Sunday, December 11, 2005


Technology I hate

-Mechanical dog leashes that can get shorter
or longer by pressing a button
-The Grammys
-Flu Shots
-White Boards
-Laser pointers
-Tiny genetically modified yappy dogs that live
in the next apartment over

Technology I love

-Recorded music
-The internet
-The Printing Press
-Pain killing medicine
-Taxi cabs

Thursday, December 08, 2005

A Few Thoughts On France

I don't feel that I am overreacting to a jilted short-term romance when I say that all French people alive today, and all the French people that have ever lived are lying bastards and should stay in their own elitest snobbish country.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Non P.C.

Sometimes every stereotype you hear about a particular people turn out to be true. Sometimes just 80% of them.

Monday, November 21, 2005


I am finding it difficult to find things to write about because my life revolves around living in Korea and teaching, however I don't want to have every blog I write be about that. So I decided to post this short essay I wrote about diamonds a while ago. I don't know why I wrote it because I didn't bother to document any of my sources so I cant get it published or even use it as a research paper for school. I guess it was made special order for this moment. That's the beauty of blogs, I can write whatever I want, whenever I want, documented or not. Here it is.

Some people think that vegetarians don’t like Baby Back Ribs smothered in barbeque sauce and so tender you could shake the meat off the bone. Some people think that environmentalists wouldn’t enjoy driving a Hummer with a full tank through an moss-covered streambed. Some people think that Feminists don’t enjoy being gently fussed over by men and called “Princess.” Some people watch Nanny 911. “Some people” are stupid.

I love diamonds. I found the perfect ring the other day. Just the kind of ring I never knew existed, but as soon as I saw it I loved it and can’t live without it. It had a wide band with dozens of tiny sparkling diamonds creating a simple design across it. Very renaissance. I could see myself at 89 years old still gazing down and tilting my hand back and forth to let the gems catch and throw the light into dazzling colors. I love diamonds. I love how they sparkle, I love the variety of styles and rings, I love how clear and white and perfect a diamond is. I love how you can tell just by looking at a person’s left hand if they are married or not. I love that in a confusing world of changing styles and life-styles that wedding rings have stayed constant.

I was engaged for a short while when I was younger and when I showed off the ring that my fiancée and I had picked out together, everyone had a comment for it. His friends called him a cheap bastard, my parents were confused, “it’s not even a real engagement ring,” and everyone asked, “oh, you didn’t want a diamond?”

I hate diamonds. Everything about them disgusts me. I hate shallow girls comparing carat size with each other, I hate admiring people’s rings, and I hate walking past ostentatious jewelry stores. I hate the fact that people fight and kill each other over control of diamond mines so that a guy can spend four months working in order to purchase something for a girl in order for her to show off. I hate the materialism and vanity that goes with diamonds. I hate fake salespeople and their slick ways of talking you into buying the latest tennis bracelet. I hate how infants are starving to death or people are dying of easily curable diseases while people spend thousands on a tiny ridiculous rock. I hate how I can’t bring myself to wholly hate diamonds. Sparkly, shimmery, beautiful diamonds.

I have to continually remind myself of why I abhor diamonds. As soon as I do I can walk away from the polished glass diamond counter, breathing a sigh of relief that I’m not the type of girl who likes things like that.

The biggest reason that I don’t get into the diamond market is that buying diamonds hurts people. Somewhere between 4 and 15 percent of diamonds traded are part of something called “conflict diamonds.” This means that people with guns and weapons take advantage of people without guns and weapons and make them mine diamonds in horrible conditions. These guns also keep those without guns from causing a fuss about anything illegal or atrocious that the mine operators do. In the last ten years 3 million people have been killed. Countless more have lost their hands or feet so that they could serve as examples to others. These people with guns also use the profits from diamonds to buy more guns to support other unwholsome activities.

But let’s say that a person really wants diamonds. Let’s say they are willing to go the extra mile and pay the extra dollar/pound/euro/yen/whatever to purchase a certified, non-conflict diamond. They can’t. There’s no way to be sure you’re not buying a conflict diamond. (Well…there is, there is a type of laser scanning technology, but it is not used, due to little demand for it.) There are also organizations and sanctions trying to keep the diamonds straight, but nothing works really well. In the process of mining, cutting, polishing, and setting, a diamond passes through many hands. And it takes just one person with their eye out for number one to scramble up the pot and ruin it for the rest of them.

