Friday, September 28, 2007

"Everything felt awkwardly brutal."

This is a quote from "A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of A Boy Soldier" by Ishmael Beah.

Go read it, because I am not sure I have it in me to put into words my guttural response to this book.

It is moving, shocking, horrifying, and hopeful in turns.

Eating With Jenn

Thursday, September 27, 2007


Girls in hanboks watching top spinning.

Beyond the joy of five days in a row of no work, Chuseok is fun because at my school, the kindie kids had Chuseok Day. I so wish I hadn't been more sick and had enjoyed it more. For the non-Korea savvy readers, Chuseok is a thanksgiving holiday, where people visit their hometowns/grandparents' houses to honour their ancestors. Basically, it's a time for family. In China, the Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated at the same time. For teachers, it's travel time; or in my case, time to have a visitor.

Boys waiting in a line: Joy, John, June, Eric.

First off, little kids in hanboks (Korean traditional dress) are just so cute! Much cuter than in their rather drab Poly uniforms. And they are so serious about showing them off too.

Teacher explaining jaegi jaegi technique.

Then there were the events. Jaegi Jaegi, which is basically a traditional form of hackeysacking. Top spinning. Traditional bowing. Wrestling. It was fun.

The boys teach Dave how to bow properly.

And the mooncake making. I coughed all over the ingredients. I am not kidding. All. Over. Thank god bronchitis isn't contagious. (And this is where some medically minded reader tells me it is, and my entire homeroom class ends up out sick for a week and I feel very, very guilty.) Anyway, what can you do? The assistant director knew just how sick I was (or he's having some eye and ear troubles of his own). He came in to do the talking portion, as my voice wasn't particularly in commission until the afternoon, thanks to something the doctor had me inhale and a contraption that sucked the snot out of my nose.

Dduk. Rice cakes. I don't like them.

Here is what Wikipedia has to say about Mooncakes: "Songpyeon is a traditional Korean food made from glutinous rice. It is a variety of tteok, consisting of small rice cakes traditionally eaten during the Korean autumn festival, Chuseok. They have become a popular symbol of traditional Korean culture. Songpyeon are half-moon-shaped rice cakes filled with sesame seeds or chestnut paste steamed over a layer of pine needles, which gives them the fragrant smell of fresh pine trees. They used to be made into various shapes with the participation of family members and were often exchanged between neighbors. They are eaten on Chuseok and other festive days.

Tigers class, ready to get down and dirty with some gelatinous rice.

Unlike China's moon cake, which is round and also eaten on Chuseok in China, Korean people made songpyeon in the half-moon shape because they regarded the half moon as a symbol of expansion and development, while the full moon no longer expands, but has to wane. The earliest records of songpyeon date from the Goryeo period."

Anika was a blur of motion.

Only one of my students made anything resembling a half moon. Anika was a star who had obviously done this before. Since I spent most of my time trying to get the gelatinous rice mixture to stop sticking to my hands, I referred my students to her fine example. And coughed. On things the students took home and possibly ate. Most of them kept getting the beans stuck to the outside of the moon cakes. And then, naturally, we were only provided 6 plastic bags for a class of 12. Thank maude they hadn't used their plastic gloves to stay clean, because that's what the rice treats went home in.

What I got.

We also got some gifts from the kids in honour of the holiday. I was the recipient of some rice cakes (Unfortunate, as I can't stand them. I have tried really, really hard to like them, but I just can't wrap my mind around a treat that is so lacking in sweetness. In general, I feel that Asian cuisine falls down over the issue of dessert.) I also ended up with a pair of socks, a bookmark, some whitening cream (!!!), some heathful tea & candies (timely), a bottle of wine from the lovely Jenn, and some Krispy Kremes to share with all the teachers. Why, oh why, do the students point out my lack of skinniness and then constantly bring me doughnuts???

Girls lined up in the playroom, ready to crawl through the tunnel.

The fun and excitment for my afternoon students? Tests to study for immediately after the holiday and a monthly writing topic making them describe Chuseok (lower grades) or compare and contrast it with another holiday (upper level). It obviously doesn't pay to leave kindergarten. Unless you go on to teach it!

Top spinning!

If My Head Explodes...

... the cleaning supplies are under the sink. I'm guessing it'd be messy.

So, I have bronchitis again. Woo! My favourite disease!

Trying to get out there and do stuff over Chuseok was no easy feat, since I feel like death warmed over, with a side of ass. It's not pleasant. To top it off, my little sister has decided to give me the silent treatment over a conversation that was started off by the fact that she has insulted several of my friends, made others feel uncomfortable, and basically made me feel like a class-A asshole for bringing her to the party to rain on other people's parades.

I would likely have ignored the whole thing with her and just apologized profusely on her behalf, except that she still wants to go out and socialize with my friends. So, I thought perhaps a conversation. Set some boundaries. And god, was I wrong.

Perhaps it's just a sister thing. Perhaps we can never have a conversation that doesn't lead to shouting and the silent treatment and years of apparent resentment coming out. I certainly can't claim to have stayed calm for the whole thing, though I started off that way. God knows, anything to do with my family seems to make me feel like a pissed off 16 year old. And certainly, that's what she reminds me of.

