Wednesday, November 25, 2009

it's the most wonderful time of the year

while the weirdness of being away from home at christmastime deserves a blog post all of its own, i did want to share the exciting news that we're jet-setting to japan in one month today.

iiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeeeeeee !!!!!!!!!!!! (that's a high-pitched squeal of excitement.)

i also kind of love using exciting terms like "jet-setting." it makes me feel really glamorous.

mark's mom, klara, is coming to visit us for 9 days, and we're booked to fly to tokyo on christmas day. so yes, notwithstanding being out of canada and absent from family gatherings, flying to japan for the holidays will make 2009 officially the most bizarre christmas in the history of alex.

on a totally separate note, hopefully we'll get to experience the wonders of the subway while we're there:

or, not? oh dear god. that sort of puts the TTC fair hike and subsequent drama to shame. i wonder how much the subway in japan is?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

oh baby, it's cold outside

it's freaking freezing in korea. and when it's cold in korea, you eat jjigae, or stew, to keep warm. above, a hot bowl of kimchi jjigae served in a stone hot pot will warm you up (and clear your sinuses).

while we experienced a cold snap several weeks ago that lasted 2-3 days, potentially due to neighbouring china's cloud-seeding overdose (and their subsequent early-november blizzard), the frigid temperatures quickly passed, autumn returned, and i danced a figurative dance of joy that i didn't need to invest in a winter coat yet.

well, i spoke (or, danced) too soon. winter seems to be here; seoul's currently got lower temperatures than toronto. whaaat ... NO. this does little for my we've-escaped-the-shitty-canadian-climate gloating. for the record, it's currently -3°C in the greater seoul area.

and while i thoroughly enjoy the ondol heating that warms our apartment, the heat at school is another story. our boss finally gave us the heads up the other week that the "warm wind" was now available for the individual heating+air conditioning combo in our classrooms, and we obviously suppressed giggles at his inadvertent fart joke. why the building is designed in the opposite fashion of the very-effective-and-ubiquitous system of this country is beyond me. never mind that it's a challenge enough to get my students to refrain from opening the windows (and hanging out of them) or turning the thermostat dial in the classroom at their leisure (to which my protests of "teacher only!" are futile), but the heating units are in the ceiling ... and heat rises ... and ...


so most of my students are wearing their coats in class. and while the room eventually reaches a nice degree of cozy, you open the door to the hallway and meet a cold blast of frigid air, as the halls are unheated. oh, and all the windows are open in the stairwell. and bathrooms. and walking from my classroom to the teachers' office is sort of like travelling through siberia. i am confused at the theory behind all this. wouldn't it make more sense to heat the entire building?

regardless, winter has apparently arrived in this part of the world, and i suppose it's time to get used to it. i even gave in and went shopping for a coat. time to wear it, in class (while eating jjigae).

Thursday, November 12, 2009

now that i'm on an extended vacation ...

... i've got time to update the blog on a more-than-once-a-week schedule!

the results of my swine flu test came back positive, and i've been assigned a work-mandated leave from school. until potentially next week. eep! while i don't mind the unexpected vacation (especially since i'm no longer feeling inches from death), i do mind feeling like a leper that no one wants to be near. and i resent not being allowed to go into work and not being paid for days off that i didn't choose to take! but i digress ...

yesterday, amid my couch lounging and mad men season 3 marathon, mark was at school experiencing the wonders of 빼빼로 day - or "pepero" day, for non hangul readers. while november 11th is a noted day of remembrance for north americans, in korea, it's a day to ... give, receive, and eat chocolate sticks. pepero, or pocky as they're known at home and in founding japan, come in many different varieties and flavours; everything from your original "biscuit with choco" to almond covered or chocolate filled. to homemade candy coated pepero. or fat cigar-sized sticks of pepero. you name it. and as the date on november 11th resembles four sticks (11/11), it is well suited for this commercial holiday er, "holiday." needless to say, i was quite envious of the haul mark teacher brought home with him last night.

so yes, i've got a free and clear sched
ule for the next few days while i recover from the much-feared h1n1. i have to admit that i don't mind the minor celebrity status it's brought me - many facebook friends have come out of the woodwork to confirm my swine-y status and wish me a speedy recovery. ooh internet fame!! it's been lovely company to my lonely days of quarantine. well, that and the pile of 빼빼로, of course.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

feeling swine-y

after all my complaining about south korea's overreation to h1n1, i may have overreacted myself this past weekend.

that being said, i won't know for sure until friday, when my (very expensive) test results are handily sent to me via text message. but yes, i spent this past weekend feeling very close to death; complete with alternating chills and sweats, a chesty/phlegmy cough, lack of appetite and a 3-day-long headache. it was very very very very very awful.

mark dutifully accompanied my whiny and complain-y self to the emergency room at the hospital in uijeongbu on sunday, as that was all that was open. i still have yet to determine whether that was an overreaction in itself - it seems to be the korean thing to do, to go directly to the hospital when needing any kind of medical attention. and swine flu is currently the #1 cause for health concerns in this country. yet, any ER is overwhelming. and while i wanted my feeling terrible-ness to get checked out, i felt sort of awkward waiting temporarily next to beds with visibly sick and writhing and needingmuchmoreattentionthanido patients.

regardless, a helpful nurse who spoke english (thankgod!) accompanied me for "plu testing", which involved sticking a massive swab up my nose and sealing said swab in a sterile container. and ... that was it. they asked me my symptoms and swabbed me. then the administration desk tried to charge me ₩500,000 (more than $450CDN) for the test as i'd forgotten my insurance card. nevermind the fact that i felt so out of it i'd spelled my own name wrong on the hospital admittance form, i knew this was a ridiculous sum, bacon death or not. thankfully, behind-the-desk personnel did some deeper investigation, and realized i'd been to the hospital before and my insurance information was in their computers. as a result, i left with 5 days worth of tamiflu, and one swine flu test - results pending - for ₩89,000 ($80CDN). the whole ordeal took less than an hour.

so, now that i'm feeling better, i'm interested to find out these test results. though i won't know how to overreact to finding out i have swine flu ... you know, when i don't have it anymore.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

goodbye october

it was a happy halloween indeed. in the end, the costumes didn't end up coordinating, but they were both respectively fabulous. (that's mark behind the mask, just in case you were confused.) this indian and monkey butler headed to a house party in uijeongbu with some of our costumed friends and had an excellent night.

in other breaking news, we were informed today of the long-awaited fate of our apartment: we're keeping it! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! though i may not have mentioned it on here, we went into our contract aware that the lease on our wonderful 3-bedroom abode would be expiring at the end of august. and from there, they wanted to shuttle us into an officetel, or one-room apartment for the two of us. i don't know what sounds like relationship bliss to you, but rooming together in dorm-sized accommodations is not it! knowing well in advance that we'd be unhappy with the new digs, we responsibly staged our protest months ago.

however, when things get done korean-style, it's sometimes at a snail's pace. and there are often a lot of vague responses to requests and pleas and no clear answers. our lease ended up being extended until the end of october, which just sort of extended this excruciating situation. last week, when november first was looming at the end of our calendars, both mark and i were hesitant to bring it up. because it's also korean-style to get-it-done-last-minute. i was dreading hearing on the friday that we'd have to pack up and move sunday.

but despite all this anxiety, our answer's finally here and it doesn't involve downsizing! we're relieved and elated and, needless to say, busy preparing for a celebratory "housewarming."