Monday, May 30, 2011

gift giving

I'm not much for giving gifts. I hate the fact that on birthdays and Christmases we're expected to give presents to people. There are some people for whom I can ALWAYS find a great gift. There are others (including people I know really, really well) for whom I can rarely find decent, much less great, gifts. If I come across something that I *know* is a good present for someone I know, I will often buy it (even if it's January, and their birthday is close to Christmas). I do like giving people good, thoughtful gifts - mainly because it happens so rarely.

I live in the same neighborhood in Korea where I lived several years ago. I was thrilled when I returned to discover that several of my favorite business owners from "my street" were still around - and that they remembered me. Two of my favorite people on my street are the owners of a small accessories shop where I've purchased way too many cute Korean socks and shiny hairpins. The woman (who is usually the one working in the store) always wants to talk to me, even though I only understand a fraction of what she's saying, while her husband is more reticent - just smiling and saying hello when he sees me.

When I first stopped in at the accessories store after returning to Korea back in August, the woman told me that her son is now studying at a university in San Diego. At that point, I decided that I wanted to give them a photo I took of the San Diego skyline back when I used to live there. I took the photo in question out of my collection of photos that I use as props in class, but being shy and not really knowing them very well, it sat on the table in my living room for months.

A couple of weeks ago, as I was walking to work in the pouring rain on the opposite side of the street from their store, I saw that the owners of the accessory store had taken all of their goods off the shelves, and were boxing up their inventory. The weather was terrible - if it had been decent, I would have gone over to talk to them. As it was, I didn't, and I regretted not doing so all day. Then, that evening, as I was walking home I was thrilled to discover that they had moved into a recently vacated (and larger!) storefront on the same block. I went in and congratulated them on the new store, and decided to give them the photo as soon as possible. I found a cheap picture frame which matched the photo quite well. I made up my mind to buy it and deliver my present.

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I delivered my present on Saturday, before I set out on my walk. The woman was very excited to receive the picture - especially when I was able (with my weak Korean) to explain that it was a present, I wasn't just showing it to her. The woman (I feel like such an ass that I don't know her name) then asked me if green was my favorite color. (I was wearing a lot of green, so that was a good guess - and a correct one.) She then gave me a pair of green Hello Kitty socks (of the sort I often buy from her).

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This evening as I was walking home, the husband came out of the store to thank me for the photograph and to tell me that it was beautiful. :-) I like giving gifts when I can think of a good one.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

a "sleuth" of rules

CNN GO has published the absolute lamest article possible, written by Kyle Burton and entitled 12 rules for expat life in Korea. And some editor allowed it to go online with the phrase "a sleuth of international restaurants." One assumes the author meant 'a slew of international restaurants' and not Holmes or Poirot wandering about Itaeweon sampling the cuisine.

Some of the rules are actually okay, but most of them are just abysmal. Here they are, with my commentary.

1. Learn to drink like a fish - I've been here for the past ten months, and I can count the number of times I've gotten drunk on one hand. Granted this is my fourth trip to Korea, and I drank a lot more here in the past, but I'm a lot older now and don't really feel like wasting my money on booze. Additionally, I've had very few occasions over my four trips to get drunk with Korean coworkers, and I've never felt like I was obligated to drink with them.

2. Try not to get 'celebrified' - What? Yes, people will stare at you more than they would back home because you'll stand out, but as there are 30,000+ other foreigners here teaching English alone, plus a comparable number of US troops, and goodness knows how many other non-Koreans here on business... You're not going to become famous simply for being foriegn. One wonders why Burton felt to include this in his list; surely this says something about his personality...

3. Bring your own clothing - This is actually one of the useful rules on the list. It doesn't actually apply to me - in US sizes I wear a size 3 in clothing, and a size 6 in shoes, so I have no trouble finding clothing in my size. However, Koreans are, in general, smaller than the average Westerner. If you wear large-sized clothing or have big feet, bring your own clothes. I'd also recommend bringing a lot of deodorant. Koreans don't use it (they don't need to), and as such it isn't sold outside of US military bases and a smattering of places in Seoul.

