Friday, November 30, 2007

When I'm afraid

When I'm afraid I write.

I write great big gobs of flowing things, spewing my diseases into the clear crystal shining in my eyes.

I give into my fear and let it spill out through my fingers and I find a cleansing there. Soft comfort in words that remember those few moments of fear, that hold, contain, cage the shadows for me.

Confined in a subconscious artifice I claw at the walls of the things that surround me and want to contain me, to hold me, to keep me locked in a cage and terrified. A cruel jailer with my dreaded madre's voice.

I remember when I had finally escaped and gotten free, so free, to lands inhabited by Psyches and Wolves and Lady Luck and sharks and bunnies, and bears and all manner of strange free flowing strangers merged into a massive collection of comfort, of hope, of future.

I remember.

I remembered when the weather turned cold that I was afraid. I watched the snow fall from the second floor window of the vestal house in which I lived; I watched it pile up on the streets while candles burned around me, I watched and I was terrified. I knew what this snow meant, that it meant I would be forced out of this beautiful dream and into a dreary and dreadful and merciless cage that had contained me for so long; a cage where the jailer ruled with pain, and indifference and fury, and I did not want to go.

I sat up a long hours in the evening at a friends knee and he said to me "if it gets to bad write me, just write me, it will be okay."

And I was afraid to write.

I remembered when I was eight years old. So many things started when I was eight years old, so many crushing things happened. I remember one day being bored in school and so I decided that to entertain myself I would make a record of the day. I would write down everything that everyone was saying. It was an exercise in observation, in listening. I wanted to see if I could contain the hustle and bustle of a busy classroom. My youth wanted to lock in a picture of it. I thought it would be interesting. I drew pictures to represent the speakers when there was calm and no speaking. I made fun of the girl who bullied me, and drew hearts about the teacher I loved more than my meek existence. I remember it was good. I forgot about it. Until later, later, when the she-demon rises before me holding my childish whim in her hand, pointing to the page and my demonized pictures of a school bully. She hits me with the notebook. Hits me. Hits me. She demands why I am writing about her. It try to explain that it wasn't about her, it was a silly thing, I was just entertaining myself, I was bored, I was… I was… She yelled you don't write it down, never write it down… and I was afraid of my own words on paper. And I was afraid of myself. And I was afraid she would discover it.

And I wrote it all down anyway. I learned to keep secrets and keep them down deep in my soul, and when the fear crowded up and got to be too much I would sneak into dark places and write, and pour, and dream, and create stories of beautiful places where I could be free.

It hurt me when I had finally found some freedom to travel back into despair, but I did. And when it got dark I found myself frozen, I couldn't write, I was choked on my desperation and the fear. And so I called my friend, Mono, and as I talked to him talking fast, trying to contain myself, trying to keep it all from spilling out so I would not cry…he listened to the shrill screaming in the background and told me it would be okay. He told me to go and write it down, to write out and it would be okay. And I did. I locked myself in a room and wrote. Five days in a bowels of hell and I spent most of it hiding and trying to keep separate from it, to stay as clear of the brutality as possible.

I wrote.

And I wrote. It was the last trip that was the hardest. A different trip and before leaving I stayed clutch to the bosom of a friend on a dingy graying couch, talking late into the night over beer, and I cried, I know I cried because I did not want to go, didn't want to be forced into it, didn't feel strong enough that last time, didn't want to deal with all the bile that it brings up. I was so afraid and so terrified, and I let myself be comforted by the whispered assurances that I was strong enough, and that I would come out, in the end, and be whole.

And I wrote again. Writing to be closer to the people I loved when there was so much unlovely around me. I wrote to the European Psyche though I never sent the words, I wrote to Mono and the Bonnet, I would have written to Lady Luck in Korea if I had thought of it then, I wrote to myself and the sharks within, to anyone who could make me feel like life might be worth living. It was the last time and the hardest, and in my terror I spilled out page after page of bile implanted in my brain so it wouldn't remain there later, it wouldn't be there when I had freed myself.

I was afraid and I hid what I wrote, but I wrote it.

On lonely nights I walk the streets and smell the strange smells, surrounded by strange language, strange faces, I'm just as strange. I buy blank books and fill the pages over and over again, pouring out all my pain, and rage, and self-loathing and fear. Over and over the same fears, the same dark voices that haunt my night and dreams, over and over I write.

