Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sorry, Sorry...

I just want to apologize for not posting this week. I know I need to blog about my weekend in Seoul and I need to put up the pictures, but I have not had a spare moment this week. I've got a million things going on at school, as we are preparing for the big Halloween party and the speech contests, plus I had classes to give tests to this week. On top of that, I've been unlucky enough to get a migraine every single night this week, so I've had to function on about three hours of sleep a night (the pain keeps me awake). I'm hoping to get a chance to write a decent post later today, but if not, I'll do my best to get one up before the weekend (since this is going to be another busy weekend).

Friday, October 24, 2008

Jasper's Operation

I have a sad, sleepy little dog right now. This afternoon I took Jasper to the vet, where he had his surgery. My little boy will never be a father now. :)

It was actually rougher on me than it was on Jasper. I got him fixed because I love him and because I am a responsible pet owner, but having to watch the surgery preparation, and then having to watch him as he woke up, was downright agonizing. He woke up crying, then started shaking in absolute terror. The vet explained that Jasper was not in pain, but was groggy and confused from the antisthetic. After about half an hour of whimpering, he finally stopped. The shaking continued for awhile longer.

Jasper is so quiet right now, and completely lethargic (nothing like his usual, exuberant self). I thought he might appreciate a warm place to lie down, so I turned on my ondol (heated floor). He seems a bit more content, so I think the warmth is helping to relax his poor little body. I feel really guilty about leaving him tomorrow for my weekend in Seoul, but at least I found a very good person to leave him with. My friend Michelle has agreed to watch him for two days, and since Jasper adores Michelle, I figure he'll be happy. I still feel awful every time I look at him, though. I know I made the right decision, but I also know how uncomfortable he must be right now.

Sometimes it is really rough being a pet owner!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Being Practical Can Still Be Fun

I've made a very painful, agonizing decision. In order to save money for when I get back to the States (and for my Ireland/Morocco adventure), I am not going to take a winter vacation. At least, not a big one. I really wanted to do Saipan for New Year's, but I really can't justify the expense. So, instead I'm going to save money by staying here. To compensate, I've decided to allow myself a few special weekend trips, which will come out at least $1,000 cheaper than one big trip over my Christmas break.

I'm going to have one of my special weekends this weekend. Cirque du Soleil is in Seoul right now, and I have always wanted to see it. The tickets are pricey, but since I'm not doing the big trip, I can go. My plan is to go to Seoul on Saturday morning (as early as possible), visit a museum or two, and then go to the evening performance of the Cirque du Soleil, where I will have a fabulous seat (no nosebleed section for this girl). I'll stay the night at a nice hotel, then go to the aquarium and possibly another museum on Sunday. In the evening, I'll return to Gyeongju. Ordinarily, I wouldn't be able to do a random expensive weekend like the one I'm planning, but, again, without the big trip in December, a few weekends like this are possible.

For another of my weekends, I thought I might go to Fukuoka, Japan. The ferry is reasonably priced, and I can pack my own food so I don't have to pay the expensive Japanese prices. In Fukuoka, I can do some hiking and see some historical sites. I figure November would be a good time to go. For my third special weekend, I'll do a DMZ tour and maybe even visit one of the propaganda villages. I'm planning to that during my winter break, since I can perhaps stay with one of my friends who live in Seoul. I may have time for a few more museums and historical sites on that trip, as well.

I figure three special weekend trips will more than compensate for the lack of a winter vacation. I'll save quite a bit of money, but I'll have loads of fun, and I'll still get to do things that most people never get to do. I'm a little sad at missing Saipan, but I'm obviously going to return to Asia someday, so I can hit it then (and hopefully Malaysia as well).

Monday, October 20, 2008

Autumn Is Here, and Stephanie Is Back!

After being a lazy loaf on Sunday, I am happy to say that I am much better today. I feel my normal exuberance coursing through my veins again, and all is once more right in the world of Stephanie. Of course, my sinuses are still working overtime, but I can live with that. The thought occurred to me today that if only snot could be used as an alternate fuel source, I could corner the market and retire a wealthy woman. Ah well, I guess I'm much better off and much happier without all that excess money to worry about.