Let's say that somehow, you have gotten a hold of a non-conflict diamond. You went to the mine yourself and saw well-paid, of-age, happy workers mining diamonds. They worked in safe conditions and could go home to their family with all four limbs intact. Can you dish out your hard-earned dough, feeling good about what you’ve done? Maybe you can, but the toddler who lost both hands to serve as a lesson to his parents working in the mines can’t.

Diamonds are not as valuable as most people believe. The price is kept unnaturally high by very powerful diamond lobbies. By paying that lofty price for your non-conflict diamond, you are keeping conflict diamond prices high, and making it very much worth their while in Congo to keep those mines open and keep on mutilating and killing for profit.

Stepping off that soapbox for a while I’ll jump onto another one. Another reason I don’t like diamonds is all the materialism, greed, and vanity that goes with them. It’s hard to even know where to start. From all these ads on television and billboards, I am almost starting to believe that diamonds are no longer just a symbol of love, they actually mean love. If I were to take them seriously I would believe that my significant other does not love me unless he spends the equivalent of four months of work on an engagement ring, and then periodically throughout our life together, he purchases other precious stones. I have to have a bigger ring than other girls so that they will admire me and be my friend. I need to have bling or I am not a worthwhile person. Any problems my relationship or my life has, a new piece of jewelry will fix it.

A husband should feel as though he is a lesser man because he didn’t buy his significant other a large enough stone. That his love doesn’t mean anything unless it comes paired with a full carat stone affixed atop a platinum band. His wife doesn’t need quality time or support or even some help matching the socks, just a new pair of diamond earrings come Valentines day.

I hope that isn’t how real people think. Oh man, I really hope that is not how people think, but I’m pretty sure some people do. Isn’t love how you treat each other, not the size of a ring? Isn’t love is letting your girlfriend put her cold hands on your stomach when she comes in from walking the dog? Isn’t love ordering out pizza when you really want sushi and kissing someone (on the lips) when they smell bad from being sick?

And why else do people buy bling, if not to express their love for another person? To impress people? To feel better about themselves? I hope both of those reasons are empty enough that I can leave it at that.

Diamonds are a huge waste of time and resources. We’ve already been over how their price is inflated, but besides that. Newly married people are generally not very well off. They are frequently young people fresh out of college or working their way up the ladder of success. They still have a lot to learn about managing finances, bringing together two incomes, and perhaps they are hoping to embark on the most expensive pastime around, having children. What better way to start that relationship than getting into debt over a ring with a clear stone? Wouldn’t the money be better spent towards a down payment on a house, paying off some student loans, or an investment in their future rather than an accessory? I’ve always wondered how people felt wearing such an expensive article of clothing on their left hand day in and day out. Doesn’t it make them nervous?

I don’t condemn anyone who has a diamond ring; I don’t look down on anyone that buys diamonds. But just in case some people didn’t know the inside scoop on conflict diamonds, or in case anyone was hovering between spending hundreds or even thousands on a ring or not, I thought I would throw this out there for your perusal.

So go out there you vegetarians, and eat your tofu while imagining juicy crisp bacon. Drive to work in your Geo Metros, you environmentalists. Feminists, split the dinner bill right down the middle, don’t even let him pick up the appetizer. I will continue to walk past jewelry stores like a recovering alcoholic walks past taverns with my head held high without even sneaking a peak at the light catchers inside.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Imagine walking into class one day and with no warning your teachers, (who are a little strange anyways) are dressed strangly, making strange noises and giving out candy for no reason. Then they have you cut a face into a pumpin and put a candle inside.
We had a big Halloween bash at my school and dressed up and decorated the school and carved pumpkins. (The kids kept asking, "Are we eating the pumpkin?" I said, "Um, I guess so, if you want you can eat the parts we cut out.") My favorite part of the day was when kids would come in late. I took the first ten minutes of each class to explain what Halloween was and what we were doing and so when a student came in late I delighted in acting completly normal while scooping the guts out of a pumpkin. "What? Is this not what school is usually like?"

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Star Spangled Banner

Two of my friends here in Korea are from England. They asked me a few nights ago about the "Star Spangled Banner" and I was telling them the story behind it about the guy who was watching Fort McHenry after the British attacked D.C. to see if in the morning light the flag of the U.S. was still standing. Then they asked me if I knew all the words. I responded that I didn't know if I did and started going through the lyrics to see if I could remember them. By the end of the song I was singing my heart out.

