Monthly Archives: August 2012

Last Exit to Busan

As I mentioned in my “Cankles” post, there seems to be a mass migration of foreign teachers from Seoul down to Busan.  Seoul public schools just cut most of the foreign teacher jobs, and I’ve heard that they’re basically going to eliminate that position from the budget entirely over the next year or two.  There has been, as one might expect, some outcry about this among the foreign teachers.  I suppose that’s understandable, since nobody likes to be told  that they’re being handed their hats, regardless of the reason.  Of course, there has been debate even among the foreign teachers about what this move may do, and I’m here to chip in my uninvited two cents.

First off, Seoul isn’t the only area that’s going to be affected by this.  As goes Seoul, so goes the nation, as far as Korea is concerned.  Policy in Seoul will most likely be reflected in the rest of Korea within one or two years.  Although I haven’t gotten a solid confirmation on this, the rumor is that Changwon is also cutting most of their public school foreign teacher population next year.  Gimhae is the only place in the area that may not, as they recruit independently of EPIK, but I really don’t know what that situation is.  I would imagine that, in time, most every school will be letting go of its public feedbag foreign teachers.

What’s the reasoning for this?  Well, the easiest answer is budget cuts, from what I understand.  Times are hard, tax revenues ain’t what they used to be, and luxury items have to go.  Anyone who thinks that having a native speaking English teacher isn’t a luxury but a necessity is kidding themselves. Native speakers provide a very specific service, and public or private, it is only available to those parties that have a fairly large disposable income.  In these troubled economic times, almost nobody has the disposable income they had five or six years ago.  There have been teachers that argue that it shouldn’t matter, but it does.  Money matters.  It really does.  Frankly, I wouldn’t give a toss for the intellect of anyone telling you to spend money that you don’t have on something that you blatantly don’t need.  That’s just bad business sense.

You might be wondering what schools will do with their English programs, in the absence of native teachers.  Well, the programs will continue, of course.  The English programs themselves aren’t being cut.  However, the native teachers will be replaced with Korean teachers who ostensibly know how to speak English.  I read an English article from a Korean newspaper, although I forget which it was, that tried to sell the idea that Korean teachers can speak English as well.  If that’s how they’re going to smooth things over with foreigners, they’ll have to try again, because I haven’t met enough Koreans who could speak truly good English to tick off all the fingers on one hand.  English is damn hard to learn, if you’re coming from an Asian language.  You know, kind of like Asian languages are hard for us to learn.  My husband speaks good Korean, but he’d never pretend to be fluent.

The schools have also made the point that the children will learn just as well from the Korean teachers as from the native teachers, and on that count, they’re right.  First of all, as a foreign teacher, it is hard to control a class of Korean kids.  For one thing, they’re allowed to behave like damn hooligans at school, from most accounts I’ve heard.  They yell in each other’s faces when they’re inches away.  They kick doors and run around screaming.  They also don’t listen to foreigners.  Many of them can’t understand you.  How many American fourth graders would listen to a Chinese guy rant at them in Chinese to shut up?  Uh, maybe one, the one who’s perpetually scared that he’s going to get in trouble.  You know who I’m talking about – the kid who wet his pants in second grade and is still called “Tinkles.”  Korean teachers are culturally and linguistically better equipped to handle a room of 40 obnoxious school children, by and large.

The second thing is that many “teachers” over here, myself included, are not actually qualified teachers.  Now, that doesn’t instantly mean that one isn’t a good teacher.  I’ve met plenty of terrible teachers with qualifications out the wazoo, and I’ve met unqualified teachers who were rock stars.  It’s really down to the individual.  However, by and large, a lot of foreigners here come into the job not really know what they’re doing.  Assuming that someone understands linguistics because he or she speaks the language is so wrong-headed as to be almost comical, in my mind.  I studied German and French for five years, so I know more about language generally than most people will ever want or need to know.  This is pretty useless in most jobs, but for teaching English, it serves me incredibly well.  Understanding the basic functions of language is paramount, if one is going to be even a mediocre English teacher.  I have met folks here who didn’t know what a noun or verb was until they came to Korea, and that frankly makes me cringe with embarrassment at the American education system.  It would be different if they said that they were learning about subordinate clauses, gerunds, or passive voice, but nouns and verbs?  Jesus, are we in third grade again?

Most of the English teachers in Korean public school are qualified, trained teachers.  Does that necessarily mean that they’re better at speaking English?  Hardly, but it should mean that they can at least instruct the students about basic grammar.  And let’s be honest with ourselves here: how many Koreans will actually venture outside of Korea on a regular basis and need to speak good English to native speakers?  Most never will.  Most of them will only need to use English occasionally, and it will be with other Koreans who can understand their atrocious pronunciation and weird sentence formations.  The reality is that there is no need for most of them to learn the finer points of pronunciation.  Why should they be overly concerned about something that they will likely never need to use?  Their time would be better spent learning something useful to them.

The third thing to consider honestly is that the public school English program, at least at the elementary level, is a joke.  It is.  I know a lot of teachers, myself included, have bemoaned the fuckery that goes on at hagwons, but at the end of the day, my students can speak and write English better than their public school counterparts who have never taken academy classes.  Fourth grade English in my cachement area begins with the alphabet.  My first graders know the alphabet inside of a week at our academy.  By second grade, they can write full sentences, as well as ask and answer basic questions about you and themselves.  When I ask my kids what they think of school English, they laugh and tell me that they sleep in class because it’s so easy as to be literally laughable.  They have told me honestly that they don’t learn anything, but they do like their foreign teacher.  It’s playtime or nap time for them, and that’s coming directly from the students.

I’ve heard English teachers, probably those who lost their jobs, say that cutting this program directly disadvantages students from low-income families who can’t afford to send their children to expensive after school academies.  Perhaps that is true, but consider what I just told you above.  Are students seriously going to derive that much more benefit from hearing a foreign teacher sing “The Alphabet Song” as they would from hearing a Korean teacher sing it?  Cods wallop.  They’ll learn the same damn thing, probably from the same books they previously used.  The lesson plans won’t change.  The kids will still be learning low-level English.  I doubt the absence of a foreign teacher will make much, if any, impact on their pronunciation or speaking ability.  Those kids who are only learning at public schools will be no less disadvantaged for lack of a foreigner, believe me.  If someone thinks that their sheer presence in Korea is going to solve the plight of the poor and lower middle class, they have delusionally high expectations of themselves.

Is it a shame that English teaching jobs are being cut?  From the perspective of the teacher, absolutely.  That means that our jobs are finally being affected by the sour economy, which we have honestly escaped for years and years now.  My husband’s friend interviewed for a job here in Changers last week, and he was competing with, according to Graeme’s recruiter friend, at least ten to a dozen other applicants, three sent from this recruiter himself.  My husband’s friend was unsuccessful.  This is the new norm here right now.  Competition is stiff, and this is a new sensation for us old-timers.

When I first arrived in Korea, the main prerequisites for being a teacher were as follows: hold a diploma and be breathing, preferably at regular intervals.  Mouth-breathers are welcome.  When you left one job, you’d assuredly have another within a couple of weeks.  It was easy.  The money was flowing, and the times were good.  The times, alas, have changed.  People are hanging onto the good jobs for longer periods of time, and fewer people generally are viewing Korea as a strictly short-term option, given the alternatives available at home.

However, is this necessarily a bad thing for parents and students?  Not at all.  If anything, this situation would hopefully ensure that only the best teachers are the ones being hired.  Obviously, this won’t bear out in every situation, but overall, it should be true.  It is also helpful to bear in mind that what the Koreans consider to be the “best” teacher and the one we would choose might not be the same.  Such is life in Korea.  As I said, this does not necessarily make the teachers happy, but someone is getting a benefit from it, namely the consumers.  And after all, they are the ones paying our salaries, at the end of the day.

Job-wise, things are going to be tight around here for awhile, which is bad news if you’re thinking about getting a job anywhere in this area.  If you’re a foreign teacher already here, you’re facing stiff competition.  My husband will likely be looking for a job in October, and I’m all but prepared to send him to Japan for an inevitable visa run.  He may end up staying home with our baby for a few months, if things are really bad.  And that’s not the end of the world.  I have a solid job, and we have money saved.  We’ve planned for the worst case scenario, which is what one should do during the good times.  Be prepared.

That said, I don’t think that the situation is probably like that in more rural locations.  I do think that there are still jobs to be had in Korea, but they are in less desirable locations – locations further from other foreigners, from metro areas, and from places where one might easily find Western food.  These could be places that folks looking to come to Korea for the first time find are their best options.  Trying to get one’s foot in the door in an already overcrowded market is going to be tough, though I wouldn’t say it’s impossible.  The sister of a friend of mine is coming over here next month, but she didn’t get the job overnight, believe me.  I don’t think she’s in a particularly desirable area of Busan either, like Haeundae.  It is, however, possible to get a job here.  It just might not be exactly where you want, and you might have to work harder to keep it.

Cankles

There’s a Weeds episode called “Cankles.”  I think Doug ends up shouting it at some councilwoman from Majestic, the neighboring suburb of Agrestic. Frankly, I don’t think there’s any shame in having cankles.  I have a rather nice set of my own as a result of unfortunate genetic inheritance from both sides.  Some chicks just have cankles.  I don’t know why we have to feel ashamed of them.  Yeah, you can do exercises to get rid of them, but honestly, past a certain point, if you have big, ridiculous, meaty legs like I do, there are only so many miles you can run, squats you can do, and toning exercises you can repeat before you realize that you have cankles.  Forever.

Korean ladies generally don’t have cankles.  Actually, Korean women rarely seem to have any meat on their bones at all.  I admire their fortitude and willingness to never eat.  I have met maybe four Korean women in my life who actually eat real meals.  One of them was fat.  Like, American fat.  She owned it and didn’t give a crap what anyone thought.  She was kind of bitchy, and I loved her for it.  The others just seemed to be among those rare few who can eat and eat and eat and it’s like drinking water – never puts any weight on them.  I should be so lucky!

