Thursday, January 29, 2009

Your money is no good here

I've mentioned before as to how the seemingly routine can become the exponentially frustrating in terms of day to day living in a foreign place. Take for instance, your own health. When being constantly subjected to new food, it's difficult to assess the different ingredients and micronutrients present in each food. While this may be of little or no importance to most, I feel it's pivotal to know what I'm ingesting. While only one example, and a weak one at that, there are far greater issues then knowing whether or not the soy sauce I purchased at Lotte Mart is of the low sodium variety.

God forbid you come to South Korea and require general health maintenance while you are in Korea. While the care is inexspensive to say the least, communication can be difficult if not impossible at times. No fault to the Koreans mind you because it's my responsibly to learn the native tongue, though I'm not sure I'd be comfortable making dental decisions, let alone major medical decisions, with any less than 10 years language mastery. "Oh, I can't remember if the doctor said take 10 pills each day or five." They, the doctors, disperse pills out here with reckless abandon. I have a desk drawer full of medication to substantiate these claims following my week long hospital bender to usher in the western new year. So when another foreigner says that they had a good experience with a doctor that speaks passable English, you tend to take note.

Annilee, my upstairs neighbor from London, pointed me to the direction of a doctor that met the aforementioned bill. "Third floor," she said confidently, "can't miss it." She went on further to explain that I didn't need an appointment. This suited me well as its been a while since I've been to the dentist and I tend not be much for the advance planning. So yesterday after a nice little workout session, I waltzed in there midway through a busy little Thursday. Since Korean architecture tends to be quite bland and homogeneous, I walked into an office, literally the first one I saw, on the third floor of the instructed building, I was met with blank stairs by the girls at reception.

Here is how I found the dentist yesterday. This is pretty much an action by action recount of how my wandering Korean adventures transpire.

Me: Ahn yung hay say o! (Korean "hello")
Reception girl: Ahn yung hay say o!
Me: (hand cell phone to girl with Korean word for "dentist" displayed"
Reception girl: "Aneo ... (insert more Korean I can't understand)"
Me: (shurgs shoulders and smile until reception girl smile backs)
Reception girl: (walks me like the small child I am to my correct destination)

I've noticed that the women around here take special pity on me. It could be their motherly instinct or perhaps my radiant blue eyes, but they are more then always willing to help. Even though it's nice to always have that ace up my sleeve, at the same time, it's severely limiting the amount of Korean I have, want or need to learn.

As the one receptionist hands me off to the next one, I made the charades gesture that I would like a teeth cleaning (it's the one where you are picking at your teeth while making a scraping noise). The women asks with a single word, "pain?" I reply, "No miss (in Korean)" and pull up the cell phone dictionary English-to-Korean entry for "cleaning." Some what puzzled she walks to the back of the office, grabs a dentist and returns to the counter. I then give the same pitch to the dentist and she replies in English, "oh, do you want a scraping?" "Yes, a scraping!" I said with a certain amount of relief. Sampsonite, I was way off!

As I was reaching into my pocket to produce my insurance card, the dentist asked, "Is your name Garrett?" I replied quickly and a bit on the surprised side none the less, "Yes, it is. How did you know that?" "Both my son and my friend Mr. Kim said they had a teacher that had blue eyes, was tall and very handsome. So I guess you." she said as if it were common Korean tradition to effortlessly pluck needles from half-million straw hay stacks.

The "scraping" was pretty uneventful save for the fact that they hygienist that cleaned my teeth did so sans gloves. To her credit, she washed the hell out of her hands both before and after the session. Back at the reception area I spoke to the dentist at mild length about Korea, the United States and So Jun middle school. I then asked her, "well, how much money for the scraping." She started to speak, then paused and said, "you teach my son English, you do not pay me. free scraping for you." I of course offered to pay again, and when she held her ground, I thanked her profusely. The whole exchange left me laughing on the inside and shaking my head a little bit. I think the following quote sums up the exchange far better then I ever could.

