Friday, June 29, 2007

China? Ferry? Huh?

Has anyone taken a ferry to Beijing from Korea and wants to give me details?

Need Coffee

So, after a grand total of two hours sleep, I woke up to go downtown and drop off my passport at the Korean Embassy. Emily managed to get sticky hands on my shirt, so I have wandered around with an odd looking stain on my boob all day.

I started off productive and caffinated. By 12:30 I had dealt with the embassy, gone to the Toronto Reference Library to send off a quick and important email and gone off to meet Vanessa for lunch. My ankle was sore, so it was a long walk over.

It all went downhill after that. I need some sort of compact, lightweight jewellery organizer thingy. I went off in search of one, but at this point my brain stopped all functioning and instead I bought two new necklaces and three pairs of earrings. Very counter-productive.

Then I went to see Kari and the girls, we went out to dinner, planned a trip tomorrow to the CN Tower, and stopped by to chat with Shannon. By which time, in spite of intense exhaustion, I had gotten my second wind, which is why I am now surfing the net rather than sleeping. I am an idiot. A Canadian one. (Weird Al reference, folks.)

I have a funny pride week story to tell. Later though!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

On the Road Again...

Why we travel
It whirls you around, turns you upside down and stands everything you took for granted on its head.

- - - - - - - - - - - -
By Pico Iyer

March 18, 2000 | We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again -- to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more. The beauty of this whole process was best described, perhaps, before people even took to frequent flying, by George Santayana in his lapidary essay, "The Philosophy of Travel." We "need sometimes," the Harvard philosopher wrote, "to escape into open solitudes, into aimlessness, into the moral holiday of running some pure hazard, in order to sharpen the edge of life, to taste hardship, and to be compelled to work desperately for a moment at no matter what."

I like that stress on work, since never more than on the road are we shown how proportional our blessings are to the difficulty that precedes them; and I like the stress on a holiday that's "moral" since we fall into our ethical habits as easily as into our beds at night. Few of us ever forget the connection between "travel" and "travail," and I know that I travel in large part in search of hardship -- both my own, which I want to feel, and others', which I need to see. Travel in that sense guides us toward a better balance of wisdom and compassion -- of seeing the world clearly, and yet feeling it truly. For seeing without feeling can obviously be uncaring; while feeling without seeing can be blind.

Yet for me the first great joy of traveling is simply the luxury of leaving all my beliefs and certainties at home, and seeing everything I thought I knew in a different light, and from a crooked angle. In that regard, even a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet (in Beijing) or a scratchy revival showing of "Wild Orchids" (on the Champs-Elysees) can be both novelty and revelation: In China, after all, people will pay a whole week's wages to eat with Colonel Sanders, and in Paris, Mickey Rourke is regarded as the greatest actor since Jerry Lewis.

If a Mongolian restaurant seems exotic to us in Evanston, Ill., it only follows that a McDonald's would seem equally exotic in Ulan Bator -- or, at least, equally far from everything expected. Though it's fashionable nowadays to draw a distinction between the "tourist" and the "traveler," perhaps the real distinction lies between those who leave their assumptions at home, and those who don't: Among those who don't, a tourist is just someone who complains, "Nothing here is the way it is at home," while a traveler is one who grumbles, "Everything here is the same as it is in Cairo -- or Cuzco or Kathmandu." It's all very much the same.

But for the rest of us, the sovereign freedom of traveling comes from the fact that it whirls you around and turns you upside down, and stands everything you took for granted on its head. If a diploma can famously be a passport (to a journey through hard realism), a passport can be a diploma (for a crash course in cultural relativism). And the first lesson we learn on the road, whether we like it or not, is how provisional and provincial are the things we imagine to be universal. When you go to North Korea, for example, you really do feel as if you've landed on a different planet -- and the North Koreans doubtless feel that they're being visited by an extra-terrestrial, too (or else they simply assume that you, as they do, receive orders every morning from the Central Committee on what clothes to wear and what route to use when walking to work, and you, as they do, have loudspeakers in your bedroom broadcasting propaganda every morning at dawn, and you, as they do, have your radios fixed so as to receive only a single channel).

We travel, then, in part just to shake up our complacencies by seeing all the moral and political urgencies, the life-and-death dilemmas, that we seldom have to face at home. And we travel to fill in the gaps left by tomorrow's headlines: When you drive down the streets of Port-au-Prince, for example, where there is almost no paving and women relieve themselves next to mountains of trash, your notions of the Internet and a "one world order" grow usefully revised. Travel is the best way we have of rescuing the humanity of places, and saving them from abstraction and ideology.

