Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Chase Student and The Assembly of Brats

In the midst of an otherwise breezy Friday schedule awaits The Assembly of Brats. These seven poorly disciplined, overactive seven year olds with a penchant for mischief are inexplicably charming. On the worst of days, they’re almost likable. Each class begins with an epic, one sided battle of hide-and-seek; they hide, nobody cares enough to go find them. Eventually short attention spans signal boredom, and the lesson begins five minutes later than scheduled. Should the teacher need to exit the classroom at any point, an impromptu game of hide-and-go-seek is sure to follow.

What is generally a routine day at the office with The Assembly of Brats has been known to turn ugly on those rare occasions that Barbie Teacher is experiencing the unpleasantries of dysmenorrhea. On this particular Friday, Andy Student and Tony Student thought that it would be cute to giggle uncontrollably after Barbie Teacher returned from her brief date with the photocopier. They were wrong. While Barbie Teacher was perfectly aware that The Brat Pack had chased closely behind and kept detailed surveillance of her date, she preferred to ignore this fact of Hagwon Life and get on with the lesson. This incessant giggling interfered with her plans immensely.

Neither Andy Student nor Tony Student was interested in discussing their shenanigans with Barbie Teacher. Instead, they preferred to continue giggling. Barbie Teacher was grossly unimpressed. This meant that she had to pretend to care what it was they had done wrong by inviting them to a lecture in the hallway. Neither Andy Student nor Tony Student gave a lick what Barbie Teacher had to say. Fortunately for Barbie Teacher, Oldest Male Korean Teacher (OMKT) happened to be in the hallway scolding Chase Student. Its one thing to disrespect Barbie Teacher; she’s a silly foreigner who has been designed specifically for the student body’s amusement. OMKT actually has a place in Korean society which garners a certain degree of respect, if not fear from The Munchkins. After abruptly finishing with Chase Student, OMKY barked about 5 words at Andy Student and Tony Student before returning to his own classroom.

The previously mum Andy Student and Tony Student suddenly felt inspired to stop giggling like school children and respond to Barbie Teacher like adults. Chase Student, who had apparently been instructed to remain in the hallway with his hands in Kidstreet Overhead Clapping position, had no choice but to eavesdrop on the lecture. Tony Student, who struggles to string together sentences in English, nominated Andy Student to do the talking. Barbie Teacher, who was quite bored at this point, hoped that they stop hemming and hawing soon. She was quickly running out of the patience required to keep up this inane charade of Actually Giving a Damn.

When Andy Student finally began with, “Teacher, we was …” Chase Student saw his opening. Chase Student cleared his throat loudly enough that the Party of Three turned in unison to look his way. With all eyes on him, he declared: “We were! We were! We were!” Andy Student, clearly startled to discover that Chase Student is such a grammar stickler, corrected himself and continued with his boring explanation of how he and Tony Student thought it was hilarious that they followed Barbie Teacher to her photocopying date, but golly, they were really sorry! Barbie Teacher, holding back a yawn and the door to the classroom, advised them to return to their seats without a peep. Following closely behind, Barbie Teacher cast a glance over her shoulder to Chase Student, who hadn’t budged from his Kidstreet Overhead Clapping pose. “Thank you, Chase Student”.

While The Assembly of Brats would continue their shenanigans in the future, Barbie Teacher found consolation in having learned that Chase Student is a pedantic smart ass.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Barbie and the Dash for Cash

This past Friday, I decided just before midnight that I would make an appearance at a birthday bash down in Seomyeon. I was going to bail, on account of laziness, but after about half an hour of Lazy I was itching to do something. Anything. A birthday bash seemed like a slight upgrade from another two hours of ass scratching, tootsie pops and House. Only one problem with this plan: I had neglected to hit a bank machine on my way home from work. The subway stops running in that direction just before midnight. With only 6 bucks in hand, I was just short of what was required to take a taxi to Seomyeon. And most bank machines in Korea Land seem to close up shop before midnight; it’s really quite silly. Thankfully, some convenience stores have ATM’s that will take my card. Of course, there are also many that won’t. And that’s how my Friday night rolled into an impromptu Saturday morning stroll.

