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Sunday, June 27, 2004

Censorship 

by the Korean government is the news this week.

We in Korea are no longer allowed to view any blogs suspected of running the Kim Il Seong beheading video.
And that includes mine, though I've made no mention of it here.
So we're unable to view anything on Blogspot or elsewhere, till the Ministry of Information & Communications decides to release its grip.
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Monday, June 21, 2004

Keylessness 

Tickets will soon be bought, wandering plans are being arranged, luggage will be stored with friends, rent will not be paid - anywhere, and I will, yet again, be living without keys.
For a (short?) while.

Asked the boy to move his things from my place this weekend, as I need to organize all of mine into compartments, give away books, sort through decadent clothes bought in Thailand and Cambodia last year that I rarely wear in this conservative climate.
And pare down. Again and again and again.
This lifestyle demands it on a regular basis; I've been doing it for 6 years now...

Enough of those pseudo-philosophical, over-reflective rumblings about difficult decisions and repeated uprootings, which are about as interesting to read as gripes about lack of money or sex. On to the actual, for example:

A note from the boy left under my bedspread. Painted with Sumi ink on mulberry paper I'd had strewn on the floor after ripping it into paintable sizes.
"I.O.U. Love. Unlimited. Unconditional + [drawing of hands...massage] + [drawing of a glass of wine] + [drawing of cheese] in perpetuity." He'd brought over a bottle of Cotes du Rhone and feta from Carrefour as he packed his clothes.
On the reverse: "Voucher not necessary for redemption...Your statutory rights not affected."
Damn, he beats all the others. Every one.

Looking forward to upcoming good times in steamy rain-drenched places, temples and rivers, markets and coconut milk, either alone or with temporary companions. And of course plenty of beer and reflection on what the hell I'm doing here, there, or anywhere else.
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Thursday, June 17, 2004

Ch-ch-ch-CHANges ~ 

Well, due to the inordinate amount of paranoia I've recently accumulated, I feel unable to write in detail about upcoming changes.
Yet.
But they've cleared my mind in anticipation.
Thank GOD!! I'm ready to let out a Bronx cheer with the joy of it all...

Had several beers last night with a good Canadian friend, who's perhaps 15 years older than me, with loads of EFL experience. He's also been subject to some of the same internal earthquakes as me, and I knew I could trust his advice as both unbiased and unconventional.
He's also good at springing ideas into discussions that I could never have imagined. "Here are some of the stressors in your life right now," he said.
Ticked them off his fingers, and damn, it felt great to have someone who understands.
(The boy is excellent, but his overconfident "You can do whatever you want in this country...F'em" is more appreciated after some empathetic reflection.)

~ I don't really have a home at the moment. I live in an (essentially unfurnished) apartment that, if I want to stay here beyond 30 June, requires over $4000US in "key money" as a deposit, plus a monthly rent. This is typical of most apartments in Korea. After the experiences I've had with money and employers here, I'm not willing to do that.
So my other options are: Move into an expensive furnished apartment at the other end of the beach, or into a melancholy love motel room yet again. I've lived in 4 apartments in the last year, and am REALLY tired of moving around within this city.

~ The boy is - at the moment - equal part stress relief and stressor. I'm just easily worked up by anyone close to me, over things that wouldn't bother most people.

~ I typically teach only 3-4 hours daily, but must be at school from 8:20-4:30 every day, and stare at the computer for most of it. Zoned out here, not really living, bound by stupid rules and pettiness I disagree with. This is NOT the way I want to live!! (I've more connections now for what it takes to survive here, though, so I'm not worried as before, when I was under-employed and desperate for several months.) Have felt ungrateful in some ways, as my job has more perks than most of my friends here. But the psychological pressure's been intense.

~ Had a teaching demo today in front of all the other English teachers and the Principal and VP. Was worried about it to no end, but, now able to take things here less seriously, I didn't really give a damn and we all had a good time: students, teachers, and me.

~ Have felt I NEEDed to do something besides mere travel: some kind of TEFL certificate. And they run to about US$1500 with accommodation. I couldn't afford both TEFL and travel. Still can't afford both, but am satisfied with what'll hopefully happen.