On Saturday I went to Daegu with my friends Diane and Beau. We ate a delicious lunch at Bennigan's, where I (believe it not, Mom and Dad) ate oven baked pasta that had an overabundance of random sea creatures in it. The shellfish were not to my taste, but the shrimp, crab, and tentacles were pretty good. After lunch, we journeyed over to Cosco (our friend Michelle was sweet enough to loan us her card). For a moment, I felt like I was back home at a Sam's Club and felt a twinge of nostalgia, which thankfully passed quickly. I got some wonderful over-priced western foods that I'll be carefully rationing for the next few months, and, best of all, I finally got myself an iPod Nano! I have wanted one for ages, especially after my previous MP3 player decided to die for no reason.

Sunday, as I already admitted, was spent doing absolutely nothing of consequence. I ate soup, stayed in my pajamas all day, and napped when it suited me. By nighttime, I was already starting to feel better. When I woke up this morning, I felt closer to great than I have felt in two weeks.

This afternoon, my new iPod and I had a wonderful hour-long walk out amongst the rice paddies. It was both peaceful and rejuvenating. The leaves are finally changing, and with the mountains, the sunshine, and the blue-beyond-belief sky, it is a gorgeous day here in Gyeongju. I am having a tremendous internal struggle right now over whether or not I really want to go back to the US in four months.

On Wednesday, dear little Jasper is going to have a life-changing event. He doesn't know it yet, but he's going to be a eunuch (in other words, he's getting fixed)! I'm pretty happy about it, although I'm sure he won't be.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Another Friday, Another Field Trip

I was starting to feel better yesterday, so imagine my dismay when I awoke this morning feeling like I had just been trampled by a herd of bowling elephants. My voice had decided to stick around, so I was grateful for that at least.

Today was another field trip day for the kindergartners. Normally I really look forward to field trips (honestly), but today I just wanted to hide under the covers, stuff my nose with tissues, and pray for the blissful embrace of death. Since dying isn't an option at present, I got myself up and ready, and had a pleasant walk to school. I lost my bike lock the other day, so I'm walking everywhere until I get a chance to buy a new one. I don't want to risk losing my bike.

I got to school just in time to help herd eleven kindergartners into the van, and then climbed in with them. Being a teacher, I have to sit in the seat that positions me backwards, so I usually get a little nauseated when we drive on the really curvy country we did today. We were taking the little ones to a sweet potato farm, and I spent the entire journey there dividing my attention between keeping kindergarten body parts inside the vehicle and not throwing up. I am happy to say that I was successful with both.

The potato farm was loads of fun for the kids. They got to walk around some gardens, play on a gigantic net slide, view a presentation on sweet potatoes (it was in Korean, so I have no idea what was said, but the kids were interested), play with two rabbits, and ride a raft across a very small pond. They also got to fry some sweet potatoes and cook some stems from the potato leaves (apparently these are edible, and actually quite delicious). Their favorite part, of course, was getting to go out and dig up their own potatoes. Each child had a small bag that they could fill. This was my favorite part, too, since I also got to dig some potatoes and fill a bag for myself. Guess what I'm going to be having for dinner for the next few nights!

The only calamity on this field trip involved poor Harry. When he was putting a slice of sweet potato into the hot, oil-filled pan, he dropped the potato and oil splashed on him. Most of it, luckily, landed on his clothes, but he also got a splash of it on his face. Having once accidentally dunked my entire hand and wrist in a fry vat at McDonald's, I could sympathize with the poor kid. Fortunately, he didn't get too bad of a burn, and it wasn't very big, so he was able to still enjoy the rest of the time at the sweet potato farm.

