Sunday, April 30, 2006

Lotus Lantern Festival

The second great day in a row, it was. The latern festival was fantastic! So much free stuff to do (though it was slightly too busy for me to bother doing a lot of it). You could make your own laterns, paint a number of different things, sew, stamp, bead, etc. etc. etc. You could have your picture taken in traditional Korean clothing. You could watch great dance numbers, singing performances, and drumming. You could play games. You could see any foreigner who lives in Seoul or the Seoul vicinity, or even not at all in Seoul.

I pressed paper onto an inky black stamp with lots of Chinese script on it. And I decorated a small frying rice cake with weeds and then ate it. Sara painted a lovely picture and she also made a lantern. We watched a group of taekwondo boys perform to that song "I see you looking at me like you're some kinda freak..." They thought they were doing taekwondo and they got roped into dancing to pop music. Suckers.

The lanters are all so lovely, aren't they?? I can't believe my eyes! What beauty!

At night was the big parade and it was the most beautiful parade I've ever seen. Plus, a parade in the Spring makes so much more sense than one in November. There was no Santa in this parade but Buddha made up for it.
The colors and enthusiasm were impossible to catch on camera. I tried though, and you can check out those attempts, plus the rest of my fantastic weekend, here.

Four days until I'm in Tokyo!

Saturday, April 29, 2006

A day in the city

I had a really great Saturday in the city, checking out Gyeongbokgung palace amongst other things. It was the most beautiful day yesterday, and look at this beautiful picture. I took many more that are now online. Check 'em out.

I'm heading back to Seoul today for the Lotus Lantern Festival. I love lanterns and I've heard it's absolutely breathtaking so I'm quite looking forward to it. I've got my camera ready!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The growing flower

Since I don't have much to say I'll just show pictures. Here is a growing flower. Jordana sent me the seeds and the sprouts are starting after a week! Wow!
Look at Jean. That's serious cuteness.

My mother runs a very good daycare center in downtown Toronto (she's been my primary resource this past year) and I think my kids and the oldest group at her center will become international pen pals. Why didn't I think of this earlier? Maybe because my kids couldn't speak English before. Now they can. They even left a message on Rick's cell phone. Did you get it Rick? Did ya?

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Tick Too's birthday

Happy birthday to my good ol' brother Ricky. He's 25 today. Hey Rick, you're old! Just kidding, not that old, but only kind of old. This year has been one of a few changes for you. I wonder what next year will be like? Maybe one where you actually see your sister!

Here he is. Can anyone name that intersection? I'll give you a dollar if you can. Should be a piece of cake for some of y'all!

My kids all love Ricky and were well aware of his birthday today. My kids drove me crazy today. I'm easily driven crazy these days. I'm burnt out. Hey Ricky, why don't you come to Korea and cover my class for a week? Will ya?

Where is the program on Chernobyl I've been waiting for?!?!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

A dream about honey

In other Nyquil inspired news, last night's dream had me at my highschool in some kind of graduation ceremony watching my peers walk across the stage. The boys were accepting their diplomas buck naked and one in particular doused himself with honey and proceeded to shake, consequently splattering the crowd (and me). I think he was purposely honifying me. This one's anybody's guess. Is nudity and honey a standard dream too?

I bought a book today called "Ugly Koreans, Ugly Americans" that points out the cultural differences of the two groups. The book is divided in two: strange Korean practices that Americans don't understand and strange American practices that Koreans don't understand.

Some examples:

Common Korean Behaviours
- Bump into others in a crowd
- Sniffle continually instead of blowing their noses
- Men clean their ears in public
- Spit in public
- Stare at foreigners and talk about them in their presence
- Pat a young child on the behind (they didn't mention on the front...)
- Wear clothes imprinted with bizarre English words or phrases
- Make invitations of important announcements at the last minute
- Use scissors to cut meat and vegetables
- Place a roll of toilet paper on the desk in an office

Common American Behaviours
- Steal a child's nose in fun and then "show it to him" (this is apparently a hand gesture equivalent to the middle finger).
- Smoke in front of elders
-Look upon all Asians as being from the same race
- Are too sensitive about people cutting in line
- Adolescent girls wear makeup
- Middle aged and elderly persons wear "youthful" styles or loud colors
- Don't stand up when a superior enters the office
- strictly separate work time and private time
- Stick their silverware straight up in a bowl of rice during a meal
- Don't pour drinks for anyone else
- Don't offer to share foods.
- Brag about themselves
- Used loud voices, big gestures, and exaggerated facial expressions
- Send their elderly parents to a nursing home
- Think they are the best simply because they are from the United States.

