Saturday, May 30, 2009

Hashing at School

Well, not really. But odd songs (incredibly inappropriate songs) are always running through my head. And then there are all the little phrases you pick up, some of which might actually make for a decent routine in class.

Five minutes! When circle is about to start, the GM or RA will yell out how soon it's starting and the pack yells back. This would be damn handy for some of my classes who act like the beginning of class comes as some sort of daily surprise.

Reviewing (not voting). When names are being given, there are often a lot. The GM will yell whether names are being reviewed or voted on and the pack yells what's not being done. Sitting (not standing) is something my K3 class now has down pat.

Sunday! Sunday! Sunday! All my Southside emails start with that whenever we're emailed the start point. I have now started to say it every day in kindergarten class, as my kids are not exactly on the ball with the days of the week, the months, or numbers over ten.

Friday, May 29, 2009


It's occurred to me recently that I haven't had a dryer in my own house since I lived with my parents. In university I went to a laundromat, in Scotland we had a drying rack and the radiators (crispy jeans and towels, nasty) and here I use a drying rack and my floor heating in a pinch.

I miss towels fresh out of the dryer.

Nancy Jurs, Artist Statement: My Life Has Gotten So Busy That It Now Takes Up All of My Time


When I was in highschool, I used to stay up incredibly late (usually reading) and then sometimes end up napping after school. I blamed it on being a nightowl; my father claimed I had just developed bad sleeping patterns.

Now that I'm not an arsey teen, I can say that I think he was partly right, though I am most certainly a night owl. It's days like yesterday that prove it completely - I was so tired all day long. I even took a nap at my desk. Then it came time to go home and I was starting to perk up. I ended up having a beer over at Thankx's place, doing my laundry and reading until 3! Which isn't to say that I'm not tired today because of that - I am. However, I wasn't tired last night.

Such a pain in the ass. I've been trying to alter my schedule to go to bed between midnight and one and it's so hard. However, otherwise going to the gym is horrible the next morning. I've been irritable as hell in the process. I wonder how long it'll take to convince my body that bedtime isn't around 4 a.m.?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sometimes I Really Hate Winning

Like today! We won trivia two days in a row, which is good and all, except that I am hungover and tired. Mr. Yoh gave me some Children's Tylenol, which doesn't seem to be working. But then, I'm not 11-14, so perhaps that's it.

I need a nap and I just woke up.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Bundang Pubway Crawl

Four 7-11s
Three Family Marts
Four Ministops
One Goodmorning Mart
One drink in a pot-infused bar called Woodstock
Two GS 25s
One IGA Mart
Three Buy the Ways and...
One pre-purchased drink drunk in front of a dark subway station at 3 a.m.
Saturday was the Bundang line Pubway Crawl. 20 stations, one alcoholic drink per station. About forty foreigners in yellow t-shirts, fifteen hours.

It was epic. In fact, I'm pretty sure that I could read the Iliad and the Odyssey in the same amount of time (how I got through a degree in Classics without having fully read either is something that confuses even me.) Sharlene and I were the first people to arrive at Seolleung, at which point we realised that perhaps the instructions to follow the chalk weren't going to work very well. After all, you can't follow the chalk IN the station, you need an exit number first. We didn't have one. After very briefly contemplating trying each of the ten exits before I texted a friend. Turns out we bumped into a man in a poncho who knew the way. Ponchos are handy.

Once we arrived, the first beverage was bought at exactly 12:10. I know because it was written on my t-shirt. As there were no small sizes, there was quite a lot of t-shirt re-making, so we were an interesting looking group. To say that we stuck out on the subway is to put it mildly. There was a game at the beginning there was a game. On the back of each t-shirt was a location for a rule that other people had to pick for you. If you did whatever it was you weren't supposed to do, you had to buy a beer for whoever caught you doing it at the next stop.

The t-shirts also had a "That's what she said..." area. Mine says, "would you like me to use my right hand?" After beer, soju (mixed with Poweraid and Mochamilk), some sort of alcoholic smoothie, a couple of vodka drinks, $4 "champagne" and a vodka chocolate thing that was delicious, we finished up at 3:10 and took a taxi back to Seoul.

I didn't do anything notable with my Sunday. Lazed around in bed, read, ate an omelet. Sunday was a day of rest.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Ms. Chae: Sally's mom says that the reading homework causes her too much stress. Can you not give her any more homework?

Me: I can do that. However, the homework was review for the test and Sally is the lowest student in the class. Is Sally's mom ok with her failing the tests from here on in?

Ms. Chae: ...

Seriously? What goes through that woman's head?

Where Would One Make Kimchi?

Apparently in front of the police station that is in the same building as my evil, up-a-steep-hill gym. Perhaps I should start taking my camera with me. I also noticed today that many of the machines are Stubborn brand. My middle name is Stubborn; maybe this is a match made in heaven...

After walking up the steep hill, working out for an hour, walking down the hill will groceries and then up the little hill to my house, taking the subway to work (lots of stairs because of the freaking transfer), I arrived at work to find that the elevator was out of control. Can't say I was enthusiastic about those four flights...

Then I got slightly enraged with one of the office staff - she hasn't got a fucking clue and it is frustrating to always have to deal with that. However, then a student didn't show up and I have a much needed hour to chill.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Oink! Oink!

All the serious Korea blogs are talking about how a teacher here has been confirmed as a swine flu case. So I guess I should mention it too.

A blog from inside the quarrantine.

Also, ex-President Roh committed suicide on Saturday and North Korea may have tested weapons (or perhaps it was an earthquake...)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Girly Flicks

I sort of went to a book exhange thingy - it's in the Wolfhound monthly and since we're there after the hash, I picked up a couple of interesting books, including a Hornby - yay! But what I mostly got was some chick flicks and I've been watching them this past week.

