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Friday, May 28, 2004

Buddha's Birthday 

is a beautiful time in Korea.

This celebration of lotus lanterns and temples comes at the intersection of spring and summer.

The boy and I had a temple-filled day of mountains and sea in our city, which can be a lovely place when away from pale high-rises.

Often when in the Korean countryside I look around at rice fields, layers of sloping mountains and streams, and think: "This is why so many kingdoms wanted to grab this country, and why Koreans fought so hard to keep it."

On to a few photos:

During our temple-walk, we stumbled across this seaside fish-trailer:


Later on, a woman peeled sea urchins:


We walked around a bend and could see the festival in full swing that afternoon:


Amazing lanterns with temple roof silhouette:


Nighttime scenes:



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Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Cream Bush 

Who says politics can't be sexy?
(A reminder of why I'm happy not to pay taxes to my "government" while I live far far away.)

Dreaming of a pair of these...for their historic value, of course.
Who wouldn't want to pass on a(n unworn) pair of these to their grandchildren?


Time to join the boy for a (chaste, unfortunately) meaty sandwich.
A romantic lunch date at Subway, where the pickles are sweet and jalapenos are automatically sprinkled on top of every sandwich.


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Saturday, May 22, 2004

Minimization.

Don't know why, but that word occurred just now.

At a large department/grocery store this morning before my hour-long Saturday class (yes, in Korea, many of us work 6 days a week, though fewer hours than our Korean colleagues...I now have classes every day, including my private classes, which are illegal here), I picked up some chocolates for a 160-odd students who'd won the Idiom Championships I'd held this week in what masquerades as my conversation classes.

[It's been fun having them guess the meaning of phrases like "When the s*** hits the fan", "funny farm", "crapper" vs. "hit the crapper", etc. Most idioms that I give them are harmless, but I like to throw in the odd one that will make them giggle.]

ANYway, the fluorescent lights highlighted my puffy eyes, doughy from tearful insomnia the night before. The boy had been very tolerant of it all, and walked with me first in sunshine and then through aisles of ramyeon.
After debating over the most cost-effective chocolates, I remembered: "Oh, I'm improvising down there at the moment, and really would prefer that my blood-soaked tissue not fall out on the way to school."

So, by the time we got to the checkout counter, we had a cart full of chocolates and maxi pads.
"We've got the PMSing from hell cart," the boy laughed.
"All we need is red wine and cigarettes," I said.
He almost went over to get me some.

The lantern-jawed PE teacher, who's obsessed with tea, hums before he goes into the bathroom to hack for a few minutes.
Sometime soon I should write some verbal portraits of the other teachers, and some of the expats I've met here.

Feel like I've no life as I write this on a gorgeous sunny afternoon.
WHY STAY INDOORS?
Next week, my Saturday class will head to the beach for a picnic, and I'll bring books on Angkor Wat and the Philippines; these kids like to talk about travel almost as much as I do.

Though I got out of the wrong side of the bed this morning and feel like everything's going to hell in a handbasket, it's time to run off, get the hell outta here, split, and scram by the skin of my teeth, to a private class, and then who-knows-what, though it's probably "Elementary my dear Watson," and then take a bus from hell on a wing and a prayer for Saturday night mayhem, as I have a field day and spend my pin money while drinking like a fish and hopefully not getting eighty-sixed from any of my favorite watering holes (as that's be a fate worse than death) before I run out of steam and have to hit the hay in the buff like the near-30-year-old I am....knock on wood.

Have a good weekend, everyone!
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Thursday, May 20, 2004

IUD'd in Korea 

_ _ _ _ women's hospital had been recommended to me by a good friend, and I'd visited her there several weeks ago.
The reception area looked cleaner than most here, and my girlfriend'd had great things to say about her doctor.

After handing over my health care card, I was ushered into the doctor's office by a delicately panicked nurse, her hands fluttering helplessly around her white uniform, as though compensating for our language barrier.

The doctor nodded when I asked her if I could make an appointment for a copper IUD, and began writing some notes.
Then she stopped her pen mid-sentence. "Do you want it today?" she asked.

Now it was my turn to panic.
First thoughts were of the week-long hair growth on my legs, the weeks it'd been since I'd trimmed...anything, and the last shower I'd had, which was the night before. (Intimate hygeine always goes downhill when the boy's out of town.) Had thought I'd have to wait several weeks due to bureaucracy and the vagaries of my cycle.
Little did I know there'd be even more reasons for apprehension to come.

