Monday, December 29, 2008

I Want to Punch Seomyeon in the Face

Seomyeon sort of looks like what would happen if you gave a 3 year old a pack of crayons and asked them to design a city centre. The streets are windy, disordered, end unexpectedly, littered with trash, and frequently adorned with pissing old men. At 9am. Because if you can't take a piss on the street at 9am, when can you?

I'm back. I've only been back for a week, but from the moment the passed out old man on the subway spat out his dentures, I felt like I'd never left.

I don't have internet hooked up in my roach infested apartment just yet. Until then I'll be posting infrequently from my beloved PC Bang (internet cafe). I haven't seen a single unbathed gamer in here since my first visit two days ago. I'm confused as to how they stay in business, but unconcerned so long as they stay in business for me.

I'll likely post some New Year's thoughts over the next few days. They'll probably be bubbly and disgusting, because I've gone all Molly Fucking Sunshine on my own ass over the past few months.

Is it possible to be Molly Fucking Sunshine while punching Seomyeon in the face? Cause I am.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Grave Mistake

My friend and I purchased an assortment of flowers and made our way to the largest graveyard in town with the intention of visiting the plot of our friend who passed away in the last year. It was supposed to be his birthday. The flowers were the friend's idea; those are the sort of things that really don't occur to me. The lady behind the desk at in the cometary office scanned the information on her screen, looked up at us, and scanned the screen again, hoping that she was mistaken. Surely The Flower Girls didn't actually show up at the wrong graveyard?

This particular graveyard has seemed like the logical place for our friend to be buried. Not only was it the largest in town, but it was the nearest one to downtown, our place of meeting that day. His being there would just be so convenient. It made sense. So, of course we were mistaken. This is probably one of those things that you really ought to look into before investing your time and energy into a graveyard visit, but somehow it just never dawned on us to check.

The lady behind the desk likely felt sorry for our dumbasses and took it on herself to contact every other cemetery in town. After the last call turned up negative, my friend reminded me that our friend was cremated. In which case, given that they haven't been memoralized at a cemetery in town, they've likely been spread or are hanging out in a closet somewhere.

It had been in the back of my mind all day that an acquaintance, and good friend of my good friend, was also buried at that particular cemetery. I had intended on visiting his plot anyways, though I can't promise that flowers were going to be part of the bargain. None the less, I hope that his next visitors like them.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

No, Your Accent is Broken.

Taxi, cab, or taxicab? If you chose the third option, you're not wrong, but I don't like it. The other two I use interchangeably. Apparently I'm broken for doing so.

Last Tuesday around 4am, the following conversation probably took place :

Me: *on phone* Hey, could I please get two taxis in front of the Pita Pit?
Random Townie: Taxi?!
Me: *waving Random Townie off; still on phone* Yes, two taxis in front of the Pita Pit. Thank you!
Random Townie: Seriously, taxi? What are you, a fucking Yankee?
Me: Dude, they're called taxis.
Random Townie: They're called fucking cabs, Yank.
Me: *waving the rest of the room to attention* Taxi or cab? Or taxicab?
The Peanut Gallery: Cab. Cab. Cab.
Me: Whatever, Townies.

I don't understand why I'm not invited to more parties.

I later consulted with Random Cabbie, who thought my line of questioning regarding what he preferred to call his vehicle was Funny Talk. He, too, did not approve of my use of taxi.

Four points must be made from this:

First, I probably do sound more like an American than when I left Canada last October. I had a number of American friends in Korea, they speak funny, I have a tendency to adopt the mannerisms of those around me, hence I now speak funny, too. Of course, by that I mean that Everybody Else now speaks funny. I happen to sound quite excellent, thanks.

Second, Americans have been known to talk funny in all kinds of different ways. Which one am I resembling when I say "taxi"? Do I sound like I'm from New York? The Mid-West? Alaska? What part of the country am mimicking?

Third, there's nothing wrong with sporting an American accent. Americans speak funny in perfectly acceptable ways, and this is one of the many reasons why we love them. Wait, we don't? Right, I forgot: Here in Canuckistan, it is my duty to spout anti-American rhetoric while munching down on a Big Mac and wondering which Hollywood movie I should see next.
Culture shock is clearly responsible for my failure to accept the more retarded points of Canadian culture without question. I'm going to go munch on some Doritos and watch NBC as I ponder this conundrum.

Finally, taxi is not an American Thing, Random Townie. You too, Random Cabbie. Cab is a Townie thing. The two can be used interchangeably here in Canuckistan, as they are in the United States. Different regions may be more prone to using one or the other, but nothing about the word "taxi" links it to a particular accent. It's not fuckin' "eh", for Christ's sake. I know this after conducting a very scientific survey on facebook, where everybody who wasn't wrong agreed with me on the matter, rendering Random Townie's entire point retarded.

I probably sound more like an American than I used to, but not because I say "taxi".

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Passing Change.

The first time I was handed a wad of bills with my change set neatly on top of it, I ended up dropping my change all over the floor and wondering who the Hell doesn't pass the change separately. A year of practice later, and I can't figure out why nobody working a register in Ontario seems to be able to collect the change from the top of the bill pile without dropping it all over the floor.

Everybody Else may be broken.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Canada Land: Not a Dime Store Hooker.

Canada Land is not nearly as cheap as I am.

I went out on the town last night. Given that "out on the town" here means "select one of half of a dozen bars within a two block radius and hope that the total wankers went across the street instead, purchase over priced beverage, and wonder why the lights have turned on and the closing bell is ringing before you're finished your third", this experience tends to be every bit as lame as one might expect. Thankfully, I had the forsight to surround myself with awesome people, which made up for the total lameness that was everything else. Almost.

First, there was the taxi. The last bus goes by here shortly after 10pm, after which point I'm left with a 15 dollar taxi ride or hour walk. It should probably only take about 40 minutes, but I get distracted by shiny things and move slowly. This is similar to the walk between Minam and PNU of the last year, which I usually passed on in favour of a 4 dollar taxi. A 4 dollar silent taxi ride. Cheap and quiet. What's not to love? Here I pay 15 dollars to entertain my bored taxi driver for 10 minutes. They really ought to pay me.

Second, there were the drinks. For some inexplicable reason, I thought that Strongbow was a good choice of drink. I used to think this. It seems that I was incorrect. Yet, in all my incorrectness, it had never crossed my mind that Strongbow would be even more delicious if served over ice with a lime. Possibly because that would be retarded. And it was, when my poor choice of drink was served to me in this manner at Pretentious Uppity Bar Saturday evening. My poor choice of beverage, served to me in retarded fashion, cost 7 bucks a pop. In the end, I paid 14 dollars to make the same bad choice twice, because making terrible decisions twice is apparently what I do.

All in all, a 30 dollar evening that ends before 2am, without a decent buzz does not a happy Barbie make.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Come On, Bra. Really?

I went bra shopping in Korea exactly once. Sort of. When I was still a young pup, fresh off the plane and all, my coworker brought me to some underwear shop in Nampodong. Here, Random Ajumma measured me, roughly, over my sweater, in order to determine my Korean bra size. She then informed my coworker that there was one store in Seomyeon which carried my size, should I wish to drop 80 dollars on a bra purchase. Hence, the first time that I considered buying a bra while in Korea was my last.

The majority of bras in Korea, so far as I saw, were of the AA-A Cup/2 lbs of padding variety. They also seemed to have a lot of bows on them. A whole lotta bows. It really is just as well that I couldn't fit into that shit. Thank goodness I had the foresight to bring more than half a dozen bras with me. I can wait until I get back to Canada Land to restock, I thought to myself.

Not as easily as originally thought.

Just a few hours ago I found myself in Bra Hell, Canada Style. Where Canada Style looks a whole lot like Korea Style, with fewer bows and a variety of cup sizes. For some inexplicable reason, bras of all sizes come ready to disguise your breasts as torpedoes and push them up to your neck. In fact, should you wish you find a bra that does otherwise, you'd best not shop at Random Cheap Bra Outlet, where bras of the non-torpedo persuasion are clearly outlawed.

Did I miss the memo that declared neck cleavage hot?

I just don't know.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Taste Buds, You've Changed.

My last couple of weeks in Korea Land were so stressful (and possibly drunk) that I more or less forgot that this section of the internet existed. A few days in Canada Land, the boredom set in, and I remembered blogspot! I'll be returning to Korea Land in 5-6 weeks. In hindsight, this was probably too long of a gap. Hanging with folks from home? Awesome. Temporary work placements? Snow? Understanding just how stupid the people surrdounding you in line at the supermarket are? Something significantly less than awesome. More tragically, even the food in Canada has been less awesome than anticipated.

As I had promised myself, within a day of landing I had sucked back a couple bowls of Tim Horton's chicken noodle soup, devoured an Arby's roastbeef sandwich, and struggled to finish a chicken caesar pita with extra meat. Aside from the chicken noodle soup, everything seems to have lost it's luster. Everything is... bland. Blah. This is grossly dissapointing.