I was curious to see how the hell you can make a movie out of that annoying book "He's Just Not That Into You". Turns out, not well. Of the four I've watched this week, this one was the most boring. Bride Wars, Jsut My Luck, and the Accidental Husband were amusing enough, though I have nothing else to say about them.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Should Go to Bed

But I had to share the best stick person oral sex I've yet to see.

The Truth About Stories

"In a fractured age, when cynicism is god, here is a possible heresy: we live by stories, we also live in them. One way or another we are living the stories planted in us early or along the way, or we are also living the stories we planted - knowingly or unknowingly - in ourselves. We live stories that either give our lives meaning or negate it with meaningless. if we change the stories we live by, quite possibly we change our lives. Ben Okri"
Before I tell you about reading Thomas King's book, I have a story of my own to tell.

Once upon a time (within the last five years) two of my friends were fighting. We had had a triangular friendship since university - sometimes all three of us were friends, sometimes they weren't so friendly but I still was (in an expat, far away kind of way.) During one of their friendlier periods, my two friends got together and had an argument about Thomas King. They both sent me emails about the fight and I responded.

The thing is that the entire time, I hadn't a clue who Thomas King was. It wasn't necessary to know to understand the dynamics of the argument and so I didn't worry about it. Since one was a law student and the other on her way to becoming a banking bigwig, I assumed it might be about some sort of finance law, so frankly I didn't want to delve any deeper.

Fast forward a couple of years and the banker and I were talking about the argument. As she talked, I finally admitted to not knowing what the fight was actually about. Turns out, as she told me, that Thomas King is a famous Native writer. I don't think she had really gotten what being my kind of expat might mean - namely, that I am out of the loop. I suppose if I worked hard enough, I could keep up with the news and the latest books and movies, but there isn't really a way to work around the fact that I just don't have my finger on the pulse of North America these days. That's just fine with me, but it does make for some interesting social issues on trips home.

The point of all this is that after said discussion, I went out and bought a book by Thomas King. I ended up with a CBC Massey Lectures non-fiction book called The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative because on that trip home I was especially obsessed with trawling the social studies section of Indigo.

Each of King's chapters can be read alone, though if you do that it may take you as long as it took me to figure out that he begins each with the story of the world being created on the back of a turtle and ends with variations of: "Take Charm's story, for instance. It's yours. Do with it what you will. Tell it to friends. Turn it into a television movie. Forget it. But don't say in years to come that you would have lived your life differently if only you had heard this story. You've heard it now."

I found his take on the difference between Biblical creation stories and Native creation stories very interesting (especially as I'm teaching a unit on African American folktales and their meaning right now - dialect for ESL students, gah!):
In the Native story, the conversational voice tends to highlight the exuberance of the story but diminishes its authority while the sober voice in the Christian story makes for a formal recitation but creates a sense of veracity... Of course, none of you would make the mistake of confusing storytelling strategies with the value or sophistication of a story... nonetheless, the talking animals are a problem."

A theologian might argue that these two creation stories are essentially the same. Each tells about the creation of the world and the appearance of human beings. But a storyteller would tell you that these two stories are quite different, for whether you read the Bible as sacred text or secular metaphor, the elements in Genesis create a particular universe governed by a series of hierarchies - God, man, animals, plants - that celebrate law, order, and good government, while in our Native story, the universe is governed by a series of co-operations - Charm, the Twins, animals, humans - that celebrate equality and balance."

The book also introduced me to a new photographer, Richard Throssel, and since I love photography more than the other visual arts, that was quite cool. I was looking for a particular photo he had mentioned in his book, but since I couldn't find it, I settle for some others, including one of small cute children. Couldn't resist. King also discussed Robert Alexie and Harry Robinson, Ruby Slipperjack and Eden Robinson, "These four are creating their fictions, I believe, primarily for a Native audience, making a conscious decision not so much to ignore non-Native readers as to write for the very people they write about." I'm curious. Porcupines and China Dolls has gone on my Amazon wishlist.
"Of course, written stories can be performed orally; although, apart from authors on reading tours to promote their books and parents reading to children, this seldom happens... But the act of reading is a private act. And no matter how many people may have read a book or an article or a poem or a short story, each person reads that story themselves, by themselves, whereas oral stories generally have an audience in which there is a group dynamic."
Mr. King obviously hasn't taught any Korean ESL classes. I spend a fair amount of time reading aloud to my students (Particularly anything with dialect and there's been a lot of that lately. My fake Southern accent is perhaps improving...) and they spend a lot of time reading stories aloud to me. It's quite nice. Plus there's all that reading to small children that I certainly hope parents are doing.

I really liked what he had to say about how the stories we tell ourselves drive our ethical beliefs. I think Obama's election was a perfect example of how that dynamic can work.
The oil industry and our oil-based economy, not just in Canada but in the world, depend on two things for their continued existence. The ability of geologists to find new fields of oil and our willingness to ignore the obvious, that, at some point, we're going to run out of oil... It's not that we don't care about ethics or ethical behaviour. It's not that we don't care about the environment, about society, about morality. It's just that we care more about our comfort and the things that make us comfortable - property, prestige, power, appearance, safety... Perhaps we shouldn't be displeased with the 'environmental ethics' we have or the 'business ethics' or the 'political ethics' or any of the myriad of other codes of conduct suggested by our actions. After all, we've created them. We've created the stories that allow them to exist and flourish. They didn't come out of nowhere. They didn't arrive from another planet. Want a different ethic? Tell a different story.

Perhaps we do have the kind of ethics we imagine we have. Maybe they're just not steady. Not dependable. Ethics of the moment. Potential ethics. Ethics we can draw on when we feel the need to do so. Ethics that can be wrapped in newspaper and stored in the freezer. Season ethics. Annuals rather than perennials.

I'd Take the Subway A Lot More...

...if only people did more of that.

