Sunday, May 27, 2007

Drop Me A Line

Hello you. Yes, you. You reading.

I'd like to know who you are.

So, why don't you post a comment. And, if you post a comment and have a blog and would like a link to your blog from my blog, and are interesting, and would like a new reader (because I spend way to much time reading blogs) and have a minute to add a link, and really, really enjoy run on sentences from professional English teachers, then you should defiantly post a link to your blog or let me know if I should post a link to yours (and if you like me you can return in kind).

So why don't you do that already.

Sincerely (not working hard enough),


Saturday, May 26, 2007

I laughed and laughed

This took a long time. And it is probably only funny if you actually live in Korea. But sweet merciful goddess it was funny.

I think I laughed until I peed my pants a little.

You are 78% ready to get out of Korea

You have them figured out. You know it is a 5,000 year-old shell game and there is no pea. You are already over the hump and can probably remain in Korea indefinitely without any permanent damage. (don't make fun of the ESL teachers too vociferously because they still buy in to it all)

The "Is It Time To Get Out of Korea?" Quiz
Create MySpace Quizzes

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Week Ends

This is the week that does not seem to want to end. I want it to end. I want it to end well. I want it to end with me having a feeling of safety and togetherness. I want to feel whole, but this is the week that will not end, and that seems not to want to end happy regardless of what I do. Monday was bad enough with my trip to the hospital, but I figured it could only be uphill from there. Wednesday, was of course a nightmare, but there will be no more discussion of Wednesday. Thursday might have been alright but for the nervous breakdown which left me with Friday. I had hope for Friday even though I was coming down from my hysteria most of the day and even though I was in hard pain by the end of a day of classes I still had hope for Friday. I went on Friday night. Needed to go, get out, get away. I grabbed my flute and I went to jam. I just need to get away and get the week to end.

The band I wanted to jam with was not there. But there was another band and I wanted to play. They let me sit in and we talked about all manner of oddness before we played. It was a quiet laid back group of guys, I didn't know them, they didn't really know me, but we had a good time. I improvised along with them as they played and it was pleasant. I'd brought my own little flask full of tequila and so I drank from my flask on occasion and smoked and played the flute. I suspect there is a band teacher in my past who would shake his head in anguish if he knew that was how I treated my flute these days, but I wanted to have a good time and a spot of fun, so why not.

The boys in the band are nice.

"It's loud." They say to me.


"We don't know anything quiet."

"No worries. I'll find a place to come in."

"You're good. It's sounds good. Really good."

"Thanks for letting my play."

We toss back and forth odd melodies at one another until finally my hip starts to vibrate and I know I'm needed elsewhere. I bow out gracefully and wander down the four flights of stairs in the dusty factory to the street and to a cab and two a bar. I was too late getting out. I pull up to an ATM around midnight thinking that I'm broke and in trouble. It's too late to be going to the ATM. It had been so long though, so long since I had been to an ATM at midnight that I was hopeful. Misplaced hope. My bank is long since closed and I won't be able to get money until the morning. Such is how it is in Korea. Banks close around 11:30 and if you don't have what you need before then you will be sorry indeed as indeed I was.

I wander to the bar and tell the waiting boys that I've come without cash and they are buying but I shall pick up dinner for both of them at some point to make up for it. We agree and they buy me tequila and I watch as they play pool. By now my ankle is throbbing too much for a game, so I watch and drink and smoke a bit more and enjoy the conversation and the company. It was pleasant enough, but my head is swimming more then it should be. I drank slow while playing with the band so why I am suddenly so much more thoroughly smashed then I should be is beyond me.

The boys are hungry so I point us towards the cart bar. I struggle with the stairs, the stairs are hurting. The world is hurting and I'm worried about my grip again, but getting a grip is important. I hold on, and the boys hold on and help me up the stairs and we head to cart bar. I have a cheesestick and they eat chicken and foods. I realize that I'm going to have to go home at this point. I want the week to end, so it must end, I'm going home.

