Monday, December 8, 2008

Life in general

I don't know why but whenever my boss calls me in to talk to her, I'm terrified. I get this awful feeling in the pit of my stomach that I'm in big trouble, I did something wrong, a parent called and complained, I'm getting fired and so on ad nauseum. The thing is, my boss has never been anything but nice to me and this time, like every other time it was only about clearing up a detail about one of the bills I had given them. I do the easy thing, considering all of my bills are in Korean: I hand them to my supervisor who gives them to my boss. She pays for it and then deducts it from my paycheck. Considering it takes a Korean 5 minutes to do an online bill pay and me 30 minutes at the bank--not to mention I have to get someone to write me a note saying what I want to do and can only go on Mondays since the bank closes at 4--it's the best possible solution. I like my boss. You don't have to spend long in an expat bar to hear horror stories of first hand experiences with getting screwed over or worse--suddenly evicted (apartments are provided through the job) and homeless in a foreign country. And because you aren't working, illegal too. So I guess I always expect the worse of her except that none of the warning signs are there. For one thing the other 2 foreigners both signed on for another year (2 years in the same school is rare since conditions are rarely ideal in Hagwons). Mainly though, she's just been nice to me since I got here. My first night in Korea I was picked up at the airport, taken out to dinner, helped into my apartment and then she took me to a store to buy an alarm clock and some instant coffee--two things essential for my first morning in Korea. Since I've been here she's periodically taken the teachers out to dinner or if she's too busy (she is going to night school for her masters in education and something related and is raising 4 kids), gives someone the money so we can go get some dinner, drinks and bond or whatever. A few weeks ago she invited us into her home and cooked us a traditional Korean meal. Needless to say, she is an ideal boss in my situation. So why on earth am I so scared when I hear '______ wants to talk to you' ? I guess I just feel insecure about my teaching abilities.

Anyways, that was most of my day, and I felt giddy with relief when I realized it was a trivial thing we were discussing and not You Are Doomed for X reason(s).

You are wondering about this weekend and my wonderful trip to Everland, aren't you? It didn't happen. A bunch of people bailed last minute and then it ended up being one of the most freakishly cold weekends (even for the dead of winter in Korea) of the year. Not a great weekend to be outdoors. I'm kind of glad it was canceled because Friday night I didn't feel good and stayed in reading and binging on the last of the cookies from my American care package and eating some chocolate though I haven't finished that yet. I Am Rationing. I swear. Also, I found more milk free chocolate in Seoul--5,000won for a bar but it is dark chocolate with ESPRESSO! My two favorite things in one: COFFEE AND CHOCOLATE! It seems that to get milk free chocolate I will have to travel at least an hour into the heart of Seoul and high end candy shops to get my chocolate (which are of course no where near my favorite bookstore, go figure). Will I do it every month to replenish my stock--absolutely. In any case I have to go at least that often to replenish my books. I like my book hoarding to overlap so I am never (God forbid) without a couple of books to be in the middle of. At the moment I am reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, this year's Pulitzer Prize winner. I started it on Sunday and I'm on page 146. If you have not considered reading it, run to your nearest library and put your name on the waiting list because it is AMAZING. I stole my copy from a friend. And by stole I mean borrowed. Really, I understand the sanctity of books and I swear I will return it, even if the person doesn't ask for it back. Probably.

However, I would like to own it except that then I'd have to pay to ship it back to New York eventually so it would be cheaper just to buy myself a copy in NY. The book is so good that I'm not even in the middle of another book at the same time, not even the newspaper because every spare moment during my day today (when I wasn't doing lesson plans and what have you) I was reading this book.

That was a rather long nerdy tangent. It matches my weekend though which was the epitome of nerdome. Saturday I woke up at 8, looked at the clock, laughed and when back to sleep. Around noon I woke up again and rolled over, grabbed my glasses from besides my bed, pulled my book under the covers and read until I pulled myself out of bed around 3. I really love days like that. Sometimes, you just need to laze about and read. To be perfectly honest, I might not have gotten out of bed for another couple of hours except that I got invited out to sushi and the bar for the evening and did need to do vital things like shower, clean my apartment and do laundry. I was late meeting my friends because when I was almost ready to go, some guy was pounding on my neighbor's door, yelling and continuing to pound and yell for a good half an hour. I made sure my door was locked and just prayed he would go away. What could I do? In the states I might have called the landlord or the police but here I'd need to speak Korean to do that. It freaked me out but I just cleaned my apartment some more (alright, I organized my books, it calms me) and waited until it was quiet for awhile. I slowly opened my door, checked to make sure the hallway was empty and proceeded out of my building with my keys in between each finger and looked as fierce as possible. No one was there and I live on a pretty nice street that is always busy. If the pounding had gone on longer or it seemed that there was domestic violence going on I guess I could have called my supervisor and asked her to call someone for me but I really don't want to bug her on a Saturday unless it's an emergency.

Sushi was forgettable but I had a blast playing darts. For anyone who has never played with me, I suck at darts. I can hit the board every time (which is a lot more than some people) but I have no accuracy or aim whatsoever. I played with people on my relative skill level so I didn't feel completely moronic and even managed to win one game!