Naturally, none of the fault is hers. She is simply misunderstood by various people who have texted and messaged me, and I am a big bitch besides. You know, one of those evil bitches who invites you over twice and picks you up at the airport, and cooks and cleans and does your laundry and entertains you and still works 10.5 or 12 hour days. Oh, I treat her like shit. Did the whole last time she visited and I cooked and cleaned and entertained. I have always treated her like shit. All those movies and shopping trips I planned especially to spend time with her ever since I moved home, it's all just my way of being evil.

I get that family is important. I get that we must love them regardless of a lot of the crap they might dish out. That we should forgive them for things we might not let go by if our friends did them. And I am sure that I am not anything approaching a perfect older sister. I am sure that at least half of all our problems are my fault.

But. Fuck. If my friends ever treated me in any shape or from the way she does, they would have been out on their asses. No response if I say good morning, or ask if she is ready to go. Taking hours to get ready, making us late for things because she is too busy emailing people. About what, I haven't a clue, as we've done very little in the time she has been here because she is too busy emailing people about Korea to actually see it. Making a huge mess of my place and expecting me to clean it all up. Acting like doing the dishes once or twice means I should get down on my knees and thank her, though I am expected to daily make her lunch on my 40 minute break. When I suggested she make her own tuna sandwhich (and I had already prepared the tuna), she gave me a look like I was from Mars.

But all of this I was biting my tongue about. I kept reminding myself, "She hasn't moved out of the house yet. She is used to this stuff being done for her. She's young. She's your sister. You have barely seen her since you were 19, you need to just let the shit roll off your back."

And then she insulted my friends. In a way that really, really insults me too. In a fundamental way. Was it a mistake? Was it a lack of familiarity with dealing with such situations? I don't know. Because her entire response to the situation is that A) I am making it all up and B) that everyone else is just wrong, that she is completely in the right. She doesn't acknowledge that if a whole bunch of people think you were insulting them, maybe there is something about your behavior that does, in fact, need to be questioned.

Homophobia in the family is not pretty. I don't know what to say, do, or how to react, exactly. It's new territory for me.

But it isn't something I take lightly. And I feel it is important that be made clear to her. This won't be brushed under the rug. What that means for the next four days I don't know. As much as I'd like to please my mother by "making my peace with her" before she goes, I'm not sure I'm ready to do that without a significant statement from her.

And I don't think that's unreasonable of me.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

It's the Little Moments

It's the man playing a traditional flute on the subway. Not busking, just playing while he gets where he's going.

It's the guy practicing his sword techniques at 3am on a Sunday in the courtyard near my building.

It's the people crowded around watching a soju-induced fight.

That's why I keep coming back. For those little moments.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Now I See Where All My Diets Have Gone Wrong

I haven't been drinking low calorie water!

What Dad, Dan, and Andrew Are Getting For Christmas*

Note the use of the Oxford Comma!

The last row is particularly pastel. And look at how blinged out the ones below are!

Lotte Mart Is Where It's At

Lindsay eating chicken donkas - I think it is basically anything breaded and fried, though usually it's a pork cutlette.

Lindsay and I weren't up to much last night - I made dinner (okay, warmed up leftover pasta from Outback and tossed in a few things) and then we watched TV. The weather seems to have forgotten that it isn't supposed to be monsoon season anymore and it is wet, wet, wet. And I'm definitely coming down with a cold. I had hoped it was bad allergies, but not only did doubling up on allergy mediation not help, but I also now have a sore throat. It sucks. 10.5 hour days + a guest + a holiday where I intend to enjoy myself, dammit + a cold? Not fair! So, she fell asleep early, I farted about a bit, and we both went to bed early.

Mine was a pork cutlette, smoothered in egg, on top of rice and in some sort of broth. Not bad, but I'll go back to the original next time. Served with a million side dishes, of course.

Tonight we went out for donkas (sp?) nearby and it was like they were hosting a special night for foreigners. Bumped into a coworker and her fiance and there were three other randoms. We outnumbered the Korean folks, which doesn't happen often in good old Hwajung. Since it was still raining, the planned shopping expidition on the Rodeo has been postponed, but we went to Lotte Mart. I had some stuff I needed, we needed more juice, and Lindsay was after a hat that I bought a few weeks ago.

Lovers Original / THE LOVERS & MARCH - OCTOBER 2007 / Vintage Military Excellent. / All Rights Reserved

And a marvelous hat it is, though I think the second one is even more fun. I just couldn't resist them, though I really don't need a hat, much less two hats. At least they were cheap, I guess.

Where am I ever going to have the ovaries to wear that??? But I do love it!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

This is Just Wrong

Choco-Cheese. Not even real cheese. Choco-fake-cheese. It took ages to get the taste of it out of my mouth.

Don't go there. Just don't.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Isn't It Curious How...

... one child bites another and she is the one who ends up in tears?

And how some of my students colour each picture, one at a time, methodically one by one, but some colour each part of the pictures that will be blue, then red, and so on?

I want to live there...

The people must be interesting...


It took me a long time to come around to trying bonjuk. After all, it doesn't look terribly appealing, and frankly the idea of rice porridge doesn't really get me going either. Laura ate it constantly though and I was finally persuaded to try. All I can say, is it's Korean comfort food. It's "I'm sick" food or "I'm hungover" food. It packs the feel-better factor of chicken noodle soup along with a healthy wallop of carbs. I like it.