O say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hail'd at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro' the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watch'd, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof thro' the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

I really miss America.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Camping like you've never heard it before.

A real quote from “Rising Gangwon,” a guide book about the province of Korea that I live in. This particular segment describes the "Valley and Natural Rest-Forest," and is trying to get more foreigners to go camping.

“Where shall we go on holidays? Imagine immersing our feet in a fresh and cool brook in the valley and leisurely enjoying the cicada’s echoing choir, lazily kicking off the weariness of our lives. Or, fancy taking an undisturbed rest in a tent in the deep green of the forest, in the bosom of Mother Nature…Why not descend into a deep mountain valley, full of quiet and solitude, to satisfy our souls this summer. The thrashing of the water in the brook transforms the world into a sudden childhood scene. How magical! When daylight concedes to twilight, space once crowded in the day becomes the fairy land of twinkling fireflies. The shining galaxy glitters above and the chirping insects all around initiate us into the intimacy of the summer night.”

Thursday, October 06, 2005

How to insult internationally.

Two effective ways to insult a Korean Person.

-"You have lovely dark skin."

(This is the equivelant of telling an American "Your skin is covered in zits and acne.)

-"You look like you might have had some Japanese anscestors."
(Many Koreans don't like Japanese people. Read the following blog to find out why.)

A Brief History of Korea circa 1910 to 1953

From 1906ish to 1945 Korea was under the rule of the Japanese. It is too complex to go into detail here, but being under Japanese rule was horrific. Read more about it and the rest of Korean's history at this website,

At the end of WWII, i.e. when Japan lost the war, Korea was put under the control of the Former Soviet Union and the United States of America. America took the bottum half and the Soviet Union took the top half. That halfway point was the 38th parallel.

In 1950 North Korea attacked with the help of the Soviet Union. They took most of Korea, including the capital, Seoul. South Korea appealed for help from the U.N. and countries started giving their support, including the U.S. with General MacArthur.

South Korea made a comeback and pushed the North Koreans back, retaking Seoul, until China entered the fray on the side of North Korea. Seoul was back in communist hands with China's help. The war continued until South Korea retook Seoul and reached the 38th prallel, right where it had all started. Truce negotionations began in 1951 and in 1953 an armistice agreement was reached, although the two countries are still classified as 'at war.'

This is how people feel about American Involvement in Korean politics and economy and military and the re-unification of North and South Korea.

The older generation likes that America is still involved, they think that if the U.S. were to leave that their economy would fall apart and that they would be under increased risk from North Korea. From the people I've talked to, they say that the younger generation doesn't remember what it was like before the U.S. was here, and how poor everyone was and how much the U.S. helped South Korea. They also worry about North Korea attacking again. They feel very strongly about this.

The younger generation hates America putting their nose in everyone's business. They believe that they are becoming a stronger nation because of their own hard work and that American is taking more from Korea than it is giving back. They want the U.S. to leave.They say that the older generation doesn't truly know what is going on and that they are just afraid of change. They say that once America is gone North and South Korea will have a greater chance of becoming unified again. They feel very strongly about this.

Both generations think that North and South Korea will be one again, but not soon. They refer to North and South Korea as brother and sister. However, the older generation doesn't want it to happen soon. They think that it can only happen through war and they don't want to have to go through that again and they also believe that their economy will be decimated by taking on the poverty that North Korea lives in. The younger generation doesn't seem to have those fears, but they also don't seem to be really alive with passion to do anything to get the two countries back together.

These are just the opinions of the very few people that I have talked to. Mind you that it has been almost all women, almost all have been my English students, all people from the small town of Sokcho, (석초시) and a total of 12 people. So these views that I have stated above may very well be completly false when taken against the majority of Korean's opinions.

My quick opinion of Korea
I am starting to love this country more and more. They've really had a crap time of it, not just the Korean war, but since then there has been many more political disasters. It's sad to go to the beach and see fences topped with coils of razor wire and lookout posts. It's strange to see roads built through mountain passes with huge concrete blocks ready to be toppled onto the road at a moments notice. (They are anti-tank blockades.) It's hard to go to a historical site and see over and over again, "This Buddist Temple was built in 1200 A.D. and..." then at the bottum you ALWAYS see, "the origional structure was distroyed in the Koren war and re-built in 1967."
Something that is heartening though is that in many countries people want to go to America or Canada or England to stay and live and make a better life for themselves. You rarely get that here. People want to go to England or Canada to work or to visit or to study English, but never to stay. Live away from Korea? No. They want to stay and make Korea strong again. They want to see Korea become a world power. And I think they will.

