Despite the days reaching 29 (84 Fahrenheit) the mornings these days have a crispness to the air. Seoul was absolutely oppressive all of August, so it's a nice change that lasts until I step into my office. Having worked for Korean government in the capacity of teacher, I know that decisions can be arbitrary. Thus the building I currently work in was probably one of several designs submitted and the Person in Charge of Choosing (that's an official title), chose what they liked, not what is practical.
The front of the building is shaded by the glassy back of the building. This helps keep the large four stories high atrium hot in the summer and cold in the winter while ensure all of the offices are sweltering. Since the atrium is expensive to heat and cool, all the staff in the building are charged with energy conservation in the offices.
Thankfully woman can wear shorts to work. No, men cannot wear shorts. What kind of dress code do you think the our company has? Anyway, since we have no afternoon classes my dress attire is quite casual. Nevertheless, I threatened to come to work in a bikini yesterday. The air conditioning was turned off because its late September actual temperature notwithstanding. Also notwithstanding is fall attire. Koreans are donning long sleeve blouses, trousers and jackets. It's fall, and though global warming has raised the temperatures, that doesn't mean one shouldn't dress for fall.
From an American standpoint, I find this is amusing in the same way I find running to buy an umbrella every time it sprinkles funny. It does feel socially ... awkward... to be wearing shorts and t-shirts amid hundreds of fall attired people. Then I get to my office and all is well.
Back in my university days, I read something about the psychology of women and hobbies. For men, doing the same thing is just awesome. As in, what they loved when they were twelve, they will still love when they are in their fifties.
Woman on the other hand have a much more complex relationship with hobbies. They might take up a hobby for six months and then try a new hobby or six, eventually swinging back to an old hobby. Take crafting for instance. A man might enjoy woodworking or building scale models. Generally speaking though, men do not take up sewing, quilting, needle point, soap making, scrap booking, and all the other things. Thus while women might dream of a crafting room filled with supplies to do all the things, men dream of a room filled with all the supplies to do one thing very well.
It's funny now to think about this. When I moved to South Korea, I gave up baking, painting, drawing, horseback riding, fishing, and all the other things and reinvested the energy into to writing. I dreamed of making an income as a writer. Said desire stemmed a lot from hating my job and then, after I came to South Korea and became an ESL teacher, it seemed that I should want more out of life than to be an ESL teacher.
"Why are you still doing this?" one of my peers asked. "You're super smart... smart enough to do a lot of other things."
She was right to a great extent. Being an ESL teacher was a cakewalk for me, never mind that I thoroughly enjoyed it and still enjoy it. In fact, I never tire of teaching and getting better and learning more. The disparity of what I did and what I could do drove me back to the United States where I tried my hand at being many things, but without the joy. Thus, 11 months after landing in the States I headed back to South Korea content to do work that I loved and keep writing, no longer driven by dissatisfaction or the thirst to do something more with my life, in hobby-ville.
And yet in doing so, the desire to write rides the tide of impulse to do that is the core of every hobby. The upswing hobby impulse these days is horse riding, horse training, and gardening. Specifically weed eating. I love to cut swaths of order out of overgrowth taller than my head and then force submission by not letting the weeds and vines grow back
In the meantime, my computer sits idle, my oven does not bake cakes, my coloring book remains uncolored and my nail polish coagulates in their bottles.
But I washed Rex, the German Shepherd, last week and we got him into the truck and took him to the vet for his shots. And the chicken house got repaired and brush burned so it was a good week.
It started with the stables in Yeongju. Well, actually I was born loving horses so my problem probably started in the womb. However, this particular horse problem is related to riding in South Korea. If you're look for a place to copy and paste 승마 into your browser. You'll get the top results, but a trick I use for a lot of things is to look at pictures and follow links. You'll find more stables that way.
Anyway, I wish I could quit horses. Well not really. However, not riding in South Korea would alleviate some frustration. The things that frustrate me are below, and though it is long, its not an exhaustive list.
Riding in South Korea starts at roughly $30.00 for 30 minutes, but that is outside of Seoul. Seoul will run about $90.00 for 30 or 40is minutes. That said, because I can train and am so horse hungry am willing to pay the $30.00 to do it, I usually get to ride multiple horses for as long as I want. I didn't ask for these relationships. They kind of happened when I asked to be allowed to brush horses.