My attempts to not take cabs (which when you add it up for the week is rather a ridiculous amount of money that I could instead be spending frivolously on books - there's a newish Kathy Reichs, so you know where I'm going once I'm paid - freaking book crack, her books are) have coincided with my attempts to go to a gym up a freaking hill - so I'm walking a lot lately, though I'm not very cheerful about it. It would help if I could convince myself to go to bed early every night, but it's like my brain flips the on switch if I'm not already asleep by 11...

Cool Chris

Love it!

Look What The Kids Are Doing These Days

I just joined Blip. I have no idea what I'm doing, but it looks like it could be fun. Hard to do without Internet, of course, which I won't be getting at home until I move to where ever I'm going to be moving to (not out of Haebangchon, I'll tell you that much). It makes me very grumbly to think about that, actually.

Anyway, that made me search for the Don't Divorce Us video to mention when I blipped (two p's?) Fidelty and I almost wept in a PC bang.

If you blip, c'mon over and friend me.

Edited to add that I have a prop already! And that I just discovered that if you click on the pencil you can edit the blog entry without searching through a long list on the edit posts page. Did everyone know this but me?

Happy birthday, Mary Cassat!

Well That Left a Dirty Taste in My Mouth

Jodi Picoult novels are a bit of a guilty pleasure. The first one I read, "My Sister's Keeper" touched me. After that I've read several that I found entertaining enough, but nothing special, like Vanishing Acts. Plain Truth and the Pact felt like reading almost the same book. And then I read "The Tenth Circle." The story of Trixie and her boyfriend and the rape she accuses him of upset me. First of all, Trixie lies to the police, several times. She herself brought the date rape drug to the party - though she doesn't know how she ended up consuming it - and then lets the police believe her ex-boyfriend drugged her. There is no suggestion that her ex-boyfriend had any idea that the drugs were even at the party, much less gave them to her. She didn't say no (because by then the drug made her incapable.) A tie was made in the novel to the Yup'ik natives in Alaska, amongst whom her father was raised, and how to them, wishes unspoken were still real. However, the ex-boyfriend kills himself or is killed by one of the family members when his whole life disappears in front of him - he loses his scholarship to play hockey and finds out he will be tried as an adult. With the tendency in society for people to disbelieve accusations of rape, I found the plotline of this novel a disturbing one.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Fun in the Sun

I haven't been writing much about my weekends lately. Couldn't tell you why, though.

A couple of weekends ago, I went on the Wine Train, which did indeed get a post of its own. However, I didn't mention the entire experience. You see, while I went down to stay near Suwon on Friday night, our friend Padraic had a leaving party to attend that night. Post-party, however, he headed into Seoul, so he'd be a bit closer to Suwon the next morning. Unfortunately, he'd had a bit to drink at the leaving party and had to ask his boyfriend to pick him up at the station. Not just upstairs at an exit at the station - no, right from the platform. His clothes got dirty and so his boyfriend washed them - along with his phone. This caused problems, as naturally we were set to meet at a Dunkin' Donuts in Suwon Station and it turned out that there were two but there was no way to find out Padraic's ETA or which Dunkin' Donuts he might end up at. He made it with minutes to spare and off we went to spend the day drinking wine and the evening out in Itaewon - the usually Dolce Vita, Stompers and Soho.

Ray, Carol, and Melissa crashed at my place so that we could get up the next day for Buddha's Birthday Parade, aka Lotus Festival. We met Brian and and Sharlene to try out the newest place in Haebangchon - HBC. It was absolutely the worst brunch I've had in Korea- and that's saying something that is pretty impressive, actually, as I've had some odd breakfasts here in the land where breakfast is normally kimchi and rice. After food that bad the only thing we could do was hop in a cab, head to Insadong and go and have lunch at a restaurant I've been going to since the first year I arrived in Korea where the food has always been fabulous.

After that we headed over to Jogyesa Temple. After a quick peek around (and a lot of photos) we ended up watching, and then participating in, some traditional Korean drumming and dancing. Next up was an incredibly bad talent show and some ping pong playing, followed by the main event: the parade. I've been every year I've been in Korea and it's still pretty cool. Lanterns, flaming dragons, lots of lit floats. We ended up right behind a row of seats occupied by some halmonis (grandmothers) who took good care of us - snagged us some seats, got us all some lanterns towards the end of the parade, and, wait for it... beat up a Japanese spectator who was waving his flag too vigorously for one halmoni's liking. Okay, maybe she just hit him a couple of times with her umbrella, but still. To make the whole thing funnier, there were a row of police officers whose job it was to hold up a rope. Yep, no silly barriers for this parade, they had dudes who had to stand and hold up a rope. They didn't do a thing about the altercation. Hilarious, yes?

The next weekend was a hashing weekend - a bunch of us went down to Songtan and rented hotel rooms. The run itself wasn't much fun, seeing as it was raining and the short straw way of choosing hares didn't work too well. On top of a series of hard to follow hashes, the hares crossed their own trail, which is a big no-no. There was a huge On After, which was a great deal of fun, but the funniest part of all was the hotel rooms. Wacey, Sharlene and I started off sharing a double bed. That would have been cosy but fine, but then Kevin showed up. I guess Kevin had had a few drinks because he couldn't remember which hotel room he was in. Apparently he wandered the third floor looking for an open door. He walked in, asked if Countess was there and when he was told no, asked if the people in the hotel room were hashers. When he got a yes, he threw himself into the bed and started cuddling. We had to push the bed against the wall to ensure none of us fell out. I skipped out on Southside the next day but joined everyone for the On After at Wolfhound. Naturally, we stayed for the quiz, though it was fairly killer.

Almost part of that weekend was the fantastic Cinco de Mayo - granted, the party thrown by Tomatillo's wasn't great. They ran out of both food and booze. I grew older in the lineup for the margaritas and then I blew May's entire budget during some intoxicated book buying. Oops. That Friday I went to the circle for the Full Moon hash, though I didn't get off work in time to run it. However, can't complain about a night at Scrooges.

