November 21, 2011 Enter your password to view comments.
November 15, 2011 Leave a comment
Many posts ago I mentioned the place where I do my groceries. The store is called Home Plus, a UK-based chain that offers groceries and housewares in one handy location. While the pricing isn’t as good as its domestic competition, the Korean-based E-Mart (E-Mart purchased Wal-Mart Korea in 2006 to boot), the local Home Plus is a 10-minute walk from my apartment while the E-Mart is a bus ride away. Convenience wins with me every time so I shop at Home Plus.
In that same post I also mentioned that I can only tolerate shopping at the Home Plus during certain hours. When I wrote that post I would only set foot in the Home Plus after about 11:00pm. It’s open 24 hours a day, six days a week (only till midnight on Sundays) which, thankfully, makes that possible. The reason behind this is that during regular shopping hours–weeknights and weekends–the Home Plus is a madhouse.
Large scale discount retailers like Home Plus and E-Mart are still a relatively new phenom here. From what I’ve read E-Mart is the oldest discount chain and it was only established in 1993. While shopping at a Home Plus is only impressive to me in that I can find a few foreign food items, for Koreans it still has a certain amount of newness to it. I don’t know if that’s the reason that Koreans make going to the Home Plus a freaking family outing but that’s how they roll. So in addition to women who think it entirely reasonable to block the entire aisle so that no one can get by, there are wandering husbands, and toddlers underfoot. Add to that the enormous number of do-nothing staff. These are folks paid to stand at the entrances of various aisles to greet you, help you find stuff and generally try to get you to buy more things that you don’t need. Do not make the mistake of thinking these are people who replace stock. That’s a whole other group of people. But we’re not done yet. Then there are the sample slingers. They take up all the spots not filled by the aisle greeters. While they might be politely ignored in a lot of North American grocery stores, no such thing happens here. Everyone stops for a sample constantly clogging the entrances to the aisles. I assume because meat is so expensive here, people *line up* for the meat samples. And there’s usually a guy or gal bellowing into a microphone to attract people to the meat sample as well. In addition to all of this there’s a small eatery right next to the meat section and pizza stand next to that.
I don’t like grocery shopping at the best of times, but when the grocery store is a full-on circus I risk resorting to violence while I’m there. So I have generally done my groceries well after 11:00pm at night. Today, though, I stumbled onto a new strategy.
I don’t start work until 2:30pm so I have shopped at Home Plus in the morning or early afternoon here and there. However I’m a pretty intense night owl so I’m usually not awake much before I have to be at work. I’ve been trying to change that though, since I have the distinct impression that not getting enough daylight was causing some mild depression. Also I’m a hell of a lot more productive in the morning than I am at night, despite the fact that I like staying up. So I’ve been trying to get to bed by 1:00 or 2:00am in hopes of being awake by 9:30 or 10:00am. So far it’s been working with stops and starts.
This morning though, my eyes flew open at 7:00am and refused to close again. I had no desire to be up so early since I didn’t get to sleep until 2:00am last night but I figured I’d better get on with the day. If I needed a cat nap before work around 1:00pm, so be it. So I went off for a morning stomp to the boardwalk (pictures below) and then decided to stop in and do my groceries on the way home. When I entered the Home Plus it was about 9:00am. I didn’t think it could get more dead in there than it is at 1:00 or 2:00am but I was wrong. This was a new kind of quiet. Hardly any staff on the ground, some parts of the store still unlit and no more than five patrons in the entire place. I even caught the staff doing some creepy morning Wal-Mart thing. Each staff member stood at the entrance to an aisle and they all greeted one another in response to a recorded message playing on the sound system. Then they clapped in time to some pretty funky house music. It was bizarre.
Crazy staff doings aside, it was by far the most relaxing time I’ve ever spent at Home Plus and here’s a little ditty for your listening enjoyment.
In other news, I finally found the water. There’s been a boardwalk a mere 20-minutes from my apartment all this time and I had no idea despite the fact that I can see water from my office at work and kids would mention it in their essays. Yeah, sometimes I’m all kinds of oblivious.
November 10, 2011 4 Comments
My dear and beloved readers, I apologize for my hiatus from the blogosphere. I’ve been all kinds of busy about all kinds of things, but it’s high time you got an update. The last few posts before my long silence seemed to be all about one crisis or another. Well here’s what happened with all those crises.
First up, the neighbours. It took a month, but things have almost normalized. When I went to work the Monday after that fateful night, one of the guys who had been at that rocking party, Rick, went out of his way to make sure we were on speaking terms. It wasn’t the apology I had hoped for but it was something, so I accepted the olive branch. Mike, the neighbour that I work with, though, well he wasn’t speaking to me. A couple days later I realized I had been suffering from raging PMS the night that the whole thing went down, so I hoped that maybe the absence of crazy-making hormones would help relations improve. (I’ve since downloaded a period tracking app on my iPhone–it warns me when the PMS is coming!) Just as I was starting to think things might be okay, a week later these signs appeared on my neighbours’ door:
Assuming this was directed at me, I was horrified. I stopped making any effort to speak with Mike at work after that. Then I eventually found out the signs were directed at someone else entirely. While I still think the signs are pretty awful (and a month later they’re still up), it was a relief to know they weren’t for me. With stops and starts Mike and I managed to get back to being friendly with one another at work–helpful since he sits right next to me. As I still haven’t been in their place since all of this went down, I haven’t actually seen the other neighbour, Sam (who no longer works with us), but we’ve communicated by text once and it seems the waters have calmed. I’m still treading lightly and I doubt things will ever be quite like they were before–but I kinda think that might be a good thing anyway. And they certainly haven’t woken me up since then.