Why'd I buy this book? It's nothing I didn't know already.

I think I'm feeling better so tonight should be a Nyquil and therefore dreamless slumber.

Monday, April 24, 2006

My tooth dream

I'm almost sure I've written about this before but I can't seem to find that old post.

Last night I had one of my only typical and recurring dreams. In it I'm at home in Thornhill and my parents are away at work. Maybe I'm a bit younger than I am now and I'm waiting for them to get home. One of my teeth (a k9 I believe) becomes loose and eventually I push it out with my tongue. This is horrifying. I think there was a bit more to it but I can't recall the details. It was incredibly vivid when I woke up.

I have had this dream a number of times in my life, once when all the teeth in my mouth crumbled out.

The online interpretations I can find aren't all that useful, though a common one says that I might be concerned about my physical appearance and aging. That's a possibility. This weekend I had a moment of humiliation...

We were at the bar hanging around and I had taken the time to beautify myself more than usual. Heels and all. There was a tall guy standing nearby with his friends whose eyes I could feel on me for quite some time. I mentioned him to Sara and joked around about how he wanted me. On our way out the door what happened? He stopped HER to talk. Ouch. Guess I misjudged his gaze. It actually was an all around downer night when my friends were all talking to new people and I wasn't at all. This is not a big deal, really, but usually I have a hoodie, sneakers and jeans on and can still get noticed. On Friday I thought I looked really good. Maybe I scared everyone away with the heels? Anyway, I digress.

I don't think this flicker of insecurity is the cause of the dream because before I went to sleep my mind was racing with travel plans and new ideas which I won't share just yet. I also took Nyquil which always is influential on my dreams.

Anyway, the tooth dream freaks me out every time I have it. Shudder.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Sick once more

It serves me right to stay up past five two nights in a row. Damn.

Luckily today was a rainy one so I spent it inside sleeping and doing research on my upcoming travels. Okay all you travel afficionados, get ready to advise!

I'll be flying to Tokyo on the evening of Thursday, May 4th and staying with friend Scott (assuming he has his new apartment up and running). After some priliminary surfing today, on my list of things to do are:

Tsukiji Central Fish Market - I'm a sucker for fish markets.

Akihabara Electronic Market - I'm a sucker for electronic markets too, maybe.

A shrine or temple or two, perhaps Meiji, Jingu shrine or Akasuka temple.

Tokyo National Museum, maybe.

Some crazy, busy, colourful shopping districts. Shinjuku or Shibuya.

Besides these things I want to eat delicious Japanese food and have some Japanese nightlife fun.

Any recommendations, anyone?

I also did some preliminary research on traveling through Vietnam, which is the primary country that D'Arcy and I will be visiting this summer. We haven't made the move to sit down and really think about what we want to do but we've been tossing around ideas for a while. Right now we're thinking about flying to Phnom Phenh, Cambodia, checking out Siem Riep, and then heading to Ho Chi Minh City and taking our time traveling up the length of Vietnam to Hanoi. We had been considering going to Laos too and have heard from a lot of people that it's incredible, but that might be pushing it for time. We can see as we go along.

Anyway, I found some useful information about Vietnam transportation. You can buy a multi-city open bus ticket very cheaply that's good for three months and seems to have a good selection of stops. That sounds great! Alternately we can travel by train (which sounds more appealing to me, somehow) but would have to buy individual tickets and book them a few days in advance (or be flexible about quality of car). Too bad they don't have a multi-stop open train ticket from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi. Apparently the country takes a total of 40 hours to travel by bus.

From Hanoi we would either go to Laos or fly back to Korea and then home.

Then we thought that maybe it would be worthwhile to stop for a couple of days in Hong Kong from Korea, then fly to Hanoi and head South, doing that whole trip in reverse. I guess we could also stop in Hong Kong on the way home. Which one, I wonder.

