Thursday, December 30, 2004


On Thursday, we left for Fukuoka, Japan. We boarded the 6:15 train to Busan (which we made by the skin of our teeth - is there any other way?) and hunkered down for the hour and a half kimchi express. Man oh man did the train stink. There is no smell quite as noxious as sour kimchi, garlic and sweaty feet in the morning. Gag.

We arrived at the Busan Harbour and boarded our very James Bondish hydrofoil. The boats are really cool because they actually travel out of the water on three big fins. Prior to this little adventure I had secretly scoffed at people who get sea sick. I couldn't really figure out why. And although I didn't vomit on the boat, I felt like I was going to. It was a pretty cool trip though...the Korean strait was pretty choppy which added to the sense of adventure.

We arrived in Fukuoka and noticed a difference immediately. It was clean and organized and shiny. It was a strange sensation to be around a "foreign language" again and not be able to recognize any words on the street signs or being spoken around you. We took a bus to our hotel, the Clio Court, which was conveniently located across from Hakata Station, the main station in Fukuoka. It was a little gray and rainy but otherwise fairly warm. I was surprised by how much more tropical things looked in Japan compared to Korea. Ther are more palm trees and different flowers and vegetation. They obviously have a more temperate climate in Japan...makes sense.

Our hotel room was pretty nice and was equipped with two pairs of complimentary slippers, pyjamas (I just found out this year that in America they spell it "pajamas". Weird.) and, my personal favourite, a heated toilet seat. That's right. Equipped with a was fantastic. The Japanese sure know how to live. Everything there is equipped with sensors or lasers...I didn't touch a door or push a button once. I didn't have to wipe my own %$# in Japan!

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Off to Japan for New Years! I hope everyone has a great time...don't worry, my resolution this year is to write more. Then again, that's my resolution every year.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

So, Christmas is nearly here and communism seems to be alive and well in Korea. Well, not communism in the economic sense but in a collectivist, creepy-cyborg kind of way. We are having preschool presentation at the school this week and each class has prepared a play or a speech of some kind. The kids have been drilled for hours each day and know every word by heart. Keep in mind that these kids are five and speaking a second language. Our director comes in to drill them (scream at them) once every couple of days and they have essentially been turned into little Korean robots. the parents will be happy.

Amidst all these enforced Christmas festivities is the song contest. Each class will compete for a pizza party by singing a Christmas carol. The best part of it is that everyone is singing the same Christmas carol. After it was decided that "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" would be the chosen jingle, there was a flurry of practices and more drilling. Teachers went in search of the "official" song actions (which I kindly provided...luckily, the official actions were neatly tucked away in my imagination) so each class could do the same actions, while singing the same words. "But how does one win the contest if everyone is singing the same song?" you may ask...good question. I will let you know as soon as I see the results.

Something tells me that Koreans don't really "get" Christmas.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

An American company is now selling "Canadian Kits" for Americans who don't want to be plagued with policy questions while travelling. Can you believe it?! The kit apparently includes a flag t-shirt, patches for your backpack and stickers for your car. It also encourages the "undercover Canuck" to throw "eh" on the end of their sentences and answer any questions with "Wayne Gretzky". Yeesh...I am glad Canada has managed to escape it caricatured image.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

We went to Seoul this past weekend so that Brian could write his LSAT exam. It was really cool, we travelled up there on the KTX, which the Koreans simply refer to as "super-fast train". It tops out at 328 km/hr which is pretty damn fast. Because the train is actually a few millimeters above the rails (superconduction), it's a very smooth ride. It felt like I was flying, only there was no way I could fall out of the sky. It was perfect.

Brian had his registration sheet with him on the train and so we called the Korean information line to find out what subway stop we needed. Brian asked for the stop closest to Kyunghee University. The woman gave him directions that were in complete contrast with the information provided on the sheet. Hmmm...another Korean goose chase? We called back and after much discussion, determined that there are two Universities in Seoul with similar names: Kyunghee and Kyunghi. Uhh, yah. "Do you go to Harvard?" "No, I go to Harford. But my cousin goes to Harvard." Anyway, we managed to sort it out.

Seoul is pretty cool and I have to say that I enjoyed my visit there. We got stared at a lot less and there were more signs and directions in English. The subways system was fantastic and very easy. We stayed at a cute little yogwan called Motel CoCo and after Brian's test was over we walked into Itaewon. Itaewon is an area (or "gu") in Seoul that basically caters to and consists of foreigners. It was really tippy to see so many different people there; we saw white people, indians, was great! Daegu is a real monoculture so it was a nice change. This diversity also meant ethnic food (yipeee!) so Brian and I headed for our favourite - Thai food. And boy did we find it! It was really great and a nice change from Korean.

After lunch I did some serious shopping. I have developed a thing for Korean pottery and antiques (which are usually Chinese, but that's beside the point) so we went looking in all the antique shops. We found one that was having a huge sale - 30% off everything in the store! I bought a vase, some teacups and Brian finally got his apothecary chest. Mom and Dad are going to freak when they see all the stuff we are bringing with us to Hawaii. We have every intention of dumping all our newly acquired goods into their suitcases. We have until February to accumulate...heh, heh.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Never in all of my life did I think I would be happy to hear campy piped-in Christmas music. I went to a local department store this evening after work and "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" was playing on the loudspeakers. Knowing I was the only one in the place who actually knew the words was a strange feeling. It felt really great to hear English being sung in the store...I even teared up. If I were at home right now I would probably be complaining about the omnipresenece of the
%^*%# Christmas music. Just goes to show you what a change in perspective can do!

Speaking of music, I picked up the new Eminem album. Pure genius. Every time I think he can't get any better, he does.

Monday, November 22, 2004

I have been going to the gym now for the past few months and it's really starting to pay off. Things are (big surprise) different here in Korea. The gym has some interesting equipment, including vibrating belt machines that look like they could shake the bum right off of you, and an upside down-hangy-board thing. Very interesting. Being the adventurous traveler that I am, I have tried both. I won't try either again.

I have always liked working out and have liked the look of "being fit". Women here do not attempt to get fit, and they especially shy away from the idea of building muscles. There are a few women who go to my gym but I have never seen any of them lift anything heavier than a one-pound weight. They are an interesting species. They do not run, they do not lift weights and they certainly do not sweat.

Consequently, the men at the gym don't know what to make of me. I run my butt off and I try to lift as much weight as I possibly can. Needless to say, I usually get stared at (more than the normal "Hey, that lady is white!" stare). It's good motivation because I always feel like I am representing white-gym-girls everywhere. No need to thank me.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

So, here is another piece of useless trivia about Korean trends in hairstyling. At home you have to wait until you are at least in Junior high to dye your hair (or at least I did). Here, you have to wait until you are about 6 months old. I have seen more babies with permed and coloured hair than I could shake a stick at. Not that I have ever wanted to shake a stick at a baby. Just last week, Mark showed up in my preschool class with a perm and some serious streaks. He is five. This is about a month after Hans showed up with a seriously feathered new coif. It's unbelievable.

Speaking of preschool...we had a demonstration class here last week for kids who will be starting at DDD in March. One of the classes was full of kids who were born in 2002. I have underwear older than these kids.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

I am embarrassingly behind in my blogging. I do this all the time. I am still journaling my Africa trip from 2002...still writing in the present tense. It's stupid. But that doesn't mean I'm going to stop!

Since I was lagging behind so much I have missed writing about the Presidential Election, Korean's idea of Halloween, a weekend in Andong, the arrival and subsequent death of our pet turtle, some great new friends and Arafat's death. It's not that I didn't have a lot to say, I just didn't want to say it in the wrong order. JC.

I am abandoning my current system and initiating a new policy. Write when you want to and catch up in the meantime. Sound good?

Brian and I have set a date for our wedding, which is pretty exciting. He first pitched the idea of getting married in Hawaii about three weeks ago. It started out as a crazy idea and both sets of parents latched onto it like rabid dogs. It quickly snowballed into reality. So, we are getting married in February in Haleiwa, Hawaii. I am so happy not to have to plan a wedding! When we first got engaged, I tried to get into the whole "Martha Stewart" wedding vibe, and it worked, for awhile. I soon realized, however, that I don't care about table linens, china patterns, aisle runners or cake toppers. Now, I don't have to worry about anything! We are having a barefoot beach wedding and the reception will be onboard a ship...all taken care of. So much more my style. Take that Martha.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Today we got up early, as it was our last day in Beijing. We have been constantly surprised, ever since we left Canada, at the amount of drinking that goes on among our peers. I like a drink as much as the next person but if I am in Beijing, I want to see Beijing...not the inside of the Hotel bar! Oh well, whatever floats your boat!

We started the day with one of the hotels delicious breakfasts. I was vegetarian when I left for Korea and was forced to abandon it once I arrived there and realized I didn't know what I was eating half the time. So, I have to admit, I was very happy to see bacon this morning. Yummy!

We headed out first thing to see the Hutongs. Our tour guide told us yesterday that for 250 yuan we could go on a rickshaw tour of the Hutongs and even visit a
real Chinese home and school. Something tells me I have seen enough little Asian children performing for adults to last me a life time. We decided to be a little sneaky though and jumped on the bus which took the tour to the Hutongs. The we hoped off the bus, skipped the rickshaw line and headed for our own homemade (and free) Hutong adventure. Hee, hee.