Sunday was more laziness. I read a little Bronte (this was before I got my hands on the Diaz book) and then headed into Itaewon for a late lunch. It was supposed to be with a group of people but most of them had this last minute thing to go to because another teacher who I didn't know was leaving the next day or something. So the Arendtian and I just looked at each other and were like, screw it, I still want non Korean food, lets go. We had real pub food! Gecko's is apparently pretty famous and serve a bizarre mix of Brit style pub food and Korean-British fusion. Thankfully the menu is mainly pub food and less of the fusion. Fish and chips are the most amazing things ever sometimes. I might love Korean food but I've spent all my life eating Western food and a couple times a month I just give in. Why not? It's available, tasty and not horribly expensive. And because it was 3 in the afternoon, in a packed pub with people enjoying Western style drinks we each had a cocktail too. I had a strawberry daiquiri and the Arendtian had a bloody mary, two drinks that just don't exist down in Anyang.

First, before you ask, THE CIGARETTES AREN'T MINE! Second, why did I take pictures of the condiments? Because do you have any idea how rare it is to see a salt and pepper shaker on the table in Korea??? Let alone a basket filled with all of your favorite American condiments. The Arendtian and I both ogled/worshiped that basket just a little bit. The cocktails look big but they were actually pretty weak. Usually I have to tell the bartenders to make my drinks weaker (which they get very confused about), this is the first time in Korea I'd had a weak drink, unless you count wine or beer, which I don't. In any case, it made me feel better about having a cocktail at 3pm on a Saturday.

That was my first time in Seoul without buying a book, not even a single used paperback. I have 3 French books, 1.5 Bronte novels and this Diaz book to read before I'm allowed to consider buying a new one. And what I mean buy that is I will read one French book, the Diaz book and some more of the Bronte before I rush back to the bookstore. Did I mention I read 2 books between Friday and Saturday? Being nerdy is actually bad for my budget. I think I spend less on a night out with my friends then I do when I stay in, if you consider how quickly I read. On the other hand, I almost never feel guilty spending money on books, especially if I find good deals on used books and I almost always feel at least a little guilty spending money going out. Maybe it's because growing up, going to the library at least once a week was never a privledge so much as a ritual. Sure I had to finish helping clear the table or whatever chore needed to be done but my parents usually wanted to go too. Even at the kids library there were newspapers and magazines for them to peruse while the librarians handed over the latest stack of things they thought I might love before I hit the shelves on my own. However, going out to eat or to an event was a special occasion that required only the best behavior and was a privledge. Bad behavior sent you quickly to the car while everyone else had fun. To be fair, I don't think my parents ever had to warn me about that with the library though the same thing would have happened. Maybe they did and I just don't remember? I just feel like getting sent to the car while they got to get books would have traumatized me enough to stick in my memory.

I think the word I need is not nerd but bibliophile.

This has been a rather long post on my on going obsession with food and books when all I really meant to do was write about my weekend. Rewriting the entire thing is not going to happen when I have such a good book calling to me so this will have to do. Next time there may even be an entry that doesn't mention a book!

...I think this is as much a fantasy as the idea that I will continue to ration my chocolate.


Josh said...

OMG, chocolate with coffee in it!!! Praise be to the book gods! Too bad your weekend getaway fell through..... sounds like you made up for it with sheer nerdiness though ;-p


Jessica said...

Yay nerdiness! I miss reading for fun. Finals are killing me right now...How are your feet doing? Feeling better? I always enjoy reading your updates.

Alex said...

Persevere! Finals are almost over! My ankles/feet are so so. I have good days and bad but the bad are getting better and I haven't had a nausea inducing pain day in awhile so that's good. Last week I had FOUR good days in a row. Followed by 3 crappy ones but we shall ignore that! Overall, I'm doing better but ligament injuries just take a while to heal. If I'm very, very good to myself I might be climbing by New Years. I'll have to start light and what not but it would be amazing to climb again, even if I only got to climb for an hour. But still I could be social and talk climber and do crunchies, pull ups (only on the finger board), and push-ups for another hour AND TALK CLIMBER.

...I'm done ranting. I have no one to talk climber with now that I'm not climbing with the Koreans and it makes me miserable for some good ol rock talk.

Nancy K said...

Yes, you are a bibliophile; much better word. Alex, I as your mother never remember sending you to the car or removing you for bad behavior. Well, maybe when you were a teenager, but definitely not when you were younger. Now, your brother is another story.

Alex said...

Yes, but the very real, serious threat was there, evidenced by watching said older brother banished. I decided that it was a fate worse than anything imaginable! To be taken away from fun!

Chris said...

Whenever I spend an (x) amount of time in another country, sure I like the food, and I'm sure it was the same for you, but eating American (pronounced amrrricun) food is just what I need.

lazy days rock.

I have that same feeling about bosses as I do with Joe Lauinger. usually its just to chat, but I still feel this "hooooooh boy im in trouble" feeling. *shrug* authority I guess.

Josh said...

No idea what you are talking about mom..... I was an angel, especially as a teenager ;-)

Alex said...

Josh, you were an angel like I was a Republican. That is to say, not at all. That said, you were a good brother to me and I tend to remember the good more than the bad. :-p.

Josh said...

HAHAHAHA!!!!! I'm glad I at least managed to be a good brother to you smidget!

Anonymous said...

Alex for ligament treatment, I recommend you accupuncture.