Since horses and saddled for riders and most Koreans show little interest in doing the work, the stables are happy to let me groom. That said, the first time I do, I'm watched like a hawk. As it becomes more apparent that I'm competent if eventually the over comes to play with man horses.
Expensive horses that are starving
And when they point to a horse like the one in the picture above you'll be thinking. Champion of what? But actually, the horses at said farm could range in value $10,00 to over $200,000. I've been told the horses are skinny , "So they'll be safe to ride." And also because "It's summer."
Since horses are a relatively new hobby, many very wealthy people have invested their money into stables (. And you know how to make a small fortune in the horse industry don't you? Start with a large one. ) without having ever owned one horse let alone a riding school. Overall horse riding is an emerging hobby so...
Strange Safety Devices
It really depends on what kind of riding you're used to, but I'm American and I gave up the hunter/jumper/ dressage world in favor of trail riding. I didn't give it up easily. One of my earliest dreams was to jump. But naturally nervous and someone who does not like to just "ride it out" (because I don't like getting hurt.) The first non-reactive horse I rode was a quarter horse. This breed was generally sneered at by the English riders and looked down upon for being small and overly expensive. Trail riding, was after-all, something you did with horses that had injuries. Then I landed in Tennessee to attend a beyond my means University to study Equine Science degree. In Tennessee I hit the trails, learned a lot of things I didn't know and had a lot of biases challenged and realized I wasn't the right rider for jumping horses.
South Korea has been greatly influence by the English style and unfortunately, groundwork is still largely ignored. One trainer, Warwick Schiller, is making huge inroads with dressage and jumping horse training methods. Good desensitization goes a long way to making a horse calm, though to be fair that $60,000.00 competitive jumper that is now trotting around with beginners on his back probably naturally has too much octane in his blood for the job he's now doing. Thankfully, said horse will have been completely desensitized to leg and reign aids and sensitized to everything else.
Between beginners being taught collect a horse by pulling on reins, grind their seat and squeeze nonstop with their legs, and the horses training the trainers to remove everything said horse doesn't like from its environment, said horse.
"That bucket scares you? We'll just hide it."
"You won't go without a whip but jump across the arena when you see the whip? We'll just sneak up to you with this thing behind our backs and hand it very slowly to beginning rider with instructions not to waive it around, or changes hands or do anything that scares the horse. In other words, even if you are the caliber of rider who can rider a grand prix jumper, you might still want to take out life insurance before participating in a lesson in South Korea.
PHD's in Equine Science.
This is bit of a grip on Korean culture. I've written before about how where you got your degree means more than experience. My friend ran/runs a website company. She studied programming in college and came back to Korea at the time to do really well. Having been educated from age fourteen in Australia she did what us westerners tend to do: Hired competent workers. In the end though, her most competent workers weren't allowed into meetings because of where they were educated. Experience? What's that? And she had to hire someone who was inexperienced from Seoul University because that's who her clients wanted in the meetings.
The same thing is happening in ever industry and riding stables are not immune. To start a stables you should have insanely expensive horses and a trainer with at least a masters in Equine Science though a Ph. D. is better. As anyone knows, a university degree is heavy in theory and light in practical experience.
And it's a strange system. The trainer is the top of they pyramid so the horse is saddled by someone and handed to the the trainer to train, which really is schooling. But the trainer doesn't know the difference between schooling or even half of what the horse knows.
The first time I rode Double I was honest with the stables. My friend translated for me that I'm competent but I like a quiet horse, something that was calm, not skittish and wouldn't rear or buck. Because they know that not feeding horses to keep them calm is plain old wrong, they ride their horses a lot before using them in lessons.
A few rides later, I started brushing her which in turn led to being allowed to work with her. She was a lot of horse. One of the expensive imported performance quarter horses who ended up being sold to Bonghwa after the farmer's finger was broken.
The first week I did ground work with her, I worked with her for over an hour and then only rode about 15 minutes. Over time the ground work and ride time. I do my best and leave the rest each week. And that's really hard because she talented. I mean I'm no reining trainer but she breed for it and built for it. She turns like a cat and as the ability though lacks the training to do a sliding stop.
