Saturday, July 26, 2008

Hope Nothing Like This Happens...

I came across this video on YouTube, while killing time before leaving for Busan (my flight doesn't leave until 9:00, so I really don't need to be in Busan before 6:00). It reminded me of some of the mishaps that have befallen my luggage in the past, and which I am hoping don't happen this time around. Enjoy!

This will probably be the last post until I get back, unless I find a computer at one of my hotels (my laptop is sitting this trip out). Take care, everyone, and I will be sure to post all about my adventures (complete with photographs) when I get back. Cheers!

Oh My Gosh, I'm Turning into My Mother!!

I thought I had at least another ten years before the inevitable happened, but no such luck. Today makes it official: I am turning into my mother. In preparation for my vacation (I leave later today!), I have been doing the exact same crazy things that I used to make fun of my mother behind her back (and occasionally to her face) for doing.

The other day, I spent two hours ironing all the clothes that I'm taking, just like Mom always does. Of course, they'll just get wrinkled again in the suitcase, but my brain apparently uses Mom-logic now. I made the copious packing lists, again like her, and packed the full pharmacy of medication (just in case). I'm prepared for anything from a typhoon to dessert conditions to nuclear fallout; Mom is probably nodding her head in approval as she reads this. For sight-seeing, I packed "sensible" shoes, and I made sure to pack only nice underwear, just in case I get into a tragic accident and they have to undress me at the hospital.

Today, even scarier Mom-morphing occurred. I deep-cleaned my entire apartment, so that if anyone should happen to break in while I'm gone, they won't be able to accuse me of being a sloppy housekeeper. All dairy products have been cleaned out of the refrigerator, and the floor is freshly mopped. I'm even planning to make the bed.

Yep, I might just as well change my name to Sharon now. I am officially my mother.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Few Recent Photos of Me

For the sake of my relatives, who haven't seen me in five months, I thought I'd post a few recent photos.

Speech Competition Results

Well, I'm feeling pretty good about my abilities as a speech coach. Two of my nine girls were selected as finalists in the big speech competition here in Gyeongju. Out of about a hundred kids who competed, only ten were chosen to go on to the next competition in Pohang. Oddly enough, the two kids of mine who made it to the next round are not the ones that I thought would do the best! They're great girls, but I was convinced that little Tracy (who is a child prodigy) and Jinny would be the two to beat. Life is full of surprises!

So, this week I have been coaching Wendy and Vicky, preparing them for the Pohang competition on Sunday. I won't get to hear the results until I get back from the Philippines, unfortunately. It's a pretty big deal now; the winner will get 500,000 won (about $500) and will go to Seoul. I think Vicky,who is only in first grade, may have a shot at it. Wendy, a second-grader, is adorable and talented, but her pronunciation is still a bit lacking. Still, she's the kind of kid that rises to a challenge, so she may surprise me.

Regardless of what happens, I am really proud of these two little girls! In fact, I'm proud of all nine girls that I coached. They worked really hard, and they are all fantastic kids. I wonder if their parents would let me keep two or three of them...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Stephanie's Patent-Pending No-Fail Weight Loss Plan

I'm thinking I should write a book and apply for a patent. I have finally stumbled upon the most successful weight loss plan ever. And it's easy, too. Plus, it's free. In fact, you actually get paid for using this plan (quite a change from other plans). Here's the secret: move to Korea. Honestly, teaching kindergarten alone over here is like having exclusive access to a really effective gym. Just in the course of daily life here in Korea, I have lost eight kilos since March.

For weight-training, I lift little kids. Last week, for instance, I invented a new version of hopscotch with the younger class. Instead of the kids just hopping, I lifted them up to make them jump really high on each square while we shouted out letters of the alphabet. A few weeks ago, I did some strength-training by holding a struggling Harry in his chair with one hand while using the other hand to hold the storybook I was reading to the class.

Calisthenics and stretches are a piece of cake using kindergarten songs. "Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes" is usually a great option, as are "I'm a Little Teapot," "The Hokey Pokey," and "Shake My Sillies out." Of course, I invent motions to go with all of their songs (makes them more interesting and fun), so any song can be a mini work-out. "Here We Go Loopty-Loo" is another current favorite.

