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Friday, August 11, 2017

Lunatics & Fools

There were 31 students in my adult English class yesterday morning. One of them asked me whether I was proud to be an American. I said I was. I said that I think my country has done many good things, but that I thought our great weakness was not being willing to listen to other people. I also said that I didn't think my pride in my country excluded anyone else's being proud of theirs. God made us all different, and each culture should have some strength that it can point to and say, "You know, I'm really proud of being ___ because of that."

Our American founding documents are superb, and many of our founders were admirable people. Some, however, notoriously did not practice the ideals they preached. And anyone who knows the stories of history can numerous examples of American hubris over the centuries, and intentional and unintentional exploitation and abuse on the federal, state, and local levels. Of course, these sorts of instances and behaviors are certainly not limited to Americans. And one would wonder whether (if not already know that) many other countries were guilty of worse at the time. But the very fact that we had documents that expressed such good and right ideals, and that we failed to live up to them makes us the more guilty. Where there is no law, there is no recognition of sin. But where there are high standards, their selective application or pervasive violation becomes more starkly apparent. I think that a proper sense of national satisfaction and pride ought always to be tempered with a realistic understanding of past personal and collective failings, and an equally strong present determination to stand up for the weak against all doctrines of death at home and abroad. 

I spoke with a publishing coworker this evening who said that folks around in her area on the other side of the globe were anticipating imminent nuclear holocaust. I told her that people here were more concerned with whether or not the government was going to give us an extra day for Thanksgiving  holiday. It's so weird to be just an hour's flight from the border of North Korea, whence missiles (at least on days when the weather is fine) are launched, and yet so far removed from paying serious mind to potential mayhem. I pray that leaders who pursue dangerous ends will be soon removed from office. For all the military buildup of China and Russia worldwide over the last decade, and their respective beliefs in their own international manifest destinies, I would think it highly disadvantageous to everyone to have a penny-ante potentate like Kim Jun Un push large actors into positions of confrontation. It's a pity that just as these sleeping giants are awakening, and the United States is in intense need of wisdom at all levels of its leadership, that we should be helmed by someone whose obvious lack of tact seems to evidence profound underlying ignorance. 

On a certain level, the American president is calling a spade a spade, which has not been done in similarly blunt language by his predecessors (of both parties) who have fruitlessly sanctioned the PRK. On the other hand, one should try to calm a suicidal hostage-taker, not encourage him to begin pressing explosive buttons, just because you can and will ultimately defeat him. The goal is to remove the threat to civilians, promise the bad guy pizza and a getaway car, and then gradually move in so the subject can be neutralized, cuffed, and carted away without incident. Sanctions clearly haven't done this, as Kim has been unswervingly dedicated to his atom-splitting ambitions, whatever the cost to his people otherwise. And now instead of a tense but progressing negotiation we have a Nord-Ost theater standoff, a Beslan school siege; although the terrorists may ultimately be killed, it is possible that many innocents will die in the meantime. Yet, just as a confirmed China opponent like Nixon made vital steps towards normalizing diplomatic relations with the PRC, maybe it'll take someone as unabashedly bombastic as Mr. Trump to call North Korea's long-range bluff. 

In the meantime, one of my fifth-grade students told me today that if his sister does well in her classes, the whole family will be going to Europe in the winter break as her reward. She's already been to France and the U.K., so this trip may be to Germany. Another of my students, in the same class, just got back from a week in Paris. Others speak fondly of past and future vacations in Japan and Cambodia, or their recent "space camp" in Seoul (an experience which seems to have consisted almost entirely of going to amusement parks). Many of my adult students are also widely travelled, and several were shocked that I haven't been to Hawaii (they have), and recommended Australia and New Zealand. Maybe I should spend Chuseok in China proper, instead of just Hong Kong. If I will have nine days, I could go on an extensive package tour [for even though I loathe such tours, my Chinese is wholly limited to 謝謝 and 對不起 (thank you and I'm sorry), and GoogleTranslate doesn't work there!]