That's really all I've got for now. Food is pretty much the second most awesome thing ever, so when it's not as good as expected, great dissapointment and bitchiness ensues.

I need a nap.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Barbie and The Douche Master

Korea Land is every bit as rich with douchebags as Canada Land. Merely existing here has resulted in exposure to the following charmers:

  • Subway Soju Man, who felt that 9pm was an appropriate time to be a drunk ass.

  • Random Frat Boy, who felt that a bar fight and threatening text messages were the appropriate response to common courtesy.

  • The President of Dyssemia Anonymous (a weak nickname, in hindsight, but what's done is done), who incorrectly interpreted my complete disinterest in knowing him as a cry for help.

There have been countless others, but these three serve as illustrations of the various types of douchebag that have been known to insist on crossing my path and speaking to me (having said that, there is at least a faint possibility that I invite the attention of douchebags, on account of my being an ass). Now, before somebody gets sad that I'm only picking on men here, I assure you: I have bitch stories, too. Someday, I might even share one. Today, I feel like taking a trip down memory lane and spitting up a tale about the douchiest douche that ever did douche. Going forward, he shall be referred to as The Douche Master (TDM).

It was the last Wednesday in January. I had decided that there was no time like the middle of the work week to run up to Daegu and get inappropriately drunk. I hadn't been entirely sober in about three days, since I'd first learned of Kyle's death. As such, I was on the brink of going from confused to really fucking angry. Had I been aware that there was anger to be unleashed, my dishonourable encounter with The Douche Master could have been avoided.

I met with a few friends of mine, who had darlingly dropped everything on a week night to come out to the bar and watch me respond to crisis by absolutely wrecking myself. At some point during a series of conversations where friends shared their own stories of grief, a man wove his way over to our table and decided to strike up conversation about how spectacular he thought he was. The Douche Master knew how to make an entrance.

As I longed for a distraction, his pompous monologue was initially welcomed. After entertaining us for a few minutes (though not quite in the sense that I suspect he thought he was entertaining us), he wandered off, presumably because he heard word that the rest of the room had been seriously deprived of awesome since he left it.

With the welcome distraction gone, one of my friends and I got back on the heartwarming topic of death. The Douche Master, having received imaginary word that now our part of the room was void of awesome, decided to shift back our way within a couple of moments; right in the middle of a good conversation, and perhaps the only moment that night that I didn't want a distraction. Cutting me off as if I didn't exist, he began trying to court my friend by explaining to her how awesome he thought he was. Bored, wanting to get on with the only productive conversation I'd had that night, and knowing that my friend though TDM was a Neanderthal, I politely interrupted and explained that I was having a serious discussion that required completion. While it's grossly unlikely that I was quite that poised and polite in my use of language, the point is that I wasn't yet being an ass.

The Douche Master, in disbelief that somebody would dare interrupt his irresistible barrage of come ons, decided that ignoring me was the best course of action. He was wrong. He moved closer to my friend, cutting me off completely from the conversation. I responded in turn by getting in his face and slightly less politely telling him that he'd interrupted an important conversation, that I would like to continue. The Douche Master advised me that he was now having an important conversation with my friend, and I could wait until they were finished.

And this is about where shit hit the fan.

Drunk, my confusion immediately flipped to rage, and here we had the perfect, most deserving of targets to take it out on: The Douche Master. Slamming my pint down on the table, I said something to the effect of: "If you'd excuse me, my friend just fucking died and I need to talk about it. That, and my friend does not want to fuck you. She has a boyfriend. She's laughing at you. We all are. So fuck off".

Now, in hindsight, drunkenly slamming pints around and yelling at perfect strangers because your friend just died and you're angry, isn't appropriate behaviour. But it's excusable. It's understandable. And it's something that anybody with even a shred of basic human emotion can see and know to let be. What followed my less than admirable behaviour is what separates The Douche Master from the other douches, and moves him into a category of Total Fucking Cunt which is all his own.

The Douche Master examined me for a brief moment, as I gripped my beer mug, blinked back tears, and shook in anger. He then responded with: "Well, I need to talk to her, too. My parents died yesterday".

9 months later, and I still don't know what the fuck you're supposed to say to that. Or how the Hell anybody who has ever felt what it's like to be human could possibly retort in that manner. My response at the time was to tell him what a disgusting pile of excrement I thought he was, splash my beer at him, then run to the bathroom before I tried to throw a table at him, too. Aside from the fact that I would undoubtedly get removed from the bar for doing that, he was a big man who had just demonstrated that he lacked empathy; I have no doubt that he would have snapped me in half. Running to the bathroom is perhaps the most appropriate thing I did over that span of 40 seconds.

One of my friends followed me to the bathroom, where I apologized for my behaviour and concluded that we should probably just empty our drinks and leave. We return downstairs to find The Douche Master talking to the bar tender, attempting to get me kicked out of the bar for "attacking" him. Anger ensued. Seething, I pulled my friend's obituary out of my purse and threw it on the table in of the bar tender and The Douche Master. A friend of mine, who also knows the bar tender, attempted to explain what happened, as The Douche Master interrupted her in order to share his own twisted version of events. Unable to fathom how one could possibly be so bad at life, I grabbed my belongings and fled the bar.

I see The Douche Master out in Daegu from time to time, still. Every time, I turn the other way. He's just vile. I should probably find a more appropriate name for him than The Douche Master, but there really aren't words foul enough to describe him. So, it will do.

As an aside, the friend who he was ruthlessly hitting on would have interjected and gotten rid of him had she not been stunned to silence by his level of douche. She was forgiven immediately.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

I Love My Baby Daddy

Oh, there are multiple babies? That's okay. I love my babies' daddy.

Wait, that's not it either? Multiple daddies, you say? Well, of course there are. I love my babies' daddies!

Er... what? Ah, to Hell with it.

I'm just sad this isn't my shirt, really. I mock because I envy.

(as an aside, I probably shouldn't mock the grammar on a shirt when I'm hours beyond the point at which I could still properly, let alone keep my own jokes straight)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

I Don't Get Invited to Many Funerals

I'm feeling batty again. Nearly five minutes has passed since I last felt the Batty Bug, so I'm due. When the Batty Bug bites I find that I have 5 different things to ramble about and completely lack the ability to stay on one topic long enough to form a coherent thought about any of them.

I'm even worse to have spoken conversation with when the Batty Bug has hit. Tonight I managed to segue from a debate on which surname screams Molester the loudest to pointing out that NHL prospect Alexei Cherapanov had just passed away. My friend, also a huge hockey fan, was saddened to learn of the passing. She was a bit alarmed at the ease with which I jumped from one topic to the next, without warning. There may be some basic communications skills which I lack. It's possible the same thing which fuels my wit has resulted in an inability to properly segue between sensitive topics. Whatever.

On Sunday I took a trip to the United Nations Cemetary with some friends. This is something that I had intended on doing months upon months ago, but put off indefinitely after Kyle died. I just wasn't itching to connect with the dead, you know? Eight months later, I figured that I was in a place where I could disconnect that death from the thousands that lie in the cemetery. So, I went.

UN Forces Monument

Something about taking photos in a graveyard felt wrong. I did it anyways.

United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Korea

Inappropriate laughing fit in the Memorial Service Hall aside, I managed to conduct myself accordingly for the duration of the visit. Unfortunately, people tend to forget about the 2 hours during which you were totally awesome. They remember the 10 seconds during which you fell on your ass or the one time that you fell just short of hilarity. Trying to remind anybody about the other 2 hours is practice in futility. Especially when you're me, and you lace said reminders with anecdotes about all of those other inappropriate times where you deemed it fit to toss out a giggle.

When I was ten, my friend's father accidentally ran over a cat. My friend, her sister, and her sister's friend all immediately started wailing. They just couldn't believe that we had been a part of the death of Random Cat. They couldn't bear how horrible her father felt as he moved the cat off the road. And there I was, sitting in the middle of all of this: trying not to laugh. It wasn't funny. It was just heavy. And awkward. And thoroughly uncomfortable. I stifled my giggles.

My friend occasionally references that story as a loss-of-innocence anecdote from our childhoods. For me, it's probably the first time that I realized that the wiring in Barbie's Attic might be a little off.

As for the surname which screams Molester the loudest? Glen. Or maybe Lester. I'd apologize to anybody reading this named Glen or Lester - after all, you didn't ask for a skeevy name; your parents simply lacked taste. It happens - but apologies of the "I'm sorry for acting like such a dick. Now, if you'd excuse me, I'm going to continue acting like a dick" persuasion are a waste of perfectly good words.

That's a rant for another day. Probably not tomorrow.

Monday, October 13, 2008

New Barbie is a Douche

When The Boss Man started looking for a new foreign teacher to replace me, I advised him that he really ought to let me speak to them. I promised that I'd say only nice things about Barbie Hawgon, that I'd had a fabulous experience, and I'd be happy to do what I could to encourage the new recruit that Barbie Hagwon was the place to be. I am worried that The Boss Man started recruiting a month too late and will end up having to go a full month without a native English speaker on staff. This would be terrible for his business. Were The Boss Man a bad boss, I wouldn't give a flying fuck about his business, but he's been pretty awesome. I wish Barbie Hagwon nothing but the best. Unfortunately, my good intentions occasionally blow up in my face. Like that time that I offered to speak to New Barbie? Kaboom!

