Thursday, November 24, 2005

A Collection of News-Worthy Items

I spent last night writing a letter of complaint to Fido phone company. To make a very long story short, they charged me $60 for an extra month of not using their services, after I requested my phone be disconnected. I do not like large corporations. They can get away with murder, because they are faceless. Nobody takes responsibility for anything. Tonight, I thought about the customers whom I dealt with when I worked at eBay. I remember some of them were royally screwed over by eBay, but because of company policy, there was nothing I could do to help them. In particular, I recall this one member, ' beautiflstuff . ' She sells body jewelry. To make another long story short, eBay deleted one of the categories that she had hundreds of items listed in. eBay's computers automatically dumped all these listings into a different, inaccurate, category. As such, she lost business because customers were not finding the listings. She had to end these hundreds of listings one by one, and relist them. I could not refund her anything and there was nobody to help her list the items again. All I could do was sheepishly apologize. I talked with her for an hour, and to this day I still feel bad about her plight.

Tonight I had an idea. What if I emailed 'beautiflstuff' out of the blue today, and said "Hey, I'm that ex-eBay employee you talked to," and offered her $60 out of my own pocket? Rather than achieve some justice in the world by prying my $60 out of Fido's hands, I could take some responsibility on eBay's behalf, and right a wrong that a large, faceless corporation caused.

So, what do you think? Am I silly for wanting to play God, and bring justice to the world? Will I weird out the jewelry seller and lose $120 between Fido and eBay? Or should I do something wild and crazy, in order to make the world a fraction of a better place?

In other news, thanks to Ryan's mom for including nummy cheese and crackers in Ryan's care package. He shared them with me, along with some peanut butter and jam. I also got a care package of a different sort, from my mom today. As soon as I saw the customs declaration, which states 'precision ball pens,' I knew something was fishy. The parcel also had a 'security' sticker on it, something I didn't recall my previous packages having.

My mom can be an unpredictable woman sometimes so I tried to inconspicuously put it aside to open later. I didn't want a whole room of teachers to see the scalp of a metis my mom sent, or worse yet the multiple personality disorder medication I forgot to pack with me (Shh, they don't need to know that, Henrietta!).

But a chorus of 'open it, open it!' egged me on. Inside the package were.... precision ball pens. But the package was folded and taped in an odd manner around... another package, of papermate pens.

The suspense was palatable as I opened the second box, to reveal six more pens, and (wait for it.......................) drugs.

Hidden behind the pens was a prescription of Oseltamivir phosphate capsules, the 'avion flu virus cure' that my mom had said she was going to send a few months back. Apparently they are quite expensive and have either a 50% (according to my mom) or 70% (according to wikipedia) success rate.

I was not aware exactly how coveted this drug is until I looked it up on wikipedia just now. Apparently, this drug cannot be synthetically produced; rather it is made from an acid in star anise (a Chinese cooking spice that tastes great with bbq duck).

Star anise is grown in four provinces in China and harvested between March and May. The shikimic acid is extracted from the seeds in a ten-stage manufacturing process. 13 grams of star anise makes 1.3 grams of shikimic acid, which can be made into 10 Tamiflu capsules. 90% of the harvest is already used by Roche in making Tamiflu.

Goverments have been stockpiling Oseltamivir phosphate capsules, which were widely used in Southeast Asia during the outbreak this year. Only one company, Roche, makes the drug, although a second company is vying to gain the rights to do so as well. Roche has stopped all shipments of this drug to North America as of this October, due to stockpiling issues that result in a shortage of the drug in high-risk areas. Roche says it will now only ship the drug to China's health ministry. Another twist is that Tamiflu has also been known to cause people to jump out of windows and moving trucks, in studies conducted in Japan. Anyway, thank you, Mom, for smuggling me the drugs. I'm quite touched you want me to live should a pandemic occur. Thank you also for the cough medicine you sent last month (labeled 'candy' on the customs form). I currently have a cough and am putting it to good use.

Moving along to other news, kids vomit a lot here in Korea. Brent said he counted 8 piles of vomit on his way to work the other morning. That's about one pile per every two minutes of walking. Today a kid threw up in my K7 class. Actually, class was over and I was scrambling to finish stuff up when some of the kids started pointing at Jordan. I looked over to see his hand clamped over his mouth. I mentally rolled my eyes, thinking oh no, what did he manange to do.. bite off his tongue while sitting in his chair? The poor boy couldn't move though, as he was clutching a rather large fistful of vomit, and trying not to spill. I ran to get paper towels, but changed my mind and grabbed a garbage can instead, which was a very good decision in hindsight. I then grabbed the nearest kid, Antonio, and instructed him to hold the garbage can under Jordan's mouth while I ran for paper towels. The look he shot me was priceless. It said, "Teacher, you expect me to do what?!" He looked like he was going to throw up too. I was touched that he held the can for his classmate anyway. Remember that post where I commented about Korean kids having exceptionally bad teeth? Perhaps it's due in part to eating crappy Lotteria fastfood and 'streetmeat,' and throwing up a lot. Stomach acid can definitely wear down teeth.

Finally, here are the photos of Palgong Mountain and Gatbawi Buddhist statue, the prize at the top. We hiked this mountain a couple weeks ago.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Guilty as charged!

It appears I have caved in to the internal peer pressure and created that 8th blog I said I wouldn't create, the fashion blog now dubbed Dawn J'Heureuse. I have posted in that blog three times in the one day it's been up, and I'm already foaming at the mouth to post more.

