[stolen/reprinted without permission from here.]

The derby clash between archrivals South Korea and North Korea on Wednesday will overshadow a round of World Cup qualifying matches that could result in Australia securing the first of Asia's four automatic places at South Africa 2010.

Any meeting between the Koreas, which technically remain at war because their three-year conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, in 1953, is eagerly awaited. This time, the stakes are high, on and off the field. After just two meetings in 15 years, the teams have met four times in the past 14 months. All four have ended in draws but Wednesday's match will be played amid an atmosphere of real tension - and not just because the World Cup is so close.The entire region is waiting for a missile launch by Pyongyang. Japan has promised to shoot down anything entering its airspace.

North Korea says it will send a communications satellite into orbit between April 4 and 8. The U.S., South Korea and Japan suspect the communist regime is using the launch to test long-range missile technology, heightening the tension. Earlier this month, North Korea, in response to joint US-Korean military maneuvers, informed the south that it could not guarantee the safety of any airliner passing through its airspace.

Little separates the two in Group B of Asian World Cup qualifying. North Korea, aiming for a first World Cup appearance since its run to the quarterfinals in 1966, leads the group with 10 points after five of its eight matches. South Korea, the 2002 World Cup semifinalist bidding for a seventh consecutive visit to football's showpiece event, has eight points from four matches. Saudi Arabia's 2-1 win at Tehran on Saturday lifted the Saudis into third on seven points, one ahead of Iran. United Arab Emirates has just one point.

Many of South Korea's overseas stars were in action last weekend and warmed up by defeating Iraq 2-1 in a friendly. On the same day, North Korea defeated UAE 2-0. It was another impressive performance by the North, which belied its reputation as a defensive-minded team with some clinical attacking play that was noticed south of the 38th Parallel.

Guess where Ant, Paul and I will be tonight???? Yup, watching the South kick the crap outta the North!! WOO HOO!! GO REDS!!!!!!!
One of my 4th graders just passed me a note that said "Teacher is bery bery nice, but I think study english is only a litter beet fun. Srory teacher!!!"

Litter beet fun.

I'm really craving ceasar salad dressing. Isn't that weird?
Thursday night Ant and I headed down/over to Itaewon for some beers with my friends GS, Voice, and Joel. And, thanks to the generosity of you bloggers, I got to drink REAL beer! I settled on Alley Kat, since that was pretty much the best that was being offered. We had a pretty good time hitting up some good hash bars (Scrooge's Pub and Dulce's). As much fun as Thursday night was, Friday morning was not so much fun!

A few days ago I staggered dramatically through the door of our apartment, kicked off my shoes, and threw myself theatrically across the bed, forcing Ant to look up from the book he had been reading.

"ANT!!!! I don't think I'm meant to teach 1st graders!"
"Because I don't think you're supposed to look at a 5 year old and think things like, 'That girl is such an annoying shithead!'"

Seriously, how is it possible for something that barely reaches my waist and only knows about 5 words of the language I speak to be such a pain in the ass?!?


And today Stephanie (who is not normally an annoying pain, and is actually quite cute and charming) puked all over me.

"Teacher??? (tugging on my sleeve)"
"Hey Stephanie! What's up?"
"Blaaaaaaauuuuuugggggggkkkk (or however you spell the sound of puke splashing all over my clothes and dripping onto the floor)."

Yay 1st grade!!!

Last weekend I finally tracked down my buddy Achilles! Achilles, Voice, GS...for some reason it has taken forever to meet up with some of the people I couldn't wait to see when I got back!
Anyway, we met up with him for some coffee and lots of talking about books and the current state of everything, and then I took him and Ant to Jamsil to check out Olympic Park. It's one of my favorite places in Seoul. It's quite a hike from where Ant and I live, but Southside hashes in that area pretty often so it's a hike I'll be making on a fairly regular basis! It's such a great park to run in! We also checked out the Olympic Museum, which is in the park. A few pics:

57. 57 is the total number of times I said, "NO SPEAKING KOREAN!!!" to my 1st graders. 2 classes, 80 minutes, 20 5 year olds, 57 times I had to repeat "NO KOREAN!!!" Seriously, I kept count. Also, I had the following conversation 3 times:

Me: Hi!! What is your name?

Student: ...silence...