"No Mary. I couldn't possibly accept that. Not after all we've been through"
- Lloyd Christmas, Dumb and Dumber

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A river runs Je-ju it

(This post contains talk of testicles and theoretic ejaculation. If this bothers you, perhaps you should read this instead)

This is harubang. It's Korean translation means "grandpa"

Korea is a proud country. Show a picture of a topless double amputee midget swimming in a kiddie pool of green jello in front of Times Square to a Korean, young or old, and they will excitedly say "LG! (or any other Korean based companies logo that is visible in the picture)" It's becoming clear to me that when your country is a peninsula the size of Indiana, you have North Korea as your only land based neighbor, and you're generally regarded as a minor blemish on history's ass, you tend to take pride in what you do have. With that said. it comes to me as no surprise that Korea's island of Jeju, situated about 120 miles to the south of the mainland, is highly touted as "Korea's Hawaii". I had to exercise punctuated deference in calling "bullshit" immediately when I heard this the first time.

When I think of gorgeous places, and when I try to determine if they are indeed gorgeous, I think about this simple saying; "_______ makes me wanna squirt." Are you having difficulty following my pattern of thought? I don't blame you. Here is an example; Hawaii is gorgeous. It makes me wanna squirt. Innsbruck, Austria is gorgeous. If I saw Innsbruck right now, I'd probably squirt. On a good day, I could probably muster out a three-roper squirt for Portland, Oregon. If I could have multiple orgasms and didn't have the refractory period of an 80 year old man, Northwest Montana would make me squirt several times. Are we on the same page?

You're probably wondering how a guy who knows roughly twelve Korean words could a) jump on a plane b) navigate the island c) go horseback riding d) be someone's "lapdog". It will all make sense in a bit.

Buddha and I throwing back some swill.

During my last day of "Winter Camp" at So Jun (city school) and a mere hour after talking to him about "A simple misunderstanding", Mr. Kim asked me if I wanted to accompany him, as well as other staff and students, to the beautiful island of Jeju-do. He said that all I would have to pay for is my plane ticket (W120,000) and my transportation, soju, lodging, food and soju would be picked up for by the school district. Yuna said afterward that Mr.Kim must really like me to invite me on this special trip. I, of course, agreed.

It was as cold as it looks.

A chartered bus picked us up at So Jun middle school at 8:30 a.m Monday morning. We arrived at Gimhae airport and boarded the plane. The plane ride was an uneventful 35 minute journey but I had the idea of reopening the "I want to nail a flight attendant .. there I said it!" blog and making a small amendment such as "I want to nail an Asian flight attendant .. !", but I've since thought better of the idea. Truly the women that adorn these plains are quite beautiful. The thought of taking a picture of the stewardesses raced through my feeble mind but that, even for me, felt a little sleazy. According to lore, Korean flight attendants must complete 3 years of schooling and apparently it is pretty rigorous considering some of the job's duties are passing out peanuts and demonstrating how a seat belt works. The women, sorry boys - no stiff wristers on these 747's, all have to meet strict physical qualifications regarding height and weight and must have a certain "look" to them. I reckon it's like the free wheeling '60's before the dreaded feminism movement, or for what I like to call it, the "end of fun". Just kidding. That last bit was for giggles, albeit slightly off topic.

Ju Yeon cutting up some sort of seafood feast.

When we landed and walked out of the front doors of the airport, all I could think was "that John Denver's full of shit." Korea's Hawaii had snow on the ground! This of course angered me to no end but I was thankful I left the speedo at home and opted for the goose down jacket instead. After slight grumblings under my breathe, I jumped on the bus with the other troops.

The bus driver drove us around the island and then up the mountain. We stopped at varying sights to snap pictures and do some general sightseeing. The further up the mountain we traversed, the colder and more snow filled the air became. Like I said, full of shit.

One of the activities we engaged on Tuesday was, all of things, horseback riding. At first, the horses walked us around the track for us to become comfortable with them. After that, they ran us around the track bouncing all along the way. I don't know if it was the stiffness of the saddle, the bouncing of the horse, or the fact that it was so cold that Pancho and Lefty we riding high and tight but at the end of the day, my balls were wicked sore. Fellas, if you are having difficult imagining this sensation think of a fun Saturday night with the mistress ... without release.