As the weeks turned into months information about double has matriculated my way via my Korean speaking friend. Comments like, "Double doesn't usually let people rider her." and "Why isn't she throwing her head?" And my favorite. "There was that one time she flipped over on of the boys."
It's been fun actually. I've seen the guys scratching their heads after I got double to sand beside the mounting block on a loose rein. And they scratch their heads when I lunge her and she stops and turns to face me and goes when I point my finger and goes faster. And they don't quite know how, me, self confessed nervous rider, is trotting around on this horse with nothing but a rope halter.
These days when they try to switch out another horse for Double, its because they want something fix. But I don't swap double for others often. Fixing a problem is never fixing a problem. It means fixing the root of the problem. If I have time and my friend doesn't mind, I'll work a second horse because I love horses and because I know if I can work this this horse a little she or he won't be unintentionally abused. But at once a week, it's taken me 6 months to put 28ish rides on Double. She's beginning now to be the way I like a horse. Thoughtful, confident, and understands what cues mean.
Double is about six and in those few years she's been through a lot. She has nerve damage from her right ear.* I'm guessing it's a result of a rope related training faux pas. Lots of rope is used for everything from putting the saddle on to shoeing. She has a dent in her neck muscle which I'd bet was a training accident that stems from forceful training. (I've seen much worse stateside, American's don't have the excuse that the information isn't in their language.) Finally, I suspect hard foods and perhaps the bit, hurt her in a similar to the way ice cream hurts some people's teeth. Again, I'd bet that running the rope across her gums and pulling on it with all their strength to lunge her is the root.
Since, Bonghwa deals in horses.-- training them and selling them-- I'd love to buy her. Sometimes I worry that the work I'm doing means she'll be sold and then starved at her new farm. And though she's much better about her ear, she really needs a special bridle that sweeps back from the ear muscles. Stubben makes one and I'd love to get it for her, but the price is prohibitive, especially when you factor in import costs. And then I worry that if she's sold they'll use those over the pole tie downs to keep her head down.
To buy her I'd have to come up with between $6,000 and $10,000 dollars. My friend and I do plan to get a horse together and keep at her family's farm. We have to put up a fence and a shelter first and though I love Double, I think if I bought her, we'd have to find another horse for my friend. Double is a willing, responsive horse and just not right for a beginner to learn on.
But I can dream of some how being able to have Double and doing spins and sliding stops and taking leisurely trail rides.
Both Bear (곰) and Geumbi (금) are rescues, and each came with their own respective problems. However, Bear is picture perfect health. Okay, he's a bit fat. Geumbi also started to get chubby which was exciting. After fifteen or sixteen months of battling her being underweight was a nice change of pace.
But because of Geumbi, who is neurotic about food, me leaving the house, me coming home, eating, not eating and everything, calorie reduction proved to be a challenge. First I tried giving them each x amount and if it was gone it was gone. I did this even though I knew Geumbi wouldn't eat at the same time as Bear. I took up her dish covered it and hid it from Bear--he never misses a meal. Geumbi wondered the house mewing non-stop, so on the first two days I tried offering her the dry food while simultaneously pushing Bears nose out of her bowl. She started going out of the litter box, which contrary to popular belief isn't about getting even with the human. It's an insecurity thing with cats. If Geumbi wasn't on steroids and stomach medicine and L-lysine and hadn't had liver failure twice, the vet would have prescribed her an anti-anxiety.
Before she came into my life I was critical of people putting pets on anti-depressants and the like. But the combination of chronic pain and chronic hunger because she could eat without sever pain, coupled with being abandoned at a cat rescue, fostered and abandoned again just turned her into a wreck of a cat. There was a time that knowing what I know know, I wouldn't have adopted Geumbi, but that has passed. Despite the headaches and expense I don't regret her being in my life. Here's why....
Geumbi feels safe and is happy most of the time. When she first arrived in my home as a foster, I was told she hated other cats. That's not quite accurate though. She was (and still is) an insecure cat. She's come a long way from the cat that would his and at Bear from across the room and sometimes they even play. But I've digressed. Back to the Food!
So I tried waiting Geumbi out. I wasn't worried about her not eating anything at all. She gets half a can of wet food mixed with her medicine once a day. I figured she'd get hungry and eat when Bear ate. But alas, that's not what happened.
