Sunday, March 1, 2009


It has been pointed out to me that I tend to write more when I'm happy, at least in my blog. Logically, it follows that I would post less this week. I really, really detest being sick. I'm not that sick, not sick enough to keep me in bed or home from work, but just a nice low level of misery brought on by the common cold. Nothing terrible, I've mainly indulged myself by finishing 2 books (Slaughterhouse 5, I think I already talked about that) and The Confederation of Dunces and eating lots of lollipops. I think that teaching 6 year old kids has led me to be overly indulgent with my sweet tooth. Normally, I'm the epitome of self-restraint and eating in moderation but lately that's gone a bit out of the window. After being rather ill after consuming three donuts this afternoon I have decided to turn a new leaf. No more donuts! In self defense, it was completely in the name of scientific research that the donut gluttony was pursued. I wanted to see, scientifically of course, which of the chocolate varieties was truly the most chocolaty. The cacao honey dipped won. Has a really fancy name here but in the States I'm pretty sure they just call it a glazed chocolate donut. All I have to say is thank god that the subway bathrooms are pretty clean and well stocked with soap and toilet paper. Which ironically, is more than you can say for most restaurants here. I love, love love the building codes in the United States of America that require bathrooms for restaurants and soap. Soap is a GREAT requirement.

I had my first panic attack in Korea on Friday. It is such a long convoluted story but here is the short(er) version:
I had a stressful day at work and realized that because of the changed teaching schedule, not only did I not know what I was teaching for the first day, the book hadn't arrived yet and I had zero lesson plans for the new book. This, among many other things led to a wonderful knot of constant stress and anxiety in my chest. Just because it isn't my fault that I don't have the book and lesson plans doesn't mean it won't stress me out. Good lesson plans make kids love you. Boring kids makes them hate you. Well, not hate you, but certainly not enjoy their classes. Anyways, I was late leaving and realized I'd be late meeting people for dinner if I didn't grab a cab. My bilingual coworker thoughtfully offered to call a cab for me instead of trying to flag one down on the main road. When I reached my destination the meter said that I owed 6,600 won (a bit under 5 dollars). I handed the driver 7,000won and motioned to keep the change (something rare and unheard of in Korea, the land of no tips). The driver starts talking at me in rapid fire Korean. I repeat a few times in Korean that 'I'm sorry, I don't understand, I don't speak Korean.' He gestured once to the meter. I double checked, yes I had given him more than the fare required. He continued to talk at me, talking faster and more angrily. I repeated again that I didn't understand and finally, frustrated (and running even later) I got out of the cab and started walking down the street. The man got out of the cab and chased me down the road and started yelling at me. He got in my face and was yelling and yelling and of course, I didn't understand. Every time I tried to turn to walk away he would just get in my face and became increasingly menacing. Passer-byers started to stare but no one stepped in to help translate, or no one could. I started yelling back, alternating between "I DON'T UNDERSTAND. I DON'T SPEAK KOREAN" (in Korean) and "LEAVE ME ALONE" (in English). Finally, I get out my cell phone to call my coworker to see if he can translate for me and this seems to make the cab driver even angrier and more menacing and meanwhile my blessed bilingual coworker is not answering his phone. I finally shout "f*ck you" several times, give him the finger and run away. He can't leave his cab running with the keys in the ignition and leaves off though he waved his fist angrily at me. I'm not proud of how I shouted at him but I was scared, stressed and frustrated beyond belief. Luckily I was meeting my friends at one of their apartments nearby and I ran to the building and descended into hysteria that took a good 20 minutes to calm down from. I have wonderful friends who take care of me but it was absolutely awful. All of the stress from the day exploded into this event and made it impossible to digest, to shrug off and move on from. My coworker called me back about 10 minutes after the event and I managed to explain what had happened in between sobs. He called the company for me and got the scoop. Here is what happened:
When you call a cab to pick you up, instead of hailing one on the street, it costs 1,000won more. Not a big deal. I had had him call cabs for me before (when my ankle was hurt and I couldn't walk to the bus stop) but they had always just added it onto the meter. I assumed it was a rush hour surcharge or something because I usually only take cabs late at night or in bad weather but not to and from work. This cab driver hadn't added it to the meter, he was telling me verbally that I needed to give him 400 more won. My coworker had him stop by our school (he was still there working on various things) to get his side of the story and give him the 400 won. The driver ranted and raved and said he explained it to me. My coworker calmly replied, 'Okay, I see your side of the story but how did you explain it to her? You knew she didn't speak Korean.' Apparently, the driver only stared at him and then that settled it. He realized he had done nothing that I could have possibly understood. He could have written the numbers down for me or used his fingers to indicate how much more I owed and I would have paid it, annoyed, but not bothered for an explanation I wouldn't be able to understand. He could have mimed that I should call someone to translate (which most cabbies do when they don't understand the directions you give them). Nope, my driver chose to scream at me in rapid fire Korean. I might not have reacted well but he scared the crap out of me.