I push off and borrow some cab money from the boys and head towards home. There is a cab near cart bar so I stumble skip hop in that direction, plop down and direct that cab driver towards my house. The cab is quiet and warm, and dark, and I want to drift into sleep but the ride isn't that long. The cab driver is very chatty and I don't mind. Better not to sleep I think. He asks me a thousand questions, all the usual questions and I answer them each the way I have learned to answer in Korea. I think about my flute but I know I've stowed that safely in the art space after the jam so I can't forget it. So there is nothing but this cab and my door and my bed and I'll wake up tomorrow and think of how everything will be wonderful.

The cab asks for directions to my door and I provide them. We pull up and I lean forward to get to money in my pockets and then pull away with a five and hand it to the cab driver. Maybe it was the drink that prevented me from listening, or maybe it was that when the conversation and shifted I wasn't aware of where it had gone, or maybe it was just that I hadn't expected it because the I was home and the week was ending and it was going to be okay.

The cab driver takes my hand and I pass off the money. The cab driver holds on. I pull my hand. He pulls my hand back. I pull my hand. He pulls my hand back. I struggle with him I 'm not sure what is going on. I look at my hand and the driver and my hand and I try to make thoughts come around the tequila fogging up my brain. The driver speaks quickly in Korea. The dome light is on and blazing, my apartment door is only a few feet away and my hand is trapped in a cab drivers hand. I take a calming breath, don't panic. It's the first rule of something, isn't it? Don't panic. Or maybe that is merely what they say on the cover because if you knew how bad it really was you would not be able to stop panicking. The driver pulls my hand talking low and finally I listen.

I don't like what I'm hearing. I don't like it at all.

"Popo, popo, popo, agashi, yepuda, agashi, popo, popo, aparta gashipsheyo, na, no, aparta, aparta, popo, popo."

Ah, I think. Ah.

I take another deep breath and twist my body shoulder first into his hand and pull at the same time and my hand slips from his grip. I move quickly, much to quickly and race out of the cab, slamming doors and dashing on my sprained ankle to my apartment. It's close, I'm in the door and slamming the lock before he has had time to realize what has happened. I stand there and I breath in the dark, the lights off. I stand and I breathe and I feel tendrils of alcohol and a pain in my leg that was not there before. I fall into bed and cry into pillows and sleep and wish the week would end.

Saturday I suffered from more pain. Probably a torn muscle, and today on Sunday I sit and nurse my poor tattered body through every gnawing pains, not all of them physical. I spent the whole day writing, not all of it for you reading, but all day writing and trying to hold onto myself. And the whole time just wishing this week would end and a new one would begin, and be better. It begins in two hours. I'm still hopeful.

Sunday, May 06, 2007


I like to pretend to dreams of being a fearless warrior princess. Alright, maybe I just like to dream about fearless warrior princess, but I know there are very few things that will truly get under my skin on the best of occasions. So it was that I'm standing in the smaller office that sits next to my classroom, trying to navigate and negotiate the several dozen students who are running in and out with flies, my Korean co-teachers who suddenly has to talk to me about something in the middle of the milieu and the sudden dropping from on high of what seems like an ax. I don't even flinch. Fearless, that's me.

I look up to gauge where the attack on my person is coming from and I see one of my biggest problem students. He is standing with what had been just moments before the dust pan on a long handle. The dustpan is laying in two parts now on the floor. "What the ? Why?" I say because that is all I can manage to blurt out at the moment. My student points to the floor and I look down and see a pigeon. It must have flown in through one of the open windows in the hall. The brown spotted bird blends in seamlessly with the floor which explains how I had not noticed it sneaking up on me. My Korean co-teacher screams and runs in a different direction. The students all flee the scene right behind her, and the bird being frightened takes flight and lands on my table and looks at me. I'm amused. I don't even flinch. Fearless, that's me.

