Wednesday, September 28, 2005 

A leisurely squat

The point of this picture is to show how people squat here all the time. I see old old O-L-D women squatting down like this pulling weeds at the park and such. When I first got here, I couldn't squat with my feet flat. Kylie couldn't either, and this was of some concern to here before they went to China on vacation. There are lots of Western style toilets here in Korea, often along with squat pots, or in the vicinity usually. In China, it's mostly just squat pots. And neither of us could squat without our heels coming up, and that position gets extremely uncomfortable very fast. I can squat flat-footed now though. There's a lot of sitting on the floor here in Korea - so it keeps them all limber, I think. That basically points to the entirely different cultural perception of the floor - that's why they don't wear shoes, and sit on it, and can squat. We sit up on things most of our lives and are generally less flexible. But now I'm so used to not having my shoes on (that is, the shoes I wear outside) on inside, I can't even imagine why I'd want to. It's much cleaner (or at least it would be if it weren't for all the shedding that happens in this apartment), and if one really needs something on the feet, slippers are a good option. I think it's something that just might stick in my life. We'll see.


Always face the splash's there for a reason. Posted by Picasa



I woke up to go to the bathroom or maybe because I felt that my hands were dry and needed lotion. Regardless, I thought the sensation in my gut was being hungry...I didn't eat much for dinner. However, upon further reflection I think I am in puke-preparation. And frankly, that's NO fun at all. Kylie spent Monday night barfing, and Donovan felt barfy all day today, so given the close quarters we share at work, I guess it was really just a matter of time. I hate throwing up. I remember in philosophy class how difficult it was for my mind to grasp the theory that movement is impossible...but as I was trying to get comfortable in bed a few minutes ago, it became real to me in a whole new way. Every time I moved I felt more sick...but never could get comfy. So I'm blogging in an attempt to distract myself from the nausea. Sad to say it's not working.

While I'm here though, I might as well share a story from my day. I got a new fourth grade class at the beginning of this month that consists of two students. It's a very low level class, but the kids are both really sweet. There is one girl and one boy. The girl...(how to say this delicately?) has some kind of issue...I dunno what...but it'll suffice to say that her hand often is in a place a person's hand shouldn't be (not in public, anyway and certainly not in the middle of class). I heard all about this from the other teachers, but was pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn't an issue for me. That is, until yesterday. And the thing is, it's her right hand, so it's the hand she writes with and touches ME with. So yesterday just before we started the worksheet (which would obviously require writing) this is what I said, "Umm...okay, Teacher needs to wash her hands, so let's all go to the bathroom and wash our hands!" So the three of us head to the bathroom, where I stand at the door giving helpful suggestions such as, "Use the orange bar, it's the best!" (Dial antibacterial soap) "You should wash your hands at least FIVE times a day, and ALWAYS after you use the bathroom!" Hand washing here is slightly different than at home, which is something I can usually cope with...but there's only so much this slightly OCD girl can handle. I talked to one of the Korean teachers, and she basically reiterated that it's such a "sensitive" issue that there probably isn't anything they can do about it (as in, tell her parents...even though she's 11 years old and has been doing this consistently for months at least), so I told her that was fine with me, but to expect my class with them to be interrupted with mandatory hand-washings as needed.

I do feel less nauseous to sleep (hopefully).

Tuesday, September 27, 2005 

I have an amazing picture of old men talking in this characteristic squat which will lead me to then discuss the amazing differences in flexibility between native Asians (hope that's as unoffensive as possible, I did try hard) and...most of the rest of the world, BUT my computer is being at least slightly stupid, and I'm tired, so I'm going to bed right now. I also have a great picture of a squat pot, which will lead me to tell the story that spawned the idea of the "squat pot spotter" (right now, say it 10 times fast). But alas...another day, I promise.

In other quick news, I got a package today from Haley and it was AMAZING. She sent me benadryl (which is the drug of choice as a Daive-sedative when needed), smell-good spray, a shirt for me, a sweater for the dog that looks GREAT (you've seen the pictures, you know most colors just don't work for her), dog treats, and even a bag of treats and a toy for the cat (in her letter she wrote "even bad cats play"). AND (drumroll please) a pair of Crocs! My life just went to a whole new level. I've been sporting a few pair of generic (extremely generic) croc-type shoes that are soft and cushy and lightweight like Crocs, but unlike Crocs, are not slip-resistant, and built the bottom of the shoe with a suction cup like thing to help keep your balance on wet and/or slippery surfaces. The shoes, while comfy, are dangerous (nearly taken a few bad falls in them) and embarrassing on wet days, as I walk down the street making nearly-obscene noises because of the suction-thingy. In dry weather though, I call them my superhero shoes, cause it sounds like I could walk up a building in them. Overall though, they're pretty crappy. The actual Crocs exceed all my expectations.

Also watched Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy with Kylie and Donovan tonight. Anyone else seen the movie and read the book? If so, what'd you think? I thought it was a little choppy, but that's probably just because you can't fit five books into a movie...and the books have so much great and hilarious stuff in them. It was a good movie though...better than I expected. And now, off to bed for real. Night all.

Sunday, September 25, 2005 

Toilet Paper

Can I ask a personal question? I mean, really really personal? On average, how many squares of toilet paper do you use for a wipe job? (That's per individual wipe, not the total number of squares needed for a satisfactory level of nether-region-cleanliness.) And ladies, do the number of squares change according to what you're...ahem....doing? But wait...there's more...