The place near me gives you a ton of random side dishes, but I don't eat any of them. I like the basics. The chicken porridge, mix in the sesame seeds and seaweed, add the salty beef in the separate little container, remove the decorative roots (or at least I assume decorative) and off you go. Yum.

Korean food culture has always promoted health and integrated ingredients with different curative qualities. Low-fat and abundant in flavor, Korean menus have been active advocates of health consciousness and eating right.

Inspired by that very culture, BONJUK has revamped the common porridge. Porridge is recognized across time and cultures as a ‘get-well’ food but BONJUK has fast become the leader in endorsing the notion of wellbeing in Korea.

Good food is cooked with love, with soul and that’s exactly what Bonjuk is bringing you – Porridge with a soul. We do not believe in pre-cooking our food as we believe in ‘home-style, slow food’ – Good Food.

We promote the concept of ‘slow food, which simply means freshly preparing our porridge using high quality ingredients to create a bowl of porridge that is made with soul.

Today, in the midst of our daily chaos and activity, we often resort to fast food and convenience. We lack flavorful, quick and healthy food to keep our bodies strong.

Keeping that in mind, BONJUK has successfully created a wide range of porridge menu designed for a fast paced culture – “Wellbeing Slow Food”, porridge with a soul.

Choose health. Choose BONJUK.
From the website.

Lindsay's Already Addicted to Weed* and Eating Pho


Sunday I slept in late. I'm either coming down with a mild cold or have bad allergies. I can't decide which, so I'm doubling up my allergy doses to see if that heads things off. I can't imagine having to try and do stuff with Lindsay after a 10.5 hour day while being sick. So, fingers crossed. Anyway, catching up on my sleep on Sunday morning helped a great deal. I was at the airport an hour early, since I was overly concerned about the bus taking ages from where I live now. Apparently there was no need to worry. I picked up some interesting looking Korean novels in translation that were remarkably cheap. And then I stood around. A lot. Drinking a coffee and watching an awful lot of news cameras show up. I'm not sure what famous person might have been on that flight from Vancouver, but someone was.

After we bussed it home, it was like Christmas and my birthday all at once. Linds brought me a ton of North American stuff (plus a ton of presents that I now have to resist opening until December.) We had dinner at Outback and watched some Weeds. She tried to pretend she was wide awake, but kept closing her eyes. And she didn't stir at all when I got up for work. In fact, she's crashed out as I write this.

Tonight we went out for Lindsay's first pho. I think she liked the fried with coconut stuff better than my fav soup, but it was yummy. As was the Baskin Robbins after. Next up is some shopping on Hwajung's Rodeo, planned for tomorrow.

Me posing with a baby octopus. Neither Lindsay or I actually ate it - she doesn't like fish/seafood generally and I blame my only bout of stomach troubles in Korea on some baby octopus I ate on my first couple of days in country...

More about the Childrens

Peter and Alex, of the Lions kindie class, fake kissing. Every once and awhile they actually connect, which leads to even more hilarity. Lucy better watch out, or Peter will steal away her future boyfriend!

As promised, here is the coolest kindie craft ever. I present you, the internal body parts of a human. Not all of them, just the ones we studied.

And now for the details...

soju, hostess bar mistake

Friday night after work, a bunch of us went for soju at Biba London. (Oh how I wish there was a Biba Las Begas!) I ate my first quail egg - you know, after all the travelling and the general willingness to eat anything once, it's hard to find non-bizarre food items I haven't tried. Side dishes sometimes fascinate me in Korea... We had quail eggs, pickles, and corn. Canned corn. Unheated. Interesting... Anyway, there were some fruit identification problems. We thought the mango soju was lemon, until we had the lemon and concluded that that must be what passed for mango. Either way, the mango is better.

Then Ortencia and I decided to go into Noble Bar, as she'd been wanting to try it. There was only us, two men and two waitresses, but it still took us until we discovered that there were only men's toilets to realise we were in a hostess bar. They serve strong, strong drinks in hostess bars. Then I went home and IMed people for a couple of hours.

I nicked that rather cool soju container. It has a hole in the front to put the ice in, so that the drink isn't diluted but can be chilled. It was a bitch to clean and I haven't a clue what I am going to do with it. Or why everyone encouraged me to nick it. It does make a pretty ornament for my rather bare shelves.

early, tired, conference, boredom, bandi & luni's, coffee, people still around, disappointing food, suggestions

We had to get up stupidly early on Saturday morning, to experience the joy that is a Poly School conference. We were even there an hour early and The Powers That Be wanted us all sitting in the auditorium. That was quickly nixed in favour of decent coffee. As per usual, I might have picked up and idea or two, but nothing significant enough to make up for missing a day of my weekend. But at least we got nice American Eagle bags, with the Poly logo printed discretely (and removable, should I ever be arsed enough to do so.) Apparently they were for putting our curriculum books in. Because we only get one and can't lose them. And no doubt none of our colleagues would ever consider letting us photocopy the odd page. Basically, everyone was herded around like kindergarteners and forced to listen to drivel along the lines of "Don't let your classes run around with knives and screaming like banshees!" and "Planning is helpful so you know what to teach!" Pearls of wisdom, I tell you. The only halfway interesting part was listening to the keynote speaker, who was from Harcourt. Which perhaps explains it. Jen and I were a bit silly during the participation bits, but I must say, there is nothing I like less than having to role play a student. Well, okay, maybe a few things. But it's pretty high on the list of unliked things. Then we got to go and have our "boxed lunches." Wow, did they suck. The only decent thing about Poly Conferences has always been the food and they struck out this year. However, since the whole thing was being held in Coex, I did get to go and spend money on some books in Bandi & Luni's. I saw a few people I knew from my last Poly stint (Shane, Annie, Kevin Nelson, etc.) And I even was my usual obnoxious-pointing-out-of-idiotic-errors self in my last seminar on e-Poly.