Checked my watch.
"When does the clinic close tonight?" I asked.
"In a half hour," the doctor said, and motioned for the nurse to take me to the changing room.

What?
They could shove a piece of copper inside of me and then show me out the door, undressed, dressed, and paid up within a half hour?
Curiosity and desire to get it over with egged me on.
"Why not?" I shrugged my shoulders.
Presented a deceptive nonchalantic [it can be a word, says the english teacher] demeanor, as usual.

"Change-ee," a pregnant nurse said gently as she led me to the women's changing room. She handed me long, voluminous cotton skirt in a weathered shade of burgundy. I don't know when it was last washed. Perhaps they do so daily, but they seem to have been reused at least once. In Korea, there's less attention paid to personal space and health care hygeine than in the west.

Back to the waiting room, dressed in a veneer of equanimity and a huge skirt that showed off my prickly ankles. Then into the doctor's office again, behind a curtain.

"Up here onto the chair," the nurses hands said.
There was perhaps a foot of space on each side of the chair. As I began to climb clumsily, my feet banging into everything around me, I felt like a giant western ox.
"No, no!" she shook her head. Pointed at my shoes.
I sighed in apprehension and frustration. Took them off.
(Thank God I wasn't in Japan; Koreans tend to be rougher, less refined, and more tolerant of idiotic behavior and fashion.)
Climbed up again, more carefully this time.

The doctor showed me what she'd do, aided by a 3-dimensional plastic reproduction of a uterus and IUD.
I swallowed hard and just wanted it all to be over.
Leaned back and stared hard at the curtained window as she told me to relax.

Then glanced to my left where the doctor had extended her non-gloved hand.
And froze in disbelief.
She'd pulled the speculum and other tools from a metal can of (alcohol and?) water.
Remembered reading about how essential it is to have a completely septic environment for these kinds of things that go up and up you to strange places where nothing's been before.
Then she wiped the tool on a towel before using it on me.

[Interlude: with potentially terrorizing experiences, like those at a GYN clinic, one becomes used to them after a few years, due to a kind of routine understanding between you and the med establishment of your culture, I suppose.
But having procedures done in another country turns that all inside out and brings fresh fears to all levels of your body and mind.]

"Don't move. Relax," she said.
But it was too late. I'd twitched and cried out as she'd done it.

Oh - and the best part?
Only afterwards was I told that I couldn't have any romantic encounters of the kind I like best for 2 weeks, and the boy was due to return in three days.

Dizziness and fear walked with me to the pharmacy next door, and pain joined us on the subway to my favorite bar where I numbed strange new cramps with cheap Korean draft beer. Thank goodness I had a pair of girlfriends waiting for me.





Here's some IUD information from Family Health International, a Planned Parenthood-esque organization. So their perspective as a charity has a condescending feminist tone, and their bias leans to the left (as does mine).
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Monday, May 17, 2004

A friend 

mentioned this photo today.

I've been recently distracted, but had decided (before the distraction) to remove it and replace it with another, silhouetted one.

Want to be able still to write what I'd like.
Also, since this relationship seems, possibly, maybe, to have a potential future for a while (perhaps... any more modifiers I could use?), I'd rather that the boy's friends/family or mine not see anything like this from me, or from him, either.
Or, God forbid, my students: I teach at a high-profile school in my town, and have been in their TV commercials.

Man, my English really sucks today.
Just spent an hour on the phone with my best friend, who's going through a hard time.
Love her dearly, but my hand phone's reception's terrible, as was the satellite delay on her phone card. The wind blowing into our mouthpieces - Californian on one end, Korean on the other - made it even harder to understand one another. Exhaustion after an energetic class and a near-sleepless weekend. So I couldn't be there as much as I'd have liked.

Commercial interlude: Mmmmm....Sun Chips with special Korean flavoring. Sweet, salty and spicy.
Sun Chips: the healthy way to get your trans fats!

Got an IUD last week.
It was exciting and disgusting and scary, and perhaps I shouldn't have done it.
Reasons why will be forthcoming.

More soon.
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Thursday, May 13, 2004

Ideas for Erotic Emails 

Actually, it's just time to clean out my inbox and rummage through old emails.
I don't want to forget some of these lines.
Vanilla can be so much fun.
The boy returns tomorrow and I can't wait.