Now if only my bloody heart rate would slow down. And brain, can't slow it these days. And fingers, squirming toes, etc. Thank god there's none of the violence of years past.
Except I suppose the other night when I threw my hand-phone on the floor. And a few Sundays ago at 5am when after a long tortured night of drinking and perceived insults I tossed the boy's faux Birks out of the window. After he left me in a cab and caught another home (my place's on the way to his) because I didn't want him to walk me home.
And two pairs of charmeuse silk boxers followed the Birks a moment later. What a release it was to watch my anger flutter away.
The next day I wondered if I'd dreamt it.
Nope. I did it all.
Thank God that's all that I could fit through the window.

Time to go shopping for silk boxers.
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Wednesday, June 16, 2004

You'll understand this if you live in Korea. 

Completely.
I, too, get the "Oh, sorry you live there," from other expats when travelling outside Korea.
Wheels are perhaps turning for a brief respite, sooner than planned.
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Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Oh the strange paths 

that have led people here, from search engines that I never knew existed.
Here's a selection:

* Uncircumcised Korean Boyfriend Blog

* Oversized Clitorises

* Flirtatious Put-downs (from the UK)

* Sex Blogs

* Fellatio

* Pictures of Clitorises and Labias

* Pictures of Korean Prostitutes

* Lust

* Divorce

And last, but never least:

* Ethanol (for gods' sake).

Rest assured that I'll add to this as more debauched individuals yank me from obscurity. And there'll be more of them after I've typed these here.

Oh...after another long hard-drinking, careening weekend, and a class that went particularly badly, I decided, once again - for certain this time - that I need to leave. Soon.

There are doubts, of course: "Will a new environment be any better than this? It's just me, isn't it? "
The boy's response: "C'mon, E, it's Spain you're talking about! My favorite vacation spot in Europe. Who the hell would want to live here, anyway? I'm just staying in Korea for you, y'know." He IS always the optimist, and I've been frustrated to some degree everywhere I've lived.
("How could you hate France, even occasionally?" he wondered the other day. Well, I did, because I'm passionate about everything around me, one way or another. Though I disliked the strangely French brand of snobbery, I felt an affection for the place that I could never have for Korea.)

The mini-vacation & TEFL cert I'd planned in Thailand would have only been a brief distraction from a pair of problems: the environment here (all high rises and noise and spitting men); and living in the midst of a language I've no intention of learning, which cuts me off from this society.
Yes I know the latter's my own decision. I can read Korean, as it's a phonetic language (see "Emily" in Hangeul, above...learned it in a few hours of riding the subway), but that's about it. I've been - recreationally, as I seem to do everything these days - studying Spanish instead: a language that's useful in more than one hemisphere.

So ~
I will of course write of any concrete developments here. When they happen. After several recent days of trembling near the edge, I've decided to make changes. And I've begun researching them now.

My time-sense is completely screwed. I sometimes rush the pace my classes, because I've no idea how quickly I'm speaking and thinking. Sharp-tempered and caustic, my students can sense it, and the boy feels it in my accusations. Continually exhausted these days from trying to lift myself up out of this place. Drugged out and dizzy in the morning from the things I've taken to help me sleep.

And the boy's been excellent through all of this. Understands I need to leave - he's reminded me that if I don't find work in Spain, at least I'll have had a vacation there! And have learned some more Spanish, which is what I've been determined to do for two years now. Time to tick off one more goal at the end of my 20s...

Thank god (mentally rolls eyes to heaven with hands folded in proper Catholic-girl pose, hair covered in what's apparently mosquito netting)
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Friday, June 11, 2004

Burn-out 

That's all this is. And a chance to toy with bold print.

Rx: Attitude adjustment.
Until/unless we find a satisfactory solution, we'll be here till the end of the year.
"Why don't you just go to Spain on your own?" a friend asked me yesterday, when she heard of where I'd like to go next (and if we miss hiring time in September, it'll be difficult for me to find under-the-table work).
In the past, I would've left for Spain, straight away. I could think of a half-dozen theories as to why I won't this time, but they all come down to this:

It's different with him.
I'm different with him, though I won't live with him any time soon. Insomnia's always been a problem for me, particularly in the summer.
I can also get mouthy, especially after a few drinks, and need the solace of my own bed, and my own room.

He's brought up Viet Nam as a possible destination, as he knows I'm interested in the country, but I nixed that for now.
I want to be in a society (for a while) that really appreciates women....or where the native women aren't fetishized by expats as much as they are everywhere in Asia. Sounds crass, perhaps, but it's often true. It makes for too many unpleasant conversations.

[My first roommate here was a 60-year-old man - the school neglected to tell me of our generation gap till I walked into our apartment after a 27+-hour flight - who drank 1-2 bottles of soju* every night and had taken the virginity of a Vietnamese woman 30 years his junior and had been promising to marry her for the past 5 years...]