I grab a towel that hangs on the clothes dryer and shoo all the kids out of the room. This is entirely ineffective, as now that the bird has been spotted all the kids want to be either cowering in fear in a corner or moving towards the bird with the fascination that only middle school teens can have. I shoo them anyway. I take the towel and toss it over the bird and it lands softly covering the poor things body completely. The kids who were just a moment before moving forward with fascination suddenly tweak and dash off. They know what I'm about to do. I move towards the bird and gently put both my hands on either side of it's body, press in just a bit to keep it from flapping it's wings, and hoping that my hands are far enough away from the beak that it won't turn about and peck at my fingers. I lift. The bird settles into it and does not move, I feel the tension there, but otherwise there is just gentle waiting. I take a deep breath and start walking and the kids start screaming. I keep moving and try not to be distracted. One of the kids touches my shoulder. I don't even flinch. Fearless, that's me.

I walk the bird out into the hallway; all the windows have been closed up. I turn to one of the students and ask them in English to open the window. They stand and blink at me. The bird blinks back at them. I ask for the window to be opened again in English. Never waste a teachable moment, never stop teaching. The kids all blink. The bird blinks. Time seems to stand still. I ask again for someone to open the window, restraining the desire to speak in Korean with the sort of skill that comes from long years of experience under pressure with groups of kids who don't understand. The kids move for the window and start to open it. The old metal casing squeals high pitched. The bird moves it's head. The kids scream and run in the other direction, convinced that this small bird is about to fly at them and peck out their eyes. I don't even flinch. Fearless that's me.

I bring the bird to the now open window, count to three and fling out the towel holding onto only one corner of it. I was a bit worried the bird might be injured since it was pretty calm during the entire episode and braced myself for a heavy wet thud as the creature hit the garden outside the window. Fortunately it was just fine and took to the air flying into a tree to rest and enjoy the warm spring afternoon. The kids start to applaud. I shoo them into the classroom so I can start my next class. My Korean co-teacher does not return. The kids give me a little more hell then usual, but it's fine. I don't even flinch. Fearless, that's me.

I get home later in the evening and go through the motions of settling in. I let the dog in to join me. The dog comes in and looks up. I look up and see a four in long beetle crawling across my ceiling. I scream, not a girlie scream, but a scream none the less. I can feel my skin crawling and the hair standing up on the my arms and the back of my neck. I feel like running out of my apartment, but I know that is not going to help and that this Lovecrafitan abomination will merely remain unless I do something. I mumble the litany against fear under my breath and grab a coin container. I plug that container against the ceiling and the beetle falls in. I restrain the shutter and the desire to flee. I shake the container and wait to hear the sound of the beetle dropping to the bottom. It does and I cap. The dog is amused. I breath. Fearless, me, fearless, I think.

I calmly strap on the dogs harness to take him for a walk. I calmly pick up the container with the beetle. I calmly walk out of my apartment and lock the door. I calmly walk into the front steps and calmly put the coin container down on the stoop. I count to five and try calmly, while my fingers shake a bit, to pry of the lid. It start to come away. As soon as it comes up I see long hairy antennas working their way out of the case. I scream and the dog and I run away in the other direction, I run for about a minute. I stop and start laughing at myself and the creepy adrenaline rush that is pumping through me after my battle with the dreaded beetle. Yeah, sure, fearless, that's me. .

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Small Mammal With Whom I Live a Lie

I have always been a fan of Kids in the Hall. A skit on the first VHS tape I ever can say that I truly owned (and still have) was about a dog owner who was trying to justify the life with his pet. He lamented that part of the problem was perhaps that he never named the dog because the only name that was appropriate was Small Mammal with Whom I Live a Lie. When naming the dog I suggested this as a name, but Tino stuck. Tino needed food.

I made plans to buy Tino dog food after work as I would have an early day. I like early days and use them for things like shopping. It rained most of the day but then during the early afternoon as I was finishing my last two classes the rain let up a bit. I was elated, hopeful, that it would stop. I was also suckered into believing that it might be a nice gloomy but dry afternoon. As soon as I wrapped up my classes and my afternoon meeting I grabbed my things to go. As I walked out from under the school awning the rain started to come down. Of course.