4. Learn to dance K-pop - WTF? No. Just no.

5. Put the gay away - Korea has become a lot more tolerant of homosexuality over the course of the ten years since my first trip here. Back then, I had Koreans tell me that gay people weren't real, just something you see on tv. By 2007 there were gay nightclubs in Daegu, although they were more of a novelty than actual clubs for gays. Nowadays, people are still prejudiced against homosexuals, but I think in general things have gotten a lot better. I wouldn't recommend showing up for your first day of work and announcing your sexual preference, but is that really something you bring up at work anyway?

6. Buy good face cream - Why is this on the list of important things?

7. Embrace your inner diva - This one is about the popularity of singing rooms or 노래방 (norae-bang... sadly misspelled nore-bang in the article). I've only gone to a 노래방 once in all four trips (I'm not a karaoke kind of girl), but they are hugely popular here.

8. Don't tip - It's true - Koreans don't tip, and they will think you're weird or that you've accidentally overpaid if you try.

9. Don't have a coffee addiction - Utter nonsense! Not only is Starbucks super popular here (and while I think Starbucks is overpriced, the prices are the same as in the US), as is Dunkin Donuts, and a variety of reasonably priced Korean coffee chains. I drink a lot of coffee here, and wouldn't make it through the day without it. What was this guy thinking??

10. Take pictures of your food - Okay, I do this all the time, no matter what country I'm in, but no way would I put it in my top list of rules for expats!

11. Adjust your diet - Well, duh. If you move to another country of course you're going to have to adjust your diet. If you need someone to point this out to you, you probably shouldn't travel overseas. [However, you can buy western food here. I cook myself spaghetti just about every night, as I'm lazy and a terrible cook.]

12. Strike an Asian pose - The article suggests doing this nonsense in photos. I can't imagine why.

My tip for expats? Use common sense. Don't do anything in Korea (or any other country for that matter) that you wouldn't do in your home country. Being overseas doesn't license you to behave like a jackass.

a little bummed

I had been invited to spend the weekend in Busan with some friends... but after checking the forecast (overcast and dreary on Saturday, heavy thunderstorms on Sunday), I opted to stay in Daegu. And then it turned out that weather.com had been rather wrong. Saturday started out overcast and dreary, but became fairly decent as the day progressed. And Sunday was simply beautiful. Facebook messages from my friends in Busan tell me that the weather there is gorgeous and that they're having a great time. Sigh.

Meanwhile, I spent my Sunday sweeping, mopping, washing dishes, and doing several loads of laundry. Saturday was at least slightly more eventful. Slightly. I woke up early - still considering popping down to Busan - and took a peep outside. It was cloudy and overcast just as predicted; I crawled back into bed and slept 'til early afternoon. By that point it was not so much cloudy as hazy, and the sun was making somewhat of an attempt to bust through the haze. I decided to take a walk to one of my favorite restaurants. Haze might affect my photos, but it doesn't affect my ability to eat.

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This is zhiazhiangmyun, a Korean Chinese dish. (It's 'Korean Chinese' in the same way that General Tso's Chicken is 'American Chinese.') Zhiazhiangmyun never photographs well. The sauce is black bean based, containing onions and meat - and if you have it at a proper Korean Chinese restaurant, the noodles are hand-made. (At my restaurant of choice, one can watch the cooks making the noodles.) I go to this place fairly often, and the staff know as soon as I walk in what it is that I'm there to eat.

After leaving the restaurant, I thought the haze looked as though it had lifted somewhat, and I decided to take a walk along the Gemho River. The Chinese restaurant is located next to the Banyawol Subway Station. I live a short walk from the next station on the line, Singi. I decided to walk the distance between Banyawol and Singi along the Geumhogang (Geumho River), which - out in East Daegu, at any rate - is located just to the south of the road the subway line follows.

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It wasn't a bad walk, although my pictures would've been better had they had blue sky in the background instead of grey haze. At least there were plenty of wildflowers for me to photograph.