I did NOT look like that in grade 8...

So, I'm on Facebook. I find it addicting in my present unemployed state. Today, on that lovely little newsfeed that is what makes Facebook akin to crack, I see pics posted by a cousin of mine. (Not an immediate one, but it's too much work at this time of the night for my brain to work out the exact relation. If you are around my age or younger, you are a cousin.)

They were pictures of her Grade 8 Graduation. At first I thought perhaps she had a younger sister who just graduated, but no. It's her. Based on her very adult looking profile picture I really had assumed she was either about to graduate high school or perhaps in university. To look at the rest of her pictures, which I hadn't, she looks far more her own age. But, my god.

I really did not look like that when I was in grade 8. As Candace noted, when did all the kids these days get all fashion-conscious and gorgeous? Where are all the bad perms, zits, and embarrassing flourescent outfits?

Zombie Spider

I killed a spider. I think it's the same damn one that ran over my toes last night. It was very mashed and mangled. BUT NOW IT ISN'T THERE! There is no need for the kleenex I just fetched because the dead spider has up and gone. Do you think maybe the cat ate it? It is a very odd cat, who makes weird noises and has a tail that lies flat along its back and sleeps under covers. My father is convinced it is crossed with something entirely uncat-like. I really, really hope the cat ate it because the only alternative I see is that a very mangled, very angry spider is now sharing this bedroom with me and it is likely very pissed off.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Also, I am sharing my room here in Bolton with far too many spiders. I've seen about 10 and last night one ran over my foot. I'm getting shivers up my spine thinking about it. And there is a mosquito in here that I just can't catch. I am covered in bites, though not as bad as after seeing the Big Buddha in Hong Kong, when I was totally rocking the chicken pox look.

Korea - What to Say?

So, in a couple of hours I will be off to advise some girl, who is somehow connected to my new Aunt, and reassure her mother about teaching English in Korea.

What in god's name am I going to say?

I mean, I love Korea, as evidenced by the fact that I'm off for my third contract. I have totally fallen in love with Seoul. There are so many reasons not to love Seoul, but I do anyway. The expat scene is a ton of fun and you meet some amazingly cool people. Dating is hysterically funny and random. There are cool touristy things to do and take fantastic photos of. There is the Konglish to admire and mock. There is the opportunity to get a little bit inside a very different culture and make some amazing Korean friends. Asia is incredible for travelling. And frankly, if you want to get drunk it will cost you a whole lot less than Toronto, especially on Thursdays!

Next, we have teaching. I happen to really like it. I think Candace's advice to avoid kindergarten is still good - in a first time contract, I'd be wary. If you turn out not to like teaching, then kindie kids might just put you over the edge. They are a lot of work and you will be tired. Also, teaching kindie often involves longer hours. I think it's wise to avoid that in a first time contract, but I also say this as someone who hasn't ever taken a contract that had kindie in it. So I'm mostly basing this on what I've heard and observed. Also, teaching is not a cakewalk, even if you are doing it in Korea. But it's not hard either. But then, I am sure this all depends on your personality and aptitudes. So, again, who knows. I seem to have advised one person rather badly on this particular set of points, as she certainly isn't liking it.

Then, there is the picking of a school. What to say about that? Basically, you look for warning signs and cross your fingers. There isn't much more to say. I didn't mind Poly, in fact I think they might be a very good first-time school. Again, my friend apparently disagrees quite strongly. But I would also only advise the evening shift. My second school I wouldn't recommend in a million years. All I've got to say is that they paid on time and fairly. The only part of the contract they really broke was the sick days. But then, you only get three. But you will need far more because the Korean cough is legendary and most people seem to get cold after cold after cold. I am a trend-breaker in that I prefer to get bronchitis. Gives me way more streetcred. The general rule is to avoid recruiters - but the market has changed remarkably since I first started job-hunting myself, and I'm trying out the recruiter thing this time. We'll see how that goes. They say to watch out for illegal stuff - like not paying pension, etc. Well, again, that might be a bad sign, it might not. It's very hard to tell. My policy with Poly was that they told me up front how they intended to fuck me over and indeed, everything else was fine. With Heritage, it was merely that my boss was a jerk. You are advised (and really should) email teachers at the school you are looking at. Problem is that there is only so much they can say because they know it might get back to the school and they have to work there. I personally think that the best sign ever is that a teacher has gone back for more than one contract.

