Wednesday, December 20, 2006

8 seconds

Right now I have the most incredible hiccups. I can't even remember the last time I had the hiccups. These come with a periodicity of about 8 seconds and are really... fierce. Here's a fear I've had for many years: that I would be like that one guy with the world record and go on hiccupping for years.

Anyways, I explained the Mr. and Mrs. Smith love triangle to some of my students today. They didn't know who Jennifer Aniston was (the name anyway).

Oh! The Glory commercial just played! It's for men's clothing and it's definitely the closing score.

Yeah, honestly that's it.

I'm better at this than Ross

  1. Alabama
  2. Alaska
  3. Arizona
  4. Arkansas
  5. California
  6. Colorado
  7. Connecticut
  8. Delaware
  9. Florida
  10. Georgia
  11. Hawaii
  12. Idaho
  13. Illinois
  14. Indiana
  15. Iowa
  16. Kansas
  17. Kentucky
  18. Louisiana
  19. Maine
  20. Maryland
  21. Massachusetts
  22. Michigan
  23. Minnesota
  24. Mississippi
  25. Missouri
  26. Montana
  27. Nebraska
  28. Nevada
  29. New Hampshire
  30. New Jersey
  31. New Mexico
  32. New York
  33. North Carolina
  34. North Dakota
  35. Ohio
  36. Oklahoma
  37. Oregon
  38. Pennsylvania
  39. Rhode Island
  40. South Carolina
  41. South Dakota
  42. Tennessee
  43. Texas
  44. Utah
  45. Vermont
  46. Virginia
  47. Washington
  48. West Virginia
  49. Wisconsin
  50. Wyoming
Last night, Alice and I were watching Friends, and we got to the Thanksgiving episode where Ross can't name all 50 states. I wanted to give it a shot and could have done it in like 2 minutes, only I couldn't get more than 49. Eventually I googled a map, and LO, I forgot Wisconsin. Which makes sense, since it's in the W's, which just seemed like they were thrown in there to begin with. Also, I have a really hard time visualizing Wisconsin on the map. It's just that with Michigan, the sillhouette is very much like that of Minnesota, which I already do remember. So I draw the outline of the US fairly regularly, and like... Minnesota and the Michigan peninsula merge into like this one single pointy thing and Wisconsin is lost. Anyways, now I know and hopefully I won't forget again. By the way, the only reason I can do this at all is because of Mrs. Niehaus, who taught us a song that lists all the states in alphabetical order in 5th grade. I wonder if I'll still remember that song in like... 50 years.

Ok, ok, I've got one.

So I saw this on an ESL teacher forum last month, or like, 2 months ago. Or something.

What do you call a deer with no eyes?

Think about it.

Anyways, I've been listening to songs from Evita (the movie) and am toootally enamored of Antonio Banderas. Mostly his voice. Though now I'm really confused, because I went to imdb to figure out what movies he's been in, and it seems like I've only seen Evita and The Mask of Zorro. So like... how did I know who he was? Because I did. Something's not connecting here...

So, since my last entry, I've gotten rid of most of my anxiety. My Sunday class brightened up for two fun participatory lessons, but is now back to its slack, inattentive roots. It's so draining to teach them. The last lesson I had with them was like having blood taken for 2 hours. I won't deny that I'm fond of these kids, but do you know what would make me fonder? If they learned something from my classes, which I don't think they do. Anyways, the two classes we had that went well involved planning a 2 week vacation on a budget and movie creation where they had to come up with short scripts and premises. The group of 3 guys got into it and ended up portraying the murder of Jay Chou by one of their female classmates. It seemed a little mean at first because the idea is that she worships him and is excited to finally meet him in Milan. He says she's ugly, so she poisons him. But the girl didn't seem very offended, and the boy had an interesting falsetto. So... The other group did a heist story... only not really. A guy's brother was wrongly thrown into prison, so he robbed a bank with the intention of getting thrown into prison too so that they two of them could break out together. I think. Anyways, I could think of a lot of ways to go about getting someone out of prison that don't involve commencing your own criminal record, but whatevs. It seemed like it'd be a good movie anyway.

What movies did the other class come up with? Well, one of them, in which the girls dominated, did what was essentially a condensed Korean teledrama. Childhood friends go to college together, and the girl loves the guy but the guy doesn't love her and then he mysteriously disappears from the plot so that a new guy can win her heart by having wine spilled on him during a blackout at a party. Obviously the second relationship blossoms out of the ensuing animosity they feel for each other. The other group was less convicted, but they did come up with some interesting ideas. At first they were going to start with a commercial for glasses. Which is not what the assignment called for. Then it came down to a pair of magic glasses that let you see ghosts or magic creatures or something. Then it morphed into a fairytale-ish thing where a boy goes to live with his grandmother and gets into all sorts of accidents. Turns out there's an elf following him around and changing out his class speeches for girlie magazines and so on until he finds a pair of glasses that let him catch the elf. But the elf sneaks out again, steals the glasses, and continues his "sabotage." I think it's a good idea!

Did you get the answer yet?
What do you call a deer with no eyes?
No idear!
Now, what do you call a deer with no eyes and no legs?

I've settled into a kind of pattern for the Training Center classes... we go out of a book called Speak Naturally, a conversation guide from the 80s (very apparent in yesterday's class when the characters in the book started discussing the inflation, the reckless spending of Democrats, and the failing auto industry). The first half of class is pretty boring repeat after me stuff, but it's weird... I actually feel like it's important to do it. But then the 2nd half they go through the cued dialogues, which are pretty much the best part of the book, which is pretty sparse in itself, and I go around troubleshooting and stuff. I dunno, I think it's pretty fun. Attendance has dwindled to about half of the original number, with some people randomly coming and going. And it's like "whoa, I didn't know you were still coming." It's nice to have the smaller class though.

The current lesson for the high school is a pick-me-up. The last set of lessons was REALLY boring for me. I sort of lost my way with them, I think. I felt soooo unfun, which isn't cool. It's like, I try to give them lots of interesting new vocab to practice with, but they don't wanna... A lot of them don't take notes either.

My "boss" back in the US has given me something of an assignment. I'm supposed to do a report on teaching high schoolers? Something along those lines, and it's very exciting. I like assignments. Now, I realize that after all of my past tantrums and breakdowns, it's a little unconvincing, but I love writing papers! I imagine it's a lot like what doing drugs is like. Maybe... the opposite of what doing drugs is like. But the result is the same.

So partially because of that, and partially because it only seems right, I've asked to attend the students' English classes just to see what they're like. Mr. Yuan set me up with 3 classes, and I went to the first two last week. The 3rd years were nearing 2000 completed multiple choice questions in preparation for the entrance exams and the 1st years were reading newspaper-like things very similar to the ones we had in elementary school that taught us about Earth Day and stuff. It's like... their knowledge appears fairly advanced. It was really helpful for me in trying to structure my classes. Not that we have many more before the break, but you know. I think I'll be back next semester. The experience also sort of told me that Russ's class is a biiig step down the ladder for the kids. I mean, I had that idea to begin with, but... anyways, we're almost done.

It's not winter yet. Not officially for 2 days, right? It's real cold here though. It's interesting-- the ice here is like, 3-dimensional. It looks like gak, like someone threw water down and if froze immediately. It's pretty cool. The black ice on the street isn't as slippery as you'd think either. Mostly it's covered with dust and dirt so it's just like walking on the ground. People still really like to dump their water outside though, especially at the roots of trees. So there are layers of ice several inches thick between the edge of the sidewalk and the dirt holding each tree in place. It seems like it wouldn't be good for the trees, but they're standing their ground.

Last Friday we couldn't get a taxi and so my toes were frozen and unresponsive by the time we got on the bus. It was annoying, so I suggested that we have dinner at Pizza Hut. Oh! Which reminds me. I have something that I'm pretty sure none of you have: A Pizza Hut planner/calendar with a leather cover (fake? real? who knows?) with the Pizza Hut logo stamped into it, and the logo on every page (the waitress showed us that specifically). The back has coupons and the front has all the dialing codes for major cities and a listing of the holidays. All for Y6 with our meal! I dunno, I thought it was an all right deal.

What do you call a deer with no eyes and no legs?
Still no idear!

Ok, well... I think I will go now and possibly continue reading Jurassic Park, which is still pretty good and actually a bit more comprehensible after all these years. Seems much shorter. You know, I can actually remember where I was when I read all these parts? I was with my parents at Virginia Beach, and we'd been seated in a restaurant when I got to the part about the aviary, which I remembered being way more exciting than it was this time through.

Sunday, December 10, 2006


i'm really bitter right now because there's no water in my apartment, so the toilet won't flush and i had to brush my teeth with water from the purifying tank, which, by this exercise, i have discovered carries some very freaky, very *large* particles.

anyways, i've meant to update with fun stories about witnessing an attempted pocket-picking, the nature of ice in baotou, a fun package from my mother, the trip i'm planning in january, a series of successful classes, and a series of awfully boring ones (probably my bad), but yo, now is not the time. blllllllgh.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Yay day

I look forward to Saturdays, despite knowing that I'll actually have to get up early on Saturdays. Saturday is not my day off: at 10, a little girl named Betsy comes over for a one-on-one class that, originally, was supposed to last no more than 1.5 hours. Now it's 2 or a little over. At 7:30, I have a 2-hour private class with what is now 8 high schoolers (previously 6) and one of their mothers, who is a cool lady who sits by and helps some of the less advanced students WITHOUT INTERFERING (which therefore means she's cool).

These two classes are not only a pleasure to teach, but they're soooo easy! Betsy's class was sort of a surprise when it started, you know, I wasn't expecting her to start coming over so soon. But that was 2 weeks ago, and she is such an enthusiastic student that just about everything goes over well. Her lessons are easy to plan because she's very good at learning. As for my evening class, the students are amazing. Some of them pick up real quick, and most of them have the guts to stop me and ask questions. Also, their curiosity comes out better than that of my other students, so we always have something interesting to talk about. And we get along well and have laughs. Most importantly though, I can always expect them to do what I asked the week before as "homework" (since it's fundamentally optional), and also to follow along and complete each section of the actual class. So planning for them is a breeze-- I'm already ahead like 3 weeks. Well, two now I guess.