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Gah! Haze!

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Friday, May 27, 2011

Prostitution in Korea and in the US

Let me start by saying that prostitution is illegal in South Korea. That being said, it flourishes more or less out in the open, or at least thinly veiled. There are those who claim that many - or even most - Korean men regular visit prostitutes [see here, and be sure to read through the comments section, too], while there are plenty of Koreans who dispute that claim.

Recently an American man currently living and working here in Korea told me that he visits prostitutes, and that he does so regularly. This person (and let's call him 'John') is a decently attractive, educated, intelligent young man, who holds a good job and who speaks Korean quite well. In theory, he should have no trouble finding a girlfriend (and he has had girlfriends in the past)... and yet come to find out, he has been going down to the local red-light district at least once a week for sex for months now.

When I first learned of John's habit, I was fascinated. Disgusted, but fascinated. I pumped him for information. One of the details he shared was the fact that he has a favorite prostitute. He even said something along the lines of “I could see myself becoming addicted to her.” Yet when I asked, “What’s her name?” he replied with obvious scorn, “I don’t know her name, she’s a hooker!” That is the exact moment in time when I lost all respect I ever held for John, and when disgust trumped fascination. He went on to joke that she had moved to this city from another one in Korea 'for work' - laughing that surely her line of work was available in her hometown. Ugh.

Women who become prostitutes don't do it because they love sex. They don't do it because they want "easy" money. They do it because they are desperate. They do it because they have no other options. More often than not, they are coerced or forced into the business. Many do it to feed drug addictions - addictions fostered in many cases by pimps in order to make them more pliable. No little girl says she wants to be a prostitute when she grows up.

I have posted articles about prostitution - especially articles concerning forced prostitution and human trafficking - on my website, blogs, and facebook for years... although I have to admit that I've been doing so somewhat more frequently since learning of John's habit. He is my facebook friend, and part of me hopes that one day *something* I post will resonate within him.

I recently read (and then posted on facebook) an incredibly disturbing article on human trafficking and forced prostitution of American women and girls within US borders. This is something that Americans like to believe happens only to poor women from third world countries - yet it happens all across the United States.
CLICK HERE to read the article. I thought the facebook comments (sadly, none from 'John') were worth posting, too:

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Just minutes after reading this article, I opened up itunes and updated my podcasts... and found that I had downloaded an episode of NPR's Talk of the Nation entitled John School Teaches About Ills Of Sex Solicitation [click here to listen]. I admit that I was expecting the John School to be a lengthy process, during which johns would be forced to read articles such as this over and over, to confront the heinousness of their acts, and to view prostitutes as real people. I was incredibly disappointed to discover that instead, John School seems more like a get-out-of-jail-free pass. Not only is it a mere eight hours long, but there is scant focus on seeing the women as people. While the johns do meet with a former prostitute (one currently involved in the fantastic, albeit small, recovery program at Magdalene/Thistle Farms), the rest of this "school" involves explaining things like the risks of STD transmission, the damage that being arrested can do to your future, and how to get one's record expunged. Yeah. Attending John School gets one's record expunged. Granted, John School is only an option for those arrested for solicitation for the the first time (I will not call them 'first time offenders' because I doubt that they were caught the first time they went looking to buy sex), but it still bugs me that they get off basically scot free.
I posted this link to facebook, and these were the comments. I hope John saw them:

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

back to normal!

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Charlie's back to carrying her toy around the apartment and demanding that I play with her - she's definitely feeling better!

Monday, May 23, 2011

that big nose you've got is sexy

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This, ladies and gentlemen, is my nose. I'm going to have to admit that it's not my favorite feature. It's not a 'cute' or 'pert' little nose by any means, and it's verging on Roman. And that ridiculous bump at the top? Well, luckily my glasses sit atop that and disguise it from public view. This is the sort of nose that fashion and beauty obsessed women in the US might consider altering via plastic surgery... but not so here in Korea.