The Hutongs are essentially the "old" Beijing. When the city was built, it consisted of quadrangles separated into courtyards by small alleys. Over time, the alleys themselves became home to thousands of people. Some of the buildings go back to the Yuan Dynasty (1206-1341) but are slowly being replaced by highrises. Like a lot of things in Beijing, they are being torn down in order to prepare for the upcoming Olympics.
"Hi, welcome to Beijing. All the things that made us China have been replaced with large, plastic American icons. I hope you don't mind."
"Mind? Oh, not at all! That's what the Olympics are for!"

In the centre of the Hutongs is an old bell tower that would sound the time before most people had clocks. It was a dull day today but it was nice in a way. We walked through the Hutongs and for the first time on this trip, I felt as though I had been dropped into China proper. There were no tourists and no neon. Just people going about their daily business. The Hutongs consist of hundreds of shops - tea shops, grocery stores, butchers, bakeries. Hidden behind the shops are the homes that have made the Hutongs famous. As we were walking along one of the many streets, an old man stopped us to say "Hello." His English was quite good and so we started to talk. He invited us back to visit his home and we agreed. We followed him as he shuffled down the street and led us through a maze of doorways and small halls until we reached his home.

He welcomed us in and offered us some tea. His home was tiny and dark and damp. He was obviously very poor. The house consisted of a storage room, a living area and a bedroom. He used the communal bathroom located in the square near his house. We sat with him and talked. As it turns out, his brother immigrated to Canada and is living in Windsor. He started to pull out every letter he had and asked me to read to him. I read his letters to him and he showed me his collection of pictures and magazine cutouts. He has lived in his house for 42 years! I asked him what he had done before he retired and it turns out he was a magazine editor. I was so intrigued by his stories and his life. He used to translate and edit a Chinese magazine into English (would explain his proficiency with the language) was almost too much to handle. And, being the intrepid journalist that I am I didn't have my mini disc. I had brought it all over China and on my last day out I left it at the hotel. That'll teach me.

Miao Hang Sheng was so sweet and so kind, and so obviously lonely. He shared moon cakes with us (which made me feel bad because it didn't look like he had a lot of food) and held my hand the entire time. I felt as though I had known him my whole life. Eventually, we had to leave and when we did, he made us promise to write him. He hugged both Brian and I and walked us back out to the street. We said our good-byes and when we had turned the corner I burst into tears. It is moments like these that make traveling so wonderful. I had shared more than a moment with Miao, I had become a part of his story, and he of mine. When I left I felt lucky to have met him and heartbroken to have left him.

We left the Hutongs and headed back to Tiananmen Square - we just didn't get enough of it on Sunday. We tried to catch a taxi but couldn't find any, so we ended up getting a ride in a death box. At least that's what I call them. They are basically small motorbikes equipped with a tin box that can sit two people. The one we rode in had a bungee cord keeping the door on! It was great. For 20 yuan we got a bumpy, rickety ride through Beijing traffic, trapped in a box that probably would have flown off the bike in the slightest collision. It was perfect.

Tiananmen Square wasn't the same today as it was the last time we were there. There were no white people there today and I got a completely different vibe from the place. Creepy wouldn't even begin to describe it. It looked like all of Beijing's hoodlums had convened in the square. Which is so weird because on Sunday it was full of families and flowers and soldiers. Today it was just muggers and rapists. Ok, I'm exaggerating but not by much. We met a really neat little Chinese boy who spoke perfect English. We chatted to him for awhile and Brian bought a Mao watch and the Mao "Bible" from the boy's father/uncle. We ran into an American girl who took a picture of Brian to show her boyfriend. I guess her boyfriend is a huge North Carolina basketball fan and Brian was wearing his Carolina t-shirt. Too funny.

We were mobbed by people wanting there pictures taken with us today. It has happened here (and in Korea) before but today was like nothing I had ever seen. People were literally lining up to stand next to us. At first it was just me, but then it was Brian too and then both of us. After a while we took off and left the square. Very odd.

We grabbed some street food (very delicious!) and headed off to the Silk Market to do some shopping. We bumped into a bunch of people from our tour when we first arrived and they had been at it for hours already. The market is huge and has everything you can think of. Shoes, clothes, silks, pottery, leather goods, art...You name it. Each stall is watched over by one or two people who are there to bargain. It was ridiculous but fun. I have bartered before in markets in Korea and in Africa but nothing like in China. They say "Fifty dollars", you say "Five dollars" and you go from there. They start so high that they have to be counterbalanced with a ridiculously low offer. They seem to enjoy it though and we quickly learned the whole "put on a show like you are walking away" technique. It works wonders! "Nice lady, nice lady! Please come back!" It was so much fun! They would go on saying things like, "Fair price, fair price. Only for you....(Yah right) You are killing me! Ok, 5 dollars, it's yours." I got some great deals and so did Brian. We bumped into a few people who had been royally screwed and we realized that is how these people make a lot of their money. They screw those they can and deal with those who can't. It must all even out in the end. We figure if they were a little bit mad when we left than we got a good bargain. I bought a beautiful Chinese tea set, some sneakers (since they don't carry my size in Korea), some silk, wall hangings and a really funky Mao t-shirt. All in all, it was a good time at the market. I could have spent SO much money there but I didn't. Maybe I can go back tomorrow before we leave?

I am heading to bed now as we have a 4 a.m. wake up call tomorrow. We still haven't received any pillows and are sleeping on our makeshift camp-roll. We had our tour guide talk to the front desk yesterday and they assured us that they would bring us non-feather pillows. The same bell-boy (the hotel must only have one!) showed up with, yup, you guessed it, two feather pillows. Brian started trying to explain the situation, again, and resorted to gesticulations. He kept pointing to the pillow and then would put his hands around his throat (the universal sign of choking - or so we thought) and proceed to hack and cough like mad. The bell boy did not get it. I would love to know what he was thinking. "If you bring me any more pillows, I am going to kill you!"

Goodnight from Beijing.

Monday, September 27, 2004

This morning we went to the Ming Tombs, which are located about 50 km outside of Beijing. The tombs are essentially mausoleums of the 13 emperors of the Ming Dynasty. I know this Dynasty thing can get a little confusing but they are essentially a series of emperors who have all chosen their successor, until they are overthrown and a new dynasty begins. So, the Ming Dynasty had 13 emperors and lasted from 1368-1644. The biggest tomb is the Changling tomb, but we visited the Dingling tomb which is 50 feet underground. What impressed me (once again!) was the size and scale of the structures...massive stone doors, 2 feet thick and 10 feet high. It was all very, well, impressive. Apparently, when the emperor had the tombs built he later killed all the workers and designers that contributed to the project. It took years for people to open the tombs when they did finally find them, and they were rigged with all kind of Indiana Jones type of stuff. Pretty cool.

After the Ming Tombs we went to the Badaling Friendship store. The store is a government-run souvenir shop basically, where the prices are controlled (ie. jacked up) but the quality is supposedly better. I don't know. It was cool to look around the store since it had all kinds of neat stuff - full-sized terra cotta warriors, jade dragons, pearls, silk. I refrained from buying anything because we are planning on going to the silk market on the last day we are here. We had a nice lunch at the store restaurant (again on a giant lazy susan)and headed off for our big day at the Great Wall.

We pulled up to the Great Wall at Badaling at about 2:00 on the afternoon. It was a stunning fall day and the leaves were just starting to change...they had that shimmery look to them. The sun was shining and Brian and I were both very excited to be at the Great Wall. (I won't give you any mumbo-jumbo about the wall being visible from space - because it isn't.) When you first step on to the wall you have the choice of going either left or right. The right way is easier and the left is more difficult. Brian and I went left, assuming that there would be fewer people on the harder route and we were right.

It is quite a steep climb at the beginning but it evens out after a while. The further up the wall you go, the less people you encounter and you start to feel the presence of your surroundings. The wall is one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. The idea that people could conceive of such a venture, let alone succeed in it, left me in awe. The countryside is very steep and I couldn't imagine how anyone could have carried so many rocks up so steep a hillside. Maybe they mined the rocks locally and built it that way. Either way it must have been very labour intensive. A workforce of nearly a million, representing one fifth of the whole labour force of the country (at that time), was used to build it.

The stone itself seems to change colour in the light, from grey to sand coloured to brilliant orange. The area around the wall is so beautiful and you are so high up (600 metres) that you can see for miles. The sky was a brilliant blue and at certain points on our walk you could hear nothing but your own breath and footsteps. It was amazing.

Construction of the Great Wall began in 200 B.C. and was essentially a massive defense project. After that, different emperors would add on to different parts of the wall, as China grew and enemies changed. The Great Wall at Badaling was constructed in 1505 and is said to be the best preserved section of the wall. Along its length are 19 watch towers which earned Badaling the name of "key to the North Gate".

If you take the harder route on Badaling you will find that the wall comes to an end. After the final watch tower, it crumbles away and you have to turn around and go back. Or you can do what we did and jump off the watch tower. After some maneuvering, Brian and I were able to climb off the tower onto a rickety old fence and over some barbed wire. (No problem!) Beyond the tower it is silent. It was just Brian and I, and with our backs to the tower, all we could see was miles of wall stretching out in front of us. We sat on the ruins for a while and enjoyed the isolation and beauty of the ancient wall. I kept trying to imagine what it would have been like hundreds of years ago and realized, it would have been much the same (only less crumbled!). It was one of those days in my life life that I will never forget. It was peaceful and hot and quiet. The sky was a brilliant blue and for the time we were there, it felt as though Brian and I were the only two people in the world.