Saturday I headed down south once more to meet Melissa, Carol and Ray. We saw the new Star Trek, which was pretty damn awesome, and then had galbi and beer. By the end of it we were all ina pretty good mood and so we headed up to Seoul. We ended up smoking a hookah at Alexandria's and then going back to Sharlene's for rum and Cherry Coke (that was my first experience with Cherry Coke and I can't say I was that impressed). Then we decided to try an MRE (Meal Ready to Eat) that someone in the military must have given to Countess and then she left it behind when she moved out. I tell you, "experiencing" the MRE was one of the best evenings I've had lately. First off, they are pretty damn delicious, which was unexpected. It was vegetarian, with some Potato Sticks, cake, some ice tea mix, and the tiniest little bottle of Tabasco sauce. The best bit was using the just-add-water heater thingy. On the back it instructs you to lean your meal in the heater thingy up against "a rock or something". We spent quite a lot of time joking about what you could use as the "or something." Considering how hot the package got, your boobs would not be an adequate "or something."

I hashed Southside the next day and it was an awesome trail - though I was soooo waiting for that downhill after we practically walked up an entire mountain, only to have it turn out to be all stairs. My knees are not fond of stairs. I scooped a bunch of cheesy movies and a couple of books at the Wolfhound book swap afterwards and then we got our asses handed to us at trivia - the only section we did at all well on was the gay history section, though we failed to come up with a famous gay cellist. In fact, other than Yo Yo Ma, we failed to come up with the name of any cellist. Ach, well. You can't win them all (and lately, we can't win most!)

This past weekend, I spent Sunday running many an errand. I bought new jeans (and a new jean skirt, which I didn't need and was no good for my already fucked up budget) and grabbed some groceries from the international food place and then got my hair cut. They spent ages telling me how nice and straight my hair was and then they spent another age straightening my hair! That started off the running late trend that lasted the rest of the evening. I did manage to clean, shower and be the first person to meet Alex for his birthday dinner (only because everyone else was later). We ate at Villa Sortino's - the Italian food there is incredibly good. After that Adrian and I joined some of his coworkers in Sinchon, as I needed to be there for Crystal's birthday at Beer O'Clock. It took us ages (due to a couple of rounds) to find our way to Crystal's birthday celebration, but we made it eventually. Crystal was hilariously trashed and very amusing until she took off rather early and we ended up at Mike's Cabin. I've heard of the Cabin for years but that was my first time there and I have to say I quite liked it. There was some makoli in the streets with some teachers from Taiwan and then some norae bang and basically I didn't get home until about 7 a.m.

As such, I spent the majority of Sunday sleeping. Even though it was obviously I was going to want to sleep through the hash, I figured I didn't need to set the alarm to get up in time for Shawn's surprise party. And I didn't, sort of. However, I woke up only an hour before I had to be there and of course, there can be no being late for a surprise party. Unfortunately, I had intended to do some more grocery shopping before having to cook for the Mexican potluck theme. Since there was no time to shop (or even shower), I ended up making a little dish I like to call "the Mexican Contents of my Fridge." Turns out that just about anything tastes Mexican if you cook it in taco spices. I made sort of quesidillas with onion, tomato, peppers, and cheese filling. It's good that Shawn's a vegetarian because there would have been no time to defrost any meat.

The party was fun. The only non-hasher present was my coworker, Sara. She spent a lot of time looking perplexed, as all the hashers kept introducing themselves using their hashing name. You'd look confused too if people kept claiming to be called Skywalker, Irish Spring, Desperately Seeking Dick, Marco Pornho or Flip Me Over. Shawn being late, as always, we started in on the snacks and margaritas. That was cool, though it meant we ran out of margarita mix fairly quickly. It turns out that Kool Aid and tequila is almost as good. After cake, ice cream and jello, four of us split because we wanted to make it to the quiz at Wolfhound - we made it only because we called the quiz master from the cab and begged him to wait five minutes for us. Since I had brought a plate for the potluck, to add to the hilarity of us dashing through Itaewon, I did it brandishing the plate in front of me as some sort of shield. We didn't win, but I was pleased to find that I actually knew a fair amount in the genetics round - even a few things that our residence science gal didn't. It was a tiring weekend, in spite of the fact that I slept through Sunday, though a great one. In fact, lately I've been on a roll with great weekends.

So I have big hopes for this weekend's Bundang Pubway (aka a subway pub crawl.) After all, I don't think I've even gotten off at more than two of those stations and this Saturday I'm going to visit the entire line! Thankfully it's a short line though, as most Seoul Subway lines couldn't be done in a day.

Missing Link


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I Know It's Illogical, But...

I hate that I have to spend 15 minutes walking up a steep hill to get to the gym. Hate it.

Also, my electricity bills are going to go up, both due to more loads of laundry and because I keep falling asleep with the lights on around midnight.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Ahhh, New England

I've been teaching all about New England 9 times a week lately, so here is a post inspired by the area...

Winslow Homer, Artists Sketching in the White Mountains

I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind. Some come from ahead and some come from behind. But I've bought a big bat. I'm all ready you see. Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me! Dr.Seuss

Winslow Homer, High Cliffs

After Apple Picking
Robert Frost
My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still.
And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples; I am drowsing off.
I cannot shake the shimmer from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the water-trough,
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and reappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
And I keep hearing from the cellar-bin
That rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking; I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall,
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised, or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

Norman Rockwell. I used to have this up on my walls in university.

There are many Beths in the world, shy and quiet, sitting in corners till needed, and living for others so cheerfully that no one sees the sacrifices till the little cricket on the hearth stops chirping, and the sweet, sunshiny presence vanishes, leaving silence and shadow behind. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott

Norman Rockwell

How did it get so late so soon? Its night before its afternoon. December is here before its June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon? Dr. Seuss

Saturday, May 16, 2009

But I don't Wannaaaaa...