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Threats From Overhead, Utilities & Rest

The highlight of yesterday for me was talking to Susan, with whom I have been playing phone and message tag for months. While she went to tend to her smaller boy, four-year-old Theo got on the phone and painstakingly read me a book. It was so sweet hearing his little voice on the other end of the line. He's such a bright little penny. And he reads so well, carefully sounding out the words he didn't know, and boldly declaiming the ones he did.

Speaking of bold and, on the other hand, reckless declamations, CNN's current front page treatment of possible American war with North Korea smacks of hysteria. And, of course, its intimations that the US would take as long to get ready for conflict with the fat, obstreperous, and oddly tonsured Mr. Kim as imperial Russia did to mobilize for World War I are not encouraging. I do hope that the president of South Korea, who seems more diplomatically inclined, can pour oil on the frothing rhetorical waters stirred by the decidedly unfiltered leaders of the north and of the United States.

I was terrified yesterday at lunch by reports from several of my colleagues that they had found tarantula size spiders in their houses. Apparently these things are called water spiders, and one girl I work with told me she woke up last year to find one on the ceiling above her bed. I have just invested in a new mosquito net. I have no desire to be visited by arachnids of any description, and particularly not the size of bread plates. It could be that my expensive dehumidifiers are doubling as spider repellents, if these things like water. I'm far more arachnophobic than scared of rumors of war.

Roxanne and I went on another walk this evening. I told her about my recent interaction with the local gas company--I'd left my house to find a bill for over 100,000 KRW tucked in my door. The neighbors' bill was only 16,000 KRW. My previous bill had been 20,000. Clearly something was amiss. However, they had my apartment number correct. A Korean friend sweetly called the company for me, and they told her that according to the account number on the bill I had not paid since March. Which was nonsense. I faithfully pay every bill that appears in my mailbox or on my doorstep. Being the good little packrat I am, I marshalled my receipts to prove the company's error. And in so doing, I noticed that the street address on the bill was different from the ones I had previously received, with the exception of one which I had already paid a month or so back, thinking it was my electric bill. It turns out, that they had not only given me the wrong bill--same apartment number, different building!--but they had done the same a few months earlier, and I had unwittingly paid that one. So, my boss called them, they did a search of their records, and within a few hours I was not only vindicated but assured of a quick refund of the almost $100 that I had overpaid on someone else's behalf. They wired the money to my bank account yesterday. I am totally impressed by the swift resolution. Would that American utility companies were so easy to deal with!

The typhoon that we were expecting to hit on Sunday took a turn for Japan, and so all we got was a bit of wind and rain. Americans would have already freaked out in advance and cleaned the grocery stores of milk, toilet paper, and bread. I told a Korean coworker about this odd pre-storm tradition, asking her if people hereabouts did something similar. No, they don't. The farmers, of course, have some damage prevention preparation to do, but there is apparently no grocery-oriented civilian panic in response to dire forecasts.

The only thing that I bought preparatory to any storm was a case of water. I went into the store near my house, and I thought the gentleman who runs it was coming out to give me a hand with it, but instead he slung his arm all chummy over my shoulders and escorted me inside. I was too shocked to do anything, not to mention encumbered by water and work materials in both hands. His wife just laughed at us, while a male pal who was sitting by the register visiting asked him (in Korean) why he had his arm around me. I was wondering this myself. The shopkeeper announced that we were friends. He is a friendly guy. I don't want him hugging me--but he may be under the common misapprehension that this is a usual American practice. I just looked at his wife and rolled my eyes.

