

Tomorrow's the day

Two and a half weeks ago I found out about tomorrow and my heart raced with dread. Not the open class! Anything but the open class! My kids had been demonic for over a month and a half and though they were coming around I feared the worst.

Tonight I sit here feeling lighthearted and at ease. I'm (almost) sure it will be just fine, if not impressive. My kids have been great and I'm gladder than glad.

This weekend I had a few opportunities to talk with my director. He let me know some interesting things. First, despite the impression I had gotten that his daughter (my most recent student who has been causing a little bit of... disruption) was teacher's pet at her old school. Turns out she's always the troublemaker in the class. That explains it!

Also he brought her to that same English Exhibition where she was the only kid in an on the spot simulation classroom to answer the teacher's questions, despite her being years younger than the other kids. That's all thanks to me, of course.

That last interesting thing is that he decided not to send her to the Open Class, which doesn't really make much of a difference because she's doing pretty fine these days. She can even read "Brown Bear, Brown Bear" with the rest of them.

Anyway, I'll be sure to report on the class (a forty minute period with a line of parents sitting in the back of a shoebox sized room) tomorrow when it's all over.

For now I'm tired and my arms hurt from some machine or other at the gym. I'm so athletic and amazing. I just ate a Jersey Milk bar.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Snow is falling gently, it's cold as cold can be

It smelled like snow yesterday afternoon, and D'Arcy, Cara and I got our first taste of Korean snow flakes on our way out last night. It was beautiful and got us giddy. It also made us laugh when a siren-blaring truck raced by. What kind of truck was it? A salt truck, and the snow wasn't even sticking to the ground. Call in the army!

We went for galbi at a place near Cara's house (close to Jamsil) and it was great. The meat was delicious, as was the red sauce. We had sun dubo (tofu soup), sweet onions, salad drenched in ranch dressing, and a variety of kimchi's. Can't say I've developed my taste for kimchi. We also had sweet potatoes roasting on the hot coals in tin foil. Delicious! Oh, and we shot soju like Korean men and our cheeks burned red like them too.

The snow kept up throughout the evening. Snow always makes me feel romantic, and the only cute man in sight was this life sized dancing Santa. I never was one to dig facial hair, but what can you do...

Looks just like Toronto, doesn't it? This could easily be Queen St. or perhaps Bloor? Except they don't have roasted chestnuts and red bean stuffed donuts shaped like fish on the street in Toronto.

We went partying in Kangnam for the first time to this hip hop club called Noise Basement. It wasn't too bad though drinks were slightly pricey. There are fewer foreigners here than in Hongdae, and a sign on the door said "No Military allowed" but the few other foreigners we saw there looked like military anyway. Baah, military. There was a breakdancing competition that we happened to have prime view of, and D'Arcy and Cara thought it would be a good idea to jump on stage and win it all. Too bad they didn't get the kind of applause they really deserved. The waif-like, midriff bearing, hip wiggling Korean girl took home the prize. I have great video footage for anyone who's interested.

And here, for your viewing pleasure, is an all too typical scene of two drunk men helping their very drunk friend find his footing. I've gotten quite accustomed to avoiding puddles of vomit and dodging drunken staggers.

We slept at Cara's place and were just getting ready to go home to Suji for some apartment cleaning and rest when the director called up and asked us to accompany him to the English language exhibition at the COEX mall. We agreed and spent the afternoon walking through the exhibit, drinking Starbucks Coffee and learning about the Korean economy and business trends. Weird, it was.

Now it's five at night and I'm getting ready to wash my hair for the first time since this whole straightening ordeal. Exciting stuff!

The snow has stayed on the ground and it looks as if it's always been here. My heat is slowly warming up the floor and melting any chocolate I might have left lying around.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

My postcard collection is growing

I now have eight; Portugal, Quebec, London, Canada, Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, and Jerusalem. They look very nice under my map of the world. You too can add to this collection.

Yong-in, Sanghyun-dong
257-1 IT Plaza
Second Floor
Kid's College
449 130
South Korea

Apparently I have a constant plea for visitors and mail. What can I say? Sometimes being on the other side of the world in a city of millions is lonely.

My kitchen smells like garbage

And if my kitchen smells like garbage my whole apartment does too. I guess it's time to throw out the garbage and wash the dishes. I'll just open the window.

Take a look at the timestamp of this post. That's right, it's not even four yet and I've been off work since two thirty. I love when my one student fails to show up on Tuesday or Thursday.

I decided today to join the gym of which everyone else is a member (active or not). Since D'Arcy was still working I went on my own but after climbing seven flights of stairs without finding it I figured I'd had my workout and sauntered home, my hair blowing in the wind, to eat caramel Hershey's kisses.

On the bus ride over to downtown Suji a man boarded the bus just behind me. I glanced at him and thought he looked rather familiar but wasn't too sure, until he spoke.

"You're very beautiful" Oh right, that sleazy weirdo who is sometimes hanging around our walk home.

"Are you from Canada or America?"

He then proceeded to ask me about my boyfriend status and whether I'm interested in Korean men. Happily, this fifty or so year old man was not after me for himself, but for his 28 year old son who is my height and very handsome. I even got to see a photograph. He assured me that Korean men are the best in the world and help their wives. Thrown into the deal, should I accept, is a wedding dress on the house!

A wedding dress is the least of my concerns, bucko. He didn't leave me his card.

I am feeling really great. And I mean really great. Many, many great, teacher!

Did I mention that today is my five month anniversary? My kids are being wonderful and I'm so glad I made it through the last month and a half, because I was really feeling unhappy at work there for a while. Now, not only are they refraining from speaking Korean in the classroom, but they are actually speaking English to each other when I'm not listening. "Mindy, may I borrow your red crayon please" "Okay" "Thank you" is heard echoing throughout the classroom. Music to my ears. I'm no longer dreading Tuesday's Open Class; in fact I look forward to showing the parents how great their kids are doing.

My plane ticket to Thailand is paid for and I'm leaving in just over three weeks. My parents are seriously considering a visit in late January. My brother got a new job. My other brother is touring America as a band manager. I got a postcard and a letter/picture from friends this week. I'm seeing Harry Potter tonight. And it feels like spring outside.

My kitchen smells like garbage.

[Edit]: D'Arcy called on her way from work and I forced myself to put down the kisses and get to the gym. Seventy bucks for three months are paid and I had my first workout today. It was quiet and my arms and legs are going to hurt tomorrow, I can already tell. I intend (intent, gotta love it) to go every Tuesday and Thursday, and hopefully some other day as well. I hear there are some attractive boys who work out there too...