The safety orientation was incomprehensible to me seeing as I don't speak Korean. As as result of this, when the thousand pound beast situated under my ass started to get agitated, I kind of panicked. First, the bastard steed dropped to one knee twice resulting in elevated blood pressure for me. While the other horses walked lazily down the well defined and groomed trail, Eeyore made it his goal to brush me up against every tree and thorn bush this side of Busan. I think he picked up on me vexing him because the jackass had one last trick in store for me ... leaving the beaten trail. As the horse and I left the trail (his doing not mine), the other Korean teachers began yelling "Left-a, Left-a!" I wanted to turn left to get back on the trail obviously, but not being privy to the information dispensed at the safety rundown, I didn't know which gesture was the kill switch and which was the rocket booster. All of the Korean's yelling at my horse must have lit a real fire under his ass because he then began to run. At this point I was left with two options; bail off and hope not to pull a Christopher Reeve or hunker down and ride it out. I opted for the latter and after a brief full on run through the thick wooded terrain, the horse came to his senses and slowed his pace.

The three day mini vacation consisted of a lot of driving and a lot of horse back riding. Basically, the perfect storm for a sore ass. After we flew back to Gimhae and during the bus ride to Masan, Mr. Kim invited me to visit him in Seoul during our Spring break. "Garren, I'd like to show you Seoul. While it might not be proper, you can stay at my spare apartment in Seoul," he said to me. And that's when I officially became a lap dog.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Korean brewfest 2008-2009

They say poverty is the mother of invention. I beggith to differ. Until you are looking straight down the barrel of an entire year without quality beer, you will never know what you are made of in the McGruber department. So what do you do when your beer choices consist of Hite (shite), Cass (ass), Budweiser? Though I've never been as desperate as to drink half drank beers at a bar or party, I've been here two months, and the thought has crossed my mind. With that said, I'm glad I haven't been confronted with a slobbered on half empty Sierra Nevada sitting in a Korean gutter.

Patrick and I swilling while we brew. Good beer CAN be found but with extremely limited variety. Pictured from left to right Garrett, Hoegaarden, Patrick, Heineken. Not pictured but also present: Guiness, Leffe Blonde and Leffe Brown.

It became clear that I had to employ some good old fashioned Montuckian engineering skill here in South Korea. Colette was kind enough to send me hops, yeast, and malt extract to get me started but the hardware end of things was brainstormed up by yours truly in the dazzling amount of free time one finds when they only actually "work" 16 hours a week. My primary fermentation vessel would be my Culligan water jug. Various plastics would round out the racking tube, funnel and cleaning receptacles. The bottles? That's easy. How about 500ml bottled water containers of course?

The Beer called my Culligan water jug home for a couple of weeks.

I planned a special gathering at the love nest for December 7th, sharp. All the foreigners came wide-eyed and skeptical. Could beer really be brewed in Korea? Is this guy crazy? In an effort to to keep this project as low budget as possible, I asked all the foreigners attending if they had a large brew pot. Alla said she indeed had a "huge cooking pot" I could borrow for such occasion. I needed 4.5 gallon capacity for brew day. She showed up with a 1/3 gallon offering so that meant I had to walk down to Lotte Mart and pony down a cool W33,000. Good job Alla.

Patrick manned the the brew pot stirring occasionally with all the physical fervor of a "Jerry's Kid" on quaeludes. The other minions watched from the other 3 square feet of floor space my apartment contains occasionally spouting off an "oh" or "ah" and the very unappreciative "what's taking so fucking long?"

Boiling the wort was successful, and to boot, fermentation was extremely vigorous. So much so, the sound from the water lock kept me from sleeping that night! After ten days of fermentation, the beer was ready to be bottled. Having a tiled bathroom with a drain in the middle I very handy for bottling beer. It makes cleanup a snap!

And then I was forced to wait for the beer to condition in the bottles. About three days in, a beer exploded in my brew cellar (bottle shot off its plastic top), but other then that, the entire process went as planned. But what fun is drinking alone? Bobby and I were the first to crack one open. The beer was fantastic! Bobby actually offered to buy some off me he was so impressed with it. I told him I'd help him brew the next batch so he could have 5 gallons to himself.