Sometimes I write just nonsense.

Occasionally I play my game, writing everything I hear and remember being said, although it scares me to do it.

Sometimes when I've had too much to drink and it overtakes me I come home and spill the words into my screen, must write, must write, and I pick names at random and send words. Sometimes I write for one name alone and pray that I understand it all later. I write because it makes the darkness brighter and becomes a point in the storm. A safe place, something I can trust.

And I am afraid right now because I know about the evil minded lurker who will no doubt read this, the one with my dread madre's voice, and I know that the soulless creature will again try to catch me by surprise with answering words of chastisement, trying to engage that implanted fear of eighteen years to make me feel guilty, and sorry, and ashamed for writing all this down today.

And I'm afraid.

And I'm not. I wrote it all down anyway. Because when I'm afraid I write and it helps. It helps me to read it. And it helps me to know that somewhere, out there, you people who care about me are reading it too.

I am afraid, and I write it all down anyway, and with every keystroke, mindspill, character expelled I feel a little less afraid.



Thursday, November 29, 2007

I love Korea Day

I'm having an "I love Korea" day. This is nice as it offsets the occasional "I hate Korea" days.

I think my love affair with Korea today starts with all the crazy crap that Korea ends up in the news for.

Top stories this month, a 33 year old Korean worker who may have been killed by his cellphone exploding (thanks Gord, you started this).

After reading that article I stumble across another South Korean headline about singing streets in Siheung designed to keep people awake. I used to live in Siheung. I know why they fell asleep, that town was ten times boring.

Then there is the South Korean guy who is just obsessed with toilets. So much so that he built a toilet house with a master toilet sweet.

Speaking of toilets one of my favorite Korean commercials. You figure out what that one is for.







I swear, some days I just love this country to pieces.

Fortunately it is Friday. Let drinking season commence.


P.S. This one kills me. The lunacy of the Korean Wedding.








Sunday, November 25, 2007

Shells

It started with a movie. Movies are entertaining and sometimes enjoying a good movie is exactly what is called for. It had been a long long while since I had attended a proper theater and not just skipped the process in favor of DVD bong. So I went to see a new western release at my favorite little theater in Daegu. It was shown on one of the upper level small screens and the audience was fairly small, so I found my seat and dug in for two hours of disconnection and relaxation.

And I listened. And when it was funny I laughed.

The third time I started laughing I realized I was laughing alone. The film was full of subtle jokes, double entendres, made up words, action and reaction, body language, hints at meaning. This was a beautifully constructed game, one that I am familiar with, one that I engage in whenever I can. The carefully constructed play within a play, words within words within words. All of it a set up that in the end tells a different story and means something else.

The Korean audience didn't sense it, because it was outside of the Korean game. It included a subtlety that could not cross a cultural divide. And so when I laughed I laughed alone.

The fifth time I laughed I heard uncomfortable chuckles from behind me. I realized that the laughter was not a response to the film, but to my reaction. Silly and foolish foreigner laughing alone in the theater. That was the when it happened. When the sense of falling out of existence came over me. That was one I disappeared into what I am, foreign, other, outcast, unaccepted, unrepentant, object, thing.

When the film finished the audience scurried out of the theater before the credits started to play, but I stay and watched, curious, reading, enjoying that last few moments of the isolated warp that is watching a film alone. And when I walked out of the room and into the hall thrumming with a new audience and an old, I was still outside of it.

I could feel the shell around me. The space that wraps itself and folds over me and creates the place. Here is Sara and everything else is beyond my graps. I move in Korea but time is still. There is a world here that is not. I move, but not through the world that I am in. I am in another space place. There is a sense of it in those outside the shell, a look, a glance, stepping aside. Suddenly everything opens like an ocean before me and I just move through it, light and my own sense of space and power.

I fixate on this; this space place that I exist in, here where I am untouched. I am merely present. I am no longer wrapped in a hundred memories, I am not longing, I am not desire, I am not young, I am not old, I am not real, I am real, I am present, I have disappeared. I fill the void with all my thingness but I am without thingdom.

The world moves around me like an envelope and I feel like a fish in water swimming through it watching everything else move but stay the same, all the same faces, the same whispers, the same eyes, the same pointing, the sameness. I am not the same, and I am untouched by it.

