Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Years to Your Face

I'm staying in tonight to eat cheesecake and catch up on Season 5 of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. If the mood strikes, I may also start Deadwood; I just finished Sons of Anarchy Season 2, so I'm due for another drama. As far as I'm concerned, this is a pretty excellent way to bring in 2010.

Happy New Year to all. Let there be none of this:

I will likely write some reflective drivel tomorrow, as I do; it keeps my sleep regular.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

It Must be That Time of Year

I've reached that point in my stunted emotional development where I start to think that coming back would be a good idea. It really wouldn't be. At least, not without trying something else first. I know that. Still. It would be nice if what is best would coordinate with what is easy for once.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Nata Tat and The Ajusave

Aside from my weekend trip to Jeju Island, which I will post about later this week, nothing of note has happened to me lately. Something of note did happen to a friend of mine a couple of weeks ago, so I'm going to tell her story, in the way that I tell all stories - by making them all about me.

About a year and a half ago, I was nearly involved in a violent incident on the subway. I like to think that I was this close to just Ending some drunken scum who harassing me, but in reality I was likely closer to either getting my ass kicked or arrested. Thankfully, there was a magical Super Ajumma to save me from both myself, and that tragic waste of carbon and oxygen that was the Soju Man. Since that day, ajummas have pretty much been my favorite people (that is, until I moved to Seomyeon and started hating absolutely everybody).

While I've read quite a few horrific stories of this sort (and worse) on the Internet, until a couple of weeks ago my subway encounter was the worst of this nature that I'd heard first hand. Then, a friend of mine decided to put my weak look-what-almost-happened version of events to shame. I'm going to call her Nata Tat, because she totally digs that.

Nata Tat was riding the subway to Hadan (which may as well be on another planet) from Seomyeon (which shouldn't be on any planet). This usually takes her something like 45 minutes, calls for a book, and is an uneventful ride. Unless Drunk finds you.

Around 1pm, a charmingly drunk fellow stumbled into Nata Tat's subway car, cause that's just how some folks like to start their day. Personally, whenever drunk garbage stumbles into my space, I'm immediately on edge, with clenched fists and a readiness to break. Consider this the result of two years of regular harassment at the hands of random drunk men. Or an unhealthy reaction stemming from my broken psyche. Whatever it is, Nata Tat and I don't do crazy in the same way. She probably would have barely noticed him and continued with whatever thought it was she was having at the time, had Drunk not decided that she had a target on her cheek.

When the charming drunk fellow stumbled over to Nata Tat to scream in her face and follow it up with a full arm white trash style smack across the cheek, her reaction was what I would expect from most - shock. The man was set to continue berating her, when out of nowhere jumped in Super Ajumma, ready to save the day. With her gigantic purse, Super Ajumma whacked the man into submission, following it up with a verbal assault that had him in tears. Before Nata Tat could even piece together what the crap had just happened, she was being ushered into the special seating by the Super Ajumma, who's purpose in life is, seemingly, to make ours just a little bit safer.

Sadly, Nata Tat did not have a black eye to back up her story. Her word was enough, of course, if for no other reason than absolutely none of her tale was even remotely unbelievable. Of course there was a repugnantly drunk man on the subway at 1pm. Of course he decided to target the only foreigner on the train. And of course there was a wonderful, strong woman willing to stand up for what is right and smack the shit out of his pitiful existence. This is where we are.

The Ajusave. It's a thing. Cherish it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Korean Music is Not Compatible With Ecstasy

This has been the best Monday ever, and it's not even 2 pm yet. I almost want to go to bed and call it a day. It can only go downhill from here. There have been at least three great moments of quality what-the-Hell-just-happened for me so far today. This was just one. We were discussing anti-smoking regulations in one of my favourite classes this morning. It went something like this:

Barbie: Does anybody have any vocabulary questions from the article?

Sober Student: I just want to know... have you ever had marijuana.

Barbie: That's not... okay, yes. Yes, I have. Before coming to Korea. I quit a few months before arriving. This is less of a big deal where I come from.

Sober Student: What does marijuana feel like?

Not Sober Student: Marijuana is too soft! Like cigarettes.

Barbie: Like cigarettes?

Not Sober Student: Yes. Too soft.

Barbie: You're clearly not getting the right stuff.

Not Sober Student: Ecstasy is better. Marijuana, cigarettes, too soft. But ecstasy is good.

Sober Student: Barbie, have you...

Barbie: No. I haven't. I -

Not Sober Student: Ecstasy is good, but no good with Korean music. Korean music, too slow. Korean music and ecstasy are not compatible.

The class just moved on with the lesson at that point, because really, what more was there to say?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Having Watched You Fall Over, I am Now Titillated

I was out and about on the weekend. I've been doing more of that lately, now that my face has mostly healed up. It's never going to entirely, which is probably just as well; I can make amazing pissy faces now that my left eyebrow doesn't have quite the range that the right does.

Late Saturday, the group I was with insisted on going to a bar which I have declared too gross to enter. It's not, really. I'm being completely irrational. It's like my fear of gigantic stuffed animals (they're creepy), except that I actually used to go to the bar in question, and even had a good time there once;I have absolutely not ever spent time with gigantic stuffed animals.

Not wanting to make a fuss, I said something to the friends about being tired anyways, and they set off on their way. A good time had already been had, and I was not itching to stay out all night. I was content to have an out.

Going home without two wraps from the kebab guy seemed like a bad idea. As I was deciding which kebab guy to go to, a very one-sided fight stumbled into one of the stands. So far as I could tell, words were quickly exchanged, then one guy hit the other, who bounced off the stand before falling into a car. The victor walked off, presumably because his statement had been made and he was now bored. Understandable.

As I waited for my wonderfully delicious food, the guy who had just bounced off the car approached me at the stand. He wanted advice on whether or not to pursue the guy who had hit him. By virtue of being in a fantastic place at the wrong time, I was the go-to person for these things.

Me: Did he have a reason to hit you?
Car Bouncer: Uh.. yeah. But..
Me: Can you take him down, or are you just looking to get your ass kicked?
CB: I probably can't...
Me: Then why would you?
CB: That's a good point.
Me: Isn't it? Running after guys that can and will crush you like a bug is never a good plan.

CB then introduced himself to me all proper-like, told me that I was very wise (true) and asked me to join him for a drink. I politely declined, and wished him luck with the whole not-getting-his-ass-kicked thing. As I walked off, he took his cause to the kebab guy, in search of a second opinion as to whether or not he should be a completely self destructive disaster.

I did not stay to see the result.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Heat: Who Needs it?

I'm going to preface this post with the two following points:

1) I have a tendency to label everything that I don't understand as dumb. Flawed, but this is how I'm wired.
2) All of the other people that I know in Korea (three) are able to heat their apartment whenever they please.


It went down to 2 degrees Celcius the other night. For those of you not familiar with how Busan works, this qualifies as mother fucking cold. Essentially, Busan waited until the 1st of November to turn on Autumn. Just last week, I was wearing a skirt and no sweater. Last week.

Being mother fucking cold, I decided that it was time to retire the air conditioner and turn on the heat. Having a heated floor is more or less my favourite thing about Korea. Unfortunately, my floor's failure to cooperate killed my buzz. Six hours and no dice; it was still mother fucking cold.

Anger began to set in. I cursed at Korea in my head several times before doing the productive thing and whining about it on facebook. I then contemplated cursing at myself for not knowing what the words on my heating control mean (really, there's no excuse for that at this point), before retiring that idea on account of absurdity (it's never my fault). Finally, I made a last ditch effort to push all of the buttons on heating control until presto! It worked. It turns out that I had left the shower-timer on and could have avoided the anger phase entirely had I known that was what that button did.

This is how I do Tuesdays.

The next day I spoke to a friend of mine, who was complaining about the heat in her building. It turns out that she's not an idiot, and the her building is actually broken. The rules, which apply to every unfortunate apartment in her broken building, are as follows:

1) The heat will only work between the hours of 4-6am, and 8-10pm.
2) If you wish to preset the heating control so that it is ready to go at those times, should you not be home or alert when it's time to flick the switch, you must pay for gas during the time that it wasn't actually working.
3) If you aren't available during the 4 hours that the building allows you to heat your apartment, and you don't preset the heating control, you may as well open all of your windows and hope that a warm gust of air blows in, because your apartment is going to be mother fucking cold. Buy a hat.