All I know is, wherever I'm living at the time, I've got to get back to the States this Christmas.
It'd be the fourth year in a row of my absence from Xmas festivities, and that's just not cool.

A freshly fragmented family [Mom left Dad over a year ago, and the divorce hasn't gone well...he refuses to speak to her, ever; he's also tried to pit my siblings against one another, and has told me things about my mother and my own conception that were just mean] needs me around for a few weeks.
Then it'll be off to discover somewhere else and meet the boy.

As with a number of my American friends here, I love many things about America, but plan never to live in the States (long-term) again. There are too many aspects of the lifestyle there that I don't want, for myself, or (if I have any of the little bastards) my children.

This is perhaps part of the danger of EFL teaching, because there is always someone who wants to learn English, anywhere you'd like to go.
It often takes a somewhat rootless person with more than their share of wanderlust (or, simply, lust) to do it. The more places you go, the more you desire to experience. This can continue for years, till nowhere, really, feels like home, because, in a sense, everywhere does, or can. There is something wonderful yet hollow and sensation-seeking in all of this.

When I set out for Korea a year ago, I'd planned to spend several years here, do some travelling, and save up enough for a small house in western Morocco. That was where I really wanted to live - at least in the summertime - for many reasons. It's heterogeneous - as most dynamic places are - with a fascinating mix of people: nomadic Berbers, Arabs, French, Spanish. There are mountains, oceans, and a nice slice of the Sahara. It lacks much of the pretention of Europe yet is near many countries I enjoy. I could use my French and learn Spanish and Maghrebi Arabic; the cost of living and taxation are low, etc. It'd be a good retreat and was, by far, my favorite of the nearly 2 dozen countries I've seen.

[Other reasons I enjoyed Morocco, a liberal Muslim country (not a mutually exclusive term, that) don't need to be listed here. Many Americans disagree with me, and I'm not interested in a debate about why I appreciate a land where the dominant religion happens to be Islam. Thanks...]

The boy came to Asia nearly two years ago, planning to learn more T'ai Chi and improve some of his varied martial arts and shiatsu techniques. He then wanted to open a clinic in his home country (a place where I've spent several months and that was long enough, thanks very much). He has never been to America, and certainly wouldn't settle there; I wouldn't ask him to, either.

We've no idea what'll happen next, only that for the moment the ideas we'd had before we came to Asia have changed dramatically. They've shifted, in part because we've met one another, but mainly through the disrobing of illusions we'd had about Asia, and perhaps ourselves.

But we can re-evaluate all that in the future. For now, we're preoccupied (isn't everyone?) with surviving this current quake - including the boy giving notice at his job yesterday - and its aftershocks.

One word for what our home countries possess in overabundance:
Me: Patriotism [blind]
The boy: Prurience [peeping]
Damn, I love it when I have to look up a word he's used.
Though I (almost) never tell him.

* Korean alcohol. Though not as strong as vodka, most brands are rumored to contain ethanol, and it's consistently abused, as vodka is further to the north.
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Thursday, June 10, 2004

Like 

seeks like, eh?

Here's Nyunkia in Japan, an Australian who enjoys photographing eclectic subjects (for example, the faces our minds impose on inanimate objects) writing on her recent difficult times there.

Another western woman in Japan, Andrea's a young Canadian married to a Chinese man, and she's putting more culture links on her site all the time.
Her Japanese experience seems quite different, perhaps in part because she is not single...

The boy walked home from my place at 2am.
Korea's generally a very safe place, so it's not unusual to do that kind of thing.
As he walked along an underpass, three drunk Korean men threatened him and tried to punch him.
He just walked away.
There's no question that the reason this happened is because they thought he was American; that's why they shouted anti-american insults and lunged at him. Most of my friends who've had that kind of experience have been walking with their Korean girlfriends when they were threatened by Korean men. Last night, though, the boy was alone - unless he has a girlfriend I don't know about!
Westerners here are symbols that evoke strong emotions in Koreans, one way or another.

To most Koreans, any caucasian is a "megook" - an American. (Anyone with dark skin is "African". Any Korean with dark skin is teased and called "Maori" or "Malaysian".)
I hear "megook" nearly every day as the boy and I walk down the street.
Often, children point at us and giggle, or shout "Hi!" He doesn't often notice it, but I'm tired of the stares. I know I'm special, and don't need others to point it out....HA!