Of course, every work-out should involve some sports. I play more than one on a daily basis. My favorite is a variation of dodgeball, played on a bicycle. I call it "dodgecar." The goal is to make it all the way to your destination and back on a bike without getting hit by one of the hundreds of insane drivers, all apparently determined to scare the crap out of anything smaller than them. If you can avoid getting struck by buses and taxis, you get bonus points.

I also do obstacle courses on my bicycle. It usually goes something like this: Riding, riding...avoid the open manhole, over the speed bump, over another speed bump, around the pile of the car aiming for me...big BUMP, squeeze around the numerous cars parked on the sidewalk (seriously, Korea needs PARKING LOTS!!!)...try not to scratch the cars as I the car that decided to drive on the sidewalk...slow to a stop to avoid hitting the three adjumas (old women) walking leisurely across the sidewalk, ding my bell and wait for them to let me pass...decide that they are deaf and hop the curb, opting to risk it on the road for two more cars...go around the two small children, respond when they say hello...zoom across the street...VICTORY!!

Remember the old Atari game, Frogger? I play a version of that here, too. Whenever I'm crossing a street, I find myself relying on that same technique that once brought the frog to safety. So far, no splats for me. But you have to give the taxi drivers credit for trying!

A great thigh and lower leg work-out can be had from all the stairs in Korea. Honestly, I think that's the real reason Korean women are so slender and lovely. They put stairs everywhere! Temples, monuments, stores, restaurants, doctors' offices, apartments - stairs galore! On an average day, I climb a minimum of thirty flights of stairs. It's no wonder I've developed such awesome muscles in my lower legs!

So, if you're truly serious about losing weight, consider teaching for a year in Korea. Every day is an action-packed work-out!

Ready to Go!

I made my lists, checked 'em thrice, ironed all the clothes I'm taking, and got all of my packing done. I am officially ready to go to the Philippines. I leave on Saturday (only three more days!), and I can't wait. I have definitely earned my week off!

This week is off to a really pleasant start. Some kids are on vacation, so a few classes are smaller (thus, easier to control), and two classes had tests yesterday and more tests today, which makes lesson plans a snap. These were the first tests I have ever written (outside of the ones I did in my education classes in college), so I was a little nervous. I was concerned that I might have made the tests either too easy or too hard (those who know me are probably all assuming that I would err on the side of too hard). Judging by the grades, I'd say I wrote some pretty good tests - right on the mark! The kids, unfortunately, have no appreciation for my "art."

I want to thank everyone who sent kind messages regarding Mindy. It was a tough situation to go through, but I'm doing okay. I still really miss her, of course. The messages really helped - now it's just up to time to finish the healing process. In answer to a few inquiries, yes, I am planning to get another dog. It made such a difference having one around again. Living alone can get lonely (not dreadfully so), and a four-legged friend makes it so much more pleasant. I was actually eager to leave work, which hasn't often been the case here in Korea. It's not that I don't like my apartment, I just love being at work! No, I'm not sick...

Well, time to make another valiant attempt at sleeping. Sheesh, insomnia is such a drag!

Friday, July 18, 2008

RIP, Mindy

Well, as the title already gave away, Mindy died today at about 2:30 in the afternoon.

Mindy took a definite turn for the worse on Wednesday evening. Yesterday and today were horrible. I took her back to the vet yesterday, she tested negative for parvo virus, and I was given detailed instructions as to what to do. Since she couldn't eat, I had to force-feed her a few drops of sugar-water every two hours. I also had to force down medicine every twelve hours. I was up with her all night.

For the past week, I have been washing diarrhea off of Mindy at least twice a day, trying to keep her clean. In addition, I cleaned and disinfected her area several times a day. As soon as I knew about the giardia, I moved her to an area that I set aside in the room, figuring that keeping her in the bathroom might make things worse. I gave her only bottled water, and changed it twice a day to make sure it stayed clean. I even prayed for her to get well. I don't know what else I could have done.

It's been a pretty miserable few days and tonight is the worst. The place feels so empty without that adorable little white dog running about. I'm exhausted from being up with her all night, but I don't expect to sleep well tonight. I only had her for a short time, but I got really attached to that little puppy.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Update on Mindy

Mindy is doing better, for those who were concerned. She hasn't had any appetite for the past few days, so I bought her some special dog food tonight (chicken and rice). She loved it and had a nice dinner that she kept down. I was thrilled. She's having less diarrhea finally, so I figure after another day and a half of meds, she should be as good as new. As soon as she's over the diarrhea, I'm going to deep-clean this apartment!

