Too Much Information

 

When teaching elementary classes, my first year in Korea I had a class of mostly boys that I loved. We spent most of the class time casually talking, them asking questions about American culture or just plain goofing off (aka teaching them American slang. I had one boy walk in class every day yelling ‘what’s up!’ and telling me that he was a lady’s man. I’m never going to win teacher of the year). It was always the highlight of my day. It was the type of classroom environment that every teacher wishes they could reproduce for every single class and one where the kids felt comfortable confiding in me.

One day that ‘comfort’ went a little further than I thought it would. One of my students came limping into class and when I asked what happened he turned bright red while the rest of the students clamored over who would get to play charades and attempt to tell me what happened. The lucky one chosen held up his finger proudly (as the affected students slumped into his seat even more) and made a cutting motion. He cut his finger? I asked, confused as to why he would be limping. ‘No no no! Teacher!’ all the boys yelled at once. ‘A part very important to a man!’ Cue the bright red face of the teacher.

When they saw my confusion they asked if the same thing happened in the states. I told them that yes, it was very common but it happens to babies. The conversation went on with the students supreme confusion and tinge of jealousy that in America they do the procedure while the boy is still an infant, not at the age of 13 like what is most common in Korea. Because from what I was told, they feel that in Korea it would be cruel to have a baby circumcised but is perfectly ok on a 13 year old boy when he understands why they are doing it. Personally, baby or 13 years old, I don’t think any boy is going to be thrilled about it, let alone ‘understand’ why they are getting it done.

Plastic Surgery in Korea-My Dirty Little Secret

I have a secret. Ok, it’s not really a secret to anyone who knows me in person but I’ve never blogged about it so same thing, right? If you don’t blog about it, it never happened? Anyway, about a year ago, I decided to go under the knife and get plastic surgery in Korea (gasp! I know…) I realize that not everyone agrees with having surgery done to change your looks, and I respect that. This was a very personal choice and one that has strongly affected how I feel about myself. I strongly believe that as a women, we should be proud of who we are and love ourselves despite our flaws. But I also believe that the decision to get plastic surgery is a personal decision that no one but that person can ever truly understand. This is not a post condoning or bashing the use of plastic surgery, just simply my personal experience with it. And I won’t be going into much detail about Korean culture and their practice except to say it’s extremely popular and something about seeing my 12 year old students getting eye lid surgery to look more ‘Western’ is a little more than odd and troubling to me. End rant. (if you want to see more photos of common surgeries in Korea, click here)

This was something that I had been wanting to do since middle school. You see, I had extremely dark circles under my eyes. Not the type that you get when you’re tired or will go away with a cold compress (trust me, I tried all home remedies and almost every product on the market). This was the type that was hereditary. I went to several dermatologists over the years and they all said the same thing. There was nothing I could do. My veins were simply too close to the surface of my skin, giving me a purplish effect under my eyes that looked like I hadn’t slept in days and then got into a bad fist fight.
Before. The dark circles were improved by 30-40% after the surgery
So when I came to Korea and heard that it was a common procedure to be done, I was on board. Korea is famous in Asia for it’s plastic surgery. People come from all surrounding countries to have procedures done here for their experienced surgeons, cheap prices (the same procedure in the States is quadruple in price!) and high tech equipment. In the first and only consultation on a Friday night, the doctor sat me down and told me that my dark circles would never completely go away but he could improve them by 30-40%. It’s not what I wanted to hear but it would be such a change that would be worth it in my mind. Even that small of an improvement would mean that I wouldn’t feel like I had to put on makeup before running to the store real quick or before going to the gym or beach like I was used to doing.
The gist of the procedure was that they would remove fat out of my leg and put a thin layer under my eye to act as a buffer between my veins and my skin. So essentially I now have butt fat in my face. A fact that my husband was sure to point out. My doctor had great English but let’s just say it wasn’t perfect. When he was trying to explain the procedure he tried to tell me that the fat’s survival rate in my face was 30%. He slipped and told me that my survival rate was 30%. Well that’s reassuring. I went on to ask him how any of these surgeries he has performed. He paused, looked at the ceiling (while I was on the other side of the desk panicking) and came back with the answer of ‘Ohhh, around 1,500’. It’s a whole lot more common that I thought!
After the procedure that night, I would be able to go home just two hours later. I remember lying face down on the table (since they would first cut into my leg), starting to panic as they strapped me down to the table (something I’m sure doctor’s in the States do after the patient is knocked out), the nurses giggling because it was their first foreign patient…and then passing out. When I woke up in the recovery room my first words to the doctor were ‘I love Korea’. Yea, I don’t do so well with anesthesia.

korean plastic surgery My wounds the next day. The two small bandages on either side cover up one stitch each and are where they went in. Thankfully my glasses covered most of it and while my kids looked at me funny, most of them didn’t even notice.

The whole experience was far less painful than I had anticipated. I felt pressure on my face but with the light pain meds I was given, I was still up and around the next day. I could also take the two single stitches on either side of my cheek out the next day which Jeremy happily played doctor for. The only down side is that in true Korean fashion, I had no sick days so I had to return to work on Monday. The pain wasn’t a problem so much as the fact that it looked like someone took a crowbar to my face. And I wasn’t about to get any sympathy from my boss who returned to work two days after a breast enlargement and who did the same after breaking her collarbone. She.is.super.human. There were a few stares but for the most part I think people are used to seeing people walking around right after getting surgery done, or when they’re supposed to being the hospital. Like this guy who left the hospital to watch a rugby game.