zita, casino, blackjack, drinks, lever, blue tiger, earrings, dvd bargain, subway

The other benefit to the location was that there is a Seven Luck Casino there. Korean people aren't allowed in the casinos here, only those of us with foreign passports. Which is odd, when you think about it. Anyway, after some fast food baked ziti (good, especially considering that most Italian food isn't extraordinary here), I headed in with Jason and Raj. Dave was already there, playing the $10 blackjack tables. We settled down for some free drinks first and after a bit Jason wandered off to win $100. At best over the course of the evening, I was up $2.50. I kept the $2 chips and tipped the .50 cents. We also played the slots and I have to say, the only way slots are interesting is if you have to pull a lever. Or if Neptune talks to you if you win. If you could put those both together, it would be awesome. I ended up down 25,000, but balanced against my 6 free drinks, I broke even, I guess. To get home, we took an insanely long subway ride. We had to ride about 3/4 of our line, plus a bit on the green line. It took forever, it felt like. Managed to pick up some earrings (blue with black stripes, hence the blue tiger bit) in the subway and four DVDs for $10 just outside our building. All in all, a profitable night!


More on this later. It needs more thought put into it than a recounting of the weekends events does!

Saturday, September 15, 2007


tired, soju, hostess bar mistake, conference, boredom, bandi & luni's, coffee, peopele still around, disappointing food, suggestions, zita, casino, blackjack, drinks, lever, blue tiger, earrings, dvd bargain, subway, respect, early.

more details after sleep.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Can I just tell you how much I love Weeds? It actually makes me laugh out loud. And not that bullshit messanger lol that really just means you acknowledge that a joke was made, but real, actual laughing. Minimum of once per episode. It's got a witty script, some great characters and Mary-Louise Parker is just incredibly hot.

I also love, love, love "Little Boxes" by Malvina Reynolds. Elvis Costello's version in the second season (I'm only two episodes in) isn't nearly as good!


Poly School conference tomorrow. Can't say I'm brimming with joy to work on a Saturday, after a week of 10.5 hour days. And I have to go to the airport to pick up Linds. I'm happy she's coming but I hate airport trips!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


KTF stores, the company my card phone is with, seem to have change into Show stores. Which is an obvious improvement, considering their mission statement:

"We'll cherish the karma with customers all the time. We'll also serve you with our whole hearts.

Oh, and if you are trying to call me and I'm not getting back to you, it's because I don't have caller ID at the moment. If I miss calls, I haven't a clue who called.

I'm Full of It

My kindie students had to do some cutting and pasting today, so there was lots to clean up. I was telling the students to remember to clean up their trash (for some reason that word is more popular than garbage here.) And, of course, I was helping too.

One student asked me where his trash went. I told him I had taken it. His response?

"Teacher, you are a trash can? You open the top of your head and put in the trash? Your head is full of trash!"


In Honor of My Upcoming Trip North, I Present...

Communist Mario Brothers

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Kindie Student: Teacher, we eat puffins!

Me: Well, no. Most people don't.*

Kindie Student: Yes, teacher. We make them be mufffins!

*I seem to think that perhaps people do, somewhere. Iceland, maybe?


95 years before that day in 2001, in 1906, Mahatma Gandhi launched the nonviolent resistance to British imperialism.

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hatred cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." Martin Luther King, Jr.

How I Feel on Monday Mornings


Sometimes I even feel like this...


And this one just made me laugh out loud. For real, not in the lol sense.



How can I possible lose my remote control over and over again in an apartment this size? I'm ready to tape the damn thing to my forehead, or something.

I got paid today and it's nice-uh. It's been a good day.

Oh, and I own a bathmat. Fun!

Going North!

So I'm finally going to North Korea, on a weekend trip with Adventure Korea. It's exciting because every year I've intended to go and because it's rather pricey (maybe 450,000 with all the extras, all of which I fully intend to do) and I seem to lack organizational skills. Between Brian and Jenn, I think I will do a lot more this year, as they are gungho to organize stuff for everyone. :)

If you wanna come along, it's the first weekend in November and there are still seats, though I hear the trips fill up fast.

Monday, September 10, 2007

I Just Made A Toasted Egg Sandwich

And it was all possible because I went shopping in a coworkers apartment.

Duffey is leaving - which is sad, as she seemed so nice, though I have hardly had a chance to get to know her. Our longest conversation was when she and David had dinner with me at the school on my first night, when I was completely jet lagged.

When any English teacher leaves Korea, there is always a huge giveaway of stuff. And I ended up with some very cool stuff, stuff I was about to go out and buy, since I presumably got paid today.