I really, really can't be bothered moving. I don't want to hunt for a new place that I can afford, I don't want to pack stuff up, I don't want to help carry my furniture up and down stairs. I was rather looking forward to living a second year in the same place for the first time since Scotland. I feel at home. I mean, it's not perfect, but it's home.

Also, Grey's Anatomy was so sad - I don't want to wait an entire summer to find out what happens.

Friday, May 15, 2009


Why does think that I want / need to read a book about root cellars?

I can guess at the Gandhi one, but I have to tell you, I read a book about Gandhi once and it freaked me the fuck out. He did some weird things. I do NOT want to read his autobiography.

Why I Like Intertextuality

I made an attempt to teach my 5th graders about the Plymouth Colony. However, when covering what it meant that people went to America to practice their own kind of religion, we got diverted into a discussion of Henry VIII and his tendancy to cut off heads. That lead to a question of how he kept it secret. When I explained that everyone had to see beheading and hanging, partly as a scare tactic and partly because it often passed as entertainment, one of my students came up with the best response ever.

So, Henry VIII was just like Jabba the Hutt?


Great News and Mildly Annoying News

A month off in September is no problem, woot! - but my landlord wants to move into my place, so I have to move! Meh!

I'm going home and TO AFRICA!!! Togo for sure, likely Ghana as well.

I'm going to be grinning from ear to ear all day - that was the best Teacher's Day news EVER!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

I Wasn't Going to Share But...

... not very many intresting things happen in my world, so I can't not use the things that do as blog fodder.

I found a three-pack of condoms in my mailbox today. Weird, yes? Indeed.

I have a few theories as to where they might have come from:

1. Henry (let's call him Henry, since that is his name and none of you can stalk him based on that.) He's a friend, we flirt, and he's funny in just the kind of way that might lead him to stick condoms in my mailbox. Also, his friend lives across the street from me, so he has plenty of opportunity.

2. Hashers. Many of them crash at my place and hence, know which apartment number I am. They also have the right kind of sense of humour for this.

3. Mr. Wednesday Night. Again, knows where I live, is someone I have flirted with. This is the person my mind first jumped to.

4. A random stranger left them for Craig, the dude who lived there before me and still gets a lot of mail and stuff delivered to my place.

I can't exactly go around asking though, as it's, you know, odd.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Obama Arms

I'd like some. And seriously, North America? If this is your news, perhaps I'm better off in my little bubble.

Monday, May 11, 2009

May's Update

Fail - Oops!
6. Maintain the book ban (no books without trade-in credit) with 5 slips. (8/5)
Well, this didn't work. I had hoped it would keep me in check, but lately I've been buying tons of books. It's compulsive and I'm not sure where it's coming from. I have, however, also been reading up a storm, so at least there is that.

In Progress
2. Read 101 books. (48/101)The Great Fortune, How to Read Literature Like a Professor, The Polysyllabic Spree, Fatal Voyage, Death Du Jour, The Truth About Stories
Six books since April 18th!
3. Read 50 children's books. (18/50) Joey Pigza Loses Control, Horrid Henry Gets Rich Quick
1. Finish this frickin' list. In 1001 days, write a new one. (1/2)
5. Spend 30 days reading out of the house for at least one hour. (10/30)
8. Read all the magazines in my place.
Lack of internet access has been helping with this one.
11. Finish up all draft blog posts.
But not at all with this one...
16. Send Christmas cards. (1/2)
22. Stop saying THAT word (the one Martha doesn't like.)
35. Take the good camera out once a month. (15/30)
46. Try 10 new foods. (3/10)
57. Eat at 25 new restaurants. (10/25)
68. Go to a sporting event, a play/opera/ballet, a museum, and an art gallery. (2/4)
76. Take the subway to or from work once a week. (15/38)
I hate this goal, but at least it's moving along a bit.
77. Walk into Itaewon to get coffee at least 15 times. (5/15)
80. Explore 12 new places in Seoul - one for each month. (2/12)
84. Finish all my multivitamins.
There are two left. Then it's on to a new bottle.
90. Go to bed by midnight thirty times. (2/30)
95. Make one day a month internet and TV free. (15/30)
Not always voluntary, but still.
98. Buy another external harddrive and have old harddrive fixed.
99. Find a charity I believe in and donate/join a protest for a cause I believe in.

15 done in total - that's not bad, I guess. I feel like I should start to refocus on the list though, as I'm not making a lot of progress.
7. Go to a book club meeting.
12. Complete a month of posts each year (NaBloPoMo or other month.) (4/3)
15. Complete Postcrossings.
23. Win at any of the quiz nights.
24. Participate in a scavenger hunt.
26. Learn to play a new game (Backgammon, Bridge, etc.)
27. Play 5 board games. (5/5)
45. Try making lasagna in a toaster oven.
53. Eat chicken wings in a bar for the first time.
64. Visit a country from the Axis of Evil.
78. Buy a round for the bar.
79. Let Shawn talk me into Hashing once.
83. Buy a frickin' toothbrush.
97. Buy a new iPod.
101. Wash Martha's dishes.

Rainy Days Are Here

It's rained non-stop all day. I hate having to go to work on rainy days to begin with, it doesn't help that I am trying to force myself to take the subway and be a fiscally responsible adult by doing so (though I'm doing so only because I blew my budget drunken book shopping.) I hate that the bottom of my pants are wet, I hate fighting umbrella-armed crowds, I hate rush hour subway.

I was going to write an exciting post all about Thomas King's The Truth About Stories, but instead I watched Grey's Antomy, Brothers & Sisters and Bones and now I am going to go read some Kathy Reichs because on rainy days all I want to do is nest myself in my bed and enjoy. Which would be easier if I didn't have to be in a PC Bang for internet access.