We'll have to either ship most of our luggage home from Korea or store it at the airport. Does anyone know if there's any left-luggage storage at Incheon airport?

This trip is finally coming along, and my anticipation is starting to brew. Bubble, bubble.

Again, suggestions are more than welcome.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

O Korea

Today I was treated to an apparently common sight in the land of the morning calm, though it was my first time yet.

A man was squatting at the side of the road with his toddler daughter in his arms, also in a squatting position, peeing. In mid air. Pretty cool. The rest of the family waited patiently in the car and looked at me with interest. I smiled. I don't think it's crazy that your daughter is peeing on the side of the road. I have a vivid memory of doing the same thing along the 401 as a girl.

Speaking of which, on Friday little John brought a stag beetle in for show and tell. I've never seen anything quite so ugly. Where did he get such a horrendous pet? At Lottemart today I saw those fat, juicy, white slugs for sale in the pet department. I stopped for a closer look and a father with his daughter gave me a chuckle. I smiled. I don't think it's crazy that people want these things for pets. I'm just lying.

Friday, April 21, 2006

O Canada

An interesting conversation with my elementary kids today.

Did you know that we don't eat kimchi in Canada? No galbi, mandu, or samgyupsal either! Did you know that people don't live in the same kind of looming apartments? Did you know that children don't go to school on Saturdays? All crazy things, I know!

Are there tigers in Canada? How about lions?

Nope, none of those. But we have bears and squirrels run freely throughout the land. And we have racoons and skunks and birds of all colours.

Do you have cider? Do you eat really not eat kimchi??


What do you eat??

Sandwiches. Hamburgers. Salads. Pizza.

Salad? Uuueech.

It's an amazing place, that Canada.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

It's cold in Korea


I wonder if the cough I have is another cold coming on or a side-effect of yellow dust.

Last night I dreamt that my dad was coming to Korea and wanted to know if he could spend a day with me at school. This is funny because spending a day at school would probably be the last thing on my father's list of interesting things to do in Korea. A visit sure, but not a day. Little children?? Ugh.

I also had a dream that I was dating a Romanian. Strange, kind of.

I haven't had much going on lately and because of that I have very little to write about. What can I write about? What am I missing? Dear readers, what do you want to know?

School is not at all on my mind these days because there's nothing I haven't already thought about, at least until I have to select courses or make some other decision.

Despite my complaints about my kids, they're really pretty fine and each day is pretty fine and everything is pretty fine. That's dull. That doesn't provide for good writing material.

Everyday my cellphone alarm wakes me up at 8:00. D'Arcy, Sara, and I have been leaving for work at 8:54 every morning for the past nine months. It takes around twenty minutes to walk to school. School starts at 9:50. Back in the good ol' days I needed this half an hour for preparation but these days I don't. It's hard to break the habit of leaving at 8:54.

My cellphone charger broke so my alarm is down for the count. I am currently using the plastic Hello Kitty alarm clock that Jordana so thoughtfully gave me as a farewell gift. I'm sleeping in to 8:33 these days but I think it's a little too late.

On the plus side, sleeping in allows me to adhere to the urge of watching Sex and the City on "On Style" television network. It doesn't start until sometime around 11:30. It used to start closer to 11:00 so it wasn't so bad but these days it's pushing it.

I used to hate all four of the dumb characters on Sex and the City. They're all so unreal to me. But they're grown on me and I can't get enough. They only show commercials between shows, not throughout a show. I like that.

This post is reminiscent of emails I might write when I have lots of time and nothing much to say. Aren't you lucky. Speaking of which, hello friends. Email sometime, will ya?

Let's throw in a photo, shall we? This is me in my first week of life in Korea. I'm on my way to Seoul to buy my guitar that I won't play much until March. It was damn hot. Was I different then? I had to plan my lessons the night before to feel confident in the classroom. I had curly hair. I had strong morals. I thought bungee jumping and Sex and the City were moronic. (maybe I've changed for the worse.) My insides exploded every now and then when I thought about the 360 more days I had left to live here. Now I have 78. It's funny how I came here full of excitement for what was to come only to spend the entire time counting down until I can leave again. That's alright. It's been worth it.