The drive back was, unfortunately, a great deal more nauseating than the drive there. It was all I could do to keep my kimbap and sweet potato down in my stomach. I still feel like the elephant bowling league held their latest bowl-a-thon fundraiser on top of my body, so I'm hoping the afternoon classes will give me an easy time today. Tomorrow I'll be journeying to Daegu to hit Cosco's for some more "American" food supplies. After that, I plan to spend the rest of the weekend resting and drinking lots of water.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Psychiatrist and the Proctologist

I came across this joke recently, and thought it was so funny I just had to share it here:

The Psychiatrist and the Proctologist

Two doctors opened an office in a small town and put up a sign reading: "Dr. Smith and Dr. Jones, Psychiatry and Proctology." The town council was not happy with the sign, so the doctors changed it to: "Hysterias and Posteriors." This was not acceptable either, so in an effort to satisfy the council they changed the sign to: "Schizoids and Hemorrhoids." No go, so next, they tried, "Catatonics and High Colonics." Thumbs down again. Then came, "Manic Depressives and Anal Retentives." Still no good. Another attempt resulted in, "Minds and Behinds." Unacceptable again. Then they tried, "Lost Souls and Butt Holes." No way. "Analysis and Analcysts?" Nope. "Nuts and Butts?" Uh uh. "Freaks and Cheeks?" Still no go. "Loons and Moons?" Forget it. Almost at their wit's end, the doctors finally came up with: "Dr Smith and Dr. Jones, Odds and Ends."

Turning the Corner?

I think I'm finally getting a little better. When I woke up this morning, I didn't look like a crypt-keeper and I didn't feel like I was two steps from death. That's definitely an improvement! I've also finally got some voice back today, which is long overdue. It has been really hard to control children without being able to raise my voice! I've also had a lot less patience, owing to feeling so miserable.

I recently discovered a really diverting new pastime. I found a toy laser and have been making the light dance all over the floor. Jasper goes absolutely nuts trying to catch it! If I turn off the laser light, he sniffs around trying to hunt down the light. The best part is when I shine the light on Jasper's side. He runs in rapid circles trying to catch it!

Monday, October 13, 2008

And Monday Rolls Around... (Part 2)

The rest of the day was not good at all. In fact, it'll make for some great comedy if they ever make a movie about my life.

I went off to the afternoon classes with a husky voice that would have been the envy of Margaret Sullavan (don't worry if you have no idea who that is - she was a classic actress and I am apparently the only person who remembers her anymore). It actually wasn't too bad sounding - it just sounded absolutely nothing like me. My coworkers commented that I looked very miserable when I got to the office (so much for the make-up). For the first two classes, I did fine, although the kids were clearly a bit startled at the new voice coming out of my mouth. Then came E3-D.

E3-D is my largest class, and (of course!) I had another new student suddenly added to the class today. Since she's a girl, it came as a great disappointment to the boys, who do not know how to handle disappointment quietly. I raised my voice to silence the class, which launched me into a coughing fit. In the midst of the excitement, my voice decided to run away. So, I had a whisper left to teach with, and a nice, boisterous class to use it in.

To top off the "fun" in E3-D, my ink pad broke apart when the kids lined up for me to give them their stamps (it's a reward system we use at school). When I picked it up and put it back together, I wound up with purple ink all over my hands. About five minutes later, two students informed me that I now had purple ink on my face. Ni-ce. At least the kids were nice enough to let me know and not to laugh about it (at least to my face).

For the rest of the day, I had to teach English in a raspy whisper. Believe it or not, all you-know-what did not break loose. There are two things that I have learned to be true about most kids: 1. They are compassionate, and 2. They usually respond well to begging when they like the person who is begging. So, I told each class that I was sick, and that I had no voice left. I informed them that I needed their help to get through the lesson and asked them to please stay quiet so that everyone could hear me. Since the kids like me, they took pity on me and kept the volume down. I made it through the day, and then almost killed myself on the way home when the leg of my jeans got caught in my bicycle chain. Some days, it really would be best just to stay in bed.