I pulled out the umbrella and began to walk. I had barely managed to get to the gate of the school when I stopped in the middle of the street and took of my socks. There was not point to the socks. The rain was coming down far to hard for socks. The socks had to go. I pulled the socks off, stuffed them in a jacket pocket and continued to plod on my way to the pet store. The pet story is about a fifteen minute walk from work on a dry day, but with the rain and me being cautious it took almost a half hour. A half hour in the wet that had me soon pretty much soaked through from the waist down. Cars plowing into puddles, runoff from roofs turning into mini-waterfalls, the bottom of my jeans turning into sopping sponges, all contributed to the wet through that occurred.

I started to think about that dog. The small dog who refuses to eat the cheap pet food that can be had easily from the Smile Mart around the corner. The dog that must have his special ten dollar a bag food instead of the relatively EXACTLY the same five dollar a bag food from the Smile Mart. The dog who will turn up his nose and starve at me if I refuse to cater to his tiny little whims. I plodded wet footed and annoyed through the rain, and though "You better appreciate this, Tino. You better recognize what I've done here for you today."

My umbrella is a great big golf sized umbrella. About ten minutes into the walk it decided to stop being what an umbrella typically is, a barrier against rain on my head, and instead turn into something else, a water enabler. The umbrella sprung a leak directly over the center of my skull and a Chinese water torture drip began to drop down on my head. Drop, shake head, drop, shake head, drop, shake, head, drop, shake head. The water started to pour down my neck and into the back of my shirt and jacket. Oh, yes, little dog, you better appreciate the lengths I'm going to.

I finally get to the pet food store and I realize I also must acquire dog treats. I get treats, I get insanely expensive dog food, I even get that little fluff bucket a new toy. I'm feeling happy about finally being at the store. I watch bleary as the Korean girl behind the counter extracts the claws out of her arm from a cat that has just been shaved. The cat is very unhappy. I can imagine why. Who shaves a Persian cat? The girl turns to me with blood dripping down her arms and takes in my rain soaked person and we have a moment in which we truly understand the torture we both go through for animals. She rings me up and throws in some free stuff for the dog. I turn and begin the steady walk home.

By the time I get home I've given up on the umbrella. What's the point? I open the door and try to untangle myself from the wet clothes so I do not make tracks along the floor. It's the kind of soaked through that pretty much requires disrobing at the front door. I get naked and grab a towel, dry up, put on a robe and let the dog in. He runs past me to the bag of food, smells it one time, and looks at me. It's obvious from his expression just how thoroughly unimpressed he is; not just unimpressed but downright disgusted. He says in that look, "I'm descended from the dogs of Chinese emperors whose high breasted half-naked concubines would carry about on a liter and whose food consisted of only the finest delicacies that money can buy, and YOU brought me THIS?"

He turns his tail up at me, jumps onto my bed, burrows under the blankets and proceeds to snore at me. I bend and clean up the puddle forming under my drying jeans while mumbling under my breath "small mammal with whom I live a lie."

Long Tea of the Seoul

It was beautiful, what I remember. It was fantastic. The conversations were vivid and real. The entire evening was vivid and real. I remember playing pool. Ramon was my partner and I'd consult with him for the shots, it was perfect. The colors were perfect. The smells were perfect. The consumption of alcohol was perfect. And while I'd like to be able to recount all of it in more detail, the alcohol being perfect is preventing recollection of a great many of those details.

I remember that as the night wore on, and as the vodka continued to warm my belly, that I wanted to go dancing. Maybe it was the music. The music was fantastic. It was throbbing and pulsing and pulling me in and I wanted to move with it. I drink with Wolf and Peter and Geof and people who are nameless faceless entities in my good time drinking night. I want to go dancing, I remember the desire the need to go dancing. I convince Geof and Wolf and we wander into Korean streets to find dancing.

