Intrepid Girl Reporter


But if you must know, I have some babies. Mainly by black ladies. But some by white. And a China-baby.

This is the bunny I made with Soccer. (Hers is pink.)

I think I’ve finally got this filesharing thing figured out.

Sufjan Stevens – Seven Swans

This is the album I listened to today, instead of going to Mass. I am tempted to say “instead of going to Mass, as I should have,” because really, it probably wouldn’t have been a bad thing, but aside from the fact that I was being legitimately productive and couldn’t really go, I’d rather listen to this and think about the highest than listen to what passes for worship music at most religious services. I’m not saying that “traditional” church music (or, in the case of most churches I’ve attended, the contemporary pop that’s become institutionalized) is necessarily bad. But I’ve never been a huge fan of so-called “Christian” music, and one of the things I really like about this album is how he makes the spiritual personal – i.e., he understands that the power of the stories lies within the stories themselves, and how we’re not so different from the people about whom these tales are told. It’s been said before, but half the time what he sings about could be a lover or a loved one as easily as it could God or Jesus, and I’m pretty sure that’s part of the point, that these things are found everywhere. Besides, the music itself – that banjo! – does so much more for me than most hymns ever have. The joy feels real.

A few housekeeping announcements re: blog: I’m going to continue to post some daily Thing I Like, esp. now that I (roughly) know how to share files, but I think I’m also going to start posting my notes on various classes – I’ve been doing it on paper, for me, but more and more people have been finding this blog lately based on ESL/TEFL searches, so that will provide a look into TEFL life. And for those of you (not many) who revel in the tiny human dramas of my classes, this will provide a better way to keep track. Look for a relaunch of KFB soon too.

Today: watched “Project Runway” with HM (downloaded), translated poorly.

ex. CHRISTIAN I don’t know what the f*ck I’m doing.

HILLARY 말허요, “기부니 나빠요!” (“He says, ‘I am very upset!’)

She loved it, as she should have. So far I’ve seen both episodes, and I have to say, I thought Sarah Jessica Parker came off very well in the last one – plenty of guests have been unkind, even out-snarking Michael Kors and Nina Garcia, but she was consistently tactful and diplomatic without being a moron (hello, Paula). And Ricky’s dress was gorgeous. Surprisingly, Elisa’s was too – despite the fact that, much as I do with Quagmire, I found myself staring at her in puzzlement for most of the show. I actually didn’t hate Marion’s dress, at least not until the belt came off, at which point it immediately disintegrated into a potato sack. But mostly I was sad because Marion got kicked off despite his striking resemblance to Tim Calhoun.

I also had dinner with Arkansas and The Singer (who also teaches in Seogwipo) tonight, and got a good dose of the heckling I have so missed. We went to El Paso down in Sicheong – it’s the equivalent of what I imagine eating Mexican food in Canada is like. I.e., it is not authentic, but it isn’t bad, except that they need to quit with the putting of ketchup in the salsa EWWWWWW.

Now I will try to fix the busted file links of before. Check back.

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THINGS I AM BRINGING TO SEOUL
November 16, 2007, 12:03 am
Filed under: dumb miguks, NaBloPoMo, the authorities, travel

– oranges for:

  • the Ambassador
  • the Internship
  • the Program Head
  • the Teachers in the Program

– packaging for said oranges

– big camera for the Election Publication

– like, five different outfits, including a blazer that is too small but still professional-looking

– not gloves or a scarf, since I don’t have any

– shoes that may or may not fit since I can’t find mine (I think HM moved them or is maybe wearing them)

– purse (currently filled with trash)

I’m going for three days. Three days. OTTOKEEEEEEEEEEE*

*”howwwwwwwwwwww”



in which…part 2

A series of stories.

A

Halloween

I didn’t intend to see a horror movie simply because it was close to Halloween. Things just worked out that way. It was my sweet, gentle Oma who chose the movie (more on Oma’s likes and dislikes in a minute). It was entirely in Korean, of course, but you know the old adage: sadistic torture knows no language. There was something about an ugly necklace, some sort of supernatural hand that appeared periodically, and some women in court clothes who kept pulling all sorts of medieval/Guantanamo-style treatments on each other (or maybe just on one woman. I don’t really know). I fell asleep for part of it. Oma kept her hands over her face the entire time. Fun night!