When the day came to ring New Barbie up, I woke up about three hours earlier than I ordinarly do. The Plan was to give him an honest assessment of my experience at Barbie Hagwon. If my overall assessment wasn't Totally Fucking Awesome, then I wouldn't have volunteered to make the phone call in the first place; I would never encourage somebody to come half way across the world for Something Awful.

That's what recruiters do.

New Barbie has about five hundred questions, but seems like an alright guy, so I humour every last one of them and end up on the phone for well over an hour. I detail my awesome working schedule, my awesome apartment, and my awesome coworkers. I own up to the one or two things that are slightly less than awesome: I have to commute to work and don't live on the beach. New Barbie concludes the call by telling me that aside from the commute, it sounds like a pretty good deal, but that he has to consider his other options before rendering a decision. I tell him that I would do the same and wish him luck.

Cue Monday afternoon.

The Boss Man calls me over on my break to speak to me about something or other. He sounds none too pleased, and comes over to the main table where I am, clutching a piece of paper. The Boss puts it down and says that it's an email from the recruiter. Apparently the recruiter was less than satisifed with my sales pitch, after New Barbie apparently told him that I passed along the following information:

1) I work 8-9 hour days

2) I live beside a brothel.

Given the apparently shitty circumstances surrounding my living, New Barbie said that he'd consider the position if they offered him more money.

Aghast. I was fucking aghast. I spent an hour talking to his guy about my life at Barbie Hagwon, talking it up without being unrealistic or dishonest, and in thanks he blatently lies to the recruiter in order to leverage for more money? Seriously?! He couldn't have just used the falling won as leverage for that?

What. A. Douche.

Thankfully The Boss Man believed that I didn't actually say those things, probably on account of 1) my reaction and 2) those things are too fucking absurd for somebody in my situation to even have imagined. If I didn't have an awesome boss and he believed that I had tried to sabotage him ... well, let's just say that I haven't received my bonus or final pay yet, and those aren't things I was planning on fighting for. And they aren't things that I will have to fight for.

But New Barbie didn't know that.


I kind of hope that he takes the job and gets here in time for me to punch him in the face before I leave.

That is all.

Edited to add:

Having sat on this for an hour, I suppose that it's possible that it's the recruiter who is the douche, and not New Barbie. After all, recruiters are Professional Liars.

Either way, douche is in the air.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Brother-and-Sister Sixsome

Found on a restaurant sign near Pusan National University:

Because fucking your cousin is so passé.

I ... just don't understand. How do these things happen? I refuse to put any further thought into this. I'm happy that they do happen (absurd slogans, that is. I refuse to even consider how to properly emote in response to true family orgies), and will leave it at that.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Woe is the Won

Fuck this noise.

The Korean won has decided to die a horrible death just prior to my receiving my final pay checks and severance. In the end, I will probably "lose" close to a grand. Technically, I can't lose on something that hasn't been paid out yet. But, had I been scheduled to get out of here two months ago I would have had an extra grand. Happiness does not ensue. Much anger ensues.

Today, I hate Korea.

Even though it's not really entirely Korea's fault, I still hate Korea today. A lot.

A whole fucking lot.

Hey, remember when I was actually worth something? No? Me neither.

If the won continues to fall, to the point that it's no longer financially beneficial to work here in comparison to the soul sucking death that would be working in Ontario again next year (while I'm not going to test this theory, I think that stabbing my eyes out with a fork would be more awesome than working in Ontario next year), I won't be back. And that? Would suck. I've already been planning my return and I haven't even left yet.

So, what to do? Hold on to my increasingly worthless won? Convert every last won to the also-crapping-out Canadian dollar (would it kill the fucking Canadian dollar to crap out at a slightly faster rate than the won? Really? Can Canada not even fail properly?)? Have an awesome temper tantrum which involves clunking my head against the wall a few times? Leave most of my cash in won and come back anyways, in the hopes that it goes back up next year?

In the end, part of this is on me for deciding to work in a foreign country in the first place. Tomorrow, when I'm tired of hating Korea, I might be willing to take a little more responsibility for my own decisions. Or I might temporarily forgive Korea and just be angry at Canada for refusing to fail fast enough.

I could really use a poutine right about now. A basic understand of economics wouldn't hurt either.

I lack both.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Home: Where The Fat Happens

Returning to Canada might kill me.

Korean food really isn't bad at all. Prior to coming to Korea I would refuse to eat anything that looked or smelled even remotely funny. I was adamant that raw fish was repugnant and that the only acceptable condiment was ketchup. This all changed on my second day in Korea.

After giving me a whirlwind tour of Busan, The Boss Man offered to take me out for lunch. Ass Kisser Extraodinaire that I am, when asked where I wanted to eat, I asked him to take me to his favourite restaurant. When he giggled and asked if I would eat raw fish, I held back my gagging and assured him that I would learn to enjoy it. Over the next hour I tried a number of different things; some were most certainly raw fish, one was octopus, and I haven't the faintest idea what all the other stuff was. All I remember is that most of it was good. This set the tone for the rest of the year: I would no longer label a food as repugnant without ever having tried it. Except for live octopus or any type of insect. Small minded eater by nature that I am, lines must be drawn somewhere.

I've either enriched my palate or just killed off the majority of my taste buds. Both? Either way, there will probably be some Korean food that I will miss during my brief hiatus, but I won't miss it nearly as much as my favourites from home. With my return to Canada booked for roughly 30 days from now, I have a wish list of artery stopping goodness that I intend to indulge on.

It's quite likely that I will return to Korea fat.

1) Poutine

Guaranteed heart attack on a plate.

I have tested the poutine at a number of establishments in Korea. Most notably: O'Brien's in Busan, The Holy Grill in Daegu, and The Rocky Mountain Tavern in Seoul. Each and every time, it was delicious. The Holy Grill did it best. Still, it... Just. Wasn't. The. Same. Within 72 hours of my return, I promise my thighs that I will go to my favourite deep fried Drunk Food stop in downtown Barbieville and get the largest helping of this crap that they will give me. It's gonna be gross. I might actually die.

2) Arby's Roast Beef Sandwich

Fuck ya.

Every time that hunger has crept up on me over the past month, I've wanted an Arby's roast beef sandwich. My God, have I wanted an Arby's roast beef sandwich. There is an Arby's within ten minutes of where I will be staying when I return to Canada. You better believe that my ass is going to be parked there within 24 hours of my plane's landing.

One will not be enough. There will be three. And one of those will be doused in that disgusting orange cheese stuff that they put on the melts. It's going to be ridiculous. Clearly I will only die of poutine poisoning if the awesomeness of three Arby's roast beef sandwiches doesn't kill me first.

3) Chicken Caesar Pita

Double chicken. Double bacon.

I don't demand that it be from the Pita Pit, but I absolutely insist upon double bacon and double chicken. And just a hint of hot sauce. Of all the things that I want to eat when I get home, this is probably the least likely to kill me on the spot.

4) Bars of cheese

No, really. Bars.

When I visit the grocery store within my first few days back in Canada, there is a very real chance that I will get emotional as I approach the dairy aisle. I might actually cry. That I can't really eat dairy at home without getting sick as fuck won't matter. Should I fail to get disgustingly fat during my visit home, there will be cheese to thank for that. Either way, tears will be had. Entire bars of cheese will be purchased, only to be ripped open and eaten on the way home. Onlookers will be horrified. I will be in heaven. Oh, cheese. How I think miss you. How unhappy my intestines will be to see you. Oh, cheese. Soon.

5) Chocolate Mints


Should I still be able to open my mouth without my intestines leaking out of it, after ingesting disgusting amounts of roast beef, poutine, massively stuffed pitas, and bars of cheese, I will follow up with some chocolate mints for dessert.

I haven't decided on a brand yet. Maybe all of them.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Reason 243 That I Might Be a Raging Bigot

Due to not sleeping at night, I've been taking far too many taxis to work lately. Given that that my budget scarcely allows for the delicious peanut butter sandwich and ramen noodle (or Mr. Noodles, as I called it in my university days) regiment that I've been following this month, I really should get my ass out of bed half an hour earlier so that I have time to take the bus. Ah, next week.

It usually costs about 4 dollars to go from my apartment to Barbie Hawgon. I've noticed that each of the 37 taxis I've taken this week had new signs on the backs of the seats with a list of fares presented on them. There was one column which listed what I believed to be the daytime fare, and another which I deduced was the nighttime fare. It's always cost more to take the taxi between midnight and 4am. I thought that perhaps the taxi companies were catching on that it might be a good idea to advertise this. Sometimes I'm wrong.