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Hot peppers and tofu

The sky was dark like dusk all day long today and according to my students it was all thanks to the yellow dust. Turns out the rumour is true and yellow dust is a nasty thing that comes and goes leaving sickness in its path. Apparently the dust is so fine that masks are worthless and you should avoid going outside at all times. It's expected to have real effects on the health of people who live with it.

Today Yoon read a long sentence that was something like "Stems hold up leaves and flowers." He read it flawlessly and he couldn't speak a word of English in July. If he moved to Canada he'd probably be far ahead of all the other four year olds. Way to make me pround, my boy.

I have finally found out the truth about my favourite sauce. No, it's not gochujang. It's not duenjang either. It's samjang! That's the ticket! It's so very delicious. To think that it took me nearly ten months of investigation to uncover it. Today I bought it along with green hot peppers and tofu - who have I become? It's alright; hot peppers straight up are tasty.

I was writing report cards for my kindergarten students that are to be distributed next week, this month's end. Looks like I've already finished two of the four months that were left when the classes all changed in February. That just about blows my mind.

I'm excited for traveling. It'll come along in no time.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Monday Morning

With the return of my two very difficult boys, I started off Monday morning with a bang. A bad one. They are totally out of control and I hate it. I'm going to try to always remain calm in the hopes of creating some kind of calm oasis classroom. Who am I kidding?

If only the two could be sick more often and leave me with my well behaved girls and Yoon. From left to right is Stephanie, Sue (formerly known as Alice but had her name changed last week when she signed up for Smile class), Yoon, Mindy, and Alice (the original, and the reason for Sue/Alice's change.)

Jamie and John are not pictured here. A good thing since they make my left eye twitch.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Cherry pickin' and thick steak

Bright and early on Saturday morning we all met in downtown Suji (see photo below) to board one of the Kid's College buses and head off for a day and night in the mountains. In October we went to a beautiful resort somewhere northeast of Suji called Vivaldi Park. I don't know what the purpose of these trips are but the director says that it's common in Korea for the boss to take his employees away like this. I don't mind at all because it's a chance to see a part of the country I might not otherwise have access to.

On the way we stopped at a little temple (national treasure number 131) which boasts the country's biggest Ginko tree (natural treasure number 30). Pretty amazing. It was kinda big but it didn't wow me. What a good view the bird living in that nest must have.

The temple itself was quite lovely.
It had a blue/green motif which was a nice aesthetic change from the usual blue/green/red one. I liked it.
Here are most of the Kid's College teachers from left to right: Kevin, Diego (who is Jennifer's husband and doesn't work with us), Jennifer, me, D'Arcy, Kierstie, and Barbara. Missing are Sara and Tara (the new-new girl - who is doing fine, by the way.)

Once we arrived at the resort we did the usual akward who-sleeps-where and what-do-you-want-to-do dance that almost makes this kind of thing not worthwhile. The resort had a lot less to do than Vivaldi. Someone made the executive decision to play basketball so we hit the courts. I was hesitant, really, because all I've ever really done with a basketball is play "21" or "bump" in gym class and/or the driveway. It turned out to be fantastic! We played for almost two hours and I'm really not half bad! Who knew that my six foot tall-ness would be such an asset... no wonder that's the first question I get whenever I meet someone new. We drew a crowd of spectators who weren't shy to take pictures and videos of our mad skills.

The rest of the time we spent eating. One of my co-workers orchestrated two fabulous, Costco inspired Western meals: a barbecue with incredibly tasty steaks, sausages, and pasta salad, and a breakfast with the works. See for yourself. It was great.

As I said, the resort was nothing compared to Vivaldi, but it was still a nice place. Too bad I don't pay attention to the names of things these days. Also too bad my bed on the floor and my hard as rock rice-stuffed pillow, along with the basketball, left my body feeling like a bit of a wreck this morning. Ahh well.

Overall, a very nice weekend indeed. I am happy. And do you know what?
There are two and a half months left.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Field Trip

We had a great field trip today at a museum right beside the "Wonderland-esque" Everland. The kids were thrilled to see the park.. and then they ended up at a museum. The wonderful part of it was being able to walk around outside a little bit. The kids never play outside - no playground, no real recess. The most they do is run around the hall in the school. Yes, hall.

My class is now up to seven enrolled, though with two sick (my two worst behaved) I had a lovely five on the trip today. Fantastic.