Saturday Albuquerque had organized this festival for some little kids at a program at this church that one of her students attended, and most of us had signed on to help, so I found myself hauling thirty small prizes* and a 24-pack of toilet paper across the island.  Oma and Apa were headed to Seogwipo anyway to help with a wedding the next day, so I caught a ride and ate lunch with them and the wedding party, where I received a gift bag containing detergent and brown sugar. I met up with my friends and headed over to the festival site, where we were confronted with an immediate problem: Scooter, in a rare burst of enthusiasm, had invited some of his students, all of whom were at least five years older than our target audience. So we had to make some activities up, most of which consisted of us encouraging them to tell the goriest ghost stories possible (in English, natch). For the little kids, there were mask making, face painting (with poster paint and WATERCOLORS – thanks for not having party supplies, Korea), and various relay race activities. Then we all ate fried chicken and were very happy. Except that, during the haunted house, some of the students spat in Scooter’s face. Oops.

Somehow Hallim (or G) and I ended up back in Jeju-si, running through e-Mart at 9:00 on a frantic search for tofu and bananas and other barbecue supplies, in large part because I am pathologically unable to let anyone do anything for me. After some help from a kindly Anglophone meat clerk (who nonetheless alerted the entire first floor that there were two eccentric foreigners floundering through the groceries), we made it back to my apartment, where we dressed to represent the fair state of Kentucky (I was a cigarette, she was barefoot and pregnant). In retrospect, I should have donned a fat suit and a Philip Morris nametag so I could have been Big Tobacco, but there’s always next year.

We made it out to the pension in Hamdok Beach around 10:00. Here’s where things get – and will stay, for your purposes – a bit blurry. There was fun, and there were adventures; we ate grilled chocolate-stuffed bananas, made friends with a Korean family, watched Africa cook chicken adobo (as Scooter said, “After eating this, I’m gonna wife her”). Oregon had brought a college friend whose name was – and I am not making this up – Ricky Martin. And then there was a campfire, and grass seeds that stuck to our clothes, and an accidental but somehow inevitable discussion with a certain person in my life, one fueled by throwaway comments and cheap Hite beer and weeks and weeks of the unspoken. It happens. We’ll be stronger after this, but it’s going to take a while. To imagine that here I would learn how to depend on others, and at the same time so well how to be alone…well. I didn’t. But now I can, and I count my happiness and my sadness on each hand, and I keep the transcripts to myself.

The next day I woke up on the floor next to Hallim, still wearing a cigarette costume (having forgotten to bring pajamas), still with pampas grass in my hair, and we headed home.

B

feats of strength

If you have never been to a Korean wedding, let me just say this: Imagine the part in the Who’s “Baba O’Riley” where the synthesizer kicks in. Now, instead of recollecting that as music, try to picture that as flashing plastic chandeliers. Add a fog machine. Welcome to the wedding hall.

After we arrived, HS and HB in tow (they had to wake us up, as we’d fallen asleep on the bus), we were immediately escorted to the nook where the bride waited, where we – not my family, just Hallim and me – had our picture taken with her. On the bride’s camera, not ours. Then we were escorted back to our seats, where I was immediately summoned by some of Apa’s many ajushi cousins to sit with them; despite the fact that none of them spoke English, they all managed to ask me to call them “opa” (older brother; yeah okay). They called me by my host fam’s last name, which was cute, and they kept speaking to me in rapid Korean, which was not. Then we saw the wedding, which involved, in addition to the aforementioned elements, bubbles that shot out at random intervals, a troupe of toddlers dressed like Cupid who performed an interpretive dance, and a push-up demonstration by the groom, who was cheered on by an announcer and his bride. I should mention at this point that none of this appeared to have been rehearsed. At all. Then it was picture time; first the bride and the groom were photographed, and then the bride and the groom and their families, and then the bride and the groom and their mothers, and then the bride and the groom and their friends, and then the bride and the groom and everyone on one half of the room. Hallim and I fell into the last category. We were shoved to the front of the wedding pictures. I felt a little like a trophy wife. Trophy foreigner?

That’s all for today. More tomorrow. There is more, of course. In the meantime, I’m going to take a bath, revel in my newly purchased Time magazines, and try to forget the fact that I have mosquito bites on my hands.



here we go round

I have no winter job, I might not have a job next year either, I have a helmet haircut, I live with a fucking card sharp, and I’m through with men for at least a year. How are you?