Today, however, I saw a Korean woman with cankles.  She wasn’t overweight, but she wasn’t your typical skinny Korean lady, either.  I was in Lotte Mart, which in itself makes me question my own sanity, as it’s Saturday which, by definition, means that there are 1,283 people crammed into the grocery section in the basement, it’s about 115 degrees inside (the parking garage was actually cooler today), and there is a whole lotta stupid packed into one building.  The K-Rage is strong with me today.  Anyway, we were riding up the escalator to the third floor parking garage, and she had a shopping cart full of groceries and three children dangling off of her.  She wasn’t dressed up at all.  She had on a sensible pair of khaki shorts and a nice polo shirt with a pair of equally sensible Keen sandals.  She had just enough meat on her to look healthy.  A normal woman.  I had been so long since I saw a “normal” person who reminded me so much of the mothers I used to know in my youth that I nearly burst into tears on the spot.

I’m a little homesick today, you see.  My husband accepted a private working out of town on Saturdays, so I’m going to be by myself from the crack of dawn until 1am or so every Saturday for the next two months.  My husband is extremely overprotective of me because I’m pregnant, to the point of being, in my humble opinion, truly and utterly ridiculous.  My friend is having her 32nd birthday party tonight, and he won’t let me go because the stairs up to their apartment are steep and have no hand railing.  He’s afraid I’m going to fall and kill the baby.  Bear in mind, I walk up three flights of stairs every day during the week to get to work.  Granted, they’re lit and have railings, but I’m sure you can see how ridiculous this is.  The party starts at about oh-now-hundred hours, and I’m desperate to go.  I still want to jump in Moose and just go anyway, but I know he’ll know if I went because I can’t lie worth a crap, and then he’ll be all pissed off, we’ll have a fight, and it won’t be worth it, in the long run.  I told her we’d have her family over next weekend for a nice, sit-down dinner and dessert.

But that doesn’t change the fact that, right now, I’m sitting by myself at home, alone, homesick, and surrounded by yak-gwa (Korean honey wheat-rice cake thingers that are yummy) wrappers and groceries that need to be put away, holding back tears and feeling sorry for myself because there’s nobody here and I can’t go socialize on one of the few occasions I have to do so.  Even though my husband is busting his ass at a thankless private today, I’m still mad at him.

I really don’t have anybody here anymore except for this one friend.  We’ve known each other for years.  I remember when she was a chain-smoking party girl with wild hair and red slut shoes.  Now she’s a super-mom with a cute, blond three-year-old, a husband, and a house that is unfailingly cleaner than mine.  (To be fair, I think her husband might be something of a neat freak, so I don’t feel too badly.)  I don’t get to see her that often because she lives in town, and we live in the back of beyond.  Besides that, she’s busy with her kid and their work schedule, which is basically the opposite of mine.  They have work friends, since they work for a big academy, and they have residual friends from previous jobs and such.  All of my friends have left, and my husband’s friends have all moved on, too.

I’m just ready to go home.  I know that there’s nothing waiting for us there except low job prospects and high insurance.  Hell, it’s hard to get a job in Changwon these days, what with the Seoul public school teachers having been unceremoniously let go (that might be a follow-up post, actually).  They’ve all come down towards the next big metro area, Busan, to look for gainful employment. Busan, Gimhae, and Changwon are all so close together now that they could, in my opinion, almost be considered the same general metro area with Changwon and Gimhae being suburbs.  Changwon is one of the most desirable places to be in Korea.  It’s close to the big city, it has a vibrant, bustling foreigner community, and it has good shopping and activities without actually being Busan, a large, dirty, spread-out metropolis that takes a long time to navigate and is unable to provide the kind of community that a city of Changwon’s size can.  In a nutshell, Changwon is a great place to be, if you can actually get a job here.

The bottom line is that I know I should just suck it up and realize that I have it good here.  And actually, I do know that I have it good.  I have a stable job with a boss whom I adore and who has always been honest and awesome with me.  He is, frankly, the best boss I’ve ever had.  My students are great, and I’m treated well in the community around here, by and large.  I get paid on time, I have health insurance, we have a nice place to live, a car that is bought and paid for, fully insured, and we can afford to do pretty much whatever we want, within reason.  We save money every month, have already put aside for our daughter, and have managed to purchase all of the major items that she needs.  (Family and friends have literally heaped the gifts on, though, and I shouldn’t neglect to mention them!)  The point is that we’re lucky.  There are a lot of people back home who have been out of work for years, and the economy is not getting any better.  I’m sure a lot of them would hop on a plane and take my job in a heartbeat, if they could.  I’m not going to kid myself into thinking that I’m the only person who can do my job or that there aren’t scads of people who would be willing to take it, should I give it up.  I know better.

But I’m homesick.  I haven’t seen my family in a long time.  I don’t have many friends here anymore, and that isn’t going to change with a new baby on the way.  Everything is going to be about her.  Everything already is about her.  Such is the nature of having children, or so I’m led to understand.  I can’t help feeling the way I feel, though.  And the way I feel right now, cankles at the supermarket make me cry.  Anything that gives me some little glimpse of whatever normal is in my strange, American mind makes me shut the door to the Moose in the parking garage, clutch the steering wheel until my knuckles turn white, and wonder what the hell I’m still doing here and why my husband won’t let me go to that damn party.  I would scoot on my butt down those stupid stairs if it meant getting to go.

But I’m not going anywhere.  Not tonight, and no time for the foreseeable future.

Whatever Happened to Good Music?

I love music.  This is no big secret.  I wouldn’t say that I’m a complete and utter music snob.  I have some friends who were performing arts majors, so I know what true musical snobbery looks like.  Still, I like to think that I have certain standards set for my ears.  I don’t have my dad’s perfect pitch hearing (only in certain keys, or so he claimed), but I was a fair enough bassoonist, back when I was still playing on the regular, and I like to think that I can distinguish the good from the merely mediocre or perhaps even the excellent from the mind-blowing.  We could probably debate about my ability to discern good music all day, but one thing I know how to spot immediately, and that is a steaming pile of feces and, unfortunately, most of what is being shoved at us today is just that: crap.

What’s got me off on music this morning?  Ironically, celebrity gossip.  My gossips have been all abuzz about “country” crooner Taylor Swift and her new piece, a Kennedy kid who’s barely old enough to swim in the big kids’ pool.  Now, I couldn’t give a toss if teeny-bop Taylor wants to attempt to ingratiate herself into the shitshow that is the Kennedy clan.  I can’t imagine willingly wading into that cesspool, but you know, I’m not Taylor Swift.

Anyway, she has this new song out that is, according to my computer, number one on iTunes right now.  If you haven’t heard it, I really wouldn’t recommend it.  I listened to the sample just because, you know, I’m a sucker for punishment.  I should’ve known by the title that, if I weren’t left half-deaf by this acoustic onslaught, I’d probably wish that I had been.  The title is – wait for it – “We Are Never, Ever Getting Back Together.”

Dramatic pause.

This chick is 22 years old.  “We Are Never, Ever Getting Back Together?”  Like, um, is this, like, for real?  Apparently it is, and that last sentence?  Yeah, that’s exactly how she sounds on the “song.”  I listened to the first 15 seconds of the sample on my headphones, cringed, then burst out laughing and played it for my husband.  His reaction was nearly identical to mine.  The first few seconds of the sample feature a sound bite of her squealing “Weeeee-EEEEEEE… are never, ever getting back together.”  It sounds like she’s on a kiddie coaster at a cheap amusement park with a seven-year-old cousin and is letting out a “Wheeee!” to get the kid laughing and enjoying the moment.  I actually couldn’t believe that her record company was marketing this as a serious track.  I still can’t, actually.

Why am I picking on Taylor Swift?  Some folks would probably say I’m just being a jerk to poor, sweet, innocent little Taylor.  First of all, if you buy into that image, you’re as delusional as, well, the average Taylor Swift fan.  Just because someone is supposedly sweet and cute doesn’t mean that they should be insulated from criticism.  Criticism is generally a constructive exercise, and everyone, regardless of ability, personality, or otherwise, can benefit from occasional, healthy criticism – myself included.  (I didn’t say I like it, though.)  Second, when you’re a Grammy-winning performer, you can expect to be evaluated for your professional merits or lack thereof.  This is a chick who went to Nashville at the age of 13 and pushed for her first album.  She wanted this.  She doesn’t need anybody to shield her from the realities of living life in the public eye.  She is, contrary to popular belief, an adult.  But to bring it back around to the why, I’m picking on her for one very simple reason: she is not that talented.  I have musically-inclined friends who are decidedly not famous who have gobs more talent than this girl ever will.

The following points are not even limited to a realistic evaluation of Taylor Swift; they are applicable to scads of mediocre to talentless hacks that are floating around the music industry right now.  My main gripe with Taylor Swift particularly is that it is constantly stated that she is a great songwriter.  Um, what?  Maybe I’m not listening to the same songs as everyone else.  Well, if I’m being totally honest, I don’t listen to Swifty’s songs, if I can possibly avoid it.  I heard a couple of them on the radio back home when I forget my iPod adapter.  (That never happened again.)  They were catchy in that banal way that most things on the radio are catchy nowadays.  That is to say, they were intellectually uninteresting, boring songs in a generic key (probably G) aimed to appeal to people who don’t know anything about music and also for singers with a relatively limited vocal range.

The lyrics themselves were clearly nothing to write home about.  I think the song I heard was about sitting in the bleachers at a football game or something and bemoaning the fact of not being a cheerleader.  It was relatable only in a very general way which, of course, makes it appealing to a large number of people, specifically the target demographic of girls aged 12-20.  Most of Swift’s songs are about pining after boys, the failure that seems to inevitably follow these shallow romances, kissing in the rain, and ignorant usage of classical literary characters.  Hardly awe-inspiring stuff, at least in my opinion.  It sounds like something out of a lovelorn 14-year-old’s diary.  Again, not really something that I’d expect from a woman in her early 20s.  Not one with real talent, anyway.  I guess I should praise the fact that she’s writing her own material, but I’m not going to.  Whether a mediocre-leaning-towards-bad singer/songwriter writes it or some studio hack gets the job done is of no consequence to me.  Crap is crap, regardless of who writes it.