On the night of the paw burning, I was feeling annoyed with Geums never ending mewing and pacing while cooking dinner. I offered her dry food and then put it up and still hungry she jumped onto my stove in search of food while I was cooking dinner. I don't know what was scarier. The smoke from the burned fur or the smell of burnt flesh. I tried coxing her out of hiding and then finally just picked her up. The burn was bad and new just how bad when she went into the cat carrier of her own accord.
Off to the vet we went. Sometimes I really hate vets. I mean a good vet is a good vet but there is also a learning curve for how to be with emergency veterinary care. On TV the vets are always happy to treat the pet but in my case, the vet wouldn't even look at Geumbi until we had decided on treatment and price. I was shocked. She was huddled silently in her carrier in pain and the vet didn't want to see the burn. In the end, I went from I want you to treat her because you know your the vet to tell the vet what I wanted done. Never going to go back there again if I can help it.
Anyway, Geumbi came home and was good for about two days thanks to injections of painkillers and anti-inflammatory. Thanks to the stomatitis and her two bouts of liver failure, I was concerned that she would stop eating. In cats, not eating is deadly. Their livers can't discard fat, and can go into liver failure by not eating for one day. Of course whether the cat is fat has a huge impact on how fast and serious there is a problem. This explains why I was trying to manage her weight so much. I mean, being fat is bad for every cat, but deadly for Geums.
After vet bill, I looked into auto cat feeders and then settled the Northmate Interactive Feeder.
Interactive might be what the company calls it, but my cats think it's cruel. Mostly, they stare at it and wait for mealtime. On the other hand, it's really reduced Geumbi's food related anxiety and got her eating on schedule with Bear. Because if she doesn't she'll have to use her paws to get the food and that's just torture... muwahahahahah!
Starting perhaps in grade school when children are first introduced to the concept of racism and perverting it's way through daily news it's easy to forget that America is not black and white, but equal opportunity.
Take wet back for example. Americans first used this slur to refer to Mexicans who entered the United States illegally across the Rio Grande, but the term has been expanded to include all illegal immigrants who enter the states from the south. And because this is the land of equal opportunity, every immigrant has the opportunity to be called this except American's deemed black, which in of itself is a misnomer seeing as how the colors this defines varies from nearly Caucasian to rich brown.
Someone much smarter than me once said that being racial aware is not the same as not being racist. But I extend this idea to include this black vs white doesn't make us less racist toward all the others. It was probably started in text books an act of minimalism. Something like we are better than other countries because we only hate one group of people and we solved it thanks to Martin Luther King.
Solved. Pfft. But we are getting there.
However first, please consider the power in idea that some isn't black enough. At the idea's core is flawed logic; being not white is defined as having the behaviors and mentality of the poor and being white with having the behaviors and the mentality of middle class. It is probably the most productive "white is right" mindset ever...a strong, multi-colored middle class the most anti-racist thing there is.
Everyone knows that you don't mess with soccer moms. Seriously, they have an opinion on everything and educated enough to force everyone else to lump it.
And that brings us back the land of equal opportunity, but in a much broader context.
Most weekends I meet up with my friend in Yanjae and we go to her family home in Punggi. She's like a sister to me and I adore her son and we share a love of animals. This story is not about a cat, but first let me tell you about my friend's cat.
One day while we were gardening near the chicken coup she found a black cat about seven months old dying in the tall grass. She scooped her up and we carried to the apple storage building. I stayed while my friend went and got some food.
The wild had caught the common cold. It had gotten up into her sinuses. (She has a permanent case of congestion to this day). The mild illness of a house cat was would have been deadly without my friend's intervention. Keep in mind that this happened in South Korea. There is a culture element ... cats are more likely to be boiled than helped. Firemen and police don't help get the cat out of the tree. And people cross the road when the see a stray dog or chase it with a broom...
It was Sunday and Liz's son was staying with her mother because we had to "work" which is what we say when we want to go horseback riding without him. We headed toward the farm to pick up my boots. Ahead of us a one of the workers for the many farms in Punggi was running away from a big black German Shepard. She whacked the dog away with a broom.
"Stop the truck," I said. It was a redundant request because my friend was already stopping. She was out the truck faster than me and feeding the big black dog her mother's fresh baked bread. It had butter on it the dog liked it very much. He wagged his tail and flopped over in the road showing us his belly.