When the taxi pulled up in front of Barbie Hagwon, the meter read 3800 won. I was pleased to see that he was 500 won faster than the guy I had the day before. I was less pleased when he threw one of the fare advertisements in my face and asked me to pay 4700 won, instead of 3800. I immediately started griping at him about how he was making me pay more because he thought I was too stupid to understand that he was actually ripping me off by charging me the nighttime fare. Nobody had been charging me the fare in the second column all week long, so clearly this guy was just an asshole. All of this griping was done in English, of course, rendering it useless. Frustrated, I paid the guy the inflated fare and slammed the door behind me.

Later that day while waiting for my eye glasses (25 dollars for corrective lenses. Win!), a thought dawned on me. I turned to my coworker, who had joined the glasses excursion, and asked what the deal was with the new fare signs I'd been seeing in taxis. She lamented that the fares had officially gone up today, but that it could take a while for the meters to reflect this. We both made sad faces over the taxis being more expensive, and I neglected to mention to her The Incident from earlier that day.

In hindsight, it was fairly obvious that the new fare signs were just that: new fare signs! But, sometimes I'm wrong. The reason that I may be a raging bigot doesn't stem from my being an idiot and failing to notice the obvious; that's a whole other issue. The reason that I may be a raging bigot is that instead of considering that my original assumption - that the signs were listing preexisting daytime and nighttime fares - was wrong, I immediately jumped to the conclusion that the evil taxi driver was trying to scam money out of me, on account of my porcelain complexion. Rather than consider the obvious, I assumed the worst.

Then again, it's possible that I just think everybody is trying to rip me off. Really, would I be wrong?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Failed Three-way

I've become so used to living in Korea that not only do I often fail to see the funny in Konglish t-shirts, I am stumped when it comes to determining what qualifies as a funny Konglish hat. What once would have made me stop in awe at the utter ridiculousness, now hardly merits a squint. Take the following as an example:


I saw this hat sitting on a random vendor cart while wandering around Seomyeon (which is central Busan, and basically has random street vendor carts of everything imaginable). I'm not entirely sure, but I probably would have found this funny one year ago. I bought it anyways, because the hat reminded me of the time when I accidentally earned the nickname Failed Three-way.

Months ago, there was a situation that, when interpreted by certain minds, may have been taken the wrong, perverse, way. What was, in fact, a simple drunken passing out of small handful of people, left a good friend of mine deeply disappointed with me. "So, did you get any action?", she asked me casually the next day. I respond to this with genuine surprise and confusion. "I wasn't trying to get any", I explained. My friend's disappointment quickly turned to complete disbelief; she simply couldn't imagine that I had fratboys, plural, over and didn't try to bed any of them. When I explained to her that nobody was trying to bed anybody, she refused to believe it and immediately started calling me Failed Three-way.

I tried to veto the nickname, on account of Ridiculous, but was outvoted 2-1. I demanded a recount. Nobody listened. The name stuck for a week, until April Teacher got bored, or forgot that she'd started calling me it in the first place. This worked out well, since I maintain that it's not a failure if hadn't even dawned on you to try.

I'm still not sure if the hat itself is funny, or if I just liked that it brought me down Korea Land Memory Lane.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Bananas and Other Kinds of Happy

There was a time, a few months back, when I just completely crapped out emotionally. It was probably a few months after my friend had died, a time during which I was doing relatively stupid things in order to deal with my shit. I was drinking in excess, making friendships that teetered a weird line between too friendly and not even remotely friendly, and just generally fucking up everything in my path. Just because I could. During one particular weekend, I finally just lost it.

I was at some random bar in Daegu. Something or other occurred which apparently bothered me. Whatever it was, what followed is a thoroughly embarrassing blur. I started rambling incoherently to the first available ear about how my self esteem was in the dumps. I then jumped out of my chair so that I could go throw stuff at the wall in the bathroom, then ran out of the bar. This is clearly one of those weeks where I wasn't getting very many hugs, and I'm quite fortunate and thankful that the available ear bothered to associate with me in the days following my embarrassing display of Crazy.

Apparently I carried on the display of Crazy outside of the bar, where I ran into another available ear that I happened to know, by continuing to ramble that I hadn't gotten enough hugs that week and then beating the shit out of my umbrella (or, rather, the umbrella that I had grabbed when I left the bar. It turns out that mine was still there when I returned the next day).

Kind of like this guy. Except that this is Korea, where the only green you'll see in an alleyway is vomit.

When I eventually woke up in my own bed the next day, I could hardly bring myself to look in the mirror. Of course, when I finally did, I probably said something like: "suck it up, asshole". And suck it up, I did. I convinced myself that the worst was over, and now I just needed to buy some ice cream and everything would get better.

The ice cream never happened. When I got to the store, I found a display of magnificently ripe bananas. I decided that they were the most perfect, vibrant colour of yellow ever, and that I absolutely had to have them. I realized how silly it was to get so happy over the colour of bananas, but it didn't matter; I had sucked it up and found a way to salvage the day with a smile.

I'm recalling this now, because lately I've been fighting off similar levels of emotion. Leaving Korea in 5-6 weeks puts me about 5-6 weeks from unemployment and uncertainty. And while the first thing I'm going to do when I get home is see everybody that matters (and have a roast beef sandwich at Arby's), I have a grave to visit, too.

Today, when I could have easily smashed another umbrella or found some other unproductive source for my anger, I found something to smile about instead. Like the bananas, it was silly and simple, but it saved my day. As I was exiting the subway car, ready to bolt to my apartment where I would crash and debate throwing things, I saw a little old lady coming down from the escalator. She saw that the subway was about to close it's doors, and ran for it. This woman had the hugest grin on her face the entire time, and giggled like a bloody school girl and waved her hands in victory when she successfully got on the car, just in time for the doors to close behind her. It was like making the train was not just the best part of her day, but the most awesome thing that had happened to anybody. Ever.

If Random Subway lady can be that happy about making the train, I can suck it up and smile today, too.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Quit Riding My Ass

There's a game that I like to play from time to time, when I'm feeling uneasy. It's called Quit Riding My Ass. The object is to get people to quit riding my ass. I have a serious hate-on for People Tailgaters. If I can feel you breathing on my neck, then you're walking too fucking close.

Quit Riding My Ass is not a new game. I've been playing it for years. People Tailgaters exist everywhere that I've ever been (this does not account for Africa, Europe, South America, or most of Asia, though I suspect that they've been known to breed in these spots as well).

There are no official rules to the game. As long as you successfully get the perpetrator to stop riding your ass, then you come out on top. My preferred method is to simply come to a sudden stop and let the moron People Tailgater run into me. They tend to react to this with confusion or annoyance, followed by a brisk walk away. Either way, problem solved.

There are obviously going to be times when it's grossly inappropriate to play Quit Riding My Ass. These would be times when People Tailgating is done by necessity. Playing Quit Riding My Ass in the middle of Times Square would make one the worthy recipient of a punch in the face. But all other times, when riding the ass of the other person in front of you is entirely unnecessary, the People Tailgater is asking for whatever comes their way.

A friend of mine here protests my playing this game in Korea. She says that I'm being ignorant, because they don't have the same concept of personal space as us Canada folk. She went as far as to suggest that I deserve a punch in the face for acting like this here. I told her that all was well, because I'm treating the locals here exactly how I treat the locals at home. I don't discriminate, and hate all People Tailgaters equally! Clearly, her point was lost on me. Someday, when I do get a punch in the face for intentionally stopping in front of People Tailgaters, I will accept that I totally deserved it.

And then go right back to playing Quit Riding My Ass.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Would You Wear This Shirt?

As I was trying to determine what exactly constitutes a funny Konglish t-shirt last week, I kept bringing to mind those I had seen which teetered the line between hilarious and grossly fucking inappropriate. The young man on the subway who's shirt read "Free Pony Rides", with the arrow pointing down toward his crotch managed to keep things on the side of hilarity by virtue of being of legal age. But what to make of those questionably phrased Konglish t-shirts that come in child sizes? Say, this one:

It's grammatically incorrect on top of being totally fucking wrong.

This shirt wins. Twice.

I found this goody while wandering around in J-Mare, looking precisely for something this awesome. J-Mare is a place that I originally started going to for long sweaters and cheap, half decent blouses, but have since started going to in search of ridiculous t-shirts.

(As an aside, you can find long sweaters and cheap, half decent blouses at the street markets. But, I hate people. I especially hate many people, crowded into narrow corridors. Going to J-Mare allows me to avoid this, while still paying relatively low prices.)

Now, as I alluded to earlier, shirt sizes here tend to run from petite to I-just-ate-a-cookie-and-am-full-petite. This particular shirt would fit perfectly on any of my 11 to 14 year old students. Or, it's the type of fit you'd expect to see on an adult female who wears her shirts way too tight in order to emphasize her breasts and attempt to disguise her obvious insecurities. Yes, I'd totally wear a shirt of that fit. And I fully expect the three people that I purchased that exact shirt for to wear that fit, too.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Barbie and Pusan Bank Reconcile

Earlier this month I wrote two posts detailing my tedious ordeal with one of the smaller branches of Pusan Bank. I was seriously pissy, not terribly concise, and I clearly hadn't gotten enough hugs that week. As it turns out, not all branches of Pusan Bank are evil, my panties have managed to untwist themselves slightly, and I still haven't gotten enough hugs recently.