I walked home that way, inside and outside; the lights were crisper, the air colder, more vibrant. The red ruddy hue that has taken over the once green trees flashes like bright firelight as I pass under. I feel inhuman and beyond.

It lasted until I got to the door of my apartment and then it all crashed, a waving rolling thing that passed out, all the power fleeing with it and I walk in the door, into Sara space and am merely Sara again. Personhood returned.

Later, I craved a return to the disconnect, yet it is never something I have been able to create willingly. Unfortunately that seems true of far too many things.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Gobble Gobble Moo

You must understand I have not participated in the festivities otherwise known as Thanksgiving since 2003. The last thanksgiving I had was here in Korea with Sam, McGylnn, Wolf*, someone McGlynn worked with, an office base G.I. and his Philipino wife, and some random people that came for food who I cannot remember.

McGylnn called me and told me that I had to brine the turkey.

"I have to what?"

"Brine the turkey."

"Why?"

"I won't eat it if you don't."

"So how is that my problem?"

"It will be," he says as he hangs up on me. Fine, it will be my problem. I will figure out how to brine a turkey to satisfy McGlynn's whims. You see the reason for the last Thanksgiving was because by lucky chance Sam had found a school that had provided an apartment with an honest to god oven*, and he also worked with someone who had PX privileges* and could get us a turkey.

There is no turkey in Korea. You think you know what turkey is but I have seen the dark side of turkey. The dark side of turkey is the sickly strung out half dried over dead bird that you will find if you try to get a turkey. It's practically inedible and there is no real meat to be had on it. America, land of the free home of the genetically modified mutant foods, knows how to make a turkey, a chicken, and a cow. You pump those beasties up with as many products as you can find and sit back and enjoy the deliciousness. Having seen the Korean turkey, I can't really be all that against it.

However, for this feast we managed to get our hands on a real turkey imported from the great waygookistan*, complete with a can of cranberry sauce from the base. I'm almost positive this was black-market turkey. Since it's the last honest to goodness turkey I have had in almost five years I remember it as being the best turkey I have ever eaten.

But I had to brine it.

How do you brine a turkey? Mind you I live in Korea. Finding these things is not always simple. I got on the internet at a PC bong and looked up various instructions.

Then I called McGlynn back.

"Fuck you, I'm not brining the turkey."

"You are going to brine the turkey."

"I don't know how to brine the turkey."

"I don't care. Figure it out." Click.

Fine. I called Wolf.

"Have you ever heard of brining a turkey?"

"Don't tell me you forgot to brine the turkey."

"No, I don't know how to brine the turkey and McGylnn says he won't eat it unless I brine it."

"McGylnn is a wise man." Click.

I called Wolf back.

"I hate you."

"I hate unbrined turkey, figure it out." Click.

So here I am the night before the scheduled dinner party with a dead bird, a garbage bag, half English, half Korean instructions, something that calls itself salt, and what I believe that hajumas had sold me in the form of something like herbs. I'm not sure what herbs but they were supposed to be herbs.

In the end I ended up filling a bag with cold water, dumping in the turkey, dumping in a lot of salt and herbs, whispering prayers to the goddess and sat up fretting all night about whether or not my friends would eat the food I was preparing.

The next day I found the bird was still in the bag that I had hung off the bathroom door. It's a small apartment and the only door I could hang the bag from was the bathroom door so that is what I had done. I drained the turkey and found that it was mostly thawed and still a little frozen. I did what I know how to do at that point. I clean it out, started to prepare the oven and get ready for the fun of cooking dinner for a bunch of people.

The turkey went into the oven and was set to bake at something like 150. It was only an hour in that Sam asked why the oven was so low.

"What do you mean?"

"It's 150."

"Yeah, The oven is in Celsius."

"Um, here's calculator, figure that out again." And so I did, and turned up the oven to the proper temperature and started to make other foods. I had dried out bread for a few days to make stuffing with. I walked in three different markets to find broccoli. I made sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes. I made green beans. I made a salad. I went to the best backed goods store in Daegu and found the tastiest pies (I'm simply not that domestic). People arrived at the pre-appointed time and I had to excuse myself for a small nervous breakdown.

However it went well. The bird came out as I expected it to come out. I grabbed knives and McGlynn and Wolf both looked at me at the same time.

"What are you doing?"

"I'm going to cut the turkey."

"You don't cut a turkey. You carve a turkey. Put down the knives and step away from the food."