There was the very exciting toaster oven, a couch, an iron and ironing board, some bedding, and a little drawer thingy. It's very exciting.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Coworkers Chowing Down

Here we are on the staff dinner on Friday night. I seem to have taken the pics while all the foreign teachers were off getting more food. It wasn't a bad place. I liked the sushi and there were some fake fajitas.

My director, David, is on the far right of this one. And you can see Sean's back. Poor thing has caught chicken pox from one of our preschool students. Let's hope multiple bouts of it have given me immunity, cause I am not in the mood to get the pox.

Like fish? Seriously, they had some good salmon sushi. And smoked salmon and capers. I was in heaven.

The chocolate fondue was great. However, we had to do a bit of improvising. We took an entire bowl of chocolate back to the table and took all the fruit salad with us.

Because, somehow, dipping cherry tomatoes, potatoes, nacho chips, bread, or crackers wasn't so appealing. Notice that we did take the marshmellows, but we left one behind. To not look greedy.

It's a Woman's World, So I am Going to Make Myself a Boyfriend

From a bulletin board dedicated to English phrases to learn at the Starbucks in Itaewon.

From the Woo Bar.


So, I have been pondering how hard it is sometimes to thank people for the kind things they do for you. Sometimes it is hard because the things they do for you wouldn't seem to them perhaps to be as significant as they are. This all sort of stems from a discussion Samarra and I had the bar last night. I tend to ponder things and with a day long headache that pondering has been of the somewhat serious sort. Hard to ponder frivilous things when your head is pounding from a over-exposure to nasty perfume.

It started with thinking how much I appreciated Sarah taking me out for a few drinks last night. I had a great time and I needed the chat and it was amazing of her to go when I know she wasn't especially in the mood for it. Then I was thinking back to two years ago, and all those people who I appreciate so much for the roles they played in me getting my head on straight.

The problem with thank you lists is always that you are bound to leave someone out. Which sucks. It's not that you ever mean to, but that memory is so precarious. Or mine is. So, this list isn't exhaustive, but it is heartfelt. To my parents for the phone calls, to Jas for listening, to Christina for that much needed time in London, to Sky for that lunch in London when I really, really needed to talk all around what was going on without actually talking about it, with someone willing to put up with that, to Andrea and Jenni for some much needed couches to crash on, to Samarra for the visit when she was helpful without perhaps knowing why. To everyone who has since been gentle and kind enough not to press, to let me talk about things on my own terms. To Frog and Anais and Sofiya, whose blogs helped me immensely in my attempt to process what was going on in my life and my head. To all the people from the Phoenix who listened and responded and helped me think.

When I look back, I still have a hard time getting my mind around just how miserable I was. And that's great, because the reason it's so hard is partly due to just how happy I am now. And I suppose the silver lining comes in now understanding just how precious and hard-won happiness often is. And with all of that also comes a deep sense of gratitude for the people who were with me along the way.


Grace didn't tag me to do this, but I'm just gonna do it anyway, because I want to. That's just how I roll.

Total number of books owned: I am going to guess around 6-8,000. You might wonder why I can't peg it in a smaller range, but could you if most of your books were on the other side of the world?

Last book bought: Book, singular? Are you fucking me? Are people able to buy only one book at a time? This is why I wanted to steal this meme. I went to What the Book today, intending to buy some magazines. However, the next month's batch haven't come in yet, so I ended up buying books instead. In a big surprise, I failed in my intent to resist. (That's sarcasm, in case anyone missed it.) So, here's my haul:

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers. I have been meaning to read this for years, so since it was there second hand, I couldn't resist. I hate, hate, hate buying books with the Oprah's Book Club sign on the front, though. Or movie photos.

Rip-Off Red, Girl Detective and The Burning Bombing of America, Kathy Acker. A random selection, chosen because they describe her as one of the most celebrated authors of the past thirty years on the back and yet I've never even heard of her. I'm curious.

Big Mouth & Ugly Girl, by Joyce Carol Oates. The only book I bought new. For young adults and purchased for a blog entry I'm thinking of writing.

the grass is singing, by Doris Lessing. I love the cover, which is not shown on Amazon. Mine has four green blades of grass; they look kind of bamboo like. That and I've never read her, but feel by now I should have.

Little Earthquakes, by Jennifer Weiner. Bought because I need something that is relaxing sometimes, at the end of a 10.5 hour day of teaching children. I read my first book by Weiner at the suggestion of Abby, the owner of Abby's Book Nook in Itaewon (which seems to have closed down while I was gone, which saddens me. What the Book has never had anything close to as good an ambiance.) It was Good in Bed, it wasn't at all what I expected from the title, and I loved it. I think she writes well and the subject matter of that particular book (weight worries, premie baby) resonanted with me. I've been a fan ever since.

Help: The Original Human Dilemma, by Garret Keizer. Another random pick, which I almost passed on due to the fact that the author is a minister of some sort and two out of three of review quotes on the back where from Christian magazines. It's not that I have some sort of hatred for Christianity, merely that it seldom speaks to me on any level. However, I am curious enough to give it a try.

On Beauty, by Zadie Smith. I loved, loved, loved White Teeth, which I finally read in Hong Kong this past summer. My copy is sadly not as pretty as this one.