I have two glorious sequential days of no morning classes – the summer set has ended and the single fall season class, which I'll be teaching two days a week come Tuesday, has not yet begun. My brain responded last night by allowing me to have the best sleep I've had in months and months and months. I didn't wake up at 3 or 4 or 5 AM thinking of ways to improve the PowerPoint presentation for that morning's class. I didn't have weird dreams. I didn't lie awake for hours trying to doze off. I just lay down, went to sleep without chemical assistance, and slept deeply and thoroughly until mid morning. Then I got up, ate a light breakfast, and went back to bed for a delightful three hour nap. And two people later, separately, commented that I looked great today. What magical ointment was I using  on my skin? Had I lost weight? A good sleep really does wonders.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Food & Marketing

I helped to prepare lunch for about 100 Vacation Bible School kids on Monday at the church. I chopped golden slices of pickled radish into quarters and cut shallow vents into the skins of scores of mini hot dogs, and stirred a huge pot of dukkboki simmering on the industrial size stove. The other twelve ladies worked much harder than I did, washing dishes, prepping vegetables and fruit. There were two enormous tubs full of cubes of fresh watermelon, apples and pineapple into which we poured "cider" (Sprite) and sparkling water. And then the head prep lady decided the mixtures needed to be sweeter and added several cupfuls of white sugar to each. I was aghast at the sugar addition--it was like syrup. And, I have to admit, popular with the small fry. I only saw one of my students – it was a combined VBS for nine local churches, and I thought I would spot more.

Daddy has been on my mind a lot the last day or so. I think I'm more homesick for heaven that I am for any place on earth. It's both a blessing and a curse also to have all one's friends scattered around the globe. My plan right now is to go alone to Hong Kong for Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) in October, but the Korean government won't make a decision until September about whether it's giving us the Monday of the week off. If they do, that'll make an eight-day trip possible, and doubtless June will want to try to go to Siberia to visit her friends there (there's one flight every seven days to the town where she spent a year, so at least a week's holiday is needed). And I would be sorely tempted to go with her, if only to say that I had been to that part of Russia, and to practice the language. The other night, I dreamed that I mispronounced most Russian words I tried to say. Some people actually dream in other languages. I always dream that I am translating from English into other languages, one word or phrase at a time. It's like a vocabulary review. I have learned 10 new Korean words in the past few days.

My sleep continues to be irregular and insufficient. The heat certainly might be playing a role – my air-conditioning unit is in the common room, and I am using a floor fan to move this cooler air into my bedroom, but it's not as comfortable as I would like. I paid almost $100 for electricity last month, which didn't surprise me given how many appliances I am running – two dehumidifiers, two air purifiers, and the AC unit pretty much constantly and the fan at night. I am looking forward to fall.

Last night I went out for meat-filled lettuce wraps with June and a Korean friend. On the wall near our table there was a TV showing the Korean variety program Infinite Challenge, a special featuring NBA star Stephen Curry and his brother opposite a team of assorted Korean hosts and celebrities. It was really cute show, and Curry acquitted himself as a good sport and superior athlete. I wonder if he is borrowing, so to speak, from Kobe Bryant's international playbook? Bryant is the most popular player in China thanks to his regular visits to the country, participation on Chinese TV shows, sponsorship of basketball camps around the PRC, and so forth. If Curry captures the Korean market, it will assure him of a fervent fan base and, provided his image remains clean, financial possibilities that will probably endure for years after his playing career has ended. Kim Jung Un is not the only person on the peninsula who enjoys the game. After our meal, the restaurant owners asked us to help them by proofing and editing their English menu. I made fairly short work of it with my friends' (and their smartphones') help: "sirloin" sounds so much more appealing than "piece of meat attached to spleen."