Anyways, I was just short of breathing fire when I woke up this morning... I'd had some dream where some activity wasn't being accomplished efficiently, and so every time it was attempted wrong, I'd try to rearrange myself in bed. But like, I sleep in a sleeping bag, and so all night I had this sensation that I was trapped, and like, so on. I opened my eyes just before my alarm went off at 7:45 and was like "holy shit, I'm tired." Just then, my alarm rang, and I actually wanted to cry. Got up though, and had class. Betsy is really cute, and has pretty good manners during class, so it like, wasn't a strain or anything. We read stories online, pick up some vocab, and then make Go Fish cards. It's an interesting challenge for me when she decides that she wants to make a card out of a verb or adjective. "Spy" as a verb was hard today, but I ended up just making it "spyglass" cuz you can still get the point.

Afterwards, she and her mom invited Alice and I to Haide Hanbao for lunch. Hanbao means "hamburger," so yeah, it's the closest thing to McDonald's. They also serve Chinese fast food there, a la Mark Pi's, Hong Kong, and Peace. For the parents, I guess, cuz the kids love hamburgers. By the way, "hamburger," as a term, is more distorted here than it is in the States, because it can also refer to chicken sandwiches. Basically, anything on a hamburger bun is a hamburger. For your reference. I ordered a beef hamburger, and got the equivalent of a Big Mac. The meat patties here are... thin. And uniform. Spam-ish in appearance. But taste ok. You'd probably need at least 3 patties to equal one quarter-pounder, so I guess the double-decker burger I got wasn't all that much more food. But you know, I can eat a hamburger and be done-- throw in an extra layer of bun, and I'm very done. Add fries, and you'll have to slow down. There was once a time when I would have sat down to an x-treme junior bacon cheeseburger showdown or two, but those days are past, for now at least. I can pig out, but usually to the note of an extenuating circumstance or two. What I'm getting at is that the mother (one of Alice's... high school (?) teachers) tried to order me a bowl of rice, essentially a food-court Chinese restaurant combo, and when I said no, ordered an extra chicken sandwich just in case. I didn't even manage to finish the first thing, and when they saw it, they asked me if I was afraid of getting fat.

It was a really fun morning. I mean, the weather was dismal, cold, and snowy (at last!), but that doesn't really matter to someone like me, whose essential functions take place indoors. In the cab on the way there, Betsy was trying to explain something about a speaking competition she wanted to enter, but got stuck on the words. Even the driver chimed in and told her to think about it slowly. We had two female cab drivers today, and both of them were quite willing to chat it up with Betsy's mom. Pleasant! With her mom or her cousins (who I taught once at the beginning of my stay here), she's like an anime character. And she is so clever, to the point where Alice and I spent a lot of time laughing at her comments or antics. I think her mom's trying to convince her to come stay Friday nights with us, and I'm not sure what I think about that, but at least it's an excuse to avoid having to accept unwanted dinner invitations.

I then caught up on sleep this afternoon.

My evening class now comprises 8 students. There's a boy who was in my Sunday class, but couldn't attend it anymore because it conflicts with a math class his parents are making him take. So, I invited him to come on Saturday instead. Frankly, any student from that class would do better for themselves in this one. But anyway, when he found out about this second class, he seemed really excited. Like... more excited than I was expecting. I understand that the students are tired from all their excessive learning (SO excessive in this country), but he really did seem to prefer napping and being otherwise distracted while I'm teaching over actually paying attention. I liked him though because when he did work, he did good work. But anyways, apparently he's a big fan of my class, and sort of shocked me with that information. The other Saturday students all seem to know each other very well, and there are only two other kids from his school (who are probably younger than him), but he came in with confidence today, and gave an awesome presentation about foreign cars, and I'm pretty sure that once he gets a hang of the... well, borderline cult-ish stuff we do on Saturdays, he'll be all good.

Another student from my Sunday class, the only other one who's got the initiative to actually e-mail me, has taken to telling me how much she enjoys my class. This girl is one of my favorite students, but I can't help but wonder where this is coming from. The Sunday class really just amounts to a big cracker barrel, where the students come and gossip and make fun of each other the whole entire time, in Chinese. If I could take each of them and shake them, sometimes I think I would. I like them. But daaaaaaamn. I'm not their English teacher, I'm their Chinese-American babysitter. They dynamic is way different from the one on Saturday. I often feel like we don't accomplish much in that class and it drives me nuts! Still, it does feel nice to know that she at least appreciates me. She says that they think of me, as a friend as well as a teacher, though this Thanksgiving, she also added "sister" to that list of relationships. And I was like... "oh." So I'm that older sister that nobody listens to *although they should.* I think knowing that actually makes it more frustrating.

Friday night, it was raining. Because of that one experience when we couldn't find a taxi in the rain, Russ and I accepted a ride from Mr. Ding. Mr. Ding, for his part, just sort of walked out of his office with the keys and had us follow him, so... it just sort of happened that way. On the road, though, he asked us where we wanted to go. I think it probably still would have been impolite to ask to go home, and maybe Russ felt that too. So he suggested dinner, though neither of us had really planned on it, and I wasn't all that hungry (and had to pee), and neither of us knew where to go. So we went back to the Dings, where I met Mrs. Ding for the first time. We eventually settled on cheap chao cai, or like... food that comes in dishes rather than in a bowl with noodles. Cheap, cuz I'm way poor. On the way to the restaurant, I got to talk to Mrs. Ding, and she is a really nice lady. Sort of pretty too. I wondered briefly how this marriage had come about, but then stopped when I realized how mean that sort of was. Dinner was pretty good. Russ only knows how to say gong-bao-ji-ding (kung pao chicken), so we ordered that. They also ordered some... beef? And some potatoes. And glutinous rice cakes with red bean paste filling. It's too bad English doesn't have the words to make that sound more attractive. Also there was sweet potatoes soaked in carmelized sugar (which I actually spelled shuger just now, if you can believe it) that was starting to harden. So when you took a piece, it would trail these long sugary threads. Good, but having sweet things for 2/5 of the meal was maybe a bit much for me.

As we headed downstairs, Mr. Ding asked who was going to treat this time. I'd half expected this to happen, since Russ was the one who suggested it, but then it was sort of like... would we be treating the whole family? Sticky, because I think his wife was preparing to cook before we got to their apartment, but also the three of them outnumbered the two of us, and also Russ payed about $300 for the 3 of us the week before. Another issue was the fact that I only had my last 20 that I was willing to spend for the month, so... But Mrs. Ding let him have it, and told him that of course he shouldn't make us pay. I dunno, friendship with Mr. Ding is not the easiest thing for me because it always comes down to money for him. He always brings up money. He also has kind of a frustrating personality, but anyway. His wife is cool.

So that lands me here, at the cusp of Sunday, which is definitely not yay day. I passed a lot of the last couple days watching Youtube clips of male figure skating competitions, and have pretty much exhausted that entertainment venue, so... I guess feel free to send me your online Christmas shopping. I'll find that perfect jacket or pair of shoes that your loved one would be thrilled to own. Or maybe I'll just try. In any case, I know a lot of places with quirky gift ideas, so bring it.

Friday, November 24, 2006


Before I begin, I'd just like you to know that I'm waiting for my shower water to heat, and that the heater sounds like lazers: pyoo! pyoo!

Anyways, Thanksgiving is technically over on this side of the world, though really technically it never officially began. I meant to make this post at least an hour ago, but I got caught up watching men's figure skating on YouTube. I've rarely ever taken part in observing this facet of athletics, and I'm not really sure why that is. I mean, I could have fallen in love with Evgeny Plushenko years ago! Oh well. Better late than never.

I assume preparation is starting to swing into gear back home, or at least people are thinking about starting... most people I know are probably just now getting up... so I guess it's still appropriate for me to do what I was planning to do, and that is to publicly announce a few things. I did a short version of this in class today, trying to get my students to think about the things they're thankful for this past year. So here's the expanded list, which is not so expanded.

1) My parents: they haven't always been at the top of this list, but this year they definitely are. For two people who were originally against my little adventure, they've given me a lot of support and caring since they decided to let me come. You know, last year, when I was loitering around Beijing and Yantai, my mom's phone calls ended up a lot of times being my best connection to... well, anything. When I stop hearing from everyone else, I'll surely still be hearing from my mom. Anyways, since I've gotten here, they're a constant reminder that there's someone around who cares, and that's important these days.

2) My friends: I told my students, sometimes, when you're coming out of a time when you're always surrounded by people, you wonder how many of those people will still be close once you've been separated by a couple hundred miles and busy hours filled with appointments. I'm grateful to have some such friends who, unsolicited, have taken a few moments out of their busy and exciting lives to keep me updated on how they've been, and have shown me that they actually care to know how I've been. Being so far away, even for the short time that it is, it's a really wonderful feeling to know that someone considers me to be a part of their lives. It really does mean a lot to me, actually, more than most other gestures I've ever experienced.

3) The rest of my family: This past year, I've been fortunate enough to reconnect even a little bit with all the different branches of my family... well... on my father's side anyways. Not only have I had the pleasure of spending extended amounts of time with my cousins, but I've actually been able to spend time with my aunts and uncles as well. I was still a bit surprised everyone was when the purse story surfaced, but... is it bad to say that I was glad that someone was concerned? Anyways, since I do like my attention, I'm glad to know that I don't just drop off the radar because I can't attend family gatherings. I just think I'm lucky to have such a supportive base of aunts and uncles, and cousins who are "hip." Even Alex, though I guess that's to a different degree. I'm kidding!

4) New friends: Though I am reluctant to name very many people I've met here as "friends," since I don't actually know what they think of me, I do know that there are a few who I can trust no matter what. Alice, her family, and Russ, have been a huge help to me the last few months. Alice's mother always welcomes me into their home, and it really seems like she's trying to help me feel like I have a home here. I don't think I need to say much more about Alice, since you should know by now how her practicality and sensitivity help keep me on my feet. And Russ, he reminds me how important it is to be a generous person.