Monday, September 26, 2005

A few thoughts on Korea

The rallying cry behind many foods in Korea is "why not?" Why not a ham and cheese sandwich with apple slices and ketchup on it? Why not a pizza with potato and kimchi? (kimchi is fermented cabbage) Why not mix pineapple with yellow radish? You honestly never know what you're going to get. And I have learned the hard way that no matter how good something looks, only buy a small portion untill you have tasted it. Never be surprised when you order your pork cultlet and rice and get on the side one tiny container with three baked beans in it. Never be surprised.

I love the whole culture of bowing to each other. It is so polite and convenient. Words need not be said. As of right now it is my favorite thing about this culture.

It's hard to be American in a secluded town in Korea. Especially an American woman who isn't super thin in a Korean town full of people who have never seen a foreigner. I am very grateful that I am so confident in myself and my body. Otherwise I'd be crying every day.
Today I went swimming and didn't think anything of weighing myself as I finished. (I have gotten a touch chubbier than I like this past year or two, so I am trying to slim down) The second my feet touched the scale a dozen grandmas surrounded me. They couldn't believe how much I weighed!(71 KG!! What an elephant! I can't believe the scale didn't break!) They all pointed at it and talked quickly in Korean towards me. As I said, "Hangookmal, mo tambida" (I don't speak Korean) they showed me what they were saying.
They pointed at the scale and then poked me in the stomach and thighs to show me where the weight was. Then they all giggled at how chubby I was. I was then pushed off the scale and the skinniest grandma got on to show me how much I SHOULD weigh. (47 KG) She was about 4 feet 3 inches tall. The worst part is that in the changing room everyone is naked as they shower and change and so forth. Everyone. Foreigners included, and if you try and wear a swimming suit, goodness, the grandmas tell you off.
So here I am standing on a scale, obviously trying to loose some weight, otherwise I wouldn't be swimming every day, surrounded by grandmas laughing at me and poking me in my chubby naked stomach. Kamsamneda adjumas, (thank you grandmas) Kamsa - me - freaking- da. Like I said, I'm glad I'm such a confident young woman.
My boss is the kindest, most terrific guy in the entire world, but he succumbs to it as well. The other day 6 of us had to go somewhere in a car that sat 5. I jumped in the back thinking someone could sit on my lap, but my boss motioned for me to sit up front, explaining, "because you are fat."
I sat up front.

I made my first kid cry the other day. He was a new student and when he came in to my class he was completly silent. He wouldn't speak a single word, even when I had the other kids ask him in Korean what his name was. He wouldn't even touch the pencil I held out as I asked him in Korean to at least write his name. I gave him a moment to himself as my boss came back in and kneeled down to talk to him. The poor kid started sniffling and my boss, Kim Young Sik, put his arm around him and gently led him from the room, explaining as he left, "he's never seen a foreigner before." I didn't even bat an eye.

Sunday, September 25, 2005


I had a bit of an awakening the other night as I was going to sleep. I was thinking about life and how horrific it can be. It was Hurricane Katrina that brought it about. And this thing that I learned, that I'm about to share, is nothing new. It's been said a hundred times, at least seven seperate times to me before. It's in books and media and songs. Everyone says it and then other people nod their heads and agree and say "yeah, that's true, I know it"..but I'm sure that many people don't believe it. I've said it myself before, but I've never felt it, or truly believed it. Now that I know it, really know it, it's made how I feel about life different. Anyhow, this is what I learned.

-Life doesn't owe you anything.
-There's no such thing as Karma.
-Horrific things happen to good people.
-Bad people do bad things and nothing changes what they did.
-Life is difficult.
-Sometimes people have easy lives.
-Sometimes people have hard lives.
-There's no quick way to tell the difference.

I have always had a rough time comming to terms with the injustices in life. Especially when related to God. I've heard people say that they prayed that God would help them on a math test at college, or to help them find their keys when they are late for work and God has helped them. And then again, other people suffer terrible things that God could sooth by sending rain to desert areas of the world, or having a drunk driver crash into someone who deserves it rather than a teenager driving home from a late night at work. Why would God arrange things the way He does?
And the answer is that God tests us, and that we have to have faith and we never know what the eternal plan is. But I've always struggled with that, always. For some reason, I am not struggling quite as much now that I've had this realization about life.
I feel much more at peace, (as overused as that phrase is) when I say to myself, Life isn't a friend. Things are much more simple. The lines are clearly drawn. I now know that I have to fight with life, to wrest my happiness from it's grip. And sometimes when Life is busy hurting other people I can be happy just living in the Wasatch front and seeing the snow-capped mountains as I walk to the corner store to buy some milk.