"That is too dumb to be true", was the only possible response. Part of my brain died as she explained that her fiance, who is Korean, had argued the matter at length with the building manager, to no avail. Not only is it true, but it's not just a matter of Random Foreigner Not Getting It (as is occasionally the case with yours truly).

Since hearing of this, I have made a point of complaining about it several times a day. Frankly, I don't have any of my own shit to complain about this week and don't feel entirely whole unless I do. This serves as an appropriate substitute until trouble finds me again.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Swollen Face, Tired Hair

As opposed to simply telling me that I looked like I hadn't slept in three days like they usually do, a couple of my students decided that today was the day to get creative. The first asked me why my face was "swollen", and the second advised me that I had "tired hair". The first laughed at the second and informed her that the hair comment was rather rude. The swollen face comment? Totally acceptable, apparently.

Honestly, being told that I look like an exhausted bag of crap every day, even on those rare occasions that I don't, doesn't really bug. It bores. I do often look like a tired bag of crap. Given how little I try to appear otherwise, I'm quite okay with this. I just wish that I could train the few students that are still stuck on this point to say more interesting things. As it is, they mean well, so I smile and nod; a boring response.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sometimes, Korea is Magical.

As I posted the other day, I lost a couple important pieces of plastic over the weekend. I suspect that they fell out one of the times that I clunked my wallet on the bar Friday night, or possibly when I was throwing it around in a taxi shortly thereafter. Either way, dumb.

I don't ever lose things.
I've never lost my passport.
Or my driver's licence (largely because I don't drive).
I've never lost my cell phone.
Or my wallet (except for those two times that I left it at the library. I was 14 and a world away, so this doesn't count).
I've never lost anything that matters.

This was out of character. I'm tempted to say that this is kind of carelessness is why I stopped drinking in the first place, but really, I didn't lose a single personal belonging that time that I fell on my head, and that was much stupider. I don't lose things. I just don't. It's a control thing. Or maybe I'm possessive; it's true, I don't even take my purse off at work. Let's just say it's some form of Crazy and let it be.

While the bank card is the less important of the two, they wouldn't issue me another unless I showed them my Alien Registration Card. Fair enough. Seeing as I didn't have that either, this was inconvenient.

Then, magic happened.

Late this evening, I received a text from work that my bank card had turned up in Sajik. I was nowhere near Sajik. Somebody found my card, either in a taxi, a bar, or wherever, held on to it all weekend, and took the time to turn it into my bank the next business day. Then, the bank used the card to pull up my file, contact my school, and detail how I could go about retrieving it.

Of course that happened.

Much thanks is owed to whichever individual or business is responsible for this. I'll add this one to the Things That Would Never Happen at Home file.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

My Contract Extension: is it March yet?

I feel like pizza, but the closest pizza place to my apartment is a 10 minute walk. 15, if I miss the lights, which I would. If I hadn't been too lazy to brush up on my pizza-ordering vocabulary, I'd order in. Of course, I was. I'm contemplating relearning it. The pizza hole that is my stomach will undoubtedly desire to be filled at least a few more times over the next four and a half months. Still, lazy. I need more incentive.

This is the week that I'm supposed to sign my contract extension. This is the weekend that I lost my Alien Card. These are not compatible events. I seem to think I need one thing for the other to process. It will work itself out, as these thing do.

Why extend my stay in a place where I have previously stated that I no longer want to be? The alternative, Ontario in January, is balls. Cold. Inhospitable. Few places hiring. Even the temp agencies are dried up at that time. March. I can tolerate March. It will probably still snow, because Ontario's bitchy like that, but it could be worse: January. My most hated month comes to Busan, too, so this isn't my only reason. There's also the obvious: I don't actually hate it here. I merely hate many, many things about Here. That's the story Anywhere.

The Plan is to return to Ontario in March. For a month. Then, once I've properly healed, I'll be ready to resume a love-hate relationship with Somewhere Else. I'm thinking Japan, Turkey, or Oman.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Select Weekend Musings

  • Faces are hard. Don't hit them. Should you insist on hitting one, and it belongs to a drunk fellow, make sure that he stays down after you hit him. Otherwise, whoops.

  • A family holiday spent in the back of a packed bar, in the company of near-strangers, is roughly as unstimulating as I imagined it.

  • It's easy to make friends here. Making friends that not only accept every last neurotic characteristic I have to offer, but realize those are the things which make me Me? Less easy. It sucks when people leave.

  • I spent two years trying to redefine myself, only to realize that there was nothing wrong with the original definition. Regression or growth through acceptance? To be determined at a later date.

  • If I believed in that sort of thing, I'd be thankful to the guardian angels who were looking over me this past weekend. As it stands, I will just thank the stars instead.

Happy Chuseok.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Why is Jesus Wearing Hockey Pads?

On the way out my friend's door last night I noticed picture taped to the door. The dog ear on the upper left corner was drooping so much that it covered half of the drawing, indicating that it had been hanging there for a while. Despite spending most of my Monday evenings in that apartment, watching trashy TV programs, I hadn't noticed it before. Or perhaps I previously noted and had since forgot; This seems more likely.

The drawing was made on white printer paper with a single blood-red marker. A lonely stick-man was depicted, in a scene that looked suspiciously like the crucifixion. He hung from a single plank of wood, which his arms were spread out on. Blood gushed from the stick-man's arms and fell into pools below him. Large rectangular objects appeared to be attached to his legs - This part didn't quite fit.

"Uh.... why?" I pointed at it.
"A student gave it to me. I ... don't know."
"You didn't ask him for an explanation?"
"I'd really rather not know," the proud owner of the piece explained.
"It looks like the crucifixion of Jesus, except this time he wore hockey pads. Why is Jesus wearing hockey pads?"

My friend glanced at me in disgust and pointed out that the "artist" was an elementary student, who couldn't possibly have thoughts like this; that only my 27-year-old mind would come up with something that demented. Usually true, but this time not. This piece was clearly inspired work, by a child who didn't realize that hockey wasn't really a thing back then.

I have no problem believing that children can be that demented. I was one once.

Sorry, no photo. I thought of asking my friend to take one but figured that he'd boot me out once he realized I wanted it for internet purposes. I may try to sneak one next week.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

I'm Out There, Somewhere.

After three months of getting to sleep in until 9 or 10am, I'm back on the barely-morning shift. Getting up before the clock hits 6 isn't as bad as it sounds. Though I'm out early enough to see the drunks keel over into their vomit on the corner, I'm home again before the morning rush hour has even begun. It's not all bad.

Last time I went this long without posting, a couple of folks from home expressed concern. They do this. That's why I keep them at home. So, let it be known that I'm out there, somewhere, doing just dandy. No better or worse than usual, really. I just forgot to post any of the things that I wrote this month. It happens from time to time.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Hate at First Sight

Every month, I walk into my new classes and I hate them on sight. It's not personal. I just hate everybody that I don't know; those in the classroom are no exception.The feeling usually passes once I share a few words with them and am forced to accept them as people, but up until that point? Hate.

Okay, hate is a bit strong. I'm exaggerating, as I do. Hate indicates a degree of caring, which doesn't exist in this case. Apathy or, at worst, distrust would be more appropriate. Whatever it is, while I follow something resembling the social code which I was taught (holding open doors for people, not cutting in line, and other such blah), people that I don't know don't really register as real people.

Midway through the second day of class, once I've attached names to faces and seen a glimpse of personality, I come around to the idea that my students are real people. By the end of the first week, we're all pretty tight, such that I can cater my lesson plans to each of their individual learning styles and personalities. By the end of the month, I can even imagine that some of them exist outside of the classroom; this is in part because they insist that I have a drink with them, an invite which I rarely decline.

When classes come to a close each month, all the names, which went with faces, most of which had personalities, move on. A new sea of nameless faces, which I hate on sight, then grow to see as people, and finally like, maybe just a little bit, replace the old.

It's an exhausting process.

Friday, August 28, 2009

I Wanna Be Your Dog

Saw a t-shirt with this wonderful combination of words screaming from it.

Want this t-shirt.

Everything else is bad.