And Monday Rolls Around... (Part 1)

I really think all weekends should last three days. Especially when one is sick. Owing to my constant hacking and coughing last night (yep, I'm really attractive when I'm sick), my voice is now mutilated. At times I have a huskiness remniscent of old Hollywood, other times a squeeky whisper, other times a raspy croak. Occasionally a hint of my former voice comes through, but then I usually have to cough again, and my old voice flees the scene. The changing voice amused my first batch of kindergartners, but other than that, it's been downright annoying.

I had a little excitement during my storytime with the first class. Sweet little Cali got so interested in the story (that great classic Norma Jean, Jumping Bean) that she accidentally spilled my coffee all over my arm. Luckily it had been in the cup for a few minutes, so while it did hurt a bit, it didn't scald the way it could have. Poor Cali was horrified - her little eyes teared up and she repeated said, "Sorry, sorry, sorry, Step-anie! Me very sorry!" I reassured her that it wasn't hot at all (yes, I lied to a child), and that I was just fine.

Well, time to go brave the afternoon classes. Hopefully I have enough voice to get through the day.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Bette, I Seem to Have Stolen Your Voice Again...

Yes, I am sick again. Sick and absolutely miserable. I have Bette Davis's voice again, it feels like a porcupine took up residence in my throat and then invited friends, and my chest is apparently housing a family of mini rhinoceroses, who like to tap dance. My head feels like a pinata that a bunch of nine-old little leaguers are playing with. I have no energy, I'm cranky, and I have no chicken noodle soup. This is not going to be a happy weekend.

I had planned to go hiking today. Instead I'm ensconced in my chair, trying to find a DVD to distract me (I can't seem to focus on a book right now). Jasper, meanwhile, has apparently taken offense at something done by his rope toy and is fighting it to the death, as well as growling "ferociously."

Friday, October 10, 2008

Stephanie Vs. Gravity

Okay, admit it, half of you are already laughing, having only read the title of this post. You're picturing a spectacular pratfall, in which I slip into a non-gracefall pirouette down a staircase (carrying an armload of potentially messy objects, of course). Well, sorry to disappoint you, but although gravity certainly had an unfair advantage, I actually won this round.

Last night, I needed to go grocery shopping at HomePlus, which is about a mile away from my apartment (at the most). It was the inaugeral shopping trip for my new grocery bag, which my thoughtful parents sent me from the US after reading about a few of my experiences with plastic grocery bags. To play it safe, knowing that I needed to buy several things, I also wore my backpack (it's pretty small, but it can still cram a surprising amount of groceries).

Have you ever noticed the interesting optical illusion that groceries like to pull? They're downright deceitful! In the cart, it doesn't look like you have very much, but when you get up to the checkout line, you look like you're stocking up for a three-month Arctic expedition. Naturally, that happened to me last night (darn those sneaky groceries!). I quickly discovered that there was no way, short of hiring the services of Hermoine Granger (that's a Harry Potter reference for the two people who didn't get it), that I was going to fit all those groceries into the huge new bag. Or even the huge new bag and the backpack!

Being a born problem-solver (being a teacher also helps one gain these skills), I figured out that I could save tremendous room by carrying the cereal box, rather than putting it in the bag. I was concerned that the cramming strategy might make war casualties out of my golden kiwis, so I opted to place them inside the small plastic container I had purchased to keep my popcorn in. The container, naturally, did not fit in either bag, so that needed to be hand carried as well. I discovered that the large bottle of drain cleaner could hang very nicely from my right handlebar (it had a handle), while the crammed backpack could sit on my back, and the even-more-crammed grocery bag (please note that it was ginormous at this point) could swing from my left handlebar. That left the big box of Corn Flakes and the plastic container (filled with my precious kiwis) to be hand-carried.

I soon discovered (it took all of about two steps) that this plan was not going to work. There was no way that I could hold onto both the cereal and the container, as well as my handlebars. Going "hands free" was not an option either, owing to the grocery bag, which was determined to do my steering for me. It was at this point that, feeling a bit Idina Menzel-ish, I decided to "try defying gravity" (that's a Wicked reference for anyone who didn't get it).