My students are incredibly impressed by my 'high nose' and often compliment me on it. ("Oh teacher! Your nose is so high! So beautiful!") No, they're not being sarcastic - a high nose is considered a mark of beauty in Korea. I've had several students ask me in all seriousness if I've had plastic surgery to get my nose this high. Plastic surgery? To give myself a big nose? Really? Yes. This is a hugely common surgery in South Korea.

Plastic surgery is very common in this country, and it's fairly affordable - much more so than in the US. I once heard the tale of an American here teaching English who availed herself of the affordable plastic surgery and had all sorts of work done... except a nose job. She, like many a large-nosed American female, wanted a cute, pert, little nose. She was told they didn't know how to do that - they made noses bigger, not smaller.

Having what many Western women consider to be a "big nose" is not the only Western feature that is considered a beauty standard here in Korea. Two other biggies of beauty are big eyes and white skin.

Most Asians (and, as such, most Koreans) do not have the double-folded eyelids that nearly all Westerners are born with. This gives them almond-shaped eyes - which many Westerners view as exotic. Oh, how the grass is always greener. Here in Korea (and across Asia, apparently) having plastic surgery to create an artificial double eyelid and make the eyes bigger is incredibly popular. It is a common high-school graduation gift from parents to their children. Here in Korea, 'beautiful people' are considered more likely to succeed - parents give their kids this gift, hoping that it will give them the extra edge they need to be successful in this hyper-competitive society. (Here's a link to before and after pics, so you'll see what I'm talking about.) Middle and high school students (and those without the funds for plastic surgery) often resort to various glue products to give the double eyelid effect. I have one student who glues some sort of cosmetic strip along her eyelid to give the effect of a double eyelid.

White skin is also considered beautiful. I'd say the two most common advertisements on television are for fast-cash loans and skin bleach products. When buying makeup, lotion, or sunscreen in Korea, already light-skinned folk such as myself must be careful to make sure said products don't include a bleaching agent, as many, many do.

One thing I love about Korea is the fact that I can walk down the street and be stopped by strangers - both men and women - who want to tell me that I'm beautiful. I know what they mean is I'm thin, have a big nose, white skin, and double eyelids... but it's always a boost to the ego nonetheless! That being said, one aspect of Korea that I've never been able to wrap my head around (despite four lengthy trips to this country) is the fact that on the one hand Koreans are incredibly proud of the Korean Race, and of their culture and heritage... and yet the standard of beauty is, essentially, a white woman. (Not to mention the 30,000+ native English speakers that are imported every year to teach English to Korean school kids, but that's a topic for another day.)

A young American documentary filmmaker named Kelley Katzenmeyer is making a documentary on the lives of Korean high school students. She had initially intended to make it a documentary on the academic pressures placed on Korean students (again, a topic for another day) - but after living in Korea and attending a Korean high school, she has decided to change the focus of her documentary to include the beauty-pressures placed on Korean girls. Check it out! She's on kickstarter, hoping to get funded. I'd love to see this documentary made, and I kicked in $25. You should, too.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Daegu Arboretum

I decided to go to the Daegu Arboretum today. I'd never been to the arboretum before, despite four lengthy trips to Daegu over the years. It's located a long way from my part of the city - a 45 minute subway ride, followed by a twenty minute walk. (M - oddly enough, it's one subway stop from where we lived back in 2001. I wish we'd known about it back then.) I'm not sure when the arboretum opened, but apparently it's a former landfill that closed in 1990, and which has since been reclaimed and turned into an incredibly large park.

The arboretum is a fantastic place to spend an afternoon. There are numerous gardens, plenty of walking paths and hiking trails, lots to photograph, and tons of fantastic picnic spots (with tons of families picnicking). Also, there is no entrance fee. If it were closer to my home, I'd probably go there every weekend.

Getting there isn't difficult. Take the subway (line 1) all the way out to Daegok. Exit through either exit two or three. Take the road that runs between the two exits. Turn left at the first large intersection. Follow that road alongside the wooded hill. It will then make a 90 degree turn to the left - keep going. At the first large intersection, turn right. At that point, you'll see signs for the Daegu Arboretum (labeled in both English and Korean - 수목원).

