Oh, no, I have cable!

Many reasons for the big gap in entries. For one thing, the company that hosts the server for the site has done a major screw up and has erased all the databases for the site and others hosted on there. So I’ve had to work on getting everything back up from scratch. The other thing is that I finally have cable TV in my apartment after two and a half months. And I’ve become hooked on Korean TV. I was just talking about this with one of the teachers. Even though we have more channels when we order cable in the U.S., Korean cable has a lot more movies that we want to watch. They’re always showing Bruce Lee movies, but they’re also showing more recent films like “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” and classic recent films like “Singles.” But the big fun in watching Korean TV is the commercials. They go from being sublime to just plain weird. One of my favorite channels is the all video game channel. It’s not like Tech TV in the U.S., where you have reviews of the hottest new games. It’s more like ESPN for video games. I have spent much of the weekend watching Korean professional gamers (sponsored by FIFA and other big companies) playing in big Starcraft tournaments. There’s no English. I just watch the games. I mean, come on, if you’re watching soccer in Spanish, do you really need to know what the announcer is saying to understand what’s going on? Okay, sometimes it helps.

I also get AFN on my cable, so I can watch live Braves games at 9:00 in the morning with my coffee. I also get “Sex and the City” with Korean subtitles at 7:30 AM. It all happened on Saturday. I had had a quiet Friday night eating kalbi with Brant and River at our regular BBQ place. The cable company had been jerking me around as to when they’d show up. They originally told me Wednesday evening then Friday afternoon. I wasn’t expecting them to come when I got a phone call at ten in the morning Saturday from a guy speaking Korean. When he stopped talking, I asked, “Cable?”

“Neh, neh.”

“Great! Okay, come over!”

The doorbell rang, and it wasn’t the cable guy. It was someone from the electric company telling me that they were turning off my electricity if I didn’t pay my bill by Monday. I was explaining to him that I had paid it over a week ago when the cable guy came in. So I had two Koreans in my apartment this morning and SJ on the phone translating what they were saying for me.

When they all left, I had my TV. It was me and my TV most of the weekend. Yes, and my robot air conditioner. To celebrate, I made my special cajun fried chicken. But I made it with more Korean ingredients. The chicken was a whole bird that was some special ginseng fed chicken. SJ said that it’s a delicacy but is also tough. Meant for stews, I guess. Didn’t matter since I brine my fried chickens anyway. Buttermilk is practically a controlled substance here, so I used soy sauce and rice vinegar instead. Let the chicken marinate all day in the fridge. That evening, I coated it in my usual breading of flour, garlic powder, Old Bay, salt, pepper, and whatever else I can find. Let it sit in the fridge again while the oil heated. Fried the chicken with some blanched french fries. And it turned out to be the best fried chicken I’ve ever made! I think it was the rice vinegar. The meat had so much flavor that it made my saliva glands cramp up.

Sunday was the usual laundry day. We got a taste of summer that day, so I changed my strategy for drying my clothes and utilized the new greenhouse effect enhancing my “porch.” That afternoon, I tried to get a group outing together, but only Yu Jeong was available, which was fine. We walked around Songnaksu (one station over), which has a lot more to do than our little neighborhood. I love going to stationery stores and looking at the little signs they sell there. I couldn’t resist buying one for Ben’s birthday stash, which is a No Smoking sign with a graphic of a little boy pissing on a burning cigarette.

