Wednesday, March 31, 2010

90 Days.

Today is our 90th day on the wagon! I want my god-forsaken coin. Hey, I know I don’t go to AA, but I still want a coin, or a plaque, a statue or something! So if you have one lying around… please send it my way. Thanks! So if Dan and I were doing this sobriety thing the “right” way, this day would be the day we would move on from our comfortable rehabilitation clinic and into a sober living facility. The show Intervention would also be coming to do their follow up interview, and damn we would look SOOO much better now! “Look how much weight they’ve lost!” people would say. Well fortunately for us, we already live in a half-way house called DaeJu Aparta. So there’s no big change, just still taking every day as it comes and trying to stay sober. Here are some of my reflections on being sober for such an eternal amount of time.

1,) It’s a myth that you will shed pounds just from not drinking. You will lose weight if you don’t sit around on your ass eating to make yourself feel better about not going out. Luckily, Dan and I have succeeded at taking the healthy route and we have both lost a little weight. I feel great about maintaining my 120 pounds for four years now! Dan is dropping pounds like Mos Def drops rhymes. I think he weighs less than me.

2.) Some people will drop you from their lives completely. Maybe they just don’t want to hangout and do anything other than drink, maybe they just don’t want a mirror held up to their own drinking habits, I don’t know but it’s all good. I’m not offended in the least because six months ago I would have reacted the exact same way.

3.) People will try their hardest to convince you to drink!! This was a slightly unexpected experience. Many of our friends didn’t really believe that we really quit and would offer us drinks, but most just stopped after a while. A few people have really spent a lot of time and energy trying to get us to have “just one.” It’s hard to come up with reasons why not to have a drink after a while! After telling them that "just one" is a ky jelly soaked slope to topless bar dancing, the subsequent reasons don't carry as much weight.

4.) Sunday mornings exist. And they are glorious. As long as they don't include choirs or homilies.

5.) To stay sober it is important to just accept the way you feel and act accordingly. There have been a couple of days when we felt very melancholy so we just hung around the house, watched the Wire and didn’t really attempt to “fix” our mood. We have also had pretty intense cravings to drink and during those times we went out and did something to take our mind off the pull of the alcohol. When you’re sober you have to actually feel how you feel, no escape, no release. This is tough but we’ve managed to make it though!

All in all, it’s been a slightly rocky ride to the 90 day mark, but we made it! Only 275 more days to go…


Monday, March 29, 2010

Busan! Forward!

Busan is an ambitious city. Its motto, Dynamic Busan, is a spot on description of its topographical features. Whether it was planned to house a city the size of Los Angeles or it was simply a historical accident, a last refuge at a time when the war seemed all but lost, the citizens of Busan have ignored the geographical shortcomings of their native space. Buildings, increasingly shorter, rise halfway up the impossible slopes of miniature mountains only for nature to take over on the crown, like an urban tonsure. The city resides on the slopes and crevices of the sharp hills spiking their way through the land to the harbor guarded from the tides by Youngdo island, which houses the 5th busiest port in the world. The city has a more eclectic population, unlike most areas of Korea its international freight traffic attracts and forces it to sustain an international population. Waegook sonsaengnyms, military pricks, international sailors, Pilipino guest workers, Russian… Russians, all populate in an abundance even Seoul lacks. A megatower is being built among the arcologies typical in Korean megalopolises, planned to be the third highest in the world when completed in 2013. I genuinely like Gwangju as a city, but I was reminded why my first choice location in Korea was Busan.

We arrived on Friday night around 1 and went right to a hotel in Gwangan. The hotel was on the beach, not the famous one but a damn nice one, with a large window overlooking sea and the massive suspension bridge that connects the two promontories that guard Gwangan’s inletted beach. Sober as we are, early as we rise, under the influence of headcolds as we were, we opted to nod off upon arrival set to rise at 10 to begin the next day. A new city with a rabid nightlife, and we’re in bed when the cab drops us off; my six months ago self is crying with disappointment right now. So we discussed our plans for the next day with Adam and Alison, our traveling companions and guides to this city that they had resided in just a year and a half earlier, and went to bed.
Saturday we woke to find that our hotel, which had been 40000 won on Friday was now 85000 won because… Korea. Well that effectively kicked us out of the Marina Hotel. We were homeless for an hour or so before the love motel around the corner agreed to lodge us for 40000 won.