In unqualified foreign teacher news, Mona is supposedly out of a job as of December 1st. While it sucks for her, it’s good for the kids and the rest of us teachers. In the last week or so I’ve gone from assuming that most of the trouble she was having on the job was about her lack of English skills, to realizing she just isn’t terribly bright. We had to do testing on all the kids this past week so we foreign teachers had a meeting just to ensure that we were all grading by the same standards to keep it fair. Since there is some pressure to maintain enrollment we discussed the fact that we really need to grade on a bit of a curve. This idea could not–COULD NOT–be understood by Mona. It was mind boggling that we couldn’t get her to see the shade of gray we were going for on this–she kept seeing the black and white of “pass all the kids,” or “fail every kid who could possibly be failed.” No in between. It was baffling. So no, she will not be missed.
Having said all that, I’m happy to report that this did not become my problem because Mona and I had a frank talk about a month ago. I finally told her that she needed to stop acting like I was some sort of human job/life handbook. She wasn’t too thrilled to hear that from me and seemed genuinely shocked and hurt which made me feel like a total shit for waiting so long to tell her this. It was tense for about 24 hours, but then we bumped into each other on the elevator to the office a couple days later and all seemed well. She even claimed that I looked like I’d lost weight. She clearly knows the way to my heart.
While she can still manage to get under my skin, she doesn’t ask me nearly as many questions. She spreads the pain around a bit more too. It also seems like my not being so angry with her all the time has caused everyone else to kind shift a bit in their attitude towards her. I’m not really sure of why that is–maybe they know that I won’t Hulk out if she’s around so it’s not such a big deal to have her around? In any case, this shift was good because the night she found out she wasn’t long for this job, we all felt enough compassion to go out for drinks with her and stay out until 3:00am. I think if I hadn’t been honest with her before that, I wouldn’t have felt enough compassion to even be civil let alone social. In addition to all of this I’m not walking around in a vein-busting rage all day at work which is a nice change of pace.
So remember that book club I talked about starting? Well I did it, but it’s not quite what I had hoped for thus far. At the moment there are three of us, with a possibility of a fourth. I met the first two members, let’s call them Jack and Diane, a couple weeks ago and we chose a book. Jack and I both thought it best to meet in a couple weeks to give us all time to read the book, but Diane insisted that we meet in a week, citing boredom. I reluctantly agreed and so we met this past Saturday with the plan to do a review of the first two chapters of the book. I had a bit of a rough week so I had to wake up early Saturday morning to read those chapters. I realized they were quite short and assumed everyone else would have gotten farther in, so I hurried through the first 50 pages…only to find that Jack had read nothing and Diane–oh she of boredom–had read *two* pages. Then we spent four hours waiting for Jack’s friend, who might join the club, to meet up with us. While socializing is nice I was a little annoyed and to be deadly honest, I’m not sure I enjoy spending time with these folks enough to do it without a book to discuss! And the point of all this was to meet kindred spirits. I can read books all on my own really. I figure I’ll give this a couple books to come together and turn into either a good, solid book discussion group or a good, solid social group. If one of those things doesn’t take place, I may choose to spend my Saturdays otherwise engaged.
You may recall my griping and whining about not knowing the language. Well I enlisted the help of a Korean teacher and she has turned out to be batshit crazy. Alright highly, highly eccentric. Initially I thought I had scored with someone who was fluent in both English and Korean but she is proper nuts as a friend puts it. And she’s also not very good at this gig. She just sort of sits next to me in a cafe and rushes me through a text book at the speed of light. At first I thought, “well at least she’ll be like a warm body to keep me accountable,” but she doesn’t even achieve that, and I haven’t the energy to tell her how to do her job. And you know, she’s batshit crazy.
Also, strangely, I’ve felt a lot less urgent about learning the language in the last few weeks. I’d still like to pick up enough to function with ease, but I realized that suddenly it’s not my main priority anymore. I think I realized how well I could function once I stopped being so anxious and got more confident in my ability to make myself somewhat understood. I’d like to do more traveling and sightseeing and writing and picture-taking and friend-making, but I’m not sure I’m that interested in spending a lot of time on language study at the moment. I’m gonna give my teacher the heave ho this weekend after my lesson tomorrow. Yeah, I’m too much of a wimp to do it in person–she’ll get a nicely worded e-mail or phone call.
Lastly, there is another thing I do need to be a lot more focused on which has taken up a bunch of my head space, and that’s my health. I went to the doctor with one symptom–painfully, chronically (well since June) swollen feet. He did a bevy of tests and found that I am borderline anemic, on the edge of osteoporosis, deficient in vitamin D and suffering from mild arteriosclerosis. The first three are not so bad; I take iron and A LOT of vitamin D and a fair bit of calcium. The last one though, that’s a doozy. Apparently I have stiff arteries and that causes poor circulation which causes my feet to swell. My weight and standing on my feet for work exacerbates this. The swelling has put some of my shoes off limits–I simply can’t fit into them. A friend went to the trouble of shipping me my favorite heels only to discover when I tried to put them on for a party, that I can’t get into them. The doctor had me on diuretics to begin with but you can’t take those forever, so the long term remedy is to exercise, drink lots of water and lose weight. Yeah, cause exercising and losing weight are easy.
This turn of events has been overwhelming to say the least and I can’t describe how frustrating/annoying/disheartening it is to see my feet constantly look loaves of bread. I actually used to think of my feet as two of my most attractive physical features and now they have utterly failed me. The exercise is up and down but coming. However my feet have not responded quickly at all. I go back and see the doctor again in about a month and hopefully there will have been some improvement by then. For now I grit my teeth and keep working at it.
This post is getting lengthy so I’ll end it here for the moment. But don’t fret, I’m just brimming with things to say so you won’t have to wait long for another one. And in case you thought “Headline News” was made up song title, think again.