I'm going away to the mountains for the weekend.

Thursday, April 13, 2006


Last night I didn't write about what I ate for dinner because it was the same as the previous night.

Tonight I went to a steakhouse near the Ori movie theatre and had a chicken dish that came with a baked potato. It had a nice big dollop of cream on top. Mmm.. I'm a fan of sour cream. Too bad this was whipped cream.

Who puts whipped cream on a baked potato?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Candy and flight plans

I haven't gotten any mail in a while. In case you lost my mailing address...

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

I like letters, chocolate, candy, doritos, postcards, love notes, and fan mail. Or nose studs, pictures, mix CD's, and tshirts. No more Lipton's chicken soup!!! Reese's peanut butter cups, mini eggs, lik 'm aid, and chocolate covered almonds are difficult if impossible to come by. I'm feeling candy deprived. The chocolate here is sub-par. Crunky and Ghanna've got nothing. They do have Snickers everywhere but not Mars.. why not Mars? My aunt sent me a package for my birthday (in February) and everyday I hope that it has arrived. Maybe I should give up hope. Maybe tomorrow it will be here.

I have a big, huge box to send home to Canada full of winter stuff and stuff I won't be needing anymore for whatever reason. I'm waiting until I'm sure I won't need my jacket anymore. For the last four days I haven't needed it. Am I in the clear? Can I send my box? I can't wait to send my box.

I spent the last while looking up flights and trying to figure things out for the summer but I'm no further ahead than before. We're wondering if it's worth heading from Vietnam to Laos, or instead cutting back into Thailand and going to a place we didn't see in December. Phuket (after Bangkok) hardly did it for us. And will it be a better idea to fly from Korea to SE Asia and then directly home, or to get round trip ticket from Korea and then fly home from here. Anyone? Anyone?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

My brother and sister-in-law are a superstar couple.

Cheese, cheese, yummy, yummy, cheese

I just thoroughly cleaned up my entire apartment minus the kitchen. That was long overdue. I'm damn lucky I don't have an ant infestation like Sara or a 'roach infestation like Tara or I'd be in trouble. I might have to clean more than thrice annually!

This is what it looked like on my way home today. It is beautiful outside these days. Though there is a big yellow dust warning for tomorrow that has postponed Thursday's field trip to Friday. Where have I put my mask???

Here is my Tuesday night dinner. This is a very typical one for me; I tend to eat spaghetti at least once or twice a week. These days it's spruced up a bit because of a coworker's recent trip to Costco. She picked me up some cheese. Last week it was even better because I found rigatoni which I like so much better than spaghetti. The spirals really give it a certain umph that I realized is something I miss about Canada. Gimme those spiral noodles!!!

According to a friend who has been back in Canada for quite a few months now (and is due to give birth any day now!!), when you go home from Canada you pack on the pounds because everything tastes so good. Then again she's pregnant so what does she know? Her boyfriend gained 20 pounds though! Ay ya yaiy!

Yes, I buy storemade salads out of laziness and yes, I eat over the computer (but not right over, don't worry parents) and yes, I eat out of the pot. Why not eat out of the pot? It saves water...

The title of this post is a song one of my kids sings all the time. She wrote it herself. She's (in all seriousness) quite musically talented. I'll see if I can get a video of her in action.

Monday, April 10, 2006

A new series

I just woke up from a dream that I arrived home. It was kind of an anticlimactic return but I looked around the city and appreciated the lack of looming apartment buildings. I also forgot my computer in Korea and pissed my parents off because of it. Last week I had my first 'returning home dream'. Back around month two and three I'd have dreams that I was home but only for a short visit. I'd be dropping off some gifts, or stopping by for dinner, and I'd hope my mom wouldn't mind driving me back to the airport in an hour or so. Those were the worst.

Aside from the dreams, I'm feeling more settled again in my Korea life. The weather has been great (aside from yellow dust and rain) and I'm out and doing things once again. It was a long, shut in winter. Also, the dust has settled from graduate school acceptances and no more information will be coming for a while that will distract me. So I can go ahead and forget about it for a while. I have a few concerns about returning to academic life after this year but I'll deal with that later.

For those interested in what Korea does to a gal, I weighed myself for the first time since I've arrived here and found that I'd lost eight pounds since July. Maybe I can lose eight more, or ten, by July.