We eventually had to turn back and managed to get back on to the wall. I thought I saw some Chinese soldiers at the top of the watch tower and had visions of being carted off the jail. Brian says they were only vendors but I am maintaining that they were soldiers. I guess we will never know for sure. We started our walk back down the wall and were lucky to have that perfect light that occurs late in the afternoon. It was a warm light and it cast dark shadows on the wall. As we rounded a corner we bumped into a group of about 20 soldiers running a drill. (This just served to confirm my earlier sighting, at least in my mind.) The soldiers were running up the hill with batons and had rigged a finish line across the width of the wall. We stood and watched for a while and got a very stern warning that we were to take "no photos." I took some anyway and ended up with blur. Typical. Brian however, with his fancy lens, managed to get a shot of the soldiers crossing the finish line, arms in the air. I have a digital but Brian has a 30mm so we will have to wait until we get the film back to see if it worked out. I hope it did - it was great shot.

After we finished at the Great Wall we went for a "traditional" Chinese foot massage. It consisted of 20 people being seated in a room together, soaking our feet in a big tub of warm tea. So far so good. As if on cue, a team of masseurs walked into the room, each one filing over to their customer. Again, in unison, the masseurs begin massaging our feet. Now, by massage I do not mean firm but soothing rubbing. No. I mean a hard knuckle down the middle of your foot combined with some slapping and yanking. They were like an army. They did everything in unison. They ignored any polite attempts to communicate pain and laughed at more blatant attempts to struggle free. After our feet, the leader (who thank God, was not working on either Brian or I) and his minions worked on our legs, necks and shoulders. It was amusing and frightening all at the same time. One thing it was not was relaxing. I must admit though, that once the robot army was finished, my feet did feel more relaxed. Maybe it was the relief more than the massage.

Today confirmed two rules I have always tried to apply to my life:
1. Never take the easy way. It's easier but there might be a cable car at the top and a camel wearing a sign that says "I climbed the Great Wall and saw a camel."
2. Break the rules. You will either get in big trouble or chance upon the most amazing thing in your life.
On Sunday we got up early and headed to Tiananmen Square. It was a really hazy morning and the sky was white. Our tour guide, Wally, gave us a little talk on the way to the square. He told us how he had been attending the student protests that led to the events of June 4th, 1989. On the night that the tanks rolled in, Wally stayed home at his wife's request. He also proceeded to tell us that we could ask him anything we wanted about the 1989 massacre, tomorrow, but that we shouldn't ask him about it on the day we were visiting the square. Very odd.

It was far more emotional being at Tiananmen Square than I thought it would be. I remember watching the events of 89 unfold and I know it was probably one of the first major news stories that I remember. Being on the spot where it all happened sent shivers up my spine.

The Square is huge. It was busy when we arrived and it was still not even 9:00 am. In the centre of the square is a huge (36 metres tall)obelisk called Renmin Yinxiong Jinian Bei, or "Monument to the People's Heroes". The monument is dedicated to the people who died trying to secure China's nationhood and has acted as a lightening rod for dissent ever since it was erected in 1949. Most recently it was cordoned off during the Falungong demonstrations.

On one side of the square is a Mausoleum where the embalmed body of Chairman Mao is kept. Those Chinese sure love their Mao. We were told on the way to the square how "powerful" and "smart" Mao was and how all the Chinese "love and honour their dear Chairman." Yah...okay. I'm quite sure that not every Chinese person loves Mao. It is all a little creepy.

On the other side of the square you can see the entrance to the Forbidden city with a picture of, you guessed it...Mao. Above his giant photograph are two slogans:
1. Long live the People's Republic of China
2. Workers of the world unite.

There are a lot of soldiers standing at attention all over the square but it is next to impossible to get a picture of them. It's eerie how good they are at turning away from a camera! We tried staging pictures behind them, snapping digital pictures from 30 feet name it. All I got was the side of a soldiers face.

There is a huge countdown clock set up at one end of the square. On the morning we were there, there were only 1412 days left until the Olympics! Everything in Beijing is geared towards 2008 right now and they are selling Olympic hats and shirts everywhere you look. One of the guys we spoke with told us a funny story. He bought two Olympic hats for 80 yuan (about 12 dollars Canadian) and felt pretty chuffed with himself. Two minutes after he walked away, he heard the guy start yelling "Two for ten! Two for ten!" The poor sap went back and bought two more, just so he could average out at four for 90 yuan. Too funny.

After Tiananmen Square, we headed to the Forbidden City. I don't think I can even describe how amazing it was. That is the one problem I keep running into with this China trip. I can't talk about it, or write about it and do it justice. It's spectacular. The Forbidden City is so huge and so ornately detailed and beautiful that you have to see it to appreciate it. Construction on the city first started in 1406 and it served at the political centre for both the Ming and Quing Dynasties. The city consists of parks, courtyards and over 800 different buildings. Brian and I just kept imagining what it would be like to live there hundreds of years ago. If I had been called before the Emperor and had to report to him while he was sitting on his gold and marble throne in a massive building in a massive courtyard I would have been petrified, or at the very least, extremely humbled.

One thing I have seen here which is very cute are the kaidangku, or "open-crotch pants" that the kids wear. It makes sense to me! Rather than wear diapers the kids run around in these pants and if they have to go to the bathroom the parents lift them up over a toilet or a garbage can. Keep in mind that urinating in the streets is still done here, despite the efforts to crack down on it. Makes more sense than landfills full of old diapers.

For lunch we went for Peking duck. Now, before we go any further, let's get the whole Peking/Beijing thing out of the way. I have to admit that before I came here I thought Peking was the old name for Beijing (sort of like Leningrad/St.Petersburg) but I was wrong. Peking is the Cantonese word and Beijing is the Mandarin word. They are still used interchangeably (our plane tickets had Peking as our destination) but the city is known internationally as Beijing. Glad we got that cleared up! Now back to the was delicious. First we had some appetizers which turned out to be duck intestines, tongues and livers. I didn't know what they were until after I ate them and I have to say that they were pretty good. From vegetarian to tongue-eater in three short months. After that came the main course, a golden roasted duck. My Mom always taught me not to eat the skin on chicken or turkey but I threw caution to the wind! It was excellent.

The restaurants here are huge, incidentally. The last few we have been to have consisted of three or four floors! They have elevators between dining areas and they can sit hundreds and hundreds of people. I guess you need to think big if you live in China.

After lunch we headed to the Summer Palace. The palace is the largest imperial garden in the world and was first built in 1750 as a gift to the Emperor's mother. The Palace covers 290 hectares of park land and lake area. It was one of the most peaceful and beautiful places I have ever been. The lake is covered with huge multi-coloured Chinese boats. The moat around the palace is crossed by several bridges, many of them made of marble. The palace grounds are covered in beautiful trees and thousands of flowers. There is a 700 metre long corridor, aptly named the "long corridor", which runs along the lake and is absolutely stunning in its detailed beauty.

Wally, our tour guide, told us a very interesting story while we were on the bus today. In China, education is available for those living in major cities. But the further away you are from a metropolitan area, the harder it is to go to school. This is true for many reasons, many of which exist all over the world. In rural areas, education is less valued and less needed since it doesn't have any immediate effect on their lives except to take them away from more important work. Also, the government is less able (or willing) to provide materials and teachers to isolated areas. So, many Chinese people will "adopt" a student and donate money to provide for their educations. Wally told us of how he adopted a young girl from Inner Mongolia and how he had recently met her for the first time. She came to Beijing to visit her "foster" family and was overwhelmed by the city. When Wally gave her Coca-Cola for the first time, she told him that she was not sick and couldn't understand why he was trying to give her medicine. Apparently she eventually developed a real taste for the drink during her stay in Beijing though! It was a really neat story and made me feel all gushy...which isn't hard to do.

After the Summer Palace we made our way to the Theatre of Heaven and Earth to watch the Chinese Acrobatics show. The show, called "Reverie", was the most amazing display of human - I don't know what. Human ability? Human bendability? Useless but impressive skills? They had young girls who could bend themselves into pretzels, women who balanced spinning plates on their heads and fingers and parasols on their feet. There were 12 women riding one bike at one point and boys who could flip themselves through hoops that were 15 feet off the ground! The music was great (I bought the CD) and the costumes and set were dazzling. I just sat there in awe for the whole length of the show.

During the intermission, we met a young couple from England. They had arrived the day of the show and had taken a train from St.Petersburg, Russia, to Beijing. It was so weird, because Brian and I had been talking about that exact trip (but in reverse) the same day! We really want to take the train from Beijing through Mongolia and Siberia to Moscow. The couple said it was good but long. Anyway, it was neat. I also went down to use the bathroom at intermission, only to find out that I had to line up at the concession to buy a pack of toilet paper. Peanuts and TP please.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

We arrived in China yesterday afternoon at about 12:30 Beijing time. The smog was really bad and a white haze hung over the tarmac. We found our guide and our group and the bus took us in to the city. Beijing is nothing like what I had imagined. Given it’s huge size (over 16 million people live in the city and 1.3 billion live in China) I assumed it would be congested, dirty and chaotic. It is none of these things. The first thing I noticed driving into the city was how green it was. The city has built a windbreak around the entire municipality in an effort to keep out the yellow sand from the Gobi desert. Apparently it has been successful so far. The expressway from the airport is lined with huge trees and all different kinds of flowers, vines and bushes. As we drove through the “Manhattan” area of Beijing we were all impressed with how organized and clean everything is. There are garbage cans along the streets (something Korea has yet to institute) and people employed to sweep the streets all day long. Everywhere I looked there were flowers. The interesting thing is that all of the flowers are in small, individual pots. They are then arranged into different shapes and designs. I just kept trying to imagine how long something like that would last at home. I am quite sure that the designs would be ruined sooner than later and that a lot of people would have their own little pots of flowers at home!