I put the plastic container, which is about 8"x6"x6", under the backpack. In this way, it was tightly shoved against the top of my back. Then I was able to hold the cereal with one hand and the handlebars with the other. This, apparently, irritated gravity to no end. Gravity was determined to claim both the plastic container and me, and we fought the entire way home. I was grunting worse than Monica Seles, but I somehow made it home with both the groceries and myself intact. I didn't fall or drop anything until I burst through my door and tripped over Jasper.

I guess I may have won the battle, but gravity still had the last laugh.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Feelings Regarding the USA

It has come to my attention that a few people think I am anti-USA. I decided it would be a good idea if I write out my exact feelings regarding the US, to clear up any misunderstanding amongst my readers.

First of all, I do not hate the USA. I was born there, I spent 23 years there, and my family is there. The US is full of beauty, like the Appalachians, the Great Lakes, the Everglades, the Rockies, and pretty much all of Virginia and Tennessee. There are natural wonders, like Castle Rock, Old Faithful, and Crater Lake. There are man-made wonders, like the Mackinac Bridge, Mount Rushmore, and the Statue of Liberty. There are even tacky wonders, like Carhenge, the Corn Palace, and all the fiberglass dinosaurs in Glasgow, VA.

When I went to Washington, DC for the first time, I was speechless with amazement. Virginia is a beautiful history-lover's paradise. Michigan is great for camping. Florida has fantastic beaches. Oregon has stunning scenery. California has loads of film history, which is dear to me. Hawaii has amazing volcanoes. New York has...well, we'll leave New York out of this. I could go on and on.

So yes, the USA will always have a place in my heart. There is much there that I care about and much that I appreciate. However, there is also a lot that does not deserve praise.

In America, I have seen more rudeness, selfishness, and prejudice than anywhere else I have traveled. It is in many ways like a spoiled child who has been given everything she could need or want, and then abuses her privileges and looks down on others for not being equally privileged. Nowhere in the world is there perfection. I don't expect the US or any country to be anywhere near perfect. Still, with all that the USA has been blessed with, I think it is not unreasonable to expect a bit more from its people. The whole idea of "manifest destiny" has simply got to stop. So does this prevailing idea that the rest of the world should be just like America.

Let me repeat, for anyone who missed the memo, I DO NOT HATE THE USA. I do not regret being an American (although there are times I am a bit embarrassed to be). I am grateful for all the privileges and rights I grew up with, and yes, I thank God for them. I do not think that being an American gives me any special rights in other countries, nor do I think I should allowed to do whatever I please just because I'm an American.

Okay, you may all return to your seats. The soapbox lecture is over.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Near Miss

My fingers are shaking so badly that it is difficult to type right now, and my legs are so shaky that I nearly fell climbing the stairs to my apartment. Why the tremors? Well, I got closer to death/severe injury tonight than I have been in a long, long time.

Several times in the past I have remarked lightheartedly about Korean drivers. Tonight, I am devoid of humor. One of those drivers almost killed me.

I was biking home from work. As I always do when biking after dark, I waited until I had a green walk light before crossing the busy street by Lotte Mart. A large blue truck, however, decided to disregard his red light and came bearing down on me at full speed. Luckily for me, he had good brakes. I never saw him coming until he had almost hit me (since I, of course, expected everyone to stop for the red light). He stopped close enough that his headlight brushed my bicycle. Whew!

It took awhile before I could breathe normally again. I haven't been that scared in a really long time! Apparently, my body still hasn't relaxed from the shock and fear, since I am still shaking.

You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!!!

Remember Jasper's adventures with the cereal box? Well, it turns out he likes large envelopes, too. I had it sitting by the trash can to be taken out, and he apparently decided to adopt it. First he explored the inside thoroughly, then he rolled around the floor in it. After quite a lengthy stretch of play, the poor fellow was tuckered out and settled down for a nap next to his new "friend."

Later, Jasper entertained me by putting his bone on on the envelope and pushing it around the floor with his nose!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Jasper Doesn't Like Baths

Jasper behaves well for baths, but after the last one was over, he left little doubt as to his feelings regarding the matter!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Some Recent "Kiddie Quotes"

As usual, the kids have been full of creativity and "wisdom" over the past few weeks:

Angie: "When Rosie wins a game, there is a lot of noise!" [VERY true!]