I shouldn't be up this late, but I cannot sleep to save my life. It was a busy day, and I have a LOT on my mind. Most of it I don't care to share online, but the rest is all work-related. My nine kids that I've been grooming for the speech competitions are competing on Thursday, and I think I'm even more nervous than they are. I really want them to do well! I'm also really busy preparing two classes for their tests next week. I spent about an hour and a half today after school writing the oral test and only got half of it completed. Tomorrow, I need to finish it. I'm hoping to get it done in under an hour, but that's likely an impossible dream.

I managed to have a lengthy conversation with Angel, the Korean kindergarten teacher, today. This is notable, as she speaks barely any English. I was actually understanding a lot of Korean, which surprised both of us! I seem to pick up a new word or two every few days. At this rate, it will be interesting to see how much Korean I can pick up by March of '09 (when I leave to go home for a visit).

I'm finally admitting that I have no idea what exactly I'm going to do after my year is up. I would love to go to grad school, but I keep thinking about how much better of a living I can make here in Korea than back home. Who knows, I may wind up staying in Korea for a few more years. Or I may move back to the US and go back to Liberty (my alma mater). And I'm still not ruling out the rest of Asia or Europe either (although I have definitely ruled out South America). Whatever happens, I'm looking forward to it.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Love Letters

I came up with a great punishment/deterent today to keep the older kids from speaking Korean in class: I made the one kid who spoke Korean write a love letter to Jackie, my Korean co-teacher. What a perfect punishment! It's harsh enough to make the kids want to avoid it, amusing for the teachers, and nothing that will upset the parents. I feel very smart right now!

Poor Little Mindy!

Mindy is really having a lousy day! Her diarrhea was much worse this morning, so I took her to the vet as soon as I got home from teaching kindergarten. At the vet's office, she had her swollen bottom poked and prodded, had a stool sample analized, got another injection with a HUGE needle, and was force-fed more medicine. The vet said that she has Giardiasis. I googled it as soon as I got home, and it turns out that it is all my fault.

Giardiasis is a bowel infection that you can get by drinking water that hasn't been properly treated. It causes really bad diarrhea, among other symptoms. For some reason, it never occurred to me that if the tap water here isn't safe for me to drink, I shouldn't be giving it to my dog. I feel pretty stupid and really guilty right now. But, luckily the infection isn't serious, and with the medication, Mindy should be fine in a few days. From now on, I'll only be giving her bottled water. It's not much of an added expence; a two liter bottle of water sells for less than 50 cents here.

There was one piece of good news from the vet: when he checked Mindy's ears, he informed me that I am doing an excellent job of keeping them clean. That made me feel like a slightly less horrible pet owner. Poor little puppy!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Stuff that Ulcers Are Made of

Actually, today was a great day up until about 9:20 pm. My air conditioning, which had broken again the day after it got fixed was repaired again on Saturday, so I was able to get a full night of sleep for a change. This morning I slept in, spent some quality time with Mindy, and then met my friend Diane at about 2:15 to leave for Busan.

We took the bus to Busan, then took the metro to get to Sooyoungro Church. We underestimated how long the metro would take and actually got there a bit late, so we completely missed the worship time. Luckily, however, we didn't miss a second of the message. Esther Berg is an excellent missionary pastor, and I got a lot out of her sermon today. Then, after the service was over, Diane and I joined a bunch of the other girls from the church (most of whom I had already met when I went to the retreat) and went to Nikki's gorgeous apartment for dinner and "girl time." We had a fantastic time. I really love being around the Busan crowd - there are some really foreigners there.

Diane and I left at about 9:00 pm, since we wanted to get back home to Gyeongju at a reasonable hour. We decided to take a train, which is a bit more comfortable than a bus, so we took a cab to Haeyondae station. There we learned, to our chagrin, that the next train wouldn't be leaving until 10:30 (it was 9:20 at this point). We knew that taking the metro back to Napo-dong bus terminal would take at least forty minutes, so we almost reconciled ourselves to waiting and taking the train. After looking at the deceiving metro map, however, we assumed that Napo-dong station was close above ground, and opted to take a taxi there and catch a bus back to Gyeongju. What a mistake!