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Lots of children and families were out playing, strolling, relaxing, and having a good time.

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I've seen these purple flowers here and there around Daegu, but never in such abundance as I saw at the arboretum.

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Playing with focal lengths.

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Korea isn't much of a place for natural wildlife. Other than magpies, pigeons, and the occasional chipmunk, one rarely sees anything wild (other than feral cats). This was my first sighting of a Korean squirrel.

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Thistles!

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Honeysuckle!

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Desert plant hothouse

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Flowering cactus

Saturday, May 21, 2011

what every international cat lady needs:

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A cat and a guide book :-)

painting the roses red

Well, unlike Alice, I don't have to bust out any red paint: these days in Daegu, red roses are everywhere. Last month the city was brimming with cherry blossoms, but they've all dropped, leaving the cherry trees looking just like any other green, leafy tree. Meanwhile, red roses are the current show stoppers, growing over walls and up fences everywhere I walk. Here are a couple of photos.

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post-spay

I've been dealing with rescued felines for years - most of my life, actually - and as I firmly believe that all pets should be spayed/neutered, Charlie is hardly the first cat I've had spayed. While no surgery is without risk, I've always had complete confidence in my vets in the US, and have never worried about sending them off to be fixed. However, while living in Central Asia, I had a cat almost die from shock following her surgery. Additionally, I'd heard a couple of horror stories about people here in Korea who had their pets die under the knife. (Cats aren't commonly kept as pets here, and spaying/neutering of pets isn't all that common.) I like my Korean vet a lot, but nonetheless, I was pretty worried about Charlie.

I'm happy to say that her recovery is going well. Initially, her ordeal set her back on the feral meter a good bit. (For those of you who don't know Charlie's history, I found her as a feral kitten, and after dragging her kicking, screaming, and biting into my house, she then hid from me for a good two months before slowly becoming a lovable, snuggly cat.) After bringing her home from surgery, I had to go to work. I spent the entire day fretting about her... When I came home, she was hiding under the bed, and she hissed and spat at me at first when I tried to coax her out, something which she hadn't done since her days as a feral kitten. However, as I wrote on Tuesday, she did slink out and sit at my feet.

Tuesday and Wednesday she was obviously still in pain. Walking seemed to be painful to her, and she wasn't able to jump up onto the bed and had to be lifted. She also didn't have much of an appetite. However, by Thursday she seemed to perk up a good bit, and got back into snuggling and purring. As of today, she has fallen back into her normal habit of following me around the house, purring, and commenting with her squeaky little 'meh-meh' voice, and her appetite is most definitely back to normal.


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Charlie, snuggling in my lap

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Podcasts of Note: The Filter Bubble

Eli Pariser: "The Filter Bubble" – The Diane Rehm Show, May 17, 2010

On this episode of the Diane Rehm Show, Eli Pariser discussed the personalization of internet search and news feed results, and the problems which this can cause. The premise is that Google, Yahoo, Facebook, and others are using your user history and other data to give you results that you’re more likely to click on.

On the plus side of this, I enjoy the personalized book recommendations on Amazon. I actually prefer the “people you communicate with the most” setting on Facebook to seeing updates from 450+ people, most of whom I only ‘friended’ to be polite. I also prefer seeing advertisements targeted to me. If I’m going to have to see ads on line, I’d rather they be for things I might actually be interested in.

That being said, I am incredibly uncomfortable with the idea of personalized search results from Google, Yahoo, or any other search provider. In theory, such personalized search results would give a conservative Christian Republican vastly different search results than a liberal Atheist Democrat. Instead of providing an accurate, unbiased flow of information, search results will be biased towards what the user is most likely to click on.