Scott and Sung Jin enjoy some of my pale ale. Sung Jin says "This beer strong. It makes me drunken!"

Logan (South Carolina) and Daylynn (New York) enjoy some homebrew with delicious homeade chili.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Sing along song

Around mid-December, I was told by Yuna that I would have to prepare for "Winter Camp." The details that she provided were scarce at best, and as was the case in this instance, misleading. Yuna told me that the winter camp was for students that were forced to come in during vacation as a form of punishment. I was told that I would have students for 3, 45 minute classes for a single day, then the next day, I would received new students. I searched for materials and potential information that could aid me in my planning for the unknown. For whatever reason, all I could think of was that shitty Antonio Benderas movie where he teaches those urban city thugs, of all things, ballroom dancing.

Yuna told me the day before the camp started, which was a week after my book had been prepared and created at the print shop, that winter camp was supposed to be fun and that the students voluntarily signed up for the camp. I can now sympathize with the German soldier whose job it was to tell the Jews, as they stepped into tiny train cars, that they were heading to a vacation villa.

The students I have for winter camp are amazing. I have to laugh at my 2nd level student class ( all 14 or 15 years old western aged girls), as all I can hear walking down the hall or into class is "Hi, Hohn" or "Hi, Garren". The students that muster up the courage to actually talk to me bust out in a case of giggles by the second sentence. Aside from that they are excited to see me, are polite, and eager to engage in the activities set forth for them.

Instead of a new group of students every day, I see them for 5 straight days. For those keeping track at home, that's 12 hours and change with them over the week. I'm glad I over prepared my work book. Again, another annoyance not the fault of the students, but instead miscommunication from the brass.

But just because I prepared a workbook, doesn't mean I can't deviate from the beaten path from time to time. I didn't necessarily have a Cartmonian "how do I reach deez keeeeeedz" moment one night, but I did think to myself, "I've got some pretty eager kids here. Maybe I can do something different." Coupled with the fact that I have very small class sizes ranging from 16-20 students (did I just refer to 20 students as a very small class?), I was pretty excited to test the boundaries.

I've learned through regular session in the public school, that children really enjoy singing western songs. My Korean co-teachers always praise me when I bring in the guitar. So when I ask them if they ever implore such a strategy, I was surprised to hear them say that they want to but can't sing or play an accompanying instrument. Does Garrett actually have an advantage here? I'll let you decide.

First, we started out slow to shake off the rust. The Beatles are very popular over here. So much so that it's common to hear Beatles songs as cell phone ring tones.

Next we rocked out a traditional American staple. Please forgive my mistakes. At extremely slow speed the chord changes can be very tricky.

Here is my crown jewel. I've heard this song on the radio or in a store some where while I've been here and thought it might be fun. When I looked it up on YouTube, the first video was from a South Korean performance for public broadcast. Omen? My original intention was to teach them only the chorus. I felt like it was slow and repetitive enough that they could easily master it. I changed some of the lyrics around to help as well. Take particular notice of the line "it's our god-forsaken right" as they had a hell of a time, pun intended, with it. It's pretty cute. Well, always being one to set the bar low, my meager expectations were surpassed ten-fold.

All in all, it was an excellent little Wednesday I won't soon forget. Doesn't this just warm your heart?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Hard day at the coal mine

It's official. Asian people under the age of 25 aren't short. These kids are 14 or 15 years of age.

I'm often asked about my job here. As much as I like to think I've been sent here as an "international ambassador of sexy" and to stir the local women into a tizzy, I actually have an official appointment of teaching. If you've read any of my posts, in all of their inaccurate grammatical splendor none the less, you're probably having a hell of a time comprehending that I teach English. I don't blame your reticence. For the record, however, I do teach me some good fuckin' "Engrish-ee" here.