There were some places in Israel and some places here that have toilet paper dispensers on the wall when you walk into the bathroom (not the stall, the actual room) and you have to get it before you go in. This requires more predictive abilities than I personally have, so I always end up taking too much. Then there are places in Korea with no toilet paper at all (my purse stays stocked, I assure you), and in China the norm is no toilet paper and no stall doors. (Important: someone please tell me if I have blogged already about squat pots and going to the bathroom using a squat pot.)

I used to be opposed to bathroom discussions, but working at the vet cured me of that. Now I converse freely about all bodily functions, both mine and my pets'. It's not very feminine and definitely not delicate, but I am usually appropriate. (I only talk about it with people I'm close to and who are comfortable.) In fact, I've found that my closest friends are the ones that I can talk about poop with. I wonder if we can talk about it because we're close, or if talking about poop makes us closer? I remember the relief (no pun intended) I felt when, eating dinner with Kylie and Donovan at Outback on Friday night after our first week of work, that I mentioned something about poop, and Kylie exclaimed, "Oh yes! You like to talk about poop too!" And I don't mean making crude jokes...just poop - the good, the bad, the ugly, and the kind that makes you sick.

Plus I've been forced to be more open about bathroom issues over the past year. I had an issue with the plumbing in my apartment in Tel Aviv and it ended up being horrifyingly embarrassing. Then there's the necessary to prejudge how much toilet paper one would need prior to even entering the stall. In fact, it was thinking of that that prompted this whole post. In Israel, Jerusalem actually, Mary and I had both gone to the bathroom and she was in the stall before she realized we needed toilet paper. I went to fetch some for us both, and she said, "Geez, you think you got enough there?" It was the first time I realized my toilet paper habits could be wasteful. Then, one of my friends who came from a very large family said that she uses about four squares...for both kinds of jobs. I don't count the squares, I just pull...but Kylie and I (while sitting in my apartment away from the bathroom) experimented tonight, and we both use about eight squares on average...also for both kinds of jobs. So, what do you think?

And just in case the questions have been lost in the midst of my senseless rambling:

1. On average, how many squares do you use for each individual wipe?
2. Ladies, is the number different according to the kind of job?
3. Wet wipes: is there a place for them in the bathroom life of adults? (was going to title it "Wet wipes: cleansing and soothing, or cold and clammy? but clammy wasn't quite the word I was looking for - wait - my sister just said that they make wet wipe warmers...that changes the whole thing...but still, as an adult, do you have any use for wet wipes?)


C. S. Lewis

I'm slightly ashamed to admit that I've only recently really starting reading C.S. Lewis. The reason being that the bookstore at my church has begun stocking a handful of English books, and quite a few of that handful are his. I bought the complete Narnia set in Israel and read it there (for the first time, I might add). I got Mere Christianity here at a bookstore before my church bookstore started stocking English books and read it. Then I bought A Grief Observed a few weeks ago, and it is a godsend, because reading it has helped me to know a little bit of what to pray for Bethany and her family, just by bringing the experience of grief fresh to my mind. Then two weeks ago I bought The Great Divorce, and The Weight of Glory (being a repeat buy, as I have a copy in the States, but well worth the 10,000 won). I only started the Great Divorce yesterday, and I finished it today on the subway. It's a really amazing book, of course. But then at dinner tonight I randomly thought of the Caedmon's Call song that mentions something about the "high countries" and I thought I should dig the CD out and listen to it. And the song was amazing before, but having read the book, the song actually made sense. And what an amazing song it is! It's for reasons such as this that I love Caedmon's Call (that, and the fact that "potentiality" is an actual word that actually fits in one of their songs). It's on the Back Home CD, and the title of the song is (appropriately enough) "The High Countries." It's good stuff.

Also, I was reading on some website that I generally respect and trust the author's opinion, and he said something about C.S. Lewis being a mystic. Is that true? I'm gonna go look it up now, but I am just wondering if anyone else has heard this before.


I had to go to the bathroom, so Daive took over for me. She actually did get in the seat by herself, which is what makes these pictures so hilarious to me. Posted by Picasa


She may not be ferocious, but she plays a mean game of Skip-Bo! (Cringing at my own cheesiness) In any case, if you look closely here, you can see she's sporting the "Feral Daive" look, which is the name my dear friend Mary gave to it in Israel. It's when her upper lip gets caught on one of her teeth, and she looks either like she has a severe overbite, or like she's trying to do a canine impersonation of Elvis. Either way, Feral Daive always makes me laugh. Posted by Picasa

Friday, September 23, 2005 

Arm Fondler in the Park

I'm walking through the park with Daive. A man is walking beside us and starts making friendly noises at the dog (surprising because most Koreans think she's about to eat them). I smile, and try to get Daive to at least look in his direction. He starts talking to me in Korean. I, of course, don't understand. I could say "I don't speak Korean" in Korean, but that seems to confuse people more than anything I just stick with saying it in English. He starts waving me over to a bench to sit down. For reasons still unknown to me, I sit. He goes in for something I assume to be a handshake, but it ends up being more of an arm fondle (me being the fondle-ee). And then nothing (nothing after he spoke to me for a few minutes in Korean, of course). I am talking to myself out loud at this point (How awkward...why did I sit down...things like that) and I finally say "You don't speak English?" He says "yes" (remember, that means no as an answer to my question), and then I say, "My dog needs to poop, so I should go...uhh....right" and walk away to a grassy area behind the sidewalk, where he follows me. He makes a noise that startles Daive, and I begin to say things like "get him! get him!" as quietly as possible...not wanting her to actually get him, just to bark. And of course, she doesn't bark. She actually walks over to him with her tail wagging. I pull her away, mumbling something about poop, shrug my shoulders apologetically, wait until his back is turned, and leave (quickly). I need to train Daive to at least bark on command so maybe she would sound intimidating...or something.