A coworker may give me a TV at the end of June, so I'm going to wait until then to think about getting internet. In general, not having it at home forces me to do more interesting things with my time, like read. And there are always DVDs for the days I need to veg.

Also, I'm thinking of planning a trip soon... I guess I'd like to have the Internet around for that.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

I Sort of Want My Own Polysyllabic Spree

How I buy books always strikes me as quite bizarre. More so lately, as I seem to go in when a bit buzzed - post-hashing or post-Cinco de Mayo. Since, for whatever reason, I haven't been in the mood to blog about books I've read, instead I'm going to blog about books I've bought.

Post-hashing I went in and spontaneously bought four used Kathy Reichs books. Fair enough, I've read one of her Brennan books and very much liked it, but I decided to spend that $20 in about ten seconds. I grabbed a couple of chick lit books for when I want pure escapism and two Olivia Manning books ($2 each, very old Penguins) since I liked the first part of the Balkan Trilogy so much. I grabbed a used copy of The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga (I've heard about it, though I'm not sure where) - which turns out to be the next book club pick, so that's handy. Amalee by Dar Williams I bought simply because I like her music (and yes, I too wonder if that means that she can write). Then I grabbed three books that are by authors I know and have liked: Stars of the New Curfew by Ben Okri (as a bonus, it was only $3), American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld, and The Sopranos by Alan Warner.

Post-Cinco de Mayo I ordered the rest of Kathy Reichs' books, having become quickly addicted, and picked up one book based on its cover and another on its spine. First the cover - personally, I think that judging a book by its cover is often fairly effective. After all, a fair amount of money is spent on choosing covers and sending particular messages. Though I suppose it wasn't the cover that caused me to buy it, so much as the fact that it's an old Penguin Modern Classics book. There's something about the 1950s Penguin look that I like - in fact, I've sort of pondered getting the penguin tattooed on me somewhere (I really want a tattoo, but I really want it to be the right tattoo, so it's taking me ages to decide.) Anyway, basically I now own a copy of Voss by Patrick White. I've never heard of this book, but according to the blurb on the back, it's about crossing the Australian continent for the first time - which dovetails nicely with all the explorers I'm learning about while teaching social studies. Then there was the book that I bought because of its spine. I recently read The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera and my copy is an Olive Edition with a very distinctive, striped red-and-white spine. I saw a blue version while I was browsing and I was curious. When it turned out to be a Michael Chabon novel with nothing on the back but a review from Playboy, I couldn't resist. After all, how odd is that? Hopefully The Mysteries of Pittsburgh will be worth the $14.

The one thing that both trips have resulted in is books that I read about in two other books I've read recently: How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster and The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby. Both of the books were great - Foster starts his off by stating that when lecturing his students "a moment occurs in this exchange between professor and student when each of us adopts a look. My look says, 'What, you don't get it?' Theirs says, 'We don't get it. And we think you are making it up.'" That is exactly what I though while sitting through endlessly boring English classes back in high school - though when left to my own devices, I could sometimes find symbolism or patterns. Possibly I was just being my normal resistant-to-authority self. In more recent years, I've often been struck by just how much novels resemble each other or play off of each other. Even random connections, like the fact that the same painting (The Raft of Medusa, Theodore Gericault) was mentioned in The Optimists by Andrew Miller and Fatal Voyage by Kathy Reichs, strike me as fairly fascinating. Hornby's book wasn't just a great book about reading; it was also hilarious. I think if I met him in the pub for a pint I'd very much like him. He reads a lot of stuff that I do, aside from all the football reading, granted. And I don't quite share his lack of love for literary novels. However, who else would write, "So tell your kids not to smoke, but it's only fair to warn them of the downside, too: that they will therefore never get the chance to offer the greatest living writer in America [Kurt Vonnegat] a light."

These two books have led to several more books. Nick Hornby read a biography of Richard Yates and that combined with my recent viewing of Revolutionary Road convinced me to buy The Easter Parade. Anne Tyler's Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant apparently was the book that inspired Hornby to write and I managed to find a $3 copy. Hornby described Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson as an "extraordinary, yearning mystical work about the dead and how they haunt the living" and combined with numerous recommendations, I could no longer resist. As a result of Foster's book, I've acquired a copy of Nabakov's Lolita, which I really ought to have read by now, and The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon, which I am slightly embarrassed to admit that I had never heard of before.

Favourite Hornby quotes:

"I'm never going to complain about receiving free early copies of books, because quite clearly there's nothing to complain about, but it does introduce a rogue element into one's otherwise carefully plotted reading schedule... Being a reader is sort of like being president, except reading involves few state dinners, usually. You have this agenda you want to get through, but you get distracted by life events, e.g., books arriving in the mail/World War III, and you are temporarily deflected from your chosen path."

Yes! This is why I stress out each time I have to make a decision about what to read next - because it's a big, presidential kind of decision.

"Shortly after the birth of a son, I panic that I will never be able to visit a bookstore again, and that therefore any opportunity I have to buy printed matter should be exploited immediately... I was in a newsagent's, and I saw a small selection of best-selling paperbacks. There wasn't an awful lot there that I wanted, to be honest; but because of the consumer fear, something had to be bought, right there and then, just in case... Never mind that, as regular readers of this column know, I have over the last several months bought several hundred books I haven't yet read. And never mind that, as it turned out, I found myself passing a bookshop the very next day, and the day after that... I didn't know for sure I'd ever go in a bookshop again; and if I never went to a bookshop again, how long were those several hundred books going to last me? Nine or ten years at the most. No, I needed that copy of Prayers for Rain, just to be on the safe side."
I buy books like I'm purchasing them for the coming apocalypse, where all hell will break loose and as such my access to books will be restricted by the total collapse of society. In airports, I buy as if I'm about to end up like Tom Hanks, stuck on an island by myself. Sufficient reading material on hand is key.

