Friday, November 28, 2008

When will I stop feeling like a child...

My birthday was on Thursday and was pleasant enough. I went to dinner at one of the nicest restaurants in town. As this is the third time in a row I guess it's a tradition. I giggled when looking over the insanely expensive menu. I laughed and joked with my dinner partner. At one point I dipped my bread in olive oil and dropped it right down my blouse leaving a sticky trail of oily tartness in its wake as it slid down the ever so carefully exposed neckline.

"Graceful." Exclaims my date.

"Fuck off." I say, ever the lady.

We eat dinner and we joke and giggle. The Korean waitstaff stares at us from the stairwell through the entire meal and I can't help but to be amused. The laughing just doesn't seem to stop. I'm turning 32 and I feel far to fucking young to be turning thirty-two. Yet here I am.

Life goes on. I go to work, I teach classes. My students have looked at me as the eptitomy of old since I began teaching. I recall being at the middle school in Chicago and having some students asked how old I was. When I responded 22 they all looked at me and said "Damn, your like an old maid." I remember thinking they were only twelve and have no idea what they are talking about. I smiled and went on with my job. Now I am an old maid and I don't know how that is supposed to feel. I don't feel like an adult.

Confrontation with the flux of adulthood happens daliy. The decision to pay a bill, the need to travel to a doctor, getting health insurance, updating a resume, communicating with co-workers, meeting a deadline, making the right phone call at the right time, answering the question about specialized knowledge in my field. These are adult activities that I interact with on almost an hourly basis but they feel so outside of myself. Who is this person who is aging, do I know her, is she here, is she me.

I discuss with friends what to do about their lives. They come to me for help and advice. Should I date this one? Sleep with that one? Leave the other one? When has the relationship become so abusive it should be ended? What is important? What is more important, love or money? On and on. I meet this confrontations with what little I have some tools learned from my own therapy and a willingness to support whatever decision is made. But every time I'm asked, every time I listen, I can't help wondering if I"m not just playing at grownup by trying to understand. Do I reallly understand?

Here I sit at thirty-two. And I think about what I am not. I am not a mother. I am not rich. I'm not a doctor. I'm not well read. I'm not full of vibrant experience. I look at all the people around me and see the opposite, mothers, philosophers, educated peoples, and even those who have suceeded far beyond my wildest dreams. Where does it leave me? Who does it leave me?

Have I made a wrong turn?

I remember, when I was 25 having just arrived in Korea and finding myself suddenly befriending a guy I would call simply a jock. A stock broker running away from New York for a year of travel while he tried to figure out what to do with his life. He was 32. We talked often. I asked him about his future one night over drinks before we went to the crappy dance club that I enjoyed at the time. "I don't know, but I'd like to meet a girl, have a kid, you know."

I remember being incredulous. Why would you want to have children. You have an excellent life, plenty of money (enough in the bank to fuckoff in Korea for a year) youth and health, etc.

"But, you know Sara, after all this time I'm a little bored with it. A kid, that's something real. It's changes things. Makes life interesting again."

I sit here at thirty-two and I try to understand that sentiment. I still don't get it. I feel like I've only barely begun understanding how to live for myself.

And I'm an old maid.

And I have no idea when I will feel like I have reached that door marked adulthood and walked through. I still feel like a child newly hatched and constantly floundering in the big bad world.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Commercial Break

The thing about being broke is there is a lot of time for self entertainment. In the last month I've steadily decline on my once during a week night out to going out just one night on a weekend. And since I'm at home more I'm either reading a book, playing with the dog or watching T.V.

I was listening to an article on NPR about the across the board finical collapse and how it would effect the day to day consumer. The question being how many people would cancel their cable service. The finical analyst came back that cable and premium cable would do well during the down turn. Primarily because it would be the primary avenue for escaping otherwise dreary existences.

Now, I sit at home and watch commercials. This one graced my tube the other night. Before you watch answer the quiz question. Then see how well you did.

I will say this, it's worth the basic cable service to be so entertained.

What beverage is this a commercial for?

Monday, November 10, 2008

What Happens When You Are Part of a World Wide Economic Collapse

The economy has been collapsing for a while now. While it is frightening to be sure the ways in which is hits the pocket book in the US are entirely different from the way in which it hits the pocket book in South Korea.

The Korean won sucks right now. And it sucks hard. Unlike you lucky people in the US though the won started to pull away hard and strong about five months ago which, long before John McCain suspended his campaign to save the economy. A strong won means that dollar to won conversion will be a severe money loss for me. With the one going up at times as strong as 1,500 won to the dollar I lose a lot of money. The current rate of conversion is about 1,300 to 1 dollar which is cutting my salary monthly by about five hundred bucks give or take. Combine this with the fact that in Korea gas was eight dollars a gallon before the won got strong and you have a recipe for all kinds of disaster. Suddenly everything costs more and everyone is losing money.

I head down to the Lonely Hearts club after two weeks of economy enforced solitude. I realized that the hundred a week a drop in a bar has suddenly become roughly a hundred and fifty. My house keeping service, my electric bill, my bandwidth, all of it seems a lot more expensive, but after two weeks of hiding and bowing to the pressure the intense expense I hit the Lonely Hearts.