Coffee, pretzel, ride the subway on the green line past Haeundae, get in a cab, tell him to take us to the sea temple, 6000 won, sea temple. Lines of stalls selling snacks, trinkets, dried fish, bundaegi (the smell was to be a theme of the excusion), stone statues of the Chinese zodiac, an eight tiered pagoda, we entered the temple; the crowd was reasonable. There was a strange statue of a woman/beast, that was a fertility goddess, boulders leading down to the sea the tide lapping into crevices, a red bridge, devotionals, and a bowl on the back of a turtle about 20 yards from and below a bridge where people tossed 100 won pieces in the hopes that a true shot will grant them a period of enhanced luck. Birthday vibes guided Amanda’s peerless arm to hurl a small coin with miraculous precision, so we may now empirically test the efficacy of the sea temple’s ability to grant luck.

Cab, subway, Haeundae, Mexican food, burritos, cab, Nampodong, bus, Youngdo island, walking along the beach. It started blustery, but the walk warmed us up. It was a nice reprieve from the city, which we would never have thought of or found without our companions. There were plenty of stairs, but we’re in pretty good shape despite the fact that we haven’t run in three weeks, right now with jeans on I’m 73.8 kg. I climbed up a little tower that may have been a primitive lighthouse. Though obviously manmade, it almost seemed a part of nature, like the cement between the stones predated human hands. The swirl of the slope up the phallic tower seemed a Fibonacci sequence, too perfect and too often found in nature like a conch shell. There were some stairs that may have made Rocky shit his pants, but we forgot to take a picture of that.

This is inappropriate.

Bus, Nampodong, Jagalchi market, overpowering nausea. My distaste for fish notwithstanding, the idea of soggy, mostly dead fish parts, and octogenarian Korean women who are also mostly fish parts hawking them squawkingly, should be enough to turn anyone’s stomach whether they eat seafood or not. Alison’s insistence that we witness it was certainly well founded, it was a marvel. Outside a seafood restaurant a waitress let Amanda hold up a crab bigger than she was, I stood across the street.
We went to the dry goods market. I can’t recall its name (someone should really write a Wikipedia for Nampodong). I bought some extra cool aviator sunglasses. Adam and I can now play good cop bad cop on any misbehaving kids once my school gets closed, and I get moved to Kumho-dong.

Subway, Busan station, Russian Texas street, sketch, Pilipino food, pretty good, no Pilipino beer. Sinus, cough, sore throat, getting harder and harder to ward off. Subway, Haeundae. Do you know where a bowling alley is? No. Do you know where a bowling alley is? No. Rinse, repeat. Some pictures on the beach. Seven eleven, outside table, wind growing colder, sickness. Cab back, sleep uneasily, at least there wasn’t much sex noise at the love motel. Sex noise is bad enough, Asian sex noise is unbearable.

Up and out the hotel at 12:30 or so. Woke up late, Adam and Alison are already out. They’d checked out at 11, knocked on our door but we didn’t hear, I sleep like a ton of bricks anyway. Walked on the beach for a minute, a few more pictures. Subway, bus station, run, bus, Gwangju, Vietnamese FOOD.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Thinking of Teaching in Korea?

Before you decide to teach in Korea, check out this blog. This guy taught at an all girls Middle School in Anseong (probably one of the easier jobs in Korea) for one year and writes in detail about what the work environment is like. Obviously, everyone has a different experience, but I would agree with 95% of what he has to say. I would also like to say that teaching in public school is a much better job than teaching in a private hogwon, and I would NEVER recommend someone to even think about working in one. Why? Less vacation. More work. Period.