Living on the Edge: fiction by Peace Corps Writers, edited by John Coyne. If you have ever heard me ramble on about what I'd like to be doing in the next five years, this one is an obvious choice.

Last book read: I'm reading The Dogs of Riga by Henning Mankel right now, maybe halfway through. It's good, though I am still not sure about this series. Before that, it was Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume. I should read Grace's most recent read, Everything I Needed to Know about Being a Girl I Learned from Judy Blume.

Five Books that Mean a Lot to You: This is a list that changes often, based on what is going on in my life at the time. And, I am horribly forgetful of titles. However, here goes:

1. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, for obvious reasons. Well, obvious if you've read the book yourself and think back to what was going on in my life two years ago. When I read, I have started dog-earring pages with passages that really speak to me. Check out the picture of Eat, Pray, Love after I finished reading it. It was so dog-earred it was about twice the thickness. I intended to blog all about it, but it was a bit too raw and personal. I think maybe when I get back to Canada next time, I'll be ready to reread and blog about it.

2. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith. I saw so much of myself in Francie Nolan.

3. The Whole Woman by Germaine Greer. The first feminist book I read, after I went to a talk by her in Edinburgh (and got my book signed!), courtesy of an invite from Donna. It lead to my interest in feminism and a lot of important thinking about the world on my part, and then a lot of friendships with great feminist women.

4. The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood. The first book I was required to read at school that I actually liked, in spite of having to critically analyse it. I was starting to think that critical consideration ruined all reading. I'm glad this book taught me differently.

5. The Paper Bag Princess, by Robert Munsch. Because it rocks.

Amazon has this neat little thingy on their page now, where books on your wish list spin around! Fun!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

I Smell Like a Whorehouse

Sarah, Jen, Samarra and I outside the very posh Sheraton Hotel/Walker Hill Casino.

To set the scene: Joel is someone I met at Queen, with Debbie. I had just met her that night, in fact. It was a time when I was in the midst of saying goodbye to lots of people and looking for a new crew to hang out with. It was a night of drinking tequila from a bottle brought in by Daneil's boyfriend, the one who used to basically hump my leg. Joel was sitting alone, looking bored, so Debbie and I decided to go chat with him. It was about at that time that I started getting better at just chatting with strangers, just chillin'.

A self-portrait in the rather posh bathroom. The other bathrooms were like little egg-shaped pods with the most odd and disturbing video/art things.

So, I want to preface this post by saying how much fun it was to celebrate a birthday with Joel. He is a dear friend and a wonderful person. However, I had a rather bizarre night last night. First off, we went to dinner for at Buddha's Belly. I have no idea what happened with the bill. It was like someone didn't bother to put in money at all or something, because with a bill of 270,000 I ended up throwing in 100,000. There were 6 people. Don't ask me! But Joel started saying he'd pay when we were short and it being his birthday, I just figured I would pay to end the discussion. I hate silliness over the bill.

What is Samarra pondering so seriously during a night out at the bars?

Then we went to the Woo Bar at the Sheraton Hotel, the one with the Walker Hill Casino. Super posh. Yummy drinks. Trays of cheap shots, but everything else was very pricy. There was a lot of odd art - some cool and some really bizarre and rather offensive cartoons. I'll post pics once I get home and can download them (I'm blogging from Jo's house at the moment.)

The birthday boy, posing for a pic with Polly and Patrick.

From there, we went for a few drinks in Itaewon - not a late night, just a couple at Geckos and Wolfhound. However, while walking to get a taxi, I walked past a group of Korean people having an argument. Somehow a bottle of perfume was dropped and splashed all over me. The smell was so overwhelming it gave me a headache. I'm just happy I was on my way home and not on my way to another bar, because I would have come across as a little deficient in the grooming department!

Cheap tray of shots and very yummy martinis.

Goodbye to One of the Defining Authors of My Childhood

Madeleine L'Engle has died.

I'll have to see if I can borrow her books from the school library. I love them.

We Should All Just Go Back to Soju

It isn't just me who has had a bad morning after a night drinking car bombs, apparently.

Banning 'the bomb'By Choe Sang-Hun, SATURDAY, AUGUST 27, 2005
SEOUL: Seasoned drinkers, of whom there are many in this hard-driving country, consider it the best way to liven up an evening. They even cite it as a key to South Korea's economic success - a surefire way of building productive camaraderie among employees of the country's mighty conglomerates.

But the object of their enthusiasm also routinely gives numerous office workers hangovers and has ruined the career of many a politician. Committed boozers here, as a consequence, now face opposition from those who assert that this particular drink has come to do South Korea more harm than good.

The fiery concoction at issue is called "The Bomb Drink" - a less-than-delicate beverage comprised of a shot glass of whisky dumped into a brimming mug of beer, a drink commonly known elsewhere as a boilermaker.

Evening in, evening out, office workers chug bomb drinks shouting either "one shot!" in English, or "gun-bae" in Korean, meaning "dry your glass." Then they hold up the mug and shake it like a bell to prove that it is empty before passing it to the next drinker for whom it is replenished.

The ritual takes the mug around the table again and again, turning a drinking session with South Koreans into a true test of stamina.

Knocking back bomb drinks is something of a national pastime in a country where the rate of car accidents caused by drunken driving is about 10-fold higher than any developed country, according to the Global Status Report on Alcohol 2004 by the World Health Organization.