He quotes Gabriel Zaid, "the truly cultured are capable of owning thousands of unread books without losing their composure or their desire for more."

Someone needs to tell my ex that counting up my unread books, which occupied the bookshelves and every single window ledge in the house barr the kitchen (didn't want them smelling of garlic, though regardless they all have some slightly odd sun bleaching patterns as a result of our lack of shelf space in Scotland), would merely prove that I was very cultured, rather than somewhat obsessive and a poor at budgeting.

"But as I was finding a home for them in the Arts and Lit non-fiction section (I personally find that for domestic purposes, the Trivial Pursuit system works better than Dewey), I suddenly had a little epiphany: all the books we own, both read and unread, are the fullest expression of self we have at our disposal. My music is me, too, of course - but as I only really like rock and roll and its mutations, huge chunks of me - my rarely examined operatic streak, for example - are unrepresented in my CD collection. And I don't have the wall space or the money for all the art I would want, and my house is a shabby mess... But with each passing year, and with each whimsical purchase, our libraries become more and more able to articulate who we are, whether we read the books or not."

With music gone iPod, the only way to judge people will soon be by their bookshelves. I can't be the only person who displays an unhealthy interest in the books of my friends, family, and acquaintances - and yes, I do judge you for that copy of He's Just Not that Into You (though I have to admit to having read it and wanting to see how the hell they made it into a movie.)

"There are now nine people in the world who have walked on the moon, and unless something dramatic happens (and I'm talking about a governmental rethink rather than a cure for death), it won't be too long until there are none. That might not mean anything to a lot of you, because you are, I am lead to understand, young people, and the moonwalks didn't happen in your lifetime. (How can you be old enough to read the Believer and not old enough to have seen Neil Armstrong live? What's happening to the world?) But it means a lot to me, and Andrew Smith, and when the Apollo missions, the future as we understood it, become history, then something will be lost from our psyches. But what do you care? Oh, go back to your hip-hop and your computer games and your promiscuity. (Or your virginity. I forget which one your generation is into at the moment.)"

This is absolutely the best telling off I've ever received in any medium. It also makes me think of my dad, who I really think should read this book. That's a telling statement, by the way - I only want to recommend interesting, thought-provoking books to my dad. Whether or not his actual taste has any correspondence with what I think he might like remains to be seen, as we've never discussed any of the books I've sent him (and he may well never have read them either.) That doesn't seem to be the point, somehow. I suppose the books I send to my father say far more about me than they do about him.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Where does Ariel suck?

Last Sunday I Charlene and I were sitting around in Wolfhound. We do this a lot, as if we hash Southside, the On After is there and then there is the quiz. In between there are about six hours to fill. At the beginning, there are lots of hashers and food and darts (which I seldom play as I look like an idiot when I have to ask questions like, "Aim for the 20? Sure thing. Where's that?"). Then people start to drift off to do other things (always making me ponder what exactly it is they all have to do on a Sunday afternoon, as I've got nothing in particular I need to be up to) and it can get a bit tedious waiting around. Wacey can only amuse us by doing back flips in the bar for so long, after all.

So, last weekend we thought we'd, you know, do something and we settled on playing Trivial Pursuit. For about three and a half hours. Yes, it took that long for someone to win - and this is a game played by several people who like trivial bits of information and regularly go to pub quizzes. Why was the damn game so hard? It was the British edition, from the early 90s. Every sports question was about football, rugby, or cricket. Every entertainment question was about Crossroads or Coronation Street.

And then we came across the BEST question ever. "Where does Ariel suck?" was the question. That was it, no more information. The answer was no more enlightening, seeing as it was "where the bees suck." Riiiiight. Thanks to google, I now know that it's a reference to The Tempest, but I have to say, I feel that might be obscure, even to a Brit.

The problem now is that several of my brain cells are now taken up with really useless knowledge about things like that Benny in Crossroads went off to get a spanner for six months without the show ever explaining his absence or that Coronation Street was originally meant to last for thirteen weeks.

I'm an incredibly ditzy, forgetful person and I haven't even hit the age for senility. I really don't have spare brain cells for that sort of thing. However, short of doing something useful with my Sundays, I suppose that's the price I will have to pay.

What's Going On?

In the last couple of days, Canadians in Korea who are thoughtful enough to register with the embassy here got an email. I know this not because I am one of them, but because my coworker mentioned it.

The email was about swine flu, which so far hasn't penetrated my life beyond the odd joke about having it (I happen to have a very sore neck - fell out of bed - and an ear infection complete with swollen lymph node). According to the dude in charge, swine flu has been categorized Level X and if it goes to Level Y, they may not be able to provide a full range of consular services.

To which I said, "Huh?"

According to Crystal, there has been one case in Seoul. One. To me, this does not sound like the kind of case where an embassy needs to send out emails about our loss of Canadian services abroad, but then, what do I know?

Not much, I'm afraid. I paid attention to the news for the length of time it took the Canadian government to prorogue itself merely because I liked the word (there aren't many I haven't come across before, as the word of the day email demonstrates). I followed the Democratic leadership race, but not much of the election itself. Since then, I think the only news I've caught was about Wolverine being leaked and that only after I had managed to buy the leaked DVD and feel somewhat puzzled while watching it.

Epidemics (is this one?) are not the only things that don't register on my radar. A friend from North America asked me whether I was worried about North Korea launching missiles. Want to guess my response? "Huh?" was my reply. I hadn't even heard about the missile over Japan and once I did, I couldn't care less. No one here is worried about North Korea and it's not just those of us who don't understand the news - Koreans are unfazed as well. I live within about an hour's drive of the DMZ and I can tell you that I have zero fear that North Korea is going to do anything to me, aside from annoy me by shutting the border so I can't go and play tourist anymore.