The driver had no idea where we were telling him to take us at first. Since he didn't understand our pronunciation of the station name, we told him that we wanted to go back to Gyeongju and needed to get to a bus. After the meter in the taxi had gotten past 7000 won, Diane and I started to fret that perhaps the driver had misunderstood and thought we wanted him to take us back to Gyeongju, which would have been ridiculously expensive. With no idea of what to say, we rode in agonized worry. Finally, with the meter at 13,000 (about $13), he dropped us off at Napo-dong station. Were we ever relieved! We rushed inside, only to learn that the next bus was leaving at 10:30! We knew then that we should have taken the train.

Feeling the need for something cold and sweet, we treated ourselves to ice creams, and then went outside to board our bus. There our eyes were met by the sight of an enormous line, which led to the bus we were taking! We knew that there were more people in the line than could fit on two buses, let alone just ours. Big problem! The bus filled and left, and another came in. We started to breathe easily again, only to find out, just as we made it to the steps of the bus, that this one was full, too. The next bus would not be leaving until 11:30, which would have us arriving in Gyeongju at 12:30. The kind Korean woman ahead of us informed us that they were giving people the option of squeezing onto this bus and standing the entire way. Reluctantly, we chose to stand for an hour on the insanely crowded bus. Compared to our situation, sardines have tremendous stretching room.

We finally made it back into Gyeongju at 11:30, shared a cab back to our part of town, and went our separate ways. I got in to my apartment and discovered that my poor puppy has diarrhea again. I hope this isn't an omen for how this next week is going to go!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Remy Returns

Some of my friends back in Michigan nicknamed me "Remy" after the mouse in Ratatouille. My method of cooking, when I get really into it, highly resembles that of the little rat. Here in Korea, my cooking skills have been shelved, since it is so much easier (and cheaper, and quicker) just to buy things and heat them up. Also, I eat out a lot more than I used to, since eating out is actually cheaper than buying groceries here.

Tonight, however, was just like old times. When I lived alone in Virginia and North Carolina, I used to love buying random fresh ingredients and experimenting. It was in Virginia that I taught myself, sans recipes, to create stews and gourmet pizza (both of which I later perfected while living with my parents in Michigan). It was in North Carolina that I made my first souffle (also without a recipe). I love the feeling of being truly in tune with the ingredients, and, by instinct, knowing what will blend together best.

I didn't realize how much I missed this way of cooking until last night, when I saw some crab at the grocery store and felt that old, familiar urge to experiment coming upon me again. So, tonight I created a culinary masterpiece. Sorry if that sounds conceited, but I am really proud of tonight's creation. It involved shrimp, crab, penne pasta, mozzarella, feta, mushrooms, fresh garlic, onions, peppers, tomatoes, and various spices. In short, it was heavenly. The only thing it lacked was spinach. Maybe next time...

Of course, the sad part is that this delicious dish can only be eaten once. I never measure when I'm creating, nor do I write things down. I guess that's silly, since I have forgotten how I made some of my best creations, but when the muse strikes, it's too distracting to grab a pen or a measuring cup. So, even if I duplicate the ingredients, I'll never get the measurements exactly the same. Thus, the dish will always come out slightly differently. That's the way it always is when I create something in the kitchen - the exact same creation can never be had twice. In a way, that makes it a little more special for me. Each of my culinary concoctions is a unique, one-time-only dining experience.

You know, maybe I am turning into further evidence that people who live alone eventually become odd (or start out that way)!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Week Improves

In case anyone was wondering, things have improved vastly today. My AC got fixed this evening and Mindy is completely over her diarrhea. Huzzah! I was beginning to wonder just how much more I could take before cracking - glad I didn't have to find out. Of course, poor Mindy was simply filthy from her bout of illness, so I gave her a thorough bath tonight. She didn't appreciate it nearly as much as I did.

A Cinderella Story (Not Quite)

Today I felt like looking nice, so I wore a pretty blue dress, and wore my hair down. I took the time to do makeup and jewelry, and even wore cute shoes. My kindergartners all exclaimed about my appearance this morning (how bad do I normally look?!). As I was leaving this evening, Tracy, my favorite little girl from my most advanced class, told me that I looked like a princess.