Me: "How are you today, Lenny?"
Lenny: "Oh, I am not good. I am die and very hot, and I am happy."

Patrick: "Step-anie-Teacher! Angie is wearing a very bad shirt. Her this is showing!" [Apparently, Angie's shirt was a bit low cut - she's nine, by the way.]

Anne: "Step-anie, what is monumental?"
Me: "It's something that is huge--"
Jamie: (interrupting) "Angie is monumental!"
Me: "No, no..." [It went downhill from there.]

Me: "Okay, I want you to write about your favorite dinner. And make sure you are writing about food. I don't want to read about any blood, human, beer, cognac, soju, or whisky."
Leon and Evan started furiously erasing their essays!

Me: "What do you like to eat?"
Jinny: "I like strawberries, and chocolate, and rice."
Me" "What do you like to eat, Ryan?
Ryan: "I like to eat EVERYBODY!" [He meant everything]

Me: "What is the boy wearing?"
Tom: "He's wearing blue panties!"
Me: "PANTS, Tom!"

And, of course, a few words from the kindergartners:

Eddie: "Teacher! Teacher! I have many nose water!" [His nose was running.]

Me: "Oh, Jay, you are too slow today!"
Harry: "Jay is turtle!"
Amy: "Jay is grandpa turtle!"

Liz: "Teacher, me grandma is SEXY!" [It took a minute to figure out, but she actually meant "sixty."]

Amy: "S-tep-anie, look. Rabbit!"
Me: "Amy, that page is for tomorrow, okay?"
Amy: "White rabbit!"
Me: "Amy, tomorrow, tomorrow."
Amy and Cali: "Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you, tomorrow!" [I joined in and we had an impromptu rendition of "Tomorrow" (from "Annie"). I couldn't believe Korean kindergartners were familiar with that musical--and could remember that many of the words!"]

I Found a Mini-Me!

I'm so excited - I have my very own "Mini-Me" in one of my classes! At least, that's how I'm starting to view Rachel. Just as I did in fifth grade, she absolutely loves English class. Like I did, she writes far more than asked for on all writing assignments, and goes above and beyond on projects. In fact, the project that she completed for today looked exactly like something I would have done in school. She's talkative, eager to volunteer (hand constantly in the air, just like mine was in English class), and she even dresses similarly to how I did as a kid.

I have decided that if I find out that Rachel writes poetry in her math class and passes notes in her science class, I am going to change her name to Stephanie!

The Best Sundays Are Spent in Busan

Yesterday I left Gyeongju at way-too-early-in-the-morning to meet some friends in Busan (they had gone on Saturday and stayed the night). We went to the Busan Aquarium, which is quite nicely done. Of course, I've never yet been to an aquarium that I haven't enjoyed, being such an underwater fan myself. I managed to get some really excellent pictures:

After the aquarium, the four of us went to Friday's to meet some other friends for a tasty, albeit overpriced, lunch of western food. There, we had service so lousy that it became quite hilarious. Let me give you a rough idea of just how terrible the service was: After waiting over an hour for my food (to be fair, the first twenty-five minutes were actually spent waiting for someone to come take my order), I was served my delicious blackened chicken alfredo. I was given only a spoon with which to eat it, and no napkin. This made for an amusing adventure as I tried to coerce my food to stay on the spoon for the entire journey from the plate to my mouth (with many, many failed attempts). After I remarked sadly on the absence of a napkin, three of the guys gallantly sprang up from the table and stole napkins from other (unoccupied) tables, which they then graciously presented to me. One of "the boys" even gave a little bow.

Following lunch, Beau, Diane, Kelly, and I went to church, while everyone else went back to Gyeongju. After church, we braved a light, cold rain and walked to the metro station, where we really had some fun. Metro tickets are an excellent chance to use up coins, and we had plenty of them. We were determined to pay for four tickets (5,500 won) using only our change. Unfortunately, when we were about 1,000 won away from completing our purchase, the machine lost patience with us and returned all of our change! Well, we were not about to take that sitting down.