It will pass.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

This is Why I Should Learn More Korean

Knowing very little Korean has served me well in some situations. Less so in others. I don't actually condone refusing to learn the language of the cow you're milking. It is undoubtedly more advantageous to be able to communicate effectively in your own backyard than not. Even if you have zero interest in communicating with the locals any more than is absolutely essential (odd, but this level of social retardation does exist), then wouldn't it at least be nice to have the satisfaction of knowing that your taxi driver understands that you think he's a nutless fuck weed for taking an unnecessary detour?

I stopped learning Korean because I'm lazy. Yes, Korea, you heard right: the primary reason for my having embarrassingly little knowledge of your language after almost 2 years has nothing to do with you! Once I acquire what I believe to be a reasonable understanding of something, I move on to something else. What you and I consider to be a "reasonable understanding of something" probably differs. Feel free to do whatever it is that you do. After learning to read Korean, count, say some useful phrases, and have a gist of what somebody was saying about 10% of the time, I moved on to something else. Then, something else after that. Probably not productive things, but things, nonetheless.

Every now and then I consider studying Korean again, only to realize that my motivations for doing so are less than pure. Once you realize that the only phrases you wish to learn in a language are insulting ones, then the world is better off without you knowing it. Or, so I thought. As it turns out, I really probably should have learned a variety of Korean insults, words for genitalia, and other such things.

The other day, my afternoon writing class was working on an essay. I had to put them in teams; they get fussy if they have to do solo writing too many days in a row (God forbid independent thought flow freely). Obviously you can't be a team without a team name, so the students were asked to come up with a snappy name for their pair. Unfortunately, they weren't very forthcoming with ideas on that. They rarely are. Being lazy and uncreative myself, I decided to combine the first syllable of each of their names. Hence, Teams JoKa (John and Kate) and JaJi (Jake and Jinny) were created.

Nobody really responded to Joka, which I was quite amused with because I thought it sounded like "joker". This really isn't funny at all but sometimes, when I get bored, these are the things that keep me going. While I was busy amusing myself by saying Joka, I noticed that the class was still snickering over Jaji. Having no idea why Jaji (Korean: 자지) was so funny to them, I made a point of calling them by their team names for the rest of the class, just to elicit giggles.

At the end of class, one of the guys hesitated on his way out the door. "What's up?" I asked, in language slightly more professional than that. "Barbie, you know... you know that jaji has... maybe kind of a bad meaning... right?" Blink. It hadn't even dawned on me that my random combination of syllables meant something in Korean (in hindsight, it should have and I'm a tool for not realizing this). In short, yes, as you probably already deduced, I had in fact been referring to half of my class as "Team Penis".

Apparently the students assumed that I knew what 자지 meant, thought I was being funny, so nobody told me to cut it out. While I did think I was being funny, it was because I think that random syllables sound funny together - not because I had any idea that 자지 actually meant something. I apologized to the student and explained that (knowingly) making jokes of that nature is completely inappropriate and unprofessional, so of course I had no idea what I had been saying. I addressed the issue again the next day at the beginning of class for those students that weren't there when I owned up to my ignorance. They had a good laugh at my expense, while I pretended to be above Penis Jokes (not a total lie; in the classroom, sexual humour is a no-go zone).

I haven't told my supervisor yet, though I suspect that when I do he'll laugh in my face for a while, like my other coworkers did. This, followed by "you're an idiot", is the appropriate response.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Teacher-Student Attachment Issues

Whether or not I like my students is unimportant. Some of them are good people; some of them are bad people; most of them just sort of are. Wherever they fall, they're all the same once they walk into the classroom. Good or bad, sometimes they say absurd things. One time one of my students proposed that "Western people are lazy because they demand overtime pay, unlike Koreans, who have excellent work ethic". Had I taken the time to process that, break it down, and explain to her that this was absurd, I would have sprouted a few white hairs in the process and she'd still think the same thing. It can be difficult for me not to out students as complete fucking idiots when they utter things like this, but instead either silently accept that they are idiots and move on with the lesson, or accept that perhaps they're not idiots and that various factors which are beyond their control have contributed to what I perceive as a demented World view. Whatever it is, it is what it is, and I consider it part of my job to accept it, ignore it, and just teach English.

Students, whether they are good people, bad people, or somewhere in between, occasionally ask more of me than what I consider appropriate. This is largely a cultural thing. With very few exceptions, I find it bizarre to socialize with my students outside of class - even though they're all, technically, adults. I do it from time to time, because I tend to just roll with the punches here, but I don't love it. Hanging out with students generally makes me feel like I'm working on my free time. Once I've thrown somebody into the Student Box, it's very, very difficult for them to crawl out and find their way to the Friend Box. As evidenced by recent events with a former student, boundaries are a good thing.

The first day this student walked into my class, I didn't like him. It wasn't anything that he had done, yet; it was that I immediately hate almost all old men here on sight. While this is surely the result of numerous incidents over the last couple of years in Korea that involved poorly socialized (by my standards, of course), repugnant old men, I have no issue acknowledging that this is completely prejudiced. In truth, I teach many older gentlemen, and they tend to be no better or worse than the rest. Rationally, I know this. Yet, I continue to hate them on sight, and eventually get over it once I get to know them as individuals. I am what I am.

After a couple months of this particular student walking into my class, he still rubbed me the wrong way. I dealt with it, because one-on-one lessons are good money for the school. It's my job to teach English; it's also my job to make sure that students continue to want me to teach English. I dealt with it, because while he seriously creeped me out, it's not important that I like my students and he hadn't really done anything truly inappropriate. Yet.

Over those couple months, Creepy Married Student's behaviour got progressively weirder. Some of this was the result of how I perceived his behaviour, due to cultural differences. Some really was him being fucking weird. First there was his request to call me his daughter. Then there was the never ending flow of gifts. English lessons interrupted by his sharing of family photo albums. Setting up dinners with his wife on class time. Trying to give me an envelope of cash as "allowance", like I was actually his child (while I refused to take it, I probably wouldn't think less of somebody else if they took it). The weird emails about family values, how to live a beautiful life, individualism is bad, and a bunch of loopy hogwash that I can't be bothered to repeat, which he undoubtedly found on some cult website somewhere.

In the beginning, I visited my supervisor and alerted him that this student was more than just a little bizarre. I made it clear that I wasn't trying to get out of the lessons; the student had already told me that he was going to quit if he had to deal with another teacher. I was merely sharing that this guy was seriously weird. I followed this up by reporting every other bizarre thing that this guy did. His behaviour became a bit of an inside joke between the supervisor and myself.

Then the student got needy. I hate needy people. Their constant need for approval. Their inability to do anything without reassurance. Useless. Creepy Married Student noticed my refusal to move him out of the Student Box and questioned why I couldn't return the "family love" which he was apparently extending. I wrote him back to inquire if he wanted me to correct the English grammar mistakes in his email, seeing as that is actually part of my job and all. Creepy Married Student responded to this by getting increasingly needy (Hate. So much Hate), writing creepy poems, and finally confessing that he previously had romantic feelings for me which he had pushed aside for the more appropriate, "family love". He didn't seem to see anything wrong with writing this, and proceeded on with another poem about "beautiful life" and a request that I please correct his English in my response.

Fuck That Noise. Class over.

After immediately forwarding the email which officially crossed the line, (as well as all of the other borderline ones which work was already aware of) to my supervisor, I made it clear that I could not teach this guy again. It wasn't even a choice. The second I read that email, I knew that the jig was up. I could no longer put on the Yay, This School Rocks, Show Us the Money show that I'd been performing so well, and he could no longer contact me.

Within about 12 hours management completely sided with me, canceled the class, and advised me that if he tried to contact me again they would take care of it.

Boundaries are beautiful.
Saving emails is always a good idea.
As is informing your superior of any peculiar behaviour from your students, long before there may be a real problem.
If you're never anything less than completely professional, people will be less inclined to question your character.

More than anything, I was lucky. If I worked for a sham hagwon with a sham management team, they could have insisted that I continue teaching the class. There probably wouldn't have been much that I could have done about it. I would have put my foot down and job on the line over this. I did all the right things, but still needed to be lucky.

It was a good month.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

I Am Fat Expat. Hear Me Chew.

Where a torn hoodie, faded jeans, massive white tennis shoes, and barely brushed hair still manages to elicit compliments, why bother?