After having wasted an hour of my day and shed two years off my life expectancy from the stress of my last visit to Pusan Bank, I smartened up and went to one of the larger branches in the city. This is exactly what I should have been doing in the first place, but having gotten to that point that I no longer know what a funny Konglish T-shirt is, I forgot that foreigners occasionally need to jump through hoops to get things done in Korea Land.

The moment that I sat down in the waiting area designated for those wiring money out of Korea (and probably a number of other services that are more important to the bank, but of zero interest to me), a man that I recognized from the last time I had gone to this branch stood up and waved me over. His English was spectacular, which is nice, but not something that I expect of Random Bank Guy in Korea. He recognized me from the last time, too, and pushed my request through in less than 10 minutes. When I asked him what the deal was with the other branch, he began talking to me in Bank Talk. I got bored of Bank Talk rather quickly, on account of my craptacular attention span, and decided to simply let the matter go.

For the time being, my promise to immediately close the account if Pusan Bank gave me any trouble wiring money home again remains untested. There will be no promises that I won't act like a gigantic brat again should it end up happening again. In the meantime, I'm reasonably content with them.

Now, off to work on the hugs issue.

How Barbie Lost Her Korean Blog Links

In the midst of changing templates for the 35th time, I lost all of my links. All 5 of them. This could have been avoided, had I decided to back things up before swapping out the entire template, but that move would have required forethought.

I'm completely lacking in forethought.

I've managed to retrieve the links to a couple of blogs by checking site referrals and other geeky stuff, but have lost whatever else I might have had up. So, if I had your link up and it's no longer up, just tack a comment on here or email me and I'll add it. If I was never linking to you in the first place but you'd like me to, drop me a line.

In the meantime, if you happened to stumble across me by accident and want a way out, check The Korean Blog List for related (perhaps more suitable) content.

Friday, September 19, 2008

You Know That You've Been in Korea Land Too Long When...

As I near the one year anniversary of my arrival to Korea, I find myself less and less observant of the crazy World of Korea Land. A random parade of giant golden frog statues on the backs of pickup trucks, flying through Deokcheon at dinner time? Big deal. Random Korean food stuffs? Whatever. If it's not still moving, I've probably already tried it (gotta draw the line somewhere). Two particular incidents over the past week have led me to realize that perhaps I've been here just a touch too long.

Over the past year, I've collected some random Konglish t-shirts to bring home as hilarious presents for Whoever. Konglish t-shirts are essentially just t-shirts that say random English words on them, or words that are almost English, in some bizarre order, with hilarious potentially consequences. I was looking through the t-shirts that I had bought over the year, when it dawned on me: I no longer find the Konglish t-shirts that I bought in my first few months here funny. I was appalled to discover that I had purchased such weak examples of Konglish t-shirts. Having been spoiled by the sight of awesome Konglish t-shirts on a daily basis, I no longer have any concept of what constitutes just a slightly funny Konglish t-shirt. Some days, the level of my English has dipped so low, that I can hardly distinguish between Konglish and proper English. A sad, but, true story. I spent five minutes in a boutique the other day trying to figure out if I would have found a t-shirt that said "wet heads" in huge letters, with other random words underneath, regarding keeping your friends close, funny. Conclusion? If I have to ask, I've been here too long.

There are roughly 800 hospitals in my immediate neighbourhood, to accommodate the 62000 Koreans who live within a 3 meter proximity to me. This only a slight exaggeration. There are so many hospitals in my immediate area, that one would have to try hard not to see a random hospital patient wandering around the streets in their gown, wheeling an IV drip alongside them, at least a couple of times per week. The first day that I encountered one of these, the patient looked particular ill and walked with a limp. I was convinced that she was a zombie and went home scared. This week when I encountered a pair of men sitting outside of the Home Plus (grocery store), both in hospital gowns and hooked up to IV drips, just chillin' out, I didn't even look twice. It didn't even dawn on me until hours later that two guys hanging out at a busy intersection in hospital gowns, hooked up to needles, is fucking bizarre. I'm not from Vancouver; I'm not used to that shit. Or rather, I'm not used to being used to that shit. I don't like being used to that shit! That shit is whack.

I could continue all day with further illustrations of how I've clearly been here too long, but won't, because it's almost 6am and I still have two fried computers to fix. Let's just say that my trip home in November can't possibly come too soon.

(As an aside, I will likely be back early next year, and will be continuing the blog from home either way. I look forward to pissing on Canada for a few months)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Barbie, Why Do You Keep Changing Your Blog?

I've recently been switching templates and reorganizing stuff around here for the same reason that I frequently refer to myself in the third person, using a moniker that isn't even close to my real name: Because I'm crazy. In truth, I'm planning on moving the blog and creating my own template for it once I'm an unemployed bum back in Canada Land with too much time on my hands. In the mean time, if I do anything particular offensive, feel free to comment.

If You Don't Vote, You're Probably An Asshole.

True to form, Stephen Harper decided to inconvenience me as much as possible by calling an election exactly one month to the date that I’m due to return to Canada. The good news is that this is not 1908, and I still have time to vote (by mail-in ballot). The bad news is that I have to vote; I consider all options different, but nearly equally awful. I’ve considered spoiling my ballot, but won’t. Who I will probably end up voting for and why is completely irrelevant to my point, which is: If you don’t vote, you’re probably an asshole. Here’s why:

62.8% of registered voters showed up to vote over the past two federal elections. That leaves roughly 8.5 million registered voters, per election, who just couldn’t be fucking bothered to vote. Roughly 7.5 million of those can be found around your office or local supermarket whining about how their taxes are too high, gas is too expensive, they know a guy who knows a guy that had to wait 36 hours at the Emergency Room to get his arm sewed back on, and their child shares a classroom with several dozen other students. I invite you to punch each and every one of these 7.5 million people in the face.

The 37.2% of registered voters who couldn’t be bothered to cast a ballot over the past two elections held in their hands, collectively, the power to make our country a different place. Instead, they sat idly on their hands, and let the rest of us handle the task of deciding who should map the course for our country over the next little while. Then, a good number of these people got off of their hands so that they could wave them around as they bitched endlessly about the results of our choices. Are you fucking kidding me?

People who just can’t be fucking bothered to vote have been known to present a myriad of terrible excuses, including (but not limited to) the following:

I don’t care.
I don’t like the available choices.
The polling station is too far away.
I work that day.
My vote won’t make a difference.

Some people truly don’t care. I am 100% behind their right to not bother voting this year. Those who truly don’t care, don’t bitch when the rest of us vote in an inept government. They’re exempt from deserving a punch in the fact. As for the rest:

Many of us bitch about our so-called choices. If you truly hate all of your options, then you have the choice to either select the lesser evil (also known as the party which is most aligned with your priorities), or spoil your ballot. While I don’t generally condone spoiling your ballot, as it has the same direct result as not voting at all, at least you’ve made the effort to demonstrate that you’re not apathetic; you just think that the choices suck.

Many of us live far away from our scheduled polling booth. As I noted earlier, this is not 1908. One month is more than enough time for you to sign up for a mail-in ballot. Few people are further away from their polling booth than I am, and I’m still going to vote. So boo fucking hoo.

Work is not an excuse. Even if you happen to have one of those jobs that requires you to work for the entire period of time that the polling stations are open, in Canada your employer is required to give you some time off during the day so that you can go cast a vote. Problem solved.

The “my vote won’t make a difference” crowd deserves not one, but two punches in the face. They are the absolute worst offenders among those who can’t be bothered to vote. These are people who have an opinion, but would rather sit around and wallow in self pity that their riding is too conservative/liberal for their widdle liberal/conservative heart to bear, than cast a vote for a candidate who is unlikely to be victorious. What these people fail to take into consideration is that, while their individual vote won’t make up the thousands of votes needed, if they and the other million people that are sitting around sad that their party of choice didn’t get enough hugs this year would just bother to fucking vote, the outcome of the overall election may very well have been different.

Tomorrow I will be faxing in my information to the Canadian Government, in the hopes that they’ll get a mail-in ballot package back to me in time for me to turn it around and get it back to them by October 14. I don’t trust them to succeed in this, but I will at least know that I’ve done absolutely everything I can to ensure that I cast a ballot in the federal election. If I don’t vote in this election, “The Canadian Government failed to ship my mail-in ballot package before the election was held” is a damn good excuse.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Death of No Name Student

That was short lived.

On my way to class today, I asked the teacher who shares No Name Student's class with me if she knew what No Name's name was. Sally Teacher told me that No Name Student hadn't felt inclined to share her name, so she didn't really know. Suzy Student, a member of No Name Student's class, walked by at this time. Sally Teacher consulted with Suzy Student, who also had no idea what No Name's name was. Sally Teacher apologized and then walked off. Suzy Student explained to me that Sally Teacher had been calling No Name Student "No Name" as well. This was awesome, but not helpful.

