Thursday, March 25, 2004

To swallow or not? 

Pills, that is.
As for the other, I always do....wouldn't go there in the first place unless I quite liked that person anyway.

"Oh, you're on Anti-D's?" heard one male acquaintance ask another last week.
(It had been some time since I'd thought of psychotropic drugs, in any context, let alone someone I knew here. True, most of my friends in the states are, or have been on them in recent years. And so have I, of course.)

Then I heard the dreaded refrain, asserted by many:
"Y'know, I think everyone gets depressed sometimes," and the guy went on, while his pal-on-drugs looked away.

What right do people have, to speak of the emotional state of another in such a manner?!
None. None at all. Particularly when they've opened up enough to mention such an embarassing subject.
Not one of us have anything beyond a general idea of how another person is feeling.
Ever. No matter how well, or how long, we've known them.


Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Yellow Fever 

"You don't really speak any Korean?" I'm often asked at my school by curious teachers.
The only other western teacher they've had contact with, M, spoke it reasonably well, partly because he'd lived here for a number of years, and he'd also had a steady Korean girlfriend for two of them.
The latter, I think, is crucial: the girlfriend.
I've often wanted to respond, "The only reason he could speak Korean is because he was fucking one!"

It's a cliche/truism that one best learns another language in bed.
After several weeks with a French boyfriend in Paris, my language ability had increased exponentially.
Intimacy with another demands communication on as many levels as possible, or at least a nominal interest in their tongues.

On what is called, over here, "Yellow Fever":

Part of my motivation for coming to Asia, rather than the other continents that interested me, was to soften my intensive reactions to it.
I'd had an Asiaphile (caucasian) boyfriend for a few years, and when I ended the relationship, my pain/fury/loathing was, to some extent, projected on the Asian girls of whom he'd been so fond. And when I left him, my new neighborhood, in a new East Coast city, was brimming with asian immigrants. Every time I ascended the subway platform, I'd feel helpless (and, I knew, irrational) resentment choke me.
For months. It heightened all my self-loathing.

It never quite went away, though settled down as my life calmed and I found myself again.
As I researched EFL teaching around the world, the highest salaries and most plentiful jobs for newcomers were in Korea and Japan.

Read the expat message boards, and there were hundreds of messages from western men extolling the advantages of Asian women and insulting western women: our casual clothing, our bodies, our forthright and demanding personalities.
There were dozens of comments, glaring insecurities, and put-downs from female expats in response.
Yellow Fever - what a gloriously un-PC term it is - is well-known to infect men, and rarely western women. (Perhaps a comparison of western and asian condoms could give an idea of an important reason...asian condoms are commonly called "thumb-wraps"...they're excruciating for most western men to use, and western condoms are really hard to find in my city....was just given some Magnums by a flirtatious male friend...am SO happy, and the boy will be, too)

"What am I getting myself into?" I wondered at the time.
Not only did it sound like a flipside world of cultural and linguistic differences, but also a place where any physical insecurity of mine would become magnified around petite, smooth-skinned women who knew - and cared - more than I about how to give a man what he wanted.

Moved over here and shortly found that both men and women want many different things, contrary to the caricatures found on the internet. It seems that those with plenty of time to post on message boards have little personality to offer in person, and one rarely sees them while socializing.

There are plenty of other western couples I know who have met after they've moved here.
We are, however, far outnumbered by the western man/asian woman scenario. Rarer still is the western woman/asian man relationship, though upon superficial examination, those liasons seem to be more marriage-bound.

Many male friends who I think of as "otherwise cool" people will admit with a smirk, especially after a beer or twelve, that "It's so easy for us to get laid over here." The boy has talked of how "women have thrown themselves" at him (well, he is charming and attractive with an excellent body and is intelligent with a smooth tongue in every sense...he can be a bastard, too).
Female teachers are at a premium at most schools. Our rationale for travelling/living abroad tends to be sans the "fuck the natives" drive that motivates many western men in Asia. Our reasons for being here are tied to other kinds of adventures....of course, sensual ones are always welcome, if not part of our premise.