Tomorrow and Tuesday are, respectively, my last English III and English I classes for the summer. I think a new session of adult study starts at the end of August, but I'm not sure what level of class I will be teaching.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Compatriots, Politicians & Language

The plant life here on Jeju is very similar to that in Georgia. There are pine trees (albeit not tall ones) and camillia bushes, honeysuckle and azaleas, magnolias and kudzu. The city beautification committee plants petunias and marigolds. And palm trees. It's much more humid here than in Augusta. The streets are largely deserted of pedestrians these days during daylight hours because it feels so incredibly hot--of course, there are the office workers going out at lunchtime, and the ladies walking around under parasols (mine just arrived in the mail last week), but considerably more folks are out and about on foot only after dark--otherwise, the roads are clogged with vehicular traffic, just like at home, with everyone rolling around in their own little air conditioned pod. I've been walking with Roxanne at the local high school track from 9-10:15 some evenings, and it's always crowded with middle-aged folks like ourselves getting in exercise after sunset.

I ran into two young Korean Americans at church last Sunday. Kristen encouraged me to ask them where they were from--my natural inclination is to remain shyly silent. Columbus, GA, it turned out. We're almost neighbors. They were really nice. The brother was still in high school and the sister had just graduated. It was  good to talk to compatriots--no worries about my talking too fast or using incomprehensible slang--particularly folks from the same state who didn't feel any nervousness about talking to me even though I was older than they were! The young man confessed that while they had learned basic Korean at a Korean language church in the US, they were largely at sea linguistically, and everyone expected them to be fluent. Also, they were to be helping out with a vacation Bible school on the mainland, and had just been told that it was going to be operating double shifts daily--not only one program in the morning, but an identical one in the evening as well. "Welcome to Korea!" I told them. Americans are for the most part not workaholics, and even those who consider themselves such are not workaholic to the level that most ordinary Koreans consider just conventional working hours.

At church this Sunday, the governor of the island was sitting in the pew behind me. He's up for reelection and is making the rounds. My Bible study group and I got a picture with him at lunch downstairs afterwards, as one of the ladies was intent on complaining to him about the hiring situation at her school. And then our group went out for coffee, and ran into an assemblyman (congressman), so I got a picture with him, too. This unfortunately guarantees that neither of these men will ever be elected to the highest office in the land, because no one I've ever gotten a picture with has had any major success electorally. Or perhaps that only holds true for American politicians. I was able to answer the first four questions the assemblyman asked me in Korean, but then I got stuck, so he switched to English. I wish our officials were so adept in foreign languages.

Oh, I told some of my fifth-graders that Americans often call air conditioning "AC" (The Korean shorthand for it is "air-con"). They thought this was beyond  hilarious because "AC" sounds to their ears like "아이씨" (aish), which is Korean slang meaning basically "oh crap"! I use "aish" a lot. However, I have had to flag even small children for calling each other "개새끼" (son of a bitch). In fact, any juvenile conversation with the word "dog" in it automatically makes me prick up my ears. I am in the process of learning a number of other profanities and euphemisms so I can curb their use among my seventh graders. I don't like taffy (yeot) anyway, but now I know that just as one should be careful about inviting men in to "eat ramen" one does not want to invite someone carelessly or to "eat yeot" ! Oh, the fun and pitfalls of slang!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Fruit & Time Flies

A horrifying number of fruit flies came boiling out of the trash bag on my porch this afternoon. Clearly, last night's decision to chuck a chunk of aged watermelon into the bin was ill advised. After tying off the bag and bundling it into another (there's almost a dollar gone in official 20-liter garbage bags!) for good measure, I spent 20 minutes on the porch with my electrified ping-pong paddle, implementing a scorched earth policy. A few flies managed to escape electrocution--the snap and flash as their less fortunate brethren encountered the wires was rather satisfying--but I am determined to starve them henceforth. Which means I need to do my dishes, darn it!

June has decamped for the better part of our five days of summer vacation (a long weekend only, but we'll take what we can get!). She took a bus to an Airbnb apartment somewhere on the southern seaside this afternoon. Meanwhile, I have editing to do (several entries have been moved up unexpectedly), and it's so warm that I have no inclination to exercise. I biked over to HomePlus this evening--I arrived just in time to shop before their 11 PM closing--and it was still stifling outdoors. I've spent most of the day sleeping in the air conditioning. And I hope to return to bed soon!