I did my hair last week for a birthday party. This was boring; I don't intend on making a habit of it. One of my coworkers, who I have known for about a year and a half, remarked that when he knew me last year, I always looked nice like this. What happened? "Oh, I just stopped trying", I responded. He was perplexed, not quite understanding what I meant by that. Further explanation was required.

There is stereotype about female expats in Korea that you see floating around the
Internet and uttered in corners of drinking holes, by people that I couldn't possibly want to have less sex with. If it is to be believed, it follows that female expats tend to be fat, loud, opinionated, ugly, bitches who are completely unmarriable. Obviously this last bit is the most damning of all insults, since the entire raison d'etre for any woman is to find a handsome man to marry and produce babies with. The richer the better. Working is for ugly chicks! Oh, fucknuts.

"You stopped trying what?", my perplexed coworker wanted to know. Wasn't it obvious? "You see", I explained, "today, I decided to brush my hair and wear blush. Last year, I did this every day. At the moment, I can't be fucking bothered. I'll brush my hair again when I go home".

There was a point sometime during my first contract where I realized that, within reason, it didn't really matter what I did. I could wake up half an hour earlier to straighten my hair and put on my best outfit, or I could pin my hair back messily and wear an unflattering sweater with slacks. As long as I showed up to class on time and brought the correct book, nobody cared.

"What about meeting guys?" my now less slightly less perplexed coworker wanted to know. I laughed at this for what I considered an appropriate period of time and started up again: "Well, Brad, I've done the expat 'dating' scene thing. Been there, done that, got bored. And I'm so negative about Korea lately that I have little interest in learning the language any more than I have to at this point; a failing attitude for breaking into the Korean dating pool, if there ever was one".

My coworker was going to break into a tirade about how the problem with female expats is that they don't get enough sex, but them he remembered that he is intelligent and doesn't actually have thoughts like this. The conversation moved to food soon after. This was excellent, since we were at a buffet and there was a lot of food to talk about.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

My Wired Hiatus

A few weeks ago, I discovered The Wire. From then on, until I ran out of episodes, time that would have otherwise been spent reading, updating this blog, or writing elsewhere, was spent glued to the computer screen watching episodes, analyzing them, and reading reviews. It was a very sad period for my social life, but an enlightening experience as a TV fangirl. Not that anybody asked, but Season 4 of The Wire is the best season of television that I've ever seen, and while I'm at a loss of what the Hell to do with myself now that I've run out of episodes, I can't bring myself to start on another show just yet.

(How exactly somebody who claims to be a TV dweeb went this long without watching The Wire is beyond explanation. I'm a bit of a farce.)

In between episodes of The Wire, life has just sort of happened. The eclipse came and went, though the combination of cloudy skies in Seomyeon and my digital camera of questionable quality resulted in poor evidence of this. I've lifted the following photo from my friend Melisa, who had a better view in Minam (my old stomping ground). Also, probably better photography skills.

I tried to blame it on the camera, but compared and found that our cameras are of similar quality. I now suspect that my camera is faulty, and thus, still largely responsible.

My failure to notice when the eclipse was actually happening may also have played a role.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Eclipses Are Exciting.

I've been a big old bag of crazy lately and it's been leaking out in the form of general crankiness. Boo hoo. It will pass. Apparently, so will the moon. Between the sun and the earth. Over Korea (and much of the rest of Asia, but who cares about them). Tomorrow, between 930 and 1130am. I'm just geeky enough that this snapped me out of my funk and gave me something to look forward to Wednesday morning, but only after I wondered why none of my students had mentioned it yet. Surely some of them are dweebs? Hopefully none of them stare directly at it, though I suspect that at least a few will.

I'm suddenly reminded of that episode of Heroes where the eclipse caused everybody to temporarily lose their superpowers. This resulted in several meaningless plot points, which ended with as much predictability as the writers could have possibly fathomed. In other words, it was just like every other episode of Heroes, but with an eclipse. Thank goodness for hiatus.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Cribbage, Euchre, Rummy, and Other Such Forms of Amusement

The tragedy of my current line-up of friends is that none of them like to play cards. When similar tragedy struck early on during my first contract, I rectified the situation by getting a group together via Pusan Web. At this exact moment, and roughly half of the other moments that I experience, neither Pusan Web nor Korea Bridge are working. I'm sure it's just my connection. Nonetheless, if anybody is down with the not even remotely lame, super amazing experience that is playing cards, drop me an email (bigwhitebarbie at gmail dot com). I'd love to get a group going again. I play cribbage, euchre, a couple of Rummy-style games, and would be happy to learn more. Except for poker. I don't bet money, and poker without betting is positively blah.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

I'd Like to Apologize to 2% of My Elevator Friends

This afternoon as I was returning from class, I noticed a couple of the building maintenance guys hanging out by the window near the elevators. I nearly moved in to push the button to alert the elevator that it was time to have it's way with me, when it dawned on me that perhaps those guys weren't just hanging out; perhaps they were waiting for the elevator! With this brilliant observation to keep me in check, rather than desperately pushing the elevator button like it'd been a while, I squinted at the light over the button to see if it had already been pressed.

As it turns out, it's difficult to see if the indicator light over the button is lit up when the sun is coming through the lobby window of my building. Of course, you could determine the status of the elevator by the presence of people around the elevator, as I did today, but such people are only present 98% of the time. The other 2% of the time, pressing an already-pushed elevator button in my building on a sunny afternoon does not guarantee that you're a tool.

It appears that I was unfairly critical of people that I don't know. Needless to say, I'm wearing an expression of shock on my face. I could apologize, but apologies without corrective follow-up are just meaningless filler. I will absolutely do this again.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

This is Why I Don't Learn More Korean

Hey, Korea. It's been a while since we sparred. I've either become soft or have just completely lost interest in bitching about you. The latter is most probable. I'm not gonna lie, you sort of bore me. Even the following is not about you. Sure, you've been around for these happenings, but I regret to inform you that you cannot be held responsible. Believe me, I would throw you a bone if I could, but this simply isn't about you. Maybe next time. Don't hold your breath.

Not only is my new building much cleaner, bigger, and generally more fantastic than the old one, but it has twice as many elevators. Twice as many elevators! It's like a castle, without any of the nice stuff that makes a castle a castle. Of course, with twice as many elevators, comes twice as many people who don't quite understand how elevators work.

Every other day or so as I am waiting for the elevator, somebody comes up beside me and pushes the button several times. Perhaps they think that I haven't bothered to push it yet and am just standing there like an idiot because that's how I like to spend my time. In this case, the illuminated red light that clearly indicates that I have pushed the button to call for the elevator is just a product of my imagination. The other, more plausible scenario, is that some people actually think that pushing the button multiple times will speed up the elevator and get them where they need to be faster. This is too stupid for me to speculate on any further (though I'm certain you can find such a rant elsewhere).

When I am forced to witness this brand of stupidity in Canada Land, I struggle to get through the situation without bringing attention to the absurdity of the perpetrators actions. It's only natural that my first response to seeing it here is to come up with a list of snide phrases on my walk to work that I absolutely must get one of my friends to translate into Korean for me. Unfortunately, by the time I get to work I've talked myself out of learning Korean for the sake of being an ass. While at work, I like to feign that I'm a good person.

There's little sense in blowing my cover just so that I can insult people more effectively.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

My Korean Expiry Date

With all of my bags finally loaded onto a cart, I took one last look back at my father's SUV. "Barring something unfortunate happening between now and the end of my contract, this will be my last trip to Korea". I'd been debating what to do for a while and didn't realize that my decision had already been made until I said it out loud.

My reasons for coming to Korea in the first placed were varied and uninteresting, as these things tend to be. I was poor but wanted to travel; I didn't like what I was doing but didn't have any idea what it was I wanted to be doing; I was interested in education but taking a year off work to go back to school wasn't feasible. There are more, of course. There always are with me.

My reasons for coming back to Korea after my first year were a little more specific. I enjoyed teaching more than expected and wanted challenge myself by teaching in a different environment. I wanted another year of teaching experience under my belt so that I could potentially teach elsewhere. I still had a number of friends here. Blah blah, whatever.

When I signed that second contract, I promised myself that if I passed my Korean Expiry Date during the year, it would be my last. But when does one know if they've passed their Korean Expiry Date?