The other glaring issue is the fact that the girl honestly is not a good singer.  This phenomenon is hardly uncommon nowadays.  I’m not really sure when singing ability ceased being a prerequisite for being an internationally-renowned artist, but the first one that I specifically remember was Britney Spears.  “Baby One More Time” got popular the summer before my freshman year of high school, but I do remember that song being on repeat for most of us back then.  (Would you forgive me for liking it at the time if I told you that my favorite band at the time was The Doors?)  Britney Spears was the first instance, in my generation perhaps, of a “performer.”  Britney Spears was completely and utterly manufactured from day one, and where her talent was lacking, she had an impressive array of showman’s tricks to distract from those shortcomings.  Who has time to focus on her relatively weak vocals when the show itself is so damn mesmerizing?   At least the girl could dance.

I could run a list a mile long about more specific peeves I have with music to day: the virgin/whore dichotomy, misogyny (particularly in rap music), an overwhelming focus on sex, drugs, and violence… The list goes on and on.  But what it really boils down to is that the public now seems to accept what barely passes for mediocrity as greatness.  People have begun to equate fame to being talented.  Maybe this is nothing new, but I feel like, in bygone times, having success in the performing arts meant that you at least had some discernible talent that perhaps set you apart from others.  Now success just means that you have a prettier face and a better Auto-Tune engineer than the next guy.  (If you think Swift and her ilk aren’t using Auto-Tune, listen to the bulk of live musical performances now and, if you have any pitch ability at all, you’ll notice the difference between the live recording and the studio recording.)  Looks have never hurt in the arena of public consumption, but the situation today is tragic.

I can’t really understand why people continue to tolerate such a lack of choice in music.  I’ve likened it, in my own mind, to the lack of choice in politics.  Look at Obama and Romney.  They’re basically two sides of the same tax-hiking, liberty-stealing socialist coin.  I wouldn’t give a hoot in hell for either of them, and I refuse to even listen to them.  Giving the beast attention only ensures that it comes back for more.  I refuse to give them my implicit consent to even exist in my realm by “voting” with my time, and I would certainly never actually vote for them.  After all, choosing between the lesser of two evils is still choosing evil.

And that is precisely the situation we’re in with regards to music.  Choosing between “country” starlet Taylor Swift and whatever the hell Ke$ha is, to me, is really no choice at all.  Although there are obviously content differences, they were created by the same people to cater to the same demographic.  They are merely variations on a theme.  Taylor Swift is the version most moms think is okay, and Ke$ha is the trashy friend from the wrong side of the tracks that most mothers cringe to see at their front door.  Ultimately, they both have issues, and neither is singing about anything really interesting or coming out with any groundbreaking new sounds.  In my mind, “voting” for one with your dollars is pretty much the same as voting for the other; a vote for either only assures that the musical world will continue to be flooded with talentless personalities.  Why give money to support something you don’t even particularly like?  The only way the music industry (or the TV industry) will take a hint is if you stop listening.  Advertisers on TV buy ad space because they want to reach the maximum number of people.  If they’re reaching fewer people, the ad money will dry up.  Advertising execs, while generally dishonest, are not stupid.  If you don’t give money to the music industry, it will be forced to change its game plan.

That’s my theory, at least.  I suppose recent history would not bear out this truth entirely, since much of the Internet regulation with regards to illegal downloading has come to pass as a result of a hopelessly outdated and out-of-touch music industry desperately clinging to a failing business model.  They have used their dwindling revenues to attempt to forestall what I see as the inevitable failure of the old model by lobbying those in power to pass legislation that is, overall, bad for business.  In my idealistic heart, I like to think that the market, in its ingenuity, will triumph, and the people will have what they want.

Getting away from the intellectual side of this post, it just really burns me when Taylor is considered to be a country music songwriting great.  I feel like country music gets a bum rap anyway, but to insinuate that this immature woman should be held up alongside the real country music greats (think Townes Van Zandt, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Neko Case, Gillian Welch, etc.) is insulting to anyone with respect and love for the genre specifically and music generally.

I have no idea what it will actually take to turn the tide back towards quality music.  I can’t decide if the quality of music is a cause of the general slide in American culture or the result of it.  I suppose I tend to think it’s something of a combination, but like anything, people could change things, if only they could find the gumption to look for decent alternatives.  The laziness that prevails in modern society is incredible.

With those thoughts, I’ll feed the laziness and leave you all with some of my picks for decent country songs.  And please, I beg of you, don’t give Taylor Swift any more money.  She’s gotten rich enough on mediocrity.

*If you want to skip right to “Silver Dagger,” go to 1:58.

*I couldn’t find a live version of “Pretty Girls,” so here’s the studio version.  Her voice gives me the chills.

*Johnny Cash singing “Walk the Line” live at San Quentin.  The audio is a bit off, but it doesn’t diminish the greatness.

Tiny Dancer… Er, Boxer

I can’t wait to walk to work today.  It is pouring rain, like the pipes in the upstairs apartment just sprung a serious leak, and your entire living room and dining area is being flooded with water.  Ah, Korean monsoon season.  Raining days make me sleepy, and I hate getting wet, so my incentive to move this morning is even lower than usual, and now that our baby seems to be growing at nearly unchecked speed, my mobility and desire to do more than my signature flop is low to begin with.

I’m not really writing about my lack of motivation this morning, though.  No, I’m not even really complaining, in fact.  I’m actually writing this partially because I’m astounded, partially because I’m proud, and partially because it’s sort of strange and painful.  The baby has been kicking me for yonks now.  Getting clobbered in the bladder is nothing new and exciting at this point, although baby kicks are cool stuff in and of themselves.  She’s never been all that forceful about it, though.  Over the past three or four days, that has changed.  Big time.

I know she’s getting bigger.  My stomach feels like a basketball.  My husband thinks it’s funny to poke it and watch it not move, whereas before, frankly, I was a bit squishy.  Also, there’s the whole telltale lack of balance, inability to move swiftly and with any degree of agility, and the desire to just stay in a reclined position because of all of this.  But the real giveaway that she’s getting bigger is that she is freaking strong.

She never used to wallop me that often.  Maybe once she gave me a huge kick that really made my eyes bug out and took my breath for a minute.  Last night, while I was lying around and watching my stories (a.k.a. True Blood, one of the last shows that I watch, and I’m not even particularly proud of that fact), she reared up and kicked my left side so hard that I could actually feel her foot and knee.  My hand had been conveniently resting on my side, and I actually felt her foot.  Her foot.

I know, that probably doesn’t sound important to most of you.  So?  She kicked you so hard it hurt.  Big deal.  Not really.  I mean, the hurting part kind of sucks, yes, but feeling her foot was honestly intensely awesome.  Sometimes I feel like, even though she’s always with me and not far away since, you know, she’s inside of me, that she is far away somehow.  Not being able to see her has that effect, I guess.  Actually being able to make out the contours of her body made her much more real.  So what was my response to this painful-yet-excellent action?  I started giggling like the Joker in The Dark Knight.  I know that it sounded creepy as all hell, but I was just so happy about it and a bit weirded out.  Believe me, I don’t giggle every day.  I’m more of a belly laugh sort of person, when I do laugh.

She spent the next 15 minutes kicking me and then passed out, and although she did wake up again before I went to sleep, she at least has the courtesy (so far) to let me sleep at night.  Either that or I sleep so hard that her kicks are ineffective means of waking me up.  That’s also distinctly possible.  I sleep like the living dead.  I woke up this morning though, and the first thing she did was wallop me again.  I think she gave me a right hook this time, though.

Basically, my kid is awesome.  She’s big, she’s strong, and she likes to mess with her dad, which is hilarious.  Okay, I know that she’s not really messing with him because she doesn’t know where her head is, but whenever he tries to feel her kick, she stops.  It’s like she can sense that it’s his hand and gets all offended at the idea of having to perform like a circus animal.  All I have to say to that is, if she’s going to be ornery, she gets it honest.

We have another doctor appointment on Friday, and I’m hoping they’ll do another 3D sonogram so we get another picture of her.  I’m getting more and more excited to see her, since I feel like, rightly or wrongly, that she already has a personality.  For now, though, I guess I’ll have to be content with getting punched in the liver a few times a day.

I Weep for the Future of Our Nation

I’ve been contemplating a new post about an old story, but I logged onto my WordPress account and decided that it could wait.  I’m pretty good at remembering funny old stories, and this business just baffled me like no other.  If you have a WordPress blog, you’ll know that the stats bars will share your most popular search terms with you when you’re at the Dashboard.  I have been routinely surprised and even astounded by the crap that shows up, but I think today really takes the cake.  In no particular order, I have got the following search terms popping up on my Dashboard: Winnie the Pooh tattoos, Katie Beckinsale ombre hair, sex Changwon, Changwon hookers, and old school Winnie the Pooh.

I guess I can get over Kate Beckinsale’s trashy ombre hair.  I haven’t made it a secret what I think about ombre hair: it looks cheap, like the individual “rocking” the style is too damn tight or broke to go out and buy themselves a bottle of Preferences hair color.  I don’t care what anyone else in the world thinks.  I think ombre hair is cheap-looking, much like I think ridiculous hair extensions are cheap-looking.  Still, there are a lot of cheap, trashy people in this world, so I guess I’m not that shocked by this coming up a searched term.  Except for the Kate Beckinsale part.  Are there people out there who actually think she’s some sort of style icon?  Yeesh.  Cue the “Lowered Expectations” music from MAD TV.

On the subject of sex in Changwon and hookers, well, frankly, if you have to ask the Internet where to get laid in the Chang, you’re as pathetic as, well, a person who pays for sex.  Legally, I see no reason that prostitution should be illegal, as it’s a victimless crime (providing it’s legal) – nothing more than a simple economic transaction.  Does that mean that I think it’s moral?  Hell no.  I think prostitution is disgusting.  I spent my 21st birthday in the Red Light District of Amsterdam with two good friends of mine.  We stayed right on the Red Light, and after three nights of watching British, American, and Japanese perverts tell these slovenly window dressings that they would be “the best fuck of [their] lives,” I was thoroughly disgusted with humanity and have found the practice abhorrent ever since.