Personally, I find many Korean men delectable visually, but it's a very rare man that makes me say to myself: "Now, I really want to take his clothes off, right now."
They can be gorgeous but are generally not my idea of fuckable.
Though I've seen a number of exceptions recently - my eyes are more open to that kind of thing with the boy's absence.


Wednesday, March 17, 2004


abound in this culture of indirect communication. Most westerners would call the style deceitful.
As a foreigner, for whom things must be translated, relations and conflicts can be all the more maddening. It seems I've walked into a hive of politics here, and have stirred things up....certainly not for the first time.

Know that I've signed the contract, that the world's unfair and all that rot.
"Be firm and diplomatic," I've been advised by long-timers here. I've been the latter, but not enough of the former.

In this country where honesty - as westerners know it - is never the best policy, I'm often confused about what to say to whom. Who next will lose face? Don't care if I do or not...after all, it's not my society, and I hopefully won't be here next year.
Worry does nothing but raise my pulse.
Damn these rules and ambiguous translations!
At this moment, today, I'm still calm. Have seen enough here to disbelieve assurances - till they're in writing.
Imagined misunderstandings (at the outset) turned into real ones.

Sometimes surreal:
At the beginning of class, a student stands up and orders the others to bow to me. An entire roomful of shiny black heads moves together, the individualism of their features lost for a moment.

Have provided students with answers, for which they must supply questions.
Some of the more memorable results:

"Teacher, how do you spell 'panty'?"
"Um, what was that?"
"'Panty.'" Still I refused to comprehend. "'Panty,' teacher." And he drew a diagram to augment his pronunciation.
I walked away.

Ten minutes later, he said again, "Teacher, please."
I walked over with a disgusted look on my face and asked: "Is this going to be a serious question?"
He bowed his head.
"Teacher, forgive me."
I accepted.

Then, I had them give me answers and I had to think of the questions that could have produced those answers.

"Wet dream."
Skipped that one...it's taken me two weeks to not react to that kind of thing.

"First kiss."
"What is a good film?" I asked. Is it a film? It probably is, somewhere.

"Love letter."
"What is a great thing to get from your girlfriend?"

Still, what I like most about teaching is the creativity it forces from you. All the aspects of learning: visual, aural, and verbal, must be reached. Time and pacing and eye contact and omnipresence factor into it all.
"Y'know, I never pictured you happy behind a desk all day long," a flamboyant, sycophantic manager told me before. This is the most interesting work I've ever done.

Side note: just received a message from the Dean of Foreign Languages.
"Your teaching schedule for 10th and 11th graders every week and every month is needed immediately." I must turn in my syllabus on Saturday...the syllabus for the rest of the year, that is.
Everyone else has known for a week or two, and I was told today.
Lost in Translation indeed.

Friday, March 12, 2004

"Would you mind... 

...if [the boy] didn't come back?" a friend asked last night.
I paused for a moment - hadn't considered the possibility in a while, as he'd been so adamant about returning to Korea.

Then said blithely: "Not really."
Knew it was a lie.

"Well, I would somewhat," I admitted. Bravada is so much easier with those who know you slightly, socially, with plenty of liquid courage to back you up - till you get home.
Yes, I'd mind, but I'd prepared for a parting from the day we met: he'd planned to move to China. Know that heartbreak, etcetera, is temporary. Easy to say when I haven't felt it in a while.

Remember the timbre in his voice when he said before he left, again and again - in doorways, in the street, in a corner - "You know how serious I am about you, don't you?"
Nodded. Felt it then, the passion rippling beneath understatement that I know so well.
Only when I remember that do I forget the chaff and remember the best of what I've felt for him.