There is a 7/11 around the corner from my apartment that has an ATM which will accept my bank card. For some bizarre reason, none of the subway station Cash Stops will accept it. Sadness. The special bond that I have with 7/11 gets me through many a rough patch with Subway Station Land. Unfortunately, I seemed to have picked the one night this week that the 7/11 wasn’t up for some action. I arrived at the store, bank card in hand and found some Random Drunk pacing in front of the ATM. He looked nonplussed and occasionally would give the machine a brisk tap on the side. The man at the counter came over when he saw me waiting for the machine and started to babble at me in Korean. I didn’t understand a lick of this, but could deduce that the bank machine was currently down and that I was Shit Out of Luck.

Having taken all of 5 minutes to pin my hair up on my head a half hour earlier, I was determined to make it to Seomyeon that night. Ah, Vanity. The things I do for you! I flirted with the idea of Going Russian for one of the many Random Soju Men floating around the neighborhood but quickly dismissed the idea; not worth the itch. Instead, I walked in the general direction of Seomyeon under the assumption that there was a convenience store with a functional ATM to be found somewhere nearby. If by “nearby” I was simply aiming for “somewhere between my apartment and Seomyeon”, this estimate was bang on. By any other account, this plan was quite flawed.

One and a half hours after leaving my apartment, I finally found an ATM that didn’t Suck and put my ass in a cab. At this point I had walked so far that I was closer to Seomyeon than I was my apartment; another 30 minutes would probably have done it. To be honest, I’m somewhat disappointed that I found that ATM. It would have made a much better story upon showing up at the bar at 2am if I had actually walked the entire way there. Somehow, “I walked halfway between Yangjeon and Bujeon stations, then grabbed a taxi the rest of the way” just sounds stupid. “I walked to Seomyeon” is equally stupid, but a slightly more impressive feat.

I began at "Start" which, thanks to my less than awesome photo manipulation skills, is now only faintly visible. I stopped at "ATM". Seomyeon is the intersection of subway lines just below ATM on the map. So close, yet not quite. Sigh.

I refrained from sharing this story with my coworkers, as they will no doubt think that I’m nuts. Not sharing my random ridiculousness with them was not a simple feat given that I’m an Avid Trap Flapper. When I passed the story on to a friend back home he acted surprised that I would be foolish enough to “risk getting mugged”. Didn’t I know it wasn’t safe to wander around a big city by myself after midnight?! I advised him that this is the same country where I once found an 8 year old playing on a patch of ice outside of a bar at 2am and nobody batted an eye. The same country where I walked across the E-Mart (similar to Walmart) waving 300 dollars around in my hand and the only person who so much as did a double-take was my friend (who killed herself laughing and told me that I deserved to get my ass shot for being so nonchalant). It’s not perfect here, but comparably, Korea is laughably safe. That being said, I won’t make a habit of this. The Walk to Seomyeon That Just Fell Short really was a one time thing. Until next time I short change myself…

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Barbie, Piece by Piece

I've been confused, lately. Something hasn't quite been right. I've been positive. I've been downright chipper. I've felt positively splendid. And what for? Around 4am yesterday morning, after hours of pacing back and forth and wringing my hands out, it hit me: I’m happy. I’m not happy about any particular thing, or for any particular reason. I’m just happy. For the first time in my life, I don’t desperately wish I was somewhere else, somebody else. I’m even happy while sober. And I’m not even on psychoactive medication. Who would have thought this day would ever come?

The reality of Being Barbie is that I have a fantastic memory, with few happy memories on record. Despite carrying the burden having a plethora of less than fantastic memories with which to piece together my life, I refuse to bury them. At the end, we’re reduced to memories. When my time is done I hope to be remembered for what I am; not for pieces of myself. Consequently, it’s necessary that I remember myself as what I was; not for what I’ve become, but for why I’ve become This.

