Monthly Archives: February 2006

Lessons Not Learned

::230 Idiot Child::
 
In my 2:30 class on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I only have two boys. And they are both space cadets. One of them though, Robin, takes the cake. He outdid himself last Friday.
 
Robin is always late to class. It is the one thing he is good at. So last Friday he comes in late, and I tell him to just sit and quickly get his books out as I check homework. I have my back turned for two seconds and this little bugger has his book bag on his head. What is truly funny about this is that none of the girls (or myself) even react to this. It is just the way this kid is and none of us are going to encourage him. The rest of the class proceeded as normal – I had to constantly ride Robin about being on the correct page and having his pencil out (and out of his nose). At the end of class, I tell everyone to put their books away and get ready to go home. I turn to get the stickers out, and when I turn back (this little fucker is fast) Robin has his book bag on his head again. And his books in his pants.
 
~Side Note on My Life Expectations~
 
I never expected I would have to use the sentence "Get your books out of your pants" ever in my life.
 
~End Side Note~
 
I turn away (I really should stop that) and when I look back… well, his books are out of his pants and in his bag (which is no longer on his head). But somehow he has managed to put his jacket on backwards and zip it entirely up. And then put on his bag and put his hood over his face. I don’t know how he did it… none of the girls will go anywhere near him and I sure as shit didn’t help him with it. The kid is a wee bit nutbars. He then proceded to bump into everything and everyone in the room. Because he couldn’t see.
 
::400 Biter::
 
I don’t know what else to say about this, except John in my 4:00 class has started biting me. Behind the knees. He isn’t biting hard though, so it tickles me something terrible and makes me laugh (whilst swatting him in the head with a book). And the little bastard makes demands while he is doing it ("give me a sticker and I will stop"). If I can stop laughing long enough, I will definately punish him for it before I send him to Orla’s class.
 
::TKD::
 
When we asked our Master how we did on our green belt test, he just said "Success".  Hooray! Congratulations Brooke and Orla. It felt pretty bad-ass to punch through three boards. I’m guessing that the combined width was about 3/4 inch. Sweet! I’m starting to feel tough.

Finally Motivated to Blog

Hey, I’ve been meaning to blog, but I’ve also been lazy. I have a bit of a head cold that is bringing me down. Oh yah… and I’m a lazy bastard.
 
::FRIDAY::
 
So, my house was broken into on Friday night. This is NOT COOL. I came home from work, changed into my TKD uniform, and headed out. When I returned, my door was open. Not just unlocked… but ajar. Now, I KNOW I locked my door. I ALWAYS lock my door. My door is locked right now with me sitting in my apartment. This makes me unhappy. Very. It took me right back to a couple of years ago when I was busy having the shittiest possible summer that anyone could have possibly experienced and our placed got robbed. That same sinking feeling. This time was a little different though – my landlord wasn’t here to catch one of the bad guys and… this is the strange thing… nothing was missing. Nothing had been moved. Nothing was changed except… my door was open. Again – not cool. Friday night was only the third time since I got here in August that I have broken down and cried (the other two times would be when I was told I was going to need spinal surgery on my fourth day in the country and the other happened I was dying of that horrible fever right before Christmas and the hot water wouldn’t work.) Like I said, it drudged up a lot of bad feelings from that summer and also left me feeling very exposed. The first thing I did was locate my passport; strange that here my passport is my #1 possession. I called around to everyone, trying to get the school director’s number. I finally spoke with Melanie, and felt much better. She is a pretty great boss – she offered that I could sleep at her apartment if I was too scared to stay at home alone. She also promised to look into the situation for me – to see if either Danny (the school’s handyman that always leaves my toilet seat up if he comes to my house – I knew it wasn’t him because the toilet seat was down. I looked.) or the landlord was in. Because I KNOW the door was locked (I’m OCD about that) and there was no sign of forced entry.
 
~Side Note on Korean Police~
 
First, I didn’t bother to call them because nothing was gone. But I do find it interesting that they drive around with their lights on. All the time. If the lights are on, it means that they aren’t busy and can help you. Also, just as proof that this country is completely ass backwards, you dial 119 for emergency. Wierd.
 