Alcohol-related traffic deaths in South Korea have increased an average of 12.7 percent a year.

Now there is a campaign here to discourage the concoction, which various critics have long condemned as a national scourge - a hazard to health and national productivity and a facilitator of corrupt back-room dealings.

"It's widespread especially among politicians, government officials, businessmen, prosecutors and military officers, among the so-called leaders of society," said Park Jin, a legislator from Seoul and a member of the opposition Grand National Party.

Park initiated the campaign last month among lawmakers.

After an evening of downing bomb drinks, "it's difficult to have a sound and fresh morning," Park said. He should know. Park admitted that he used to drink 5 to 10 mugs of the fiery mixture in one sitting.

"You retch, run for medicine and sneak out to rest in a public bath house. It's not a productive way to spend a morning, whether you are in the government or in a business."

Over the years, studies have shown alcohol causing a significant amount of chronic liver disease among South Koreans.

So far, 40 lawmakers have forsworn the bomb drink in the National Assembly, among whose members the concoction is as much a tradition as are their famous political harangues on the legislature's floor. The country's economy and defense ministers are sponsors of the campaign. Separately, lawmakers are pushing a bill that would tighten penalties for drunken driving.

The abstention drive comes as the drinking habits of some public figures have raised eyebrows. In recent months, politicians, prosecutors, judges and journalists have been humiliated after getting into drunken brawls, being caught driving under the influence or allegedly taking bribes during drinking bouts. In July, the prosecutor general, Kim Jong Bin, urged prosecutors to quit the bomb drink.

Bomb drinks have their die-hard supporters. Hwang Chang Kyu, president of the semiconductor division of Samsung Electronics, was once quoted as saying that the key to Samsung's triumph over Japanese competitors had a lot to do with the drinking culture of Korean office workers, if not with the bomb itself.

"Unlike Japanese workers who are said to go home right after work, South Korean workers come up with various excuses to go and have a few bombs," he reportedly said a few years ago. "Without the bomb drink, I don't think we could have built the teamwork we have. And it's not an exaggeration to say that we used our teamwork to offset disadvantages we had against the Japanese."

Friday, September 07, 2007

Stolen From Kristi

Being a teacher is kinda funny for me. I was such a difficult student. I knew it even then. Underachiever, motivated only when things really, really interested me, and cynical as all hell about everything and everyone. I have lightened up on the cynicism quite a lot over the years. I am not sure my motivational triggers and achievement patterns have changed much though.

I was the kid who skipped class, handed everything in late, didn't do my homework, and regularly did a half assed job because I couldn't be bothered. Though I was also the kid paralyzed by the essay question because I found it so overwhelming to figure out where to start deciding what I thought about the answer. I think I may still be that kid too - so often, I agree with it all or see so many sides I just don't know where to go from there. It's a sort of opinion overload. It's why I so often will just stick to my opinion in a debate/discussion, but afterwards start to incorporate things others have said into my thought process.

I have friends who talk of the way I speak with implied authority. And yet, I was always the kid who teachers and parents said lacked confidence, for no apparent reason. And I am still that kid too. I just seem to fake it well. So at least I've learned something.

The Weirdest Kindie Craft Ever

We have cut and glued the external and internal body parts of humans. I'll try and scan one, it is truly bizarre.

One class spontaneously starting singing their fall song while they worked. Super cute.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Random Picks From a Children's Library

Freaky Green Eyes by Joyce Carol Oates

I didn’t realize this novel was for young adults when I bought it, however, it fits in well with all the books I keep borrowing from school. It’s a book that deals with feminist issues – spousal abuse and date rape. The main character is a fourteen year old girl who is caught between a father whose approval she craves and a mother she is upset with. A girl who suspects her father is physically abusing her mother but doesn’t want to confront it. A girl who fights off an older boy at a party; the first one she’s ever drunk alcohol at. And it’s got a great thread of body acceptance running through it – Franky is a diver and on the swim team.
“I stood in front of my bedroom mirror naked, as I’d never done before, liking my hard little breasts with the dimple-nipples, and the pale-flamy swath of silky hairs at my crotch, and my lean muscled swimmer’s legs, even my long, narrow, toad-stool white feet. I didn’t stare or ogle, I just looked at myself like you’d look at a flower, or a tree, or an animal, anything natural, unclothed. Especially, though, I did admire my carroty-red hair, which I was letting grow long, frizzy and static with electricity, past my shoulders.”
It also deals with the complexity of mother-daughter relationships during puberty, which I thought was well handled, amongst the seriousness of all the other issues the characters were dealing with.
“Suddenly, one day, I heard myself lying to my mother. Not for any special reason – just I didn’t want her to know my heart.”

“At the same time I was wishing I could escape somewhere. At least that I was sixteen and had my driver’s license. That way I wouldn’t be so damned dependent on Mom to drive me places. It was too intimate, this mother-daughter thing. Too much!”

Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret by Judy Blume

I don’t have any recollection of reading this book when I was younger, though I’m pretty sure I read all Judy Blume’s books. While some children’s books are great even when read as an adult, I didn’t find this to be one of those. The subject matter (getting your period, kissing boys for the first time) doesn’t have a lot of draw anymore – though I’m certain it was quite a revelation when I was younger. And the questioning of religion I found overly simplistic, even for a children’s novel. Or perhaps, especially for a children's novel.

The Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by EL Konigsburg

I liked this one a lot more. My grade 5 class has been reading it as part of a writing program and so I took it home on my first weekend to catch myself up with the curriculum. I really liked it – I’m not sure the whole theme of changing yourself really struck a chord with me, but I loved the idea of running away to live in a museum. I was just the kind of geek who would run away and insist on learning every day still. After all, back in my skipping days, I was almost always in the school, just not in class. The mystery was cute, the old woman was amusingly eccentric, and the plot tied itself up neatly.

The Music of the Dolphins by Karen Hesse

Another book that I think I would have liked at the intended age of the audience, but didn't do a lot for me now. That is, had I been able to tear myself away from my normal genre of accidentally-transported-into-the-past novels. It's about a young girl marooned on an island in a storm at age four, who ends up being raised by a pod of dolphins. She is later discovered and taken to a research facility. She learns to speak to humans and becomes entranced with music, but then hits a point where she starts losing her desire/ability to interact in the human world and returns to her dolphin family.

It lead me to some interesting websites about feral children, especially this one. It was disturbing to look at the locations the children were found in and relate that to what I know about current events - abandoned children as the result of war. It reminded me of reading The Painted Bird and a few other autobiographies of Holocaust survivors. And there were some disturbing suggestions of children intentionally abandoned or confined for being mentally disabled.

Living in an OfficeTel is fun

On the second floor is some sort of traditional sword fighting academy, so there are some very cool outfits on people in the elevators.

An Unexpected Resonance

In "Daniel Isn’t Talking", Marti Leimbach has written a novel about a mother discovering her son has autism and trying to find him treatment. I must say, it got quite an emotional response from me. I was ready to kill the asshole husband and all the doctors who wrote off Daniel as untreatable. I really liked it, though I haven’t got a lot to say about it. What did really resonant with me was the following quote:
“When Stephen left, it was like an emptying out of my life, of all our years together. It was as though where once there had been the essential everyday tools of living – cutlery and scissors, car keys and batteries – there was now an empty drawer. But then I discovered something. It seemed there lay buried inside me a different person than the one who had been living with Stephen. Perhaps, through some subtle sleight of hand, love affairs alter you, displace you, transform you into a kind of alternative person. Andy would say they left their mark. The person I had been with Stephen was similar but not identical to the person I became after he left.”

Wonder Woman is On!!!

I take back every bad thing I've ever said about Korean TV.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

It's HUMP day!

Perhaps that explains things.

The Things I Miss

Her first day at my old elementary school. With a backpack that looks about the same size as she does!

September Meme

This is very apt - I've never lost that sense of the year starting in September, right after Labour Day, when school is back in. And my new semester just started.

1) This is the beginning of September, what do you want to accomplish by the 31st? I have the Alien Card in the bag, so I would say that I want a cell phone and to go run my errands at the post office early next week. And I want to buy a toaster oven and a bath mat. I think that's it, really.

2) What does September make you think about or feel? Crisp fall days, the smell of new books, a sense of committing to new beginnings, getting older.

3) September is the ninth month; can you name nine memories so far from this year?
- January: Thailand with Sheila, especially the zipline; aquisition of the Air France jacket.
- February: Horse masks and Bikini Inspectors at Lunar New Year, Champagne and dominoes, slow beer drinking.
- March: Messy desk and the arm injury that caused more drama than it merited.
- April: My fabulous spin-the-bottle goodbye party.
- May: Fab times in HK with Candace, especially Jumbo & the giant martinis and the great Indian food.
- June: Surprising the parents with my arrival back in Canada (ok, that might have been end of May, I'm not good with dates) and meeting Chloe for the first time.
- July: The Toronto tourism extravaganza with the girls and dinners with Jas.
- August: Walking back into Geckos and hearing Mike yell "Amanda" - the biggest Cheers moment ever.
- September: I'm working on it!

4) What does September have in common with three other months and can you name them?
- It has -ber at the end? October, November, December. I guess they all indicate the number in the name as well. Perhaps that's a better answer. Something to do with the Julian calendar?

5) The first weekend in September signals the end of summer for many even though it doesn’t really end for weeks. When does summer end for you? When I have to take a sweater out at night so as not to get cold.

I Have An Embarrassing Confession

I am addicted to Facebook Scrabble.

It is indeed Scrabulous.

"Edie's not a slut, she's just popular with indiscriminate men."

I've missed Desparate Housewives. But I've missed a few episodes, I think.

I Want Chocolate

I'm trying to decide if I can be arsed walking to the 7-11 to get some. And if so, is it possible that I could walk over in my Canadian girls kick ass pj bottoms?

My First Born

Or whatever else he wants. Brian made my Blogger go back to being in English!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

A Kindie Gun Show

I got to teach all about the spine, skull, bones, muscles, heart, lungs, brain, and stomach to my kindie science classes today.

We drew some interesting internal pictures of people, felt our hearts beating, ran our hands up our spines, breathed deeply, and put on a gun show, of the muscles variety. (I only learned what that term meant about a year ago, and now I see it everywhere!) Yay for arm wrestling!

A Good Feminist Laugh

From Hoyden About Town