5) Old roommates: I know, I mentioned friends already, but I think Alice and Steph really have a category of their own. I must have confused more than one person by now by continuously referring to these girls as my "roommates," with no indication that there's been any break in the continuum since college ended (for me, anyway). I love that Alice, who sometimes doesn't even have time to shower anymore, will still stalk me online at least once a day. Also, I'm thrilled that Steph has the job we wanted her to have, and I'm also glad when she has a moment to tell me that I'm still her roommate too. Aaaaaw!

6) Good students: Because otherwise I would hate my job. Though sometimes I do dread having to teach, or really, having to get off my lazy butt and do what I'm being paid to do, I always look forward to walking into the classroom and seeing my students' faces. They've all got like... those interesting personalities and unexpected questions that make me *want* to do the best I can for them. And also, some of them manage to affirm, in like messages or comments (or the evaluations that I forced some of them to give... hehe) that they do appreciate what I try to do, which tells me that there isn't anywhere else that I'm "supposed" to be. I'm lucky to see, daily, such an array of good, intelligent people, since after a while we tend to forget how wonderful and common such people are.

7) Serendipity: This is hard to explain, maybe. I mean those little things that happen that help us see just how connected our lives are. Like the 3 Alices, for example. The three important Alices in my life are all connected somehow, did you know that? It's the feeling I get when it seems like everything happens because the situation is just right. It keeps life interesting, and also gives you the sense that someone's letting you in on a secret.

So... I get the feeling that the water is warm enough now. That was my attempt at being a little bit reflective, though... I may read it later and wrinkle my nose a bit. Sorry if the writing is crappy, but the sentiment is true. Anyways, when I spoke about Thanksgiving in my classes today, I uncovered a lot of very strong feelings that I have for this holiday and might have gotten choked up if I'd gone on much longer. It's the first Thanksgiving I've spent without Thanksgiving, and yet I've managed to observe it more... purely...? than I have in years.

As I clean myself (as if you need any more mental images from me), I'd just like you to know that I wish, from the very very bottom of my heart (the proverbial one) everyone (ye who read this and they who don't) a most grand and satisfying Thanksgiving, and I hope you all have long long lists of things to be thankful for, this year and next (when, hopefully, I'll be with you again)!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Is it rude to ask someone's age?

Yo, I hope not. So the new teacher we're expecting in January... I've been really looking forward to his arrival. I haven't mentioned Russ in a while, but I seem to have crossed the line at last and am finally able to treat him amiably. This is good news, because he's a very good man, just... he used to be a little frustrating to me. Anyways, we got news of the newcomer a while ago, when Russ was still planning on leaving. He's recently changed his mind though, so it sounds like there will be 3 of us here after all. I got a glimpse of his letter of recommendation, and it made him sound pretty impressive. Additionally, I was told that he was only 24 years old. Not only fresh meat, but young blood! All right, this evening has been too much about pork, sorry. Uumm, but yeah, I was really hoping for someone that I could relate to... more. But now this person's age is in like, limbo. Apparently there are two people who applied who have the same name, one of whom is older and the other is younger. We're all (as in, all 5 of us even remotely involved in this conjecture, though Alice and I are the only ones who really seem confused) sure that the young one is the one meant to come. But in a message I got recently, he alleged that he was a 12 year old in a 53 year old's body. And I'm like... that's not something you say unless your body is 53 years old, unless maybe you're... prematurely balding, arthritic, or otherwise... well, disabled or something. Or maybe you smoked. A lot. I don't know! We even took the average of those two ages and that's like 32.5. Then, when Alice and I asked Russ what he knew, he said that he'd heard that this person is about 30. I'll hopefully know for sure shortly, and you can bet that I will share that information immediately, whether it's socially appropriate or not.

Eee! Eee! Eee! Eee!

Have you ever attempted to cube pork with a [really] dull meat cleaver? I have just done this, and I have advice for anyone who considers this course of action in the future. First of all, it's good to have some way of keeping your imagination occupied. Your mind can only wander so far into unsavory territory before trauma sets in. I'd been peeling and cleaving vegetables in the well-lit comfort of our living room, but for this particular activity, I chose to relocate to the darkened kitchen, and I gotta say that it did me good. Also, be aware that the probability of your face getting splattered with raw pork water increases dramatically.

I mean, I hate raw meat. I hate dealing with it in any capacity, including defrosting, cleaning, and cutting. Anything that takes place before the butchered corpse hits a hot surface and thereby becomes food is wholly unappealing to me. Therefore, the fewer visible muscle striations (+10 life points for the broken light), the better, though it doesn't help that you can still feel them. By the way, not many things are as repulsive as the slippery stubbly skin that comes with some cuts of pork shoulder. Oy. Being able to see the mottled coloring much more clearly than I could would have been worse.

Anyways, this was all part of my attempt to make a filling for mini pork pot empanada-ish thingummies. Tomorrow I tackle the crust and the baking, and I'm really prepared to fail altogether. The stuff I made tonight tastes all right, but it smells really weird. And I don't know where the smell comes from. It's unappetizing and smells a little like... burning. Not the cozy smell of a campfire or burning paper... it's something a bit more... undigestable. It's a common smell, just not a delicious one.

Also, everything somehow ended up coming out a little sweet. Now, I know that I added some brown sugar at the beginning, but like... it's kind of a porky carrot-like sweetness that follows a lot of stews I've experienced. Argh!

Oh, so I'm doing this because tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and I wanted to have something a little surprising to present to my adult class tomorrow night. I mean, I don't know if many of them get a chance to have dinner before class (I know I don't, short of mantou with peanut butter some nights, or a partial package of noodle snacks), so it might be a nice gesture if I can produce something tasty for this holiday. Or... the alternative is to have a good story to tell them as we all starve together for two hours (unless they already eat, in which case it'll just be me). It doesn't really resemble the look or flavor of what I originally had in mind, but I'll follow through and see how it ends up. And gee, I had no idea that pork like... expands. The little bits I thought I cut are now much larger and... formidable. I also really don't want to try the meat itself to see how it turned out. You try taking a look at a pile of pork chunks under fluorescent lighting (think autopsy room) and see how eager you are to put any derivative thereof in your mouth. It's like the salmon fiasco revisited in pork.

Oh, that salmon. It still makes me pretty ill.

It's not as though I'm going on any real recipe here. It's sort of an amalgamation of recipes I've found and wild claims by forum members as to what substitutes for what. I shall post results as soon as I have them, though the potatoes taste all right so far!

Meanwhile, I washed my hands a multitude of times during the entire project. Did you know that I am totally paranoid when it comes to raw meat and the pathogens it carries? It's one of my "tendencies." I found myself in an awkward position this evening after water had pooled all over the countertop and floor and I had a wet plate of wet meat and nowhere quite sterile enough to put it down. Actually, that was less awkward than me rinsing the plate and the pork together, unable to turn the water off without contaminating everything and then having to turn the water back on again.

Fortunately, I brought disenfecting wipes!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The diet that will shave years off my life

Or at least you'd expect it would. Saturday night, before my class, I made kimchi fried rice. Sunday morning, before my class, I ate the leftovers. For lunch that day, Alice made more kimchi fried rice. Monday there was no definable breakfast or lunch, but Alice made Korean niangao for dinner (which, to me, resembles a slightly spicy campbell's tomato soup with niangao and cabbage), then yesterday our lunch was, again, kimchi fried rice.

Today, I ended a 3 year moratorium on ramen by indulging in a bowl of Shin Ramyun, which had grown too enticing to resist. Watching Korean shows, seeing commercials, and then seeing the noodles themselves at the store really wore me down over the past couple months... and throw in all those train trips between this year and last summer where the other passengers were all eating ramen, and yeah. What's a girl to do? I do submit, though, that Shin Ramyun is a little different from like the $.15 packages of Maruchuan, which I've never been a fan of. While the spices might be a bit more caustic (like, my stomach hurts a little bit right now), it all just seems more like legitimate food. Maybe it's the dried vegetables or the runny nose that you get while eating it, but yeah... it's just different, and you'll know if you try it. I know Wegman's and Tops sell it, Jungle Jim's must. Do yourself a favor and try some Shin Cup today!

So yeah, I can feel my stomach lining melting away, and also my cells deteriorating from such a non-diverse diet. I'm not really complaining though, cuz it tastes so good.

Know what's hard?

Doing dishes in the semi-dark, and I know, because I do it like every night. The light bulb in the sink portion of the kitchen blew out a few weeks ago, and I personally have no idea where to begin fixing it, and Alice has made no suggestions, so we live with it. Frankly, we use a lot less electricity this way. The only thing is that after cooking lunch or dinner, we're generally too rushed or lazy to wash anything right away, and so the dishes sit in the sink until night falls. Completely. If they're in the left half of the sink, I'm cozy enough to leave them until the morning. But if they're in the right side, the side I use to brush my teeth, I do them, often around midnight, by the light of the room next door. It's not hard because of any physical duress that I have to undergo, but rather because you can't do the job as well because, you know, you can't see the food. I'm a pretty thorough dishwasher regardless (always have been... I'm really the only person that I truly trust to handwash things really well, no offense), but... anyways, it's dark.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

This is getting ridiculous

A casual observer might remark thusly: "Gee, that Katharine girl sure does sleep a lot."

This might be true sometimes, but be assured, observer, that I get little rest despite all that sleeping.

For example, last night, after tossing and turning for a respectable period of time, I dreamt about the headless horseman in at least 5 incarnations, was nearly murdered by several of my closest friends, watched a finalist from the 2nd season of America's Next Top Model get dismembered several times in rapid succession, witnessed a man take a sledgehammer to his politically dissident wife's skull, AND my unicorn was slow, meaning that I personally died once, meaning that I woke up at least once, though the actual number of rude awakenings amounted to 3 or 4, and each time I went back to sleep to experience some other gruesome snuffings. I've never had so many nightmares in one night, especially since I'm not predisposed to nightmares. Actually, I can't even think of why, of all things, I dreamt of beheadings and labyrinthine houses, since before I dozed off I was primarily thinking about wine, wine parties, and job hunting.

Granted, I do have 7 copies of Sleepy Hollow sitting somewhere in my living room, but I really wasn't thinking about them at all. There was a thing on the news earlier in the evening about a girl who was brutally murdered with a butcher knife, but that didn't really linger as much as you'd expect for the seed of such a gorey clutch of nightmares. So... I dunno.