Wrote to him yesterday:
"It will likely be sticky in _____ when you return. I'll be wearing some satin, with wine-red lipstick and nails, and probably have sand in my shoes. And I'll require your full attention. Demanding that you focus on me. As usual.
When I see you on Friday I expect you to be naked and ready for me, whether you're awake or not (man, that felt great to write)."

Anyway, a selection from the last six (yikes!) months. Most of them were written while one or the other of us was travelling, as we text message one another while in our Korean town.
He leans more toward the romantic than I do, and I wonder how things will sound in a few years, if we still know one another then.
Helped a friend write an erotic email to her lover the other night, and it was a great time.

Write your lover erotic emails, often, even if they're in the same room.

"When we're in bed I'm not just fucking your gorgeous, slim, tight-assed, long-legged body.
I am fucking your attitude. I am fucking the way your smile makes me feel.
And I tell you girl, I fucking well love it.
In between the tobacco, beer and your own delectable smell I catch the scent of your ideas.
My lungs are full of it now. Before me your eyes glimmer with a bewitching promise and your smile could eat me for breakfast.
I see you, feel you and smell you now.

===
I like the way you judge me in your dreams but then I like the way you do everything. It amuses me intensely that you think I want you to change in any way...that dark haired elf girl looks like you. Western adverts with dark-haired girls look like you, I want to materialise you here with me. You are everywhere, I am a tad drunk but I thought I'd share my stream of consciousness with you. Read your blog and had a sharp intake of breath because you'd updated it. You know, you know, you know how I feel about you.

See you soon. Hey what hotel are we going to stay at, it might useful to know the name.

Cheers,__. I am thinking something I can't express with words, I want to be with you now.
===
Well helllloooooo. The former spoken lasciviously and salaciously in the style of Leslie Phillips, a famous 60's actor who still cuts it in Shakespeare and guest TV appearances. I have gone from chilled to thrilled. Seeing your messages in my inbox made me feel queasy, the unknown, unhoped for. After reading the first my hair stood on end and actually not just my hair.
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PS. With all due respect and due decorum wishing to give no offence I humbly request you to keep those fucking knickers (green or otherwise) on till I get back.
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Read the subject line of my last 4 emails inclusive as if you need the prompting. I want YOU so much.
[You. Are. So. Right....he does that kind of thing a lot.]
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Brave the post midnight streets and LBs to vainly search for an internet cafe. Isn't the thought of me vainly searching so appropriate. You can imagine me looking in closed shop windows at my reflection.

There's something about the blown kiss from an LB that I find deeply disconcerting. It's a man's sound of course coming from a well dressed simulacrum of a woman. Likewise the gruff "Harrow" scares the shit out of me.

You......

You......

You switch me on, fire me up and take my breath away.

Could there be anybody else like you?

I could tell someone how I wanted them to behave, what to do in bed and how to do it, what to say and how and when to maximise my enjoyment in and out of bed. But really I couldn't do that. I just lie silently hoping these things will come naturally and unbidden.

Could I ask for a person and myself to be so mutually obsessed, fixated, worried and afraid of the other?

No! That would be ludicrous but it's exactly what I've got and exactly what I want with you.

I think you know the conclusion. You know the way I feel about you.

The good is wonderful and the 'bad' isn't really bad at all.

===
Slick. What a beautiful word and how descriptive. It's funny, I can hardly think at all when my attention focuses on you. I do think I'm going beyond thought although there is a monumental limbic rush as well.

The rush is still going on. I shall have to tell you something factual instead. KL was very interesting, different and the Islamic Arts Museum (the reason I went in the first place) was superb.

I can't do it I'm staring at the screen thinking of you...
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# Lots more to come. I had a friend who would find the double entendres in everything. He was actually a very happy person.
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Red fish, flying knickers....
endear me to you. Whatever the combination, I prefer that one, I know what you're talking about, could see the pictures.
You are the best welcome. Later we could take it slow, rub each other in baby oil, take a bath and then to bed if we can make it that far.
Oh the things you can think, wondering and wandering with you are bliss.
===
Long days, still light at 9pm. Space, the sky to be seen. Sudden showers, bright sunshine that leaves you cold. Miles of beach, empty. Cherry blossom second time round. I miss you terribly.