This morning a strange man entered his apartment. It's a keyless lock; you open the door with a code. Someone he's never met has somehow found out his code.
Needless to say, none of this has improved his view of Korea at the moment.

Anyway, here's a rare link that actually references something of political substance: a post by Marmot on the current state of antiamericanism in Korea.

For something less substantial but perhaps more interesting, here's a Marmot post on a new restaurant in Seoul, where the main attraction is a western (read: Russian) woman in a glass box.

Soon to be added to my "sexy" links: Tangle's Tired, an erotic blog with a very rough tongue. Lumbar tattoos as an incentive to getting it up the ass, and "whore chairs" are recent subjects. She's blase and intense, curious and iconoclastic all at once.

Had some beer last night with two of the boy's coworkers. They're Maoris from New Zealand.
"Very proud," the boy remarked later. They had powerful personalities, and great stories to tell. Confident and relaxed: my favorite kind of company.

As I ordered our second, an old woman next to me stroked my thai silk top and made an hourglass motion with her hands. She smiled and gave me a gap-toothed thumbs-up. "She says you aren't fat like an apple like most [western] women are," the waitress said. Oh, stereotypes...seems I hear [and propagate?] more every day.
Later she had a beer sent over to our table. I discreetly poured it into our friends' pitcher and thanked the woman on our way out.
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Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Debra in Taiwan 

and I have been emailing recently.
She and I have been feeling similarly of late, but for different reasons. She usually writes with a sunnier attitude than I do, but it's been really hard for her lately.

It was strange to read her this morning, because I've nearly the same difficulties at the moment.
Here's an excerpt from her latest journal:

Tuesday, Jun. 08, 2004 - 10:39 p.m.
Here are the thoughts going through my head right now:

* I am a loser that cant hold a job for any respectable amount of time.
* I am selfish.
* I have goals and dreams that are impossible to reach, and I keep trying to settle for less than, and than change my mind and try and reach them again.
* I feel guilty as sin.
* Taiwan sucks ass in ways I can not express fully.
* I will NEVER find another teaching job as long as I live.
* I am doomed to never work again.
* I am THE worst traveler in the history of travelers.

Why am I thinking these things? I just gave my notice at work! We are still working out the details as to when I will leave exactly, but I told my boss tonight that I needed to leave. It did NOT go over well at all. I have stayed 7 months so far trying like mad to make this work. But I slip deeper and deeper into a severe dislike for this place and my life here.

I tried buying things, creating new distractions outside of work, and more....all to stay and finish my contract. But after the blog I wrote this morning I had another crying fit on my scooter as I was going into work. I knew it was time to throw in the towel. I am financially screwing myself in a way that will take some time to recover from, but some things are more important. Like my mental and physical health.

Any advice from ESL teachers who have left a job that they NEED on their resume to get another teaching job and how to explain the broken contract would be nice.
djusttraveling@yahoo.com


Sun coats students as they scratch on exam papers.
Construction booms all around us.
Sounds of metal and rocks for structures designed to last fewer than 30 years.
I've a strangely deep affection for these students. I really don't want to leave most of them. But the administration here, deceit and whispers behind closed doors, is driving me crazy.

The boy can't really leave till the end of the year, so I'm mulling over ideas of what to do till then.
Laughed the other day (after washing away bitterness with a bottle of Guinness) that he'd decided to stay in Korea for me, and now it's my turn to stay for him.
There are plenty of reasons for my distaste for this place right now; the events that led me to this school were unpleasant.
That story can wait for another time.
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Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Looking up at a chrome soapdish 

while painlessly bruising your back on a tile floor - for reasons that need not be elaborated - is even better than mirrors on the ceiling.

You've got to love calling in sick (for a good reason: IUD complications), even if it means being asked to apologize to the Vice Principal, the Dean of Foreign Languages, and virtually all the other teachers in your school.
Instead, I've printed out graphic IUD info in English and the receipt from my doctor's visit. This will make them squeamish if they bother to read any of it. I will pass it to them with both hands, and eyes lowered, as one should here.
But I will not apologize.

Never. The confucian-bound bastards.
Friends with more experience here have said the admin wouldn't speak to a western male the way they've done to me.
I also suspect they plan to fire me so they don't have to pay for my vacation, as they won't show me the contract they've supposedly changed to include it. The Dean of Foreign Languages has been criticizing my teaching in the past week, yet has no ideas for any potential solutions I might use.