Beijing is surrounded by a huge moat built hundreds of years ago to protect the city. It is also guarded by massive stone gates and towers. The city seems to be well designed (admittedly they have had a long time to work on it) and there are separate bike paths that run parallel to many of the main roads. They are often more congested with bikes than the streets are with cars. Everywhere we looked we could see some kind of construction going on. The preparations for the 2008 Olympics are in full swing. Already I am excited to see the Olympics – I am sure that the world will be as impressed as I am with the beauty of Beijing.

The first place we visited was the Temple of Heaven. It was built in 1420 A.D during the Ming Dynasty, as an offering to Heaven. It is magnificent. The temple walls and floors are covered in marble and the pillars in gold. The main temple has three levels reaching up into the sky. Each level represents a level of life: the earth, the sky and the people. At the time the temple was built, people believed that the earth was square and that heaven was round. To represent this idea, there are two walls inclosing the temple. An inner circular wall and an outer square wall. The inner circular wall was built so that if you speak into it, a person on the opposite side of the courtyard should be able to hear you quickly. The Chinese were very skilled at architecture with function - in this case, making use of echoes. Brian went up to the wall and yelled “I love Caroline” at the top of his lungs. It was so funny. Everyone in the temple heard him and it had nothing to do with echoes!

The central temple area is surrounded by beautiful parks and courtyards. Everything is so green and beautiful. The skies were very blue today and there were dozens of kites dotting the sky. The kites here are almost as impressive as the temples! They have long kites with a line of faces heading towards the clouds and huge kites shaped like birds and planes. It was great to watch the old men and little children fly their kites in such a beautiful sky and in such a beautiful place. The courtyards were full of people selling “Rolex” watches and postcards. We managed to buy a Beijing book for only 20 yuan which works out to about three dollars Canadian. Not a bad deal.

We bumped into an older couple at the Temple who had "motorhomed" to Beijing from Holland! We couldn't believe it! I hope I can do something like that when I am retired. Which hopefully should happen in the next five years.

We went to a dai restaurant for dinner last night. The Dai are a Chinese culture located on the borders between China and Myanmar. The restaurant was really neat and all of the servers were dressed in traditional Dai costumes. They had a stage set up with dancing and traditional musicians. It was all very colourful and beautiful. We ate our first Chinese meal and I was very impressed. They brought all sorts of dishes to our table and set them on what is basically a large, glass lazy Susan. You just spin the centre of the table and take whatever you want. One of the dishes was a bird (I have no idea what kind of bird!) in a wooden tube. They cook the bird in what looks like bamboo and then empty it onto a plate. It was really good!

After dinner we headed to the Beijing opera. The opera has existed for over 200 years and is a large part of Chinese art culture. It was banned during the cultural revolution (1966-1976) but was re-introduced in 1978. By then, the world had changed and the opera no longer drew the crowds it once did. The opera has been referred to as a dying art. It started off kind of slow but it got better as the the show progressed. The makeup and dancing was really beautiful and I knew I was watching something from an entirely different time and an entirely different culture.

We were exhausted after such a busy day and headed to bed as soon as we booked into our hotel, the Garden View Beijing Hotel. The first thing I noticed were the fluffy pillows…feather-filled fluffy pillows. Now, I am deathly allergic to feathers and cannot sleep on down pillows so we called the front desk to ask for synthetic pillows. They sent a bell-boy up to help us out. We explained the situation as best we could and waited for him to come back with our new pillows. He was very prompt. He returned shortly with…two new feather pillows. We thanked him and smiled. Now we had six feather pillows! We made a pillow out an extra blanket and some towels. We were so tired we were asleep before our heads hit the...blanket.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Things at work have been crazy this week. Our new teacher, who started last week, just quit. Her Grandma died suddenly and when she told the school she was leaving and wasn't coming back, things went from bad to worse. The school doesn't believe that her Grandma is the real reason she is leaving and they had a meeting with her where everyone ended up screaming. The new teacher went home and the Korean teachers went to chase her down. They tried to secure a key to her apartment and had every intention of evicting her onto the street. Too late. By the time they arrived, she had packed her bags and left. It was stressful and very tense around the office. We were supposed to have the welcome dinner for our new staff last night but it was cancelled. Mainly for lack of the new staff.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

You would think, that if you were going to point and yell "foreigner" at someone as they walked down the street, that you wouldn't do it in English. Just goes to show you. It's always funny when that happens here. Yesterday I was walking to school and I passed the schoolyard I pass everyday on my way to Ding Ding Dang. The boys and girls were in the courtyard doing their daily exercises. The girls in pink, the boys in blue. A group of girls looked my direction and one of them saw me, started grabbing her friends arms and yelling "Foreigner! Foreigner!" It's weird. I am positive they have seen white people before, and I wasn't wearing a loin cloth or a bone in my nose or anything at all exotic. I just waved and said "Hello". This of course resulted in the same peals of laughter that we get everywhere.

I was talking to one of my older students the other day about the school system here in Korea. She started telling me how when she turned 14 she had to cut her hair. "Had to?" I asked, "You mean your Mum made you cut your hair?" Nope. The school made her cut it off. Once girls start middle school they have to chop their hair into this ear-length bob. It is supposedly to prevent vanity and to save time. I was shocked. This is not the first time I have encountered this same approach to education. I attended a high school in South Africa (only as a visiting student) and they were shocked that at 16 I was aloud to wear makeup to school or have pierced ears, let alone a nose ring. It is just such a different perspective on the role of the schools and teachers.

Speaking of which, as I was walking past the school yesterday I also witnessed a student being smacked across the face. Hard. By a teacher. The student looked about 13 and the teacher was a full grown man. The kid hardly even reacted, despite the fact that he was slapped so hard I could hear it from across the street. One more reason why I won't be emigrating here to school my children!

Monday, September 20, 2004

It is just after 7:00 on Tuesday morning and I haven't slept yet. Not because I was up all night partying or because I am sick. My bedroom is a comfortable temperature and I did not nap yesterday. Nope. It's because of a mosquito. One, tiny but loud buzzing biting machine that drove me to seek refuge in the living room. It's not even the prospect of being bitten that concerns me. (Although I will say that mosquito bites here are far worse than they are at home.) It's the knowledge that a silly little thing like a bug can bother me so much. It had me tossing and turning. I was suffocating myself by sleeping under the blankets just to avoid it. Slapping my face every time a piece of hair brushed my skin. It was ridiculous. Now I am writing about it. It has won. That little bugger has gotten the best of me. That is, until I smash it into oblivion.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

It’s funny how unimportant this date is in other places in the world. If I were at home today I know that turning on the television would mean constant stories of 9/11. Flashback images, updates on survivors, news on the commission’s report, updates on the “progress” in Iraq and general remembrance of the attacks of September 11th. Here? It’s like it never happened. I would venture to guess that the same is true for most countries in the world. Some countries in Europe might be marking it but nobody in Asia is and neither is Africa, Eastern Europe, or India. That’s a lot of the world. It maker sense though that if you were in Darfur, watching your family starve to death in front of your eyes, or if you had just witnessed Chechen rebels kill hundreds of children, that the death of 3,000 Americans, three years ago might not raise much concern. If people in America had any idea of the magnitude of death and suffering that goes on in the rest of the world they would never question the apparent indifference that greets their anniversary.

Sometimes my tendency to swing from one extreme to another infuriates me. Last month I had virtually decided that I was destined to become an independent recluse journalist. A Pulitzer prize winning explorer, narrowly escaping cannibals in the Amazon and dodging bullets in Baghdad. Now I am feeling much better about a comfortable life in Vancouver or Calgary, with a nice house, a couple of kids and a job at a local newspaper. How do you go from one thing to another within a matter of weeks? How do the people around you cope with such indecision? Is there a happy medium between the two? Would I be happy with living my life in the middle? This is where my knowledge of physics comforts me. If I know anything about life and the natural order of things, it’s that perpetual motion remains impossible. Sooner or later, a swinging pendulum, no matter how violent, will stop.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Today we went to E-Mart with the preschool kids on an outing. Don’t ask me whey E-Mart is an outing…I don’t come up with this stuff. I just supervise it. Our string of six Ding Ding Dang buses pulled up in front of the store at about 10:30 in the morning. About hundred kids, ranging from 4 to 7 years old, and a half dozen teachers traipsed into the unsuspecting store. All the kids were wearing their little Ding Ding Dang outfits, which are orange and sport cartoon ducks on the front. (*Interesting sidenote: The man who founded and owns Ding Ding Dang also owns a chain of Chinese schools, aptly named Ping Ping Pang. This man recently had a baby boy. The boy’s name is Bing. Bing the future president of the P/Ding P/Ding P/Dang empire. Ahem.) The idea behind this excursion was that each child would have a 1,000 won note to spend on whatever their hearts desired. We went to the grocery section first to secure Leo’s Cheetos and then on to find Mark’s ruler and Hoya’s pens. We stopped at the seafood market and looked at the King crabs and of course partook in all the samples available. We read books, played with toys, ran amok, went pee, drank water, cried, fought, complained about our rulers/pens/cheetos, and disturbed all the other patrons in the store. It was great. I had a raging headache by the end of it and I didn’t even get a Cheeto. Humph.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

