Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Back and better than ever

Wow! It's been weeks since I've even thought about posting. The summer intensive session turned into a five week marathon even more than usual. Or maybe I just repress the memory of them each semester.

Anyway, the new teacher has settled in nicely. My initial reservations have proven to be unfounded so far. She's pretty cool, actually, she just expects a more orderly system than Korean schools tend to have in place. You know, planning, advance notice of changes, that kind of thing.

The new couple is here. They are really young (22-ish), but seem like a good pair. They've traveled a lot and have a very open attitude, which is about 75% of living and working in Korea- the ability to roll with the punches and be open to cultural differences. It's not the stuff you expect that gets you, it's the little every day mundane crap that drives people nuts here. The old ladies that elbow you in the gut as they move your things out of the way on the checkout counter so they can go first. The people who spit on the subway floor and leave their trash on the seat. That kind of thing.

I've been knitting as much as possible, but I don't have much to show. I don't like gauge swatches, so I frequently knit as much as half a garment before I realize I don't like it. You might think I would learn. Perhaps eventually I will. I've sold a pattern to Magknits, but I hate to even mention it, because I still have to send in the finished photos and pattern. So I assume it can still be rejected. I don't want to jinx myself.

I have knit my first self-striping stock in stockinette. I knit the whole thing yesterday. I'd show you a photo, but I can't be bothered for something so boring. Maybe it's because I use variegated yarn so frequently, but I didn't find it that interesting. And I've got about three more 100g skeins of the stuff, which I'll use because a. I paid for it, including a king's ransom in postage, b. it feels nice, c. sock yarn is hard to get here, and my LYS proprietor is kind of a bitch. Well, not so much kind of.

You would think she would be happy for any customers, it's a tiny shop, literally 2m x 4m in a kind of flea market set up. I pay $7-8 per 50g of crap sock yarn and she has something to say to me every time I go there. The knit gang who are always there know I can speak enough Korean to understand what they are saying about me. Last week I was pleasantly surprised to find a silk/ wool blend sock yarn. When one of them asked me why I always buy only one or two balls of each color I told her they were for socks. Apparently, that was the funniest thing they had heard all day. This is one of the aforementioned little things that will get you here: rude shopkeepers.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

How a cold can cost $100

Just go to the emergency room on a national holiday for a sore throat. In my defense, it's a really bad sore throat. I haven't been able to talk for two days or sleep, because the pain kept me up. Really. I know I sound like an unbelievable wuss, but there you have it. I got up today (a holiday, mind you) at 5:00AM in case I could get more comfortable on the couch. As it turns out, my throat accompanied me to the couch, so at 8:00 I went in search of a doctor. A mere 90 minutes later, I was peeing into a paper cup (I'm in Korea- national health care- how else could an emergency room visit with tests and an IV and a truckload of drugs cost $100?). I love Korea. It always makes me smile. Even when I'm sick. Today I got a couple of smiles.
1. The obligatory "but you're going to get screwed". Koreans love to tell you when someone else is going to rip you off. Every time I lock myself out of my apartment, I get that from the guard before he calls a locksmith for me. Like I'll just sleep in the corridor rather than get screwed. I'm old enough to know what happens when someone's got you over a barrel, it's the same in every country.
Today, I got it trying to see the doctor. Mind you, I had no voice. The nurse observes that I cannot speak and tells me it will be expensive to see a doctor. I am at a hospital! I know it will be expensive, yet have already made peace with it.
2. The paper cup for my urine sample, which I took to the public bathroom and carried back with no lid and gave to the nurse who wasn't wearing gloves.
3. The (very young) nurse that screamed (!!!) when she overshot the vein putting in an IV. I must say the look on her face helped me overcome the discomfort of having a needle shoved in too far.
4. Of course,the $100 bill. Coming from the US, such a bill from an emergency room is like an impossible dream. I think that's what they charge per square of toilet paper back home. Certainly it would not have covered the pee cup.

So that's about all on the home front at the moment. I've been fighting this summer flu for a week or so, while still teaching 37 hours a day with 12 more hours of prep/ correcting at home. Next week is the last week with that schedule, so I may not have to throw myself of a tall building. We shall see...

Friday, August 04, 2006

Crazy from the heat

Well it's about a quadrillion degrees here in sunny S Korea. On the upside, the monsoon season is over after a two week extension, for maximum loss of life (fortunately, no one I know). You know, I always say it's just like home (Louisiana), but the difference is at home we live an air-conditioned life. You know what I mean: roll out the air-conned door into the air-conned car and drive to another air-conned location. Repeat as necessary throughout the spring/ summer/ fall. Here in the Land of the Morning Calm (LotMC), no such luck. It's a walk to the subway followed by a walk from the subway and if you run your AC all night, the electric company sends someone to your house to see what the problem with the meter is. Then they charge you double as an "incentive" to reduce usage. Fortunately, having grown up in a "frugal" (poor) home with quadrillion degree summers (March to October, roughly), this hasn't happened to me. So I can sit back and laugh at my coworkers from northern climes. Since laughter is the best medicine, of course. That and when the mercury actually busts out the top of the thermometer, it's nice to know someone is more uncomfortable than you. Or is that just me?

In other news (if the previous qualifies as news, then the following will as well), things are getting better with the new co-worker. She's still venting rather much for someone in their first fortnight (aka the honeymoon), but she seems to be settling in to the rhythm. In her defense, starting with a vacation semester is kind of trial by fire. The work level is about ten times more than usual (no hyperbole here, really), so it basically sucks monkey butt for five weeks. I can only hope she isn't permanently jaded by the end of the five weeks.