As much as I felt that No Name Student had earned her moniker, every now and then I feel like a bit of an asshole openly mocking a 12 year old in front of other 12 year olds. It's like I remember the time that I became way to old for that shit, back when I was 15, and it stops being quite as much as fun. Then I remember how irritating I find said 12 year old, and do it anyways. It looked like another name of calling out No Name Student was in store.

At the beginning of most of my classes, I write all the tike's names on the board. I remind them that if they speak Korean without asking my permission first, they'll get a big scary check mark! Because check marks are scary. I can't believe that this works. Depending on the level of the class, they get between 1 and 3 chances. I don't forbid Korean in my classroom; I just don't want to hear it, unless it's being used to discuss the lesson. The more mature students don't require this, primarily because they are not 10 and can actually stay on topic with me. I suspect that they may still be afraid of check marks.

I usually write the names in alphabetic order, because I'm anal like that. Just this once, I wrote the names in order of seating, to give No Name Student a chance to redeem herself. It made me feel a bit queasy, not going alphabetically. Thankfully, this was not in vain. Just before writing "No Name Student" on the board, I looked at her and placed the marker on the board. "Teacher, Min Ju!", she yelled. I told her that I was happy to learn that she had a name.

And with that, No Name Student was no more.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Birth of No Name Student

Here is reason 37 why I don’t bother to prepare for my classes: After spending 10 minutes of my life preparing the lesson plan and accompanying game or activity, the odds of me arriving to class and finding faces that I’ve never seen before is about one in ten. The odds of somebody informing me prior to class that I might find new faces that day is precisely one in one hundred. Hence, after having spent ten minutes determining how much of the lesson we should cover that day, and how many copies of everything is needed for the activity, a huge chunk of class is spent initiating the new student. The 10 minutes of my life spent planning ahead for a lesson that we wouldn’t have time for, could have been used planning an activity that accounted for the new face. But, no. That would make way too much sense.

Last week I found yet another random face in one of my elementary level classes. I decided to start the ball rolling from the most obvious point: did this random face have a name? No. As it turns out, she did not. Every now and then I get a new student that refuses to speak to me. They speak English perfectly fine and they understand what I'm saying - they just see no reason to respond to basic questions like: What is your name? This is a problem. After two minutes of torture, trying to get the new student to stop giggling and provide me with her name, I resolved this the only way I knew how: I assigned her a name.

I don’t generally like to name my students. I would much rather learn their Korean name than assign them an English one. My efforts are usually undermined by one of the Korean teachers, who end up giving them an English name anyways. They often forget to inform me of this point, and I’ll spend another month horribly mispronouncing some kid’s name, until the class decides to let me in on the joke. If I do get stuck having to name a student, I have the class brainstorm some names on the board and have the student pick the one that they like best. Given the new student’s refusal to use her words to communicate with me, I was going to just have to pull a name out of a hat. I had two bits of information about this student to go on: she apparently had no name, evidenced by her refusal to provide me with one, and she giggled a lot. No Name seemed more descript and less creepy than Giggles, so No Name Student was born.

The other students thought that No Name Student was a hilarious moniker, and broke into fits of laughter every time I called on her. The rest of the class, with the exception of her cousin, clearly thought No Name Student was a moron. See, No Name Student knew perfectly well that I was asking her name, and she even understood when I specified that I’d like to know her real (Korean) name. Any doubt of this was removed when Loud Student asked to speak Korean so that he could clarify whether or not she was shy, or just an idiot. Given that she spent the rest of the week after this shouting Hello at me and giggling, when she’s about three years too old for this to still be acceptable behaviour, it’s clearly the latter case.

Any guilt or sense of shame felt over having named a 12 year old “No Name Student” has been eased by her continued asshattery throughout the week. Someday, she might get the memo that foreigners are only funny the first time that you meet them - after that, they almost become like Real People. Until then, her moniker of No Name Student sticks.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Barbie and the Pusan Bank Incident - Part 2

As I was waiting to have my money wired home from the local Pusan Bank, The Boss Man and the bank tellers chatted back and forth at one another. The Boss Man did his best to work as a translator between us.

The Boss Man: They say you can send 300 000 won now. Ok?
Me: Why only 300 000 won?
The Boss Man: They say 300 000 won most foreigners can send. Ok?
Me: No. I have to pay VISA. Tell them to look at my papers, which clearly indicate that I’ve twice sent much more than that.

The Boss Man and the bank tellers chat amongst themselves for a while again.

The Boss Man: They say new rule. 300 000 only. Only more if you can show them pay.
Me: You mean the pay stubs that you give me which show how much you paid me? I have those. All of those. Right here. *point to the stack of pay stubs on the counter in front of me, which the tellers had refused to take from me earlier*

The Boss Man looked relived that this might be over, and handed the pay stubs to the tellers. They chatted further, and The Boss Man began to look slightly less relieved.

The Boss Man: They say 300 000 won for foreigner.
Me: WHY?
The Boss Man: New rule.
Me: They said I needed pay stubs. We gave them those. Tell them that I’ve done this process with other branches of Pusan Bank and there was no problem.

The Boss Man and the bank tellers chat amongst themselves again. One of them picks up a phone, which The Boss Man explains to me is a translator who is going to explain to me what is going on. While The Boss Man’s English is good enough to get by, it’s not quite sufficient for explaining bigoted, fabricated bank policies.

Translator: Next time you uh, uh… Pusan Bank, you need uh.. more information.
Me: More information?
Translator: Documents. You need..
Me: Passport? Alien card? Pay stubs? The guy who pays me sitting right here? Bank information for Canada? Previous Pusan Bank statements which indicate that transfers have been made before? What else could they possibly need?
Translator: When send more than uh, uh, 300 uh, hundred… no, 300 thousand.. need documents. Legal…
Me: I have any legal documentation that they could possibly need. This is not a legal matter; this is a matter of institutionalized bigotry. I even have the guy who pays me, legally, sitting right here, and they can’t wire my money?!

Just short of breaking out into a tirade of expletives, I pounded the phone on the counter. “I’m done talking to him”, I told The Boss Man. The translation service that the bank called actually employed a guy who didn’t have working knowledge of English numbers, and spoke even poorer English than The Boss Man. And he was supposed to be able to properly explain imaginary bank policies to me? Oh.

The Boss Man and the tellers chatted again for a while, looking a touch uncomfortable to be in the presence of somebody so seemingly volatile. This went on for at least 5 more minutes – the bank tellers would explain something to The Boss Man, he would try to explain it to me, and I’d tell him to tell the bank tellers that I thought their bank was bigoted, that there was no reason they couldn’t send my money home, and that if they weren’t going to send it home immediately, I wanted to close my account. Now. I then pulled out my KB card (another bank here) and told him to tell them that I’d go there, where perhaps racism wasn’t all the rage. He was confused as to what I meant by racism. I pointed at my cheek and told him that they’d wire my money to Canada if I didn’t look so foreign. It was about this time that I started to feel a little bit embarrassed for having made The Boss Man the official translator between my temper tantrum and the fucking bank tellers.

In the end, the bank tellers agreed to wire my money that day, so long as The Boss Man promised to fax them something that they already had right in front of them: proof of payment from the place of employment listed on my working VISA. When I got back to Barbie Hagwon with The Boss Man, he had Rambo Teacher explain to me what the bank translator couldn’t: that Pusan Bank had a new, imaginary bank policy, whereby if you send more than 3 million won (about 3000 dollars) out of the country in one year, you need your boss to complete some bullshit paperwork in order to send any more. When The Boss Man then asked it was okay now, I nearly went off again. But then I realized he was just asking if I understood – not if I liked it. And really, The Boss Man was fantastic throughout this entire ordeal. So, I told him that all was well and thanked him profusely for his assistance.

I can’t even being to comprehend how utterly, fucking stupid this entire situation was. I later consulted with several of my friends, who also used Pusan Bank, to confirm my suspicion that my local branch was creating bank policy out of their asses. There was no legal reason for them to make it so difficult for me to wire money home. This was not a universal Pusan Bank policy. There wasn’t a single piece of documentation that they could have asked for that I didn’t have with me. The very man who sponsored my working VISA, the address of who’s institution is permanently etched on said VISA, who pays me out of his own Pusan Bank account, was sitting right there, with identification! Yet, they couldn’t just do their job. They were simply dicking me around because nobody has yet distributed the memo around Korea that dicking around foreigners just because you can, isn’t cute. My temper tantrum, complete with accusations of bigotry and cries of institutionalized racism, wasn’t exactly cute either. But that’s what it took

The Boss Man and I decided that next time I should go to a larger branch. I decided that if I have any hassles from Pusan Bank again, I will close my account with them. I’ve been here 10 months, and this is the first time I’ve had to deal with bullshit of this magnitude. Really, I’m fortunate. That said, if this nonsense ever becomes the norm here, I won’t be back.