Anyway, now that I don't have to pollute this blog with fashion-related stuff that would most likely bore some of the people who originally bookmarked this blog in order to learn about Korea, I can now post about the originally intended topic of this blog; namely, Korea!

Today was a rather crazy day at school. I only had preschool + four classes. But.. first, my preschool class was observed by a girl from a different franchise, who is training to become a preschool teacher there. I didn't catch her name. With someone watching, it always provides that extra motivation to 'make it the best class ever' and I was quite pleased with the shining example the girl was provided. I praised the kids a lot, gave lots of high-fives, made the material varied, staggered active activities with non-active ones, had them repeat material after me before drilling them with games, made my face animated, pet them lots (or a bit more than usual since I'm not really the touchy-feely cheek-pinching type of teacher), and all the things we've been taught to do. Now that I think about it, we've learned quite a lot about teaching!

Later in the afternoon, I had my first parent-observation class. I was quite worried, since K6 is my second-largest class (11 students) and also the quietest. The kids are always lethargic and half of them never want to participate. Right before the class began, I was surprised to find I would be teaching a K7 a half-lesson. K7 is the new class that Ryan opened, and it has grown to be what is now our largest class.. 13 students. They are all about aged 8-9 but brand new to English, so that makes it more challenging to teach them. They also have a tendency to all vie for attention at the same time. John will be head-butting my back while Dora is chirping about how she finished her work, Tim will be rolling on the ground, while Wilson is popping up and down wanting to share with me that Alan was out of his seat, tugging at my shirt to tell me that Kevin was speaking Korean.

That was a worst-case scenerio, though, as challenging as they can be, they can also be one of the best-behaved classes at times. They are really a joy to teach. Anyway, thinking I was about to teach K6, I received notice I'd be teaching K7 for 25 minutes.. and the same observer from my morning preschool was also there watching. I kept adding a few more activities.. and a few more.. trying to time it right so I'd be done at half past. Half past came and went then 35 past, and Ryan didn't come to replace me.. and Jenny didn't come to get me, so I freaked out a bit and went to get Ryan. I'm sure I was early or something; I just like to do an extra special freak-out dance at prime times like such. When I came back, our director was ahead of me, and walked into the class to see 13 students sitting perfectly at their desk with their textbooks open, an observer in the corner, and no teacher in sight to enforce their good behaviour! Even Tim, the rambunctious one, who had somehow bloodied his finger 10 minutes earlier, was sitting in his desk. Her surprise made me giggle.

My K6 class went much better than expected. Although I was expecting horrible results, so that's not saying much. We managed to get through the whole lesson plan rather smoothly, and I was shocked at how well the kids participated when their parents were watching. I am still shocked. For the last half hour, the Korean co-teacher and our director talk to the parents, and they occasionally asked me to comment on the kids, which they translated for the parents. While they talked, I tried to infer what Korean parents are like based on their tone of voice and non-verbal cues. A couple of them were lighthearted, but most were quite serious and dressed for a board meeting. At the end, our director told me her normal spiel about 'caring' more for the kids.. "It's a sort of care and control." I'm sure Brent and Ryan have heard that line a million times. Since she didn't go to any lengths to prepare a personalized lecture of how to improve, I take it the class went pretty well.

Friday, November 11, 2005

i've seen things i've seen them with my eyes

i've seen things they're often in disguise:

like carrots handbags cheese toilets russians planets hamsters weddings poets stalin kuala lumpur pygmies budgies...

whoohoo! i'm going to kuala lumpur in february. it will be an international conference with two of my favoritist ambassadors. moolz is coming from van, i will hop over from korea, and my friend ming ming will be hopping over from london to be our tour guide and translator.

i met ming on my europe 2002 trip and since then she's been (successfully) persuading me to come check out her hometown Alor Setar, which is north of kuala lumpur. we will also go to kuala lumpur and either head north, to phuket in thailand or south, to singapore.

moolz wants to ride an elephant. i want to see him ride an elephant.. while I lay comfortably on a white sand beach on Langkawi island.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Halloween in Seoul

Brent and Ryan already did wonderful jobs summing up our Halloween in Seoul, which allows me to lazily link to their blogs rather than blog about it myself. However, I have chosen to do a special report on the costume that was the brunt of many jokes and much howling, as our bold and motley crew ventured out onto the Seoul streets for Halloween. With no further ado, here is.. How to make me laugh on Halloween:

Don a $30 Walmart clownsuit

Get stuck in the subway turnstile and keep a serious face as you nearly roll down the escalator:

When you notice businessmen trying to discreetly snap pics of you with their cameraphones, pose for them:

Ensure the entire subway car is watching you by just sitting and smiling:

Be the only one on the dancefloor busting moves, despite apparent rear end problems:

Thanks to Aaron for being a clown.. in a country that largely doesn't celebrate Halloween.

For more pics of our pumpkin carving get-together, Halloween in Seoul and preschool events: Click Here.

Oh right.. and as promised in the previous post, here is the pic of me in my soldier uniform:

I borrowed the uniform from Brent's Korean friend KG. What made it especially fun to wear was the fact that soldiers in these same uniforms are all over Korean streets. Every male must complete 2 years of military training at age 18, and receive a two-day training refresher every year thereafter for 10 years. So a girl in fatigues really made people scratch their heads. KG completed his two years military training, so I also had the badges, along with his Korean name, on the uniform, which caused a lots of squinting and pointing, mild shock, and amused laughter from Koreans all night. :)