Our heavy summer schedule is almost at an end, thank God! I get to finish double-teaching adult English classes on August 8. Preparing for five two-hour classes a week has really been a bear. I've been waking up in a panic, hours before my alarm time, every morning to either create or revise the day's PowerPoint presentations and handouts. Even the ones for classes I have already taught once have needed serious work. Maybe after I've been teaching for years all of this will be simple. But maybe not. On the plus side, I've gotten fairly proficient with PowerPoint. I can make words and objects fly in and out. I can insert pictures, text boxes, and such. I have yet to figure out the GIF.

This month's speech contest class (seven sixth graders) has been much more amenable than the last one – for the most part, they know their lines, they're good actors, and they are enthusiastic about the project. The one problem I've run into is that key people have alternated missing filming days (mostly due to illness--and that's not counting the one boy who suddenly spouted blood from his left nostril, filling his cupped hand with bright red fluid that dripped on the floor… I have never seen a bloody nose that spectacular--I thought he might be having a brain hemorrhage), which has made the process frustratingly attenuated. I hope the video places in the competition--I would love to go to Seoul with this group.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Certification VS. Competence

This past Wednesday morning, one of my adult students got into an argument with me over a grammar point. I had said that the statement "I'm not much of a dancer" was equivalent to the statement "I'm not a good dancer." He vehemently disagreed, saying that the latter sentence indicated professionalism. His example was: "He is not a good doctor." Try as I might, I could not convince him that the "-- am/is/are not (a) good --" construction isn't limited to professionals.

Upon reflection, I think that this disconnect is based in a cultural difference in how we understand the notion of professionalism. In Korea, for hundreds of years there have been state examinations, and it was only after the passing of the examination that men could enter a government employ. I don't know how fair the examinations were, and certainly the right to take them was limited depending on one's social status, but there was a certain administrative bar that was set. In the modern era, Korean society seems still to place a great deal of emphasis and importance on the possession of university degrees and certifications. A person may not know what the heck they're doing, but if they graduated from a prestigious program, they have much more standing and job opportunities than someone who may have skills but is without formal paperwork to attest to it. We're beginning to exhibit this same inflexibility in the US, but our cultural heroes have long been people who simply accomplished their dreams thanks to innate talent, despite lack of credentials.

In the West, historically we have valued competency over certification. For example, prior to the mid-nineteenth century, a person was a doctor if he had read the canon of medical books, had apprenticed (even informally) with someone who was a recognized medical practitioner, and had a popularly accepted rate of cure. This despite the fact that many doctors of 200 years ago often used methods that today's physicians would look at horrified, knowing them to be little more than quackery. The American Medical Association was founded in 1847 and not incorporated until 1897, and it was the early decades of the 20th century before they finally succeeded in stamping out the most egregious examples of common malpractice by untutored charlatans. Nowadays, there is a professional standard to be recognized as a doctor, from graduation from an accredited medical school to the passing of various board exams. However, medicine, law and accountancy are relatively exceptional in this--I would say that most people still have jobs for which certification is unnecessary. But does that render them less professional? They either know how to do the work, or they don't know how to do the work. Although various car repair spots trumpet the fact that they have certified technicians on board, it is the garage with the person who can look under your hood, tell you exactly what's wrong with your vehicle and fix it properly that ultimately gets your business. On the other hand, as my physician dad joked, what do they call the person that graduates last from his or her medical school class? "Doctor."

Americans have long treated avocations as equally valid as vocations. If you want to dance, you dance. You might be a very good dancer, and enter competitions. In either case, though, you can claim to be a dancer, whether you are a gyrating weekend club goer or a ballroom competition trophy winner. How you perform validates the claim: you are a good dancer, you are a bad dancer. If you are aware that you don't have skills in a particular area, you can state outright: "I'm a bad dancer." You're commenting on your own skills, or on someone else's skills. You're not presuming professionalism, you're assessing competency. I'm a good baker, but a bad cook. I don't make my living doing either, nor do I even do either often. People claim to be artists without having gone to art school (and many of them succeed far beyond those who are struggling to pay off their SCAD loans)--it's what they like to do, not necessarily what they are good at doing.