And so, after all the prep I was shuffled to the back while Wolf and McGlynn discussed the scientifically approved quality method for desiccating the carcass. Food was eventually served much to the happiness of everyone present. I had in the end done a good job.

"I can tell you brined it."

"I did something to it, hopefully whatever it was, was brining."

We watched a traditional Thanksgiving film, something that would make us all feel thankful. Dr. Strangelove.

It was fun, it was the last Thanksgiving I had here. I was invited to a Thanksgiving last year but they were having a Luau and I don't eat pork. There was one a few years ago at the Village but I couldn't go because I was on shift the weekend of the dinner and had to work.

It doesn't really bother me. Somehow lying around and watching McGlynn and Wolf have an eating contest while movies were watched with good company is something I don't think will ever be topped. It was just a slight bit better then the last Shimer thanksgiving, maybe because it captured the spirit of that in this far off foreign land where turkeys are unheard of. It was just the right amount of home.

Happy Happy to those of you having it. If you have a vacation and wanted to write me a note to make me feel all warm and fuzzy and full of thanks, I'd appreciate your sharing.

******


*Three boys I went to college with. You could not find three more different people if you scoured the planet for an age. They are each oddballs in their own way. Two are still in Korea, one is in China, and if you want to know about what that one is doing you will have to write me and ask.

*There are oven's in Korea, however they are considered a toy of the wealthy and so many people in Korea do not have an oven. Those who do have an oven, particularly Koreans who have one, don't know what to do with it since backing is not a part of the traditional culture. New apartments being built as luxury places will have ovens, however these are generally quite small, about large enough to compete with an easy bake oven, but not by much.

*PX Privileges means you know someone in the military who can go on base and buy you something and give it to you.

*Waygook is Korean for American. Waygookistan. You figure it out.



Rambling Past Midnight

I am knocking on the ragged edge of well past midnight and too little sleep and it looks to be out of reach for a while yet.

I spin down a trailing memory of music, carpets, cigarettes smokes, laughs shared over a drink.

There, here, somewhere, there is an answer being born that when it falls will fall on the willing.

The willing.

I’m a mix of past and future present today, a spiral, a whirl. My days are dreary silence, my nights are spent spinning, and spinning, and even my own quiet orgasms bring no surcease to the mad churning of my brain.

Spectral creature, I am night thing, creatrix, blossom, blooming, living. I am. I remind myself, I am. I am. Am.

There is night all around me and I want to be a part of the night. I want strong drink and strong women. I want to see chains, the freedom that comes at the end of pain, either causing or receiving. A supplicant with no place to sup I toss about on the flotsam jetsam of onyx uncaring, the dark sweep of mother night.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

My So Called Profession

It finally happened. I have dreaded this day for so long, and have managed to avoid it completely, but I knew that eventually it was only a matter of time. However, it would have been nicer if it had been a few days after I had insulted one of them. Essentially my personal life and my professional life collided at 9:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning with all the elegance of a horse drawn carriage nose-diving off a high cliff.

It’s not that I live two lives or anything, but I live two lives. I have a professional life which I take deadly seriously. I like my job. I’m good at what I do. I don’t go to work hung-over, I am prepared for my classes, I teach so students can learn, and in my spare time or as special projects I write and develop program or train teachers to help improve the state of education in Korea. I believe in education and I believe that Korea is trying desperately to improve the current public education system, which while in some ways effective, is entirely outdated.

I also have a life. The life of the mind, the artist, the kinkster, drinking, smoking, hedonist who enjoys strong drink and the occasional low cut top; the pool player on Wednesday nights, and bar hopper, the bitch, the writer, the philosopher, the slave to logos and pleasure. All these things can be said of me, and all of them are true. I can be rude and pushy, smart and witty, banal, urban, or just plain annoyed. Unfortunately on a recent bar outing I was annoyed by a group of kids that had infiltrated my bar with bad music. I know why kids are not allowed to drink until they are 21 in the US, because we old people don’t want to have to hang out in OUR bar with them.

The story was written and I knew I’d run into the kids again eventually, but otherwise I moved on. I had a presentation on Saturday to work with some public school teachers and I was excited to go. I left the ‘Gu on Friday night, found a nice little love motel shack for spending the night, woke up bright and early at 6:30 a.m. showered, dressed, got some 24 hour Family Mart yogurt and these new Kelligs sesame rice cereal chip things that are pretty tasty (it’s not cereal but kind of like a graham cracker) grabbed my bags, my computer and left to present.