Thursday, September 22, 2005 

So I wrote a letter this weekend to my school and had it translated into Korean. It wasn't a malicious evil offensive attacking basically said: you lied to me, I know it, and that's wrong. I had Jenny translate it into Korean for me, and had a meeting with a teacher at work to show her before I gave it in. She basically said I couldn't do it. She said it would make things bad for her, and it would make things really bad for me, and I have to stay for three more months. She said more, but that's enough to share here. And I got so angry - just at the injustice of it all. I know I haven't fully explained the situation here, but my beef isn't even majorly that they wouldn't let me leave, it's how they handled saying no. It's just the way they treat people is wrong - not wrong as in "I wish they wouldn't do things like that," wrong, but wrong as in objectively and consistently wrong. They lie, yell, lie, manipulate, get the point. And for the first time I had proof - I knew that they had lied to me and manipulated the situation to try to make themselves look good, and I knew based on my own common sense, so I could've confronted them without breaking anyone's confidence. But I couldn't. Either they would've fired me, or made the next three months of my life nearly unbearable. And so I got angry - the kind of angry I've been very rarely in my life. I told the teacher at work that I needed to leave or I was going to do or say something I'd regret. Conveniently, I was sick, so I went to the doctor. I've never in my life had a job like's foreign in a whole lot of ways. Well, at the doctor he told me that I have a severe lung infection and gave me lots of medicine. I went back to work after seeing the doctor, and taught the rest of my classes (coughing so much and so hard that I was scaring the children). Same for yesterday and today. I'm just sick...but I haven't been this sick in a long time.

And so, that's where my life is at the moment. I don't know if I've mentioned this or not already (and I'm too lazy to check right now) but I'm reconsidering staying in Korea another year. I emailed Dr. Freeman, the professor from BCF who is very much like a father figure to me, and he said that he thinks I should go back to the States, go back to school (master and ph.d) and be a college professor of some kind (he recommended Bible or literature). I'm entirely undecided and, if you couldn't tell, really confused. I'm basically back at the exact same point I was at during the spring semester of 2004, except now I have less credit card debt and more life experience. I'm not saying I've regressed, just at the same point decision-wise. Feel free to share if you have advice. I just don't know. Could all my dreams/thoughts of going to India be wrong? And I wonder that not due to pride (at least I think), but just because if I'm hearing God that wrong, that's an indicator of a bigger problem.

Honestly, right now I'm very frustrated. I'm frustrated with my job (both bosses and students), my own personal spiritual, emotional, and mental life, the country I live in, the friends I have here, I'm frustrated. It's similar to a point I came to in Israel, where everything about the country and culture drove me bonkers. It's different here, it's occasional, not constant, but it's wearing me down. Sorry for being dreary. I'm off to bed now though, have a doctor's appointment early in the morning.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005 

Bethany's Tribute to her Dad

This is what Bethany read at her Dad's funeral this past Saturday in Tallahassee. (Read with kleenex!)

My Daddy

I wasn't going to share today, I had decided not to, but I changed my mind.

I just wanted to talk a little bit about some of the things my father loved. I think obviously the most important thing to him was his relationship with God. As you can see from some of the testimonites that have already been shared, God was number one i his life, and he lived his life to serve Him. And then after that, My father loved family, and his wife.

You know you’ve never met two more different people then my mother and father! I don’t know how they ended up together... well actually I do, my mom asked him to marry her, because my dad was too shy to ever ask her. That was how it happened. But anyways, two very different people,who were very much in love. My mom would be the first to say they didn’t have a perfect marriage. They had trials and tribulations, like everyone else, which is why I think he was so good at what he did, because he had been there, in those shoes. He knew what it was like. But my parent’s never gave up, and they beat the odds triumphantly and had 30 years of marriage.

My dad loved his children. We called him Adventure Man, because he was ALWAYS trying to find new ways to entertain and play with his kids. Playing with his kids was a very importnat thing to him. Frisbee, Basketball, Water parks, swimming, motorcycles, motor scooters, the beach. Just being with his children.

He loved counseling. I don't know if everyone here knows that he passed while in the middle of doing what he loved, because he really in truly loved it. He lived to help people. He really he loved to be transparent, so that others could learn from his mistakes, and his trials. He just wanted to point people to God. He loved teaching about forgiveness. That was his platform, it was his passion. I’m telling you, I’ve sat through so many sermons and lectures on forgiveness that I could probably preach an 8 week series from my memory alone without using notes.

He loved sour patch candies, and fireballs, He really just loved all candy. I can’t tell you how many times I would come home from Orlando to visit, and I’d walk in the door and he’d be like “why don’t you go get us some goodies and a couple of movies,” Althought hey usually had to be pg movies because my dad was very partiular about watching anything inappropriate.

My dad loved Shrek. LOVED LOVED LOVED shrek. He told me that he identified more with shrek than any one else. He said he was just a big bald guy with layers. Just like shrek. He was so excited about coming to Orlando at the end of this month, because he really wanted to see the 3-D shrek show at Universal. The younger four kids, who were usually with dad at all times when running errands, I guess because there lives were a little less busy than us older children, all had shrek slippers like my dad, and according to my mom they’d all go to Publix together wearing the slippers.