In the states, my degree is in Ed. (Ed., in this instance stands for Education not Erectile Dysfunction). I have a few friends that teach back in US, and the popular topic whilst walking around the hallowed halls of the prestigious University of Montana was the pros and cons of either a) staying in Montana and working for 4 dollars an hour or b) moving somewhere, anywhere, else. Recruiters and hustlers alike took notice of this and posted advertisements in reference to teaching abroad. I'd never truly entertained the notion myself until a bit over a year ago. If you would have told me 3 years ago that I'd be living in an Asian country, by myself, teaching English, I probably would have stabbed you in the throat with a philips screwdriver. Not because I wouldn't have believed you, more so because I was kind of an asshole that was really into assaulting people with screwdrivers back then.

My normal week consists of teaching 22, 45 minute classes. This shakes down to about 17 hours of "actual real work" assuming I'm not late to any, or all, of my classes by several minutes. If you deduct potty breaks and the ever so frequent "oops I didn't hear the bell" excuse, I'd say it's closer to 13. So all in all not too particularly strenuous but I would like to see that number drop to the single digits, with strong preference to a flush zero. And while we are talking about hopes and dreams, down the road, and I'm talking way down the road on this one, maybe negative work hours. I'm not sure how that would work but I've dedicated a yeoman's effort to this one.

Between movies, songs and Scrabble, we hammered out some actual work.

This wee, however, is different. The kids are currently on vacation. The smart ones, or the not so smart ones if you ask me, have elected to partake in what is called "Winter Camp." It's 5 days for the week and 3, 45 minute classes each day. Instead of talking about traditional school camp fare that I absorbed empirically such as grand tales of a young lad who finally touched a boob or a ballsy chap who broke into his ole' man's stash of Hustler's, in Korea, the students are supposed to learn English .... well, sort of. I had to create a booklet of activities to entertain the kids for an entire week. Thus far, we've done crossword puzzles, word searches, and fill in the blank activities. Shit, I've even taught them "Yellow Submarine", "You Are My Sunshine", with tomorrow's big finale being "If I Had A Million Dollars" with them. The kids that are here are really well behaved and excited, for whatever reason, to be here at school as opposed to anywhere else like, I don't know, sleeping or creating general mayhem. Here is a recap of my Friday.

8 a.m: Get up.
8:10 a.m: Get on the horn (Skype for the laymen). Pester people back in gold ole' Miegook.
8:45 a.m: Eat my sugar flakes (yep, still out of oatmeal)
9:00 a.m: Eject the rest of the Ebola from the bottom half of my body
9:15 a.m: Waddle to school
9:30 a.m: Arrive at school
9:33 a.m: Talk to Mr. Kim about "a simple misunderstanding"
9:55 a.m: Arrive in class 10 minutes late. Assign 45 minutes worth of book work.
10:30 a.m: While students work, watch Bruins/Pens finish 2nd period. 10 minute break time.
10:45 a.m: Pass out scrabble games just in time for start of Bruins/Pens 3rd period.
11:30 a.m: Assign another 10 minute break.
11:45 a.m: Load "School of Rock" with Korean Subs from USB drive. Watch first 45 minutes of the movie. Think to myself whilst watching the movie, "That Jack Black can be really annoying but damn that Sarah Silverman has some big titties." (Weird eh, I've only been here for two months, and what would be average sized breasts back home look like giant Hindenburgs to me now - "Oh, the humanity!")
12:30 p.m: Lunch. Hyun Mi was nice enough to buy lunch for the crew though I was barely able to touch the chicken for obvious reasons.
2:45 p.m: Rinse and repeat previous classes
5:10 p.m: Waddle to gym

I need the help of Stephen Hawking on this one because somewhere during this hectic day, I managed to accrue 2 hours of overtime. TIK!

I walked upstairs to borrow a camera to take this photo. The whole time the only thing I could think of was "Ma and Pa! will sure be proud of their baby boy!" If this thought alone isn't proof of a maladjusted upbringing, I'm not sure what is.