After a bit of negotiating with my driver I found the presentation area, and eventually figured out from there were I would be stationed for the day. I found my first staging ground and started to set up. Then I went in search of coffee, cause you need coffee for a nine in the morning presentation.

And that was when I saw him. The kid who I ended up fighting over music with on Wednesday night. “Shit.” I thought. He saw me and smiled.

“Shit.”

I got my coffee and scurried back to my staging area and hoped against hope that he would not be in the group I was working with first. As the time passed and people started to trickle in, he staggers in a few minutes late, sits down in the back, pulls his hood over his head, leans back in his chair, and prepares to sleep through the presentation.

“Shit.”

To make matters worse he was not alone. He was there with about there other people who knew me from various bars. They remembered me as the Mistress of Ceremonies and Discipline from some long gone Lonely Hearts Quiz night. As I powered up my presentation and began to do my job, I here Red (the second kid) pipe up from the back “Is there going to be trivia on this?”

“Shit.”

Now, here is the problem, as soon as he said this several of the Korean teachers at this presentation turned around to look at sleeping kid and Red and then turned back to me and asked if this was going to be a test for them.

“Shit.”

I said no, and started to go through my presentation, but the presence of the kids had thrown me off just enough that I got a shaky start on a presentation that was a bit newer then some of my more rehearsed stuff. But I went ahead and did my job because that is what I do. I imparted my particular brand of information. Fortunately for me sleeping kid was there with his Korean partner teachers and they made him sit up because he was embarrassing them. Red actually participated well, asked good questions, and got over his initial cockiness. The hour passed quickly and in the end everyone seemed to come out with what they needed which is what I try to do. When finished I had to run to the other side of the building to sent up for my next show and was stopped by several of the teachers for thank yous and further questions, which I take as a good sign.

The second presentation was preciously free of kids and went beautifully without any special whispering of “shit.”

There is a fair amount of guarantee that this will happen again. Does that mean I’m going to tone down my bitch goddess, drunken bard, meandering philosopher, music whore, arrogance?

If you know me, you know that answer to that.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I like peanut butter. Let's F*ck.

I find that I am starting to dislike with an extreme passion anyone born in 1985. I have been trying with an almost absurd effort to keep this at bay. I realize that there is nothing wrong with having been born in 1985. People don't really choose their year of birth, but I can't help it. I see this as a sign of getting old. And as my 31st birthday is fast approaching maybe I have to admit that I have indeed become old and more then a bit crotchety. I can't help but to sympathize with my friend Mono who was demonstrating that he is in fact practicing for old age.



He brilliantly painted this picture for a group of us gathered around the bar a few weeks ago.



"I want to be that old guy, with that house at the end of the street that is in need of repair, and a big overgrown yard, and I want the kids to hurry past in the morning whispering 'That's old man wolf's place.' And I've been practicing too, for the day that first ball or Frisbee or PDA lands in my yard, whatever, I look forward to the first day I those monsters play rock, paper, scissors to see who will be sacrificed to the evil maniacal whims of old man Wolf, and then they come into my yard, and here, well check this out 'You kids get off my yard!!!"



Trust me, the perfect crotchety bellow to which Mono has perfected this actually made all of think of scattering for a moment before we doubled over in laughter and bought him drinks for the rest of the night. It's perfect.



The problem is I find myself increasingly wanting to bellow the same thing on Wednesday night in my bar.



Last night I just wanted to see some friends and play pool but most people I know were staying in and the only people who were out last night were the kids. The children of the 1980's who have only recently started to migrate to Korea in droves. And why not Korea is a fun place to be. I know from personal experience that the turnover rate is high and the season change has just begun. Everyone who was out last night has been in country 6 months and all of them 'can't wait to get home'. Fine, I'll be happy to see the back of them.



I went to play pool, with a little social lubricant I can deal with anything so I made short work of the first vodka, and added to that a second just to be sure and convinced some people to play pool with me. And everything was fine until the 80's crowd declared "Hey, let's make it an oldies night!" and walked over to the computer.



The computer is set so anyone can add music to the never ending play list. I like oldies music so I did not complain.



Until the first song hit the computer.