I tested this out today. At my workplace, there is a computer that I share with all of my colleagues – a situation which is bound to much up user-personalization algorithms. I googled Newt Gingrich from this work computer. The results I received were overwhelmingly strongly anti-Newt. Additionally, neither his wikipedia entry nor his official site were on the first page of results. When I googled him from my home computer, wikipedia was the first result, and his official site was the second. Additionally, links to his facebook and twitter pages were on the first page of results (and they weren’t on the work computer).

Wikipedia is often the first result to pop up whenever I search for ANYTHING. I also go straight to wikipedia for a lot of things. I had always just assumed the wikipedia articles were popping up first because they had the best information on the topic of my search. Now I wonder if they’ve been popping up because I like to use wikipedia.

I’m also curious as to what my coworkers have been looking up to make the ‘user profile’ for the work computer so avidly anti-Newt. I mean, I’m definitely a liberal, and I don’t like Newt Gingrich, and yet my home computer had much more neutral search results.

I find all of this incredibly disconcerting. I had always just assumed that I was getting the best, most accurate result for my searches, and now I learn that my results depend on if I’m using my computer, a friend’s, or a public (library, internet café, office) computer.

Yes, I’m a liberal. Yes, I prefer certain things. But feeding me the information I want to hear isn’t going to do me any good in the long run. I want accurate facts, even if those facts fly in the face of my personal beliefs.

**One thing from the podcast which irked me: Pariser seemed unaware that one can change from a filtered newsfeed to an unfiltered one on Facebook. He was aware of how to change from ‘Top News’ to ‘Most Recent.’ When one caller pointed out that she was intelligent enough to know how to switch to an unfiltered news feed, Pariser assumed she meant switching from ‘Top News’ to ‘Most Recent’ and basically told her in an incredibly condescending voice that she didn’t know what she was talking about.

[In case you’re wondering, your default setting on Facebook is the filtered ‘people you communicate with the most’ setting. To see updates from ALL your friends, click on the down arrow next to the ‘Most Recent’ tab, then select ‘edit options.’ Next to where it says ‘show posts from’ select ‘all of your friends.’]

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

spay day!

I took Charlie to the vet this morning to get spayed. Somehow - with that sixth sense pets have - she must've known we were going to the vet. Instead of sitting in my lap, purring, while I drank my morning coffee, she hid under the bed. In the end I had to chase her out from under the bed with a broom. I felt absolutely terrible about having to do so. When I brought her home from the vet, she ran under the bed and hid. She was still hiding under the bed glaring at me when I got home for work, but as I was typing this, she came out and sat my my feet for a little while. I think I've been forgiven :-)

While Charlie was at the vet (on the 4th floor of Lotte Plaza in Yulha-dong), I decided that if she could undergo major surgery, I could buck up and go get my teeth cleaned. And as there is a dentist located on the 3rd floor of Lotte Plaza, it seemed like a good idea. I've had a bit of a dentist phobia for years following a bad dental experience in the US, and it's taken me a while to work up the nerve to go. But I'm glad I went. I got my teeth cleaned, two cavities detected (boo - I'll get them fixed next month), and had the abraded enamel on my front teeth patched.

Between the vet and the dentist, it was an expensive morning - but worth it all around, I think!

Monday, May 16, 2011

back exercises (baxercises?)

Between emails, facebook comments and messages, conversations, and internet research, I've come up with several more exercises and stretches for my back, which seem to be having a positive effect. At the very least, I'm not in the state of misery I was all weekend. The suggestion that it might be my upper trapezius and/or rhomboid presents a likely cause of my problems. This picture shows the muscles that I swear I have been feeling for weeks.

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For those who might be interested in stretching, the Mayo Clinic has a nice set of back exercises here, although I'd been doing most of them for weeks. Oddly enough, the exercises below - specifically number 5 - while simple, really seem to have made a difference. I found them on ideafit.com. I suspect that my students might be wondering about my tendency to do #5 in class.

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And I'm going to see about going to an orthopedist later this week.

international cat in heat

One can't very well be an international cat lady without a cat. Those of you who have followed me here from facebook are already familiar with my four-legged travelling companion, but for those newcomers, here she is:

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Her name is Charlie (even though she's a girl), because with that 'stache she looks like Charlie Chaplin. Or Hitler, but no one wants to name their cat Adolf.