One interesting thing that did come out of all this, is that I also got to watch full-contact speed chess, which was pretty awesome.

Aaaagh, I'm so tiiiired!!!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Another dream

I opened my eyes this morning with the grand design of relating my epic thrills-a-minute schizophrenic dream here so that I could have access to it forever, but then the jerks upstairs applied a jackhammer/motorboat (nary an exaggeration) to the floor above my head and most of the dream just fell out of it. Then it was like some annoying child beating a wooden block repeatedly on the floor. I... have no idea what they're actually doing up there. It sounded like heavy construction work.

But, hah, I'm going to try anyways. Sorry!

So I'll start from the point that I remember more clearly. I was with Selina at a park/mall/theme park and there was some imminent danger from interdimensional forces... maybe Doctor Octopus? Anyways, there was a lot of cool stuff happening, lots of running around, but I wound up going back to the hospital where I worked. Buuut, at the hospital, I was held hostage. They really just enjoyed opening fire whenever, but I can't remember if anyone was killed. Just that there was some blood? So I got locked in a broom-closet type space where we kept a computer, an operating table, and some other medical equipment. It was well-lit, and I was in there with a few doctors and orderlies or whatever. We were climbing on top of stuff, looking for an escape (which could probably easily have been had by going through the ceiling tiles, but as much as the observer me shouted it to the active me, she never got it) when the people came in and told me that I could go out. Basically, I was given a nice dress and me and an unidentifiable guy could... go to dinner? They gave us like 3 bucks each for a cab. We got onto the revolving platform outside, and decided we'd save some of the money for ourselves by taking a bus instead. On the bus, he became a linguist. And there I met another linguist friend, who I apparently saw last in like a mall or something, which is really not true. Then, looking over, there were two other linguists I recognized. I opened my mouth and was like "it's like the linguistics bus." Tsk. Anyway, I related the story of how we'd been held hostage for a few days.

The next part I remember was on a beach. We were... body boarding, but the process for doing this was simply to run straight out into the water, put the board in front of you, stick your face under the surface, and skim until you have to come up for air. Away from the beach. Then you had to paddle back in. I was told that I was doing pretty well for someone who couldn't hold her breath underwater. This continued for some time, and there was some dramatic occurrence that took me down the beach, but I can't remember what that was. This was I think the 2nd beach scene in my dream.

Then, I was in my mother's bathroom in the old house, trying to brush my teeth, but there was a mosquito in the room that I was unable to kill due to my having the motor skills of someone who was in fact asleep at the time. So I chased it everywhere, slamming the wall with my hand generally about 6 inches away from the target. Then it wasn't me, but this woman with a baby and her husband applying black and white paint to her face. Recalling this scene makes me think that something much more interesting happened earlier on, but I can't remember what. Anyways, everything got very dramatic and ethereal and the air changed colors, the lighting changed, the music changed, and I think the mosquito died in the process, which was very satisfying to me.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A few observations, only not really cuz this is more of an aural thing

Some background music on CCTV programs and other commercials that were more or less unexpected.

1) Today, during a true-story program about a little jinzi monkey in Wuhan (in which it's breast-fed by a woman), aside from giving the monkey a baby voice for it to "express" it's discomfort during an illness and otherwise emote from the crib or in a car, they finished it off with a Joe Hisaishi number from... Howl's Moving Castle? It's the pretty little piano number.

2) I haven't been paying attention to the visuals, but every once in a while when Alice watches TV, I hear, very distinctly, an instrumental from Pocahontas, which mainly expresses either "Colors of the Wind" or "If I Never Knew You." I would assert that it's the "Farewell" theme, which is the best piece from the soundtrack, but I just heard it so I can't be sure that I'm not just making that up.

3) The oddest one, and therefore the coolest, has to be the commercial (can't remember for what... cell phone? car?) that actually uses music from Glory, and my guess would be that it comes from "Preparations for Battle," if only because that track has the longest sustained repetition of the theme and is very soothing until the end, which actually used to make me sob quite regularly.

There may be others, but those are the ones that came to mind just now. By the way, people who've seen both... isn't there a real similarity between the "If I Never Knew You" theme in the Pocahontas score and the Glory theme in general? I've always thought so. Also, I clearly like both.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Dream dream dream

Had me a really... flavorful dream this afternoon. But it sounds like my class is here, so more later...

... Ok, 2.5 hours later, let's see if I can remember what I was going to say. The beginning part is a little bland, but it's worth it when you get to the hats.

So the beginning part is a blur, but I was engaged, to a dude with whom I had at least one kid. Only it wasn't me, it was some blonde woman. Only then they got into a conversation about how he wanted children, so then there was this confused moment that was like "wait... so we don't have kids?" Then she realizes that maybe she should tell him about her "problem," which I gathered precluded her from having children.

Ok, then I'm sitting in a theater, and I'm ecstatic because they've just come out with an X-Men film that was actually an accurate portrayal of the Dark Phoenix Saga, which was such an amazing storyline that the filmmakers were actually very foolish to completely ignore when they made the 3rd movie. So it was a cartoon. And there's Juggernaut? And then, no longer a cartoon, we're looking at this building that could be the mansion but probably isn't cuz it's in like prairie land. And then comes the arrival of hats from space. They are a variety of hats, notably cowboy hats, and sun hats, and baseball caps, etc. And they're sentient. From inside the mansion comes this herd of little football-shaped machines on feet (sneakered feet), clearly inspired by Batteries Not Included (that great 80s movie), and also maybe by the Roomba. They're also slightly reminiscent of Orko from He-Man. They all talk with cute little machine voices. They encounter the extraterrestrial hats. It's determined immediately that the hats mean no harm, and in fact, have come to save the Earth from a terrible threat. So the hats and the mechanical footballs join forces. Each football is fitted with a hat and somehow this turns them into the ultimate fighting machine, only they're still just little metal footballs with hats, eyes, and feet. They could have been McDonald's characters a la the Fry Kids. I'm somehow witnessing all of this from an apartment that has no food in it, and I'm wandering back and forth to the kitchen trying to find something to eat that's preferably of Western origin. I think I found a casserole of something on top of the fridge?

Anyways, the hat thing is one of my favorite things I've ever dreamed.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

My life in food and also TV

Food update: So you know, Alice's mom comes around every couple of days to cook lunch for us and that's pretty awesome. Today, my decision to get out of bed was initiated by her arrival here. She brought fresh-baked date cake, zao gao, which actually sounds like the term people use to intone "danger" or "oops." It's pretty awesome, because it tastes pretty much like fruity quickbreads that we'd be making this time of year back home, like zucchini bread (fine, not a fruit, but you get the point). I was glad I woke up when I did, because it was still warm! She insisted that she had to wait in line forever to buy it because everyone else likes it too, and that it's Y6 per jin.

I've gotten a random vacation the past few days because the high schoolers have been taking exams. It's been spent more or less on my ass... pretty relaxing, but I also feel like the ultimate bum. Still, I wish I got more days off! Today, Alice and I went through the shopping center again, only this time we stuck with individual stores (as opposed to the department store) and poked into a few places we've never been in before. Some pretty funky stuff on sale.

I was pretty much at the bottom of my funds, but ended up buying a really nice jacket anyways. Between that and the fee for the residency permit, my salary depleted really fast. Since I'm also saving up to replace my lost camera, I'm basically left with not all that much until next month. Ok. Purse strings of steel. Let's go.

Back home, I made some efforts to read some more and watch last season's Desperate Housewives finale. Around 5, Alice turned to me and said, "Do you want to go out?" I was like... did I say something? But apparently she'd been downloading more Korean shows and wanted to see if one was on sale at... the DVD place. So we went, and we bought. She got like... that show, a Japanese show, and Japanese show we watched already that she wants to delete from her hard drive. I got a Taiwanese adaptation of the catty Japanese manga Peach Girl, which is sort of playing in the background now.

So we saw this Japanese show about two guys who take on this really awkward, introverted girl as a project. They want to make her happier. One guy is like super popular, and the other's just sort of weird. I missed the beginning and most of the ending, but the parts in the middle were fun. It was really strange though, because here's an instance where parts of the spoken language made more sense to me than what I could glean from the subtitles, so my comprehension of what was actually taking place was really messed up. The acting may be the best out of the different regions that have produced drama that we have seen.

Taiwan has produced perhaps the worst, but in a charming way. Alice was watching another show a week or so ago that was made while she was still in undergrad, based on another Japanese comic I think. I think I spent most of the time I that I watched it with her just badmouthing the main character, whom I thought was kind of a stupid girl. Also, time was spent mistaking this guy for a girl, and just marveling at the really bizarre acting style they have. That style's also evident in the current show. I don't really get it, but I love it... but it's like watching the morning announcements in high school, or first-year student films. Or, like, your friends goofing around with a video camera.

The mainland has little to offer in the dramatic teleplay department, alas... Hudie Feifei is pretty much the only one I've been able to view in its entirety, and that one had one of the least satisfying endings of anything I've ever watched. It's on VCD at my house in Ohio if anyone wants to see it, but it's all Chinese language and Chinese subtitles.

The Korean show she got looks promising, as in it already threatens to take up a lot of viewing time, but so far it's hilarious and I want to see them fall in looooove.

But that's it. Honestly I haven't really encountered anything especially interesting beyond these things in the past week, so...

Friday, November 03, 2006

Plus two more

These came to me very early this morning when I was about to go to sleep.

In the 5th grade, I developed a knack for folding paper cranes. One day, I ended up with a really small piece of paper, and given some free time for whatever reason, produced a crane about a mm cubed. To be honest though, it wasn't a true crane... it lacked the four folds around the wings that differentiate the more ornate crane from the functional flapping bird. But actually, if your fingers were little enough, you would be able to make the bird flap its wings. Anyway, I thought that was so special that I tried to repeat it, but while the cranes I made afterwards were still very tiny, none of them approached the degree of tininess of that first one. I was very proud of myself though, and showed Heflin the first. I was praised. Afterwards, I presented him with each new creation until one day he finally laughed and said "what's with you and making miniscule paper birds?" I think this puzzled me. Was this not what I was supposed to be doing? Wasn't good craftsmanship unconditionally cool? Do we need reasons for the things that we do? I still haven't answered these questions.