I was in a bathroom stall at some pub when I was in Ontario for my sister's wedding a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, so were a herd of 12 year old girls. Talking. Awful. I got lost somewhere between, "like, oh my God *squeeeeeeee*!" and "eeeeeeeeeee! Me too!" I really wish that I was just being lame and was not actually subjected to that primitive level of discourse. I really do. It was here that I remembered one of the finer points of living in Korea (and having only a basic grasp on the language): how awesome it is to understand little of the meaningless drivel that spills out of other people's mouths. Other people are boring. Sure, I'm boring, too. It's just that my brand stupidity and vapidness is far less offensive than yours. As these thoughts, and worse, tortured my imagination while I attempted to piss rather than bank my head off the side of the stall in agony, I realized something: as absolutely excruciating as that moment was, when I'm in Korea I feel like that at least once nearly every day.

While it would be fun to point out all of the things here that make me feel like I did in that stall, I still have a number of months to clock. There is a contract to be finished and some loose ends to be tied. I haven't quite figured how I'm going to make it all work, but I'm pretty sure that a list of negatives isn't the place to start. Today. No promises as to how I may roll next week.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

From One Side of Seomyeon to the Other

Finally. I have left my shit hole neighborhood in the dust and moved on to greener pastures. My former neighbors - two love motels, a booking club, and a food n' booze tent - have been replaced by car dealerships and office buildings. My poorly lit, one room closet of a living space, has been replaced by an apartment with high ceilings and a loft. I can finally cook without expecting a sea of cockroaches to flood the sink. Count the Number of People Excreting in Public is no longer a valid game to play on my walk to work in the morning. I can finally leave my apartment, walk a block, and not need a shower. I hardly know what to do with myself anymore.

The week before I was due to leave for my short Canadian vacation, my supervisor stopped me to share the great news: rent in my building was going up 30 bucks by the end of September. My poorly located, cockroach infested, shithole of an apartment was jacking the rent (just because everybody in Seomyeon is jacking rent doesn't mean that this is okay). While my employer subsidizes a significant portion of my rent, unfortunately I have to pick up the rest*.

Before I could even consider huffing, puffing and accidentally blowing a gasket at work, my supervisor suggested that if I didn't want to pay extra for that apartment, that I could move into an apartment that a former coworker had just vacated. No brainer. I didn't even need to look at the new place to know that I was moving (of course, I did look. I'm not a complete idiot).

The truth is, I nearly insisted on a move ages ago. After two days in that apartment, I knew that I wasn't going to like it. I weighed the pros and cons of moving. Then, New Year's happened. Suddenly I had more important things to worry about than the fact that I lived in a craphole. I put the idea of moving on the back burner. I waited. And the second that I was given an out? I moved. Win. Now I just wait and hope that they don't stick one of the new kids in there. Bah.

*There are more than enough contracts floating around that will pay your entire rent here. In that regard, some may say that I have a shitty deal. However, this year I was looking for very specific things in a job and wasn't willing to compromise that - even if it costs me a few bucks a month. If there had been more time to find the "perfect job" (what the fuck is that, even?) I may have found a better deal. Or not. I only had one year's experience and no teaching credentials to speak of; I wasn't really entitled to a better job. Either way, it is what it is and I have absolutely no regrets.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Teacher's Tendency to Natter is a No

I haven't given a straight answer since 1987. It's not that I'm indecisive, it's that I like to examine all possible angles before giving a definitive response. This is probably an exercise that should be done in my head, but my stream of consciousness has been found leaking out of my mouth on more than one occasion.

I natter. The nattering may have purpose and a logical flow, but a natterer is a natterer is a natterer, and no love is lost on natterers. More importantly, it's a terrible habit to exhibit in front of students, some of whom maybe have struggled mightily just to compose a question for me to natter off a response to.

Today, during a discussion on body language and culture, one of my students asked me how much personal space I like to have. What followed was a minute and a half long tirade where I considered different situations, who I might be with, what sort of mood I may be in, and God knows what else. After a minute and a half of this I realized that the time for me to stop talking had come and gone about a minute ago. At the very least, I should have paused at various points in the tirade to ask comprehension questions and ask for the student's opinion. I know better. The ball was dropped.

My tendency to natter is just one of several habits that I need to monitor in my efforts to not be a terrible teacher. It's a struggle not to regularly interrupt students to make comments about their shiny new watch or inquire what kind of cell phone plan they're using. If the clock ticks too loudly, I turn the air conditioner up to drown it out. I've been working on putting kibosh on my incessant fidgeting. I could list countless other manifestations of My Crazy that I leave at the classroom door everyday so that I can lead an effective lesson, but I won't. Another thought on the matter might exhaust me and I have at least one more episode of Entourage that I want to get through before the night is done. I know that it's a terrible show, but it sure is pretty.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

My Misplaced Monday

I'm not entirely sure what happened to yesterday, how today is Thursday, or what on earth happened to Monday. I suppose that Monday was spent in transit, and that it's really Tuesday I can't properly account for.

Last week, on what was apparently Wednesday, I flew home to Ontario for a wedding. Normally I would have found a way to bail on a wedding halfway across the world, but in this case doing so may have barred me from the family. It's simply against the rules to tell your sister that no, you don't feel like being a bridesmaid. Bridesmaids require good hair, makeup, dresses, and all that other stuff that I'm not too keen on. Thankfully, my sister's refusal to slip into bridezilla mode made for an experience that was not just tolerable, but almost enjoyable. If only it hadn't been a windy day, I could remove almost from the equation.

I believe that I spent much of yesterday (which was apparently Wednesday) sleeping. I'd sort of like to sleep again right now, but it's only 1pm. I'm not 85. Or 5. I can fight this. I do no need a nap. I can be productive. I will eat dry cereal and watch Entourage.

I will eventually wake up in a pool of my own saliva.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Goodbye, BS Bank

The last time that BS Bank gave me trouble, they were still going by the far less apt Pusan Bank. An over the top hissy fit, which began and ended with me calling the bank racist, eventually resulted in me getting what I wanted. I swore that the next time PS Bank tried to screw me would be the last time. I didn't swear that I wouldn't have another hissy fit.

A couple of weeks ago, I made my monthly BS Bank visit to pay some bills and wire more than half of my salary home. Were the latter not a possibility, I wouldn't be here. While teaching English in Korea isn't going to bring in the riches, it pays off enough student debt that I can justify still being here when I'm knee deep in yet another I Hate Korea week.

I usually deal with the same teller at BS Bank, and he always asks for the same information: passport, bank book, and details of the account I'm wiring money to. Just in case he happens to fall into a barrel of BS that day, I always make sure to have further proof of my identity, statements from previous transactions, and every single pay stub that my current job has ever given me. He doesn't really need any of this stuff to wire my money home and had never asked before, but BS happens.

On this day, he looked over my account information on my screen and then suspiciously back at me. "You send money home every month." It wasn't clear whether he was stating a fact or inquiring, so I responded as if it were a question. "Yes. That's sort of the point." I've never been good with stupid questions. Or really obvious statements. Which one was it?

Overwhelmed by my charm, the teller tried to tell me that he was going to need to see pay stubs. I handed him the stack of them before he could come up with the words. He eyed them suspiciously, looked back at the screen, and glared at me. "Do you have anything else?", he asked. Deja vu! "Why would I need something else? Pay stub. Deposit. You might notice that the amounts match", I sneered. He wasn't satisfied. "You're going to need.... a certificate.... from work", he told me. Because apparently having official pay slips from the company which not only matches the one on your VISA, but also conveniently coincides with the only deposits ever made into your bank account, isn't quite proof enough that you're not trying to wire drug money out of the country.

"There wasn't a problem here in February, March, or April", I stated. Because I understand that statements are not questions. "Every month. You need... certificate. Yes". Was he asking me a question again? "Yeah... no. That's total BS", I told the teller. The teller looked confused. I wasn't done. "See, I'm just going to find a bank with less discriminatory policies. Close my account. Now." So, he did.

As it turns out, there was no hissy fit to be had this time. Largely because I was so sleepy, but I'd like to think that I've matured enough to realize that there is little use in wasting energy fighting battles that you can't win. Also, I've been sober for what seems like a ridiculously long time. Is it June yet? I said little more than what needed to be said and I was out of there. It was nap time.