The war was on! We counted out about 400 won more than we needed, then Diane and I crammed them into the coin slot as quickly as we could. This time we got within 250 won of purchasing the tickets before the machine returned all the change. So, we switched to a different machine and threw in the money even faster, all the while laughing (no Koreans were inconvenienced by our hilarity). On the third try, we were only 150 won away when all the change came crashing back. Since we knew that we could not physically go any faster, we decided to trick the machine by only buying three tickets at once. At last, we were victorious! We managed to outsmart the machine and pay for all four metro tickets using only change. We decided that next time, we are going to bring a few 500 won coins and have another stab at buying four tickets together using only change.

After we finally made it from the metro to the bus, and were safely deposited in Gyeongju, Kelly and I set about getting taxis (Beau and Diane were going elsewhere). I flagged one down rather quickly, and offered it to Kelly, who was thrilled to accept. Unfortunately, I could not get another taxi for myself. It was only about 7:00 pm, but it was dark out and the taxis were unable to see me. Feeling adventurous, I decided to walk home from the bus station, neglecting to take into account that I do not know how.

After about half an hour of peacefully walking in the dark, I realized that I had no idea where I was, and moreover, my toes were killing me (I was wearing dress shoes). I wandering down a few busier streets, hoping to find a taxi, but every taxi that I saw was either occupied or on the other side of the street. Finally, I risked my neck crossing a busy street and managed to capture a taxi on the other side. Ready for the really frustrating part of the story? It turned out that I had finally stumbled on the right direction, and if I had just kept walking, it would only have taken me about another ten minutes to make it home!

Beautiful Namsan

Here are some pictures from last weekend, when a friend and I decided to spend several hours hiking Namsan (a mountain here in Gyeongju).

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Weeks Like This...

Thank God tomorrow is a holiday! I have certainly earned one after this week. In addition to the bank situation yesterday, I am having computer problems, I have misplaced my camera, and there has been some switching around of classes at school. On the positive side, I no longer have to teach my least favorite class. On the negative, I now have a completely new class of six new kids and five familiar kids, and I had three new kids added to another class. Also, one of my absolute favorite kids quit this week, because her mother wants her to focus on math rather than English.

My week has been made all the more stressful by my older kindergartners and my two classes of second-graders. For some reason, the kids in those classes have been crazy this week. Even the good kids have been disruptive and hyper. In another class, all of the kids have been bullying their younger classmate, to the point of having her in tears a few times. I do what I can to protect her, but there isn't much I can do outside of class. I've never had to bring out Miss Hyde (my disciplinarian alter-ego) so many times in one week!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Why I Hate Banks

Steam is coming out of my ears right now. I don't care what country I'm in, I hate the banks! American banks strive to be as inconvenient as possible, all the while fulfilling their ultimate goal of cheating you out of as much money as possible. Filipino banks, at least in my experience, seem intent on smiling broadly while cheating foreigners out of their money. Korean banks have the goal of making foreigners who bank with them tear their hair out in frustration.

Today I spent over an hour at the bank, fighting with a stubborn machine in the hopes of getting my money deposited. I had to make multiple deposits in order to please the persnickety thing, and I'm terrified that the last transaction, involving over 750,000 won (about $750), did not go through. I considered having a bank employee help me, but two things stopped me from doing so: 1. I know that none of the employees at my bank speak English, and 2. They were currently assisting #521 and I had #555 (believe me, as slowly as they move, waiting for a human would have taken at least another hour - which I didn't have).

At home on my lunchbreak, I have dedicated another forty-five minutes to attempting to use the online banking to transfer money overseas. I don't care how many times I've been told this is possible online - I still don't believe it. I can't even get logged in to my account on that blasted website. The English versian of the site is so poorly laid out that it sends one in circles, and leaves one longing to throw the computer out the window. I quit.
"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"