We are considered real rebels here in Korea. We cross several main streets on our walk to and from work and oftentimes, if there are no cars coming, we will cross before the light turns green. Well, we have actually had people stop us and point to the crosswalk sign, “Red! Red!” We smile and nod, look up and down at the empty streets and proceed to cross. The Koreans just stand there, marooned on their respective sidewalks, and stare at the “crazy” foreigners who have just walked to their certain death. It’s quite funny to me that they would be so rigid. I understand safety and I am deathly afraid of cars and of being hit by them but at the same time, I would feel silly standing for 10 minutes for the light to change on an empty street. It always feels like a weird social experiment when that happens. Like surely there must be a two-way mirror somewhere watching to see how well-socialized the guinea pigs have become. You know, when you pull up to a traffic light late at night on an abandoned rural road and you sit there waiting for it to turn green. With every minute I feel sillier and sillier. I start to wonder where my willingness to suspend logic and obey rules has actually come from and it makes me wonder how deep it really goes. Then I usually just ignore the light and drive on into the darkness…wondering if my obvious attempt to disobey the rules is really just another symptom of my struggle with convention.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

We are going to China! We just found out today that two spots have opened up on the Chuseok tour to Beijing and that we will be going. I am so excited!

The Korean work ethic is such that there aren’t very many holidays during the year. When we first applied to come and work here we were told that Korea celebrates over 22 National holidays. While true, almost all of the holidays fall on Saturday or Sunday, so we don’t really gain anything from them. The people here work like mad. Many of my students attend as many as eight or nine schools and attend classes six days a week. They learn from the crack of dawn until late in the evening and are usually exhausted by the time I teach them at 7:00 or 8:00.
There are only three or four major holidays in Korea and Ch
useok is perhaps the biggest of them. It is basically the equivalent of Thanksgiving and falls over three days at the end of September. Usually it falls mid-week but this year it falls from Monday to Wednesday so we actually get five days off with the weekend. We were a little hesitant to spend the money since this is our first full paycheck but at the same time, we don’t get another holiday until the Chinese New Year in January or February. We will be in Beijing for five days and will be going to the Great Wall, Tianemen Square, the Forbidden City, to the Chinese Opera and of course to markets and several temples. We are also going for a nice Peking duck dinner and for a Chinese foot massage. All of my life I have dreamt of going to China and now it’s going to happen. That’s what is so wonderful about dreams…they can come true.
I was stopped on the street today by two old women intent on touching my face. It was pouring rain and I was running late for work but they started to talk to me while we were waiting for the crosswalk sign to turn green and I couldn’t very well walk away. They asked me questions in Korean and I responded with my well rehearsed smile and nod. They kept reaching out and touching my cheeks. Their hands were old and wrinkled and very soft. They clucked and smiled toothless smiles and I let them touch to their hearts content. When would they ever touch a white girls face again? It was one of those moments in life where differences in age, culture and race seems to disappear in one emotion or one common experience. I looked into their eyes and when they turned to walk the opposite direction from me I felt warm and full of love. I had missed the crosswalk and was late for work but it was well worth it.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

I knew when I first heard about the siege in Beslan that it couldn't possible end well. When I heard on the radio today that the school had exploded and that so many people had died I sat down on the bed and I just bawled. I felt sick to my stomach. It is always horrible when these things happen but when it involves children it's that much more terrible. I just can't imagine how those parents and family members must feel. I felt sad and angry. I felt angry at the Chechens and I felt angry at Putin. That man is so bloody stubborn. When the submarine went down, countries from around the globe offered their assistance. He refused it and all of the men trapped inside died. Now they went in unprepared and ill-equipped and they could have maybe prevented such carnage. I feel angry at the rebels for getting kids involved and being so ruthless. I feel angry at Putin for putting them in such a position that they felt they had no choice. Chechnens are dying and nobody is listening. Children are being murdered by Russian soldiers and by pro-Moscow militants and no media is covering it. They can't. They aren't allowed in. I get angry at the way the world's leaders are so insistent that they not give in to terrorism that they fail to see they are taking on the role of terrorist. I feel hopelessness in the face of testosterone driven policy headed by no other than George W. Bush. Maybe it isn't about winning and losing and maybe terrorism is too narrow a word. Maybe the leaders need to sit down with the mothers of the children in Beslan and ask them if they think the 15,800 sq km of disputed land are worth their children's lives.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Happy anniversary Mom and Dad!

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Today we went hiking at Apsan mountain and it was fantastic. It was definitely one of the best days I have had in Korea so far. The sun was shining, Brian and I were both in good spirits and we were excited to spend the day outside. We took a cab to the base of the mountain and hiked up a long path to a cable car. We took the cable car up (for a mere $4 I might add. It made Sulphur Mountain's $20 cable car look even more outrageous)and could see over the entire city of Daegu. It was gorgeous. There was a slight breeze at the top of the mountain and we had lunch looking out over the valley. We hiked along the ridge and visited a fortress from the Silla period (approx 600 C.E) which I thought was incredible. I have always loved visiting old places and this was exceptionally old. I have said this before but it really bugs me how western-centered our perspective of history is. The people here were fighting wars and building fortresses far before any European had set foot on American soil and more people never even learn about it. It's aggravating to me, I can only imagine how I would feel if I were Korean.

After walking the ridge for a few hours we took the cable car back down and went for a walk in the woods. We cam across a Buddhist temple nestled on a hill next to a stream. It was beautiful. There were some monks walking in the courtyard and the whole place was covered in a blanket of silence. It was a comfortable and calm quiet though and I felt very peaceful staring up at the huge temple walls. The colours and designs of the temples here are really beautiful and inspiring. We could see a huge golden Buddha statue inside one of the buildings and you could smell incense and the smell of the pine trees. I could have laid down in the rocky courtyard for hours. We spoke to one of the monks and he informed us that he had been to Vancouver and thought Canada was very beautiful. The monk said he had been to Whistler even! Brian started to imitate a skier and said "Do you ski?" The monk just smiled and said, "I Snowboard actually." Ha! It was so funny.

We walked home from the mountain and past Camp Walker, which is a huge American military base here in Daegu. We passed a seafood restaurant with display tanks in the front and we saw the biggest crabs we have ever seen. They were huge! The woman came out from the shop and told us they were 5 kilograms! I don't know if they were a special Korean crab or if they were from the same coral reefs where Japan does its nuclear testing but they were gigantic!

What a fantastic day...

Friday, August 27, 2004

Koreans, women in particular, are obsessed with mirrors. And I mean obsessed. Everywhere you go you can see them looking in their little compact mirrors. They fix their makeup, the pick at their skin, they adjust stray hairs, the purse their lips and they do it for 5-10 minutes at a time. If they don't have a mirror nearby (which appears to be a rare crisis) they will whip out their cellphones and take pictures of themselves and then fix whatever minute flaw they detect and take another picture until they look perfect. It happens in school, walking down the street, in the movie theatre (some of the mirrors have little lights on them...the fact that if you need a light for your mirror, nobody can actually see your face seems irrelevant) and everywhere in between. Just an observation.

Today our school had a mini-crisis. The taxman was rumoured to be making the rounds of the hagwons (Korean for private english schools) and was headed towards Ding Ding Dang. Before Brian and I knew what was happening, we were hiding folders, throwing out papers, and scratching out words in our private diaries. It was hilarious. Apparently we have more classes than we are allowed and so there are a number of secret classes that technically don't exist (I teach about 3 or 4 secret classes). We had to remove all evidence of the classes - that meant schedules, folders and kids. If the taxman shows up while classes are in session the kids are told to run outside. I'm not kidding. I told the teachers not to worry about my class schedule, that it had been tucked away safely in my bookbag. Not good enough, they said. Apparently the gustapo taxmen are legally entitled to search our personal property. I offered to eat my schedule and for a few seconds I think they were actually considering it as an option. Yeesh. At any rate, the taxman never showed and everything will be back to normal tomorrow. It kind of makes me want to call in a "tax threat" every once and awhile to keep things interesting at work.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Scientists have discovered a new tribe (The Piraha) in the Brazilian jungle that doesn't use numbers. They don't have any counting or number system. Think about that for just a's incredible. No time, no calendar, no counting, no money, no age...nothing. I can't even imagine what that would be like. They are the only numberless group (so far) known to researchers. They also have no written language, no distinct words for colours and no oral history. They do not have a creation myth and they never sleep for longer than two hours at a time. Some scientists have been quoted as saying the tribe might as well be a group of aliens. I think that's pretty darn interesting. From a neuroscience and philosophical perspective it gets even more interesting. Apparently they are unable to learn how to count or to understand the concept of numbers, no matter how long they try to learn. It is as though they have passed a critical period for learning numbers. Of course, many people have argued in the past that language shapes the brain and that what language you learn will affect your view of the world. In recent years that theory has lost favour and scientists argue that all human brains are primed to learn a language but that which language is learned is irrelevant. Now, this new tribe is shaking up that theory. If the language you learn has no numbers then apparently your brain loses it's ability to comprehend numbers and this loss appears to be permanent. The ramifications of this for education and child development are pretty impressive. It also might explain why I am so bad at math...maybe I am 1/16 Piraha.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Today we went to Seomun Market and, dare I say, to Wal-Mart. From one extreme to another! Seomun Market is a traditional Korean market and sold, well, everything. Seafood, vegetables, fruit, herbs, clothing, textiles, housewares, animals...if you can imagine it, it was there. We found the area where all of the animals were waiting to be slaughtered (our noses found it, our feet followed...reluctantly). There were ducks, rabbits, chicken, kittens and puppies. It was really amazing to see. (Sorry, I have pictures but they're not up yet...I will link to them soon.) It was pouring today but even in the greyness the market was a dazzling display of colours. And sounds and smells. I brought my MD and managed to catch some of the if I can just find a speaker cord in this country I can do some editing. Anyway...different story. (We have narrowly escaped a tangent.) We walked around the market and bought a few odds and ends. I bought a pair of Nike pants for $10. I'm pretty sure they aren't Nike since they are "made in the USA". Oh, the irony. I come to Korea to buy Nike that claims to have been made in the States. What a crazy world.