I am feeling very good about myself as we leave the bar. It's perhaps three a.m. and Geof, who is allergic to mobile proteins, needs to eat. I love Geof, but honestly his allergy makes him absolutely impossible to feed. He can't eat anything that might ever have moved. We had several dozen different bets at one time on how long it would take him to die after eating a hotdog. Unfortunately he would never humor anyone by eating the hotdog. I just know I would have won big, too. Geof needs food so I take him to nearby cart bar with Wolf and Peter in tow. Geof gets cheese sticks, Peter chicken, and I have cheese stick myself but pass a few around so I don't eat too much and don't sick from eating on top of my drinking. The hajuma is happy to help us. The verdict is food good, but I still want to go dancing. I push the boys and they agree to go, but where to go in Daegu where dancing is a pick up persons game and none of us are really in the mood to pick up.

I start walking down the street and I am in love with the Korean girls. They are lovely. I walk up randomly to a set of girls and hug them. They look at me with wide crazy eyes, I'm michin waygook, crazy foreign girl. I'm okay with that. The boys and I cut down and alley and work towards the dance district. I spot a string of Korean girls, arm in arm in arm in arm in arm. A little linked chain of Koreans working their way to a bar, I walk past and say hello and the grab me and pull me in, or maybe I grabbed them and pulled me in, but somehow I end up entangled in Korean grapevine. I ask them where they are going and they direct us towards Gypsy Rock. Gypsy Rock, purgatorial dance land from my first years in Korea. I think why not, it's been a long long long time since Gypsy Rock for me. We head towards the big three story bar, I want to go dancing.

We get to the rock and are asked to pay a cover. At least we get drinks with the charge, but I hate that we have to pay a cover. We stand outside at the velvet line and the Korean girls come up to me, they have sweet spun sugar, cotton candy and they open my lips with sticky fingers and implore me to suck from their fingers, and it amuses me to do so, even when I don't want to eat. We wander into the bar.

I remember the first time I went to Gypsy in Korea. That would have been five years ago now. It was during World Cup Soccer in Korea and Gypsy was in a much smaller location a basement bar. I had gone to drink with my co-workers who had plied me with mass quantities of beer. It was my second week in Korea and I was still feeling shy and under-confident. We went to a porch bar first and watched Korea win it's game against I don't remember who. It was fantastic to watch them win, and the streets lit up with red and screaming Koreans. We went to party at the bar, dancing, crushing press of people, sweat, bodies, exuberance. The music was loud, I was close to passing out, and it was fantastic. It was your friendly neighborhood bar on the night the home team had won a big game. It was perfect. Ah, the good old days.

Gypsy went corporate a long time ago and I haven't been in about that long. We get there and head down the stairs to the dance floor. I feel that tense buzzing excitement I used to feel when going down to the old Gypsy and it lasts until I get to about the bottom of the stairs. We push through dark curtains and into the bar and hit a wall of young college age Koreans. There is no room in the bar. There is no room to move, no room to dance, no room to get a drink. The atmosphere is somehow desperate and numb all at the same time. Bad Idea rings in my brain. I should have stayed behind at my old foggie bar where I can talk with people, dance at the table, play pool. Old foggie bar is better then this dance club. The club is like a creepy Korean horror film. Girls turn to me with perfect faces and perfect hair, and perfect bodies.

The troop which is now just Geof and Wolf with me in tow push towards stairs and I follow up and up and up until we find a quieter spot. "I want to go dancing." I whine. The boys just look at me in my drunken foolishness and I wander back down the stairs. I lost the boys. I went back to the massive throng of people but I found myself pressed against a wall and angry, and bored, and wanting to go dancing. The old Gypsy rock could get busy but there was always a way in, a group of girls that would grab my hand and prevent me from wallflowering. It was friendly. This dark pulsing cave I was trapped in was not friendly.

I move out of the bar, back the way I came, alone now. The night air was fresh and crisp and I felt better about life. I wandered down the street and towards a cab. It was a beautiful night. I felt light outside of the dark press of Gypsy. Happier. My hangover the next day was mostly worth the evening spent drinking, and even the lesson learned.

I still want to go dancing.