The farm workers asked if it was our dog and my friend explained in Korean that we were just going to help it. This got some very strange looks. Koreans aren't very animal savvy...cat or dog, and big dogs in particular strike fear.
Our next task was to try to get the dog to the farm. We tried putting him into the back of the truck but he got scared and jumped out. For a while I sat on the tailgate and walked him, but his leg was hurt and he could go fast. In the end I just walked him and my friend drove on, coming back with some much appreciated water.
He lapped it up appreciatively, tail waging but also submissive in that German Shepard way. He was skinny and his fur was extremely matted. Enough that in most cities in the states, Animal Control would leave a warning. He had been tied on a very short rope and not fed and not socialized.
We took him to the farm, set up a place for him and fed him. We came back after riding and gave him his first bath ever. It was so scary for him but he liked the scratches even though he wasn't sure about being touched everywhere. In just a week he's learned what love is and what toys are and what treats are. And what exercise is and play and what it is to run as fast has he can. We can walk the farm with him off a leash and he runs away and then comes back ... runs and comes. It's so funny.
But we worry what if someone claims him?
I have been eagerly awaiting for Audible to release the final book in Stephen King's Bill Hodges trilogy. Over the years I have slowly become a fan of audio books and now that I'm back in Korea, the fandom has taken on something of an obsession now that I'm in Seoul and my trip to work takes about an hour.
I could read for twenty minutes on the bus, but then I'd have to stop. And anyway, I cannot read in moving vehicles without getting sick to my stomach. I've always been a bit prone to motion sickness and reading exacerbates it for some inexplicable reason. I wonder at times if I'm not being a bit lazy. Listening to a story is not the same as reading a book. My mind doesn't get to generate the voices for the characters though I still need the mind-movies to make the story come alive. Also my book consumption has increased. I average two a month if you exclude the re-listens for or five if you include the books I revisit. Sometimes instead of making mind movies, I imaging the words appearing on paper as they are spoken the punctuation.
Anyway, I've digressed. The point of this post is that End of Watch is really good. The series is not typical Stephen King but then again it's not atypical either. Ever since Bag of Bones, I've felt that Stephen King's writing has been a bit different than the stuff that came before. Not a lot mind you, but enough. I do admit The Dome was not among my favorites, but because it felt like something he would have written years ago. An outlier if you will, though very good in its way.
I will come back to End of Watch because there is something interesting about it... something I have thought long and hard on-- and this book illustrates what I think on a certain topic. For now, I'll just say that the trilogy is a wonderful read and I don't know what I'll do if Stephen King stops writing. Listen to all the books I read probably.
I know security is an issue... and yet I just don't want to worry. It's not rational and it's certainly not safe to avoid two step verification like the plague. Nonetheless I have been staunch avoider until today, when I once again found myself locked out of my gmail accounts. And to get back in required answering questions like "When did you open this account?" I didn't know. "What are the five email address you email most? " I don't know.
Ihen I make a contact I hand the person my phone and they give me theirs. Heads bent, we type our info into the other's phone and then hand it back. Thus, all I have to remember is their name. Everything else is stored on my phone and backed up by Google. If I loose my phone fear not!
Why did I adopt this technology and resist two step verification? Who know knows. Now that its done I can't remember why I resisted. I'm like on of those curmudgeons back when electric was invented. They resisted, perfering candles, perhaps even reasonig that it was unfair to put all those candle Perhaps you are thinking that dual
So what technology have you been resisting? Why?
Every morning and without fail, I hit snooze five times too many. Despite my plans last night to get up early, cook an awesome egg breakfast, this morning was no different. Fifteen minutes before eight I dragged myself out of bed, fed the cats, jumped into some clothes and put on some make up (very, very little).
The bus stop nearest my house (2 minutes walk ), does not have a bus that goes to my job or a bus that connects to the stop that is six minutes away, so I trudged trudged up a slight incline, cut to the left and then to the right and then to the left again emerging from the residential block on the backside of Costco. There is a big company here and every morning a crowd rushes off of bus after bus, heels and loafers trotting to work. My path takes me against the flow and on rainy days when the way is clogged by umbrellas this last stretch of sidewalk to my stop becomes a traffic jam.