My dad loved the Seminoles, and as Dr. Emhoff said he loved technology. Man did he love computers. He was so excited about his computers, his websites, his gadgets and his phones. My mom and I have been walking around the house going, we don't know what all of this is!

Most of all my dad loved giving advice, and if he were here right now he would say to us that it’s ok to be sad. And that it's ok to weep, because we do not weep as those who have no hope, but we weep because we will miss an incredible man of God. I have heard many people say that difficult times, such as these, makes them doubt their salvation, makes them doubt God, and His love for us. But truthfully I haven’t. I am angry at the injustice of losing my dad way sooner than I’d like, it makes me grieve deeply that my eight year old baby sister, does not have a daddy anymore, but not for a second have I doubted that Christ is my savior, and that God loves me. And I think that is a testimony to my father. Because he gave my siblings and me an incredible foundation. So yes we are sad, because we love him, and we desperately miss him, but my father prepared me to go through times like this. And we will survive, and we are all confident that this is not goodbye forever. and in the meantime, thank you for your prayers and for your support, and most of all thank for coming today to celebrate the life of an incredible saint of the Lord.

Saturday, September 17, 2005 

In Memory of Dr. Donald Dunlap

Bethany's dad, Dr. Dunlap (what I always called him) passed away on Thursday from a heart attack. They are having two funerals, one Saturday the 17th (today) at 11:00 AM at Northwoods Baptist Church and one in Jacksonville next Saturday (I think, not sure about the date and don't know the time, will update later with details).

I set up an alternate email address for Bethany for those of you who want to email her with your condolences, it is (This way she can read them if she wants but they aren't there attacking her when she opens up her regular inbox.) Rather than sending flowers (if you were so inclined), the family would prefer it if you would make a donation to a fund to provide counseling for needy families through The Church at Argyle (that links to a page with their contact info).

Please pray for her family. They're the strongest family I've ever met, but this is a tremendously difficult time (to say the least). Pray also for Bethany, that God would comfort her and give her strength during this time - strength to be strong for her family but also strength to grieve as she needs to.


I found out the news about Bethany's dad on Friday morning when I woke up early to go to a doctor's appointment. I called her immediately, of course, and we talked for a few minutes. She was already in Jacksonville with her family. After we hung up, I spent the next thirty minutes calling airlines and getting prices on their bereavement fares. Even if it meant me lying through my teeth, I was going to do my best to be with my best friend. The cheapest price I was quoted was a whopping $1950. Just not doable.

Quick summary:
- Traumatized further at the hospital by being given bad directions and ending up in the middle of the ER
- Called my sister crying about how I should be there.
- Called Bethany crying, she said she wanted me there, and I vowed to try my best to find a way
- Found a ticket that cost less than $1900
- Called my dog-sitter and he said he could do it
- Talked to Donovan at work and he said he and Kylie wouldn't mind covering my classes and loaning me enough money to make sure I could get the ticket and still live till we get paid again

In short, everything was settled. I was planning on lying and saying my Grandma died, but everyone I talked to said that was a bad idea, to just tell them the truth. And they were right. I was too upset and freaked out to maintain a good front. So I went to work a little early, and told Joan the situation and that I needed to go, it was not optional, it wasn't a family member, but I still needed to go. I didn't just go anyway like I was advised by my co-workers. I didn't make a scene like I was advised by my co-workers because I knew there was something I didn't know. And boy, was there. It ends up the kind old ajjuma (Korean for old woman/grandma) who runs the school is actually the slave driver and the one who makes all the mean decisions. If it had been a family member they would have been required to let me go, but as it wasn't, they had no intention of being understanding, kind, or even letting me use my three sick days I'm given in the contract (and I would have only missed three days at the most). I can't even put into words all that happened on Friday or all I found out - but one more thing, they called me out of the middle of my K-7 class to tell me, which surprised me and I thought was a very bad idea...and it ends up that was on orders from the boss as well.

Enough about my situation though...the problem isn't that I didn't get my way, the problem is that I couldn't be there with Bethany. I know she'll be fine...she's surrounded by her friends. But I'm not there. As her best friend, I should be. I haven't cried like this since my mom died. It breaks my heart, to consider how much she must be hurting right now. And I should be there - not out of some sense of obligation or duty, but because I love her and she's my best friend. But I'm not.

And I call her a few times a day...but how meaningless are words at a time like this? Quite. I remember the stupid things people said to me after my mom died, about how she was resting now, how...oh, just stupid vapid meaningless tripe. Makes me think of C.S. Lewis' book about grief (which I just bought a few weeks ago and have been reading) where he says:

Talk to me about the truth of religion and I'll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I'll listen submissively. But don't come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don't understand.

The truth is not diminished or changed at all by our suffering, but it must be remembered that there is a time and a place for everything. I don't know if that makes sense and to be honest, I don't really care if it doesn't.

I know she'll be fine...she's the strongest person I've ever known. But that doesn't mean that this isn't the hardest thing she's ever gone through, and it doesn't mean that she isn't hurting.

In short, I'm rethinking my decision to stay in Korea. I mistakenly thought I had nothing to go home to...and if by that I meant a house or a family (as in dependent on me), I was right. But in a deeper and perhaps more significant way, I was entirely wrong.

PS - The deleted comment on the above post is stupid comment spam...which is annoying on regular posts, but was downright offensive on that one. I went to their advertised website and fired off a furious letter to the owner of the domain, which I'm sure will be ignored completely. It made me feel slightly better to do it though.

PSS - I actually wrote this post after the above post, but changed the time so that one would stay on top (being more important) and so this one would make sense.