In Jeju, the coffee shops proudly display the certificates the owners have earned at various barista training programs. The posher bakeries have diplomas from the Cordon Bleu. Of course there are many restaurants whose owners simply know how to cook, whose diploma is their stew itself, but there is a certain fetishism about degrees hereabouts. And, truth be told, I am the positive recipient of this reverence--I have loads of academic qualifications, which may really have exempted me from particular criticism. I don't mind this, but I am also aware that I am not the best teacher. Also, the degree to which I am able to claim competency in a field has always bedeviled me in job searching, as I feel like I am false-advertising expertise both in areas wherein I have experience or fundamental abilities and no certifying paperwork, or, on the contrary, where I possess paperwork and little experience. Am I a teacher? Am I a writer? Am I a historian? Am I an editor? Am I an artist? Am I an estate sale organizer? Am I an antiques expert?

The US is tending more toward the glorification of certificates than it was. Of course, in part this is grounded in a desire to assure common standards are met, but on the other hand, people like me end up in possession of degrees that are almost handicapping in that they do not contain the specific words a computer sorting program has been designed to accept. And, as I did repeatedly throughout my two years of under/unemployment, I want to scream, "I know how to do this! Just because I don't have a degree to prove it, why should I be summarily excluded from consideration?!" There's a big problem here in Korea right now with youth unemployment, and I suspect that the rigidity of the degree-oriented hiring system is largely to blame, alongside a possible inflexibility on the part of young people who have trained extremely hard for specific positions and who are psychologically unable to grasp the notion that they might be able to do something else, even if they don't have the paperwork to prove it.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The First Dog Day Of Summer

Last Thursday we were treated to a sumptuous meal of samgyetang, the whole-chicken-stewed-in-a-pot-with-ginseng-rice-and-dried-fruits concoction that I had tasted once before, on the first day I went to the hospital to get meds for my insomnia (I've been twice more since). This time the restaurant was far, far better, and I got to enjoy the experience with most of my colleagues. One of my Korean coworkers told me that we were lunching on Chubok, the first of the three days every summer that one traditionally eats either goat soup, or duck soup, or dog soup, or samyetang. Most younger Koreans don't eat dog, though it is still considered exceptionally nutritious. This association with summer feasting does give a whole new meaning to the "dog days of summer," though!

I have decided that Albert has regrettable taste in restaurants. After our hike up Shi Oreum on Saturday--June came along, as did Rosa, a young English and Chinese teacher from Shanghai--I mentioned that we would pass a good restaurant on the way back to my house. This was merely an observation, not an invitation, but Albert took it to mean that I was in the mood for an early dinner, and we pulled into the parking lot to inspect the menu. I had had a fabulous late supper there with two coworkers and one's visiting Romanian friend the previous week. We had stuffed ourselves on large portions of lean beef and lamb, with unlimited side dishes, and sampled some soju and finished off one bottle of makoli (rice wine with a low alcohol content that reminded me a lot of Russian kvass). Altogether, it cost us less than $15 a person. But Albert insisted he knew a better restaurant, and drove us to a down-at-heel diner diagonally across the street from the samgyetang restaurant where he'd fed me several weeks ago. The flesh that came on a plate to be pan fried at our table was 75-85% fat. It wasn't marbled. It was white, with the rind on. And rubbery when cooked. Not only was I repeatedly speckled with hot grease popping from the griddle, many of the side dishes featured boiled sea creatures still in their exoskeletons, which I can't stomach. The others seemed to make a good meal, so I kept my mouth shut except when I was expectorating nonmasticatable fat wads into a plate near my elbow. And it cost us the same price per person as the other place. June was ill that evening and this morning – I don't know if the food had anything to do with it.