Still, I’m not fool, and I know that the rate of prostitution in Korea, despite it being illegal, is through the roof.  If you’ve lived in Korea and you haven’t seen coffee girls on scooters or ladies standing in doorways on dark alleys, you aren’t looking hard enough.  The practice is rife here.  Many young college-age girls turn tricks to make ends meet, and some do it just to feed their expensive designer label addictions.  Whatever the reason, if you can’t go wandering the streets of Jungang Dong in Changwon and find hookers, you either need a brain or glasses or both.  There are routinely call girls going in and out of the Solium Hotel across from O’Brien’s.  I can’t imagine needing to ask Google where you can go to get a $25 blow job in this town. Like I said, I guess the fact that you have to ask would explain your need to get laid in the first place.  Ugh.

Perhaps the most offensive of these search titles is the Winnie the Pooh tattoo thing.  I don’t like Pooh.  I think he’s a moron.  He’s always getting his fat arse stuck in a honeypot or a tree or Rabbit’s burrow or something.  You would think that, after having been stuck in every other tight space in the Hundred Acre Wood, that he would realize that he is a bear of extremely ample girth and would stop trying to squeeze himself through openings intended for animals of slighter stature and waistline.  But no.  No, he persists in his idiocy, and we’re supposed to be entertained by this.  Let me tell you, I didn’t find this entertaining when I was three.  The notion that a grown-ass adult would be entertained by this speaks volumes about the direction of our society today.

Besides that, who in the world wants a tattoo on her person (I can’t imagine a man getting a Pooh tattoo ever, but watch me be surprised someday) that Kate Gosselin also has.  Not only that, but who in their right mind thinks that watching a fat, stupid bear get stuck in a tree is something they’d like to immortalize in their skin?  Like I said, I have a couple of tattoos, but my big one is the Egyptian flower of life, an ancient symbol of mathematical perfection.  Yeah, I feel superior to people who get Pooh tattooed on their left breast. You know why I feel superior?  Easy.

PEOPLE WHO GET WINNIE THE POOH TATTOOS ARE THE KIND OF PEOPLE YOU ONLY SEE AT STATE FAIRS!

You know the kind of people I’m talking about.  These are the folks that you only see at the state fair or, alternately, late at night at Wal-Mart after the local bars close.  They’re the kind of people who wear booty shorts with “BIG LOVIN'” written across the butt and two draped tank tops that expose their discolored, sweat-stained bra and multiple rolls of belly lard.  These are the kind of people with “ombre” hair, Old Navy flip flops, a corn dog in one hand and a fried Snickers bar in the other.  These are the people who have more kids than they can afford.  These are the people who get “dressed up” to go to Wal-Mart.  These are the kind of people who would wash their hair in a public sink.  These are kind of people who think that Here Comes Honey Boo Boo is a mirror of their life story.

Is this really how you want the world to view you?

The moral of the story is that I hope these aren’t the sorts of people who routinely make it to my blog.  For one thing, I don’t think they’d get my humor.  For another thing, well, it just makes me rather depressed that my posts on travel and humor aren’t the main attractions.  Post something about trashy tattoos or hairstyles and you’ve got a winner!  It makes me sick, and I really hope that people who come here looking for images and info about Winnie the Pooh tattoos read this and instantly feel a deep-seated, not-entirely-unfounded hatred towards me.  That’s okay.  I can take it.  Frankly, if you came here looking for validation about wanting such things as hookers, ombre hair, or badly drawn, poorly chosen tattoos, I most likely would never respect your opinion under any circumstances.  We’ll have to agree to disagree.  So if you came here looking for any of those things, shove it along.  And don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

The Loon Part I

Some of you might remember that, for about a year and a half, I had a Saturday teaching job.  Strangely, I’d almost forgotten about it until about 10 minutes ago, and I realized that I’d never told the story of the Loon.  Actually, it’s more of a saga that dragged out over the course of about three years.  It started way back when in 2009, during my first contract here in Korea.

My boss at that time was not against her teachers doing privates, which are technically illegal.  In fact, she’d try and set us up with privates through her friends who needed teachers.  She was well-connected in the hagwon community, and she had one particular private that she was constantly trying to foist on someone, a reading gig for a local bookstore.  My friend did this job for quite some time, but when he left, she was once again applying to my other friend and me.  We never took it, but in retrospect, I probably should have, as it would have been more merciful.

I was eventually coerced into teaching a Saturday speech class.  I don’t really know why I gave in.  Maybe I needed the money.  Maybe I was just sick of my boss constantly wheedling and angling to get me to do it.  I’m a sucker like that.  I finally agreed to meet with the lady who was in charge of the class at her place of business.  This was to be my first encounter with the Loon, as I’ve come to call her.  (Names have been omitted to protect the extremely guilty.)

I’ll just be to the point about the Loon: she’s a nutcase.  She’s certainly a friendly, sweet nutcase with the best of intentions, but you know what I’m fond of saying about good intentions.  This woman’s English was (and still is) so bad that I understood about 25% of what was said to me during our first meeting.  I couldn’t decide immediately if she was insane or if her English was so bad that it just came off that way.  The language barrier can be a tricky thing, so I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt.  Had I been the hardened, seasoned ESL teacher that I am today, I would have ended that meeting by telling her that I was in no way interested.  I was young and dumb, though.

The class in question, as I mentioned, was a speaking class.  Well, it wasn’t just one class.  There were three, actually, and the students were separated out into various age groups.  The youngest group was first grade.  First grade.  The majority of these students went to Busan International School, so it wasn’t like I was dealing with your average ESL learner who thinks “chicken” and “kitchen” are the same damn word.  These kids could understand when I got pissed and mumbled thinly veiled insults under my breath.  Still, first graders are first graders, and getting them to sit still for an hour and follow curriculum is tough.  The first class had two fourth grade boys who were shy but cute, and the other class was full of fourth and fifth graders who were mostly on-the-ball.  Still, three hours of wrangling kids and trying to get them to follow proper public speaking protocol, with which I was thankfully familiar from years of high school speech team, was tough enough without dealing with the Loon’s asinine instructions and interference.

She would run around the class, having me do things that made zero sense and developed the curriculum in no appreciable way.  She wrote the speech templates, which I suppose I should have been grateful for, since I wasn’t writing them myself, but they were so utterly riddled with errors, it was embarrassing.  I had to go through the papers before class and make changes so that they actually made sense.  We’d spend a quarter of the class sometimes matching up poorly written phrases for the kids to use in their speeches.  The first class, we had to make pancakes.  Well, she made pancakes and I tried to keep the kids away from the pancakes long enough that they actually learned something.

At the end of the class, I was paraded in front of their crazy Korean mothers so that they could see and appreciate my white face.  (There is no denying that ESL teachers are here primarily because Korean parents labor under the false impression that kids learn more from us than from Korean teachers, but that’s another post for another time.)  They asked me all kinds of nutty questions, which the Loon would then translate (badly), and the mothers would nod and stare at me.  It was, at bare minimum, awkward and annoying.

After about two weeks, I realized that, as long as the Loon was in the class, I’d never get finished on time and never accomplish anything.  She’d ask me about Western public speaking styles and, after I’d explained the difference, she’d tell me that Korea was different and that I should follow the Korean style.  I’d patiently explain that, if the goal of the class was to educate the kids in how to look and sound professional in public, the Korean method wouldn’t accomplish that in the eyes of Westerners.  Making stupid hand gestures and smiling a shit-eating grin would not impress most Americans.  Oh, but the parents want Korean style.  I’d usually turn away, roll my eyes, and wonder what the fuck they were thinking, enrolling their child in a class that would ostensibly teach the Western style and then demand that they learn the Korean style.  This is just one example of the idiocy of ESL education in Korea.

I made it through that first set of classes and then returned home to the US for awhile.  I’d get the occasional email from the Loon, asking if and when I’d be back.  I always told her the same thing: if I was in town, I’d let her know.  Frankly, I didn’t want to come back after my first run here.  I’d hated Korea passionately, not liked my job that much, and had hoped to bring my then-boyfriend (yay, we’re married now) to the US.  Unfortunately, the job situation in my home area was and still is dire, and there is sweet nothing to speak of, as far as decent work goes.  I ended up coming back to Korea, obviously, although I never did contact the Loon.  Once was enough.

I was to learn quickly though, that a good Loon never says “Die!” and my friend, who was working at the same establishment but for her husband, let it slip that I was back in town.  The Loon was immediately all over me like, well, a Korean on rice (and kimchi).  Within about two months, she was calling me and pestering me about coming back.

The main problem was that there was another girl in charge of the classes there at that time.  The Loon confided in me that the parents all liked me better (because I’m a pushover and a sucker), but she couldn’t replace the other girl until the semester was over.  In the meantime, she wanted me to come on with her personally, teaching her two brat children.

Now, I knew what I was getting into with that one, since a different friend had done that job before.  By all accounts, these two children were relentless, spoiled brats with no manners and no sense of right or wrong.  This friend, who is no longer really a friend, was something of an exaggerator, to put it kindly.  This was one instance, unfortunately, when she was dead-on right.  Skating Suzy and Car-Chasing Kurt were devils in children’s clothing.  Skating Suzy was obsessed with Kim Yeona and ice skating, and Car-Chasing Kurt was only interested in cars.  I was recruited for a paltry sum to teach these ungrateful, lazy brats for an hour each on Saturdays.  Getting them to do anything other than destroy their own house and be disgusting excuses for humanity was an uphill climb, and of course, there was no discipline of any sort allowed.  Frankly, if they’d been my children, I would have switched them.  They were insufferable and probably still are.

When I was teaching them at home, it was common for her to forget that it was lesson time, and they wouldn’t be home when I showed up.  Sometimes she’d change the times on me at the last minute, asking me to come at 9pm on a Sunday night.  Of course, they’d invariably be driving back from Seoul, and I was once left sitting on the stoop of their apartment building for almost 90 minutes.  I should have quit on the spot.  I was mad enough to spit fire when they got there, but she paid me for the time I’d waited.  That was the only reason I didn’t quit on the spot.  I should have taken the cash and quit anyway.