That first crane, though nearly lost on several very tense occasions, is still in my possession. I keep it in one of a set of little drawers that my dad brought back from one of his early business trips to Italy. I keep a lot of randomly valuable things in those drawers, including a penny for each year I've been alive to ensure longevity. In the 1st or 3rd or 5th grade... I don't remember when, just where the teacher was sitting in the room at the time, our teacher read us a book in which a little girl asked her 100 year old grandmother how she managed to live so long. The grandmother told her that if she collected 100 pennies, each minted in a different year of her life, in a box that was given to her as a gift, she too would see that ripe old age. The prospect of death before 100 was a very serious concern for me as a child, so I started collecting right away, thinking that if I could at least avoid physical injury, that the pennies would ward away death for a good long time. Also, I wanted to see if it was true or not. But anyways, I've diligently added to this collection every year or every two years as I remember, but haven't since we moved and I lost track of the drawers. If I survive until I get home, I should probably search it out and invest those last few years.

Actually,more than a few... snacks and therapy?

A few things.

Thing the first: it seems I can no longer view blogspot pages, and that includes the Post Secret website as well as my own blog. But apparently I can still post to it. So I'll just continue to do that. Blindly.

I've discovered something I will miss very dearly when the time comes. Well, assuming I don't sicken of it first. I refer to snack noodles. I don't know what else to call them. Basically, you're dealing with a shiny maruchuan-sized package of a baked form of endless cury noodle resembling ramen that either comes pre-seasoned or with roast chicken, fried chicken, or beef flavor packets, however your tastes run. I prefer the chicken varieties myself. But really, could anyone have designed a better food for the snack-minded? Granted, they're really messy (or I'm messy when I eat them). Imagine like centimeter-long noodle crumbles on all surfaces, collecting in your lap, and also in the spaces between the floor tiles. Floors around here really challenge the 5-second rule, so it's gotta be a really big chunk of DRY food on the line before I'll pick it up and consume it. But that's pure digression. So yeah, genius food-- ramen that requires no preparation whatsoever. And I love baked/fried noodles to begin with-- freshman year, that was my favorite salad add-in! I'm positive that they're totally unhealthy, and almost guaranteed to contain high doses of sodium and msg, but... you know, I have time to eat that and not other stuff, so yeah.

So, Billy Joel played on iTunes today, and I was reminded of the same thing I'm always reminded of when I hear that one song (We Didn't Start the Fire): Mrs. Mac's 6th grade world history class. That was, what, the first thing we ever did? Maybe not, because I'm pretty sure it occurred the second day, but I remember going in there feeling so smart, then following along with the lyrics and realizing, hey, I don't get most of this stuff. Were they even real words? Some of them weren't, like, real words. BUT THEY WERE. Thus, that woman, who was so mean at recess, cemented my love of history once and for all, and for 6 years that memory just chilled out, very vaguely, in my brain, until Google and Kazaa showed me the way back to BJ (I had no clue who the hell had written that song and hadn't heard it since that first fateful day). So now I'm pretty sure I can attach some relevance to the majority of the song, with a few of the SE Asia references being the only misses. Maybe some other parts, but I don't remember right now. Anyways, when that came to me today, I felt really happy. Who knew a random thing we did in elementary school back in the day could still stick so strong? Ok, well, maybe I did, cuz there's a lot of other things I remember too, but anyways... thanks, Billy Joel. And thanks, Mrs. Mac (even though you yelled at us during lunch, though I suppose that's unrelated)!

Actually, you know, I got a ton of C's from her and didn't even find out until like the end of the year when she finally divulged that I hadn't been keeping my notebook in the right format. Gee, thanks for correcting me never.

Other things I remember from elementary school:
1. My first day on the bus! I sat with Kristi Lippert and another random girl and together we figured out that we had the same teacher and made fun of her name until I started feeling guilty and stopped. If you're curious, my teacher's name was Mrs. Foxbower, which is actually a really cool name, but admittedly unusual. Really, only 1st graders would make fun of it.

2. Know what games I remember from the playground at Union (1st & 2nd)? Mork & Mindy: the 2-part episode where Mindy gets kidnapped by those space vixens, and polar bears & researchers. No joke.

3. Being incomparably embarassed when... well, I'd better introduce this better. Something I'll remember as one of the most embarassing moments of my entire life (actually, all of them may have occurred in 2nd grade): Mirm & I had spent a whole evening writing up "save the planet" letter addressed to kids in our class. We only completed 4 of them before she had to go home. I had every intention of delivering them though, so I did, during recess the next day. So when we came back, only 4 students had these special little letters in envelopes with their names on them sitting on their desk. They were confused. One of them was Joel, and I think he had a crush on Mirm (which was possibly the only reason I got along with him), so I'm pretty sure that's why his first guess was that it was from her. Nope! Not having opened it, I'm not really sure what he thought it contained, but really everything was suddenly very awkward. I was a shy kid, and eventually the teacher had to come over and find out who passed out the letters and what they were about, and finally Mirm explained that I "really cared about the environment and wanted to get everyone to help." Thanks, Mirm!

4. I once thought that Everybody Counts was a math thing and was really terrified of it even though I didn't suck at math yet. In 2nd grade, Jeffie's mom taught us sign-language for "Happy Birthday" and we got to perform it for the class.

5. Kicking butt at dreidl when we were learning about Hannukah in Mrs. McBee's class.

6. 3rd grade Thanksgiving Feast in the hallway, and clogging the hall so completely that the 5th graders couldn't get through. In the event of a fire, we probably would have had a lawsuit on our hands. Anyways, I had a fringed yellow tunic from Myrtle Beach that I hadn't worn in years, but turned inside out, it made a great Indian stereotype. I wore the outfit (including braids) to Kroger's later because I thought it was so clever.

7. Learning about the mail. I have always addressed letters properly, but hate writing in capital letters so I still don't.

8. Mrs. Atkins' daughter was Miss Teen Ohio? Miss Teen USA? Something like that.

9. We had to pick a country and do a really in-depth presentation of it, and Atkins profiled me to do China. Like, she asked everyone else to pick then literally turned to me and said "Katharine, wouldn't you like to do China?" But I sorta did, so it worked out ok. Then my mother insisted to me that there were two Chinas, thereby really confusing me, and so I did my presentation on two separate Chinas, but created only the Taiwanese flag, which I thought looked nicer. Really funny now that I think of it. But it's not like anyone else in the room knew any better anyways. Some other kid did a country with sugar cane (crap, was that Sean Townsend??), and I've had a craving for sugar cane ever since.

10. Having to recreate a 2-d human body out of paper... it took me many extra months to complete this project. Actually, I forgot about it until my teacher informed my mother about it near the end of the year. I'm pretty sure I put the pancreas in backwards.

11. I was physically blown several feet by a really strong gust of wind on the playground. Into Gary Roberts, I think.

12. During pioneer days in 4th grade, I was so pleased when a certain person's suspenders snapped and he went into, like, rigor mortis (I guess snapped suspenders suck if you're a guy). I was standing a little ways behind him in the turkey line, and he'd just been really obnoxious (a regular thing) to a bunch of people. Basically, it was hands-down the fastest karmic pay-back ever.

13. The lizard who peed on my friend and then dove down the sink drain. "Lizzy go down the hole" was something the guys in our class were fond of saying ever after.

14. When David Singer outclassed Jeff Kovach at the predator-prey game and Jeff rocketed head-first into Brose's desk.

15. When Jeff Kovach and... Singer again?... tore our class mascot ("Noid" the Domino's pizza avatar) in half and little styrofoam balls got all over everything.

16. Being banned from finishing our folktale puppet show when Kristi and I realized we didn't have a horse for the prince (yes, this happened at the very beginning of the show) and I chose to, well, improvize. It was very unwise. Our filmstrip was the best one though, I think. Well, even though it didn't exactly line up with the narration.

17. Tomato juice is the state drink of Ohio. I know this because I had to make a quilt sqare out of it for our Ohio quilt.

18. Mrs. Hammer got REALLY mad at me when I tried to be creative with the way I wrote my answers to her math problems. I was trying to save space and paper. Anyways, she handed it back to me with these words: "If you ever write your answers like this again, you will get an F." And I think her teeth were actually gritted. Scared the crap out of me.

19. Mrs. Hammer also taught us how to hula, and I remember her yelling at Sean Boyd because he was being really funny about it. Anyways, our hula routine was to the first few lines of "Surfer Girl" which I will always remember.

20. Mr. Schaeffer taught us math too. I can't remember what math, but I do remember the Bang Bang Game, which Alice Chang may have been the first to solve.

21. I remember feeling like the universe was going my way when, during our first fungi lesson, I actually had my fingers crossed that the teach would ask us how fungi reproduce, and my wish came true! I got to answer and everything, my hand was up in a FLASH.

22. There was a book in the library that has to rank among my favorite books of all time. Basically it was a massive black volume detailing several hundred poisonous plants. Not humorous. No references to current events. Just basic statement of facts and consequences. I had it on power-renew, and must have read it more than once. Oddly, the only thing I remember is that mango sap has the same qualities as poison ivy.

23. When, having run out of non-fiction reading material for the moment, I turned to a series of thin orange hardbacks that summarized the plot of every old-Hollywood horror film ever made. Therefore, I know the plot of The Werewolf, It Came from the Black Lagoon, The Phantom of the Opera, and others without ever having to have seen the movies themselves, which would probably still scare me, I'm such a sap.

24. I won the best Hawaiian smile contest.

25. Bob Sendelbach won the best Hawaiian hat contest, with my hat, even though it was too small for his head and we couldn't seem to make it any bigger.

26. Eschewing recess for art delivery with Kristi, and eventually Brandy and Natasha. This meant that we could be complete goofballs in the empty hallways and look at everyone else's work. I hit my head on a doorknob on one of these occasions, and yes, I was taller than all doorknobs by then. When I recounted this story to Mr. Heflin a year later, he told me it was impressive.