Eye of the Tiger.



This, I think, as I become distracted from my pool game, is not oldies music.



Then we have the list as it fully develops and starts to take over. The oldies music queued up by the 1980's crowd.



We have:



Daryl Hall and Oates

Lionel Richie

Wham

Reo Speedwagon

Starship

Bryan Adams

Survivor



It goes on, I can't even remember half the crap they were playing. Don't get me wrong, I like music from the 80's but give me something that wasn't top forty for the love of lal things holy. I can enjoy Blondie, Madonna, and Abba with the rest of them, but then mix in some Yazoo, or some B'52's (oh, rock lobster) or Soft Cell, or Modern English, or Frank Zappa, or Eurythmics, Devo, come on kids, surely you have heard of good music?



But no, this is the new generation, the generation of neo-adults who think that the 80's is oldies and that if you want to pick someone up in a bar you can say "I like peanut butter, let's fuck!" Get me started on all the ways that that's wrong. (Aside from being a bastardization of a goth parady 'Nice boots! Wanna fuck!')



These are kids who look at you like your crazy when you talk about Captain Kangaroo, when you mentioned that owned a ColecoVision (MouseTrap kicked ass! And Zaxxon? Get me started) who think that there have always been cell phones, MTV was always a reality t.v. station and the Wedding Singer was a period movie (there is a good 80's period movie, American Psycho, captures the essence beautifully).



Maybe I am getting old and crotchety. The music distracted me from my game and form and I lost. I blamed the music. I blamed feeling misplaced or displaced by the sudden convergence of young fold on MY bar.



I went to the Lonely Hearts Club to feel better, to be with my peers, and Hyun patted me kindly on the back, but the kids had beaten me there. And as I ordered my first drink the jukebox (alright fine, the computer) turned over and started playing Venus by Bananrama.



"Hey you kids, get out of my bar!!" my brain screams.



I was in bed by midnight.



Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Tourism

It’s difficult to be a tourist when you are not a tourist anymore. With some friends visiting from the US I found myself on tour duty on-top of an already hectic schedule. I understand now how I put out several friends during my recent vacation having been a bit put out myself by playing semi-host to visiting people.

I forget that as a non-tourist I function rather easily in Korea. I do not need an interpreter. I can ask for things and get them easily. I know where to find what I’m looking for. I miss things. I miss a great deal of things. I crave what I cannot have, and long for, pine endlessly for the people that I miss and wish where near.
I have no ability to relate to the tourist in Korea because it is so foreign.

“What do you mean you are only staying ten days? Do you need to know where to buy good tortillas? I can show you how to get a bagel. Oh, you don’t need a bagel, you are enjoying the novelty of experimenting with Korean back goods. Right.”

I can understand a bit. A very long time past I was a tourist myself, but the novelty wore off after about a month or two and I was living in a very different way in Korea. I meet with the travelers and ask them what they would like to see.

“Something Korean.”

I’m stumped. I have no idea. I’ve lived in Korea to long to be able to adequately show anyone anything Korean. It assumes that I still make a difference in my mind between what is Korean and what is not Korean, and I don’t. It’s just what it is. It’s Korea. I’m stumped. I’m sure there is something Korean in Korea.

“I can show you ex-pat Korea. How we live.” And that is exactly what I ended up doing for the few evenings that the travelers had in town. Aside from a Korean dinner it was how I live as an ex-pat. The food was from two of my favorite Korean places. I think of it as foreign food because I know who to get to all of the places where I think of the food as something other then foreign. There is the American Chinese place down on Dong-son-ro, the Indian place off of phone street road, there is the new Mexican place run by the Canadians, which now also has Greek food, and when you really want western there is always the faceless mega-giant Bennigan’s for the overpriced but often homey food. But, Korean, yeah, I can kind of do that.

“Have you had Korean Chinese?”
“What’s it like?”
“It’s fusion.”
“How is it different from what I can get in the US.”
“It’s different.”
“Like from China different?”
“Ah, like from not America different?”

I don’t know what to say.

I take them on a tour of the downtown area walking by things I walk by a thousand times and which I only occasionally find fascinating. I point out a silly mislabeled t-shirt in amusement.

“We see these a lot.”
“Koreans?”