Me: Hi!! I'm Jessica Teacher (pointing at myself), what is your name (pointing at student)?

Student: ...silence...blinks twice...

Me: (Looks at student's name) Justina? Is your name Justina?

Student: ...starts to cry...

Justina is too shy to say her name out loud, but is not too shy to get up, run all the way across the classroom, and beat the crap out of Tomas for no apparent reason.

Sigh. It's gonna be a loooong year. Someone buy me a beer, or 3!


Sunday night, I started reading A Thousand Splendid Suns, by...I forget his name right now but it's the same guy who wrote The Kite Runner. Last night I finished it. It was UNBELIEVABLY good! It's been a very long time since I've read a book so good that I felt compelled to stay up all night reading the end. Everyone should check this book out!

Just a quick shot of my buddy Cam achieving some inner peace at Eve and Leonie's place last weekend. :-)
Aside from Vince (that's the name of this pesky brain tumor I get to haul around with me wherever I go), I don't really get sick very often. I've been pretty lucky, healthwise. Any injuries have been fairly minor, and most were caused by my own stupidity and/or stubbornness (remember that broken leg in Thailand incident, anyone??). As a kid I had my tonsils out when I was just a toddler and while some people struggle with that surgery my biggest worry was that I had to miss preschool on the day we were learning how to write the letter 'J,' and how would I ever be able to write my name if I didn't learn to write a 'J?'
Growing up, I never got fevers. This might sound like a good thing, but the problem with that is that other people tend to base how sick you are on your temperature alone. I clearly remember sitting in the office of my elementary school, where the school secretary doubled as the school nurse, and despite the fact that she had watched me puke my guts out twice she said unsympathetically, "You don't have a fever so you can't be that sick. Go back to class." I mean, this was 4th grade! I still loved school! I had Mr. Fahringer for a teacher, who is still to this day one of the greatest teachers I have ever met. It wouldn't be until 7th grade Algebra class that I would catch onto the whole "fake an illness to get out of class" thing. But, no matter. Without a fever, you were just left to suffer.
This week, however, I have come to understand that having a fever really does, in fact, make you a gazillion times sicker. I've had one since Sunday, and it is by far the worst I have ever felt. Rapidly alternating between freezing cold and sweating-my-ass-off hot, coughing, sneezing, feeling dizzy, and puking the whole time...and when my fever would spike really high, I would become delirious and end up trying to convince Ant that we couldn't possibly get him a pink bunny as a pet because (1) they aren't machine washable and I don't want to have to take it to the dry cleaners all the time, and (2) while I personally had never heard of anyone being devoured in their sleep by a pink bunny, I also had never seen proof that pink bunnies didn't eat humans, either, and getting eaten by a pink bunny is just not a chance I want to take. I also had a few terrifying hours where I was convinced that the bed was slowly raising itself off of the floor and was planning to kill me by crushing me against the ceiling. I kept asking Ant to help me put the bed back on the floor, and of course he had no idea what I was talking about and would instead remind me to drink some juice/water/gatorade/tea, to which I would reply, "I can't reach it because the bed is too high!!" Finally, on Wednesday night I rolled over and mumbled, "I think I need a hospital," and Ant, who is almost as sick as I am, was on his feet and made it happen instantly. Let me tell you guys, he's been an absolute saint.
So, we spent Wednesday night in the ER. Fun times. They told me my temperature and I immediately thought, "What a bunch of morons. If that were my temperature I'd be dead!" Then I realized that Korea is part of the "rest of the world" and therefore operates in celsius instead of fahrenheit. It still meant nothing, though, because I had (still have) no idea what the normal body temp in degrees celsius is. Whatever it was, it was high enough that they immediately shoved two huge ice packs under my arms to try to cool me down. Overall, it was a pretty painless evening. There was talk of chest and stomach x-rays, but since I don't have my Alien Registration Card yet they would have been too expensive so I refused them. I'm now on 7 different kinds of meds, and feeling only slightly better. :-(

I wish I had more exciting things to tell you guys, but I've literally done nothing but sleep this week. My next post will be a little less whiny, I promise!

Did you guys know that I'm a seriously good cook? Really, true story. These are little marinated tofu pockets stuffed with rice and veggies. YUM! They have a name, but I don't remember what it is. They were so good...maybe I'll make some more tonight!
Yellow dust over Mongolia

Just a little info on the whole yellow sand thing. I've talked about it to some people at home, and I could tell by the looks on their faces that they totally thought I was exaggerating or just completely making it up. So here's your proof, mofos!