And when I receive emails as today.
He's the only lover I've had who writes nearly as well as I do.
Too bad that most of it has been wasted...before me.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

"I am the Sparrow, you are the Meal," 

said one teacher today. "I love to talk to you." Er, you want me for lunch?
He also mentioned that the last foreign teacher had had paid vacations.
And I don't.

Still pissed, but am now searching for what I will do about this. Am trying to contact that "old foreign teacher" to get his advice on how to deal with this conservative administration.

"Korea." I hate the word today, am tired of it reverberating around my head, of thinking about my life here. I think it's all the students' questions (and the principal's vacation stinginess). Of course they have a lot of questions, and Korea, for the most part, is all they know, and all they have to talk about of immediacy. I don't want to start out with a deluge of information about the states or other englishspeaking countries, so will start with the most visible thing the students and I share: their country, spoken in my language.

From a recent Belle de Jour post:

The door was barely closed when we started grabbing at each other's clothes. Dr C was as fit in the altogether as he'd been dressed, and his hands as good as I'd imagined. I took his penis in my mouth. "Ahh, that's fantastic," he murmured. "American girls don't know what to do with a foreskin."

Well, of course lots of us don't! Especially those who tend to date paler types.
I thought uncut men were revolting for a long time...and had met a few examples that I think just didn't know how to keep themselves...um, really clean.

From an as-yet unpublished article by an acquaintance:

"To cut or not to cut. That is the question. Male circumcision, it seems is the hot new topic. It must be. After all, Sex and the City has dedicated an entire episode to it. While doing lunch, the four Manhattan sirens do the "fore and aginst" foreskin debate. And although all the bases are dutiful covered, it is Charlotte who gets the most memorable lines. For Charlotte the foreskin looks like a charpee and everyone knows that this season charpees are a fashion faux paus. Somehow the adage "if it ain't bust dont fix it " gets ammended by Charlotte to "if it ain't fixed don't bother." In Charlotte's world, uncut is abnormal and not what a good girl wants to be bringing home to meet the parents these days

However, despite all her impeccable wasp upbringing, Charlotte is in for a rude awakening: circumcision is going the way of the dodo....

(An interesting and ironic anectode to circcunmsision as a deterrent to masturbation is a 1998 study which found american males masturbated more frequently and were more sexually adventurous then their uncircumcised brothers) [more sexually adventurous? not in my experience]

...Despite all the movement against male circ, 1.3 million males will go under the knife this year. Only twenty percent of the worlds males but 60% of American males are circumsised. It is the highest in the industrialized world. (Canada is 20%, Australia 15%). And although there is change, it is coming slowest in America.

The majority of American parents are still making the decsion for circ. Strangely, the parents opting for circ are the most educated and most advantaged in their own country. (And they are being counseled by argueably the most advanced but inarguably the most expensive health care industry in the world.) These parents are typically a demographic who are flexible in their beliefs and move quickly to act when new information is available. Still, in this issue, American parents are proving to be the most resistant to change. This is difficult to understand. But again, it is the debate around Female Genital Mutilation which makes this reaction (or lack of it) of American parents easier to understand.

African parents who consent to FGM for their daughter give many reasons for their decision: to prevent HIV, to prevent STDs, to discourage promiscuity, to promote virginity, to increase pleasure for the daughters husbands, to increase and decrease sexual pleasure for their daughters and even for asthetic reasons (advocates in Egypt of circumcision boast that local woman are said to have "oversized" clitorises and protusive and therefore overly active labias). But, the main reason underlying all of the above reasons for female circ are exactly the same reason underlying American parents decsion for male circ: sexual noramality. Most parents whether in Nairobi or New York want their children to fit in and function as a member of the community. For a woman in Africa and Asia the consequences for not being sexually normal are profound. Uncircumcised women can be severely handicapped in finding a husband and the resulting economic and social repercussions are often devasting for the women. Circ is simply what 150 million "good girls" around the world do. In many parts of the world female circ is an unquestioned rite of passage to womanhood and the only way to be a fully enfranchised member of society. American parents' concerns have a lot in common with this. They may joke that they want junior to be the same as dear old dad but the idea of not being sexually normal is a very real fear for American parents. Having their sons taunted in the communal school shower or humiliated in the bedroom (remember Charlotte) is for American parents are very real consideration....