~End Side Note~
 
After that, I went out drinking. I’m such a trooper – nothing keeps me down for long. That, and I figured the alcohol would help me sleep without worries (FYI – mission accomplished). It was a great night, Orla, Andy and I met Ellie and Sharon (a couple of the Korean staff) for wine and then we met up with Frances and Laura at the Wa Bar. Much fun, and an early night (if one can consider 5am "early". I do lately.)
 
::SATURDAY::
 
Saturday I spent the day with Amelia and Chelsea at Dongdaemun Market laughing at the craziest shite. There were the most amazing and bizarre shirts… wallets… jackets… etc. We spent all day there and had a lot of fun. Then I braved the subway and bus alone to get back to Suji. By the time I walked into my door it was nearly 10pm. But I had an invite to go to Itaewan so I headed back out the door. Unfortunately, by the time I got changed, waited for Lorraine, and got the bus to go where I wanted it to go (damn you, 5500-2!!) all the cool kids were already on the subway home. Shame, that. But our posse was still out and about so we tried to make a go of it. At Polly’s there was someone so BO-stink-o-matic that we left the bar. GROSS! And the night didn’t get much better after that. At least the cab driver was great.
 
::SUNDAY::
 
Nothing happened Sunday. It was great.
 
::MONDAY::
 
Found out that the landlord wasn’t the one in my apartment. I thought my boss would say that we would just sort of hope that it would never happen again. So  it was a shock of my life when she told me that they had installed a deadbolt on the door. HOORAY!
 
::TUESDAY::
 
Happy Valentine’s Day! Once again, here is something that the Korean’s can’t do normally. It is like this: February 14 is Valentine’s Day, and girls are supposed to give chocolates to the boys they like. On March 14 it is White Day, and boys give chocolates to the girls they like. And on April 14, it is Black Day (no… I am NOT kidding) and if you didn’t give or get any chocolates from a loved one you eat black noodles and pray to God that you won’t have to spend another Valentine’s Day (or White Day) alone.
 
I already have April 14th marked on my calendar.
 
~Side Note on Valentine’s Day~
 
I love teaching sometimes. Like on days when the children all bring Jodi-Teacher chocolate. LOVE!
 
~End Side Note~
 
::WHY I’M MOTIVATED TO BLOG::
 
Today at school one of the kids in the baby kindergarten class got her foot stuck in the chair. Now, don’t get me wrong, I felt bad for the kid. She was pretty scared. But it is pretty fucking funny that six firemen with the jaws of life came to get her out of the chair. Best thing to happen at school ever!
 
::THE REAL REASON I’M MOTIVATED TO BLOG::
 
I should be doing my evaluations. But I hate them, and like we used to all do in uni… I will do ANYTHING to avoid starting the damned things. Clean house? Check. Emails answered? Check. Laundry… check… everything is check check check. Last resort: blog. Although I may put "watch every episode of The Office in one night" on my to-do list to avoid these damned things.
 
::PS – THANKS MOMS::
 
Thanks for the Valentine’s Day card, Moms! I don’t think that it will save me from my fated black noodles in April, but I still felt the love. Hope they don’t freeze you to death in Edmonton. Also, if you actually go to an internet cafe, I will be seriously impressed. Not bad for a chick who didn’t use email regularly until August of 2005. You kick ass!
 
::STILL PROCRASTINATING::
 
Damn, I wish I had more to say. STUPID EVALUATIONS!!! WRITE YOUR OWN DAMNED SELF!!!

Colder than a Witch's… You Know…

I knew before coming to Korea that this wasn’t a tropical country, but I thought the weather would at least be mild. However, we had a cold snap on the weekend and things aren’t improving. We’ve had snow (aurgh!) for the last few days and today it is minus freaking 13 (celcius, folks). What the? And there are no groundhogs here so I don’t know what to expect over the next few weeks.
 
-13. That’s ridiculous.
 
In other news, I’ve learned how to hit someone in the head with my Tae Kwon Sticks. I’ll just have to be sure to carry a set around, just in case I get into a fight.
 
~SIDE NOTE ON THE COLD~
 
One good thing about the cold is that it helps to justify my coffee and Baileys before I go to work. Talk to me closer to our Graduation Festival, I won’t care about justifying them and start drinking enough to get a good buzz on instead of just to get the chill out.
 