Then, housing. It's small. Often it's just one room and a bathroom. You are very unlikely to have an oven - almost no one in Korea does. Microwaves, couches, dryers are also unlikely. Go dumpster diving for more furniture or hope the last teacher did. My first apartment had cockroaches and my experience with that is basically that you'd be surprised how quickly that sort of thing stops bothering you. And I'm generally quite squeamish about bugs. My second apartment had been on fire a week before I arrived - a lot of extra cleaning for me and damn was it bare. I had to do a lot of fighting with my boss trying to get the "furnished" part of my contract enforced. Not a great way to start off with one's boss, definitely. I never did get curtains, but since I happen to love sunlight and can sleep right on through it, that wasn't a problem.

So what do I tell this girl? Humourous travelling stories? All about the time I almost got killed shopping at Costco? Where the best bars are? All about teaching? Who knows?

Basically, I think both teaching and Korea are not for everyone. I was very lucky to skip culture shock - I had already lived overseas, I was fairly immune to most homesickness. And I have the ability to ignore the parts of Korean culture I don't like - my Zen bubble theory (except when it came to Mr. Joo. That man pissed me off just by existing.) I love living in big cities (and that is another wise piece of advice I was given - work in Seoul for your first contract. If you end up culture shocked, hating Korean food, unable to pick up the language, etc. you will want to be in the only city that has a lot of western luxuries.) If you tend to be the type of person who can roll with the punches, you will be fine. If you like to always understand the reasons for everything, you might not. And you want to try and avoid apply North American ideas of politeness to Korean culture. Yep, people will bud in front of you and shove you on the subway. It isn't really rude - everybody does it! But people will also do some extraordinarily nice things for you too, far above and beyond what people in North America would. Go with the flow and everything is good. And learn to use your elbows to take up more space and make it harder for people to push in front of you ;)

I read in some book somewhere that everything you do in a foreign country is more exhausting because you are always having to negotiate the culture and it simply is more work. You have to constantly make an effort to read body language because it isn't all the same as the body language in the culture you grew up in. You do a lot of guessing if you can't read/understand the langauge every time you leave the house. Friendships are more work as you have to do even more work at understanding the different cultural contexts you come from and act in. I think this is all very true, though I find my time in Korea more relaxing. I don't feel the same pressure to keep up with things - to read the newspaper and know all about current events, to have seen the latest film everyone is talking about, and so on. I also find that in general, I am quite chill. If plans don't work out, or I get lost looking for something, I find that whatever else happens instead is usually just as fun.

PS - for the moment, the plan to go private has been put on hold due to my extreme laziness. Since I am blogging so little, no reason to do that privately!

Monday, June 25, 2007

iTunes, inSight

So basically, you open your iTunes and the you use the first ten songs to answer these questions. No skipping!

How does the world see you? Do It To Me, Usher (hmmm....)

Will I have a happy life? Your Blue Room, U2 (this sounds sad, but since I love blue and am happiest when I have my own happy space to retreat to, I think this would be more optimistic.)

What do my friends really think of me? Happiness is a Warm Gun, U2 (uh huh...)

Do people secretly lust after me? Take Your Hand, Usher

How can I make myself happy? Cum on Feel the Noise, Bran Van 3000 (heh)

What should I do with my life? Show No Mercy, The Philosopher Kings

Will I ever have children? Paper Houses, Mull Historical Society (tell me that's a no, please!)

What is some good advice for me? Looking for You in Me, Hayden (cryptic)

How will I be remembered? Losing California, Sloan

What is my signature dancing song? Happy Now?, No Doubt

What do I think my current theme song is? Beautiful Day, U2

What does everyone else think my current theme song is? Dirt Off Your Shoulder, DJ Dangermouse

What song will play at my funeral? Songburst and Delirium, I Mother Earth

What type of men/women do you like? A Taste of Honey, The Beatles (Yum!)

What is my day going to be like? Brighter than Sunshine, Aqualung

I used the party mix function to do this. How come it picked out so much U2?

Friday, June 22, 2007

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


I've been doing a lot of thinking on any number of subjects lately. Many of them I have wanted to blog about but haven't, as I'm sure many people have noticed. I have been a lazy and impersonal blogger lately.

So... I've decided to take the blog private. I may revive my older blog as a public one later, perhaps. But, basically, I have come to the conclusion that the blog will serve me best if it is no longer public. It isn't a decision that I make lightly, as there are a lot of things about a public blog that I really, really like. I had been hoping that blogger might have started a function where I could have both public and private entries, but since that has failed to materialize, I have decided it is time.

That said, I have a fair number of readers per week who I don't have a clue who are and I am quite happy to extend the invitation to read the blog to you, you will just have to email me at so that I can send the invite to you once I go private, which I will likely do in about a week. I certainly hope that many of you will continue to read as my intention is to start a more intense dialogue by going private. Sure, that dialogue is largely going to be with myself, but not exclusively so, I hope. The presence of an audience I do find helpful.