In the spring, I was reassigned back to the real classes, another set of speaking classes.  They started off with three classes, but the classes were much smaller and the students far less capable.  I realized quickly that my first three sets of kids had all been exceptional, even for that venue.  This lot was like the Little Rascals but far less enjoyable or cute.  Actually, they were more like the Bad News Bears.  The two most memorable students, the ones who kept coming back, were Ugly Annie and Insulting Imogene.  (Again, the names have been changed to protect the extremely guilty.)

Ugly Annie was, quite possibly, the ugliest child I’ve seen in ages.  I mean, she was one of the ugliest kids I’ve ever seen without actually being disfigured in some way.  I know that it’s not nice to say that kids are ugly, but dammit, this kid was ugly, and her personality sucked, too.  She wouldn’t do anything.  She hated everything, and she was so fucking spoiled as to be intractable.  If you asked her to do something, she’d say, in nearly perfect English, “No, I hate that!”  The only thing she wanted to do was eat.  (Like she wasn’t fat enough already.)  That, or destroy something.  Actually, she was a lot like the Loon’s kids, except that she was disgusting to look at and her mother was an even bigger pain in the ass.  Her mother would come in after class and monopolize my time for 15-20 minutes, asking stupid questions about her daughter’s vocabulary, attitude, etc.  I finally got so fed up that I told her that Ugly Annie basically refused to do any writing, which made composing speeches an uphill proposition, and that her attitude could use an adjustment.  Her mother did nothing.  I’m assuming she blamed me in some way for her daughter’s poor behavior.  Again, had she been mine, I would have switched her.

Insulting Imogene was far better than Annie, in terms of her ability and willingness to write, but in exchange, she would readily insult just about everything about me.  “You’re fat.”  “Your face is strange.”  “Why are you so white?”  “Why can’t you speak fluent Korean?”  I finally told her that she was rude and disrespectful and, if she didn’t stop, I’d tell her mother that I refused to teach such a child.  I was actually serious.  You can only have your face insulted so many times before you’re ready to tell a child some ugly, ugly truths about themselves that would likely break their spirit into tiny pieces.  I would have ground said pieces of broken spirit onto the floor with my heels like a cockroach.

The last slightly memorable student was Mute Mary, who seemed incapable of speech.  I often had trouble discerning whether or not she understood until she started writing.  Like Ugly Annie, she hated everything, but she was less vocal about it.  I soon decided that I’d take mute over idiot on high volume, though, in spite of the fact that teaching a student who appears to have no vocal chords how to speak in public is no easy task.

After the speech class was over, I was granted a brief, two-week respite from my own personal Hell before winter semester started.  This time, I was to teach literature classes, which would include a science reading class, a low-level lit class, and two higher-level classes.  And that was when the real fun began…

During this whole time, the Loon was an ever-present force in my life.  She’d call me on Saturday mornings at 7am to rattle off nonsense about the class for the day.  She’d call me during the week and ask me to come to town (a 30,000W round-trip affair) and pick up books so that I could help the Korean teachers write test templates.  She’d hover around my classes and, when everything was finally under control, swoop in and make a nonsensical request which would screw up the schedule and add no tangible benefit to the class.  The only thing she did reasonably well was offer a buffer between the mothers and me.  Of course, even that finally disappeared, and I was left to defend myself against an army of illogical ajumma.  Believe me, the story only gets better.

Grosser than Gross: Hair Extensions

It is said that vanity is one of the seven deadly sins.  If that’s the case, I should probably be keeled over with my legs sticking up in the air like a cartoon dog because I’m completely and utterly vain.  I can’t pass a mirror without looking at myself.  I’d like to tell you that this is a product of living in Korea for over three years, as Koreans are possibly the vainest people I’ve ever seen in my life, but it really isn’t.  I’ve always enjoyed evaluating myself in the looking glass.  I love doing my makeup, though I’m admittedly a slacker here in the summer when it just melts off on my walk to work.  I read Vogue when I’m back in the U.S., and I surely know more about high-end fashion than I ought to.  There is one realm of fashion and beauty however, that I’ve never really been savvy with, and that’s hair.

I’ve been coloring my hair since I was in sixth grade, when I decided that I just couldn’t live another day without red hair.  I had auburn hair for a long time, and then I switched to blond highlights, which I maintained throughout most of high school before dying my hair black in college.  Obviously, I’m back to blond, which I’ve realized makes me look younger and, at the age of 28, suddenly seems far more desirable.

I don’t know much about hairstyles, frankly.  I can braid hair or straighten hair, and that’s about the extent of my powers.  I don’t know how to French braid or do ridiculous curls or anything like that.  My grandma kept my hair painfully short during my formative years, so I never learned how to do anything with it.  Still, I can recognize a seriously bad ‘do when I see one, and there is a trend in the U.S. right now that alternately pisses me off and baffles me: hair extensions.

Does anyone else remember these photos of Britney? Let this be a cautionary tale about getting extensions!

I’ve written a bit about hair extensions in a fashion post I did about a year ago.  To be clear up front, I’m throwing shade at Hollywood-style hair extensions.  I know that women of color use them, and I truthfully don’t understand what goes into the care and maintenance for these hairstyles and weave styles, so I’m not commenting on those.  I feel perfectly okay about throwing shade at starlets and girls with more money than sense who think that they need hair that comes halfway down their backs.  Here’s the truth, WASPy extension-havers: your hair looks fake and gross, and you’re not fooling anyone.  There are few things in the beauty world worse than a bad set of extensions.

Before I talk about the worst extensions though, let’s assume the lady in question got a good weave.  They do exist.  They still look faker than Victoria Beckham’s boobs, but they’re out there.  Hollywood actresses use them to give their hair length and particularly body.  Yeah, those health and beauty articles done with actresses endorsing certain products that give them a thick, full head of hair?  Folks, there is no hair serum or treatment around that will cause you to grow another half a pound of hair in two weeks.  Ain’t gonna happen.  You know what does give these girls a fuller head of hair?  Extensions made from someone else’s hair.

As I’ve said, a lot of them look good.  If the tracks are woven in properly, it can look decent.  Here’s the problem, though: having massive amounts of hair on your head overwhelms your face.  Most of these chicks look like they’re wearing a lion’s mane dyed to match their hair color.  The prevailing style seems to be curled and puffed out.  Is the objective really to look like you’re wearing a fur coat on your head in the middle of the summer?  Aren’t you hot, girls?  Maybe I’m missing something.  Maybe the whole point is to distract everyone from an average face so that they focus on the great blowout or dye job.  I guess that’s possible or even probable.

Selena Gomez looks 12 on a good day. Having approximately 13 pounds of hair around her face just makes her look like a Toddlers and Tiaras extra.

Here’s my other issue with hair of that length, particularly when curled: it looks sloppy.  I tend to be of the school that really long hair looks fine if you’re under a certain age, perhaps 25.  I had really long hair in university, primarily because I spent all of my money on booze, books, food, and rent with little to spare for things like fancy haircuts or even any haircut.  Granted, it was a rare day that I did more than brush it and go, but honestly, even when girls spend yonks in the morning straightening and curling or whatever, I still tend to think that, past a certain length, long hair just looks sloppy.  It’s certainly not professional, unless you’re pulling it up to look professional.  When your hair is down, you’re naturally going to spend more time touching it, futzing with it… I don’t equate that with maturity; I equate that with a 12-year-old who is bored in math class.  Personally, that’s not the message I want to be sending out in the workplace.

You can probably understand then why I think that older women – think any sort of desperate housewives – who have ridiculously long hair extensions look like they’re playing Barbie with themselves.  If you are a woman over the age of 35 who is wearing six-inch extensions, curling her hair like a Disney teenybopper starlet at a B-list premier, and wearing espadrille platforms to Whole Foods, get a clue.  You might have had poured a cup of delusion over your Total this morning, but the only person you’re fooling is yourself.  You are not 23 anymore.  You have three spoiled brats, a philandering husband, and “friends” with whom you compete to make yourself feel better about your boring life and questionable child-rearing skills.  Having long hair doesn’t make anyone else think that you’re younger, and it doesn’t mean that you’re stylish or original.  It simply means that someone made a lot of money by convincing you that long hair is a key component in looking younger.  They must be good salespeople.

Plastic people whose other key ingredients include delusion, pills, booze, fake tanner, and platform heels. Beware, beware, beware.

Getting past extensions that are actually done properly, let’s think about and look at the ones that aren’t.  Bad extensions are horrifying in the same way that women who have red lipstick on their teeth are horrifying.  You see it and think, Good God, do they have a mirror in their house?  Are they blind?  Do they just not care?   Bad extensions are really bad.  Rather than give the illusion that you’re a Samson-style person who loathes haircuts or is simply looking to purchase beauty, it makes your hair look stringy, oily, and just generally disgusting.  Visible weave tracks are the worst.  I think they generally happen when a weave is poorly done to start with or has been left in past its expiry date.  Britney Spears has stepped out with some honestly horrific weaves.  She’s got that mess under control now, but there was a point when it looked like a rabid raccoon had mauled her head.  Nicole Richie circa The Simple Life also springs to mind.

My favorite bad extensions are the ones that can be bought at drugstores.  You know, the clip-in extensions?  Some people seem to have convinced themselves that these are okay, but to me, they look like muskrat hides that have been colored to match human hair.  I think it’s comical that people would wear them for anything other than a Halloween party.  I’ll give it a pass if you’re a middle school student who wants a streak or two of pink in her hair once in awhile, but at least then there’s no pretending that it’s real or authentic.  I feel better about them when the delusion factor is removed.

As a last general gripe about the appearance of extensions, I rather think they look dirty, even when they’re done right.  Is that wrong of me?  Even the ones that are shiny and well-kempt still make me… uneasy.  What could be hiding in there?  A squirrel?  A gnome?  Perhaps it’s because I generally have an issue with others’ hair, in that I really don’t like touching or even being close to it.  When there’s more of it, I guess I just feel like there’s more room for there to be something nasty happening.