Things are not quite that bad – I did, after all, get to attend HB’s Sports Day today, where I ate chicken on a stick and that candy we bought at Dollywood years ago, fool’s gold, except this candy was made on a skillet out of the back of a truck in the rain. I also got the chance to watch:  mass hula-hooping, mass choreographed techno dancing, and this event where these people wearing masks that looked like the Clintons had balloons in their pants and the kids had to compete to see who could pop them first. HB did samulnori, and he ran what they called the Marathon, which was actually just a race. Not 26.2 miles, no siree. HB and his best friend were in the same heat. HB kept on trucking. He’s pretty fast. HBBF is not, but his effort was valiant.

Today was also Apa’s birthday. After we got back from Sports Day, I made lunch for my family (fettucine with chicken and the pesto my American momma sent over; inexplicably, the pesto was much more popular than last dinner’s homemade roasted tomato sauce), and then Oma offered to take me for a haircut. Having been opsoyo last weekend, I was (am) in need of some family brownie points; besides, I’ve gotten to see the Jeju Crew a lot lately. Also, my host brother and sister have great hair, so I assumed it would be all right. She took me to her hair place, which turned out to be in E-Mart – and not the nice one in Sin Jeju, the ghetto one down by Tapdong. Good Deal. I really loved my haircut last time; this time, however, I look like a member of the Brady Bunch. And not in a good way. My bangs are a) too short and b) sticking up and c) I look like an idiot and I’m kind of mad about it. And, in retrospect, Oma’s hair is nowhere near as cool as that of HB and HS. But what could I say? “I don’t really trust you?” I don’t even have the vocabulary for that.

Sometimes, however, I don’t think that vocabulary is the problem. Oma asked me, yet again, exactly why I was single – and if I had a good answer for that, I imagine a lot of things would be very different. And on the way home, after omija cha and ice cream at a cafe in Chungangro, she asked me my American parents’ hometowns, which is an innocuous enough question (as well as an impressive one for her to ask in English). But hometowns are a more complex issue for us than they should be; I don’t really have one, my mother never really had one, and my father…the workbooks we were given in class didn’t have any sample sentences like “His family escaped because they were wealthy and well-connected” or “My grandfather was an idealist trying to reform a corrupt government from the inside out” or “I still struggle with the fact that all American history curricula suggest that my family’s role within the colonizing French government was essentially that of a collaborator.” I still can’t say, “I took a taxi.” Really, I don’t know how to say what I want to say in English, just like no one here seems to be able to explain why on Earth children are trained to dance King Tut-style to techno, regardless of how fluent they are.

Anyway. Meanwhile, I’m still looking for a winter internship – ideally, I’d love to work with an NGO or a newspaper or UNESCO, but what that requires is me getting in touch with those people, which, you know, I still need to do. I also got an email from TFA, and it looks like unless I can talk my school into letting me out reallllllllly early, I’m only going to be (barely) eligible for New York or California (or, God forbid, Las Vegas), which were not my first choices. And even then, I have to talk wherever I go into letting me either skip Initiation or make it up over…Christmas? Which is coming soon. ADULT WORLD STOP IT I just want to get a job with Sesame Workshop. Really. At this point, I’d even consider applying for grad school for next year, but I still need to take macro and micro to go to school for IR, and I’m still working on a bigger portfolio for J-school.

After we went out for a raw fish dinner with Apa (where I made the same mistake I always do – I ate what they told me to, assuming that no more food was coming out, when in fact there were three more, and better, courses still to come) HB and I played Uno, where he managed to shuffle his cards multiple times while still keeping his loaded hand on top. Twice. Then he made up the following song about me, to the tune of “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush”:

(IGR) is mischief, mischief, mischief

(IGR) is mischief, oh I’m sorry

And now we are watching Muhan Dojeon.



making banana pancakes*
September 21, 2007, 4:06 pm
Filed under: anatopism, dumb miguks, food, host brother, how we roll, life on Jeju, U S of A

I seriously don’t want to get out of my chair. That’s how tired I am. It doesn’t make sense, because an hour ago I was trying to persuade everyone to go out, and now I’m sitting here reading articles on Wikipedia with titles like “Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe” and I’m actually too lazy to move, although not to type, evidently.

Tonight was as good a night as any for a Pancake Party**, which sounds like a euphemism of some sort, but actually refers to a party where you eat pancakes. If you party like we do, which is to say like rock stars, a pancake party can also be a pancakes and guacamole and salsa party, after which everybody will be too full to do anything but wash dishes and play “Starcraft” with my host brother. Like I said, rock stars. We were celebrating the arrival of maple syrup and cumin from the New World, aka my mother, so we were basically like pilgrims, you know.