My reward for refusing to tolerate BS was to drag my ass across the street with $2,500 in my purse. I don't love doing that nearly as much as I thought I would, so I dumped it all off at the Korea Exchange Bank. KEB opened my account and wired my money home in one sitting, all without asking a single stupid question.

Before anybody wonders why I'm toolishly abbreviating "Busan" and "Pusan" as BS and PS, know that it's not because I think I'm being clever, but that it's what the company would want:

That the brain trust at Pusan Bank think that the logical step after changing from a P to a B is to introduce a BS logo, is terribly amusing. If I'm honest, I might be willing to admit that there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for how this logo came to be, and that I only assume that this is yet another glaring example of this institution's retardation because my past relations with the company have been sour and I hate them a whole bunch. And if I'm super lucky, somebody really boring will share this really boring explanation with us in the comments section of this post. But mostly, I'm just going to enjoy the chuckle that I get everytime that I walk by this sign.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Plucking Class

Classroom 43 is far too small. I can't walk from the door to the whiteboard without inadvertently rubbing up against 6 students. I'd rather not spend part of my teaching day contemplating the ass-or-crotch dilemma. Student-Teacher relationships aren't really my thing, making me somewhat of a minority at Barbie Hagwon Version 2.0.

Sometime last week as I was going into class, I noticed a white hair sticking out on top of Reba Student's head. Were I not impulsive and just plain big mouthed, I could have let this go. As it is, I immediately blurted out, "Reba Student, you have a white hair." I then poked her in the head to indicate exactly where the hair was.

The other five students giggled for longer than was probably necessary (whether it was at Reba's expense or mine remains to be seen). Reba Student took a mirror out of her purse and frantically began inspecting the top of her head for a white hair. "Rebecca, I don't see it". She put her mirror down, defeated.

I apologized for the comment and suggested that we just pretend that never happened. I pointed out that my head is full of white hairs (not entirely true) and attempted to move on with the day's lesson. Over the next five minutes, as I tried to get the class engaged in some activity about food or something or other, Reba and Jackie Students worked together to find and remove the white hair. Jackie Student would find it, then fail to rip it out, then lose it. This process repeated itself three times before I accepted that I had no choice but to intervene.

"Reba, do you want me to rip it out?"
"Yes, yes please! And thank you."
"Really? It's just a white hair. I have some, too. Really. I swear."
"I want it out"
"Yes, now. It's fine."


I went to my purse to retrieve a pair of tweezers and plucked the hair right from her scalp. In the middle of class. With the other students watching. She yelped then examined the hair that I placed on her desk. "But it's black", she insisted. Then she noticed the tiny hair beside it. "Oh. It's white". Yes, it was. It was also totally unnoticeable to anybody who doesn't have to crawl over her on a daily basis to get to the whiteboard. Yet, for some reason, she thanked me afterwards and insisted that my repeated apologies were totally unnecessary.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Barbie Does The Seoul Podcast

Shortly after announcing to Blog Land that I had been invited to join a discussion on Busan e-FM (90.5 MHz), the folks who do The Seoul Podcast asked if I'd be interested in joining them for a recording on April 21st. My initial response to this was to point out that words are hard and that I rarely say anything of value. They saw no reason for that to stop me and swore that they don't say anything of value either.

Confession: I had never listened to The Seoul Podcast prior to being invited on the show. I was only aware that The Seoul Podcast existed in the first place because I occasionally check out Zen Kimchi. And the only reason that I've heard of anything in the Korean Blogosphere, period, is from talking to my friend Diana. It's not that I'm not interested in what other migrant workers in Korea have to say, or that my sphere of dweebery doesn't extend to the Internet. It's just that between doing this, following hockey, running a mediocre tennis messageboard, keeping up on my 15 shitty television shows of choice, What's Alan Watching?, Unreality Magazine, Television Without Pity, and checking the daily news to make sure that nothing important has blown up that day, it hadn't dawn on me to find the time. Now that I know better, I may or may not find the time. Change is hard.

Regardless of whether or not I start making an effort to keep up on some of the better Korean blogs out there, I had a great time recording The Seoul Podcast with Joe, Stafford, and Jennifer. They're a fun group. Between planning a weekend group flash and discussing various asshats, they did actually say some things of value. In other words, they told me a fib. I'm willing to forgive them for their little white lie, if they forgive me for falling asleep on the floor and saying about two words over the last 40 minutes of the show. I fell asleep on the floor because I had been awake for almost 19 hours; not because The Seoul Podcast folk weren't thoroughly entertaining. It wasn't them, it was me.

While I imagine that I don't come off much better than I did on the radio (I have an mp3 of that which I can email to anybody at home who desires to listen; I refuse to listen to myself), the show, Seoul Podcast #52, will be posted on The Seoul Podcast sometime over the next few days. Feel free to use this space to comment on the show or mock me for being me.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Seomyeon Diddler

I go to Dunkin' Donuts more than I ought to, but there really isn't anywhere else near work that I can find a satisfactory morning sandwich. Satisfactory morning sandwiches are composed of bread, eggs, bacon, and cheese. Nothing more. Nothing less. Satisfactory morning sandwiches do not include pickles, random sauce, or "fruit" of questionable quality. They are not made at McDonalds. Nine in the morning is not a time to get cute with my food. I suppose that I could cook my own damn morning sandwich and bring it to work, but the odds of me having a temper tantrum and throwing my toaster oven at a wall are quite high before noon.

As I've noted in previous posts, Seomyeon is a disgusting cesspool littered with pissants. Not a day goes by here that I don't feel the urge to regurgitate as I pass by some of the degenerate, sojued-up locals. That being said, even my low expectations of Seomyeon couldn't have prepared me for what happened today.

Most of the folks that I pass on my walk to Dunkin's Donuts are students, workers, shoppers, running around, bumping into one another and everything, trying to get somewhere or other. Every now and then one of the local pissants can be found passed out near the curb or looking gross while hanging out in one of the doorways to a closed shop. What the pissants are not usually doing, is standing in one of the doorways facing the main street, masturbating towards everybody walking by.

Were it not for my habit of suspiciously eyeing up every other person I walk by, I probably wouldn't have even noticed The Diddler. Were I at home, I could have called the police or subtly alerted other passersby. I would like to make this story awesome by telling you that I responded to this perversion in a violent manner which rendered The Diddler impotent, but obviously I didn't. Had I responded in that fashion, I'd probably be spending less time on the blog and more time dealing with legal matters at the moment. As it is, I am what I am, I am where I am, and I did nothing.

I continued to Dunkin' Donuts as usual, fought back some very confused tears, and opted for the usual breakfast sandwich. I was confused as to what the crying thing was all about. I also wasn't particularly hungry at this point, but I'll be damned if The Diddler is going to ruin my breakfast sandwich. I contemplated talking a detour back to work in order to avoid him, but I'll be damned if The Diddler is going to inconvenience me. So, I bought my damn sandwich and walked it back to work. I kept my eyes ahead of me the entire time. Little time had passed, so it's likely that he was still there but I can't say for sure.

When I returned to work I checked in with a coworker to vent about the incident and get over being alarmed before proceeding to class 15 minutes later. Throughout the day I alerted the rest of my coworkers to keep an eye out for this sort of thing. A few of them giggled uncomfortably, because that's what people do. It's what I did, after the initial shock wore off. One of them advised me that were I to poll my students I might be surprised to find how many of them have similar experiences. I'll take her word for it, for now. A few of us ended up debating what the correct slang for somebody who masturbates in public is. I could have gone with flasher and it may have been most appropriate, but my mind had already labeled him The Diddler at that point, so it stuck.

This experience was hardly just my own; easily 100 people pass by The Diddler's chosen spot every couple of minutes. There are probably more diddlers running around Seomyeon being repulsive, and there are certainly countless diddlers exposing themselves elsewhere. I'd been fortunate enough not to notice, until now.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Just Like a Barbie Doll

Debbie Student stared at me for a period of time which would have become uncomfortable about 20 seconds earlier had it been just about anybody else. I tried not to giggle at her. She doesn't mean to be creepy. It just takes her a while to find the words. And sometimes, when she finds them, and still comes across as creepy? It's not entirely her fault.