I wish you sound sleep and pleasant dreams. You have the starring role in my reality.
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E1 and only
I have lots of things for you to wear some of them biological in origin. It will take a very long time to tell you how special and extrordinary you are to me. Showing you will also take me a long time. Refer to the title of this email ["My favourite one"] to know why we will both enjoy the explanation so much.
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You.....
excite and interest me in so many ways. Everything is so different, fresh and good. I love your ideas and spontaneity, I think they mirror and complement my own.

You....

slay me and I am reborn a better person. So much so that I may eventually deserve my own megalomaniac view of my own wondrous personality and character. I don't deny it will take a while.

You.....

in my arms soon. There is nothing I wish more for.

Yours...... To be continued with my full and focused attention and desire.
===
Let's get.....
physiological."
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Monday, May 10, 2004

Dreamt of a fetish shop 

filled with gorgeous lace thongs and fantastically luxurious outfits: heavy lace-up velvet and damask, inspired by 18th-century corsets. Well-lit and tended by discreet staff.

The boy - in the guise of someone I would've preferred before I met him: slender body and features, taller, with longish hair - tried on a pair of flesh colored, knee-high leather boots. With heels. He said something at once scatological and submissive: "You know, I'd like you to..." Couldn't help but smile. Had it been any of my past lovers, I would've looked down on him. But with this one, it seems that not even my unconscious does so.

As much as I'd like to.
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Prostitution in Korea 

is a many-tentacled creature.

On the second floor of my apartment building is a resource center for foreign prostitutes (most of them Filipina and Russian). In our elevator hangs a sign, in Russian and English, that reads, in part:

"We provide language translation service for foreign victims of prostitution and sexual harassment/violence...Exclusive Quarters for Foreign victims of Human Traffic...[they are kept] under protection for a certain period of time to make them recover physically and mentally and then return home to their normal social life safely."

Most Russian women in my city have been brought into Korea under the protection of the Russian mafia, which I'm told is quite strong here. There's a certain Russian district where you walk down the street, and you feel the strongest sensation of being watched, invisibly, from everywhere around you. It's rarely busy unless the American navy's in town. Your footsteps echo off decrepit concrete walls. Gaggles of drunken Korean men stare at you over their soju. The SE Asian men don't drink much, but eat huge plates of Filipino and Chinese food as they chatter animatedly. Old Russian madams with frazzled blond hair and sagging polyester lace lounge on the brick-paved street, cigarettes dangling from long fingernails. They eye other western women (my friends and me) with suspicion. We're perceived either as competition or voyeurs.

We are, sometimes, the latter.

I've heard tales of red light districts where the Korean girls in the windows all wear wedding hanboks, to satisfy a particularly Korean fetish. Westerners are shooed away.

At the small red light district on the way home from school, slender Korean girls lean on sliding glass doors, pink lights behind them, and call out: "a-JO-shi!" (mister), or "Hello!", depending on the skin colors of passersby.

I've a collection of Korean "girlie cards". You can find these photos of available girls littering the street on any morning, or taped to the steps that lead to love motels.
Was going to take a photo of some of them, but I figure there's enough on the web fetishizing women, particularly Asian women, already. Similar photos are easy to come by with a simple search. So here are two verbal pictures:

Both photos - the girls' expressions and demeanor - disconcert me. Both feature the word "NEW!" printed in large lettering. New girls are of course always at a premium, perhaps perceived as being closer to a virginal state, or less jaded.

The first has hair dyed chestnut.
A cheap cutting job has been done to the edges of her hair and figure.
She wears a bikini top printed with the American flag. One breast is printed with the word "LOVE".
A tiny pair of camouflage shorts.
They are unzipped, revealing the top of the American flag on her bikini bottom.
Her legs are spread, and she's bent over slightly to enhance the cleavage pressing against her top.
Her expression is closed and pensive, even glum, as she stares into the camera and fan that blows hair around her plain but pretty roundish face.

The second has invisible makeup.
Her head is bent to the side, knees pulled up in an adolescent pose.
Red plaid miniskirt completes the image.
We could see till the top of her thighs, up her skirt, if her manicured hands weren't covering what we're meant to imagine there: white panties or nothing at all.
White socks are pulled tight over slender calves.
White blouse half-unbuttoned.
She appears wistful, vulnerable, nervous.

These expressions I read into the photos are of course contrived. I prefer the tousled, grinning ones who look like they've just stepped into the studio from the beach.

It's all a kind of marketing like any other, but it's the desires that produce these - admittedly innocuous - images discomfit me. And the sight of 5-year-old kids picking the cards up from city streets.
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Thursday, May 06, 2004

(Vanity) on a haggard sunny afternoon 

I took this auto-picture (see sidebar).
Blurred to keep some necessary ambiguity.