27. We apparently outgrew Reading Rainbow partway through 4th grade, and so they replaced it with this cracked-out future adventure where Earth was taken over by giant heads called "Wipers" (characters could not say this word without every boy in class laughing his head off). Random kids saved the world by using the Dewey Decimal system. BUT, after 4 years in public school libraries, we all already knew how to use the DD system. So...

28. Kristi used to finish all of our assigned books so much faster than everyone else that they had to advance her a copy of the next book. I was second fastest reader after her, but she could actually speed-read out loud, which I think shocked a lot of people.

29. "Why does Fluffy look so puffy?" Best line from the book Skinny Bones, which the woman had the audacity to REWRITE for who knows what reason, and now this line no longer exists.

30. Brose actually read A Boy in the Girls Bathroom to us. What a gem.

31. I was one of two students who showed up at Brose's wedding. I was actually late because my parents couldn't find the church and had to enter after the bride. I then left immediately after the ceremony, but he did see me there!

32. We had to write stories using our vocab words, and I elected to write eclectic tales about jade shoes (a great story that my parents threw away... don't worry, I threw an honest tantrum about it) and also parodies of Snow White in which the dwarves were given interesting new personalities (one of them was named Superman). I was always up late doing this. And also really pleased with myself.

33. In the 5th grade, I encountered one of the most amazing teaching presences of my life. Get this: Miami U. student teacher Mr. Heflin was so charismatic that on the last test he ever gave us, the last question was phrased like so, "Write everything you know about energy." Kids wrote until he told us to stop, basically, and filled the pages up. When asked afterwards how we felt, the majority of us said something about how our limbs ached.

34. Another Heflin moment: he gave us some assignment to work on silently, and a few minutes in shouted for us to freeze. Then he told us to look around the room and started laughing at us. Apparently, he'd never witnessed so many outlandish sitting positions. And he was right-- some people were really contorted. Legs were bent here and there, people were sitting sideways, some were backwards. As for myself, I was standing, bent over one of the small sides of the desk.

35. One of the proudest quips of my life: we'd just changed the seating arrangement, and Nick G. turned around to ask, "How's the weather back there?" My response: "Um... (thinking) cloudy. With a chance of meatballs." And he laughed! Another one of my favorite books, by the way.

36. Heflin played The Raven for us on Halloween, and The Shadow radio play once too. He then made fun of us because most of us were still oriented towards the stereo, even though there was nothing to look at.

37. One day, in the middle of group work, Heflin told us to stop and revealed that he and another student had been conducting an experiment on us... they'd been playing a song, and when the volume was low, we were quiet. When they turned it up, we started being busting-at-the-seams loud. Lowered again, we quieted down. And so on. It felt a little intrusive, but it was still pretty cool.

38. In a unit designed to teach us about check-writing and budgeting, Heflin attached various urban legends to real towns in Ohio (Waynesville, for example), then told us that we were going on investigative missions to one of the sites. I was in a group with Kara and Bob, and Kara was a very clever girl. In order to save money, she prefaced each catalog purchase option with "Bob, are you tough?" He inevitably answered "yes" each time, and thus she would reply, "Ok, so only 2 sleeping bags... two tents... two... so on." By the time he started taking some initiative, his only real allowance was a unit of malted milk balls. The only flaw in this was the fact that we moved on to the next lesson without any closure as to how our missions went. When we rebelled, he made up some really unsatisfying finale and moved on anyways.

39. We had to write short reports on one of the ancient Central American civilizations, and mine was the... Incans? Whoever it was, there were animal sacrifices but no human sacrifices. Anyways, I colored a really cool stone and grass border around it and thought it was the greatest thing ever.

40. I was injured twice in 5th grade. The first time was during a game of State Tag, I believe the destination was Texas, and I slipped and fell. At the end of the year, I was standing on the US map with some friends as the next class was released from lunch. Suddenly, I was the victim of a damn hit-and-run, when some tall kid pretty much trampled me and I had deep scrapes/bruises on 3 out of 4 limbs. Several people claimed that my assailant was Jermaine, but I still don't know for sure. Again, I'm pretty sure I was standing on or near Texas.

41. Kelly more or less led activities on the playground, and others in the group were Kristi, Sarah, Mirm, Emily, Liz, and Christine already. We played all sorts of tag, loitered around the honeysuckle bushes, and marched around as the "Maiderellas" and we had a chant to go along with it too.

42. I... said that someone looked like he was wearing a diaper, and someone actually repeated that to him. For real, I was just making an observation, no malice involved whatsoever. Sorry, man. Come to think of it, something similar happened in first grade, when, during a music lesson, I alleged that Chris Luebbe sounded like a girl. Pure observation, mind you. I didn't even know that that could be insulting to anyone. For real. This behavior wasn't reined in until 10th grade, when Lauterbach put me in my place while we were helping her grade the finals.

43. When Chen first came to our class, I tried to start a conversation with the assumption that he was from Taiwan. Remember that I'd been extremely unclear about this since the 3rd grade. I just remembered that the encyclopedia cited a really long name for Taiwan, and I got it mixed up with the one for China proper, which is actually longer (ok, also, they seemed longer for a 3rd grader than they do now). Anyways, he denied this. I insisted then, that he was wrong, thereby also insisting that he didn't know where he was from. Oops. Anyways, that was our first contact, I think, and it took place in the art room.

44. Mrs. Strand continued the trend of teachers insisting that they wanted to read my first book, based solely on hyper-imaginitive, stuffed with loose ends, crazy-person stories that I wrote in response to what were perfectly normal assignments. When did this trend begin? In the third grade, during the Daily Oral Language and daily journal part of our english lessons, for which my metaphors were a bit more metaphorical. Also, I illustrated everything. In the case of the story that Mrs. Strand read, the illustrations were largely inspired (and sometimes traced from... shhh!) by the Dark Phoenix Saga. Fo realz.

45. In 6th grade, I became a latchkey kid and accidentally put gum in a girl's hair. I can't remember how it happened, but it was definitely an accident.

46. Other than speed, we spent a lot of time playing a game based on mummies.

47. At some point, during a game of dodgeball, some kid threw a gatorball at my face and split my lip. I'm pretty sure whoever it was didn't take an out either. Mr. Lindsey was an odd one... he really liked making us play Antipasto, which he called "Antipasta". My favorite games though were definitely Capture the Ball and Handball. Also I liked volleyball because I liked serving. I disliked the President's Fitness Challenge because it wasn't a fun game.

48. Took my first ceramics class, the only other student was Zach Forry. Two of the best pots I ever made, though I honestly can't remember the degree to which I was actually working alone.

49. All this time, I'd been taking afterschool classes with one of the coolest women ever. At first it was math club, which I dreaded until I got there and discovered that it was Mr. Wizard math and therefore awesome. This woman could divide really fast. After that one year though, she gave up math and taught cooking classes instead. So 4th-6th, I was learning how to make crepes, haystacks, pudding pies, meatballs, apple fritters, and so on. Where did the recipes go? No clue, and it's too bad.

50. Mrs. Niehaus must have been so thrilled to have two Chinese kids she could use to play the Chinese kids in her Christmas pageant.

51. Mr. T, back at Woodland, was the best at teaching pneumonics (mnemonics? i don't have the energy to verify either spelling right now, it's like 3am) for remembering scales. Also, he had the best trombone story ever. Ok, ok, so he was playing in a band at a wedding when the spit valve caught on a woman's dress and took it back up to 1st position.

52. Being randomly invited to the special social studies class. I was really confused during the whole ordeal as to why I was there and who this woman was that was teaching me, thus beginning the trend of me ending up in advanced classes where I don't belong.

53. One day I was making fun of Bob at the drinking fountain and heard myself laughing at my own joke. He asked me why I always laughed after everything I said. I didn't know and got very self-conscious.

54. Was confused for the first time ever during a science lesson. The whole color of light thing, and that eventually led to a lot of unfounded conjecture as to what color REALLY was, and it was sort of upsetting.

55. Mac also played the full unaltered version of Scarborough Fair, which I have been unable to locate to this day.

56. During gym, I led a bunch of the girls in a chorus of "Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to school we go... with razor blades and hand grenades... and so on." Granted, we were entirely unthreatening, but don't you miss those days when you could sing that and not get arrested? Used to be the funniest thing ever, I swear. Well, next to the Gopher Guts song.

57. We spent all of our underclassmen days looking forward to the day that we could play the Ducktails theme song in the band, and it was as sweet as I'd hoped.

58. Me and Christine were partnered up for the Egyptian mask project, and our mask was hot. Later, Chen would look at it and say, "Whoa, Nefertiti!" and I got mad because I couldn't tell what he meant by that. Was it an insult? Apparently not. Oops.

59. For our solar system project, I baked a cake. Other people did a lot of research and built models and mobiles. I baked a sponge cake, layered it with apricot jam, draped it in fondant, and planted a green fondant alien in the middle next to the big fondant spaceship (not based on any existing NASA design). It was an intense effort, but... now that I think of it... it was a cake. Cheney loved it though, and I think I got an A anyways. I also learned the true meaning of not eating your cake too-- my mom wouldn't let me since it had been on display for so many days.

60. The art teacher may have yelled at me for visiting too often, but then she started giving me Starburst jellybeans, then made bracelets for me and another girl for helping her out. I outgrew it really fast, but it's still really pretty.

61. I hate rule-breakers. The most upsetting rule-breaking experience happened afterschool at latchkey when we were playing mat-tag and Adrian broke like every single rule in the book. I was so furious I cried and actually hyperventilated until my mom got there. Overreaction? I still probably would have attacked him if I weren't sorta better than that.

62. No haunted house gym class was better than Mr. Losh's back at Union.

63. In Davis's class, we had to pick interview partners out of a hat. I picked Mirm and she picked me-- I thought it was crazy!

64. School carnivals were the best. The best of the best? Spin art, cakewalks, face-painting, cotton candy, hay rides, fishing, the lollipop game, and, in 5th grade (I think), the country music seizure room. Wasn't a country fan even then, but Kristi was, and there were black lights. There was a game I was really good at, but I can't remember what it was because I was always afraid to play it.

65. Cheney yelled at me for talking in class one day when I knew for a fact my mouth was shut. She made me go to the back of the line. I wanted to cry!