Feeling very feminine, I attempted to walk home like a lady, but when it came time to cross the road, self-preservation took over. I ran for my life across the road, managing to lose one of my shoes in the process. Like something out of a very familiar fairy tale, a man came running after me to bring me my shoe. There were just a few little problems with my "Prince Charming": he was an adorable old Korean man, at least eighty years old, and toothless (as far as I could see). I wonder if Cinderella struck out the first time, and just omitted it from the manuscript to make things more romantic...

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A Crappy Week (Literally)

It's not the best of weeks so far. The AC is broken and the ungodly hot temperatures outside have been making my apartment feel like a tin can. I've actually been suffering from heat exhaustion from being inside. Owing to the heat, I've been averaging two hours of sleep a night, which hasn't been helping matters. Meanwhile, poor Mindy got sick (most likely from the heat) and has had diarrhea since Sunday night. I was unable to take her to the vet, but luckily I found a friend who could take her for me. Now she's on the road to recovery, so at least I'm not cleaning up doggy diarrhea every fifteen minutes like I was on Monday.

Today the AC was also broken in two classrooms, which made for some miserable teaching experiences. The kids were fussing and begging me to do something, and I was trying to explain to them that, as I am not God, there was nothing I could do about the heat. I think the lack of sleep mixed with the intense heat and humidity is what brought on the migraine midway through my day. At any rate, teaching energetic children while suffering a migraine is no easy feat. As soon as I got home, I got medicated and dropped in front of my two fans. Uggg.

In spite of the lousy stuff that's been going on this week, I'm doing okay. I still look forward to work every morning, and thanks to Mindy, I love coming home in the afternoon and at night. Plus, there is one happy thought that I can wear as a talisman against grumpiness or depression: Only two and a half weeks left until I leave for the Philippines! I've already started packing, and I can't wait for my week-long dream vacation. I wish it were three weeks, but oh well. We can't always have everything we want...

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Cosco Mission

Other titles I considered for this post included "The Daegu Dilemnas," "Quest for the Holy Grill," "Ride of the Drunken Pervert," and "Taxi Tag." As you have probably already guessed, my trip to "Colorful Daegu" yesterday was colorful, indeed!

I actually planned to go to Busan yesterday, as I wanted to go to church, but then my plans got changed. My friend Daisy came over to get a package that I was holding for her and suggested that we go to lunch. We invited our friend Diane, a charming girl from South Africa, to join us, and the three of us had a delicious lunch of bing soo at CanMore, downtown. Diane had plans to go to Daegu with our friend Kristin later, so she invited us to join them. As I was desperately desirous of oatmeal and dill pickles, I chose Daegu over Busan. Daegu boasts the attraction of a Cosco, which is like Sam's Club back home: they sell everything, and in huge quantities.

Seven of us wound up on the train to Daegu, and we resembled a miniature United Nations. Among us were Daisy, who is Mexican-American, Kristin and I, who are both Americans of mixed lineage, Diane, who is South African, Alan, who is Canadian, Ava, who is Peruvian-Canadian, and Kristin's boyfriend Duk, who is Korean. Believe me, we attracted more than our fair share of stares!

We intended to eat dinner at a Mexican restuarant, but when we got to Daegu, we learned that we had been misinformed. There were no Mexican restaurants in the vicinity. So, we set off in search of the Holy Grill, a restaurant that we had heard featured good food that wasn't Korean. As much as all of us adore Korean cuisine, we were eager for something different. It took about an hour, but we finally found the Holy Grill (there were plenty of Monty Python-related jokes during the search). As promised, the food was excellent. Daisy, Diane, and I split an appetizer of nachos, then I dug into a fantastic main course of grilled chicken souvlaki. We tried to eat fast, because we realized when we got to the restaurant that it was almost 8:00, and Cosco closes at 10:00.

After our fantastic meal, we hopped into two taxis and headed for Cosco. Diane, Ava, Alan, and I took one of the taxis; unfortunately, none of us knew where Cosco is, and neither did the driver. We told him to "follow that cab!" - pointing to the other taxi. As we pursued the taxi, we joked about how funny it would be in a movie if someone wound up following the wrong cab. Then we got to a light, looked into the window of the other cab, and saw a baby. Uh oh. Since none of us are parents yet, we realized right away that we had been following the wrong taxi!