Hyun is behind the bar. I ask him how it's going.

"The fucking economy sucks, man!" He says to me.

"Tell me about it."

"You know, last year, right, I put all this money in the mutal fund and now I'm losing money every day like crazy. I'm like what the fuck is going on. You have any money in the market."

"No, thank the merry gods, but I'm losing just the same."

"What's the problem?"

"I send money home I'm screwed."

"Yeah, no shit. I'm like, everything is so fucking crazy. What's the problem. I hate it."

"So, you going to take the money out of the market?" I ask.

"What's the point, I leave it in I might make it back. Can't do anything with it now, so you know. I just wait for the feel."

I understand and buy him a shot of tequila. He returns the favor and buys me a shot.

It's the little things though, that have hit in Korea. I used to eat crackers. Korea loves to over package things so in the crackers I would get you would get 9 crackers wrapped conveniently in a little wrapper. Then back in May I noticed a small change. Suddenly I kept coming up short. I thought it was me. I was just eating ninth cracker and not realizing it. Then I got obsessed with it. I started to count every cracker in a newly opened package. Sure enough I was now getting eight crackers in a pack. Then a month after the cracker number dropped the price of a box of crackers that used to contain 18 more crackers total went up by fifty won a box. More for less.

It's not just the crackers. Most everything here is imported from somewhere else. Rice, spinach, cabbage, these things are commonly grown in Korea. But there are many many things that I like to eat that are not grown in Korea. Tomatoes, bell peppers, zucchini, green onions, avocados, cheese, wine. Real cheese. Good wine. At the beginning of the year the Australian cheese I liked to get was six dollars for about two hundred grams. Now it's ten dollars. Vegetables were also sort of expensive, three or four dollars for something like a zuchini or onion, five for an avacado. Now the same items round up to ten. I've noticed more and more than when I buy fruits and vegetables I stake out the marked down foods first to see if I can find a pound of raw spiniach marked down to two dollars rather then regular price at four.

It's the little things.

I look at bills I have to pain the states, things I have no choice about sending money home on. If I want to get five hundred dollars home for my studnet loans I have to send six hundred and fifty thousand won. It leaves me with less and less every month. Less to the point where I realized I can no longer afford a vacation home in the winter and will possibly have to cancel a summer trip as well.

The suck continus long term. What I realize is that more than just losing a vacation my plan for a future exodus from Korea is currently looking bleak. The point of being in Korea is to save money. With the rate of conversion right now leaving would cost more than it is worth. So I start to think, in a year will it have recovered enough for me to leave? Or maybe two? Can I hold out here for maybe just three more years until things recover? Three more years when I wanted to be planning to return to the US in maybe 2010. I just don't know.

In the meantime I spend more time at home, less time out, and lose sleep over my steadily dwindling savings.

"So Hyun," I ask. "What do we do?"

"Eh, what the fuck, drink more, eat less."

Lonely Hearts, always know how to put things in perspective.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

And because history is important to the future....

And sometimes after a gigantic event you just need a little laugh.

Yes. We. Did.

I had to work today when all I wanted to do was stay home.So it was that I was working at a student open lounge when at 1:00 this afternoon. I'd put a CNN live feed up on the screen but could get no sound.

There were no students when at the time when the announcement rolled across that CNN was calling it for Obama. There was no sound to hear when McCain stood up and conceded, and while he talked I had to try to pull my attention away to do the conversation thing that is my bread and butter. But all I could think about was that maybe it wasn't true.

I went to my last class and told my students. They had forgotten that I was from Chicago. Some thought Obama was from Canada.

Three hours later I walked in my door and turned on CNN, the first time all day I was able to watch election coverage with sound and start hearing what I had been seeing, making it real and tangible. I saw McCain standing and trying to be dignified while his supporters heckled and acted generally like spoiled children. I felt bad for him even as I appreciated what he had tried to do.

And finally, after a whole day of not being able to do anything but ride a charge of energy I got see Barack speak. And there I stood in my room, in front of my T.V. four hours after the election had been called, and almost three since he made his speech, I watch his face, listened to his words and I broke down and sobbed.

It still feels too good to be true.

At work one of the co-workers, a lovely teacher and, the only McCain supporter among us said as I walked to my last class "Oh, stop smiling, already." He was smiling too. "I know, I can't help it, I'm just so happy."

"You know, in all, it's okay. I understand. I'd be happy if it were my guy."

"I'm not sorry your guy lost, but you know, I just can't help being completely overjoyed my guy one."

"Today, I'm just happy it's over."

Today, I'm happy, elated, sad, confused, bewildered, and feeling oddly procreative.

But we did.

We Did.

"That's the genius of America: that America can change. Our union can be perfected. What we've already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow."

We did. Now, we have work to do.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Vote: It's the Least you can Do!

Get out, go, vote!

I voted two weeks ago and a lot of people who were able to register have thanked me. I thank them for filling out those ballots and sending them back in. Everyone who filed from Korea, at least most of us, paid upwards of $20 dollars to send our votes back to make sure they were counted on time. When you think absentee ballot remember it includes teachers, doctors, lawyers, students, and other living overseas who have to pay to get their votes in and counted. We vote, why don't you?

Why vote? Well, let's let the video explain.