The hike itself was fun, primarily because I could trail at the back of the pack and enjoy the quiet. There were some unusual mushrooms in the forest, including the largest toadstool I have ever seen. It dwarfed the one that I photographed in Colorado a few years ago. It was easily 9 inches across-- probably bigger. In the way of larger vegetation, around the midsection of the hill, there were aromatic patches of huge cedar trees. When we walked into the groves, it was like we had crawled into a hope chest and magically found ourselves bursting into a fresh air wonderland. It was also the first time in my life I had been in a cedar forest like the one that existed in Lebanon before Solomon's workmen clearcut the place. Most cedars I had previously encountered were isolated, skinny, sick-looking things, not big healthy specimens like these that provided shade.

In the first stand of cedars we came to, there were a bunch of low platforms – several of the dimensions of a ping-pong table, Rosa observed. Albert swept one off with a little broom that was hanging on the side of the bookcase that sat in the center of the relaxation area. He proudly pointed out to me that there was a Bible in the case. This was not five minutes after he had genuflected reverently to a huge beehive of stacked gray stones erected at a curve in the pathway. I perversely flicked a tiny stone off the top of the cairn, thereby invalidating somebody's wish to the nature gods.

As we climbed the oreum, we crossed through sun-dappled clearings and walked alongside ancient rock walls. Every stone was blue from damp or covered in intensely green moss. The brown-sugar colored hemp matting under our feet was stapled to the ground with rebar, and muted our footsteps. The matting was laid over rocks and twisted knots of roots, and wound among small trees, past wild mountain hydrangea bushes. There were tiny mushrooms sprouting through gaps in the weave. And occasionally the carpet suddenly ended where dry stream beds broke the path. At these points, there were a long stretches of challenging rocks to clamber over until more comfortable footing resumed.

Rosa teaches basic Chinese to foreigners, and basic English to Chinese. Most of her instruction is online, which she says in the future in China. They use the "very stable" Weibo platform, and some of her students are in Europe and the United States. "I don't teach after midnight," she explained, though she does try to accommodate the students' schedules. June and I enjoyed talking to her.

Toward the end of our hike, we came to the "healing center" which featured various wooden pallets to snooze on, and a wide, shallow, mesh-lined box built around a tree. The box was filled with tiny cedar cubes. I joked that it was a cross between a ball pit and a hamster habitat. A dozen people were wading around in it with their shoes off, massaging the pressure points on their soles. We doffed our socks and shoes and climbed in as well, with me noting that while Korean feet had not imparted any unpleasant odor to the contents, the addition of my sweaty Western toes would indeed. June said that the "healing" designation was likely not so much for the place's intrinsic qualities as for its geographical location...at the base of a steep hill down which hikers were almost destined to fall and injure themselves.

My students keep showing up wearing casts. One of my sixth graders broke his left arm in two places the other day in a bike accident. He did not seem unduly disturbed. Thank God for modern medicine. My primary injuries over the last couple of weeks have been acne and mosquito bites. The screens in the stairwell at school have squares large enough for common houseflies to pass through. I think the wire is simply there to provide bugs a place to perch and rest awhile before they proceed indoors to suck the life blood out of the perspiring people toiling up and down the steps (the other day, I spotted one little elementary student wearing a bookbag so large he looked like a cartoon turtle as he slowly ascended to his classroom). South Korea is the only country that I know of that features a mosquito on its currency; on the 5000\ bill, below the butterfly, the flowers, and the pumpkins, a mosquito lurks. Interestingly, it is almost the size of the butterfly, which I think is true to life. I've been dousing myself in clove oil and deet to keep them away from any exposed skin, but these aren't perfect preventatives. I'll be glad when the heat subsides.