Luckily, Daisy, Kristin, and Duk realized that we were not behind them, so they had their driver follow us! When we stopped at the light and realized our mistake, their driver jumped out of the cab, and knocked on the door of our cab. Then both drivers had a conversation about where to go, standing in the middle of a huge, busy street while they did so - with all of us still in the cabs, watching them in disbelief! Only in Korea! After the drivers decided how to get us to Cosco, we were off again, bemoaning the many wasted minutes, and worrying about whether we would be able to get in, since it was now almost 9:00.

Once we got to Cosco, we separated into teams of two or three, each with our own lists of things we wanted to find. I wanted pretzils, oatmeal, and dill pickles, and I was in luck - I found all three. Of course, the pretzils only came in a ginormous bag, so I should have enough of them to last until Christmas. I think I'm going to try freezing half of them, to see if they keep from going stale. I also found feta cheese, which I have really been missing, 100% mango juice, Kashi cereal, and some FiberOne granola bars (yummy!). Ava, Alan, and Kristin were smart enough to bring suitcases for their groceries, but Diane and I didn't think of it. The two of us found some free boxes and loaded our treasures into them. Mine was extremely heavy! Kristin's wonderful Korean boyfriend was kind enough to carry my box for me.

Once we got to the bus station, we learned that we had a problem: the last bus back to Gyeongju had already left! We checked another station only to be told the same thing. We were about to reluctantly take a cab back (Daegu is an hour away, so a cab would have cost at least 40,000 won), when Duk suggested that we check the biggest bus station in Daegu. We piled into cabs and raced over there. We were in luck; the last bus to Gyeongju was leaving in five minutes. We hurried to purchase tickets (only 3,000 won), and hopped on the bus. Since it was quite full, Diane and I were happy to spot two comfortable window seats in the very back. We had no idea what a bad choice we had just made...

Just as the bus was preparing to leave, a clearly-drunk Korean couple came on board and settled themselves in the back with Di and I. For the first several minutes, they thoroughly examined Diane's box of groceries, even taking things out to look them over. I was grateful that Duk had put my box in the luggage hold! After tiring of Diane's groceries, the man turned his attentions to me. I should explain before continuing that one of the things I hate most in the world is when men touch me. I don't like any physical contact beyond a handshake. I also prefer not even sitting beside men that I don't know (and even some that I do know). So what happened next was, in short, traumatizing.

The man started by leaning on me and trying to touch my arm and shoulder. I said "no, please," politely twice. After all, I realize that Koreans do not have the same desire for personal space as we westerners, so I always try not to offend when I feel my space is being invaded - there's never any need to be rude. Usually, a simple "no, please" is enough to keep strange men from touching me, but not this time. Undeterred, the drunken pervert decided to put his head on my shoulder and his hand on my leg, with his fingers attempting to make their way up my skirt! At this point, I didn't care about not offending. I yelled at him, feeling a bit hysterical actually (and quite violated). This aroused the attention of the rest of the bus, and acted as enough of a deterrent to make him keep his hands to himself for the rest of the ride. I would have changed seats, but unfortunately, it was a full bus. For the rest of the ride home, I was on my guard, ready to give the pervert a good right hook if he tried anything else. I was relieved beyond discription when we made it back to Gyeongju.

Before I go further, I feel that I should add that perverts like the one on the bus are not the norm here in Korea. Most of the Korean men I have met have been friendly, polite, and even helpful to me. A few have asked me if I am Russian (a prostitute), but other than that, I've been shown mostly respect. So please don't judge all Korean people by one stupid pervert - many of the nicest people I've ever met have been Koreans.

After we got off the bus, Di and I took a cab back to the area of Gyeongju where we live. It was here that things got bad for me again. It was nearly 90 degrees out, and very humid, and I had to lug an extremely heavy, large box of groceries to my apartment building, and then up four flights of stairs to my apartment. Not fun! I had to keep finding things to rest the box on, as I was sweating so much that it kept slipping in my hands. Meanwhile, my sandals were busy making blisters on top of my blisters. I finally made it home, longing for a cool room, but it was not to be. My AC is currently broken, so my room was just as hot as the outdoors. I took a freezing cold shower, dunked a top in cold water and put it on, and then laid down to sleep with my small fan inches from me. It was a very long night.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

More Speeches - Have Mercy!