I have had a very similar experience to him... I came here with an optimistic attitude, I enjoy teaching, I am over qualified and I strive to do a good job. I'm leaving with a very negative attitude about Korean culture and I truly hope I never have to come back. Anyway, check it out! Just keep in mind, he is strictly talking about the work environment, not living in Korea or anything else outside of work! A

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Teetotaled Song

So we've been wanting to write a post about famous teetotalers for a while now. You'd be surprised about how many very successful people don't drink at all. So we decided to get creative and use Adam Sandler for inspiration. There were many people we couldn't include, like Sarah Silverman, Samuel L. Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Trent Reznor, Cristian Ronaldo and Malcom X, that also definitely deserve a mention. Whenever we're struggling to stay sober we just think of these guys... what motivation!

We wrote these lyrics using the Hanukkah Song by Adam Sandler.

There are a lot of songs about drinking out there… so we wrote this one for all those nice kids who don’t get to hear any songs about sobriety… so here goes.

Get out your dignity, it’s time to celebrate sobriety,
So much rationality when we celebrate sobriety.

Sobriety is a festival of clarity,
instead of one night of blackouts,
we have weekends fuuull of activity!

When you feel like the only adult in town without a drink in hand,
here’s a list of people who are sober just like you and me… (or maybe just me)

Warren E. Buffet just counts up his money,
So do Jim Carrey, Natalie Portman and the late Bill O’Reilly (okay, we just wish he was dead)

Guess who gets a water at the Oscar after party,
Rob Lowe from Party of Five and Christina Ricci.

Eminem’s half sober, Bruce Willis is half too,
Put them together,
What a crazy fucked up crew!

You don’t need tequlia or a whiskey on the rocks,
Cause you can party sober with Steve Jobs and Tyra Banks (both clean!)

Get out your dignity, it’s time to celebrate sobriety,
Bruce Lee, a master of kung fu-ity, celebrates sobriety.

Rush Limbaugh... is not sober.
But guess who is?
Rock n’ roller Alice Cooper (he converted!)

We got Ann Landers and Muhammad Ali,
Amy Winehouse wants to be sober,
Hey! It’s not all that easy!

Some people think that George W. Bush is,
Well he’s not. But guess who is,
KISS front man Gene Simmons!

So many teetotalers are in show biz,
Gwyneth Paltrow isn’t,
but I heard her husband is!

Go tell Pete Doherty, it’s time to celebrate sobriety,
The whole country of Saudia Abrab-ity practices sobriety,
If you don’t want a D.U.I. –ity then work on your sobriety,
So drink your virgin daiquiri and smoke your mara-juan-ity
And be happy, happy, happy happy with your dignity!

Let us know what you think! A&D :)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sobriety is a Bitch

It's Sunday night, one more weekend on the wagon under our belts and lets just say it was a rough one. This was partly because I worked on a SATURDAY, which is blasphemy, and partly because drinking is fun and well, we didn't drink. Sometimes I work at an English Village for little extra money and when they called me to work Saturday, I thought what the hell. It's not like I'd be hungover anyway. So I taught for five, thirty minute classes to kindergartners that didn't speak a word of English. "Taught" being used in the very liberal sense of the word... more like just filled in their name and age on a paper passport. Easiest job EVER. But still, working on my day off makes me want to drink. When I got home, a very well rested Dan informed me that our friends were having a wine and cheese party. This is not what I wanted to hear. What I wanted to hear was that every single foreigner and cool Korean in Gwangju was sick and would not be going out that night. Anyway, a wine and cheese party is def my cup of tea. The urge to drink became strong. Dan wanted to go, but he was also feeling the strong pull of potential oblivion (or at least looseness). So we bickered back in forth for a while before deciding going would probably just result in eyeballing our friends delicious glasses of glib lipped fermented grape heaven with envy and result in little fun. Instead we walked over to Chonam University and ate fried chicken and pizza. Still not too much fun but at least the wine wasn't staring us in the face.
Today we did nothing but lay around, watch some TV shows, cleaned our house and other lame ass shit. Then we walked downtown to meet some friends for dinner at a fairly new pub opened by a foreigner.

Side note: The new pub is called the Alleyway and it's in an alleyway (wadda know) near McDonalds downtown. GREAT food, friendly staff, super laid back. Only problem, there is no music. This would not be a problem except the place is super small and pretty much only foreigners so you can't help but eavesdrop and be eavesdropped on.