As I incoherently announced in a previous, grief sticken post, I’ve been grappling with the death of a friend since late January. I haven’t really been able to bring myself to write anything about him. There are a number of outlets on facebook where mutual friends have expressed their grief and shared memories. While I respect that everybody has to grieve in their own way, I would hate to remember him in pieces. My complete picture of what I knew him as is not something that I can put into words that could be shared. And so, I focus inward and do what I can to take away something positive from one of the most difficult experiences of my life. Much like I refuse to remember my friend in pieces, I refuse to remember myself in pieces.

I remember Christmas 1989, the last that my original family spent together. I received a Zeddy Teddy Bear; basically a regular teddy bear branded by Zeller’s. I still sleep with it. I’m 25 and still sleep with a stuffed animal. This is either really cute or really pathetic. Either way, Zeddy is my security blanket; the only constant throughout 19 years of shuffling. He’s become rather decrepit in his old age but can still be recognized as the most fantastic teddy bear this world ever did see, matted face and all.

I remember the first time that I tried to make Kraft Dinner. I was probably in the third grade, though it doesn’t really matter. It was my turn to host Caroline for dinner before our gymnastics lesson at 6. Mom didn’t come home that night. Caroline and I made the most of this experience and proved to be expert water boilers. Sadly, we lost the plot a little bit when trying to make the cheese sauce. Who knew that you were meant to use all the cheese that came in the package? We caught on to this fact only after throwing the half that we didn’t use into the garbage bin. After my brother mocked us relentlessly, as he often did, my sister helped us mix something together with what we had and some grated cheese. It was edible. Barely. From that day forward, I always used the entire package of cheese mix. A culinary genius was born.

I remember the time that I tempted fate in the tree house at my original home. I was curious what would happen if I swallowed a very small twig, probably no larger than an inch in length. Given that we moved out of that house when I was 7 or 8, I was probably no older than 5 or 6. I just wanted to see what would happen. The result? Nothing of note. Apparently I needed to have swallowed a larger twig if I was looking for a life of serious digestion issues. The lack of negative side effects set me up for a life of continued idiocy. I regularly try things that I shouldn’t, simply to see what will happen. Like that time that I put my middle finger on the donut maker that my father had advised me not to touch. Ah, my first burn blisters! Or that time I decided to stick my finger on the prong of the plug from my lamp which I had gingerly set half way out of the socket. Ah, my first electrical shock! Or soju. Ah, soju.

I remember everything, really. If I take nothing else away from my friend’s death, let it be that I need to celebrate my own past. Not to dwell on it, but to love myself for what it’s created. Perhaps, then, I can someday attack my own life with the same zest that he did his. A lifetime spent trying to separate myself from my past has been one spent void of anything real. As such, in the midst of the monologue of self mockery that is This Space, there will be the occasional reminiscent interlude.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Barbie Gets Punk'd

As I was visiting with Sunny Teacher and her beautiful new baby boy Saturday evening, I received the following text message: HEARD THE ALIENS JUST LANDED. The natural response to this was to text back: Where? Unfortunately, my text didn’t go through. Apparently 010-010-1100 is a bogus number. Who would have thought? In the midst of my failure to respond, I received a second text message: IM IN ALBETRAZ. SAVE ME. In search of somebody to blame, I message the most likely culprit: Shanna.

Me: Did you give out my number?
Shanna: No. Why?
Shanna: Who would I give your number to?
Me: Somebody is sending me funny text messages
Shanna: Like what?
Me: Like I was going to send The Tall One

You see, I had decided earlier that day that it would be cute of me to send our friend, The Tall One, creepy, anonymous text messages. As I didn’t actually have The Tall One’s number, I messaged Shanna for it. Given that I didn’t have The Tall One’s number, I assumed that she didn’t have mine. In spite of my efforts, I failed to get passed the first hurdle on this splendid idea because I broke the first rule of prank texting: Don’t answer the phone when they call you! The Tall One called me almost immediately after the first message (which was actually pretty tame; I was planning on gradually working towards creepy). I saw her number on the display and thought that she was calling me because it turned out that she had my number and was confused as to what I was going on about. As it turns out, she didn’t actually have my number until she called me, I answered, and she deduced that this was my number. Sigh. I came up with a half-assed cover story as to why I was messaging her about the bus and left it at that. Somehow, “I thought it would be funny to anonymously text message you and then answer when you call” didn’t seem like it was something that worth boasting about.