Friday, January 2, 2009

A simple misunderstanding

When an attempt was made on my life in the form of a foodborne Ebola virus on New Year's Eve, my coworkers, Sung Jin, and my principal, Mr. Kim were all very concerned. Whilst laying aquiver in bed in between violent bouts of vomit and fecal expulsion, I had a lot of time to soul search. I thought to myself that many a person has been on the business end of food poisoning before, so why were they so concerned about lowly ole' me? I could understand why Sung Jin was concerned. I mean, he was the henchmen that delivered the near fatal oral dose of contaminated poultry. I think their over-the-top concern spawned from the fact that I may have over sold the whole thing through a graphic rudimentary monologue coupled with Pictionary!
styled theatrics. But Dude, you can see my concern as I wanted to make sure they sent me home. This would ensure that I would never have to weaken the journalistic merit of my blog by posting a message with the title of "I shit myself in class today!" complete with a 20 picture web album.

On New Year's Day, the day after I left school early to recover at the luxurious Changpo Freetel, Mr. Kim called me.

Mr. Kim: "Garren, this is your principal. Open your door. I am knocking on the door"
Me: "Umm. Ok. I don't hear anything but I will check."
Mr. Kim: "Why aren't you opening your door?"
Me: "The door is open. Where are you?"
Mr. Kim: "It's polite Korean culture to open the door."
Me: "I'm sure it is. I understand that but where are you?"

He then hung up the phone and left me in complete bewilderment until he called back two minutes later.

Mr. Kim: "Garren, I want to see if your condition has improved. Come out to the front of your
Me: "Ok. See you out front."
Mr: Kim: (hangs up the phone)

So I cruise around my tiny apartment building several times looking for my principal. I don't see him and then text Yuna to explain the situation seeing as I don't have Mr. Kim's phone number nor do I have caller ID. I also figured I'd have a loose "hey I tried" alibi the following morning.

I'm well aware that this looks bad on my behalf. Foreigners, no matter how seemingly well behaved and squeaky clean, have been pegged as HIV carrying, obesity ridden, unemployable philanderous whores through the bias media and, to an unmeasurable effect, by our Budweiser guzzling, flag waving boys representing our armed services in Seoul. So when Mr. Kim showed up at my joint when I'd been sent home the day previous with a potentially life ending strain of squirty-ass, and I wasn't there, I'm sure he assumed the worst. I knew I had it in for me when I came into work on Friday.

I waltzed into work at 9:30 a.m, while not a minute early, is still not a minute late. The office phone rings at 9:33 a.m (I wonder if he was counting down the minutes before he got to reem round-eye) and one of the non-English speaking staff answers the phone speaking in Korean, points at me, says "Mr. Kim", and points downstairs. An obvious world class Pictionary! player if I've ever seen one, I get the hint and roll down to Mr. Kim's office.

Resisting all urge to greet him sarcastically with a "Sup hoss?", I lead with the somewhat calculated, somewhat manufactured, and all but forced, "Anyyunghayseyo Mr. Kim." He looks at me from behind pursed lips, and even more pursed eyes, and says that he is very angry with me. I explain the situation that I was indeed at my house between the hours of 3 p.m and 10 p.m, and in the most subtle way that I could without tossing the issue of senility into the equation, suggested that he may have been knocking at the door of the wrong apartment. "Changpo Freetell, four-zeo-six, right?" he said. I agreed, and thought to myself, that I think I should know where I live. After all, I have a key to the place and I leave my collection of porn there, which according to me, and the state of Montana for that matter, qualifies me for residency. Unless I've been inadvertently jerking it at my neighbors for the past two month, I'm most definitely right on this one. And if I'm wrong, then I've got some pretty understanding neighbors.

The situation diffuses as it became apparent that his whole "anger" bit was about as thinly veiled as a presidential campaign promise. He finally cracked a smile and says he was just very anxious in reference to my situation and glad that the plum tea he made cured me of my ailments. I knew he couldn't stay mad at me. This is the same man that refers to me exclusively as "his son", feeds me with his chopsticks at the dinner table, and pimps me out to student's parents for special dinners as a blue eyed ambassador for Masan Seo Middle School. It would be like Sigfried or Roy without that killer tiger beast that is both feared and loved at the same time. Who's beauty would they admire from afar? Who would they teach tricks to (Korean curse words)? Who would they feed table scraps to? I knew he could only stay mad at me for so long. Think about it. This whole situation was me apologizing all over myself for being at my house at the time I specficied and apologizing for another person's inability to find it. That's culture for ya.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year ... enjoy the food poisoning bitch!