Thursday, September 15, 2005 

Now, the culture tidbit of the day is that tact, as Westerners know it, is non-existent in this country. Point in case: Tuesday I walked into my middle school class and they told me I had bomb hair and asked me if I just woke up. No, thanks very much....I actually do this on purpose! What? Oh, yes, my feet are remarkably big, thank you for noticing. And it's not just the kids. The adults are just as bad (not as in value judgment bad, as in, they do the same thing bad). Though the things that adults say to me are far worse and will not be getting a spot in this blog. But trust me, they're bad.

In other news, remember ages ago when I blogged about how happy I was to get the problem with Citibank ironed out? Oh....if only I knew. Since then (and I'm not going to take the time to find the post, but it was definitely months ago) I've talked to various employees at Citibank more times than I can remember. I've talked to four people in the past two weeks alone. All of them have said the same thing, "It's our error. I'll start working on it today. It should be fixed in one week." Yet it hasn't been fixed. I've been nice. I've been terse. I've been angry. I got a phone call about a month ago saying that it was under investigation, just a formality, would be fixed, and that I'd continue to get "pay or else" letters in the mail, but to disregard them. I could handle this, but not when the letter came saying they were demanding full payment of the loan (in which they also mentioned they had reported this information to the credit bureau and the government). I lost it. I saw red. (Insert other idiom meant to express extreme rage and fury.) I called and spoke to a handful of people over the past two weeks, each promising to do themselves what each person in the past four or so months had promised to do. Between the time I started typing this and right now, it has all been resolved. Thank God. I had to threaten to get a lawyer, and I'm just not good at threatening or having an attitude. But it's all fixed up now, and my consolidation application is still in process. Anyway, all the wind has been taken out of this rant now that it's fixed, and I will be able to sleep peacefully and well tonight. They've fixed it, I made a payment (thanks to my gracious and generous sister letting me use her checking account), and they'll update my credit report. Thank God...really, thank God. The stress of it was eating away at me, knowing it was unresolved but there was nothing more I could do.

And allow me to make a quick plug for Rick and Christie's site. It's usually the first stop on my morning blog-browsing and it is always delightfully pleasant and refreshing. Thanks guys, you make my morning nicer (you and caffeine, that is).

I have to be at the doctor at 9:00 AM in the morning (which I am dreading) and so I should already be asleep. Night all.

Edit: Just did the "Forgot spell check again and I know I misspelled bureau" thing, and I find it incredibly ironic that the spell checker for blogger doesn't recognize "blog" "blogged" or "blogger" as a legitimate word.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005 

More Korean Customs

These are the kind of things that would probably be more interesting...I should have been posting about these all along, somehow I just didn't. (Or at least I don't remember posting about it, but as Megan knows all too well, I have a bad habit of repeating myself.)

In any case, one thing I love about Korea is how polite people can be. ("Can" being the key word in that sentence.) Society here is based on a hierarchy. It's vital to know where you stand with other people - if you went to the same high school, you're classmates (and these types of relationships follow you all throughout life). If you work together, you're co-workers...not to be confused with friends. Here it's very rare to be friends (like outside of work friends) with the people you work with. And age factors in...considerably so. Add in all the various kinds of membership - clubs, churches, schools your kids go to, and it makes for a very complex web of relationships. Within that web, there are certain ways you relate to and act with those people, depending on what position they occupy. Before I actually describe those kinds of polite customs and actions, allow me to interject that a stranger is a bad kind of person to be. Korean people are incredibly warm and kind, but only once you're occupying a space in their web (whatever that space may be). Outside the web, you're just a foreigner, good for staring at and running into on the subway.

So anyway, there's lots of bowing here, which I cannot do well or properly to save my life, but that's what I get for being a Westerner. If someone older than me, a boss, or someone I really respect hands me something, I accept it with both hands (or with one hand, and the other hand touching the inside of the extended hand's elbow). This is polite. If I give something to someone older than me, a boss, or someone I really respect, I hand it to them with both hands (or as above, with the other hand touching the inside elbow of extended arm).

Now for drinking...because it's such a huge part of the culture here (particularly the business can't do business without drinking here), there's all kinds of rules. Because I generally only drink cola, and spend time with Koreans who I'm extremely comfortable with, I don't really get them all. I do know that generally, you aren't supposed to pour your own beverage. Someone else should pour it for you (and if that person is older than you/boss/one you respect, you hold your cup with both hands). Then, if you are drinking with someone you significantly respect, your elder, or your boss, you turn your face away when you drink (assuming you're drinking an alcoholic beverage). I went out with some friends from work on Friday night, and they insisted on pouring my cola into the soju shot glass, and so I observed the not-pouring-for-yourself rule and the holding-with-two-hands rule (but not the turning away one).

For the most part, Korean culture still eludes me in many ways. I find myself doing the two handed thing often though, because I'd rather be too respectful (AKA, look like a foreign idiot) than be disrespectful (AKA, reinforce the typical American stereotype). At church, when I'm handing out bulletins, I've noticed that many other foreigners do the two hand thing automatically as it's not just me. But it really is just habit now. And that's all for now. I just realized how much time I've spent typing this when I should be doing work. Night.