*This article reprinted without permission.*

from 51st Medical Group
Aerospace Medicine squadron

March through May on the Korean Peninsula brings a break between the winter-bearing Siberian air mass and the summer swelter that flows from Southern Asia. But, just to keep things interesting, spring in Korea also means yellow sand storms from the Gobi Desert in Northern China, Inner Mongolia and Manchuria.

These sand storms kick up huge clouds of dust that can travel all the way to Korea and Japan. When that happens, the Korean Meteorological Association's weather officials may issue "Asian Dust" or "Yellow Sand" health advisories, using a yellow-sand warning system. The level of warning depends on how much sand, measured by the number of dust particles, are in the air. For more information, visit http://web.kma.go.kr/eng/asi/asi_01_01.jsp. USFK also monitors the Yellow sand and provides regular updates and recommendations throughout the day. You can access their information at: http://www.seoul.amedd.army.mil/sites/yellowsand/default.asp

Osan's Bioenvironmental Engineering, Public Health and Weather officials monitor the KMA and USFK sites and provide advisory updates throughout the day on the Commander's Access Channel as conditions warrant.

The health risks associated with yellow sand are minimal for most active duty members and their dependents. There is a small subset of personnel who are at higher risk from the yellow sand, namely individuals with pre-existing respiratory problems such as asthma, emphysema or other forms of chronic respiratory disease. These individuals may experience wheezing or shortness of breath with high dust levels. Individuals with seasonal allergies may also notice worsening of their allergy symptoms such as increased nasal congestion, eye irritation, coughing, phlegm and shortness of breath. If you or a family member has one of these conditions please check the Osan AB Commander's Access Chanel throughout the day, or the USFK website for an update as conditions frequently change.
The following measures can also help prevent development of symptoms associated with yellow sand: · Consider limiting outdoor activities when high dust levels are present · Wear glasses instead of contacts · Close windows · Wash exposed skin after returning indoors · Wear long sleeves · Cover mouth and nose · Do not drink or eat food outside · Drink water frequently · People with lung disease, older adults, and children should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion.
For more information regarding yellow sand, call Public Health at 784-4494/2515 or Bioenvironmental Engineering at 784-2623.

Today is the highest so far this spring, and even though I'm having an awful time with it it's actually only considered to be a moderate risk.

Seoul during yellow sand storm. It's nowhere near this bad today.

Looks like there might be quite a bit of indoor running in my future!

Taking a forced rest day today from running today, which will bring my latest rest day streak up to 3 days. Not good. Saturday I was just lazy. Yesterday I felt like a big pile of garbage so I mostly lounged around in bed, napping on and off and watching movies. Today, the yellow dust is too high. It tore up my throat (which is already a bit irritated) on the walk to school. Yellow dust is made up of sands from the desert in Mongolia, which get windswept across China, picking up all kinds of yummy pollutants on their trip, and then get blown over here to Korea. It's named because, well, it's yellow. It clouds everything in a weird yellow haze, and leaves a fine yellow dust all over everything. Korea is the only place I've ever heard of where you can check the weather and find that the forecast is "dusty."

Along with the crappy air, the mild cough I had last week decided sometime yesterday afternoon to totally blow up. I rested and drank enormous amounts of tea, I gargled, and I took enough ibuprofen to destroy even the strongest liver, and I still spent 20 minutes this morning hacking up all kinds of yellowish/greenish globs of I don't even know what. I've entertained some thoughts of going to a gym to use the dreadmill if I'm feeling better after work, but even as I type that my body is like, "HAHAHAHA!!! Who do you think you're kidding?!?! You couldn't get these legs to run right now if your life depended on it!"
I'm hoping to spend the first weekend of April here. Of course, I haven't checked the schedules or made any plans, but here in Korea everything is always done totally last minute and half-assed, so I'm sure it'll be no problem to get transport and a place to stay all sorted out. Aside from the temples and the super cool grotto, there's a total butt-load (is there a hyphen in butt-load??) of hiking and saunas. I miss being on the trails so much!! There's a mountain a little ways behind our apartment that Ant nicknamed "Brown Hill," because he came home from running it one day and said it was really ugly and everything was brown and dead. And I was like, "Uh...it's not dead. It's winter. We're not in California anymore, Toto." When I set out to find it I got lost (but I did end up finding a tent that sells yummy chicken on sticks. At least they said it was chicken...) so I haven't checked out the trails on Brown Hill yet.