(warning: graphic post. BTW anonymous comments are now allowed because apparently some of my older reader's can't figure out how to use the complicated user name/password feature:)

What's a guy to do when he's asked to ring in the New Year 17 hours ahead of friends and family? Why contract painful vomiting and explosive diarrhea of course.

On New Year's Eve-Eve, Yuna's brother, Sung Jin, came over. He's a 24 year old college student that is studying to becoming a teacher here in Korea. As part of the entrance exam, he must answer some questions in English in front of an interviewer. As much as I want to tell him to do something else, anything else, as a profession, I have no choice to be impressed by his youthful enthusiasm. Though, at the same time, it's highly annoying to be in the presence of someone that thinks they will like their future job. The only thing worse is knowing someone that actually enjoys their job. The absolute Sisyphusian drudgery of the situation is knowing that I'll never enjoy my job. I know this because the very nature of pimping oneself out for arbitrarily worthed pieces of paper goes against the grain of happiness itself. Exacerbating my anger is I'm not a big fan of being told what to do either. With that said, can you tell I've rewatched Fight Club within the last week?

While I might not be the beaming ray of sunshine that the world huddles around for warmth and inspiration, who am I to rain on someone else's parade? As such, since Yuna is my handler, and a fine handler at that, I feel a slight obligation to repay a debt. It helps that Sung Jin typically brings over a small gift in the form of an edible consumable. And since I'm lazy to a fault, being fed in exchange for helping a friend out is small penance.

On tap was roasted chicken, or that's what I requested. Actually my original request was a chicken salad. It's quite easy. Chicken plus lettuce plus some sort of dressing equals chicken salad. I've had more rice and meat than I'd care to recall and was looking to bombard the colon with copious amounts of fiber. With that said, when the delivery guy showed up at my apartment, and dropped off a box of fried chicken wings, I was pretty disappointed.

Not one to say no to free food, free booze, or free sex (ok, anything less than 20 dollars), I happily feasted on the greasy wings. Sung Jin and I had a couple of my home brews, and to my surprise, not only does he really enjoy the beer, he drank one of my IPA's at room temperature!
At about 9:15, he left my apartment and I nestled into bed for an early evening in preparation for the following day's "work."

Work would never come, or at least the version I've come to know and dread within the last couple of months here. I was awoken by gut wrenching stomach cramps at 3 a.m, and by 7 a.m, it became clear something from some orifice of mine was about to be expulsed from my body. I've always enjoyed stories of travelers that speak of malaria or food poisoning because, while I've never been in that situation, I have only their words to base certain assumptions on. "Coming out of me from both ends," is the term used most prevalently. Those words always made me laugh ... at least until today.

I stood up from my bed and it became clear that forces beyond my control were working WWF tag team style feverishly within me. I dizzily made it to the toilet and assumed seated lock down position. Seriously, in crisis, sitting on the pot seems to be the de facto stance that replaces the fetal position long after you've outgrown being a fetus. There is something extremely comforting about mounting the thrown, placing your elbows on your thighs just after you've thrown out the "Sign of the Cross" just in case. Some call it resigning yourself to your impending fate. I like to look at it like enjoying the calm before the storm.

As I sat there, wondering where my foe would attack from first, I had to chuckle as the the layout of my bathroom. I thought about those poor malaria stricken folks marooned in Ding-Fuck no where, grinding it out over some squatter toilet, or even worse, some fecal filled shallow hole in the ground. It was brief, but I had a moment. A moment of clarity. A moment of utter appreciation. The fact that I had a tiled bathroom, with a storm drain, and a movable shower head made me feel suddenly at peace. Clean up would be a cinch assuming I survived this El Nino. But leave it up to mother nature to deke me forehand then backhand. The 2nd position within the travelers play book is on his knees, enjoying his own reflection within the murky waters of an American, ahem, Korean Standard. My moment of peace was over.