For the elementary classes on Monday and Tuesday, we’ve been holding what the Koreans call a Free Market (Flea Market). In class, the children are given stickers as rewards. As the Flea Market, they exchange these stickers for fake money. Each room becomes a different shop where they can spend the money. The most popular one, where all the money gets spent in one drop, is the Clothing and Toy Store. There’s also a Movie Theater with a large screen TV and popcorn, a Grocery Store with candy, a Restaurant with fried dumplings, a Science Room where the kids could get a balloon and inhale helium, and two Gambling Rooms. Yes, two Gambling Rooms. And I usually was stuck in one of them. The first day, I was in the one with darts, and I came up with a fair system, in my opinion, to charge the kids for darts and award them prizes in return. One of the complexities of Flea Market is that kids with not much money can ask for part-time jobs at one of the shops. I had a lot of kids asking me for jobs. Thank goodness I hired a kid who was faster at math than I was. He kept track of the money and the scores on the dartboard. After I hired two more to keep the line in order and to help the other kid take up the money, I didn’t have to do anything. I was Mrs. Lee, in effect. Well, except that I didn’t use any childish vindictiveness to ruin my gambling parlor.

Today I was in the other Gambling Room, where I had to play cards. The only card game I know is Blackjack, and I knew there was no way I could explain the rules to Korean elementary kids in a short amount of time. So I invented a new simple gambling game: Card Wars. Simple rules, but addictive, I found out. It’s like playing War. I’m the dealer, and I have three chairs in front of me. Each kid pays $1 to play. I give a card to each kid and one to myself. On the count of three, we all turn our cards over. Whoever gets the highest card gets $2. This game got popular quickly. What was troubling was that I was able to spot children who are in danger of becoming gambling addicts when they’re older. One girl, Jewelry, was always coming back in my room and placing money down to play. At one point, she ran out of money. I found out something like she went to the Science Room and inhaled helium to get more money to play the game. Other kids just got this look in their eyes. They’d get up to leave and then sit back down to try their luck again. Rather than seed new addictions, it’s my vain hope that some of them learned some lessons about being careful about gambling. Maybe that’s too noble a wish.

SJ made me dinner Monday. Chinese. Very good.

I haven’t mentioned it much before, but I was getting a bit of a roach problem in the apartment. It existed before I moved in but increased when they found out I liked to cook. I got more aggressive this weekend, and I think the bug problem is under control. They’re not big ugly flying Zurgs like the ones in Mobile. Thank goodness! Anyway, I’ve become accustomed to coming home, turning on the light, and stomping on them as they run for cover. Since Sunday, though, I’ve not come across any when I turn on the lights. So either my new approach worked or their Korean arteries got clogged from my Western food.

Tuesday was also Science Day for the Kindergarten classes. My experiment was static electricity. Whoop dee doo! Blow up balloons and rub them on kids’ heads. That lasted a whole ten minutes. I had to come up with something else to fill up the rest of the time. Julie came to my rescue by getting me a box of disc magnets. I didn’t know magnets could be so much fun. Poor River Teacher’s project had to deal with melting wax and making candles. She had never done anything like this in her life. She was given little plastic yogurt drink bottles to put the wax in. On her first try, the bottles melted. I suggested they use paper cups and then peel off the paper when they’re cooled. That seemed to work. By the end, River became such an artist at making candles, she’d make Christopher Lowell hyperventilate.

Lunch was so dreadful today, that I skipped it entirely. So I was starving after work. I went by BBQ, “It’s Min” and ordered my sweet garlicky Calcium Yang Nyom Chicken. While it was cooking, I got some beer, some freshly made kimbap, and some steamed mandu dumplings at the grocery store. When I showed back up at BBQ, I gave the guy one of my mandus. He gave me a free Pepsi. This guy really runs the place by himself. After he finished my order and handed it to me, he bagged another order, went outside on his moped and scooted off to deliver it. The store was empty while he was gone.

So it was a very good satisfying dinner. Watched “The Naked Gun 2 1/2” with Korean subtitles while eating. Curious as to how those jokes get translated, particularly the, “Is this some sort of bust” gag. The kimbap I bought I’m using for low-fat snack cravings. You know, basically, kimbap is a Californial Roll with added egg, ham and pickled radish.

SJ is taking me to one of the amusement parks in Seoul this weekend. Everland. She’s also been talking to me about setting up a check up with a doctor, now that I have health insurance for the first time since 1995. So I may get to see a doctor next week and find out all the things that are wrong with me. Physically, at least.

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