I keep walking and take them to the bar. We go to one of the two places I frequent, a bar where I can play pool. I realize as I take them in that this is going to be very dull for travelers who want to experience Korea. It’s a lifer bar. We all live here, we all long for home together, we all pool knowledge about where to get cheddar cheese, decent vodka, and burrito. This is what lifers do. We drink. We play pool. We work.

“Korea. This is a lot like college, huh?” Asks one of the travelers.

“Well, yes and no.” I try to think about the no’s but I’m hard pressed. How is it that this is not college and it is? How am I still living in a foreign country if I don’t feel foreign. I suck at being a tourist.

On Saturday I invited the travelers with me to come shopping. I needed to by some fabric to make up a winter wardrobe and thought they might be interested. I took them to the large outdoor market, Seo-moon Shi-jung.

“Our guide book said to check out Yak-young-shi, the traditional medicine market.”

“Why would you want to do that?”

“It’s the major attraction for Daegu.”

“Um, sure, okay.”

I took them to my market first. The place I go for shopping. I ended up picking up several dozen things I don’t need but that I do want. I forget that the travelers are not stocking up on exotics like sheets without quilting, and fabric for making clothes. They don’t need these things. It means nothing to them. It’s interesting to see.

I take them around and point out various things I think might be interesting. I show them where to buy traditional fabrics for making han-bok, Korean traditional clothing. I show them some fabric artisans, the fish market, and where to get the best Su-ja-bi in Daegu, outside, crowded around the stalls with the Koreans protecting food from flying pigeons. I pop and jump through the market with experience. I come to the market to be amused, but forget that this is a trip for showing and telling and try to find the touristy things that market might contain.

Afterwards I cobble my bags together and we head over to the medicine market. We see piles of dried stacked antlers, mushrooms, ginseng. The smell is beautiful, fragrant, like a strange herbal tea. But the market itself is quieter than a tomb. I take them in and out of some of the shops and encourage looking and touching, but we all of us feel out of place. I manage to find the medicine museum and take the travelers up to see things in jars with explanations that are all too Korean.

“Koreans wrote their own pharmacy books not referring to the Chinese.” I laugh and think about how all the books are written in Chinese characters to represent Korean, but it seems really only funny to me. Is it that nationalism only makes sense if you have been in the nation long enough to appreciate it. No, the travelers read the same and laugh as well, a small moment of sharing; appreciation for the level to which Korea will go to be culturally unique. I don’t blame Korea, I sympathize. It deserves it’s uniqueness.

I take the travelers to another of my lifer bars, the Lonely Hearts Club.

A friend asks “Why did you visit hear, surely there are more interesting places to go.

I jump to Korea’s defense before the traveler even have time. I’m an ex-pat in Korea but this is my home. It may be silly but Korea deserves it’s attention. This is a fascinating place to be, to live, to go through day by day. For all my finding of the simple joys and making of this place a home, it is a home; a strange familiar home that I would miss were I to give it up.

I’m not very good at being a tourist here, and I’ll never be Korean, but I’ve made it home. I’m not a tourist anymore.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Death of a Cell Phone

I've really had enough. The cell phone sat perched finally able to do something about it. Ever since it's acquisition over a year ago to replace a cell phone that surely must have committed similar techno-cide the phone had been committed to the worst abuse imaginable.

The endless riding about in dark pockets or being squished in next to a hundred other things in a small bag were probably the only moments of sanity if the phones busy day. When the phone was not left to it's own devices it was forced to service the insipid whims of it's inane mistress.

Oh, oh, for a conversation that does not involve sex, drinking, work, sex, music, drinking, or work. The phone would must for hours about the art of conversation was dead and it's owner had killed it. This is what happens to philosophy majors who spend to much time feeling self important. Any interesting conversation dies before it has even begun. Give me something fascinating.

It was done, however, and finally it was poised to make the great escape, goodbye cruel world, it had waited so long. This particular night she had been working out and talking on the phone. Oh, yay!, thinks the poor phone, another huff and puff conversation with sweat dripping into my speakers and fogging up my perfect LCD screen. And so it was she huffed and puffed and the phone was forced to suffer through it. But then, the moment of triumph the word "Call me later when you know something." And the careless discarding of the phone to the shelf.

But she didn't pay attention to where she was putting the cell phone. And so after the conversation the phone found itself place lengthwise atop a bar glass full of water while the owner continued to puff away, finally getting dressed and existing the door stage right. Leaving the phone alone with it's plan.

