Sunday, August 14, 2011

Letters From Terminal 3

I have had four bottles of Summit Natural Drinking Water (that I suspect is not natural at all).

I have played so many games of solitaire that I've forgotten what year I'm in.

I'm sitting next to a booth of either Cambodian Christian Evangelicals or drug runners that switch tables every time one of them wants to "talk numbers".

I have exactly one pen, one deck of Bicycle playing cards, one novel on a fake Alaskan Zion and 8,000 pages of homework to occupy the remaining three hours of my fourteen-hour detention in the Ninoy Aquino airport. The Fashion Rack is alternately blasting inappropriate club music and mind-numbing Nickelback singles at old Filipina women shuffling flowered luggage through the 4th floor departures mall.

Cambodian guy has run off to the bathroom for the third time in an hour, intensifying drug mule suspicions. Then again, his mustache and hairline may be sufficient evidence of a vengeful God.

Jury is still out.

Strongly contemplating alcohol as a coping mechanism.

Two hours, fifty-two minutes.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Nuclear Nihon Vacation

There are a lot of things to be said about my jaunt to Japan, but I suppose that first of all, I'll say this:

this trip very nearly didn't happen.

And you want to know who to blame?

Children. And Buddha.


I guess I shouldn't be bitching. It's only due to the unique confluence of strange Asian holidays that I got to take this pricy little mini-break in the first place. The plan is to go up to Seoul Wednesday after school, hop the high-speed KTX down to Busan, crash for the night with a Canadian Couchsurfing host and then catch the 9:00 ferry to Fukuoka. This beautiful, pain-stakingly crafted plan is blown to smithereens about 30 mintues into the Icheon-Seoul commute.

We are not moving. This is not "heavy" traffic. This is not "rush hour" traffic. (As if an any more inaccurate moniker existed.)

This is I-hate-everyone-and-everything-around-me traffic.

This is praying-for-the-world-to-end-so-I-don't-have-to-listen-to-this-crazy-ajumma-yapping-on-her-phone-for-one-more-second traffic.

This is traffic so bad I would rather watch the movie Traffic. This is saying something.

The cause of this traffic? CHILDREN. I have a profound disdain for children most of the time anyway, but this is too much. The reason for all of this traffic is CHILDREN'S DAY. Which I'm pretty sure is a fake holiday anyway. I hate children.

So, we're late. We're really freaking late. This bus trip normally takes an hour and we are now clocking in at three and a half. Even yet, there is still a shred of optimism left in me. I'm thinking "Oh, so great that I decided to come up right after school! My KTX isn't until 11:30, and it's only 10!" No, friends. No.

After shoveling something from Paris Baguette in my mouth, I decide to catch a cab. SURELY this will be faster than the packed subway. I will be at Seoul Station in no time. No.

I am running, sprinting, breaking land speed records up to the ticket gate at Seoul Station. It is 11:23. I have made it! No.

The attendant checks my ticket and frowns. My heart sinks. I READ THE TICKET WRONG. I was on the 11:00 KTX, which is probably halfway to Gwangju by now. Meanwhile, there is a very nice Canadian in Busan waiting up until two in the morning for me to stay on his couch for free. I am having a meltdown.

I call Matt the Canadian in a complete panic. I am now choking over raggedy breath and frustration tears trying to explain to this guy I've never spoken to in person that I have missed my train. And bless his moose-eating heart, he was the greatest sport in the world. He assured me that the 5:30 AM train ticket I bought would probably maybe get there in time to catch the 9:00 ferry and then texted me the name of the port in Korean for the taxi driver. God save the Queen, and Matt the Canadian.

I am exhausted from frustration and my five hours of travel but still need some place to rest my head for the night. After wandering around Seoul Station for twenty-five minutes, I come upon the skeeviest love hotel in the creepiest alley I've ever wandered down at two in the morning. I pay $30 for the privilege and sink into the bed in my blue-lit, sparkle wallpaper room. I watch an episode of Jersey Shore at 2:30 AM and fall asleep for three hours.

I wake up at 4:30 in the morning. I have lost my will to live. I wrench myself out of bed to take a zombie shower and watch animals killing each on the Discovery Channel while I dry my hair. I nearly forgot to put socks on. One more salute to the prostitute at the ice machine and I'm off.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Miss Yun-erisms, Part I

So... Koreans say funny things sometimes. Even though these are not all Miss Yun-specific, she was pretty much the inspiration for this post, so I am naming it in her honor.

The funny stuff of late:

Deuces Wild
Context: I had my hand on the right side of my stomach and was grimmacing, following another dose of Korean lunchtime intestinal-hate when Miss Yun spotted me.

Miss Yun: "Jennifer, are you okay?"

Me: "Yeah, I'm okay. It's just that my stomach hurts. I'm not sure how you say in Korea... (pausing while trying to conjure word for indigestion)..."