On Saturday I spent the entire day in the salon redoing my magic straight hair style after four months. I went to Coex mall this time where they are familiar with foreign hair. Too bad they're not familiar with my kind of curly hair, and they still went too light on the hard-core chemicals so they had to repeat the process, ending up finishing the process after five and a half hours. I detest the hair salon experience. Detest!!! My threshold for hairdresser chit chat ends after about twenty to thirty minutes. What do I do with the other five hours?

So a few weeks ago I showed you what kind of lunches I'd been complaining about for the last nine months. Well, you should see what I eat for dinner. I can't really complain because dinner is up to me, but I'm as lazy as it gets when it comes to cooking (and cleaning, and most things domestic). I just can't get into it. Let's see what I ate for dinner on Monday.

WLast night after the gym, D'Arcy, Sara, and I (do I have any other friends? Not really...) went to a little sandwich place in Suji that we hadn't been to in a while. I had the salmon bagel and soup set. It hardly had any salmon and if there was cream cheese it was not lathered on thick like it ought to be. You can buy Great Canadian Bagels in Itaewon and real smoked salmon in the Ori Carrefour. And Philadelphia cream cheese anywhere. Maybe I'll make myself a REAL bagel in honour of... passover.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

What a garbage heap

It's cherry blossom season in Asia, folks, and for a two week period you can head over to Youido Park to celebrate the wonders of nature. Or you can just look at a lot of the trees that are here and there.

It was the first truly mild day yet, meaning no jacket or sweater required. Even when the sun went down the temperature stayed up.

This is very, very good news.
Not all the blossoms were blossoming so we made do and entertained ourselves the same way the Koreans do - by taking pictures.

Many, many, MANY pictures.

That's okay, picture taking is what I do best. What? Enjoy the moment in itself? Nahh, save it on film for the hell of it!

What will I do with all the pictures I have taken over my time in Korea? There are thousands! I think I'll burn them to disc. I've been printing my favourites as I go along and putting it in on album, which is turning out quite well.

Don't you hate those albums full of many bad pictures? Why not put only a few nice ones in an album to save the mood of the person you force to look at your album. Who really likes looking at other people's albums? Anyone? Maybe I do. I forget.

I'm too tired to blog for real so I'll do it tomorrow. For now you can look at all the cherry blossom photos, or you can look at my videos since I've uploaded a couple new ones.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Making some progress

Give it time to load by pressing the big "play" button and then pausing the video.

This is The Great Divide by The Band.

These days

This is Alice's drawing. I think it's fantastic.These are the blossoms on the few trees lucky enough to be living in the concrete jungle.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Hump day

My hot water has been shut off because I haven't paid my bills. I'm lazy, particularly when I can shrug it off as "language misunderstanding". I'll pay it tomorrow.

D'Arcy and Jordana are also going to be at U of T next year. It's a party in Toronto. Congrats, guys!

I just saw two back to back episodes of Scrubs for the first time in Korea. Waaa.

Today I paid for my flight to Tokyo. I'll be leaving in a month.

My kids are mischevious and it makes me crazy.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


I have a very sad story with an uncertain ending to share with you. Wendy, a student from my old Happy class, just five days shy of her sixth birthday, has leukemia. In retrospect, the signs were clear. She was the girl who bumped her eye the day of the winter festival and performed perfectly despite her gruesome shiner. Over one month later and it's only just about healed. She's been in D'Arcy's class now for a month and hasn't been participating at all. We attributed it to the change and her tendency to be moody. She'd been complaining of sore legs, claiming that she "was growing." She came to school with her arm in a sling a few weeks ago, and didn't ever say what the problem was. We didn't know there was a problem - nobody did.

After school today the director, his wife, D'Arcy, and I went out to the biggest hospital in Seoul, where she has been for about a week, to pay her a visit. Instead of what we know of Wendy we were met by an expressionless little person hidden behind mask and wheelchair. She didn't respond. All I could see were her eyes, which were not quite alert but not quite out of it. Apparently she'd been looking forward to the visit all day.

