Archive for March, 2006

First Bibimpap!

I've been spending an insane amount of money on cheese and egg bibimpap from this restaurant near the school, and as a result my wallet has thinned out a bit.

Also, my waistline has expanded. Koreans usually eat in groups and food is a shared experience. So one bowl of bibimpap is meant for two or three people! And since I hate wasting food, I've been eating all of it.

Today I had an awesome idea: Why not try to make my own? I could control the amount and substitute brown rice, which I've always preferred to the glutinous white they serve here anyway.

Unfortunately, it wasn't as easy as I expected: 

You can't tell by this picture, but I undercooked the rice. It was as tough as gravel. But I was very reluctant to toss it, so I picked out the egg and vegetables.

My roommate M came home later that night, to an apartment smelling strongly of pepper paste.

After I proudly displayed my creation ("Couldn't you just eat it all up?" "Er . . . pass?") she pulled me aside and taught me how to cook a proper pot of rice.

The end result:

It doesn't look like much, but I am so psyched. Rice with sugar and raisins for breakfast, gimpap (Korean sushi) for lunch, rice cakes for dessert . . . I could go on and on and on.

Now all I need is a rice dispenser (it's like a water cooler filled with rice, for you non-Asian folk out there) and I'll be an unstoppable force. Where's my Food Network contract?


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Cross and Pots

From the top floor of Wonderland. Sunset.

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We were tumbling in Taekwondo class when my instructor turned to me and said, "Cartwheel, one hand."

And without another thought, I turned to my side, placed my right hand on the knot of my belt, leaned over and executed the perfect one-arm cartwheel. Followed by another.

The room burst into applause, and I raised my arms high, puffed out my chest and bowed.

Keep in mind I haven't done anything riskier than a roundoff since I was a seven-year-old gymnast in Texas. Seventeen years later, and it's like brushing a fly off my shoulder.

Ahssa! ("Awesome," and currently my favorite Korean word.)

P.S. I'm currently working on the last chapter of "Full Moon," plus a characters page you can access through the sidebar. The work I put in for you guys, really . . .

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While getting ready for my Korean language course, I decided to play a little Nine Inch Nails to speed things up.

It’d been a while since I’d played some NIN, but after an entire month of belting Mariah during that god-awful NYer Infatuation aka Period of Shame (“No, no, no no no no noooooo / I need you baby / I still believe that we can be togetherrrrrr / No no no no!”) I needed something angry and not so desperate.

I was applying lotion when the riff of “The Hand That Feeds” began.

You’re keeping in step in the line
Got your chin held high and you feel just fine
Because you do what you’re told
But inside your heart it is black and it’s hollow and it’s cold

I poked my head out of the bathroom, bobbing along. Hmm, I’d forgotten how catchy this song was. “Just how deep do you believe?” I mumbled, checking if I’d shut the curtains in the living room. Check. I ducked into the room and turned the volume up.

“Will you bite the hand that feeds?” I crooned, my feet spread and my head violently nodding as I fingered my fake guitar. The towel fell and I didn’t bother to pick it up.

Will you chew until it bleeds?
Can you get up off your knees?
Are you brave enough to see?
Do you want to change it?

“Fuck yeah!” I shouted, leaping on my orange, fake-leather sofa, bouncing on the balls of my feet, my fists alternatively pumping in the air. “Fuck you, mothafuckas!”

Fortunately I was alone. I suppose my roommate would have dragged me to the loony bin if she’d walked in to find a naked Asian woman screaming pop rock on the furniture at ten in the morning.

And I’m certain Trent Reznor was talking about the war in Iraq, and not about the four-month plight of a self-absorbed ESL teacher in Korea.

But for those four minutes I couldn’t be restrained. Slaving away in an unfamiliar country and alienated from unfamiliar people had driven me crazy. Something had to come undone.

And now I was free. Doubtful–yes. Scared–sure. Certain I would be broke and dependent on the charity of friends and perverted admirers–of course.

But I’d finally let go. I’d taken a chance and once again I was in charge of my own future.

I think that’s given me the right to sing and dance in the privacy of my own apartment, don’t you think?

So naive to keep holding on to what I want to believe
And I can see but I keep holding on and on and on and on

But don’t think I’m bitter.

I’m grateful. I’m changed. And this time around, I intend to do things with both eyes open.

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The Ax

I finally did it.

They said it may take as long as three months. Which is understandable. We are straddling the DMZ, after all.

I don’t blame them. A lot of mommies would be pissed to have the school’s American puppet accommodating foreign teacher leave a month into the new semester.

Considering the horror stories of directors slapping their staff around, I was surprised that the meeting passed without the slightest hint of violence. Well, it lasted for an hour, so it wasn’t a stroll in the park. My supervisor cried, and the director was quite emotional herself.

Still, I’m sure I’ll get a lot of hostility on Monday.

It’s gonna be a long three months.

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Dear Pia,

You have looked tired and upset for many weeks . . . I feel bad for you.

I wish I could take care of you.

But I don't know English. I'm sorry.

I will study and learn English.

Remember to practice your Korean. I would like you to know more Taekwondo words.

You work very hard in Taekwondo class. Exercise is good for you. I don't want you to be the best in class–just do the best you can do.

When you are free I will take you out for dinner. I know you like rice!

Don't work too hard, and cheer up. Fighting!

Your Taekwondo Teacher

P.S. I am sorry my English is bad.

After the translation, my Korean co-teacher gave me a wry grin. "Does he have feelings for you?"

"Nooooo . . ." I said, suppressing a grin.

"You should get a boyfriend. I lived in Australia for a year, and after the first six months I was ready to go home. But I had a boyfriend there, and he made me feel better."

Everyone's telling me to get a boyfriend–my supervisor, my coworkers, my roommate, my friends, my parents, my pharmacist and the owner of the local Dunkin Donuts. (I suspect everyone just wants me to get laid.)

What I need is a new job.

But it was nice to get that letter. Because there are nights when I do want someone to take care of me. You'll just never hear me say that in person.

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In Two Days . . .

. . . I’m meeting with my supervisor and director to inform them I’m leaving Wonderland. Screw the money.

While talking to my roommate last night, I found out that we don’t have health insurance.

“But they’re supposed to cover 50 percent,” I protested. “I thought that was effective after we got our visas in December.”

(The director, who handles all of our finances, has been “too busy” to meet with us to discuss our paychecks. And when I say “too busy,” I mean sleeping with a man who is definitely not her husband.)

“Believe me,” M said, her face drawn, “when I needed the morning after pill two weeks ago, I was very upset.”

“What did C say?”

“She said I specifically told her I didn’t want health insurance. Bullshit. We told her in November we wanted coverage.”

I sat back, aghast. “So I’ve been traveling around an unfamiliar country, taking Taekwondo lessons and eating from vendors without health insurance?”

I have to admit that this is also my fault. I should have rode the director’s ass on this issue until my coverage was confirmed. (Since I don’t know Korean, I’ve been very dependent on her to take care of everything. But I’m sure I could have nagged until one of us broke down.)

However, this was the last straw. If the school really gave a shit about me, they would have at least tossed a little cash to protect their pretty American investment.

But no . . . in spite of the fact that I traveled to the opposite end of the country during our winter holiday (with only five Korean words under my belt), have taken an intense, two-hour, six-days-a-week martial arts course and have been working 10 to 13 hours a day, they don’t see the possibility that I might eat some bad kimchi and need to get my stomach pumped.

Or that I might have several mental breakdowns from said working hours and might need psychiatric help.

Friday can’t come soon enough.

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