~END SIDE NOTE~
 
And… I’m a TV star. Our trip to the DMZ was filmed for the 10 o’clock news on Airiang TV. You could see me for about 0.004 of a second. SCORE!
 
Okay, that’s all my news. I have to go to work now anyway, and it takes longer to get ready because of the numerous layers I have to swaddle myself in. I haven’t worn an undershirt or longjohns since my moms MADE me wear them (so… elementary school about 43 years ago). And now I’m wearing them. In Korea. I can’t believe I had to leave Canada to put on longjohns. That’s stupid.
 
To add to my list of things that I honestly can’t get here: Tim Horton’s coffee. Good Host Iced Tea. Denny’s breakfast. My mom’s pickles. Cinnamon gum. SKOR BARS (WHY GOD… WHY???). Sleeman’s Honey Brown.
 
 

DMZ

On Sunday, I went to the DMZ with Adventure Korea. (You can see the pictures on Flickr, as always). I wasn’t really sure what to expect I would learn or gain from the experience, and I am still not really certain what I have learned or gained. I’m not even sure how I felt about the whole thing.

According to Wikipedia, the DMZ ("demilitarized zone") in Korea is a strip of land approximately 4 km wide and 248 km long that cuts the Korean peninsula roughly in half along the 28th parallel. It is the result of the Korean War, which ended in a cease-fire after 3 million lives were lost and the country torn in two. As of today, the war has still not technically ended. Most people I know will remember that MASH was set during the Korean War, in which America, the USSR, and China were heavily involved. Because there is still a lot of tension between the two Koreas, there are still a lot of troops along the DMZ and both sides are constantly ready for conflict even while discussing possible reconciliation and peace between the North and South.

My trip started with me sleeping in. Orla had to call me, and I felt like such a dope. I was up, dressed, and out the door in under 10 minutes. I was so worried that I was going to make all of us (Joe, Orla, Brooke, Chad, Woody, Aaron and I) late for the damned bus. I would have felt like such a jerk. We did make it to the Express Bus on time though, and settled in for the journey to the North. There were people from all over the world on the bus, as well as a camera crew from Airiang TV. Apparently I will be on TV tomorrow night. Neat!

Our first destination was Imjingak. This is as far as civilians can go without permission to go into North Korea. It is also the site of the Freedom Bridge and the Freedom Bell. The Freedom Bridge is so-named because it was used to exchange some 12,000 prisoners after the war. It is also part of the discontinued Kyongui Line. There is a sign there that says "The train wants to run". All over the gate to the bridge were messages and ribbons that symbolize people’s wishes for reconcilliation and peace between North and South Korea. It was really quite moving, as there were many children’s drawings and ribbons tied to the razor wire that permits people from crossing the bridge. For those of you who don’t know: many Korean families were forcibly torn apart during the war, and it is only recently that they have started bringing families back together. The Freedom Bell was erected in the year 2000, and it is a damned big bell. We were allowed to ring it as a group a few times, and it sounded very beautiful. The weird thing about Imjingak is that there was a carnival there. But everything about Korea has to be a little bit weird, so I’m not overly surprised that you could go on some rides and get some cotton candy while touring a military-controlled area surrounded by razor wire. Whatever.

Back on the bus and on to the next checkpoint. It was at this time that we had to drop off our camera crew because they were not allowed to go any further. I hope they let those guys hang out inside somewhere, because it was very, very cold that day. While we were waiting for the Military Police to check our passports, I noticed a weird thing in the car beside us. It was a regular old car, with a million gadgets inside (I believe I saw a microphone and GPS) which is typical of Korea. What was strange was the air freshener hanging from the rear-view mirror; I guess not many Koreans know what a pot leaf actually looks like.