Anyway, dinner was good. Dan is participating in something so nerdy I cannot mention the topic on this here blog. That topic was discussed, then we just chatted about life in the Ju.

All I have to say is I CAN NOT WAIT for spring to have sprung so we can go to some festivals and travel around a bit on the weekends. It is incredibly difficult to stay sober with nothing new and interesting to keep our minds active.
Peace! A

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sick Work

Is Korea Wearing off on me?

Monday I got sick. It started soon after lunch with a little nausea and by the time I was on the bus home, I was wondering if I would make it without throwing up. I did make it safely to my bed and by the time Dan got home at 9pm I had the full-on flu, muscle aches, headache, throwing up, chills/fever. It sucked. Luckily Dan took good care of me, bringing me water and cider (sprite) and rubbing my back. We both knew I wouldn’t be making it to work on Tuesday. In the morning I felt a little better, but most of my symptoms persisted. I texted my co-teacher, told her what was going on, and that I wouldn’t be making it to work. I had one class that day. The whole day I lay in bed feeling crappy and GUILTY for not being at work. WTF?

In the states I’ve never had a job with paid sick leave. In Korea I get 15 days. It seems like this would be a great thing. But in the states I never felt bad about calling in sick. Here, I do. Why? Because my co-workers could have just lost their leg in a terrible chainsaw accident and still make it to school. The other teachers at my school NEVER miss days. I have literally seen women throwing up in the bathroom and then go to their class to teach. They don’t care if they could get everyone sick. They don’t care about their own personal well-being; the only thing that matters is that they are at work.

My vice-principal and my co-teachers in the English department are convinced I am on the verge of death. This is partly because last March I was in the hospital for a week with a kidney infection, and partly because twice I’ve had to go to this specialized women’s hospital in the middle of nowhere (in Gwangju), so I had to take time off to go there. The truth is, the kidney infection probably would have been treated at home in the states, and the women’s hospital appointments are just routine checkups, nothing special. But I’ve also had to take a couple of days off for just plain old sickness, once for food poisoning, another for a migraine and now the flu. After working here 18 months it’s really not a lot of days off. But they constantly tell me how worried they are about me and how I should take care of my health better. I try to tell them that I eat well, exercise, and hell I don’t even drink anymore, but to no avail, they are convinced I am terminally ill. So now when I call in, I just feel guilty all day!

I’m back at work today… I made it though the barrage of questions about my health and now I’m just hoping I can make it through three classes without getting sick. I’m not totally better yet, but god knows I can’t call in again!!

Side note: As I’m writing this, two boys (twins) are getting beat by their teacher in front of all the teachers in the teacher-room. It’s enough to make you not want to come to work right there. AND it’s snowing today! I'm hoping it keeps going and we all get to go home early!!!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Towing the Isolationist line

I haven't been this socially disengaged since junior high school. Dan Bejar writes in "European Oils", "I was a dominant theme in a number of places." For the last ten years this seemed like an end in itself. That's not to say that I haven't met some wonderful people in Korea, or don't value my friends back in the states, but I'm finally ok with not knowing where the party is every weekend. Separating oneself from alcohol isn't just about ending a relationship to a substance, it's about forsaking the primary social event for our whole age group. In your teens it's the diner, the dance, the football game (my experiences at this age were vastly different than Amanda's), in your thirties it's the parent's of your kid's friend. In your twenties it's the bar, the great social hamster wheel.

I hadn't stepped off the wheel since I got on. While I was on the wheel it always felt like I was going somewhere because I was running as fast as I could. Now that I've stepped outside for a substantial amount of time I see the wheel for what it is, stationary. It's the illusion of progression when you're really not going anywhere. It's the safe way to feel like you're moving forward whithout risking anything, especially failure, but also without making any meliorative changes.

I've never considered myself an introvert, but lately I have had little desire for social interaction, and place no emphasis on popularity or being in the mix like I used to. Sobriety is getting easier and easier as my priorities are changing, and I'm becoming happier with who I am and what I have. It also helps to have wonderful partner to share sobriety's ups and downs with.