The only thing that looks cheaper than this is a Wal-Mart tube top.

A final commentary on extensions is that most people don’t really consider where the authentic human hair comes from.  Most of it is from India, Russia, or some other place where ladies can sell their hair to make extra money for their families.  I have no problem with people selling their hair, actually.  That doesn’t bother me, but it does bother some folks from a philosophical standpoint.  I consider it a simple economic transaction.  Here’s what does creep me the hell out, though: sometimes the hair comes from corpses.  Yeah, you read that right.  Corpses. Do you really want the hair off of a dead person on your head?  I’m sure there are some that wouldn’t mind, but I would.  I really would.  I mean, I’d never get extensions anyway, but how can a stylist guarantee that the extensions they’re using on your head haven’t come from a dead woman in India?  More than likely they can’t, unless you’re paying $2,000 to a Hollywood stylist to ensure that they aren’t, and even then, I wouldn’t trust it.  I’ve read books that included sections on hair collectors in developing countries, and believe me, it’s not a savory picture.  At all.  Like, it kind of made me gag a little.

If you think your extensions weren’t haggled for in the back alleys of Bombay, think again.

With that in mind, you can see why extensions, as a package, make me want to throw up in my mouth.  The trend has been dragging on for years and years, and I’m wondering when extensions will finally be passé.  I feel like they’re outdated now.  I jumped on the short hair bandwagon, and I’ve never looked back.  Of course, now that Miley Cyrus has paid a kindergartener to butcher her hair with safety scissors, maybe it will become even more of a trend, though I sort of secretly hope that it never fully catches on, just so I can feel edgy and superior.  Still, would it be so wrong for maturity and a sense of tailoring to make its way back into the world of hairstyles?  Would it kill us to trim our locks and not look like fifth graders whose mothers want to curl our hair and stick bows all up ons?

There is no excuse for grown-ass women to be running around like they’re still in university or even high school.  There is no excuse for lovely young girls to be hiding behind ten pounds of teased, dyed hair that has so many chemicals on it as to be possibly radioactive.  And honestly, do you really want curry- or borscht-scented hair from a country you’d never visit for fear of theft and parasites to be woven onto your head?  Do you? I guess if deluding yourself into thinking you’re still desirable to men in their 20s or that men generally think weaves are natural-looking and attractive, go for it.

This is what a steady diet of delusion will earn you: hair that looks like a Victoria Gotti wig and makeup that looks like a skid mark. It helps if you pour vodka and crack rocks on top of your daily dose of delusion.

If you really love curling your hair every day that much, go for it.  If you really love spending six hours in a salon getting tracks sewn in, do it.  If you really want to be half-bald from the weave pulling out your hair like Lindsay Lohan, do it.  I’m not stopping you.  Just don’t think I’m not mocking you.

A Diamond Day for Geoje

My husband and I really got the short end of the stick with summer vacation this year, as I think I mentioned in a previous post or two.  He got Monday to Wednesday, and I got Wednesday to Friday.  We had been planning to take a big excursion to Geoje with our time off, but when our academies’ vacations didn’t jibe, we were understandably a bit bummed.  We’ve been wanting to do a big Geoje tour for a while.  Unfortunately, now that I’m in the third trimester of my pregnancy and about as ready, willing, and able to walk around in the heat as a sunburned walrus, our adventure options are limited.  We went to Busan a couple of weeks ago so that I could get my hair done with lovely Soo, and I almost died, between walking around Haeundae and sitting on the overcrowded, barely air conditioned bus.  We mostly just stay home under the A/C now so that I can pant and sweat in peace.

One of the many small islands dotting the coast of the bay, complete with cute, tiny lighthouse.

The call of nearby Geoje Island has been beckoning us like a Korean siren song, though.  (In case you’re curious, a Korean siren song sounds like a combination of an ajoshi yodeling a pansori speckled with Hite beer burps and lip smacking.)  We discovered that there is a ferry, perhaps the last of its kind, running from Jinhae to Geoje several times a day.  It’s actually a vehicle ferry, so you can take the family tuna boat along for the ride.

We’ve spent the last week trying to iron out a trip across Masan Bay over to Geoje.  If you look on Google Maps, it can be somewhat misleading.  Or at least, it’s misleading for me, but then again, I don’t pay much attention to the legend, and kilometers are still a foreign language to me after years abroad, so I just look at the map and think, “Woooo, that’s FAR.”  It’s not.  You can actually see the Masan shipyard from the ferry terminal servicing Geoje and Jinhae.  That’s how close we are.

We went to the ferry terminal last weekend, contemplating a ride over, but it was rainy and late in the day, so we decided against it.  We went back on Wednesday as, again, we had a day off in the middle of the week, but it started raining again, so we thought better of it and just took a drive up Anmin Gogae (Anmin Mountain Road) instead, and I would highly recommend doing that, as a time killer.  It’s just gorgeous, has lots of hiking areas and rest stops, and you get a great view of the bay and Jinhae.  We’re going back in the fall to take pictures of the leaves on the mountains.  (Are we Korean enough yet?)  The point is, we had made two failed attempts to go to Geoje, and we were getting frustrated with Mother Nature.

Today was, finally, a gorgeous day.  Clearwater Camp refers to these meteorological gems as “diamond days,” and indeed today was.  The sun sparkled on the water all the way there and back, the breeze was blowing, there were lovely, puffy clouds dotting the sky, and the water was smooth and calm.  Frankly, it couldn’t have been better.  We elected to leave Moose at Jinhae, since we don’t have a GPS or a map, and we really didn’t know what to expect at the ferry terminal on the other side.  There is more than one terminal on Geoje, and we weren’t actually sure where we’d be landing.  We thought we’d do a trial run and, should everything turn out well, we’d pack the Moose on board and bring him, too.

The very definition of a “diamond day.” Isn’t the sky beautiful against the mountains and ocean?

If I’m being totally honest, we should have just bitten the bullet and chucked him on board with the other cars, as I think our day would have been even more enjoyable, although I suspect we would have ended up staying the night.  The Jinhae ferry terminal is, all things considered, somewhat centrally located and easy to find.  Also, Jinhae is itty bitty, so to be fair, it’s a bit hard to get lost.  The Jinhae ferry takes you to a Geoje ferry terminal called Sil-Jeon, which is located in what is possibly the smallest fishing village ever.  There is nothing in this village.  Nothing.  There were some old seafood restaurants, but they all looked to be out of business or turned into a private residence of sorts.  The terminal itself has a wood-burning stove and an old man running a “convenience store” that sells the bare necessities and little else.  If you think there will be lines of taxis waiting to pick up intrepid beach-goers such as you’ll find in Busan, you’d be sorely mistaken.  There seems to be some type of shipyard off to the left of the ferry terminal, and that’s about all there is to see.

You need to bring your own transportation if you’re planning to ferry it out to Geoje.  I’ve read reports before that bus and taxi transit on Geoje is somewhat spotty, at best.  The buses are inconvenient, badly marked, and the stops are never located on the main roads in the fishing villages.  That was my experience when I went to Geoje last, so with that in mind, I would say that it is definitely more “friendly” towards those with their own vehicle. I would not go back without our car, which won’t be for another week or two, as Moose needs some work done to him, and we don’t want to drive him too far if he hasn’t checked out fully.

As far as the actual review of Geoje goes, today would hardly provide an accurate picture for all of the island, but I can tell you one thing for certain: Geoje is beautiful.  If you live anywhere along the southern coast and especially if you live anywhere in Gyeonsangnam-do, you need to visit Geoje.  It’s chock-a-block full of beaches and little fishing villas.  Much of the island is quiet and undisturbed.  When I was there and stayed, I found the Koreans there to be more sedate than their mainland counterparts, always victims and perpetuators of the “bbali-bbali!” culture, where everything moves a breakneck speed, and nobody cares about slamming into you or bumping you out of the way.  Geoje, like so many island communities, provides a welcome break from that hectic pace.

Besides that, much of it is unspoiled.  Korea is undeniably a lovely country – even more so when viewed from the sea, as I discovered today.  The mountains rising almost out of the water is brilliant.  There are towering pines, pebbly beaches, and small islands with rocky outcroppings just begging to be explored.  However, on the mainland, much of this is marred by the presence of apartment buildings so high that they’ll give you a nosebleed if you live on the top floor and concrete jungles that feature miles and miles of sameness.  Geoje doesn’t have that quality at all, outside of the city.  My husband likened it to some of the English beachside areas – pristine, quiet, and ripe for swimming, fishing, and boating.  We drew the conclusion after one afternoon puttering around it on the ferry that Geoje would be the place to go, if we were going to put down roots in Korea.

For one thing, there is a large foreigner community there.  That seems unlikely, given the fact that it’s an island (though Korea’s second largest, after Jeju), but because of the huge amounts of shipbuilding industry stationed there, flocks of foreigners associated with those companies have descended upon Geoje.  There are also a fair few who commute in from Busan every day.  Geoje has its own foreigner association, along with schools and restaurants catering specifically to that community.  Not bad.  Besides that, as I mentioned, there are scads of beaches, places to go hiking, and places where you can go fishing or rent boats.  All in all, it’s not a terrible place to be.  Believe me, Korea has far worse places that you could land!  My husband liked it simply for its beautiful coastline and pine-covered hills.  Anything that reminds him of the English coast!  If it has a pebbly beach, he’s in hog heaven.

I quite enjoyed taking the ferry, although I have to admit that it would get tiresome, if one had to do it every day.  Geoje used to have lots of different ferry services with the big one coming from Busan several times a day.  However, a new expressway has been built between Busan and Geoje, and most folks are using that to get back and forth these days.  As a result, many of the ferry services have been canceled, as the expressway is oftentimes faster.  I haven’t taken the expressway, obviously, so I can’t vouch for its efficiency for those living in ChangMaJin.

In the background, you can see the bridge of the Busan-Geoje Expressway. I’m thinking it’s a helluva view.