It comes from an interesting source, but of all the articles about the hurricane that I've read in various newsletters I get from organizations or websites I subscribe to, this one didn't make me cringe at all. I was about to cringe when I read the first sentence, but then breathed a sigh of relief when I realized it was going in the opposite direction. Check it out.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005 

Edible seaweed paper

Continuing with my theme of food-related posts (or weird cultural things I've somehow forgotten to mention until now), allow me to introduce you to nori. Nori is actually the Japanese name for it, and I'm sure it has a Korean name. I just don't know it. Anyway, it's dried seaweed that you use to wrap up a little ball of rice (like a rice burrito) and eat it. I think I've actually mentioned it before now that I think about it. Anyway, now is an improvement because I found pictures online. The picture on the bottom looks gross because it has horseradish trickled on the top and rice squished on the back. The picture on the top makes it look like they are flooring tiles. So combine the two, and you know what I'm talking about. In fact, it's what sushi rolls (california rolls? I avoid things involving raw fish whenever possible) come wrapped in, so if you've had sushi, you've had this. It's what kimbop (not mmmbop, Jen) is wrapped in as well. Lunch today at school, which has been remarkably fishy for the past week, was fish sausage (o-dang in Korean....SO gross to me), kimchi, rice, and the seaweed paper. The little papers are salty was quite tasty, and I thought I'd share.

Also, tonight Kylie and I were discussing my cat and she made an extremely humorous (though cruel and something I'd never do) suggestion. Actually, I think I was holding my bloody finger from where the cat had just removed some of my skin and saying as many non-curse words as possible. Nonetheless, she was shaking a bottle of water at the cat (with the lid on, I might add) because we couldn't find the spray bottle I use to actually spray the cat when he's being bad and she said, "You should start spraying the cat with hair spray and see how long it takes before it kills him." What made it much funnier than it already was, was that in my head I had a picture of my cat gradually turning into this statue. It's not funny at all now, but oh, how I laughed! He's so bad. I'm going to call tomorrow and see how much it costs to get him neutered and declawed. It's time....actually a little past time by my standards, but the vets here wouldn't do it any earlier. And that reminds me of a morbid line from Fight Club, about how it's a sick world where at the animal shelter even when someone loves you enough to save your life, they still have you castrated. And on that morbid note, I leave you. Good night.

Sunday, September 11, 2005 

I got new glasses today, BTW.

These are the frames I got today. They were the only frames I could find that looked remotely decent on this big head of mine*, so you can imagine how disappointed I was when I found out that they were Calvin Klein frames. Calvin Klein = expensive. But they were on sale, and lenses here in Korea are super cheap (not to mention clearer and scratch-resistant). I paid $140 for the frames and lenses, and they were ready in less than 15 minutes! Lenscrafters, beat that! Also the eye test was free and took less than five minutes. They have a machine that looks in your eyes and figures it out, then they just tweak the glasses in the big mad-scientist looking glasses to make sure it'll work. Voila! Glasses! It was funny, when she took me over to test my eyes, we (Kylie, Jenny, and me) forgot about my old glasses and left them on the counter, where they were then put in the display case. Luckily I figured out they were missing shortly and retrieved them. If anyone is planning to visit me and also wears glasses, wait till you come to get them! Same for contact lenses, they're MUCH cheaper here. (I don't wear contacts so I don't really know, but that's what I hear.) Anyway, I've spent the rest of the evening working on the devotionals for the church magazine which are due tomorrow. I finished four out of six, and can finish the last two at my leisure tomorrow. I'm probably not going to church though. It's quite late now and I am getting sick and need to rest up for next week.

* The racial slur for Koreans is "buckethead" because they have such wide faces/heads. While I don't really see this, I also think it's only fair that some aspect of their otherwise miniscule and perfect bodies are wide. Regardless, the point is that for the first time, I had a problem with glasses being too big for my face/head rather than being too small. (I do have a large head.) It was nice. (I don't think buckethead is a very impressive or offensive racial slur. I'm against them all the same, so perhaps it would be nice to rewrite all racial slurs so they are as silly and inoffensive as buckethead. It's late, and so my over-tired brain wants to attempt it, but I'm quite sure I'd say overwhelmingly stupid and offensive things, so I'll just go to bed now.)

PS - This is the third time I've had to edit this post. I forgot to add the above starred portion, then I spelled CK wrong. Ahhh! I'm going to bed for sure now, regardless of what else may be spelled wrong or forgotten.

Saturday, September 10, 2005 

Pickles and Kimchi

Okay, so besides the fact that this blog has the word in it's title, what do you know about kimchi? Have you ever tasted it? Did you like it? What did you think of it? Aaron once said that the taste of kimchi ranges from spicy (tasty) to rancid (over-fermented). I think he was right on. I'm not such a big fan of kimchi, though I like it more now than when I first moved here. Radish kimchi is my favorite but it's still too....kimchi-ey. Nonetheless, kimchi is a sidedish served at every Korean restaurant. Even Outback Steakhouse serves kimchi here. However, according to some set of unwritten (at least I've never read them) rules, kimchi doesn't "go" with certain foods. Pizza, for instance, is one of those non-kimchi foods. However, the Koreans NEED something crunchy and pickled/fermented with every meal. They require it. It's not optional. And so, pizza here is served with pickles (the sweet kind, not the dill kind - the dill kind are nearly impossible to find). Since I found out that I can order pizza from pizza hut (they have English speakers there) I've ordered it more than I probably should. It's just too easy (not to mention too expensive, but I guess I'm paying for the convenience also). Anyway, I keep on saving the pickles for when I have some of my Korean friends over to eat a meal. I had some of the Korean teachers over for dinner a few months ago, and Jenny asked if I had any kimchi or pickles, and (to my utter embarrassment) I didn't. Now that wouldn't be a problem, thank you pizza hut. I'm getting hooked. The kimchi looks tastier, and I scarf (wonder if I spelled that right) down the pickles with pizza. In fact, I almost need them. AND (this is a much bigger surprise) I'm starting to like spicy food. I drink lots and LOTS of water (I mean really, unbelievable amounts of water) when I eat spicy food, but I'm getting hooked.