In America there may be no wild fire debates as in France over FGM, but circumcisions will very likely be virtually unheard of within a generation. It seems that the 20 percent of circumsised men are in danger of finding out what the other 80 percent of men already know: keep sharp objects away from the family jewels. And that could be revolutionary, albeit a quiet one.

Watch out Charlotte. The charpee is coming back"

Now after that savory topic:

Am on the rag today, full-on, so gave in to chocolate cravings and T, E and I are going out for bulgogi: cheap marinated beef that we cook at our table to perfection. A dozen side dishes, rice, and sesame leaves to wrap around it all. Delicious.



..will change addresses soon.

A friend said they felt like a "voyeur" while reading it. "If it had been someone I didn't know," he said, "I would have enjoyed it." So I'll soon make this anonymous again....in a few weeks...months, maybe.

I heard someone shout to a girl: "Hi, Annabelle!" Her name seems more appropriate for a cow; brings to mind images of a creature that's old-fashioned, plump, fecund.

Turned around, as it's an unusual name, and knew immediately who it was, though we'd never met before. She was one of the many girls, in our city and elsewhere, that the boy had shagged and obsessed over during the year before he met me. Sank and boiled over at the same time...not at her, but at him (at least he wasn't there to see it). Humiliation and a reminder of my many doubts about him and the veracity of his sentiments towards me.

"He had an affectionate heart; he always needed someone to love." Paraphrase from Austen's Persuasion.

Think I made a fool out of myself afterwards to a few friends, though not to A....I don't think so, anyway. Called the boy a "tramp" to anyone I knew remotely well, pointed her out to several as yet another girl he'd screwed, and proceded to get roaring drunk. Of course liquid depressants worked their usual magic.

Last weekend someone said they'd never date a person here, as there are so many entanglements and the circle of expats is so small...during the first few months with the boy, I heard and discovered plenty of unsavory things. Still wince as I'm introduced to new female acquaintances of his, wondering if they've been involved in some way.

As the taxi dropped me off that night, S kissed my cheeks goodnight then slipped his tongue through my lips...I pulled away quickly and ran across the street. Didn't want anything like that with him, or anyone else.

Last night I had a glass with S and his Japanese girlfriend, who's in town for a week. They were wearing their "couple rings" in honor of her visit, though I've never seen S with his before.

Sent some racy digital pix to the boy last night (playing with a camera timer's always fun) and washed my underwear at T's. The woman who owns my building insists on doing my laundry (saves her money on the water bill) but she won't, of course, wash my underwear. So I have to make other arrangements.

Tried to sleep, but an outcall girl in the next room was wailing atop her john, and I stewed. Remembered:

~ In December, the boy was stranded in Bangkok for an evening, as he waited for a flight to join me on the beach. He emailed me looking for ideas on "spiritual things" he could do on Xmas eve there....he'd nixed my initial suggestion of a night out on Khao San Road.

He ran into an acquaintance, L, at the airport, and ended up drinking on Khao San all night with her anyway.
The day after he found out about my "kissing a pakistani boy" incident, the boy mused manipulatively:
"Funny, isn't it, that you and I were both with attractive people that night. Have you ever met Laura? No? Well, she's tall, slender, good-looking, vivacious, really interested in India."
Thought at the time, and while (pointless and futile, I know) rehashing it again last night:
"Well, if that's all it takes, then you can have at her."

Now, a (probably) too-late contract dispute with my school. It has me trembling-mad at them and at my lack of thoroughness a few months ago...and my lack of assertiveness back then, as well.

Felt ready to pass out from cramps during one class. It was a delerious hour and I was relieved that the students had us all laughing as they acted onstage.

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