It was nice to go out for fried chicken and beer after that debacle, goodness knows I needed it.

Saturday I went into work for new parent orientation (in 3 hours I had to wave at two different sets of parents and say "Hi, my name is Alex. I'm from NY. I'm the yellow class teacher." It wasn't exactly taxing, even if it was annoying to work on Saturday). After that I unsuccessfully went sneaker shopping in Anyang. I'll have to go into Seoul but it's not a desperate situation so I'll wait until I need more than sneakers to make a big to do out of it. I was going to go to Psycho Saturday night but my cough had gotten worse from the congestion and sitting in a smoky bar didn't seem like the best thing to do. I changed my mind about going out about 20 times and then read until 1 in the morning. It was a lovely, if rather boring way to spend the evening.

Sunday hasn't been much more exciting though it certainly brought me lots of yummy things (aside from the awful scientific experiment). I picked up my order of hammentashen and MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM. Mine were still in the oven when I arrived and fresh out of the oven cookies are AMAZING. I'm kind of annoyed with myself for ordering so many chocolate and not more apricot but that is what happens when you order cookies while pmsing. Still yummy though. I hate to admit it but the ones we get from the bakery in Brooklyn (or is it Queens?...somewhere ridiculously Jewish in NY) are even better. However, they are cookies in Korea that DON"T MAKE ME SICK. I meant to order my parve chocolate birthday cake while I was there but I realized since my birthday falls on a Saturday (and I get out of work too late on Friday to pick it up) I'd have to get it on Thursday annnnnnnnnnnd yeah. I actually just got off of the phone with my mother who reminded me that cakes freeze rather well and I should just toss it in the freezer and defrost it on Saturday. This is a definite possibility. I will send a questioning email on Monday. It is a touch depressing to have to order/buy/prep your own birthday cake but this is what happens when you have food allergies. On a more cheery note, I bought lots of books! Well, three books but it might actually last me for more than a week. I got The Sun Also Rises by Hemingway, The Breakfast of Champions by Vonnegut, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and other jazz age stories by Fitzgerald. Even better is that I got them all used! I also found a couple of decent kids books used but I found that most of the books on the used shelf were too advanced for my 6 year olds. I started the Vonnegut book already but the problem is that it's a fast read and not really economical to buy a book that only takes me 3 or 4 hours to read. However, with my new donut protest it will all even out. In fact, I'm off to read some Vonnegut...

Wish me luck with the new classes. I'm not going to lie, I'm a bit (okay, a lot) nervous about the first day of a new semester. I shall endeavor to write more this week but as I am still congested and feeling rather self indulgent, I make no promises.


Josh said...

#1: i love you crazy-wonderful awesomeness!!!!!

#2: you write the best blog entries..... i felt like i was there watching you flip off the scary cab driver.... you are awesome!!!!

Alex said...

I'm glad you love reading about my misadventures because then there is some benefit to having them.

PS I am so completely jealous of you getting to go to FLORIDA. I want warm weather. I want the beach. I want a family member to eat dinner with. *grumbles*.

Nancy K said...

You are pretty awesome kiddo. I was at the dentist this afternoon and Dr. D was impressed by your adventurous spirit. I feel like I am right there with you too.

Alex said...

Awww thanks Mom and Dr. D!

Josh said...

i agree with mom.... you ARE awesome!!! (although i already knew this)

Anonymous said...

lol that was funny, cab driver yelling about getting his money and he got flicked off xD