PS - Fried chicken (they've ordered it before at the office) comes with pickled/fermented radish, but without the kimchi spice. That's all. Thought about it after I published it and thought I'd add it.


On a much lighter note...

Used stickers really gross me out. I mean really gross me out. In fact they gross me out so much, I sometimes have to suppress a gag. The kids at my school love stickers, are absolutely fanatical about them. Time and time again it has happened, they pick up a sticker from the floor and, with their generous spirit and sweet natures, want to give it to me. Of course they can't understand why I do anything to keep it from touching me. It's along the lines of a used band-aid in my mind, only (generally and hopefully) without the blood. It's still just really gross.

Thursday, September 08, 2005 

Its been a tough week

Like many of those in the blogging world, I have multiple blog accounts. It isn't because I'm that compulsive, it's because it's necessary to interact with other bloggers. And so the post that was occupying this spot yesterday was removed and posted to my live journal friends-only blog. I felt awkward for being so open/blunt, and was uncomfortable with how my sisters responded to me after they read it. And so I removed it. But now here I am, about to talk about the same thing again. On the one hand, this is my blog and I am obviously free to say whatever I want to. On the other hand, it's family stuff and I'm worried about offending my sisters by sharing too much or giving my opinion or perspective on a very complex and sensitive issue. But sharing is exactly what I'm about to do. Read on if you're brave and have lots of time.
My dad's wife really can't stand me. About two or three months after they started dating he brought her to Dothan for the Peanut Festival. During the weekend they were there, she insulted me two or three times, always when my dad wasn't around. I thought I was going insane, just imagining it because internally I resented her so much. It was only when she insulted me in front of a friend I realized I wasn't certifiable. She really doesn't like me, and I really don't know why. I've asked her, I've asked my dad. The latest answer is that she was brought up in an area not trusting people...whatever that means. Anyway, she thinks I use my dad maliciously. On the phone Tuesday night she was yelling (actually voice raised yelling) things like "go away," and "don't give it to her" (that one directed at my dad). First of all, I can't go much further away without coming back. Second, yes I was using his debit card, but it was only because I deposited $900 in it earlier that day. I talked to her, she said I should get my own bank account in the States (which is, for those of you wondering, impossible to do from here, I've checked it out) and stop bothering my dad. I further questioned her and she hung up on me. I talked to my dad afterwards and told him that it made me not want to call him ever. Fast forward 24 hours, to last night. I was feeling sentimental and thought talking to my dad would help. Allow me to here interrupt myself: the problem isn't that she dislikes me. I don't like her at all. The problem is how she displays it - in entirely inappropriate ways, and that she makes my dad sad or unhappy because of it. Plus there's the issue that my dad doesn't defend me ever, which makes me think he agrees with her though he says he doesn't. Agree with her on what, you ask? I don't even know. Anyway, I was talking to my dad last night (after I talked to you, Jen) and he asked me not to call him at home anymore. He said I should only call him at work. That was a blow, let me tell you. And there ends the family stuff. I'm undecided about going home for Christmas simply because Phyllis is incapable of being even fake-pleasant around me and if she brought unhappiness to a very expensive vacation at home I might just get violent-angry. Then though, I don't want to miss out on seeing my family because of her. And so, I don't know. But I'm struggling a lot right now.

And just for fun, I'll share about the rest of my night. After hanging up the phone with my dad when he told me not to call him at home anymore, I found out that Daive had vomited. When we had been walking just earlier she had eaten something before I could take it away from her. I worked at a vet and am familiar with dog vomit. It has to be some severe dog vomit to get me grossed out. I've also had to analyze Daive's vomit before to see what she ingested (as the treatment can depend on what the problem was). I did see a large round black foreign object, but was gagging uncontrollably and so did not investigate further. I just flushed it all. She puked three more times before the morning came. I was starting to figure out just how mad my Korean friend would be at me for waking her up and taking her with me to go to the emergency vet. Instead, I called good ol' Banfield in Dothan, Alabama (where I used to work) and got the dosage information for some meds I had here. Well Daive was sick, but not so sick that she couldn't fight the pill. She spit the pill on me, on the chair, on the floor....AND was drooling all over me with (this is kinda gross) gooey post-vomit drool, which was just nasty. I finally gave up on the pill and decided I'd force it down her if she threw up again. Then I looked down to see the cat eating the part of the pill I hadn't picked up, then the cat started to get sick. At that point it was almost 2 AM and I was ready to just throw it all out the window. I said a quick prayer, threw the cat in the bathroom, and went to sleep. I awoke to find all animals present, accounted for, and (most importantly) alive this morning. I called my grandparents this morning (because I knew they would be supportive and encouraging - which they were) to find out that Grandpa had two stints put in his heart (I think I have the terminology wrong) yesterday. He's okay, and it wasn't a huge deal...but it got me more frazzled and exasperated.

Add to all that the heavy conversation I had with my sister yesterday about our mother. It's stuff far too personal to share or discuss here in depth or detail, but I learned/became aware of more reality about just how very ill (mentally) my mother was. And that's just not easy. It wasn't easy to cope with when she was alive, and it's still not easy. Something can't be a H-U-G-E deal for all your life and then cease to matter simply because the affected person (cause of it?) dies. In some ways it makes it more complicated.