Future Mexican food/breakfast endeavors, however, probably will not include avocados so underripe that it is difficult to cut them open, or the decision to cook the avocados in a pan, with some milk. Just saying. I don’t know what our guacamole tasted like, except for “not guacamole.” But it was pretty good, honestly.

*I hate Jack Johnson, but I like breakfast

**This actually belongs in my food blog, but due to picture uploading difficulties, that blog is on temporary hiatus.



we’ll make our homes on the water

Considering the typhoon, it was a surprisingly wonderful Sunday.

Full disclosure, as always:  We brought the storm on ourselves. My friend G’s host sister, J, told her cheerfully that a typhoon was coming Sunday, but given the fact that no one seemed to be evacuating, we all laughed it off as typical Korean hyperbole.* Also, the two weather words all my students seem to know on their own are “fine” and “typhoon.” I thought this was funny.

I was wrong.

It’s been a rough week anyway for pretty much everyone I know – my friend A said that atmospheric changes were afoot, which explained my desire on Friday to personally throttle every single student in my second grade class**, but I don’t know anyone on this island who made it through the week without at least once casting a longing glance back towards American shores. So ending with a Category 4 hurricane isn’t really surprising, I guess. Yesterday was cloudy, a little rainy, but about 75% of the island crew ended up seeing The Bourne Supremacy and/or wandering around looking for entertainment and/or eating Red Mango (finally), eating Indian food, receiving a free coffee mug from the only GNC in the province, and visiting the English bookstore and buying copies of Kingsley Amis’ Lucky Jim and Paul Auster’s New York trilogy. (Okay, the last part was just me.) Then G and my friend E and I went to the jjimjilbang with my host fam, where we all fell asleep on the floor and didn’t leave until 2 AM. At this point: no evacuations, no alarms, no warnings from the Big Brother-style speaker on my wall from which the superintendent declaims. I hope you don’t think I’m joking on that last part.

We woke up this morning with a promise hanging over our heads: pudding, or “ding-pu,” as Host Brother has taken to calling it. (The first time I made it – out of boredom, on another rainy night – he called the ingredients pudding, but after witnessing its metamorphosis into dessert, decided that the name needed a change as well.) Because it was HB’s birthday party day, E and G and I ventured out into the rain to the supermarket down the street and to Paris Baguette for breakfast. It was a walk that would cost us four umbrellas. I had trouble standing upright. By the time we realized how bad it was, however, we were on a mission. Also so wet that it didn’t really matter if we got any wetter.

So we got our chocolate and our sugar and our croissants and sticky buns and green-tea-cream-cheese-pancakey-thing, and headed home, where the power appeared to be flickering, to no one’s consternation but ours. We made pudding by candlelight. We ate pudding and fried chicken with Host Family and HB’s friends by candlelight. At this point, trees were falling. Then we sat around and talked and read our books, in English, and took a nap, listening to the winds batter the window. When we woke up, the buses weren’t running, so we played Uno with Host Sister.

When we finally made it to the bus station, the streets were flooded, windows were broken, and branches littered the streets. We got E on a bus to Seogwipo and G in her taxi to Hallim, and made it home, where Host Dad, HB, HS and I ate ramen and, because I am forever behind every trend, I read more of the last Harry Potter, again by candlelight. (Side note: I can’t put it down. I wouldn’t call myself a Potter fanatic, but what I love about Rowling is her ability to create a propulsive story – i.e., I always always always want to keep reading.) Then the lights came back on, and I was able to discover that what had actually occurred was Typhoon Nari, with winds somewhere between 131 and 155 miles per hour. Oh.

This is so typical, for us to be here and have no idea that we’re surviving a massive storm.  It’s the grand-scale edition of getting on a bus and hoping it goes our way. Welcome to life in a foreign country. My American mother asked me today if people don’t evacuate, and HS said no; I’m not sure if this was the first typhoon to hit the island, or if it was just the first typhoon in a while, based on what she said (see? SEE?), and I don’t know if people are blase or if they’re actually freaking out and they’re just doing it in Korean. You know? I never imagined that I could experience a storm in this way. But then I never imagined a lot of things.

*There is no typical Korean hyperbole. Mistake Number One.

**Explanation: In Korea, elementary school goes to sixth grade. Once students hit middle school, the grades are started over, so seventh grade = first grade, eighth grade = second grade, ninth grade = third grade. Then the whole thing is started again in high school. Any rhetorical confusion is usually alleviated with the explanation “(grade) (school),” as in “first grade high school,” but since I teach middle school, I think you all can figure it out for yourselves.