After the market we went to Wal-Mart. We weren't too sure what to expect but it was pretty standard and actually less abrasive then I expected. It's the only Wal-Mart in the world that sells locally made products.

Daegu was one of the host cities of the 2002 Soccer World Cup and the evidence can be seen all over the city. Everywhere you look there are soccer-ball shaped garbage cans and flower pots. It's hilarious. It's interesting because you never see the after-effects of a huge event like the World Cup or the Olympics. All of the primping and preening and what's left at the end of it? A billion dollar deficit and thousands of rusting soccer ball garbage cans.

Friday, August 20, 2004

I drank maekolli, a traditional Korean rice wine, with Mr. Lee tonight. Brian went to play cards with the "boys" and so I had the house to myself. I went downstairs to buy a beer (because if what the boys do is sit around and play cards, then what the girls do when they are left alone is drink beer and watch Sex in the City) and ended up drinking some wine concoction out of a rusted teapot in the company of two intoxicated men who don't speak English. Well that's not entirely true. They can say "Korea Number One!" and "ping-pong". Let's just say that I have never been so enthusiastic about ping-pong. The wine was good, the company, a little awkward. Not as awkward as the last paragraph but close enough.

I joined a gym this week and I am really loving it. Tonight after work I went to a stretch class. I was joined by about a dozen middle-aged women and two men wearing dress pants. The teacher is about the same age as me and has decided that we will be friends. I knew this was the case when she started to rub my feet during the relaxation part of the class. At first I thought it was just part of your typical Korean stretch class but then I noticed that nobody else's feet were being rubbed. Hmmm...the squeaky wheel gets the grease?

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

A typhoon hit Daegu last night. I knew something was going on because the creepy-nuclear war speakers that hang on poles over every street were blaring something in a soothing voice. Probably something like, "Don't panic..stay indoors..." etc. What concerned me is that they could have been calling for an immediate evacuation in the face of a Armageddon-sized Tsunami and I would have been thinking how quaint it all was. Yeesh.

I went to work today and it was pouring rain (what else would it be pouring I suppose). The men in Korea smoke like chimneys (women smoke too but it is not acceptable for them to be seen smoking in public)and I got such a kick out of watching them smoke today. One hand on a giant umbrella, the other holding the cigarette. It's the most natural thing in the world.

Just an observation: Couples wear matching shirts here. I don't mean the "my husband and I entered the Kokanee Seniors golf contest and so we both have the same shirt" kind of thing, I mean real couples. A lot of them. Young couples, even cool shirts. Matching. Just so you know.
I am addicted to gimchi. Now, had you told me back home that within a month I would be craving a spicy, fermented cabbage dish for breakfast I would have laughed in your face. And here I am. I

I have to do telephone teaching a couple of times a week at my school. The idea is essentially to get the kids used to talking on the phone. It's an exercise in futility really because they have to answer questions that are basically pulled right from class so there is no spontaneity at all. Except for my preschool class. Tonight I called them and when I spoke with Hans and asked him what his favourite meat was he replied, "Caroline-teacher is my favourite meat." At first I thought he hadn't understood the question, "No, meat Hans." "I know teacher. I am a monster. I eat people." Oh. My bad. I think that is the reason I love my preschool so much. They are still thinking for themselves. Hans also spent all day trying to look down my shirt but I can take the good with the bad. :-)

I started back at the gym this week and in typical Caroline style I went crazy and worked out way too hard. It's not really my fault. The Olympics were on the TV over the treadmill. I was watching the athletes and running my ass off. I just couldn't bear to let down my country...ahem. I mean if they can do it, so can I right? It doesn't matter that they have been in training for years and I am a recovering sloth. At any rate, I can't really move today.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Last night we went out for Ryan's birthday, It was lots of fun and the Korean teachers from school all came as well. I really like all of the people I have met here so far. It sucks that Andrea and Ryan are going home in September. Ah well, what can you do? The Korean teachers will of course be here for the length of our stay. They are a lot of fun.

We came home and watched the opening ceremonies this morning. They were incredible! The first time we watched, the announcer was speaking Korean. The second time we watched it was on NBC with Katie Couric and Bob Costos. It was everything I hate about American Olympic coverage. First Costos said that everyone knows Suriname isn't really here to win a medal. Then he proceeded to discuss the colorful (and might I say, beautiful) traditional costumes of Azerbaijan and said "If you are gonna wear something like that you better be prepared to just strut your stuff because that's all you can do" and then, when the IOC President addressed the crowd good 'ol Bob commented, "...the speaker has switched to English, much to the audiences relief." Right because of all the 202 countries in attendance, who would speak French? What a jerk.

Anyway, back to a more positive perspective. The ceremonies (sans Bob) were just stunning. I can't even imagine being able to conceive of something so elaborate, let alone implement it! It made me cry (because the Olympics always make me cry) and I felt so proud to be...alive. I know, it's weird. But with the emphasis on Greek history I sat in awe watching how far humanity has come and how much we have accomplished and it made me feel proud to be a part of it. It's nice to focus on the all the good man has done, because we are often bombarded with all the bad. It was very moving and I am glad I got to see it.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Here is yet another installment of Korean ingenuity. You can order food in the park here. You can call them up and say bring some food to the 3rd bench after the Magnolia tree and they will bring it. Not only will they bring it, it will come with various side dishes and stainless steel bowls. They will return when you are finished to pick up the bowls and leftovers, free of charge. How cool is that?

This morning when I was walking to work I noticed a woman struggling trying to pick up a large metal sign on the sidewalk. I went to help her lift it and noticed that it was a "No Parking: Tow Zone" sign. The damn thing was blocking where she wanted to park. Now, who could be so inconsiderate as to place a no parking sign right in front of a bank, right where this poor lady wanted to park her car? Right on the sidewalk where people walk? I mean, that's just rude.

For the past few days the main story in the Korea Herald has been about Chinese-Korean relations. They are not doing so well and it's all because of the ancient city of Goguryeo. The city, which is now part of Manchura is claimed by Korea as an important part of their history. A couple of weeks ago, the Chinese government removed all references to Goguryeo from their section on Korean history. China also said the move was a precursor to a similar revision of history in their state school books and all official documents. The Korean government freaked out. They have set up a commitee to examine other country's history textbooks to ensure they do not follow China's lead. (Bad news: Korea isn't in other country's textbooks) They are threatening cutting ties with China and instituting sanctions. Just in case you were curious, the city in question existed from 37 B.C. to 668 A.D.
It is also located in what is now North Korea so it's inaccesible to a lot of Koreans. Don't get me wrong, the city is a big part of Korean history since it was the gateway for Buddghism into the peninsula but I am surprised at the intensity of the reaction. It's not the first time one country has attempted to revise the history of another. Heck, it happens all the time. America is revising it's own history right now (pretty soon no one will ever remember that weapons of mass destruction were part of the equation in going to Iraq.) Let China say what it's not like anyone is really going to believe them.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

We had the biggest bug in our house tonight! After being in Africa, I don't think I am particularly squemish about bugs but this one was big. And it flew. It's the flying that bothers me. One time I tried to get away from a moth so quickly that I did a backwards flip over my coffee table and broke the table leg. I hate moths. But I digress...

So I saw this big, flying, cockroach type thing and Brian was man enough to try to catch it. I screamed like a girl and jumped up and down and he caught the bug in a Tupperware container. I am so ashamed...just when I think I have conquered all things "girly" out pops a bug-squeeler. Who knew?

View the whole event here.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

I have had a hard time coming to terms with the fact that I am a teacher. I always fought with my teachers growing up and now I am one. Wait, it gets worse. Today I was a substitute teacher. They sent me to another school in Bongduck to teach until their new foreign teachers arrive. It was really weird. It's a Ding Ding Dang school too (the chain is really big - more than 20 schools just in this city) so the textbooks were the same and so were the techniques, rules etc. It was sort of creepy to be thrown into a building that sortalooks like where I work , with kids who look a lot like the kids I teach and play the same games and read the same books and get the same puppet answers to "Hello" and "How's the weather". It was a little "Twilight Zonish".

I had a student today who was wearing a pipe around her neck. I saw the cannabis leaf as clear as day and couldn't help but ask her where she got her "necklace". "Expo" she replied. "Oh, it's really nice. What does it do?" (looking at the obvious holes in each end and the reservoir on one side) "It is necklace." she said with a silent "stupid" thrown on the end. She must have been 11 at the most. Too funny.