66. One of the finest feelings? Having your name called on the intercom at the end of the school day.

67. Back in 2nd grade, I was disciplined. We had to sit on the stool next to the behavior chart with our clothespins on it. Being an examiner, the first thing I did was start examining all the details of the chalkboard, the chart, and the clothespins. McBee totally yelled at me for enjoying myself. I wasn't aware that being a good girl and also enjoying myself while being punished was a bad thing. I didn't know what to do.

68. Back to 2nd grade again, I had an imaginary white tiger. It chilled out under my desk during class. I also spent a lot of time staring out the window (they had to move me) and organizing the items in my desk.

69. When did I start turning assignments in on time? 4th grade, mid-year. I never understood the deadline concept. Then there was this terrifying sub, the first, the original, Fishface (subsequent subs were then Fishface 2, 3, 4, and so on. I was not the one who developed this labeling system, rather, it surfaced organically among the boys in the class). During her week as our teacher, I started consistently turning things in on time, and was good about it until senior year of high school when there was a slight mishap. And you know it was downhill from there.

70. As part of spelling in the 1st grade, we had to write every word 3 times in one spot in a different color crayon. Thing is, I was a really good speller, and I hated this assignment. Know why? Because I would drive myself crazy trying to devise unique color combinations for each word. This simple assignment would often keep me up really late. My mom would usually insist that I cheat on the color schemes, but this was something I would never do UNTIL one day I got so fed up that I just picked up any 3 random crayons, no matter how much they didn't go together, and write the word once, holding all three at a time. In 5th grade, we had to do something similar, write each word 3 or 5 times, but separately, and in pencil. The only way I could think to make this go faster was to go one letter at a time vertically, then fill out a line horizontally, then vertically for the next letter, then fill out another horizontal, and so on. It was something I'd developed in Chinese school when I was really young. Heflin caught me doing this one day and publicly chewed me out as an example to the other students. But I could already spell all these words! I aced every spelling test!

71. In 5th grade, Melissa C. recited a lot of, if not all of, the Gettysburg Address. I stopped paying attention almost right away, so I'm not really sure.

72. Back at Woodland, a praying mantis got loose in our class one day and girls actually got on top of their chairs and screamed. I used to hunt earthworms in storm drains, so this was a total shock for me, since I'd only seen that type of behavior in cartoons. Incidentally, my nightcrawler days ended during a school trip to a campsite where I tried to pull a worm out of a heap of dirt clods and grass and inadvertently bisected it.

73. In the third grade, we got a new student, Sean... Hennessy? He was like the 3rd or 4th Sean, I think. Anyways, he was really bad-tempered when first showed up, probably because he'd had to move and everything. I think ultimately everyone sort of understood, but he was pretty nasty. He began his Woodland career by insulting the teacher and sort of... well it's weird cuz I'd never seen anything like it before, but she had to physically remove him from the room and he definitely fought back. I remember practicing cursive Z's one day... we were supposed to grade our own practice sheets, and since no one really checked, we generally gave ourselves A's, or B's if we were feeling more honest than usual. He gave himself an F+ and I've always thought that the + was kind of funny. He finally found his place when Atkins' stapler broke and he fixed it. From then on, he was the stapler expert and thus acclimated to his new environment.

74. Remember how cursive was supposed to be so important? Everything had to be in cursive, but once we got to junior high, the teachers threatened us against ever using cursive.

75. I used to get really bad headaches, and was comfortable enough in the 4th grade to soak paper towels, place them on my forehead, and sit with my head back, water dripping down my neck.

76. We had a substitute teacher one day, I think it was one I was fond of. Maybe this was in 3rd grade. Anyways, she was standing by the door that morning before class had begun, and a girl... Brittany? Lauren? got up and said she needed to go to the bathroom. She'd barely cleared the threshold when the sub grabbed the big trash can and thrust it in front of her, and the girl puked hardcore. The sub was so happy, she spent a few minutes telling us about how good it was to have a rapport with others and be able to look at their faces and read their minds.

77. In 6th grade, Sarah Fredricksen and I resolved to join the drama club when we got to junior high. Actually there was no such thing until 9th grade, and she'd moved away by then.

78. One day in 2nd grade, I zoned out on the bus ride home and thought I'd missed my stop. I started panicking and involved the bus driver before we realized that we were in my neighborhood and we hadn't come to my house yet.

79. On the bus in 4th grade, Kristi and I amused ourselves by dueting "A Whole New World" over and over again, switching parts, for many many many days. No one ever said anything.

80. My first 3 years of elementary school, I always kissed my teachers on the cheek before I left for the bus.

So... maybe that's ok for now. I'm really tired. My arms are also seizing up-- this typing environment here's not the best. It felt really good though, to go through all those. I always say that my memory is crap, but there are a lot of things that really stand out that I might always remember. Of course, my memory might be even more faded now at 4am. How obsessed does one have to be to stay up until 4, typing the highlights of their formative elementary years? I might not be in a place to answer that question objectively. Anyways, it was really therapeutic, and I think I may do more reminiscing soon... if in smaller chunks.

If you actually read all those, you now see much of how I became who I am today. You also know how much of dazed, out-of-touch, know-it-all I was and have always been. It's been fun, though!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Whoo dang!

That's sort of a tasteless title actually, but that's how some tourists pronounce it, so whatever.

What I actually refer to is the Wudang Lamasery out in the brushier environs of Inner Mongolia, almost a 2-hr drive from where we are. I went there this morning. On the one hand I enjoyed getting out and seeing something new, on the other hand, I feel like we were ripped off by a friend of ours, which sucks a bit.

So yesterday, Alice informed me that we'd been invited to the monastery, which was cool, as long as we paid the gas to get there. She seemed sort of uneager about the gas part, but I knew Russ really wanted to go there, and I didn't want to keep turning these things down, so I agreed. Now... it probably would never have occurred to me to visit at this time of year. I had planned on going at some point, but never would I have opened my mouth to say "let's go tomorrow." Which this person did. I was a bit annoyed at having to get up so early, but I always am, so whatever.

We set out around 8 and had breakfast. I ordered some funky soymilk and was a little depressed about that, but moved past it pretty quickly. Then I passed out in the van, waking up a few times to stare out the window at some prime bouldering rock and some really crappy rock, neither of which I'll probably have a chance to see again before the spring, and again to chuck in Y10 for a toll booth, and to watch the introduction of gas into the van. Here's where I was astonished. So we agreed to pay gas for the excursion. Russ actually did this part. What I didn't expect was that we'd be asked to pay for an entire tank of gas (I'm feeling it was the entire tank). The total came to like Y105 and I'm feeling like we didn't use all of that on this trip. Now, I'm realizing that I was partly asleep and that there's no way now of knowing how much gas was left before we filled up, but... well, it was weird.

The monastery apparently raised their prices since the folks from my guidebook came by this way. It was a Y45 entrance fee, which was kind of a surprise for a monastery, but actually now I think it was worth it, because there were 9 different buildings to visit. I borrowed a camera and got to snap some shots at last. You're not supposed to take pictures inside monstery building, though I accidentally did inside one where I didn't see the No Cameras sign until I came out. But I got some nice compositions of pretty much all there was to see outside-- mountains, trees, shrines, living quarters, ramparts, exteriors, etc. When I'll see those, I'm not entirely sure, but they exist somewhere in this world, which is a relief.

We stopped for lunch on the way back, and I ended up paying for this meal which I think I ate very little of, but whatevs, though it never occurred to me to ask for the leftovers, which bothers me now.

I talked to Alice about the whole thing later and we were both like... were we taken advantage of for gas money? And we just sort of went through various reasons we were uncomfortable in general. I'm not really good at getting into details of this sort of thing without sounding paranoid, so I won't bother. But anyways it was odd, and I probably will start by refusing most offers from this person in the future. It's not that they're not... nice... it's just that I don't have an overwhelming sense of trust in them, so I'm going to follow my instincts some more since that usually works for me.

At a shop outside to monastery, I bought a really nice ring (well I think so) for too much money. Y30, but it's not entirely my fault. I mean, I have a fundamental problem with bargaining to begin with, and that's that I only open bargaining on items that I want and I don't want to walk away without it. This has been a real problem only once before when I didn't actually want an item, but because I was curious and asked the price, I accidentally matched wills with a hard-boiled seller and paid waaaay more for a bracelet (that I often wore afterwards, because dammit I paid for it) than I would have wanted to. But anyways, Y20 seemed about right, but I was willing to settle on Y25-27 andI'm pretty sure I could have gotten it down to there since the asking price was only Y45. Person who was with me though sort of cramped my style though and I had to settle on Y30 if I wanted it. So damn. But I like the ring a lot.

More about the monastery's buildings-- they were really cool, it shows that they're being taken care of. Most of the walls are covered in intricate Buddhist artwork which made me want to learn more about the symbolism in it. In one of the display halls was a large sand painting that was just awesome. I want to do sand painting.

I imagine that the scenery is really something in the right season, but again, I wouldn't have chosen myself to come this time of year, when most of the trees were on their way to being totally bare. Also it was really cold this morning, and that put me in a pretty nasty mood, though I'm pretty sure I did a good job of hiding it. Seriously.

So yeah, when pictures come in (I assume they will), I'll put them up!


OK, I have Skyping capabilities now, so if you have a microphone, skype with me! Tried it already and it's muy fun. I wasn't feeling particularly thoughtful or creative at the time, so my username is kat.pan

Go figure. Anyways, I probably miss hearing your voice, so yeah, lemme know if you can use any kind of voice chat service (Skype! Since I've already downloaded it and everything).

Sassy Girls

Anyways, that's why no updates this week... I was borrowing Alice's laptop for e-mail and stuff, but actually a lot of stuff automatically comes up Chinese and I couldn't figure out how to change it (and also figured it would be more polite not to). And also I didn't want to always be on her computer, so my lessons this week were really boring (but I only had to teach twice!)