Decided to post it for a while, till I put something else up.
Images give some humanity to any writing, I think.

Why not?


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Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Somehow 

the topic of our teachers' discussion was twisted in five minutes from traditional ondol floor-heating (Korean floors heated by hot water pipes) to oriental/occidental dating.

Don't ask me how; I barely kept up with questions fired at me.
"Why did you think you wouldn't find a boyfriend over here?"
"Why do western men prefer Korean women?"
"Why do you think so few western women date Korean men?"

Looked over at the row expectant smiles from my Korean male colleagues. How to hedge round the truth? I wondered.

Admit that I don't like bending down to kiss someone, and would rather weigh less, not more, than my lover?
Nope.
That a language barrier is only sexy for five minutes, unless I feel like tying someone up and slipping a ball gag over their tongue and truly objectifying them?
Nah.
That size really matters for me?
Never.

"I think family obligations are more important for Korean men than for women here, so it is more intimidating for western women," I posited sloppily, knowing there were infinite reasons, and how can one generalize without repeating pejorative prejudices?

"I think," said Mr. Kim, the "Sparrow and meal" teacher from a while ago, "the problem is more general." I nodded expectantly.
"American - I mean, western, races are superior to Asian, so I think Korean men have a hard time..."
Shook my head vehemently and - for once - waved away what he said straight away. He might've been humoring me somehow, but I didn't think so (he's both an Anglo- and Ameri-phile).

One rarely sees Asian models over here in print advertisements, especially for luxury goods. They're almost entirely western, yet never black. African features are used as insults from one student to another, for example: "You look like negro!" they'll say. "You from Africa." I let them know what I think of those comments.
Straight away.

Sunburst today after days and days of rain.
Thank god; smiles don't feel forced anymore.
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Yikes! 

It seems that someone thought I was a boy!

Oh no, honey, I'm all girl...careening hormones and all.
Currently on the pill for a short while and ISO an IUD (copper) in this Korean town, hopefully to be installed by an English-speaking doctor who will understand more than my cries of pain.
We'll see tomorrow.


Further indications of my femininity:

Noticed some older men staring at my rack the other day. [I occasionally try to keep it demure by wearing a size smaller than I really wear....normally a 35C & size 7 clothing...an in-between, both in size and otherwise.]
"Why are they being so obvious about it?" I wondered. Usually they just stare at my eyes, and then I pass them before they can get any further.
Looked down at my shirt on a cold windy afternoon, and realized why.

Most Korean women wear padded bras. Perhaps it's from perceived aesthetic necessity - and, I realized, for discretion, as well. There's nothing so distracting as a pair of nipples poking through a thin pale blouse. The western equivalent would be a bikini top worn downtown, far from the beach.
And for the hardcore Muslim, perhaps: a burqa lowered on the street to reveal nose and moistened lips.
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Monday, May 03, 2004

Korean Condoms 

are commonly referred to as "thumb wraps" by the American military guys I've met.

They look excruciatiatingly painful to put on, and I don't dare help out, for fear of causing damage to the boy, either physically or mentally.

A brief review of the ones we've tried:
(NB: I can't remember the names of these, so a description of the packaging will have to suffice)

~ Darling art nouveau-esque line drawing with an unoccupied bed at nighttime. Moon and stars are visible, but the couple in question is not. The condoms are pink, and have tiny bumps - like taste buds - for "shared sensation". Perhaps this is the girls' choice?

~ Black and gold packaging, in a lush serif font. Prominently advertises the thinness of the condom for "more sensation", to draw the male buyer. We found them to be so thin he had to squeeze hard to put them on.

~ Benetton - yes, real "Colors of Benetton" condoms. The package has your typical assortment of ethnically interesting Benetton models. Condoms are, of course, green. Talk about brand loyalty - I mean, who wouldn't want to turn their dick green for a while? These are made in Japan and seem more tolerable than the others above, but are still a trial.

The boy grew up with Durex, and I grew up with Trojans.
Neither of us were prepared with a supply when we moved over here.
From what I'd read, I'd expected to be celibate the entire time.

Anyway, hopefully all this'll soon be a thing of the past, as I'm looking into other options.
That'd be birth control options.
Time to gather some famous quotations and try not to think about what I'm missing down there these days.
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