Barbie and the Pusan Bank Incident - Part 1

Fuck Pusan Bank.

A couple of weeks ago, I swung by the Pusan Bank near my school so that I could wire some money home. Sending money home so that I can pay off the disgusting load of bills that are waiting for me in Canada Land is the primary reason that I came to Korea. Seeing the world and pretending that I’ve become more culturally enlightened is fun and all, but if it didn’t pay to be here I’d still be drinking Coors Light at my local drinking hole, wondering why opening day of the NHL season isn’t a national holiday. Anything that comes between me and the dissolution of my disgusting load of bills provokes ire that can only be extinguished by my causing a minor public spectacle.

While I had heard that dealing with the banks in Korea has the potential to be loads of hassle for a foreigner, my own experiences had been positive. Whenever I needed to send money home I made a point of bringing every piece of legal identification and paperwork involving payments (from my legal place of work) that I had at my disposal. Nobody had actually bothered to look at my pay stubs in the three times that I had wired money home, and one didn't even bother with my alien card, but no matter: I kept bringing them with me, in the off chance that this branch would require them.

Given that I usually spend no more than 20 minutes at the bank when I’m wiring money to Canada, I thought that the 50 minutes I had between classes that day would be plenty. Everything proceeded as usual, right up until the point that the girl who clearly had no idea what she was doing was asked to take over and finish the job that the guy who did know what he was doing, had been doing. How could this possibly fail?! After taking approximately 5 minutes to learn the system and sort out what exactly she was supposed to be doing, the woman proceed to stare at the computer screen and look confused. For ten minutes. Ten fucking minutes. Occasionally, when she noticed me glance at her with impatience, she would fiddle with the papers in front of her and pretend to do something. Then she would go back to staring. She eventually gave up trying to mentally manipulate the objects on the screen so that they’d make sense to her, and called the original bank teller back over. The two of them jabbered for a while, and then began speaking to me in Korean. Because the first several times that they tried to do this, where I explicitly told them I didn’t speak Korean, indicated to them that it would be a good expenditure of everybody’s time if they explained bank policy to each other, as I watched.

As it was clear that I was going to be late for my class at this point, I called The Boss Man. After explaining to him that I was having issues at the bank and didn’t understand what the hold up was, he told me that he’d be right over to bail me out. That was unexpected. I had expected him to be at least moderately annoyed with me, and hadn’t even considered the possibility that he’d come down to the bank to help me out. I had clearly underestimated his degree of awesome.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Laziest Teacher at Barbie Hagwon?

I spend many an hour in class wondering if it is even possible to be a lazier teacher than I am. On most days, I do absolutely no prep whatsoever. On those days that I feel prep is required, I spend three minutes between the computer and the photocopying. When in class, it's not unheard of for me to roll the chair three feet to the whiteboard, to avoid standing up and walking over to it. It's pathetic, really. I cannot believe that I get paid what I do for a job that I'm so nonchalant about and grossly under-qualified for. I look to my fellow coworkers, who have to make phone calls to student's parents, handle all the report cards, and take all the crap for our collective failures, and occasionally feel just a touch bad. And then one of them fucks up and fails in a manner that I hadn't even thought of yet, and I feel just a little bit better.

Wednesdays used to be fantastic. I spent about 4 hours at my hagwon, teaching 4 classes and taking a jaunt to McDonald's in between. Then public highschools decided that Monday was a good time to get the year rolling again, and my schedule changed. Wednesdays are still relatively fantastic, but now I have to stick around for a dinner break and an evening class. Balls, but I can handle it.

This past Wednesday, I used my dinner break to sit around the staff room and kill time on the internet. Two of my coworkers sat across the room at the table and talked amongst themselves as they pretended to do work, while Rambo Teacher used the other computer to kill time on the internet. About ten minutes into my break, I noticed that nobody appeared to have a class scheduled. This was interesting, because Blue Student and Sally Student were my responsibility at this time on Mondays and Fridays. Unless they had simultaneously cancelled their classes with our hagwon, somebody was trying to snatch my title of Laziest Teacher at Barbie Hagwon.

Me: Uh.. guys? Nobody has class right now?
My three coworkers: * exchange unconcerned looks* No.
Me: Then what happened to Blue Student and Sally Student's class? I mean, if we're all in here...
My three coworkers: *exchange concerned looks*
Suzy Teacher: I am finished class for today.
Shelly Teacher: *shrug*
Rambo Teacher: Um... *checks schedule. Panics* I have to go. Now. *rushes out of the room*

Suzy Teacher, Shelly Teacher and I enjoyed a good three minutes of laughter at his absent minded expense. And, more importantly, I felt a little better about having rolled my chair to the whiteboard at least twice that day.

Rambo Teacher later thanked me and said that he owed me a class, as The Boss Man would have killed him had he spent the entire class on the internet. I reminded him that he had already taken a class for me - this past Friday, when I got stuck at the bank, accusing them of institutionalized racism. So, we're even.

As for the bank incident, I'll probably write about that over the weekend. I have refrained from doing so yet, because I'm still irritated about the entire, ridiculous string of events.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Some Bitches Start Young

Remember those little bitches that I ranted about a while back? Yes, the ones who are 5 and 7 years old. Or something like that. It was brought to my attention, privately, that I might be a bad person for labeling children as bitches. Whatever. I fail to see how my taking note of the fact that some people get an early start on a lifetime of super bitchdom, makes me a bad person. It’s not my fault that a lot of people who should never have children decide to pollute the gene pool with their spawn. My referring to these children as monster bitches puts a label on their behaviour; it doesn’t point the finger of blame at the children. It’s not The Princess Bitches fault that either their parents raised them poorly, or merely unleashed upon the world a potent a cocktail of their most unfortunate traits.

The Princess Bitches are most likely to exhibit human-like behaviour when forced to share their space with other children. When I started at Barbie Hagwon, neither of the girls caused me any problems. I knew Bitch, The Younger as the smallest student in the school, and I hardly even knew that Bitch, The Elder existed. They were that well behaved – when in separate classrooms. Only when they were placed in their own private class, together, did shit hit the fan. This month, The Boss Man placed the girls in the other class of the same level, and canceled their private session. I wish that I could say that The Boss Man spoke with The Bitches mother and that they came to the agreement that putting the girls in a mixed classroom was the best remedy to their intolerable brattery. In reality, there was probably a scheduling complication which made it impossible to fit their private class into everybody’s timetables. Whatever the reason, The Bitches have been far less of a problem this month.

Bitch, The Elder, is the root of the issue. Bitch, The Younger, is probably not even a year out of the bed wetting stage; that she spends upwards of 10 hours of her day in various institutions is appalling. She’s forgiven for her tendency to follow big sis wherever she takes her. As I learned recently, Bitch, The Elder, is not just rude to me and the other Korean teachers, she’s also rude to The Boss Man. Who’s rude to The Boss Man? I probably ought to rename them at this point, at the very least removing the plural from their moniker. The Younger has been an absolute gem this month. She hasn’t fallen asleep in class; she hasn’t pointed and laughed or refused to do her work. When surrounded by other, more positive influences, The Younger is just like any other student. Unfortunately, there has been no change in the behaviour of Bitch, The Elder.

It’s been a couple of months since I last bothered getting upset that nothing I do will result in Bitch, The Elder, acting like a respectable human being. I’ve more or less acceptable that some people are just bad at life. And that sometimes they start young. Some of the more precocious manage to make a statement at just 7. That’s just how it is. Pointing this out is not what makes me a bad person.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Horseback Riding Hell

There is a week at the end of July, crossing into the first week of August, where everybody in Korea decides that it would be a great time to go on vacation. Everybody. At the exact same time. This does wonders for traffic, hotel costs, and crowd control. I seriously considered boarding myself up in my apartment for the week, in order to avoid this influx of people. Then I remembered that I spent my last chunk of vacation time hauled up in my apartment, trying to bypass the denial stage of grief by watching a lot of television. Or something like that. This made no sense. Upon remembering this, I decided that it was probably time to get off the mainland for a while. Traveling was a much better idea than television. Progress! Jeju Island was calling.

The plan was to take a Tuesday flight into Jeju, and figure the rest out when we got there. Traveling with just April Teacher, it promised to be an uncomplicated affair. As we had expected, we were very travel compatible. You know those people that have to do absolutely everything together? Who plan every minute detail of their trip: from what time they will check into the hotel, to where they will eat breakfast on the last day? Who need constant reassurance that you’re still in the seat on the bus beside them, via never-ending mindless banter? We are not those people. While those people can be fantastic over the course of dinner or afternoon at the beach, spending several days with them results in a serious lack of Me Time. Without quality Me Time, I become a monster bitch. Even more so than usual. It’s terrible for everybody, really.