There is a big case going on here right now because of cell phone tracing. I'm really anti-cellphone, so I don't know if they have this at home or not, but here they can detect where you are when you answer your phone. Apparently the parents here love this feature because as soon as their kids answer their phone they can pinpoint exactly where they are. I have parents calling their kids all the time at school just to make sure they are there. Anyway, Samsung Korea is in hot water for tracing the wherabouts of their employees. They men were suspected of trying to start a union (heaven forbid!), so the company started tracking where they were going, whether/where/when they were meeting etc. The employees only noticed something was up when some suspicious charges showed up on their bill. Very Orwellian.

What do you call a chicken who is too smart to cross the street?
A Rhodes Scholar. Ha! Ha!

I went to the Post Office today to mail a little package off to my Grandma. The people in the PO were all wearing the nicest uniforms - they looked so professional compared to the grumpy ladies at Shopper's Drug Mart back home. After asking what was in the package (which I found amusing since I could have said "an automatic weapon and some Anthrax spores" and they would have just smiled and nodded)they proceeded to rifle through a book looking for the shipping cost. A few minutes went by and I could see the confusion growing. More and more people showed up to look at the mysterious package and the equally mysterious book. Eventually an English speaking woman asked me, "Ahh, what country is Scotland in?" Hmmm, yup...that might be the problem. Apparently they have no concept of the United Kingdom or the E.U. I know this because I have to teach English geography to my kids using a map that has no France, Spain or England. We managed to get it sorted out (they understood the "UK") and they charged me a whopping $2.00 to ship my parcel. Now let's just hope it gets there.

I have a class with a kid called Jae. He is in a special class for kids who have "graduated" from Ding Ding Dang and his English is excellent. It's a fun class to teach because you can have a real conversation. Jae lived in North Carolina for a year so he not only knows the language but he knows a lot of the slang and some pop culture. I asked him to write me a composition about an interesting 10 minutes in his life. This is what I got:

An interesting thing I did today was pull off my Mom's white hairs. I curl the hairs around me finger and pull them out. She gets white hairs because she is 40. She pay me 50 won for each one. Sometimes I pull out a black hair. If I do that she - 50 won.

It took everything I had not to laugh my head off. Something tells me that Jae's mother didn't check his homework before he left for school today!

The Korean teachers had grapes at school today and I couldn't believe how they were eating them. They suck the grapes out of their skin and spit the skins into a big bowl. When I told them we ate the skins at home, they looked at me like I was a total nutjob. They also cut their doughnuts into itty-bitty pieces...with scissors.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

I went to a store called Hot Tracks today - it's a huge place full of thousands of different notebooks and coloured pencils. This country is a stationary lovers dream. Hot Tracks also sells music. You are never going to believe what I found in the New Release seriously. New Kids on the Block. They put out a new album of their greatest (and not so great) hits. Could life get any better?

Thursday, August 05, 2004

The Korean peninsula is divided by a demilitarized zone or DMZ. The strip of land is 4 km wide and 240 km long from coast to coast. It was created in 1953 when an armistice ended the Korean War. Because the two Koreas are still technically at war, the zone remains enclosed in barbed-wire fences, dotted with land mines and guarded by thousands of soldiers. Ok, so far, nothing really new right? So here we go...

In 1955, the two Koreas decided to each build "model" villages on their side of the DMZ. The idea was that each village would highlight the superiority of their way of life. The Northern village is called Gijeong, the Southern, Daeseong Village. Over the past 50 odd years, each country has thrown wads of cash at their village. The schools in the village have access to technology that other citizens wouldn't even dream of. They compete over everything from the health of their citizens to the height of their flagpole. Only a few hundred people live in each village and the weird thing is, they aren't even really aware of the oddity of their situation. They are rural farmers mostly and have never traveled very far from their respective homes. During the height of the cold war, any furrow(accidental or otherwise)into the DMZ was met with armed confrontation and sometimes imprisonment. The new generation of DMZ villagers have grown up surrounded by barbed wire and have not experienced the tensions often associated with the cold war. Malaria has become an issue because the wildness of the area has provided a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes. The citizens must abide by strict rules which include a curfew of 11 pm. They must carry special ID's to gain admittance to their neighbourhood. Every few years someone is maimed or killed by accidentally stepping on a landmine. And yet, the overall population of the village of Daeseong has dropped by only a few people since 1955. The villagers are given special privileges such as provincial tax exemption and release from mandatory military service.

I thought the whole concept was really interesting...I am surprised that people choose to remain there and yet at the same time, I am not. They have reached their goal...they are model citizens.

There was a big protest last week in Seoul...with riot police and everything. Two weeks ago Korea took in it's largest number of North Korean refugees in history. You would think I read about it in the Korean Herald, wouldn't you? I didn't. I read about both in the Globe and Mail online edition. JC.
Tonight when we were walking home we met a group of kids. They were out playing in the was a beautiful summer evening. Everywhere we go here we see children. They play on the streets, they take taxis downtown. It's not that they are neglected or mistreated, that is just the way it is. The kids came up and started talking to us...the typical giggles and mumbled Hello's. Some of them were quite good at English and could carry on a conversation. They are always pleased to hear we are from Canada. One young boy spoke no English at all but his ability to mimic was unbelievable. After hearing an English word only a couple of times he could rattle it off as though he had been speaking it all of his life. They were all very cute. We took some pictures with them and they had a blast looking at themselves on the LCD viewfinder. We had a blast too.

The other day I was walking down the street and two young girls were sitting on a bench on the side of the road. They were watching me (not at all unusual around here...I am tall, white and I have red hair. It's a no brainer really.) As I walked by, one of the girls yelled "I love you!" to which I responded "I love you too." They erupted in fits of giggles. I don't really understand it but that's okay. It made me smile.
I feel like I am facing one of those big life decisions and I have been flip-flopping between two options for the last year or so. A part of me wants to travel and live an independent pen as my sword and all that jazz. I want to tell people's stories from around the globe. I want to eventually work for an international aid organization like Unicef and then the United Nations. I want to live in Australia and in Moscow and in Rome. I want to write books and take amazing photographs. The other part of me wants to be a Mom and have a nice life where the Globe arrives on my doorstep on Saturday morning and I meet my friends for coffee on Sundays. In that life I am working as a communications consultant (or something equally corporate) and I volunteer with the local shelter on weekends. I cook and I have a beautiful garden. I go on nice vacations and I have a wonderful family and at the end of the day I feel lucky but a little bored. At the same time, I know that I tend to romanticize the "Amazonian woman journalist" lifestyle and that I would often feel alone and empty. Or would I? Comfortable mediocrity or lonely ambition? This is the question that I find myself struggling with more than anything else. That and how the hell George Bush is the President of the Free World.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Happy Birthday Craig! I miss you kiddo.

I feel like all I do is work. I get up and and get ready for work. Then I go to work. Then I come home (exhausted) and go to bed so I can get up in time for work. It's not really a bad thing though. After living an unscheduled existence for so long, it's really nice to know what every day will look like. It's refreshing in it's predictability. I guess that's what makes monks become monks. Today I will sit in a cave and eat rice. I will chant and I will meditate and I will sleep. And then I will do it another 29,200 times before I die.

Every day I teach roughly 90 kids. They range in age from about five to 13 or 14. I teach some classes Monday, Wednesday and Friday and other classes on Tuesday and Thursday. I have one class, my preschool class, who I teach everyday. For obvious reasons they are my favorite. They are Hans, Brian, Hoya, Mark and Leo. Hans looks like a mini-Korean version of Don Johnson (circa Miami Vice) with spiked hair and a single gold hoop in his ear. Keep in mind this kid is five. Hoya looks Hawaiian for some reason and is the youngest. Let's just say she's not the smallest or the brightest. She just looks at you with these vacant eyes and every time you ask her a question she responds with "ugly duckling". Apparently that book really influenced her life. Brian is the little joker and he wears a tie everyday. Over his t-shirt. He does this little dance where he sticks out his tongue and wiggles his bum. It's hilarious. Mark is the goody-two shoes and Leo is the nice, sweet kid. Leo is the "cool" kid. He is funny and cute and athletic.They are great.

So I discovered something about myself the other day that came as quite a shock because it goes against everything I thought I knew about myself. I am not a dreamer. I'm a dreamer in many senses of the word but in this particular way I am not. Brian always says things like "Have you ever thought what it would be like to be a rock star/in the NBA/a millionaire"? The answer is usually no. If I imagine doing something I then proceed to figure out what I need to do to accomplish said dream. I have never dreamt of being something, realized it wouldn't happen and then kept on going. (Okay, a couple of times when I was younger I imagined what it would be like to have no legs and so I dragged myself around the house for a whole day, but that's a different kind of dream isn't?) Brian said it was sad. I felt shocked that at 26 I could be confronted with something so novel about myself. Is it sad? I don't know. I think about what it would be like to be a scientist so I do it. I imagined being a journalist so I did it. I have imagined being a doctor and I didn't do it so I consider myself a failure in that regard. I am not a successful journalism grad...I am a failed egyptologist, a failed simian research specialist, a failed actress and doctor and teacher (oh wait -I am doing that now) and a failed politician. Sheesh. What am I going to do about this exactly?
I am sitting here drinking an iced coffee. Koreans apparently love iced's everywhere. It usually comes in little cans and it's quite good. The other day I decided to get one and I opened the cute little fridge I had seen at the corner store everyday...only to find out that the fridge wasn't a fridge. It was a heater! The iced coffees were hot! In a way (a Korean way) this makes sense. You put the can in the fridge - it's cold coffee. You put the same can in a heater? It's hot coffee. Merely another example of Korean ingenuity.