Today I gave up four hours of my Saturday to work on preparing nine students for a big speech competition. Four tortuous hours of listening to more speeches, on top of the six hours I spent doing almost the same thing yesterday! The difference was, today I was not grading students. I was instead teaching them how to pronounce words properly, coming up with cute gestures to make their speeches more entertaining, etc. And guess what - I'm doing the same thing next Saturday! I'm wondering if Xanax will help...

When I got home, I dedicated some time to packing for my Philippines vacation. I leave in three weeks, but I'm going to be so busy over the next few weeks that I decided it would be wise to get some of the packing done early. Thanks to my wonderful parents, who mercifully sent me a package of clothes from home, I now have some nice summer things for my trip (and for now, as well). Since I've lost weight, none of the pants that I brought with me fit anymore, so I was getting worried! It's wonderful to once again have some clothes that fit!

Friday, July 4, 2008

The Protestant Version of Pergatory

Today, at the beginning, had the basic appearance of an easy day. Unlike most Fridays, where I play a game with each class, there was a speech contest for each class today. The kids have been memorizing one of two short stories ("Country Mouse and City Mouse" and "Sly Gretel") for the past few weeks, and today they were to recite the stories in front of me. I was to listen to each student, grade them, and then pick a first and second place winner from each class. Easy, low-key day, right? Well...

After sitting through six straight hours of students struggling through two increasingly boring stories, I have emerged with a clear picture of what purgatory would be like (if it existed). By the end of the day, it was all I could do to keep from falling into a coma as each student recited. I will probably dream about "Country Mouse and City Mouse" for the next few months. It'll be one of those nightmares where I emerge from bed in a cold sweat with my pulse racing and a strong desire to lay in a fetal position.

Vaccinations and Such

This morning I took Mindy to the vet for the first time. She's not ill; I just wanted to get her in for vaccines and heart worm meds so she stays healthy and happy. I wasn't sure what to expect, having never been to a Korean veterinarian's office before. Luckily, my Korean co-worker Ivy needed to bring in her dog for a check-up, and was happy to go with me. The Korean vet visit impressed me almost as much as my visit to a Korean doctor a few months ago.

For one thing, we didn't have to call to make an appointment - we just dropped in at a time that was convenient for us. The vet was very friendly (although he spoke minimal English), and took us back immediately. Mindy got a thorough check-up and was pronounced to be in flawless health. The vet also added that he thought Mindy was one of the cutest patients he's ever had! After her check-up, Mindy got two vaccines, which she was very brave for. She only cried after the second one, and frankly, I couldn't blame her. Those needles were huge, especially for such a tiny baby! She didn't bear a grudge, though. Even after the vet gave her a flea/insect-prevention treatment, she still wagged her little tail at him and tried to lick his nose.

I was very proud of Mindy's excellent behavior, especially around Ivy's two dogs. Mindy sniffed noses with both of them, and then promptly started licking one of them! She has a very affectionate nature, needless to say. As we were preparing to go, I stuck her on the scale to see how big my little girl is. She currently weighs in at a hearty 0.8 kilos, or for those who prefer the more archaic system of measurement, 1.8 pounds.

I was shocked when I found out the cost for the vet visit, vaccinations, and medication. It cost only 25,000 won, which is less than $25.00! With those costs, I'm thrilled that all of Mindy's early vet needs can be taken care of here in Korea!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Can you believe it's July already? I certainly can't! It seems like only yesterday I was at Reformed Baptist Church, getting thoroughly trounced in a New Year's Eve ping pong tournament. And now, suddenly, it's already seven months into 2008. The year is over halfway over now! Wow, talk about mind-boggling!

This week is definitely going to be a week where I learn more about that virtue known as patience. The upcoming speech contests mean that I'm giving up more and more time to groom students (I'm not complaining - I'm happy to help), and of course, I want to see them do well. My E2-A class has decided to become a den of monsters. I am continually trying to create new games to keep my students happy and learning. I have a very energetic little puppy that I'm trying to housebreak. The afore-mentioned puppy also needs to be taught not to chew electrical cords. I need to pack for the Philippines. I'm still not sure whether my trip to Corregidor is actually confirmed. I'm trying to make decisions about next year. As you can see, there's a lot on my mind!
"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"