Miss Yun: "OH! Jennifer! You can't... make a deuce? I'm sorry!"

... sigh.

I Hate My Job
Context: Sleepily trying to make conversation with my third-grade before-school students one morning.

Me: "So, Ju Hyun, what did you do this weekend?"

Ju Hyun: "Working."

Me: "Oh, really? What do you do?"

Ju Hyun: (puzzled expression then rapid-fire Korean discussion with my co-teacher, Mr. Hyun)

Mr. Hyun: (completely non-plussed, reading a newspaper) "Picks up cow shit."

Jesus What?
Context: Regular class lesson, probably doing a Jeopardy game.

Me: "Okay, class, what is another word for 'religion'? Do you know?"

One of my students, Sang-Cheol: "Superstition."

... my kids impress me sometimes. Polysyllabic English humor? I had to laugh.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

I Don't Believe In Air Conditioning, He Says

I cannot understand you, Steve. I nod encouragingly, as I am clearly supposed to, but this is all a little overwhelming. I am trying, and failing, to inconspicuously tug my short-shorts and tank top into a less revealing position. It's 2 AM, and this Austrian is wide awake. I really couldn't tell you what he was pontificating on at this exact moment, but he is pacing around the far end of our room, occassionally checking to make sure I am still his captive (audience). I become fascinated with his impressive beard and fantasize about placing things in it while he sleeps. Just as I loll over to prop myself up on an elbow, settling in for the rest of this lecture, the pants drop.

Hello, Steve.

* * * *

Let's backtrack. It's day four of winter vacation, and my flight has just landed in the Phnom Penh International Airport. The air is dusty and dry. I have not planned this. I hop into a cab and literally decide on a hostel on the way downtown. Stab at a point on the map, and my driver grunts assent.

The amount of motorbikes here is wild. They roar loudly all around me, bobbing and weaving through every manner of vehicular transport on this crowded road. Max number of people witnessed on a single motorbike: 5. Wear a helmet.

We arrive at Royal Guesthouse, whose sign is slightly obscured by an unsettling amount of ferns. To my suprise and delight, the front desk girl was a peppy little Australian-Korean girl who informed me that they had one room left.

A Cambodian housekeeper took me up a treacherous flight of poorly lit stairs to check out the room. After wrenching the five-pound padlock off the gate (better safe than sorry...?) I had arrived. My room, interestingly enough, had three beds. I quickly decided that I was going to sleep in a different one every day. Left my stuff on Bed #1 and precariously picked my way back down the stairs.

When I sidled back up to the reception desk, the host was engaged in an intense discussion with a burly, auburn-haired lumberjack of a man, speaking with an accent I did not recognize. As I'm standing waiting to get my room key, I realize that the lumberjack is distressed because he always stays here when he comes to Cambodia. The girl explains that I got the last room. Lumberjack turns to me with mournful eyes.

There is no way out of this.

So now I have an Austrian roommate. Steve.

Steve is a barrel-chested pro backpacker that apparently hails from the mountain country of eastern Europe.

Things I Learned About Steve (in the first 20 minutes of our relationship):
- Steve does not believe in air conditioning.
"If it's hot, it's hot."- Stevely wisdom
- Steve is positive 9/11 was an inside job.
- Steve does not appreciate socialism.
- Steve does not appear to appreciate any other system of government.
- Steve does not appreciate Obama. Or really another other American president.
- Steve does not have qualms about silly things like personal space.
- Steve's backpack weighs more than I do.

After our initial meeting, Steve and I both leave for our separate adventuring. What I do not realize is that there is but one room key.

So. After a day of rambling around Phnom Penh, I am quite content to crash into my bed at 9:30 PM. Makeup's off, clothes are off, fan is going full speed. Coma.

All of the sudden, someone is pounding on the door. I wake up, not sure what country I'm in, and scrabble around trying to find a tank top and shorts. I'm rubbing my eyes as I lurch toward the door. And there's Steve.

Steve is awake and feelin' chatty. I don't appear to have a choice in this matter.

The TV is flipped on, and Steve starts giving a running commentary on the BBC. I have to pay pretty close attention to his lips to suss out what he is saying. The European stocks are down. And then, in what I'm sure he considers a hilarious play on words,

"Oy! The Euro stocks arr gone down same time-as mah pants!"

Two words: Banana. Hammock.


I do not know the protocol for this situation. Steve is still chattering at me as though he is not standing in front of me next to naked. Am I supposed to look at him? The ceiling? My fan? Run out of the room screaming? I am troubled.

I suppose part of the problem is that I sort of can't stop staring. Is this normal in Austria? I'm pretty sure that a package this size probably has its own intelligence and can start wars.

Steve and I ended up spending three memorable half-clothed nights together. I'll never forget our hours of awkward one-sided conversation and partial nudity. I was sad to see you go Steve, but hey- we'll always have Phnom Penh.