But alas, now I've gone and said perhaps far more than I should. I don't want to be one of those people whose blogs is a constant source of amusement and "what's she going on about now" thoughts for you who read it. I just don't want to be thought of as stupid or trivial. Or like one of those people who flaunts their previous traumas as some kind of badge of honor (thinking of one BCF person in evil of me). So far as I can tell about myself, I'm trying to heal and grow and change. Sometimes I have a hard time figuring out what's normal/acceptable though....which is understandable since my mother (designed to be a role model) was extremely mentally ill (maybe not actually insane, but far from coherent and sane). Okay...that's enough I think. I don't know if this even makes sense and I'm not entirely sure why I'm sharing it.

Sunday, September 04, 2005 

the oatmeal that was my undoing

Right now, I'm struggling a lot with deep life questions about life, suffering, humanity, depravity, etc. But I've been prone to take my own opinions too seriously in the past, so I'm trying to express them with more restraint than before. But I want to try to share, to see if maybe it makes any sense or not.

Today, Kylie gave me some instant oatmeal packets she and Donovan didn't want. I tried to make some (of the banana bread kind, not sure what I was thinking). I had a taste of it and became so instantly homesick that I started to cry and couldn't finish it. (That and it was banana, which I hate, and I put too much water in it. But it did make me cry.)

I think I'm going to have to be at least slightly unpleasant tomorrow at work. I'm not looking forward to this. Communication is never easy, a fact I'm basically used to. But when it's a problem, an issue I feel should be addressed and taken seriously, the difficulty/inability communicating becomes even more frustrating.

Then there's this. And the hurricane victims, and the tsunami victims, and north Koreans. In light of all these, I berate myself for crying about oatmeal and whining about my job. I do believe in the sovereignty of God. I understand that God's plan is infinitely beyond what my mind can comprehend. It's not even the question of why bad things happen to good people. It's why I can be so distraught about oatmeal. I struggle so much with perspective, and I try...I really do try. Only since Israel, when I read the newspaper everyday and was horrified at the daily occurrences of men, women, and children (both Israeli and Palestinian) being killed. So I try to always read the news everyday. And I live close to North Korea. Basically, when such terrible things are going on in the world, how do I live? You know? I don't know if I've ever actually expressed this or not, but God has been developing within me a heart for the Untouchables of India. It's a people I think God might have made me to minister to. It's the biggest reason I'm staying in Korea. The longer I stay here, the quicker I can pay off my student loans, and the sooner I can go to India (or wherever God sends me). So I want to go. I want to whatever small capacity I can. But now, what? What now when I'm crying about oatmeal? You know, I have a hard time here figuring out what I can say or how honest I can be without making others feel awkward. I sincerely hope I haven't crossed that "why is she sharing this, I need to go away now" line. But I'm curious. What do you think?

Saturday, September 03, 2005 

The open class went well. It went fair, anyway. Instead of six students, I only had five. The one who couldn't come was the second smartest...go figure. But the parents seemed nice...all three times I looked at them. I took the Korean coordinator's advice and pretended like they weren't there. I only forgot one small thing, but it wasn't so important. Our boss had invited us (the native teachers) to go out to lunch after the open classes. She said it was close...and I interpreted that to mean in a nearby neighborhood. She meant close as in, in this portion of the country. (Korea's not a big place, but still.) Not only did it take awhile to get there in the first place, she got bad directions, so it ended up taking an hour and a half. I always get car sick when she drives too, so it was just a bad combination. Then they told me during lunch, just off-handedly (is that really a phrase?) that they were adding three more kids to my K-6 class (the one of three/four year olds). That would bring the number up to seven, and she promised me when she gave me the class it would never have more than five students. I reminded her of this and she said, "Yes, but..." and that was it. I just stared at her as she tried to rationalize and laugh it off...they think if they say "I'm sorry," and laugh that whatever they're apologizing for is okay. But yet when they continue to break promises, it proves to me that the words "I'm sorry" is nothing more than a manipulative tool used to pacify us. So Monday, I'm going to tell her that. I'm going to maybe make a bit of a fuss. But I think it's a fuss that needs to be made.

Okay, that's all. When we got back from having lunch with the boss (ahem, arriving back home at 7:00 PM), Kylie and I played Skip-Bo for about two hours. It sounds slightly nerdy as I write this, but it was VERY fun. Loads of fun. That Kylie, she's a great girl.


Wanted to sleep in to cut down on time to worry, but ended up being wide awake before 9:00 AM. Pleasantly wide-awake too, not fraught with anxiety and wide awake. In fact, I was fine until about ten minutes ago. I'm showered, dressed, hair is done. I was about to do my make-up and leave, but I started shaking and getting dizzy. My blood sugar is a little screwy, and all I've had this morning is a vanilla coffee and an apple. So I set off in a desperate search of something to eat that would level me out some, and the only thing I could find was kidney beans. I know I could have another apple, but that would just postpone the problem until about the middle of my open class. I am currently shoveling kidney beans into my mouth, and praying. Will update after all is done.

Friday, September 02, 2005 

And so tomorrow is the dreaded day. I'll have five or six students, and who knows what they'll act like in front of their parents? I'm scared. But's just 55 minutes. It will end...if only it would come and go sooner! I'm already having the anxiety-induced stomach pains. By the way, not only will I have fewer students, but the smartest boy (the one on which most of my hopes for the day were on) won't be there. Great....but like I said, it'll be over before I know it. (Right?)

Thank God that the anxieties in my life are such petty things. I am so fortunate (blessed).

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