"You look like a... you know... ", Debbie Student looked towards the other women frantically and spat out a few Korean words. They giggled. One of them looked at her, confused, then looked to me and said "Barbie doll?" Debbie Student slammed the table with her hand and nodded emphatically. "Yes! You look like a Barbie Doll." She paused, searching for more words. "You must have been very popular in high school." She looked pleased, having finally found the means to express herself in a way I'd understand, and looked away.

Not wanting to embarrass Debbie Student, after she had worked so hard to put that one together, I refrained from hysterical laughter. I thanked her for what may or may not have been a compliment, explained that I was a horribly awkward looking teenager, and left it at that. Of course, I also look absolutely nothing like a Barbie Doll, unless they've started making Barbie Dolls that look more or less like That Girl Who is Scarcely Distinguishable From Others, but Debbie Student doesn't need to know that. Just like my coworkers last year didn't need to know that no, in fact, I hadn't heard that I look just like Anne Hathaway. Being compared to random white celebrities lost it's lustre sometime after my first month here. Being given an excuse to embrace my inner narcissist and ask "have you been reading my blog?" was a whole new kind of funny to me. Or it would have been, had I actually opted to confuse Debbie Student by saying that. I did not.

As noted, aside from my inability to tan, I do not resemble a Barbie Doll. My moniker is not meant to be associated with any sort of plastic doll. I chose Big White Barbie as a moniker because I didn't want to use my real name, I'm relatively tall, pasty, and desired a first name which properly captured my vapid dopiness. In other words, I needed a stripper name. Big White Kiki and Big White Candy didn't roll off the tongue quite as nicely as Big White Barbie, so Barbie won out.

When asked on the radio program a few weeks ago why I use the moniker Big White Barbie, I believe that my answer was something similar to "er, uh, tall. Words are hard. Hee!" So, there you go.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Found: Fountain of Life

I couldn't bring myself to go in. Reality would have crushed the dream. It always does.

I imagine a soju fountain in the waiting room. The main event, a magical vitamin shot in the ass, promises eternal youth.

My lofty expectations are largely a result of misreading "Life" as "Youth".

This is most interesting thing that I've come across in the past two weeks. This is laregly a result of leaving the apartment as little as possible lately, in the hopes of avoiding people so disgusting that immediately want to puke in their face (these people tend to be drunk, unshowered, wearing piss on their leg, and think that I wish to keep them in my line of sight for any longer than is absolutely necessary). Earlier today I caved and went to the store, because drinking water is important. I only encountered two individuals who we would all be better of without. This would be encouraging were the store not 10 meters away from my building.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

What Happened to Random Street Food Man?

Screw mandu's nonexistent magical properties.

I have magical properties!

I haven't seen hide nor hair from Random Mandu Man since I last complained about him. My desire to be talented, interesting and sexy has finally come to fruition: I can make people disappear, just by thinking it!

(He probably just moved his tent down the street or something lame. Also, now that I've made note of this, he'll probably reappear tomorrow, selling mandu. My original explanation was superior. Let's stick with that.)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Mandu is Not Actually Hilarious.

I just ran into one of the Random Street Food Men who usually park down the street from my apartment. He was suited-up and wandering around, his food tent nowhere in sight, so I assume he had the day off and lives in the neighborhood.

When he saw me approaching he shouted HIIII and began asking me stuff in rapid Korean. As always, this was futile. As always, when I couldn't come up with much of an answer to whatever he was babbling on about, he laughed. He then asked where I was going, because that's clearly his business. This is one of few things that he says to me that I actually understand, so I answered anyways: Mandu. I was getting some mandu in the hopes that it would have the magic properties needed to remedy my cold. Spoiler: It doesn't. He laughed at me again, because mandu is fucking hilarious, and carried on in the opposite direction.

Five minutes later, when I was waiting in the kimbap shop for my not-magical-at-all mandu, Random Street Food Man came in the door. He said HIIII again, asked me my name, and then asked the kimbap shop lady what I was having. When she told him I was getting mandu, he laughed, because mandu is just so funny. And then he left.

Time to start taking another route home from work.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Where's Your Beer?

The inevitable Friday/Saturday night exchange that I've had to suffer through over the past month goes as follows:

Mon Ami: Where's your beer? points at my cup

This is ginger ale. points at cup

Mon Ami:
Yeah... so, where's your beer?

I'm not drinking beer.

Mon Ami:
Why aren't you drinking beer?

I'm off the sauce.

Mon Ami:
You're not off the sauce. Have a beer.

Ginger ale is delicious.

Mon Ami:
So is beer.

I don't want a fucking beer. If I wanted a beer, this would be beer. points at cup. Conversation. Over.

There are a couple of things wrong with this.

First of all, beer is not delicious. Nobody starts drinking beer because it's delicious. People drink beer because it's cheap. Also, their older brother Bobby drank beer, so it must be cool (Bobby is also responsibly for many a popped collar). After beginning to drink beer for reasons that have nothing to do with it's flavour, people acquire a taste for it. They then forget how totally fucking gross beer actually is, which allows them to spit out such lies as "Beer is
delicious!" No. It decidedly is not.

The main thing wrong with this conversation is that I simply don't want a fucking beer. As I say every time: If I wanted a beer, I would have one. When I wanted to go to Korea, I went. When I wanted to take yoga, I signed up. When I want to stay in bed all day reading books and watching movies, I do. When I want a beer, I have a fucking beer. I don't want one this month. Or possibly next. After that, we'll see.

I love my people. Really, I do. And I understand that they only say ridiculous things like "Beer is delicious!" so that I'll stay out with them for longer. This doesn't really make it any less tiresome.

Socializing sober is not as easy as I anticipated. But, it could be.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Reason 11 Why Teaching Adults is Better Than Teaching Children

Jack Student:
He's weird. (nods towards Sawyer Student)

Sawyer Student: (shrug)

Me: Uh... (turns back to the pair which is actually doing work)

Jack Student: (eyes boring into the side of my head) He asked me a weird question.

Me: (blink)

Sawyer Student: (shrug)

Jack Student: (stern face)

Me: (loud sigh) What did he ask you?

Jack Student: I don't know. (glares at Sawyer Student)

Me: Seriously?

Sawyer Student: Sorry. (giggle)

Me: (turns back to the other pair in the hopes that Jack stops acting like a whiny bitch)

This happened today. And this? Is about as bad as it gets. Were I still working at Barbie Hagwon and had been dealing with real children here, as opposed to adults posing as infants, I'd have needed to do some combination of the following:

1) If the other students are still following the lesson, ignore Jack and Sawyer Students in the hopes that they'll stop acting like infants soon.

2) Insist that Sawyer Student share his comment with the rest of the class.

3) Insist that Jack Student stop being a tattle tale. Nobody likes a tattle tale.

4) Force Sawyer Student to apologize.

5) Force Jack Student to accept said apology.

6) Force Jack Student to apologize for being a tattle tale. Nobody likes a tattle tale.

7) Separate Jack and Sawyer Students.

8) Put the least cooperative student in the hallway.

9) Threaten to call their mother.

10) When all else fails, get a Korean to yell at them.

At any point there is a 43% chance that the less cooperative child will wag their ass at you, and a 83% chance that he will sass you in Korean. This will probably be Jack Student, because it's a proven fact that Sawyer is the more awesome of the two.

So, while adults clearly have the capacity to act infantile, I got to roll my eyes and treat my student's behaviour with the disdain that it deserved. This is an improvement on wasting "Why must you act 8?" thoughts on 7 year olds.

The Radio Blunder

I reported last week that I had agreed to participate in the taping of Let's Talk Busan, a radio show on Busan e-FM (90.5 MHz). I incorrectly started that it would air on March 8th; the show went on last night. Apologies for the mix up, but the important thing is that I got the radio station correct, right? If you're around Busan and want to hear local English programming, that's the place to go.

Due to some out of town affairs I had to tend to, I didn't catch the show. I imagine that everybody else sounded great and I sounded ridiculous. This is more or less how I imagine things in Real Life, so why shouldn't that translate to radio? Public speaking, or any variation of it, just isn't my thing. The only time that I'm comfortable speaking to an audience is when I'm most certain that I know more about my topic of choice than at least 90% of those listening (hence why this whole Being a Teacher thing has worked out).

