Friday, March 26, 2010

Relearning Canadian Pedestrian Etiquette

When I was walking around Ottawa with a friend of mine earlier this week, she kept hopping behind me as people approached us. It was bizarre and made me uncomfortable. Was she afraid of the Ottawa locals? Had she recently been mugged? 

"Why are you doing that?", I asked (in the impolite, heavily accented townie dialect I've been quick to readopt in the weeks since my return).

"There's somebody coming." She gave me a strange look.


A long pause followed. Then, it hit me. 

"Oh... you're letting people by, instead of forcing them to either elbow around you or wade through the row of dog shit which lines the sidewalk. I get it. That's very... considerate of you. I should probably start doing that again."

Monday, March 15, 2010

My Cultural Retardation

My readjustment to Canadian culture is a work in progress. For the most part I'm doing okay:

  • I have not yet left a restaurant without tipping.
  • I haven't searched in vain for a garbage beside the toilet in which to dispose of my toilet paper.
  • I haven't elbowed any seniors in a fight to get on any form of public transit (this is probably in part due to the fact that Canadian seniors appear far more feeble than their Korean counterparts, but I'm still counting it as a success).

That said, it hasn't been perfect. 

Last week I met up with a few friends that I hadn't hung out with since last time I was in town. We had a few drinks, after which it became extremely clear that I was actually the extra wheel on a double date. That it took me about two hours to notice is not terribly surprising. I'm pretty sure that my friends didn't really realize it, either; there was much confusion when I opted to depart shortly after midnight. 

Prior to the evening becoming a dry hump fiesta to which I was not invited,  much fun was had. Some at my expense, as is more or less the rule for these things. A few moments of cultural retardation on my part did not go unnoticed:

  • I forgot to tip at the bar. Given that I was actually sitting at the bar and talking to the bartender for most of the drink, this not really excusable. I remembered later, felt shame, and tried to rectify the mistake by tipping double on my next drink.
  • Before slipping out to use the washroom, I asked one of the other women at the table if the washrooms was "okay". This question did not make sense to them. I realized almost immediately that I didn't need to ask if the washroom was "okay"; the washroom would not be unisex, nor would there be squatters. I began to explain why I had asked the question in the first place, before remembering that nobody cares. 
  • I said "nice-uh!" in response to learning that there was a candy jar on the bar. I then began explaining why I put an "uh" on the end, before remembering that not only does nobody care, but it's really not funny enough to warrant explanation anyway.

There were a few more slips, but that was probably the worst of it. In spite of my cultural confusion, it's awfully nice to be back.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

This One's Mostly About Barf

I am jet lag's whore. I'm confident that in time, I can flip this relationship on it's head. For now, I float through the day slightly groggy. My first flight left Busan at 7am Wednesday morning; my last arrived in Toronto at 8pm the same day (so to speak). Were it not for the 10 hour layover in Incheon, or my completely failure to fall asleep, this might be an easier transition.

Two Gravol pills are usually enough to get the ball rolling on my barf-free journeys. I learned my lesson from the 6 hour barfathon that was my 2004 New York bus trip. Not yet having appreciated the full potential of my motion sickness, I neglected to bring any antinauseants with me, and began keeling over the bus shit hole not long after the border crossing. This continued for the remainder of the bus trip and, after a brief respite sitting on the filthy Port Authority floors, on the number 7 train to Queens. There's nothing like discovering a hole in your vomit bag across from the family of three that you've been putting on a Hurl Show for, to teach you the value of always having some puke meds on you.

In November 2008, prior to my first plane trip back to Canada, I discovered that rather than getting drunk on Gravol, I could try these patches which I found at a pharmacy in Busan. I have no idea what their American equivalent is, though I imagine that one exists. Essentially they are small patches that you stick behind your ear and keep you in check, barf-wise, for about 72 hours. The first couple of times that I tried them out, I also used a little bit of Gravol, just to play it safe. This time I did not, hence my failure to fall asleep. As it turns out, I do not sleep like a baby on planes, as I have long boasted; I sleep like a baby when I consume large amounts of Gravol. Duh.

Where I failed to fall asleep, my seatmate was quite successful. Of course, the sleeping came after I fed him some Gravol to prevent further barfing. Thankfully, such things don't bother me much. My senses are so dulled on airplanes that I barely noticed him utilizing his barf bag in the first place.

The Gravol was more or less a trade-off for the No Jet Lag pills that he'd been passing me. Apparently if you take one of these No Jet Lag pills every 37 seconds while in flight, you will feel like a golden pony once you touch ground. I read the package with suspicion, which prompted him to assure me that they were legit. I suppose that it looked like I didn't trust taking pills from a stranger, which would probably have been true, had it not been outweighed by my suspicion that whoever was responsible for the pill's packaging was full of shit. In the end, I can't say whether they really helped or not, but I've felt worse. So, maybe.