So after being so pissed off last weekend, I just wanted to sleep in. But Monday was my introduction to... dun dun dun... the kindergarten! Yes, I will most likely be starting at a kindergarten soon. I promise you, only about 5 of those students will hear a single word I say (I counted) but they're cute? I was also informed sorta last minuted that I'd have to teach a short lesson, which annoyed me because I had sort of expressed an interest in not having classes sprung on me last-minute anymore. Sort of explicitly, actually. But I see that this time it really couldn't have been helped because they needed to see how I'd behave in front of so many kindergarteners. They had a book they were using though, so I just did some reviewing out of it. The teacher there said I did well, but I dunno if she saw what I saw... a lot of ADD in that room. There was just one loud little boy who shouted the answers to my questions in repeat mode until I gave the answer so it *seemed* like more kids were paying attention. But anyway. That was really early Monday morning.

Then Tuesday morning they cancelled my class at the high school because the students in my class were taking part in some other activity. Russ's class was still on, but I got the afternoon off which was totally awesome.

So what have I been doing with my free time?

If you've been spending [too] much time on facebook the past few days, it's possible you'd have noticed that I've developed a serious affinity for Korean melodrama. My mom spent half of last year trying to get me to watch some Korean show that she and my aunt were really into, but I was mostly uninterested in even approaching that. First of all, do I even speak Korean? No. Korean is perhaps the EA language that mystifies me the most. The words look like really hard math and even after watching My Sassy Girl (widely beloved Korean romantic comedy) to the degree that I have, I'm still unable to even repeat the names of the main characters.

But the Korean TV, it's really popular here. Why is that? Because they know drama. They know comedy. Also it's generally accepted that Korean people are very nice to look at. No joke. A question we posed in classes early on was, "If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?" Some folks said things like Germany for the economy, Switzerland for the watches, and so on, but there were also some women who were all about Korea for the good food and beautiful people. And it's not like I disagree. So there's one very important point about Korean TV-- the casting directors know what they're doing.

One day at dinner, Connie told us that she'd been losing sleep recently (this was a while ago when I was still teaching at the hospital). When I asked why, she admitted that she'd been staying up late watching Korean drama on TV. So yeah. And now I totally understand that.

Alice is a huge fan of Korean drama. When we were in Hohhot together, she bought a few series on DVD, one being Palace, of which I'd seen the first episode at home. I tried watching it with my mom because I was in the market for some fruity cutesy Asian love show, and I really think it would have fit the bill if I could have understood any of it. We tried it in every combination of Korean language, Chinese dubbing, Chinese subtitle, and English subtitle, and I just barely figured out what was going on. So I started it with Alice again, but left after a while to fall asleep and she ended up finishing the rest of it that week. I can't wait to get home though, I'll probably give it another try, even though she said it went very slowly.

She then started another show... and when she described the premise to me I was like... "what the?" So there's this girl at beauty school who lives with her grandmother and aunt. Turns out her mother married her father against the grandmother's wishes, and when he died, the mother had to leave. But the grandmother had been more or less caring. The girl had been flirting with this guy when "whoa" it turns out she's pregnant with his kid! I only got this far, but Alice told me the rest. He dies almost immediately after they get married, and she gives birth to what appears to be a 4 yr. old. And then the rest of the show... I dunno, she has to get along with the family in law, donate some organs to her birth mother, and fall in love all over again. Wasn't a fan, but Alice likes it.

So by the time this weekend came around, I was only paying a marginal amount of attention to the shows Alice was watching. There was one she was watching on TV that was almost over, and though I'd try to figure out what was going on from time to time, I was like "eh."

Then she went to Hohhot again and came back with many more shows, including the one she'd been watching on TV. And I walked in one day about the time the main character, enraged, throws a cake into the face of the guy who'd eventually become her boss and love interest. I was intrigued, and signed on for the majority of it, though ended up not being able to catch the end (fortunately, it's more or less predictable). The show's called My Lovely Samsoon, and I'm totally bringing it home with me in June. It's about a slightly overweight girl with an embarassing name who studied baking in Paris and shows amazing prowess as a pastry chef. She's fairly untalented in most other aspects of life except that she's pretty good-natured and very honest/opinionated. She needs to borrow some money from her young attractive boss for some reason, and as part of the deal has to pretend to be his girlfriend so his mother will stop trying to arrange marriages for him. Meanwhile, he's been pining for 3 years after his ex-girlfriend, who whisked off to America for reasons unknown and left no forwarding address. The ex is a very pretty girl, who, it turns out, had advanced gastric cancer and went to the US for treatment and school. She didn't want to tell the guy... dunno why. In America, she met a really hot Korean American doctor named Henry who also happened to be a very sensitive, mellow type of guy. He fell in love with her, but she was still all about going home hale and healthy to start again with her guy (for whatever reason, she didn't consider him an ex). So Samsoon and the boss are finally having some breakthroughs when the ex re-enters the country. Compounding this, Henry gets a 6 month sabbatical and decides to use it to visit Korea, though he respects that the girl he likes likes someone else. You can imagine what ensues.

This particular set of DVDs was dubbed completely in Chinese except the parts where characters sing or speak English. This is how I know that the guy who plays Henry and the Korean actress who does the ex are pretty good actors in English. Also it's how I know that Chinese dubs will arbitrarily change out voice actors in the middle of a season, and also how much of a shock it is to find out Samsoon's real voice is a few registers lower than the Chinese girl's who dubbed her. This show has an oddly familiar soundtrack. There was one episode in particular that had some good songs in it, but the only moment I really remember from it was when "My Strongest Suit" from Aida, the Broadway musical, signalled the sassy start of the day. At the restaurant. Thereby having nothing to do with clothes, but it fit anyway.

My Lovely Samsoon is very funny and makes you very hungry. Best moments: when the bus driver hits the brakes and Samsoon has to run to the front to avoid falling over and a random techno dance-off sequence between a member of the waitstaff and a sous-chef.

Ok, but that was the preliminaries. The ULTIMATE in Korean drama that I've experience thus far: Sassy Girl, Chun-hyang. I walked in Tuesday night after my training center class and Alice had already started the series. Being too tired to attempt anything else, I sat down on the couch next to her and stared at the screen until I just had to know what was going on. When I saw the main characters' faces, I recognized them from the show they were playing on TV in Alice's dorm. How? The guy struck me as having very big eyes. So yeah, same show.

This show came in the original Korean with simplified Chinese subtitles. So what did I do? I watched it. Whoever said you can't learn a language you don't know through subtitles in another language you can barely read might still be right-- but I still feel pretty empowered for having been able to catch as much as I did. Just wait, by the end of my term here, I'll be a simplified-reading powerhouse who can sound off a number of random words in Korean like "agreed," "cell phone," "thank you," "older sis," and "ice cream." Admission: cell phone and ice cream are borrowings from English, but yo, I picked that out, so I feel cool.

Anyways, I have never in my entire young life expended so much energy in watching any show. The first night, I was in tears for like an hour feeling sorry for this girl. By the end of the next day, I had nothing but sympathy for the guy. It's kind of an emotional spin cycle. Also, it was like sending my brain through the wringer trying to read all the subtitles in time, and I ended up having to ask Alice a lot of time just to make sure I got the gist of statements that were clearly important, or which made her laugh and didn't make me laugh, or which were simply spoken too quickly. Therefore, we also had a lot of dialogue going on, which escalated into yelled commands and remonstrations directed at the characters, predictions, loud declarations of grief or frustration, and so on. It was a highly interactive experience.

Also, our DVD player is on its last legs over here. After about an hour or two of playback it has a seizure. I started the evening watching Pretty Woman, but am writing now because it started skipping and freaking out as Richard Gere takes Julia Roberts to the opera. So I still don't know how the movie ends. So some episodes took an eternity to finish since ever 2-3 seconds of action would be punctuated by about 5 more seconds of torture and cursing.

Bedtime this week was about 2 am.

The plot... uh. Cute flaky boy (Lee Mong-ryong) meets pretty intellectual girl (Chun-hyang) their senior year of high school, and after some bizarre mishap that I missed that resulted in his naked body being discovered in her bedroom one morning, they've been forced into an engagement and are more or less married. She moves in with him and his parents to finish high school. His dad is an awesome sword-swinging police chief and his mom is a kind of annoying lady who lunches. The kids get along really well though, usually, and she helps him raise his grades and then stands up for him when he's accused of cheating. Meanwhile... well, I guess he really doesn't do much for her at this point. Before they marry though, he has a chance to hang out with the girl he actually likes, some older girl he went to high school with before he moved. She told him though that she'd always just think of him as a younger brother, and that's why he consents to the wedding (he and Chun-hyang spent the first few episodes trying to thwart the whole thing but finally give up). The second he marries CH, the girl decides she wants him after all, and then tries to sabotage the relationship, hence, drama. The dumb git then is sort of dating the both of them, and at this stage CH actually falls for him for real but lets him hang out with the other girl because of it. MR has no idea that he's being an insensitive jerk.

While he's off doing whatever, CH meets an entertainment mogul, we'll call him the exec, who is god knows how much older than she is. As a cute, compassionate high schooler, she unwittingly catches his fancy, and he sets about to woo her.

So the show is 17 hours of gut-wrenching melodramatics as wires consistently get crossed and continuously more tangled until, by episode 17, at least 7-8 years later, it's a totally different show. There are a lot of real serious laugh-out loud parts, a few moments where it's truly appropriate to shout "shake her like a baby!" in loving memory of Steph Glass, some excellent achievements in the slow-motion dramatic wrist-grip-to-hug transition tradition, and flattering light treatment. And much more! More? For example, that old trick where the guy enters an up elevator just as the gal exits the down elevator and they actually miss each other? Damn that.

Also they make Lee Mong-Ryung run here and there a whole lot, and he has a really admirable running posture. Also... he's cute like whoa. Meh.

Anyways, we managed to finish the show last night AT LONG LAST (I know, it's been about 3 days), and all of my dreams last night were fixated entirely on it. I think I dreamed up a whole new 17 episodes and dwelled a really long time near the end, obsessed that there had to be a happy ending. I was so disoriented when I woke up I didn't know what to do. Then after a nap later today, I woke up cycling through the soundtrack.

It has to stop.

But what is the thing about the titular "sassy girl?" There are other shows with that term in the title, and of course, the aforementioned movie. Sassiness must be a quality that they value? Anyways, it's clear that we should all aspire to at least some sassiness, because what does sassiness get you?

We should all search for our own rewards.