Charlie is scheduled to be spayed tomorrow morning, and just in time, too. She has entered her second heat, and is absolutely miserable... wandering around my house yowling non-stop. Additionally, my normally exceptionally well-behaved cat has taken to demolishing things and using the bathroom places other than her litterbox. I've dealt with enough cats over the years to know that this misbehavior is merely a symptom of her fluxuating hormones, but it doesn't make it any less unpleasant for either of us. (I simply cannot understand people who own cats and do not get them spayed. Aside from the huge issue of animal overpopulation, who wants a suffering, cranky, hormonal, misbehaving cat to appear every few weeks?)

This morning, I was awakened not just to Charlie's in-heat-cries, but to responding meows coming from outside the front door. My little hussy was flirting! Granted, the object of her affections was more interested in the bag of trash I'd set out last night, but still!

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Charlie's boyfriend. Or maybe girlfriend.

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Charlie, watching the orange cat.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

mapping the pain

I've had back pain on and off for years. It usually centers around my left shoulder blade. Sometimes it works its way down along the left side of my spine. Other times it creeps up my neck. On really bad days it crawls up into my skull and gives me a killer headache. Normally this nonsense lasts for about two or three days. I plaster myself with sticky pas (medicated pain patches) and take a lot of naproxen, and the pain goes away. Unfortunately, a side effect of growing older seems to be that the life expectancy of my back/shoulder pain has increased from a few days to several weeks. Needless to say, this ridiculousness is growing nigh intolerable.

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I'm really not a big fan of going to see doctors, and I've been trying to deal with this via stretching and relaxation, pas, and naproxen. However, at this point it seems I'm going to have to give in and see a doctor. Not at all looking forward to that, but it would be nice to not ache all the time. I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Bullo-Dong Tomb Park

On the northern edge of Daegu, South Korea - located between the airport and Palgong Mountain - is the Bullo-Dong Tomb Park (sometimes transliterated as Pullo-Dong). It consists of 200+ fifth and sixth century tombs. If you're looking for a lot of historical stuff, this isn't the destination for you, as the park is nothing but acres of grass-covered mounds. However, if you're looking for a nice, rural park with plenty of pretty, low-stress hiking paths, great picnic spots, and not much in terms of crowds, you should check it out. You can get there by taking of the buses that go to Palgong Mountain from the bus stop by the Ayanggyo subway station (Rapid Bus 1, Palgong 1, or 101, 101-1, 401), and getting off at the Bullo Traditional Market bus stop. Walk east from there and you'll run smack into the park. I had a day off work the other day - and as it happened to be a gorgeous day, I decided to spend it out there.


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I packed a picnic: gimbap (Korean equivalent to a California roll) and some yummy cream cheese pastries (inside the plastic bag - totally non-Korean but incredibly addictive)

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You can see the city of Daegu from the park.

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A few of the tombs aren't mounds, but they're few and far between.

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Oddly enough, there was a random, ramshackle shack right in the center of the park. I approached it to check it out, but after discovering a pile of fresh human... poop outside (and I say human as opposed to dog, because dogs don't use toilet paper) I didn't get any closer.

conflicted about jobs

I currently have a job I like in a career field that I like. (I teach English overseas to speakers of other languages - TESOL.) I don't make much money. Someone recently pointed out to me that I have been 'living like a college student' for the past ten years (I graduated from college ten years ago this week!) - and that is pretty accurate. I have good friends my age who are now business owners, others who work for large international companies, and others who work for the US government... I enjoy my life, although I admit that sometimes I compare myself to my friends and feel like a bit of a failure.