Imagine what it would feel like to be a six year old girl looking at four masked adults around you with tears in their eyes. She must be petrified. We had to be strong, but it was one of the hardest things I've ever experienced, and I was glad of the mask that caught my tears. Her mother looked brave. She said she's quit her job as a university professor and only wishes she brought Wendy to the hospital sooner. Had they caught it sooner it wouldn't be so bad. They have put her on "anti-cancer" medicine and in three weeks they will know whether or not it's working. In the meantime, things aren't looking good. The cancer has spread through her entire body and her blood cells are not even close to where they should be. They couldn't quite explain it properly in English, but said some level is close to zero. Maybe her red blood cell count?

I have never actually visited a sick person in hospital before, let alone a young child who I have grown to care deeply for over the last nine months. It's heartbreaking for everyone. I can't imagine what her mother must feel like looking at her sick child and inevitably thinking about the future. Maybe she tries her best not to think about it. Is there anything worse than this? I can't think of anything.

We said our goodbyes and silently got onto the elevator. Four of us, one in each corner. Someone came on the elevator, took one look at us, and got off again.

Just as we were leaving Wendy's mother said that god will take care of her. Let's just hope something or someone does.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Which flowers would you choose?

It rained all day long on Saturday. Instead of the original plan of checking out a temple, D'Arcy and I went into the city and had a great day, rain and all.
We first checked out the Seoul Museum of Art, which I thought was very small. There were two American exhibitions going on. 100 years of chairs and some modern guy named something Indiana who was commenting on the American Dream. Neither impressed me much. Surprising since 100 years of chairs sounds great to me. I liked their permanent collection much more.

Then we moved on two subway stations down the line to Jongno sam ga.
We followed the exit signs for Nakwon Arcade, the musical instrument market. The signs weren't ideal, but a bunch of people under umbrellas along the way helped us reach our destination.

It's pretty amusing to approach people in the street asking for directions in English. All young people (and most people) study or have studied English, so they definitely know something. Often people are surprisingly good, but most of the time people laugh and blush and say "sorry". I get a kick out of freaking teenagers out who never considered actually putting their English to real use.

Nakwon Arcade is right at exit five of Jongno sam ga, for future reference. Turn right out of the exit and go into the non-descript grey building with a KEB bank or something on the first level.

The indoor market is made up of shop after shop of vendors selling mostly electric and acoustic guitars, and also guitar accessories, recording equipment, brass, woodwind, other string instruments, and pianos. It was fun weaving in and out of guitars. I found myself attracted to teal. It wasn't too busy but I didn't try any of the guitars out because I wouldn' t know what to look for. Maybe I'll consider buying myself a decent guitar closer to the end of this thing when I have a better idea of how much money I have and what kind of guitar would be worth my while. I did buy a tuner though. I've always wanted a clarinet but D'Arcy threatened to disown me.

We sheltered ourselves from the rain for a while in a warm and busy coffee shop, watching the crazy fashion come and go. People wrap their wet umbrellas in long, specially shaped plastic bags that are provided at the door of shops. Environmentally aware people reuse their bag. My umbrella was stolen at the art gallery from the umbrella parking lot outside. I thought I was above the 100 won deposit to properly lock up my three dollar umbrella.

Nakwon Arcade is right at Insadong, a place where you can find all the terrible touristy gifts you can dream of. Like pens with fimo Korean folk on them. And little jewellery boxes/keychains/cigarette holders that are supposed to look Asian but don't. I liked them nine months ago. I hate them now. We strolled around and found some interesting little shops in the rain.

Then we headed for Nepalese food at Everest, a great little restaurant with low prices. It's at Dongdaemun station, exit three. Walk straight out of the exit, turn left at the first alleyway, then look to your right at the next. Easy as pie.

It was a really great day.

Saturday, April 01, 2006


Nine months down, three more to go.

Three months is nothing because two months goes by just like that and then the last month doesn't really count. It's like I'm done when you look at it practically. Just like.

Not that things are bad or anything, but it'll be nice to be home. I wonder if I'll experience reverse culture shock. What will I miss? What will I notice?

In two weeks I'm going to the mountains. Two weeks later I'm going to Tokyo. A couple of weeks later I'll go south to Busan and/or another interesting city called Gwangju or something. And then I'll be getting ready to head off to the winners of the traveling poll which are... Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos. Should be a thrill for us all. Or at least me.