With an upward thrust and twist, I reacted to mother natures one-on-one deke and made it to my knees just in time to let out a violent yak of vomit. And then I yacked some more. If that weren't enough, I yacked a little bit more. The rock gods say that John Bonham would have been proud but this performance wasn't yet near a first encore. As I marveled at the spiral that was making its way down the flushing toilet, I felt a tickle in my belly that manifested its way into a freight train speeding down the tracks that was my colon. This was 7 a.m. This was round one of a heavyweight battle I had no chance at winning.

After another go around some 45 minutes later, I felt the need to contact Yuna. I told her that I wasn't coming in today because I could literally cough, vomit, or shit at any moment. "You have to come in," she said. Really? Potentially shitting myself at the drop of a won isn't reason enough to stay home?

Sung Jin said he would take me to the hospital at 9 a.m and then we would walk to the school at 10 a.m. It was kind of implied that once the principal saw me in the condition my condition was was in, he'd take pity on me and send me back to my sweat box of an apartment.

Outside Lotte Mart at 9 a.m precisely, Sung Jin came running up. "I'm so anxious about your situation," he said to me obviously concerned. We walked towards the hospital past the stinky fish markets and street side food vendors. The smell of the food emanating from nearly every nook and cranny made me almost junk twice. But that was nothing compared to the smell of stale fried chicken still pungent on my fingers I took in when I tried to plug my nose.

I managed to contain my stomach contents as we arrived at the hospital a mere few minutes later. Sung Jin made the appointment and sussed out the details with the receptionist. While sitting, I spotted a garbage can in the corner of the room that could be reached in a matter of steps if need be. Sung Jin picked up on the fact that I was sizing the place up in regards to potential places to spew. This made him nervous which then thrust him into million question mode. He began asking me questions like, "do you think it was the chicken? I wasn't sick from the chicken. The chicken tasted ok, right?" It was then I looked him straight in the eye, vomit threatening up my throat, eyes sunken back into my sockets and said to him as squarely and as sharply as anyone can, "Dude, don't say THAT word again."

We walked into the examination room and I laid down on the table (for those keeping track at home, this is the 4th time I've been to the hospital in a week and a half). The doctor began asking questions to Sung Jin in Korean all the while pressing and probing my stomach. After 30 seconds, he looked at me and said to me, exactly the way Ramathorne says "Reefer" when he discovers the weed in the semi truck in Super Troopers, "food poisoning." He then led me into an attached room. The women in that room motioned for me to expose my ass. Not one for being shy to expose my ass, I granted the woman her request and the only word uttered from her mouth was "pain" as she stuck me in the can with a diminutive needle. Sung Jin and I picked up some medication and made our way to the school.

Yuna rushed over when she saw me hunkered down at my desk and sympathetically worded to me in a motherly tone, "I'm so sorry about your condition. Do you think you can teach today?"
I predictably said, "I don't think so. I've had diarrhea three times, I've vomited 3 times. I think would get sick again. If I have to, then I will need a bucket in the classroom." I believe the bucket line was the clincher as it was then she said, "I think Mr. Kim wants to speak with you about your condition"

Mr. Kim was surprisingly sympathetic about the whole thing. I mean, homeboy is pushing 60 years old and has seen more involving poverty and disease than he'd probably care to regale me with. In fact, growing up in poor Korea in the 1950's, he may have actually had to walk uphill both ways to school. "My son, I've heard you are sick. Please drink this tea. Please go to your accommodations and rest. If I have time, I will check on you," he said with generous amounts of sincerity.

At home, the stomach pains brewed and brewed until mother nature hit the bleeder valve at will. Vomit, shit, shit, vomit. It didn't matter. Then I made perhaps the biggest mistake of all. When you are sick, much like in hockey, it's important to always play the body. Don't look away. Don't become mesmerized with what you think is going to happen. While I laid in bed, I let me guard down, and let past what I THOUGHT was a small amount of gas. Needless to say, I sharted about a tablespoons worth of whatever, and in one fell swoop, ended 20+ years of shart-free living.