My current contract ends at the end of July. I've got a wonderful month-long vacation planned for August in Ukraine (except that I'm taking the GRE right smack in the middle of said vacation...), and I've accepted a TESOL position in Ukraine, scheduled to start in September. Even though I have accepted that position, there are some issues concerning work visas and cat-friendly apartments, making it not 100% a go - perhaps more like 90%. Still, I'd been counting on doing that. I'd also been planning to start a grad school program in TESOL in fall 2012 (thus the mid-vacation GRE).

Then a couple of days ago a very different possible opportunity landed in my lap. It is possible - although I don't know how probable - that I might land a job here in Korea as a technical writer for a successful technology firm that is looking to expand into the English speaking market. The potential salary would be half again what I'm making now (as opposed to the job in Ukraine, which would be just half my current salary), with some great benefits - including lots of potential overseas travel to some pretty cool locales. But, it would be a career change. And I'd have to back out of my commitment to the school in Ukraine, and probably delay grad school until 2013.

I'm really of two minds about this - I'd love to do both, although that's not possible. As it is, I've submitted my CV to the company here in Korea. If they end up hiring me (I have a bit of an 'in' - someone from the company called my current boss to ask if he could recommend any native English speakers for the position, and he recommended me) I'll be coming back to Korea after my Ukrainian vacation. If not, I'll stay in Ukraine (assuming everything with visas and cat-friendly apartments works out). I'll keep you posted on how this unfolds!

the joy of cloth pads

I'd been thinking for a long time about making the switch to cloth menstrual pads simply to help the environment, but it wasn't until recently that I made the switch. I currently live in South Korea, where disposable pads are easy to find and purchase here, but unfortunately most of them seem to be scented, and my body finds the chemicals used for the scents... irritating, shall we say. After months of misery, I made the plunge and ordered some cloth pads from Crea8tiveMama who sells handmade cloth pads on Etsy. Here's an example of what they look like:

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I wasn't entirely sure what to expect: Would they be uncomfortable? Gross? Well, it turns out that they are incredibly comfortable. It really didn't feel like I was wearing a pad at all, and the flannel fabric was much kinder to my body than even unscented disposable pads. Compared to the scented disposables, these were heavenly. Additionally, there was no leakage at all.

The one thing that might be considered a little gross by some people, is that the best way to care for these is to soak them in cold water immediately after taking them off. This means that when you come back a few hours later you have a cold bucket of bloody water to dispose of. I washed the pre-soaked pads in with my regular laundry, and they came through just fine. The staining is surprisingly minor (and it's not like whether or not they get stained is an issue, considering).

Additionally, I haven't yet been in a position where I've had to change pads while not at my house, which is good as I haven't figured out what exactly one does with a soiled pad when you can't throw it in the trash and when there isn't a bucket of water waiting to soak it in. I'll let you know when I figure this out!

starting a new blog

I've had several blogs over the years. I posted at the longest running one for over five years, and had a pretty decent following. Back when I started that blog, I was completely unconcerned about privacy issues, and was completely honest about who I was. I had nothing to hide, so why hide my identity, right?

That was before I developed a couple of stalkers (literally - including people jumping out of my bushes, threats against me and my family, calls to the police, restraining orders, etc; more details here) who regularly visited my blog to see what I was up to. Knowing that these individuals were monitoring my activities made blogging substantially less enjoyable. My posts, which once had numbered a minimum of one a day, became few and far between. The few posts that I did write consisted of a lot of photographs, but few words. Additionally, it seems that these people have been googling my name... a couple of months ago they found (and made a rather nasty comment on) a post I submitted to someone else's blog - a post which they could only have discovered by googling my name and scrolling through six pages of results. It's been over a year since I got the restraining order; these people are persistant.

And so I stopped blogging. I made an announcement on my (now former) blog that it was finished, and that there would be no posts. It's been about a month since I closed shop on my old blog, and I've found myself missing it. Additionally, I've since done a couple things that I really wanted to blog about... as such, I've decided to start an anonymous blog. I'm not going to use any real names here (those of you who know who I am, don't use my name in comments, please!), but I am going to do my best to get back into enjoying blogging the way I did before the crazy people entered my life.

Here's to a life (and a blog) without any crazies