All in all, I was very happy with my experience and the doctor I chose. But more than that, I’m happy with the results. I still wear concealor under my eyes most days but use a fraction of the amount and no longer feel like I have to in order to avoid people asking me what happened or if I was tired. It was a decision that while controversial, I am so glad that I went through with.

Not In My Contract

 

IMG_0220

I know that as a teacher, I am not supposed to have favorite students, but let’s not kid ourselves. I did and his name was Tim. At the ripe age of 5 (Korean age so 4 Western age) he had the voice of a 60 year old chain smoker and the hair that reminded me of a Troll doll. Everyday when I walked into class, I was greeted with a gruff ‘Chess Teacher!’ (L’s are difficult to say in Korean, especially for kindergarten kids). He was my buddy during class and that one special student who could turn a bad day around. Until one day when he did something and I knew I just didn’t love him ‘that’ much. During class he suddenly asked if he could go to the bathroom in the sing song tone we had taught them. May I go to the bathroom? Only this time he started tugging on my hand to go with him. Umm no, you can go on your own dear. Well after five minutes of not returning I went into the hall to try and find him. From far off in the distance I could hear ‘Chess! Chessee Teacher!’ Running into the bathroom I could see him sitting patiently with his head propped up in his hands. As soon as he saw me he went into a position that can only be best described as downward dog. Looking around confused I had him stand up and pull his pants up. Apparently this is not what we wanted because he pushed my hands away and assumed the position once again. Finally, refusing to wipe the hiney of a student (I have limits), I went to my boss and told her that he kept speaking in Korean and I had ‘no idea’ what he wanted (sometimes lying is the right answer guys). Apparently wiping students behinds was something they oh so conveniently forgot to put in my job description.

Cat Cafe Seoul

I never considered myself a cat person and always swore that I would never have one. So who would have thought that not only would I own a cat, but that I would willingly (ever excitedly even) enter into a cat cafe in Seoul. While Jeremy’s family was in town, we ventured up to Seoul where people dressing up like cats advertising for cat cafe’s is a common sight to be seen. Especially in the neighborhood of Myeongdong where there are several cafes within walking distance of each other. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this phenomenon that has taken over Korea, it’s as simple as it sounds. A cafe…filled with cats.

cat cafe seoul

We picked one of the several cat cafe’s in Myeongdong which had an entrance fee of about $8 per person but included a free drink including tea, juice or an espresso drink. A small price to pay to play with a plethora of cats for as long as we wanted. We spent the next hour cuddling with these cuties and staying away from the alien looking hairless one…not all cats are created equal people. There were about 40 cats in all but you never would have guessed by how good it smelt (credit goes to the employee that sprayed the equivalent of febreeze on every fabric surface while we were there) and the fact that most of the cats were either sleeping or hiding in one of the many nooks and crannies built for them.

cat cafe myeongdong

cat cafe myeongdong

cat cafe seoul

cat cafe myeongdong

cat cafe seoul

It’s an experience that is unique to Korea and one that I never expected have. But it’s such a blast and a great opportunity for those who can’t have pets while living overseas to get in a little animal lovin’.

Our Little Blue Matiz

A little over two years ago we made our first ‘big’ decision and bought our first car together as a married couple. A 1999 Daewoo Matiz for the price of $200. Now I realize that it doesn’t look all that great on the outside…or the inside for that matter. When buying your first car as a married couple, you’re not typically dreaming of rust spots, no air con, and having to sit sideways in the back seat because it’s so small. Oh and when we first bought it, anytime it would rain, we had to push start it. Nothing says ‘First Year Bliss’ like pushing a clown car in the pouring rain on the way to work. Don’t worry, we eventually got this fixed.
daewoo matiz

We bought the car for a mere $200 from some friends who were upgrading (I don’t blame them). When we purchased it (aka us handing them cash and them handing us the keys…how official) we had anticipated that it would only last through the summer rainy season, another two months. For less than what we spend on groceries in one month we thought it was a great deal. Little did we know that our little blue Matiz would still be chugging along two years later.
daewoo matizThe only negative with our dream car is that it wasn’t exactly legal. And by ‘not exactly’ I mean not at all. We bought it from friends who bought it from a teacher who was leaving and who never gave them any paper work in order to unsure or title it. So in the two and a half years that we had it, we never had it insured and it still technically belonged to an owner who was long gone by that point. Not the smartest choice but one we willingly made for the chance of a cheap car in a different country.

We honestly weren’t too worried though seeing as how in the almost three years we’ve lived here, we’ve never gotten pulled over and even if we were, many times cops in our town do not know much English and don’t want to deal with waygooks (foreigners) so they usually wave you on. We were golden…

Until…I walked out of class one day to my boss telling me he had very bad news. And of course I stared sweating thinking he was angry with me for playing Hangman in class…again. Turns out I had parked illegally right outside of the school (weird seeing as how there were dozens of cars surrounding mine and they were just fine) and my car had been towed. Oh and better yet, he started asking me ‘Who’s Matthew?’ Apparently they had figured out our little secret. So after a very awkward car ride with my boss to the tow station, we grabbed our things and said goodbye to our  love. They wouldn’t let us take it because well…it didn’t belong to us…technicalities. But that’s ok because we found out that there were over 70 tickets linked to the car from us and previous owners. But thankfully we didn’t have to pay those…because it didn’t belong to us.
daewoo matizSo what started as our trash car, quickly turned into our favorite and we’re sad to see Ol’ Blue go and get impounded at the end of the month. We’ll be framing the key to always remember our first little clown car in Korea.