Village Voice


Sorry I still haven't written a longer email. I have to admit this last weekend I was wiped out.  It's been exhilarating, yet exhausting being here so far.  This week (today, in fact) I start having to actually teach until 10:45 pm, but I fortunately have tomorrow off, so that will help adjust to the later hours.  I'd been able to leave around 9:30, but that will only be on Friday nights as of this week.  The other four I'll be here either teaching or grading essays until 11.  Fortunately for me I get to sleep in, so this schedule works better for my natural nocturnal tendencies anyway...and adrenaline should carry me when I'm actually teaching.  It's just the aftermath that kills me, and, right now, the anticipation of how long I have to work.  I'm sure once I get used to it it'll be fine, but at the moment it sounds horrifying.
One little unbelievable tidbit about my neighborhood, before I have to run and prep for my new & last class...I have not one, not two, not three, but FOUR French bakeries within one block of my apartment.  Two branches of "Paris Baguette", one called "Tous les Jours", and another one I haven't been to yet but with a sign in the window actually reading "Boulangerie et Patisserie".  Color me shocked.  I could not have been more stunned to see them, but it certainly makes my day to be able to have not half-bad fresh-baked French baguettes in the morning.  And if they start to be not so great, there's also a Dunkin' Donuts, a Sizzler, a TGIFriday's, and a Subway.  All on my block!  Now if I could just get some English channels on the TV I'd be set.  But I have to admit I'm getting a kick out of my current offerings: several Korean channels (obviously), one or two of which features someone working math problems on a blackboard 24/7 (no exaggeration; these guys do not play around when it comes to education); a Japanese sports channel on which so far I've been able to watch some baseball games (usually Yankees or Mariners or Red Sox, featuring, natch, Japanese players) and a cable channel from China, where I got to watch Seinfeld, twice a day, also subtitled in Chinese.  The Seinfeld logo in Chinese cracks me up!  As long as it's not dubbed, I watch it.  The other day I found some random movie subtitled in Korean, featuring Walter Matthau, Ingrid Bergman, and Goldie Hawn in some kind of love quadrangle.  I have no idea what it was but I watched probably the last half.  It took me almost the whole time to work out that it was Ingrid Bergman, because it was in color and she didn't look like she did in Casablanca, but still looked familiar!  So, O Old Movie Guru, what movie did I see the last half of?   
I have to go to Japan to get the visa because it has to be issued by a Korean consulate outside of Korea.  Much to the chagrin of the Koreans, the closest country where it's possible to do this that doesn't require a visa of its own for entry (i.e., China) is Japan.  The hatred the Koreans have for the Japanese is a big deal.  I don't know how much there is going the other way.  They're still pretty upset about having been invaded and occupied in the not-too-distant past.  They still might come to blows about a group of islands in the Sea of Japan that both countries are claiming as their own.  Apparently they're not much but small, uninhabited rocky things, but neither country wants the other to be able to claim supremacy over them.  They're called different things depending on who is publishing the map.  So is the Sea of Japan, for that matter.  According to Koreans, that particular body of water is called the East Sea.  I was teaching comparatives and superlatives last week, and my kids had to make up sentences.  One of them was "Japan is the worst country in the world", and they didn't mean it as a joke.  
It's a similar situation to my having to go to the Thai consulate in Penang, Malaysia to get my work visa for Dara.  However, this time it's Japan, where I've always wanted to visit, as opposed to Malaysia, which I just regarded as "great, it's a free trip."  Korean antipathy notwithstanding, Japan's been high on my list of Must Visit Countries for a long time.
I really wish I had time to go to Nagasaki while I'm there, but I think I'm going to have to pass on that this time.  I have been reading about Fukuoka, though, and apparently right across from the Korean consulate there is a big air-conditioned and highly-Westernized shopping center that has...a Wendy's!  So that just may be the highlight of this trip to Japan.  Those are nearly impossible to find outside the US.  Is it wrong that the thought of a single with cheese, lettuce only, and a Frosty makes me really happy? If it does, then I don't want to be right!

I've finally succumbed to "American Idol", after resisting it for the entire time it was on and I was actually living in the United States.  I got hooked on it in Vietnam, too, one night while I was preparing for one of my teaching practices and I needed something mindless to watch.  At that point it was late in the final rounds, and I started to get the appeal.  Now, after having seen the finale dubbed in Chinese on a Chinese cable channel I got when I was first here, I discovered the early audition rounds are on, from the same season, dubbed in Korean on yet another channel.  I don't get the Chinese one anymore.  And the audition rounds really are addictive in a horrible way, like watching a train wreck.  But I finally understand why it's so popular.  I can see getting invested in it when you don't know who will win, because I'm curious to watch the process even knowing the winner.  In my case it probably has to do with being so far away from's a piece of America that's accessible to me, and that I can share in a strange, six-months-after-the-fact kind of way.

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