A sad biproduct of this knowledge is that I have lost a side of me that I liked. I used to think that no matter what a person has done, that if you treat them kindly, they will treat you the same way. That everyone wants to be a good person. What naive garbage. Some people are just bad people. Some people will hurt people that are weaker than they are. Some people are out for number one.

So on I go, in my pugilistic little insignificant little fight with life. Just FYI, I'm winning.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


I wonder what Mcgyver would have done had he been in my situation?
I live in a small apartment with an even smaller bathroom. It's pretty nice by Korean standards...and to be quite frank, not too bad considering the places I've lived in. It is four feet long by two and one half feet wide. The bathroom holds both a toilet and a shower.You have to straddle the toilet bowl and keep your knee wedged against the faucet to shut the bathroom door.
The knob doesn't work very well as it's rusty and so it won't open from the inside of the bathroom. When I shower I am very careful to slide the door almost shut, but I don't let the bolt click.
If I had any brains I would know that I couldn't do that forever. If I had any brains I would have taken four mintues and gotten a Korean friend to call maintenence and had them fix it. (As I don't speak Korean and they don't speak English.) If I had any brains I would have known that one morning, exahsted after a late night of Norebang I would stumble into the bathroom to shower and shut the door firmly behind me.
No fire alarm has ever made my heart drop as quickly as the quiet click of that door latch. It was a %@#* moment when your heart literally stops. A solid five minutes of twisting and turning the knob produced no results so I accessed my situation. It was as follows...
-Due to the shower, nothing is kept in the room except shampoo, face wash and a bar of soap.
-The roof has panals, none of which lift more than an inch up when I push on them standing on the toilet.
-As I was planning to shower I am naked, and have not even a bobby pin in my hair to help me out.
-The soap dish is loosely screwed to the wall. If I kick it I could probably knock it loose. As I can't see how this would be of any use I lodge the information away and fuss with the doorknob again.

I turn it gently, twisting it up and down, left to right, searching for weakness. I turn it as quickly as I can, jerking it with dangerous speed. I grip it with both hands and try to turn it as hard as both hands will twist. It doesn't budge. Again, I survey my surroundings.

-The shower head is detachable. Perhaps I could use it to break off the hinges? The hinges are solid metal the the shower head is plastic. Improbable.

I kick the door as hard as I can. No result, but it feels good. I kick it ten more times justifying this expense of energy thinking that it might jiggle something loose in the doorknob.
Again I fuss with the doorknob, thinking, "when would people notice me missing?" In about 25 or 26 hours, I guess. I have friends who would call in 12 hours, but wouldn't think it wierd that I wasn't answering my phone, and I wouldn't be missed until church the next day when I have to lead the music. Would they come to my apartment though? Or just be peeved that I had skipped out?
The idea of even two more hours in my tile prison is disheartening. I should have decorated a bit in here. A coloful mat with pictures of tropical fish wouldn't have killed me. And the corner is starting to get some soap scum.

-Panicked I start to beat out "help" in morse code against the wall.?That's an international language, isn't it? I pound on the wall, 3 long, 3 short, 3 long, 3 short, 3 long, over and over again. SOS. Nothing. Perhaps they don't understand the romanized letters here. I transelate SOS to Korean, 섯, but I don't know how to convert that to morse, so I sit on the toilet and continue to fiddle with the knob.

My pride will still not allow me to call out for help, but I'm getting close. My ankle hurts from kicking and my hands from pounding. Even worse, I'm bored. Why didn't I bring a Mitchner novel and a bannana sandwhich to the shower with me?
I don't allow myself to think of what will happen if I don't get out and minutes later the doorknob shifts a fraction of an inch farther than it has in minutes past and I give one last Herculean effort with both hands and the door slides open.
The first thing I do is look at a clock. I've been in the bathroom for 37 minutes. I feel no pride at conquering the door.No sense of personification towards my jailer. Relief yes, but probably not enough.
I shower with the door completly open. The floor of my apartment is soaked with water. Don't care. I notice two large blisters on my right hand when I dry off and flip the fan on towards the spreading puddle.
Seriously though, what would McGyver have done?