But it was a lovely spring money with a hint of heat and chill simultaneously in the air. A lovely, lovely morning and Gwacheon is exceptionally nice in Korea. The city is full of old, well established apartments which means mature trees and a lovely rich scent of grass and flowers and trees. It recalls to me the United States and I wish at times I lived in Gwacheon. But I don't know for certain what work holds for me next year... if I get what I want, a job in the curriculum department, my current apartment is better. But if I stay in this position another year, then I'll move to Gwacheion proper.
Anyway, I forded through the crowed streaming off the bus to get on and only the seats along the back row were left. It's my least favorite place to sit, but this morning the (외국인) wegookin affect was in full swing. I sat in the center seat and nobody sat to my left. Only one sat to my right. People flowed on and off the bus, but I had acres of space.
Koreans don't wear deodorant like us Americans and to be fair they don't need it. Genetics at play. Anyway, it's moments like this that I begin to worry that I have bad body odor. A quick under the arm sniff ensured that this was not the case and so I settled back and enjoyed not being a bus burrito and the breeze coming through a window slid slightly open.
For some inexplicable reason, I've been into North Korea lately. I don't me like in love, but you know, searching recent news and stuff. This is impart due to Atlas Shrugged. I've listened to the audio book twice now, in part because it helps with my insomnia. This isn't to say that the book is boring. Its not, but it is loaded with pro free capitalism diatribes. Enough of those will put anyone asleep, especially the second time around.
One thing the book does really well, at least for me, is make one think. I've been thinking and thinking which lead to a perverted interest in North Korea. Did you know they have a marathon there every year and people pay the North Korean government 1350.00 euros to be a symbol of North Korea's endurance and revolutionary spirit. After reading Aynn Rand's book...
I've never been to North Korea so I don't know everything but I do know that their prison population is so high that the prisons have become towns and you know if you defect then your relatives for generations will be in prison. Seriously. One woman was release from prison after 37 years... she was born there, and only learned of her charges after she was let go.
"You have now served all your time for your great, great, great grandfather's crime of defecting from North Korea," said North Korea.
"All these bad things happened to me because of something my great, great, great grandfather did."
"Yep and don't you forget it!"
She didn't. She left, though she didn't seem to have any children or family.... to defect knowing your family for the next three or four generations would be in prison, life would have to really, really suck or be some kind of ( insert expletive). Speaking of expletives that begin with a, I think people who pay to get the dictator approved tour are... well lets just put it this way, Ayn Rand would have put these people on the steam engine as it went through the tunnel in Atlas Shrugged.
From scientists to runners to photographers to Dennis Rodman, people all over the world are like, "North Korea ain't so bad." Its spoken in that "we're all just people." Having not been in North Korea myself, perhaps I just don't get it.
Here's what I do get: In Korean the word for foreigner is 외국인 (waegukin), but it's more akin to alien when it's used to refer to critters from space. No, Koreans don't actually think we're from space but it's not exactly wrong either. Alien = not human= not us. 외국인=not Korean= not us. I say this not to fault South Korea... I Iove South Korea. I say this because foreigners who travel to North Korea and leave with this sense of having accomplished something culturally, are making an assumption that all cultures hold personal experiences above societal experiences.
Confucianism holds the group above individual experiences and both Koreas have until very recently have only thought in a way that is alien to much of the world: the societal experience is held above personal. Considers that South Koreans still still say our car, our house, our mother, our father (as in belonging to society). Communism didn't just happen to the people of North Korea. It was built into the Korean language itself long before Marx wrote his manifesto.
This is what ultimately fascinates me: words. They not only allow people to communicate, but also convey a sense of the society, past and present. Some languages lack a future tense and others lack a past. Others put the emphasis on the individual (stand out) and others put the emphasis on the group (fit in.) Details about a language without out even in speaking it can give you more insight to internal thought structure of its people. That's right. Language forms the way we think. This too is what I like about writing. A story or book or even a single sentence has the ability to initiate a collective thought pattern change, "to go boldly where no man has gone before."
M.R. Jordan is a writer, editor, sporadic blogger, and lover of beer. Lives in South Korea with her two cats, Bear and Geumbi.
Bear (Gom in Korean) then (above) now (below)
Geumbi (Gold in English)... then (above) and now (below).