Even more hilariously (well, I find it hilarious, but I'm sure everyone else finds it uninformed), the only drive I have to follow the news is the regularity of the current events category in pub quizzes.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Wine Train!

All aboard!

Seriously, going on the wine train may be one of the funniest things I've done in Korea. You hop on a couple of specific cars of a normal train. They are decorated and comfortably outfitted. There is wine. There is food. There is some of the most hysterical entertainment I've yet to encounter. After the train ride, you end up at a vineyard for lunch, wine foot baths (boiling hot, no less), cheese making and a tour of the cellars. Afterwards was the ginseng silliness, which was a bit on the boring side (also, it lacked wine.) Then you get to take the train back to Seoul Station (where if you are me and my friends, you will proceed to go out and continue drinking the night away!)

The rest of the pics are here.

Snooze Time yet?

I stayed up waaaaay too late last night. Apparently I find the internet and Kathy Reichs addicting.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Ginseng Market

A couple of weekends ago I went off to somewhere south of Daejeon (I'd be more aware of where it was had it not been on a wine train excursion). We were taken to a ginseng museum and market - which is where you want to go if you'd like to eat something that tastes a lot like dirt.

The market was in quite a large building. As far as I could tell, all the vendors were selling pretty much the same stuff, just in different sizes. I haven't a clue how one might go about choosing the best ginseng.

I certainly wasn't in the market for any. I've had some ginseng suppliments and hangover cures and they have all been quite nasty. Ginseng tea doesn't do anything for me either.

This lady was old and that looked heavy. I guess new ginseng, in from the farm.

What are these three doing? Who knows! In their defense, we had just been drinking wine on a train all morning.

Apparently ginseng must be kept moist. Everyone seemed very busy spraying their merchandise.

I have no idea what this sign is telling me not to do, though in retrospect perhaps it's telling me not to eat things that taste like dirt in batter.

There wasn't much action going on in the ginseng market. I wonder if ginseng has a special season?

Look how much this stuff costs! But it tastes like dirt! I don't get it.

The makoli man wasn't the friendliest, but then a group of about fifteen people showing up, moving all your tables and chairs, and speaking loudly in English can put off your game.

Koreans are very practical people and scissors are provided to cut up all kinds of foods, especially meat. And the deep fried ginseng that we were served. I had all of one bite - my need to eat dirt-flavoured things is quite low, apparently.

Ahhh, makoli. I'm not much of a fan, but this one had a little less floating material than most. Plus, nothing was going to top the deep fried ginseng in nastiness.

Perhaps one day you'll be in a ginseng market. Perhaps they'll have out some free samples of ginseng cookies. Perhaps you'll give one a try. If you do, however, your face will look much like this. They are not delicious.

I've figured out why the totem dudes all have those looks on their faces - they've all been out eating deep fried ginseng and washing it down with makoli. Not something I want to do again any time soon.

Happy Cinco De Mayo

Though with less lines and more margaritas, it would have been happier. Only in Koreaw would a Mexican restaurant throw a big party and run out of booth booze and food!

DSD (aka Sharlene) and I met up for brunch today and the Flying Pan remains one of my favourite places for breakfast food. The do some interesting things with it - lots of spinach and tomatoes and ricotta cheese. With a coffee and a mixed berry smoothie (scurvy staved off for another day), we bumped into Ben and then headed over to Jonggak. There's a cheap Mexican place there, Tomatillo's, next to a park that was sort of hosting a big party. Thanks to Facebook, half the foreigners in Korea appear to have turned up to spend a great part of their day off standing around, waiting for booze and food. I think the time cost of those 3000 won drinks may have been about forty minutes each.

Anyway, once they ran out of the food and booze, we taxied to Itaewon where I went into What the Book. I had a list of four (only four) books that I intended to buy. Of that list, I bought one. Plus four others. Then I ordered the three on the list that weren't there. Yes, yes I did. The last time I was in buying books was only six days ago and I just went and bought eight books. It's a disease, I tell you. The fact that I was a bit buzzed was no help at all.

After, Laura, DSD and I had some margaritas and tapas on the patio at Geckos Garden, ending the evening. I went home and decided that the only thing I was in the mood to do was use the Internet, so here I am in the PC bang, watching TV online and playing around with photos on Facebook.

Monday, May 04, 2009

WTF Once Again

So, Hana Bank, the bank that has 3 million of my hard earned won, decided to close itself down for a few days. I don't mean that you just couldn't go into an actual branch - there was also no ATM service and no ability to use the card in stores (okay, let's be honest - bars). Seriously? How did that even happen?

However, they are bank in business, so I just did a bunch of banking today. Bills paid, money transfered home (rate still sucks, but not as much as this time last year).

And then I came to work and discovered Party Cat. So, the day is looking up.

Plus, no school tomorrow. I will be celebrating Children's Day by avoiding children! Cinco de Mayo is a considerably more fun holiday, anyway, seeing as it involves margaritas and Mexican food.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Since I'll be too Busy Complaining About My Sore Neck While Hashing

Go read Brian's account of one of the worst brunches I've ever eaten in my life. It was so bad, in fact, that we cabbed immediately to Insadong and had luch in an Italian place only about 30 minutes later to remove the bad tastes from our mouthes.

Friday, May 01, 2009

In Case You're Ever Curious...

... there is one sure-fire way to determine if I am hungover or not. All you need to do is take me to a "grocery store" (or the convience stores that sell us all "groceries" in Haebangchon) and then see what I buy. If it's orange juice, water, ice cream, pizza Pringles and Twizzlers, it's a fair bet that I'm hungover and feeling sorry for myself. And that I'm anticipating some sitting around and eating crap until I feel better.

And after all that, I didn't eat any of it because I picked up a pizza on my way home and then watched some more Dr. Who.