Topics that we covered included brief discussions of our own blogs, whether or not the Busan Blogosphere is serving expat needs, responsibilities of expat bloggers, various issues encountered by expats living in Busan, and some other stuff that will probably come to me later. Aside from my occasional rambling, I think that some of the discussion had was quite decent. Feel free to disagree if you actually tuned in.

To pick on myself just one last time (today), I failed to eloquently detail the differences between teaching adults and children (I sincerely hope that part was edited out), why I use Big White Barbie as my moniker, and I struggled to "sell" my blog at the end of the program. Thankfully, I was only a fifth of the show.

I'll use future posts to address those questions which I failed to address eloquently. Unless I find some hair from 1987 in the other drain.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I Believe This Belongs to You?

I cleaned the bathroom drain today. It appears that the occupants from 1987 left some hair behind.

I have nothing further to add. Possibly ever.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Barbie Does the Radio

I can't remember the last time that I intentionally listened to the radio. Hence, it should come as no surprise that I had absolutely no idea there was an English radio station in Busan. For all, I know there may be more. These may be things that I ought to know more about, having been here a year and a half. Perhaps by the end of this contract I will have wiped my mind clear of The Unofficial Bar Map of Busan and replaced it with useful information. I'm hopeful that it's going to work out that way.

As a shove in the right direction, I was contacted earlier this week by Brian Myers, the host of a local radio program called "Let's Talk Busan", to see if I'd be interested in joining a discussion regarding the state of the Busan blogosphere. Admittedly, I was somewhat hesitant. I write much better than I speak; this is either totally acceptable or really quite sad, depending on your opinion of my writing. In the end, I accepted, because this what Yes People do. The program will air on Busan e-FM radio (90.5 MHz) Sunday, March 8, from 7-8pm.

The other individuals involved in the discussion were:
James, author of The Grand Narrative, Kelly, author of Annyeong, and Tess, photo contributer of Sapi na 'ko.

I'm grateful, and still somewhat surprised, that I was given the opportunity to participate. If it wasn't for the fact that I occasionally struggle with the spoken word, it's something that I'd do again. Sometime over the next couple of days, when I'm afforded with the time, I will post about the experience in further detail. As much as I enjoy the new job, juggling split shifts, sleep, a social life, and my various hobbies has resulted in a serious lack of Me Time.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Did You Really Just Say That?

Consider this Reason 31.

I expect children to say absurd, inappropriate, or otherwise inane things. When they do, hilarity almost never fails to ensue. Add a language barrier to the equation and you have a formula for Guaranteed Awesome.

I expect adults to have developed tact filters, a sense of shame, and to have lost the naivety which allowed their ridiculous childhood utterances. In other words, I expect most adults to succeed where I have failed. Every now and then I come across a student that seems to have also failed at one or all of these things, and the following results in Barbie's English class:

1) A student may respond to my inquiry into her well being by proudly declaring that she's constipated. While the pride probably stems from having learned a new word, the student has failed to appreciate that there are some words you don't share with such nonchalance.

2) Several students may share stories of the good old days, when they used to run behind Pesticide Trucks and inhale deeply. Apparently Pesticide Trucks smell great. And just like that, I never again had to ask that class what had happened to them as children that made them this way.

3) A student may politely inform me that my face is looking a lot better. The student then follows this up by explaining that this is largely because he switched sides so that he no longer has to sit in view of the scary scarred side of my face.

All in all, I have a "Did you really just say that?" moment a couple of times per week. While this is quite the cut back from last year, where I'd be blessed a couple of times per class, the impact of the moment is so much greater when it comes from a fellow so-called adult.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Should Tragedy Ensue...

and the dullness of your scissors makes you blue,

there is a place in Seomyeon just for you:

I found this spot while walking home from Burger King a while ago. This would be the same Burger King that thinks mayonnaise, which is totally a sauce, by the way, belongs on Whoppers. Burger King is wrong.

My horrid display of rhyming and digression into Burger King's folly ways aside, I wonder if people who have never seen ice on the ground find ice skate sharpening facilities as funny as I find "hairdressing scissors sharpening centers"?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Seomyeon: Disorder Restored

A few events over the past week and a half have left me assured that Seomyeon is over it's midlife crisis, which involved being broken in an awesome way, and returned to just being broken.

First, they've been ripping up the intersection in front of my apartment. At 2am. Because if 2am isn't a good time to do really loud construction, when is? In spite of my obvious noise complaints, I'm going to concede that this particular event actually makes sense. Due to the many ways in which Seomyeon is broken - disasterous pedestrian and motor traffic, illogically connected roadways - there is simply no way that they could rip that intersection up during the day. Having said that, I suppose it's even possible that they do this in Toronto and New York City. Do they? I have no idea. Still. I refuse to overlook the fact that they're doing really loud construction in the middle of the city at 2am. This strikes me as an inconvenient irritant, no matter the location.

Second, it takes me exactly 5 minutes longer to get to work after dinner if I don't violently elbow at least three people in the neck. I don't aim for the neck, that's just the way it works out. I'm tall. If I don't violently elbow anybody in the neck on my way to work, I'm twice as likely to end up shoved down a flight of stairs. Given that I'm perfectly good at falling down the stairs all by myself, I think that I'll pass on this opportunity.

Finally, on my way to work the other morning I saw one guy pissing on a store front and another one puking over the curb. This was all within a one block span. Needless to say, a day where you witness both public pissing and puking before 7am is bound to be awesome.

Broken Seomyeon is far more entertaining and less confusing than Unbroken Seomyeon.

Its Not Always About You Korea. Again.

If you hate Korea so much, why don't you just leave?

This is a profoundly stupid question.

I've seen it not only on my blog, but hundreds of times over on Dave's ESL Forums. Every time that I see this question, my brain swells in horror. Everybody that I've ever been involved with purposely pops their collar; I was already quite dumb enough, thanks. The students and business folk of Busan are counting on Barbie to have a functioning brain. The further that you lower her intelligence by asking questions such as this, the less likely she is to remember her native tongue. Given that she already struggles to spell "ambulance" correctly and regularly speaks in the third person, this is problematic.

This question is stupid for at least two reasons (and probably many more, but I have an ice pack and The Office waiting for me):

First of all, with very few exceptions, Korea does not make people miserable. Occasionally miserable folk come to Korea, where they remain miserable. Korea is not a magic misery removing elixir. Arriving at Incheon airport doesn't suddenly make you a more interesting, better looking, jovial individual with killer wit. Conversely, awesome people don't suddenly become less awesome because they started eating kimchi. If you sucked prior to Korea, there is a good chance that you're going to suck here, too. To ask why these people don't just leave Korea is to miss the entire fucking point.

Second, being critical about the place that you live is not the same thing as hating it. It pains me to think that there are actually people older than 8 can't distinguish between the two. Criticism is healthy. Lacking the ability to handle criticism with grace is not. Disagreeing with criticism is healthy. Curling up into fetal position and screaming loudly, without bothering to directly address said criticism, is neither healthy nor productive.

Once again: it's not always about you, Korea. Really, it's not. Chill out.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Spotted: Order in Seomyeon.

The perfect, single-file line wrapped neatly around the curb. Roughly 15-20 people waited quietly, just steps away from one of Seomyeon's 42 subway exits. Nobody attempted to cheat their way to the front of the line. Nobody saw the need to plough their way through the line when they could instead, just walk around it.

When the bus they were waiting for finally pulled up to the curb, the line moved onto the bus in an orderly fashion. Still, nobody cheated their way to the front of the line.

This, in a neighbourhood where I'm unable to get to work in a timely fashion without violently elbowing at least three people along the way. This, in a neighbourhood more in need of Walking Hagwons than the English Hagwons that are currently found on every corner. This, in a neighbourhood that is so lacking in organization that I once described it as what would happen if you gave a 3 year old a pack of crayons and asked them to design a city centre.

Just the night before, somebody rammed their elbow into my back at one of the 15 Family Mart's near my apartment. Apparently there just wasn't enough room in the store for the two of us.

I gaped awkwardly at the lineup for about 30 seconds before one of the members of the line spotted me making a ridiculous face. She pointed and laughed at me. This was the correct thing to do.

Either nobody in that lineup is a Seomyeon regular, or Seomyeon is broken. This time, in a good way. Or, perhaps this happens everyday and I'm just too busy violently elbowing people to notice?