Among other things, we hiked sunrise peak, spent a day on Jungmun Beach with the Golden Drunk and Heila, viewed some waterfalls, visited a sex-themed outdoor sculpture park (Love Land), and went horseback riding. As amusing as it is to find an abundance of statues in various positions of intercourse, Love Land was only of slight interest to me. First, none of the male sculptures exhibited frat-boy-like qualities. A serious flaw (my frat boy fetish has been well documented). Second, all of the female statues had breasts slightly large than mine. All of them. This made no sense. How can a country where I can hardly buy a fucking bra depict all of the females in a sex exhibit as voluptuous? Broken. Rather than continuing on how Love Land crushed my soul, I’m going to talk about how horseback riding takes my breath away.

I don’t recall ever going horseback riding during my childhood. I was in no way prepared to hop on a saddle without any instruction whatsoever, and ride off into the sunset. Somebody dropped the ball and failed to point out that one of the instructors was going to walk us around the course with the horses, though it probably wouldn’t have made any difference. I was still being asked to hand over control and trust a creature with which I had no idea how to communicate (which is something I really ought to be used to, given the frat boy fetish). What if it didn’t like the way I held the reins, or the way my weight was distributed on its back? What if the horse threw me clear off of it for no particular reason? How could I get off the horse once it started moving? Could I get off the horse? How long was the course? This was going to end badly.

April Teacher was about to learn an important lesson about Barbie Teacher. April Teacher has ample experience with horses, and was perhaps a bit bewildered by the weight of my anxiety. I managed to get on the horse, thinking that it would only get easier after that. I even made it through some photos of the two of us with our horses. I thought that maybe it would get better once the horse started moving. This thought was dumb. Realizing now that a panic attack was imminent, I warned April Teacher of what was coming. Understandably, she didn’t take this too seriously. Who would? I’ve been known to exaggerate. She started to move along with her horse, likely expecting that mine would follow. Until she heard me hyperventilating. As it turns out, Barbie Teacher kids about many things, but panic attacks are not one of them. Wisely, April Teacher told the instructor guy to get me the fuck off the horse. Once my feet were on solid ground and I was in complete control of my movement again, I felt just dandy. April Teacher had a grand old time doing her rounds on the horse, and I enjoyed the view of Mount Hall and The Sea. All was well with the world. Not only did April Teacher get to ride horses that day, but she got to witness her first Real Live Panic Attack. It was a special moment, I’m sure.

I’m not afraid of horses. Looking at horses, walking around horses, standing beside horses, and petting horses are all tolerable activities. Apparently it’s sitting on them that is the problem. There is a really obvious paragraph about control and trust issues that could be written here, but it would bore me to write it. The truth is I was pretty sure that I was going to freak out over horseback riding well before we even touched ground in Jeju. I tried it anyways. I’ll probably try it again, someday. Just not with anybody of the friends who read my blog; they're unlikely to invite me horseback riding anytime soon.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Teacher, There’s a Hole in Your Face!

Earlier this week when I was at the corner store picking up something or other, the man at the counter inquired as to whether or not my face hurt. A valid question, if you think that having a nose piercing results in constant, unrelenting pain. If you’ve never before seen somebody who is willing to poke a hole in the middle of their face in the name of beauty or expression, then you wouldn’t be a complete idiot for coming up with such a conclusion.

There was a time last June when, after a particularly terrible week, I decided to top off my call-in-sick-to-work day with a nose ring and booze. This was around the time that I couldn’t really hold down a job, because I was too much of an asshole to bother going. At the time I would insist that if the job weren’t so stupid, then I’d go. But clearly if the job was that “stupid”, that beneath me, then I was an idiot for continuing to work there. Rather than act like an adult and hand in my resignation, I decided that I’d rather spend my day poking a hole in my face and getting drunk. While I can’t remember what possessed me to get a navel ring when I was 17, I imagine that the reasoning was equally stupid. My piercings are not unique, nor are they even particularly cute. The only way that these may qualify as an expression of myself, is that they demonstrate a history of self destructive choices. At present, I maintain them for two reasons: On a vain note, they look better than the alternative (ugly scars). Also, I enjoy being reminded of what a douche I used to be (and still am).

When I decided to work in Korea, I figured that ripping out the nose ring was a forgone conclusion. Korean society is generally more conservative in regards to personal appearance than my homeland. Furthermore, my contract specifically called for no facial piercings. For once in my life, I planned on acting like an adult and treating my job with the proper respect. Hence, I removed my nose ring on the plane, probably somewhere over Alaska. I left the nose ring out for my entire first week of work.

And then I got curious.

Would I be able to get a nose stud back in after having not had anything in it for a full week? I’d heard from friends that theirs closed up within hours. While this had always struck me as exaggeration of epic proportions, I had never been able to test this. Until now. Naturally, I put aside 10 seconds of my Friday night so that I could force a stud back into my nose. It really only hurt a little bit. It was clear at this point that my friends were either lying or had absolutely no tolerance for pain. Or possibly that their nasal passages regenerate at a faster rate than mine.

Having learned that I have super nasal passages which don’t immediately regenerate upon removing a piece of metal from them, I determined that I could wear the nose stud on the weekends and then go to work according to dress code. Everybody wins.

And then my nose got infected. Of course.

It wasn’t a terrible infection, but it was red enough for a coworker and some students to take note. Everybody was concerned as to why my nose was so “sick”. I explained to my coworker that I had been wearing my piercing on the weekend, and that apparently taking it out and putting it back in all the time had irritated the hold. How unexpected! Naturally, she thought that I was an idiot.

It’s not really Korean-style to come right out and say that somebody is a fucking moron. Instead, she inquired as to why the heck I’d been taking it out in the first place. When I informed her that my contract called for no piercings, she told me that not only would The Boss Man not notice, but he wouldn’t particular care if he did. Didn’t I get the memo that I’m a foreigner and not held to the same standards as the Korean teachers? Or the other memo that states the final clause of my working contract: “Just kidding!” ?

From that point forward I kept my nose piercing in when I went to work. Every once in a while, one of my students will forget that we had the exact same conversation last week, and ask if my nose is “sick”. Then they’ll want to know if it hurts. I try to explain to them that it’s sort of like having an earring on your face. They are usually still horribly confused, which is just as well. It’s probably best that 10 year olds not understand why I desired to poke a hole in my face.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Archery! And Phelps. And More Archery.

There have been times this past week that I've wondered what happened to all the Olympic sports that don't involve shooting at things, lifting things, Park Tae Hwan or Michael Phelps (which sounds more like P-ehl-suh when spoken in Korean).

After returning from Daegu at 7:30 this morning, I spent my day sleeping and watching Olympic tennis on the internet. While this may strike some as lame, for me this is a pretty fantastic day. The only thing that would have made it better would have been if I could have called up Dominos and ordered a pizza. My Korean sucks, so if I want a pizza I have to walk down the street, point at pictures, and then carry my pizza home. Given that I had two very important matches to attend to, this was not an option.

In case the above hadn’t already made this evident, I’m a huge sports geek. While tennis is my ball of choice, I have been known to fall into dweeb mode over hockey, figure skating, gymnastics, various track and field events, swimming, and even golf. Yes, golf. Watching Sergio Garcia find new and exciting ways to lose to Padraig Harrington has become a favourite annual event of mine. As a sports geek, I consider it my biennial duty to take in as much of the Olympics as possible.

Having been raised on a steady diet of Olympic sports like swimming, track and field, and gymnastics, I’ve come to expect certain things from my regional broadcasters. These things generally do not include a heavy focus on archery, weight lifting, shooting, handball, or judo. A week of increased exposure to these Olympic sports has led me to conclude the following: archery and shooting are interesting for no longer two minutes at a time, weight lifting is interesting for no longer than ten seconds at a time, judo is okay, and handball is rather awesome. Oh, and Koreans tend to do fairly well in most of these events. Who knew that they kicked Summer Olympics ass?

There have been times over the past week where I’ve flipped through the three stations offering Olympic coverage, and found myself wanting to chuck the remote at the screen. When expecting to find live gymnastics team finals, I found a badminton match, more archery, and the 317th replay of Park Tae Hwan winning South Korea’s first ever swimming meal. This was one of those times.

During class this week, I decided to bring in some English news papers to encourage discussion with my students, many of whom had told me that they have enjoyed watching the games this past week. To start the class, I polled them on what their favourite sports are, and then brainstormed to see how many different sports they could provide the English name for. Archery and weight lifting were almost always among the top three that they thought of (they rarely knew the word for these, and would act-it-out for me instead), which tended to be rounded out with swimming, taekwando, or judo. This is bizarre to me.

While I’ve enjoyed my exposure to a different sporting culture, were it not for a series live streams of international Olympic awesomeness that I managed to find the internet, I would certainly be cranky right now. Yet, if I were at home, I’d likely be whining about the inane commentators. I have spent the few moments that I’ve picked up live streams from the United States, Canada, or parts of Europe whining about jingoism and craving objectivity. The commentators may well be equally inane here, but my failure to understand a word of their potential inanity, renders my Korean commentators almost completely unnoticeable. And that’s more or less just how I like it. Now, if I wise up next time and pick a place that shows the sports I like and speaks a language that I don't understand, I'll have one less thing to bitch about.