I'm completely over Korea these days: the pungent food, the rabid Americanization of their underdog culture that's mostly an amalgam of better-known Chinese and Japanese cultures, the historical monuments of poured concrete extolled by Koreans that have been reconstituted in the past thirty years (and are passed off as nearly genuine because of a half-dozen remaining foundation stones), the bloody high-rises everywhere, the language that's useless anywhere else.
When expats feel this way that it's time for them to prepare to leave, as the boy and I will certainly do later this year. As for the method and location, we've tossed around plenty of ideas in the past week.
More on this some other time.

On to the "Sexy" blogs:

Most of you know Life at TJs, as that's how you found me. Kev's the manager of a strip club in the Midwestern US, and he writes with a lyricism that seeps into your unconsciousness, as all good storytellers do. He's the best kind of narrator: there's nothing to distract you from the story he's telling. While reading, you enter into his world straight away, whether he's writing of the dancers' dressing room, or his neighbor who hollers for her dog every day, little knowing that Kev's planning his demise.

Belle de Jour's been working on her book lately in lieu of her "Diary of a London Call Girl", so she hasn't had time to give us any of her steamy stories which remind us that erotica's more about mind-fucking than webcam-fucking.
Read. Laugh. Grow warm and bubbly. Shake your head at her arch observations, all written with her (pug, smug) nose in the air.

Violet Blue (not worksafe, at least in Korea) is one of the most prolific writers I've seen, though perhaps some of that has to do with her subject: sex, especially leaning towards the vinyl/bondage arena.
She reviews sex toys for Good Vibrations, and is full of great tips on everything from fellatio to anal techniques and beyond. Her books are on my "read someday when I'm living in a country where I won't get arrested for having them sent to me" list, and her blog's one I check out whenever I'm in a PC room far from students' prying eyes.

Prattlepants is a late-20s hispanic-american chick, who writes with a breezy yet substantial style, on being a dyke in SF in the midst of a long-term, long-distance relationship. She'll make you wish that your lover, too, occasionally wore your underwear as they typed. Wore it on their head, that is. She's always a great read, though she's been on hiatus for a while.

That's it for now.
Enjoy.
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Thursday, June 03, 2004

"It's SHOWtime!" 

I say to myself more often than not when caffeine has failed to lift me to the energetically feverish pitch required to motivate a room full of 30 teenagers.

Anyhow, anything worth writing about in my immediate environment would take up...oh, I don't know...perhaps a line or two (for example, the mysterious sign in Hangeul [Korean] on the water cooler that probably means it's broken, but I don't dare try it as who knows what could come spouting out of that antiquated plastic machine), so rather than write about any of my trivial crap that not only borders but veers straight through the mundane into the other side, I'll tout others' blogs instead.

For today's sample, the "Asiatic"s, several writers also living in Asia.

Yong Fook is a sharp-witted, undeniably hot Eurasian guy teaching in the Japanese hinterlands, whose writing reflects the best and worst of Brit sensibility: relentlessly articulated jabs at what surrounds him combined with enough self-deprecation to make it palatable.
Occasionally irritating, yet always entertaining.

Ryan's the Lost Spaceman . His take on Taiwan, and English teaching in general, is refreshing. If more english teachers had his freewheeling, earnest creativity, ESL would be a more respected profession.
On rare days like this one, where I want to leave this school and Korea (immediately, on my terms, and no one else's!) I envy his and others' apparent contentment, living as they do in small Asian cities and towns. I, on the other hand, get restless if there are several months of bad art at the local museum, and occasionally frustrated at the monochromatic skin tones of those around me, walking daily through a sea of Koreans with hardly a foreigner in sight.

[Aside: "Even Seoul's a hell of a lot less cosmopolitan than Boston," my first recruiter said, when I insisted on a placement here. "[The city where I live] is like a backwater."
There were far more jobs available in Seoul, but I was determined to avoid extreme urban crowding to come to this city of reasonable temperatures, with its fast-running subways, mountains, grey beaches, and, most of all, a tight expat community. Well, Korea was called the Hermit Kingdom for a reason.]

Randy is a Korean-American airman. He's a unique voice in Korean blogs, most of which are written by pale, jaded english teachers like me, many of whom can be ambivalent about our "host culture", or whose primary connection to it comes from a wife/girlfriend.
As a left-winging anti-war girl, I had plenty of preconceptions about GIs and armymen before I came here, and they've been eroding slowly as months have gone by, as I've met people now and then who've gotten me to look out of my ivory tower...
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