Our friend Eileen got back from Hong Kong yesterday and her legs are covered in bandages. She got such a bad sunburn that she had to bandaged from her toes to her knees...poor thing. She is as white as can be (she is whiter than me even!) and she apparently was only in the sun for half an hour. Yikes. Other than that she though Hong Kong was fantastic. I want to go there...and I want to go to Vietnam, North Korea, Bali, Cambodia, China, Japan, Russia, Mongolia, Guam...any way, you get the idea.

I got my first copy of the Korean Herald yesterday! Yipppeee! It was like Christmas for me. It's not a bad newspaper and it's interesting to read about things going on in Korea and how they perceive international politics. Yesterday there was an article by a professor about America. It was the biggest load of hogwash I have ever read (and I have read a lot of hogwash by the so-called liberal media..ahem, anyway). In it, the man laments the state of Korea and uses the elevators of America and Seoul as an example of contrast. According to him the "hold Open" buttons in America are worn down they have been pushed so much. And in Seoul? The "close doors" buttons of course. He claims that Koreans will slam people in the closing elevator doors rather than be late while Americans will patiently and obsessively open the doors for all those who seek entrance. Puh-lease.

Here is something interesting for my j-school buddies out there (and for other like-minded folk). Remember the South Korean who was beheaded my the Islamic militants? Of course you do. So, they are holding a commission into his death in Seoul and lo and behold if some interesting things have emerged. Apparently, the Associated Press received a 13-minute video showing the man in captivity. They neither informed the Korean government or the man's employer. They sat on it. The first time the government knew the man was being held was the day before he was killed (or so they claim) and when they got wind of the fact that AP had an earlier tape they requested it. What the received was a 4-minute edited version. Strange? You bet.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

We actually left the house today! I know, that's kind of pathetic, but we have both been feeling so crappy. Today we went to the Deagu Tourist Information Centre which is situated in Duryu Park. The park is huge and is really's the Central Park of Daegu(well not really...Central Park is pretty awesome but you get the idea.)

We walked around the park and watched all of the families who were having picnics under the trees. It's really neat here - people seem to have the time to just sit and relax. A lot of people were playing Checkers or different card games. The kids were on rollerblades and the old people fanned themselves or slept on their picnic blankets. The picnic blankets incidentally are all identical and made of silver material. I am assuming they are designed to reflect the sunlight? Anyway, it was very peaceful and a beautiful day to be outside.

The information centre wasn't really all that helpful but they did give us free postcards of Daegu. We bumped into a couple from California last week downtown and they told us to ask for the postcards at the Info. Centre. Apparently they only hand them out to Whities and only upon request. Once again, talking to random people pays off.

Speaking of random people...

So Brian and I went walking tonight in the park and eventually ended up in an area a little more, how shall I say? Korean, than other areas of the park. I had flashbacks of stumbling into a shanty town near Kasane in Botswana. I love those kinds of situations because it offers such a good picture of real life in the country you are visiting. The effect your attitude has on the people around you is amplified in situations like these...such a good experience. Anyway, there was music playing and so we decided to follow it. We came across a group of local elderly people dancing to music being played on the back of a parked motorbike. We stood and watched for awhile before we joined in. It was so great. I danced with the group, which got larger and larger the longer we were there, and Brian took pictures and chatted with the men. They gave us some Soju (more on that in the next paragraph)and gave Brian some dried fish. We danced and laughed and we all really enjoyed ourselves. It was a great time...I was sweating like crazy by the time we left. Dad if you were there, we probably wouldn't ever have left!!

Soju. Ahhh...Korea's national beverage. It's made of fermented sweet potatoes and tastes like a mixture of vodka and formaldehyde. But heck, if you can drink Jagermeister, you can drink Soju. The funny thing is that it's sold in bottles like beer but it's just over 25% alcohol. It's cheap and everyone drinks it. We have been warned of the effects of Soju but have yet to encounter them ourselves...all in good time. Heh, heh.

This country has the best popsicles I have ever had. They are only 50 cents and they are delicious! I should know because I have been living on nothing but for the past three days. Who knew? Korea: undiscovered oasis of all things popsicle-y.

The Korean currency is the Won and it's worth about a tenth of a cent. So 1,000 won is about one dollar Canadian. Here is the weird thing though - their highest bill is a 10,000 note. That means that if you want to carry 200$ around you need at least 20 bills. Does that make any sense?

Friday, July 30, 2004

So I finished The DaVinci one sitting. It was an easy read but it kept me turning the pages. I am not sure how much of it is based on fact and how much on the crazy rantings of conspiracy theorists but it was interesting nonetheless. It's based on the 80's bestseller The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail and basically deals with the persistent rumours of a secret society dedicated to protecting documents that would rock Christianity to it's core. (Bring it on I say!) The documents are said to prove that the divinity of Christ was invented 300 years after he died and that he was married with a child. The ramifications of these claims are of course, obvious. The book is well written and fairly convincing, although some of it is too far fetched. Not as far fetched as a prophesied virgin-birth, walking on water and a reincarnation, but whatever.

Since we are on the subject of religion and it's one that I love so much, I have learned some cool things lately. I am reading a book on geography and I am really enjoying it. I have learned some really interesting things, such as the history of the story of Atlantis (mythological of course but first introduced by Plato of all people! Thought to be the fanciful re-telling of the Island of Thera) and that Christopher Columbus never actually reached the shores of the United States of America and that he died thinking he had reached China. I mean, I never really believed he had discovered America or anything (after all, it's difficult to discover something if more than 40 million people are already living there!) but I have to admit that I did think he had actually reached America. Just goes to show you...anyways, I digress. What was I talking about? Oh yeah, good 'ol religion...

After reading about St.Augustine and early Roman history I learned that St. Augustine really struggled with the idea that there may be more than three continents. The Bible names only three continents (one for each of Noah's descendants) and the idea that a new continent had been discovered set up a huge contradiction between scripture and science (surely not the last!) that he could not comprehend. This made me happy. Obviously we, as a society, have globally accepted the existence of more than three continents. We have relied on evidence and proof and the rational has prevailed! This means that, given enough time, we can do that again. Creationism will eventually be abandoned and evolution (or a better, more unifying theory yet) will be adopted...universally. The human condition marches on...

Brian and I have been on vacation for the last two days and have accomplished nothing. We both have this weird stomach bug that makes us a little reluctant to leave our apartment. Let's just say that finding a public washroom in Daegu seems to be a difficult feat. We have slept a lot and read a lot and eaten very little. It sucks because it's not very often that we get days off work, but what can you do? We are hoping to do more tomorrow and maybe go to the museum or at least downtown.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Happy Birthday Gina! I miss you...I hope you are having a wonderful time...

I am so sick today...again. I guess I got what Brian had. Grrr...

For any Vonnegut fans out there, check this out. Pure genius.

Oh you remember that cute little pillow that I bought at E-Mart a couple of days ago? It broke. In the middle of the night. In the bed, under the covers. And it was full of billions of tiny polystyrene beads. They are everywhere...and I mean everywhere. At least it was easy to "roll" out of bed in the morning.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Today we went downtown and finally found the map that Brian has desperately been wanting. Apparently he needs a visual map of where we are. I don't really care where we all looks the same to me. Just another difference between men and women I think. Anyway, after downtown we caught a cab to E-Mart, Korea's equivalent of Wal-Mart. It was pretty much what I expected - huge, full of lots of goodies and teeming with people. The escalators were the ramp kind with no stairs. I felt so much like herded cattle that I was nervous someone was going to whip out a stun-gun on the sporting goods level. No such luck.

 It was actually pretty cool. They had a section of massage chairs/beds and it was full of people test driving the products. It was mostly old people in the chairs and some of them looked like they may have died at some point between massage cycles. One man's head was being shaken so hard I was afraid he was going to have some kind of frontal lobe damage when he eventually did get up. It might have been better had he died in the chair.

I bought some house slippers, a pillow and some other small odds and ends. Korean houses have an underfloor heating system and so people always take off their shoes inside. It used to consist of a fire and heating ducts but now it relies on the hotwater pipes running under the floor. It's a neat idea but I don't really understand why it requires different footware. I'll just keep playing along. It does help explain the whole "sandal with socks phenomenon"...but not entirely.

We got into the cab today and I asked the driver to take us to E-Mart. Nothing. I asked again, nothing. Brian tried "E-Mart-uh". Instant recognition. Turns out that in the Korean language, certain sounds cannot finish a syllable or word. This is why my students (and many of the Korean teachers) change page to "pagey" and English to "Englishey" (
Engrishey to be exact). The other sound they add is "uh"...thus, E-Martuh. The things you learn.

The car horns here have a built in fade to them. It's weird because it kind of mimics the Doppler effect and it trips me out every time. You push the horn once and it gradually fades over a few seconds. No explanation yet to accompany the observation.

So everyone here are wearing sunvisors to protect them from the sun. Mostly the women, but I have seen some men wearing them too. Some go so far as to wear gloves, visors and use parasols (I never thought I would use that word in a sentence beyond my 8th birthday...I wanted a parasol for my birthday. I didn't get it) but I have yet to see a pair of sunglasses. I have so much to learn.