Russell Peters is so fucking funny. So funny it's sexy as hell. I saw his Homecoming Tour at the Air Canada Centre tonight and man, there were a lot of people there. Very cool.

He didn't do this joke, but it has always been my fav:

Monday, June 18, 2007


The Lego Suicides

How to Survive a Zombie Epidemic

Funny Words

Once again, The Washington Post has published the winning submissions to its yearly neologism contest, in which readers are asked to supply alternate meanings for common words. The winners are:

1. Coffee (n.), the person upon whom one coughs.
2. Flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained.
3 . Abdicate (v.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.
4. Esplanade (v.), to attempt an explanation while drunk.
5. Willy-nilly (adj.), impotent.
6. Negligent (adj.), describes a condition in which you absentmindedly answer the door in your nightgown.
7. Lymph (v.), to walk with a lisp.
8. Gargoyle (n.), olive-flavored mouthwash.
9. Flatulence (n.) emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller.
10. Balderdash (n.), a rapidly receding hairline.
11. Testicle (n.), a humorous question on an exam.
12. Rectitude (n.), the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.
13. Pokemon (n), a Rastafarian proctologist.
14. Oyster (n.), a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.
15. Frisbeetarianism (n.), (back by popular demand): The belief that, when you die, your soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.
16. Circumvent (n.), an opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.

The Washington Post's Style Invitational also asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing just one letter, and supply a new definition. Here are this year's winners:

1. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.
2. Foreploy (v): Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.
3. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.
4. Giraffiti (n): Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.
5. Sarchasm (n): The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.
6. Inoculatte (v): To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.
7. Hipatitis (n): Terminal coolness.
8. Osteopornosis (n): A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)
9. Karmageddon (n): it's like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.
10. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.
11. Glibido (v): All talk and no action.
12. Dopeler effect (n): The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.
13. Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.
14. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.
15. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a grub in the fruit you're eating.

And the pick of the literature:
16. Ignoranus (n): A person who's both stupid and an a**hole

Friday, June 15, 2007


What the World Eats

My thoughts:
**If the Mexican family is drinking that much Coke and beer in one week, I'm moving to Mexico.
**I'd least like to visit the Polish family for dinner. And if you visit the family from Chad, you'd better bring the sheep. (This comment is meant to convey what an eye-opener this photo was, but using my regular lack of any seriousness on my blog.)
**Westerners drink an awful lot of juice and pop and booze.
**Only the Mongolians eat less fresh fruit and veg than the Americans and considering the geography of their country they at least have an excuse.
**The British and the Americans eat so much junk food.
Thanks to Bomboniera for the link.

We are living in exponential times...

3000 books are published daily?!? Fuuuuuuuck. How am I ever gonna keep up?

I quite like the background music. Anyone know what it is?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Sofiya may find this funny

Taylor Mali

On the Occassion of Reading Dave's ESL Cafe

There's an old saying that goes "You'll never defeat an ignorant person in an argument."

There's another one that goes "Don't feed the trolls."

Ah, the Korean Forums. I need to get out of Bolton. It isn't healthy to get bored enough to read them!

Friday, June 08, 2007


After being lectured for not having a guarantor in a city I had only arrived in a week ago, I heartily agree... Though, weird that they reduce the requirements in an age of supposedly increased security...

Ottawa is simplifying the passport application process in an effort to ease delays for the travel document, Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay announced Friday.

MacKay announced that it will no longer be necessary to have a guarantor or to provide proof of citizenship when renewing a passport.

For first-time applicants, the process will be simplified so that most citizens can act as guarantors.

Currently, only certain professionals, such as engineers and doctors, can do so.
Read the whole article here.


I wanna work here as well. Thanks to Lisa for the link.

But, I did just accept a job in Korea. 20 foreign teachers, nice central location, afternoon hours. I'm excited!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Well, I can't donate...

When I one day visit a friend in Iceland, I will be going to see the Phallus Museum. I have quite a thing for weird, small museums and this definitely qualifies.

And who knew this about iguanas? Makes me feel a bit odder for having shared a bed with one...

Thanks to Jenny for the links!

Another big surprise...

You fit in with:

Your ideals mostly resemble those of an Atheist. You have very little faith and you are very focused on intellectual endeavors. You value objective proof over intuition or subjective thoughts. You enjoy talking about ideas and tend to have a lot of in depth conversations with people.

40% scientific.
80% reason-oriented.

Take this quiz at