After a traditional Korean lunch (and hey, thank goodness for the heated floors), we went on a tour of the Third Tunnel. This tunnel is one of four that were constructed by the North to invade the South. It is 2 metres wide, 2 metres tall, 1635 metres long and 435 metres from the MDL (demarcation line within the DMZ). The tunnel was discovered on October 17, 1978 after a tip from a North Korean defector. The tunnel was designed to allow 10,000 armed or 30,000 unarmed soldiers to invade Seoul within one hour. Our tour started in a museum and with an introductory video. Now, maybe it is just me, but I think that a video about a war should at least mention how many casualties there were that war. And there was no mention of Americans being there either, now that I think on it. It was a weird little video that didn’t really tell us anything. The museum itself was okay, but presented the DMZ as a good place (okay, maybe not "presented" but certainly "focused"). There was more mention about how great the DMZ is for wildlife and less about how 3,000,000 people died in the war of which the DMZ is a result. And although the DMZ is now one of the most preserved pieces of temporate land in the world, it is only because no humans have entered it in 50 years. Because of a war. I’m less concerned with how many deer and quail and shit there may be in this strip of land 4 km wide and 250 km long and more concerned with if there will ever be peace (oh, and how many landmines there really are left – there were a lot of little red signs on the barbed wire fences that said "mine") that allows for people to check out all that wildlife and maybe see their families again.  Although we were not allowed to take pictures of the tunnel, we were allowed to go down inside it. We all had to wear hard hats, and once we entered the tunnel, I understood why. Even I had to duck to not hit my head as we walked along the tunnel. And the tunnel abruptly ends in a cement wall that you can see light behind. It is there to stop the South from entering the North and vice versa. I think it was at that moment, standing in that dank, stuffy, hot tunnel in front of a solid cement wall, hearing dripping water and imagining the planning that went into creating that tunnel for invasion into the other half of what is essentially also your country that I understood how divided Korea really was. There’s a solid cement wall more than 73 metres under the earth to stop an army.

After the tunnels, we went to the Dora Observatory. It was a shame that we could not take pictures, because from the Observatory you could see a wide stretch of the DMZ, as well as Taesong-Dong village (South Korea) and Gieong-Dong (North Korea) – the only two villages in the DMZ. We could actually see a bit of North Korea itself. We were given a briefing of the DMZ and what exactly it was we could see in front of us. After the briefing, we were allowed to use binoculars, but we could not take any pictures. Interesting to note that Taesong-Dong village actually has people living in it, but Gieong-Dong is virtually empty with only a handful of caretakers turning the lights on and off and keeping the place clean. Also interesting to note: the South Korean government built a 100 metre flagpole in Taesong-Dong, and so the North Korean government built a 160 metre (tallest in the world) flagpole and put a 600-pound flag on top in Gieong-Dong. That’s 600 pounds when dry, folks. If it rains they have to take the flag down right away because the flagpole cannot support the weight.

After the Dora Observatory, we went to a train station that was virtually empty and if the power was out, it would be the perfect set for a slasher movie. It was eerie how empty it was. However, it was warm, I could buy popcorn, and I got two stamps in my passport there. Like I said, if it ain’t weird, it ain’t Korean. So yes, I was standing around in an empty train station eating popcorn and contemplating the last front of the Cold War. One day that train line is supposed to run through South and North Korea and through to Europe.

After the train station, we had to head back to Imjingak to let them know we were finished. We also picked our TV crew back up. After an uneventful bus ride back, Joe, Orla, Brendan and I had some beer and headed home.

So after seeing all this, what have I gained? I’m still not sure. I thought I would gain a better understanding of what the war may have been like, and what it may be like to be part of a country that had families torn apart by that war. But you know, I still have no idea. I can’t begin to imagine what they went through: what they are still going through. It is hard to understand why they don’t just agree to get along, tear down the walls, and rebuild their nation together. I know that part of it is because one side is communist and the other isn’t, but it is so much more than that. There are people here my mom’s age that remember that war… that haven’t seen or spoken with their families in 50 years because of the conflict. And each side is being told that their side is better… that the other side lies… that it is all the other guy’s fault. And I think that is something that is very, very difficult to overcome. So in the end, I guess all I can say is that I’m thinking about it more. I am thinking more about how lucky I have been to live in a country that has never seen war on its native soil. I am thinking that I should have worn long johns under my pants; it was pretty freaking cold.  I am thinking more about what I am told and what I can believe. I am thinking about the power of selectfully editing a version of history to tell the people… the power and the danger.