We’re at a bit of a tight spot, not ocean-wise, but mountain-wise.  Changwon is surrounded on all sides by mountains.  The only way out is by tunnel or through Masan and around the bay.  From Masan, you could take the highway down to Goseong and Tongyeong and cross over to Geoje from there.  Conversely, you could go through the Changwon Tunnel over to Gimhae and pick up the Busan expressway.  Truth be told, I’m not sure which, if either route, would be faster.  It’s very possible that the Jinhae ferry is faster, although you get dropped off in the middle of nowhere.  The Tongyeong bridge will take you almost directly to Geoje City.  We’re considering taking the expressway next time, so I’ll update it if we decide to do that and tell you all our results.  I’ve heard it can get busy during the week, with so many commuters going out there to work.

Update: I did a careful comb-through of Google Maps, and you don’t actually have to take the Changwon Tunnel to get out to the area of Gimhae where you pick up the Busan-Geoje Expressway (alias Highway 58).  Go to Jinhae and hop on Highway 2 going east.  It will take you out around the southeast side of the Jinhae coast to the southernmost section of Gimhae – I suspect where those Gimhae shipyards are.  From there, there’s a very clear pick-up of Hwy. 58.  I think this is probably the route we will use from Masan, as you can hop on Hwy. 2 behind Wolyeong Dong.  I think I’d recommend that route for folks living in Jinhae or Shin-Masan.  Always avoid the tunnel at all costs!  Weekend traffic there sucks.

The bottom line is that we had a good day.  It felt lovely to be out on the ocean.  My husband spent his summer vacations in his youth near the seaside in Cornwall and Devon, and he loves being in and around the water.  I spent most of my summers as a kid boating the waterways of the Northwoods so, although I was never around the ocean, I have a strong affinity for boating.  The ferry is a nice way to get a handle on the local geography and, honestly, it was a nice, relaxing ride.  I’m the sort of person who thinks watching the jellyfish float in the water is a good time, though.  I like watching the coastline and wondering why more Koreans don’t learn to sail or sea kayak.  If we stayed in Korea, I think we’d probably get a motorboat or a sailboat.  There is nothing like a party barge to make summer time a good time!

Anyway, if you are in Korea and have a car, I highly recommend loading it onto a ferry and getting off the mainland for the weekend.  Heck, rent a car and take the expressway.  But do see Geoje.  Really, you won’t regret it, and it does provide a nice respite from the constantly swirling noise, dirt, heat, and frustration of city life, which Korea has in spades.  Think of Geoje as the Hamptons, but without the multi-million dollar houses and crab cakes served with a side of snobbery.  Just go.  Are you really still reading?  Go get on one of the English tourist sites and plan a trip.  I promise, you’ll enjoy yourself!

Most of Geoje’s coastline looks similar to this, with the exception of the areas that have awesome, sandy beaches. Not too shabby, huh?

Note: If you’re planning on taking the Jinhae ferry to Geoje, the timetable for trips is pretty simple: first service is at 0700, and final service is at 1900.  The ferry departs every 90 minutes throughout the duration of the day.  One-way tickets (the only ones available, I think) are 6,000W per person.  Car fares depend entirely on the weight of the car, but the prices range approximately from 24,000W to 35,000W for larger vehicles.  If you want the exact timetable, here it is.  The ferries depart Jinhae and Geoje Sil-Jeon Ferry Terminal at the same times, seven days a week.  Service terminates at 1700 on holidays.  These times are accurate as of August 18th, 2012.  If I learn of any changes, I will make sure to amend this post.

Times are as follows: 0700, 0830, 1000, 1130, 1300, 1530, 1730, 1900.

Update: Unfortunately, ferry service from Jinhae to Geoje has been discontinued. I guess this isn’t all that surprising, given the slow speed of the ferry, the price of taking a car aboard, and the relative ease of getting there by the Geoje Expressway.  For those of you who were hoping to take a nice ferry ride this summer, I guess you’ll have to look elsewhere.  I know, I’m bummed, too.  It was a nice, relaxing ride – one that we were planning to do again.  

The Indignity of Pregnancy

I know that way back, once upon a time, I said that I wouldn’t turn this blog into Baby Central.  Well, I guess I lied, because here’s another post about babies and being pregnant.  One can’t really help herself.  Being pregnant kind of takes over one’s life.  Not very many moments pass by when one isn’t thinking about the baby or something related to the whole thing.  At this point, I’m just trying to get through it without humiliating myself.  It’s not going that well.

One thing I will say is that I don’t seem to have “pregnancy brain.”  I’ve probably just jinxed myself.  Pregnancy brain seems to happen to a lot of girls, and you start forgetting things, don’t seem able to think as clearly… So far, knock on wood, I haven’t been any more forgetful than I ever am, which is a blessing.  I’m not that great at remembering little details about things that need to get done, like picking up trash bags, for example.  It would be tragic if I got any worse about things like that.  Of course, I can remember the name of the guy in high school who insulted me freshman year at 10am in Spanish class or where I purchased a pair of shoes and who was with me or the name of a little-known character in a book I read.  Trash bags?  Forget it.

However, I’ve had some other problems, and I suspect they’re only going to get worse.  The first thing is the bathroom situation.  When you have a big old baby inside who thinks that your bladder is alternately a waterbed or a soccer ball, visits to the bathroom become frequent.  Urgently so.  Normally, I go to the bathroom maybe once a day at work.  Maybe.  Now, I go after literally every class.  Sometimes I worry that I’ll need to go during class.  Granted, I drink tons of water because it’s hot as balls outside and it never gets that comfortable in our academy, but peeing seven or eight times a day is borderline ridiculous.  I’ve been informed that it’s going to get worse, but I honestly can’t figure how it can get any worse than peeing every 30-45 minutes.  Peeing every 15 minutes?  God, I hope not.

The next one is just now becoming an issue, now that the baby is approaching or has possibly already hit two pounds: gas.  I was really hoping to escape this one, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.  I’ve always heard and read that pregnant women get really bad gas sometimes and can’t control it very well.  Well, it’s sort of true.  So far, I’ve managed to make it out class or out of the store or wherever in time, but I know that one of these days, I’m going to have to fart in class, and I’m going to have to blame it on one of my students.  I really hope it’s in my sixth grade class, if it ever happens, because one of my boys has bad gas of his own, and he isn’t too afraid to share.  He would be the ideal fall guy.

During the first trimester and occasionally even now, I have rhinitis.  Rhinitis is this sinus infection-like condition where you have really bad nasal drop and a runny nose, and it makes you cough and hack a lot.  It’s flatly obnoxious, and it drives me crazy.  It comes as a result of extra blood over-stimulating your mucous membranes or some such.  In any case, it made me cough a lot.  One day, when I was still having morning sickness, I coughed so hard that I threw up on myself during class.  Granted, my kids didn’t know (still don’t, actually) that I was pregnant, but honestly, barfing on yourself because of an urpy stomach and a really bad non-sinus sinus infection is terrifically undignified.  And disgusting.

You also get clumsier when you’re pregnant.  This is pretty legitimate, since you’re carrying a huge baby around, and it throws off your center of balance.  Fortunately, I’m already fat, so this is a slightly lesser problem for me than for svelter ladies, but it’s still an issue.  I knock into everything.  Although my students probably just think I’m getting fatter again, my stomach gets in the way a lot.  I knock into things that I wouldn’t normally, and getting out of the car has gotten interesting.  Parking spaces in Korea are already painfully small.  I do fine when I’m not pregnant, but it’s getting tight now.  I’ve actually had to re-park in places with nobody next to my spot just so I could get in and out.  I’m at the point where my belly will no longer smoosh up, so either the door opens wide or Mama Marge can’t get out of the car!  I also seem to stumble around more and just generally crash into things.  It’s strange and annoying.  I have a bruise on my leg, and I have no idea how it got there, but I’m sure I just side-swiped something and forgot about it.

Along those same lines, getting up out of low-sitting chairs and even my bed, which sits on the floor, has become more difficult.  Also turning over in bed.  I know, that sounds insane, but the bump really does get to be a load.  I have honestly pulled a muscle in my groin trying to get out of bed.  How ridiculous is that?  I’ve actually had to devise a strategy for getting up without hurting myself.  Again, it’s undignified.  I sort of flop myself (there’s nothing “flip” about it) onto my left side, roll onto my hands and knees, and slowly pull myself onto my feet.  Getting out of my comfy chair – the new one that’s like a mini-chaise lounge and oh-so-comfy – is probably going to require either my husband’s help or a forklift by the end of nine months.  Erma Bombeck was right about not leaving the chair until you either go into labor or the chair actually catches fire.  The only things that motivate me to move, at this point, are needing to use the bathroom and food.  Food is possibly my biggest motivator, at this point, and even then, if I can get someone else to fetch while I stay “flopped,” I have no qualms about doing that.  Being in the flop position is my favorite, at this point, especially if it’s near the air conditioner.

As I mentioned in the last post, hormones can be and are a serious issue.  Throughout the whole of my pregnancy, my hormones seem to come in week-long spells that change over at the weekend.  This week, I’m feeling good, thank God.  Last week, I was a goddamn disaster.  My appetite and morning sickness was and is the same way.  Last week, I was ready to munch on bark, I was so hungry all the time.  This week, I feel mostly normal.  I know that next week, the crazy will be back in full force.  It makes me think that our daughter is one who grows in spurts or something.  Like, one week she needs gobs of food and grows like a weed, and the next week, she calms down a bit.  Whatever the case, dealing with the hormones is tough.  Wanting to cry in public when you drop your husband off at work or crying over gossip articles?  Is there really no end to the indignity?  I’m not a crier and, when I am, I prefer to do it in private, away from prying eyes.  Now, I’ve mostly resigned myself to the fact that I could cry anywhere, at any time.