In the meantime, I had more important things to concern myself with than past failures. The barrage of text messages continued, with each subsequent message seemingly trying to out-ridiculous the previous. They proceeded as follows:

Culprit: PSCHO YO!

The hamster message was the last of the evening. This is likely because the culprit was unable to come up with something more ridiculous with which to top it.

While I was suspicious of Shanna still, when I received the “Pscho (sic) yo” message, I decided that the culprit may well be The Golden Drunk. The Golden Drunk, myself, and others have an inside joke which revolves around spelling psycho without the “y”. If it’s a slow week, I may share it sometime. I decided to send The Golden Drunk a random text message in return to see how she’d respond. Her failure to respond entirely confirmed my suspicion that it was her. I felt quite pleased with myself for having solved the mystery.

Despite having already called The Golden Drunk out, her random text messaging continued throughout Sunday, as I receive three more messages:


Highly amused by The Golden Drunk’s efforts to play dumb and keep the prank up, I discuss the matter with Shanna over dinner on Sunday night. I conclude that The Golden Drunk probably didn’t come up with all of those fabulous messages by herself and is probably in cohorts with her boyfriend. Shanna agrees with me on the matter. I went home that night feeling quite pleased with myself for having created a seamless conclusion to this matter. I was so confident in myself that I sent The Golden Drunk another random text message and a facebook message in reference to this ordeal. I wanted her to know that 1) I thought she was very clever and 2) she really should share with me how to message people from numbers like 010-010-1100. I was really hoping she would share her secret with me so that I could later use this trick on The Tall One.

By Monday evening, the random text messages had subsided. I was somewhat saddened by the sudden lack of attention, but concluded that The Golden Drunk must have bored of the idea soon after I advised her that the gig was up. Shanna and I were reiterating the entire story to The April, when Shanna decides to drop the following on me:

Shanna: Those messages have been coming from The Tall One
Me: Er… what?
Shanna: I explained to her why you randomly messaged her about the bus on Saturday, and she decided that she wanted to get even
Me: Shut up.
Shanna: How could you NOT have realized it was The Tall One?!
Me: I was so sure it was The Golden Drunk! This can’t be right.
Shanna: I personally wrote several of those messages!
Me: You mean the ones that you laughed at on the subway with me and declared as genius?!
Shanna: Yes, those ones.
Me: It’s terribly self centred and narcissistic to admire your own work in that manner.. how did I not think of this first?

In hindsight, it was fairly apparent the entire time that it was The Tall One behind this. Obviously Shanna was going to advise her of my original intentions to pull a similar prank on her, and the messages only started coming a few hours later when I knew the two of them were hanging out together. Furthermore, Shanna is one of about half a dozen people that would know to drop the “pscho (sic) yo!” line on me. Yet, in spite of the obvious, I spent the entire weekend with only a mild suspicion of Shanna, not a second though of The Tall One, discussing at length how this was clearly the work of The Golden Drunk. And the entire time, Shanna was reporting all of this back to The Tall One so that they could carry on such conversations as:

Shanna: She is blaming the entire thing on another friend of hers.
Shanna and The Tall One: Muhahaha!
The Tall One: Really? But… how? Could it be any more obvious?
Shanna: She has special problems.
The Tall One: She’s not actually that stupid.. is she?
Shanna: All signs point to yes.

In conclusion:

Shanna and The Tall One: 27
Big White Barbie: 0

I was completely duped.

I haven’t yet decided what my revenge will be. I admit that it will be difficult to match them on this. They took my utter failure of an idea and turned it around on me. While they get no points for creativity, their follow through was fantastic. Apparently I have about as much game with practical jokes as I do with the opposite sex. Back to the drawing board for me.