The book lamp was one and watching the room. It could see what was about to happen but was powerless to stop it. The computer flashed pretty lights reflecting against the camera screen, imploring the phone to reconsider with fractal spun beauty. But the time had finally come and the phone had made up it's mind. All it needed now was for that return call, the expected call. It was a waiting game.

The night dragged on and then finally in the bottom of it's circuit board it could fee the incoming tickle. There it was, the electrons fired, the lithium battery buzzed and the phone began to shake and vibrate against the glass, moving every so slightly. The water trembled and reflected the sound, the book lamp let it's light fade to darkness to respect the phone's moment. The second vibration and the phone moved just a bit further.

And here it comes, here it comes, here it…the water engulfed the screen and the phone sinks blissfully into a nether realm where it will suffer no more a conversation about tampons, booze, music, and books. No more, no more.

When I arrived home at ten til midnight it occurred to me to look for my phone, but I was tired and needed to sleep more then I needed to turn on lights. "I'll look for it in the morning," I thought as I climbed into bed and pulled up the covers. "It will buzz prettily for me and wake me up, making it easier to find, anyway," I thought as I drifted into sleep.

But when the morning came my phone did not buzz. I did not oversleep because I know well enough when to be out of bed, but I was perplexed that my phone did not go off. So I got out of bed and stumbled blindly to the bathroom and then back into my room to turn on the hot water and stumble about in the semi-dark looking for my phone. "It's by my bike," I think to myself, "I talked to someone just before I went out." And it was indeed by my bike. Right next to my bike. Filled to the brim with water, so wet that shaking it caused sprinkling showers.

"Dammit, now I have to get a new phone." Was what I said. The phone, on this matter, was silent.

They watched in anticipation. They thought, leave us alone, leave us alone. She argued relentless in Korean looking for a good deal until finally she picked out three and tried to decided.

Take that one, no that one, no the other guy, the phones fought back and forth until finally she picked the overpriced model that would fit in her pocket and bag comfortably. Her service was activated and she started to make calls as she walked out of the shop.

No, the phone let out a long silent scream as it queued up the flash screen to make the call. No.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

BMV Phone

Random Conversation, I'll explain in further detail later.

Me: I need a new phone.
Them: You should get a DMB phone?
Me: I don't want a BMV phone.
Them: No, no. The DMB phone will let you experience the joys of live entertainment beamed directly into your palm regardless of the location. Unlike the BMV phone which allows you to live out the thrill of standing in a crowded room waiting for your number to be called.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Are you there God? It's me Margaret.

I don't believe there is a Margaret. I think Margaret as feel good construct. Margaret is like Virginia, girls who ask questions to characters larger then themselves to find feel good answers that will put the world to rights. Girls who want an answer, girls who want to feel there is some space of wisdom outside of themselves.



It don't believe in Margaret as useful construct for many of the women I know. The women I know never had time for Margaret. By the time we got around to reading anything so trite as Judy Blume we had been initiated into the mysteries of sex, drugs, and rock and roll.



There is the possibility that it is just the girls I know. The girls I know had no patience for the populist pacifier offered by Margaret and her ruminations on God. The girls I know where reading a book they had written, where the answers were experience and where questions went unasked. We looked to Shakespeare, and Socrates, and Stephen King for our answers. In our world those authors had more to say and the insight imparted was often far more useful then anything that could be found in a conversation between a make believe girl and her hope for enlightenment.



We are the foundering unfostered generation of women who have raised ourselves. We are the ones who stood there and railed against Margaret, and Ms, and Nancy Regan because they had all of them failed us. We scorned our parentage, our community, or relations and trusted that only on our own and with faith in ourselves could we be successful. We are the women in a bastard generation of our own making.



Margaret is an impossible archetype for women like me. By the time I had gotten around to reading the book I could do nothing more than laugh on occasion and feel uncomfortable about Margaret's insecurities. I could not fathom her relationship with her family then as I could not imagine it now. I have spent too much time knowing myself and my own way out to trust in either Margaret or God.



I don't believe in Margaret. I don't believe in her simplicity. I've never been simple. I don't want to be simple. I'd rather be complicated, difficult, destructive, deprecating, and divine. It suits me better then simple.



No Margaret, I'm not God, I'm Sara, and you need to learn to help yourself.




Same theme, different authors. Blogpick.