We went on an “adventure” to try and find the Changwon DMV for Graeme, which is way the hell out in the middle of Bum-Fuck-Egypt, also known as Masan Jin-Dong.  Our “village” is basically the end of most of the bus lines.  Most.  If you follow two of the roads out of Wol-Yeong, you’ll be taken to either the Gapo Village Road or the highway.  Either way, you could end up in Jin-Dong.  Jin-Dong has one large settlement, and it’s not that easy to find, as there’s tons of road construction, and the DMV is not well marked at all.  We pretty well got lost, and I just lost it.  I almost started crying on the highway when I was sure that we were going to end up in Jinju city at night and not know how to get back.  Of course, we got turned around just fine and made it home, but I effectively locked myself in my room and wouldn’t talk to Graeme for an hour.  I blamed him for not letting me go home and look at the map first, and it resulted in an awe-inspiring pout-cry-flop combination from which even food wouldn’t rouse me.  We really need to get a GPS for our car.

A lesser gripe though certainly a legitimate one is the fact that I can’t cool off.  Ever.  I used to be cold all the time, constantly asking Graeme to turn off the A/C.  Now he’s the one getting cold while I feel just fine.  I live under the air and the fan.  I can’t use blankets at night, or I wake up sweating like a barnyard animal.  Walking to work, which takes all of ten minutes, takes about an hour or longer to cool down from, and I will literally drip sweat all over everything.  I just position a fan directly next to me, as that dries my hair.  It’s disgusting and undignified.  Home is about the only place where I’m really cool anymore, but that’s because there are almost no places in Korea that run the air like we do in the US.  I’ve just learned that the big marts and department stores are required by law to keep their A/C below a certain level.  Thank God there is no such law for our household, or I would be getting fined big time.  I feel so badly for the pregnant ladies of the past who didn’t have A/C.  They must have been incapable of doing much except lying around and panting.

Another, perhaps Korea-specific issue is being judged for my pregnancy cravings.  I have been craving gummy candy like crazy lately, and my little grocery store carries a shocking variety of them.  I always pick up a little package or two on the way home.  (The packages are super-small and have all of about five gummies in them, so I don’t feel that guilty.)  I’ve had the old Korean checkout ladies make fun of me.  “Oh, only children eat these.”  Yeah?  Children and pregnant women, bitch!  That’s the thing about Korea – people judge you to your face here.  I feel like Americans with any decency and common sense keep their unsolicited opinions to themselves.  … Yeah, that probably happens less and less.  I feel as though most Americans are more and more willing to butt into everyone else’s business, which I don’t appreciate.  My life is none of your business, providing that it’s not interfering with your rights, quoth the bitchy, pregnant libertarian.

Rather in the same vein, I can eat.  A lot.  I’m constantly rooting around for snacks, be it crackers, fruit, or whatever.  I eat massive meals.  Massive.  My husband is not shy about eating, but I’m putting him to shame.  I’ll leave the table full to the gills and be hungry again in two hours.  It’s unbelievable.  I used to eat like that before I did the Somersize diet, but that cured me of wanting to eat, eat, eat all the time.  Now, it doesn’t matter what I eat; I’m always hungry.  Even if I’m not hungry right this minute, I probably will be in 30-60 minutes.  And when I get hungry, I want a snack now.  I’m going to start carrying extra fruit to work, because the yogurt I usually have at snack time doesn’t keep me full until I go home.  Now, I know that they say you only need about 300 extra calories a day while pregnant, but sometimes it’s hard to believe.  I eat like a horse, and I haven’t really gained that much weight.  Of course, I don’t need to, since I’m already big.  As long as the baby is growing, that’s the important thing.  And she’s growing – big time!

On the upside of all this, I’m not swelling yet, knock on wood, and my wedding ring still fits.  To paraphrase a fellow pregnant friend on her own blog, “There are few things that are more undignified than not being able to fit into flip-flops.”  I mean, that’s pretty telling.  Water retention is part of the whole pregnancy package, but I’ve been really lucky so far.  I’m also lucky in that my boss has never made me stand up all day to teach, even when I wasn’t pregnant and especially during the summer.  A lot of hagwon bosses demand that you always stand up to teach, but my boss thinks that’s B.S.  He hates to stand up if he’s not writing on the board.  This works out really well for me, because I have reached phenomenal new heights of laziness while pregnant.

Whatever the case, pregnancy does not lend itself to dignified outings and experiences.  At this point, I’m prepared to burst into tears, nearly piss myself when the baby kicks my bladder, or possibly pull a muscle while getting out of the car.  You find yourself considering possible obstacles that would seem ludicrous to a non-pregnant woman.  Fortunately, I’m almost at the point of not caring.  My response to just about anything vexatious at this point is to just flop down somewhere and give a hairy eyeball to whatever or whomever the source of annoyance may be.  Have you ever seen an old dog who doesn’t want to move from its sleeping pad do that to its owner?  Now imagine me with an ever-expanding baby bump doing exactly the same thing.  Not a pretty picture, but it does keep the hecklers at bay.

I Am a Crazy Pregnant Woman

I’d always heard that pregnant women could be mildly crazy, but I never really believed it until I became one.  I have officially joined the ranks of the hormonally-challenged nut cases who are wandering around freely in your midst.  I have moments when I think I shouldn’t even be allowed to leave my own bedroom, let alone the house.

The thing is, I’m normally sort of passive-aggressive and not really all that confrontational.  I’m not sure if that was born in me or I picked it up from my grandmother, but I really hate confrontation.  Well, I hate it a lot less right now.  People make me incredibly angry, and they do it about four or five times a day.  Under normal circumstances, I just take a deep breath, shoot them a dirty look, and mutter something under my breath.  I’m now at the point where I get up close to them and say the rudest thing imaginable.  This would probably work better if I lived in an English-speaking country.  I’m pretty sure most Koreans don’t understand, “What the fuck are you doing, you foot-shambling ho?!”  It’s not pretty.

A couple tried to barge in front of me at Lotte Mart about two weeks ago, but I gave them such a death glare and said loudly enough, “Well, I guess people who have already been waiting for 15 minutes aren’t worth a shit, huh?”  Someone tried to shove me on the Busan subway today, and I stuck my elbow directly into their ribs, leveraged myself, and pushed on past.  I nearly knocked the person over.  And no, I didn’t care.

The problem is, this behavior is not limited to the impersonal bowels of the Busan subway.  I’m sort of cranky and rude with everyone lately.  I’m sure my students have noticed it.  I just don’t have the patience for their fuckery anymore.  If they’re being stupid, I will tell them just that.  And no, I don’t really care about sparing someone’s feelings when they’re in fifth grade and think barking like a dog is cute or something like that.  When my little ones demand stickers for a good test and complain that I don’t have the exact sticker they wanted, I just shrug and say, “If you don’t like it, buy your own.”  Normally, I’d keep that thought to myself and try to soften the verbal blow.  Now, I just don’t care.

I feel the worst for my husband, though.  That poor guy doesn’t know if I’m coming or going, and the saddest part is that I don’t know, either!  He makes me mad about 54 times a day now, and half of the time, he hasn’t even done anything.  (He threw away some leftovers today though that I was planning to eat for dinner, and I lost it.  Don’t fuck with a pregnant woman’s food.  EVER.)  The weird thing about my hormones right now is that they dictate that we should be close.  I cling to him like plastic wrap to well, just about anything.  I always want attention – back scratches, some sort of rub, a belly pat – but I don’t actually want him to talk.  In fact, I’d really prefer it if he just left me alone.  While scratching, petting, or fetching some food for me.  I know, I know – it makes zero sense, and it makes me look like a codependent psycho.  But the thing is, I really want exactly that.  I want to be right next to him, and I don’t want to have to talk.

The thing is, when someone talks to me, it never ends well anymore.  I can’t tolerate repeating myself or having to explain things, and when someone does a lousy job of explaining something to me, I go nuts.  If someone brings up something sad, I cry.  If someone brings up an angry situation, I get angry and/or cry.  Sometimes, I read funny stories, and I laugh and then cry.  Am I schizophrenic?  Bipolar?  I can’t decide, but I know that none of this makes sense.

Honestly, my husband has been great about coping with my lapses in sanity.  He’s cuddled me through what seem now like countless breakdowns over everything from not being able to see my family this summer to a story in People about a mother cat getting burned while rescuing her babies from a fire to nearly having to pull over and cry because I couldn’t find the highway from this village we drove to on Wednesday.  I’ve cried about going home at least five times this month.  I’ve also cried about chocolate, just to put things in perspective.  All things considered, he’s handling it pretty well.

The problem is, I know that he thinks I’m crazy.  I know that I’m crazy, and I’ve told him that I’m not relishing any of this any more than he is.  Are you really crazy if you know that you’re crazy?  I think you can be completely nuts and know it, because I think most pregnant chicks are.  We don’t enjoy it, guys.  We really don’t.  I can see myself acting like a loon, and I can’t stop myself.  Words and emotions just come pouring out of me, and I feel powerless to stop them or to change my bad mood, once it’s here.

I’ve slipped into several day-long mini-depressions, and I don’t even know why.  There’s no problem.  I’m healthy, the baby’s healthy, we’re all good.  Yeah, we never travel and our life is boring as hell.  We also make good money, have a nice car, stable jobs, a happy marriage, and a beautiful little girl who is about three months away from greeting the world.  Life is grand!  But I still lie in bed sometimes and cry for no reason.  I really wish it would stop, because it makes me feel terrible.

I think this is all part and parcel of the pregnancy thing, but it’s honestly even less fun than morning sickness.  Don’t get me wrong, that part sucked a lot, but never knowing how you’ll react to a given situation or even a bloody gossip story is frustrating.  I feel like I’m torturing myself and the person I love for no reason, and yet, I know there is a reason, it’s just not easily explicable.  Hormones, I’m discovering, are hard for women to understand and nearly impossible for men to understand.  I don’t think my husband really believed in them until about a month or two ago.

Whatever the case, I’m crazy and I know it.  I hope it goes away soon, but from what I understand, it probably won’t go away until after the baby is born.  Joy.  Another three months of mental instability.  All I have to say is that for every other pregnant gal out there, I feel you.  I really do.  I have to tell myself to just sit down, breathe, and try to let go, even though that’s hard to do.  One day at a time, right?  Sometimes the days seem long, but the weeks and months are flying by, and I know it will all be worth it when I see our daughter’s beautiful face.  But until then… Give me the goddamn chocolate chip cookies are someone is getting cut!  … Bitch.