In other news, my first full week of classes is over! I could tell by my kids' moronic behavior that I wasn't the only one who was excited it was Friday! Won't be online much this weekend (if at all) so I'll have to catch up with you guys on Monday. Hope you have a great weekend!
We headed to Sinchon last night for some sushi, and then we caught The Watchmen. The soundtrack was totally uninspiring and Forrest Gump-y, but the actual sounds of the movie were pretty freaking incredible!! Even with the ton of violence and the totally pointless soft-core porn scene, I'd totally recommend it.

As always, the book is way better.

I ran my first marathon with Team in Training, which was before I lost all faith in them due to their coaches encouraging their runners to short cut the course and still accept the finisher's medal. The whole experience kind of soured me on the whole raise a gazillion dollars to run a marathon for charity thing, but they are successful in raising awareness, they do generate money for much needed research, and hey, if they inspire people to get off their butts and do something active instead of sitting in front of the TV eating crap then really, at the end of the day they've done more good than harm, and that's definitely worth something. So, in what might be the only nice thing I ever agree to do for a Canadian, I'm gonna register for this. And I think you guys should all join me. Minimum donation to register is 10 measly bucks, and I've certainly wasted more than that on less worthy things.

Who's in on the Seoul side? Cam? Achilles? Eve? Hello? Anyone? Is this thing on?!?
Anyone who's interested can head over here to register, and/or to learn a little more about Reese and the cause.
I got home from work yesterday (I am madly in love with my 4th graders, btw) and our apartment was so freaking hot I thought something was on fire. The second I opened the door I was totally assaulted by a blast of hot air. I could barely breathe.

Ant had decided to turn our apartment into a Bikram Yoga studio. So he cranked the heat as high as it could go and let it get all steamy so he could twist himself into a zillion poses. I was choking on my own sweat, and he was just lounging in the bedroom, totally relaxed and yoga'd out, reading a book and looking at me like, "Wha????"

So he can figure out that the hot, dry air from the ondol system is perfect for a homemade Bikram studio but he can't seem to grasp the concept that a Korean broom works the same as an American one. Isn't he just the cutest???

We ended up opening all the windows and going out to stuff ourselves on sushi while the apartment cooled down. Can't wait to see that heating bill!!!

In other news, today was the first day of my "Why am I schlepping my ass to and from work in 3 inch heels when I could just run there?!?" experiment. It went well. Did my usual morning loop, which I estimate to be between 4 - 5 miles, but instead of ending at the apartment I just ran to my office. Had to haul my work clothes and crap with me, which I didn't love doing, but I couldn't just teach in my sweats all day. I ran the back way and explored the Seoul Woman's University campus a little so I figure it added about a mile and a half to my run. Not too shabby for me. I really need to increase my mileage, as well as step up my speed a bit. I did get to work about 15 minutes before I expected to, but I think that's because I miscalculated the distance, not because I ran any faster than I normally do.
So, yeah, I'm back in Korea, and yeah, it was sudden. So sudden that we were still packing our shit as we were literally walking out the door to the airport. It was actually Ant's idea to come here, and we discussed it for awhile before making the final decision, but to be honest I never really believed he'd follow through with it so I didn't do much in the line of finding a job, getting a visa, etc. until he came home one day and announced he had quit his job. We did everything so last minute that we missed our entire week of orientation because we didn't have our visa crap sorted out, which is OK with me but probably made Ant's job a bit more difficult since he doesn't have much teaching experience and no ESL experience.

Maybe someday I'll fill you guys in on the great luggage incident of 2009, which involved a ridiculous amount of redistributing, super-strength saran wrap, extra baggage fees, and a second trip to the airport after I accidentally left one of Ant's bags there and didn't realize it until we were all the way in Taerung. Ever try to haul a bunch of surfboards, skateboards, climbing gear, and clothes/necessary items for a whole year clear across the world? It ain't fun.

Know what else isn't fun? Getting clear across the world, stepping up to the unfriendly customs dude, and hearing in his unfriendly voice that the Korean embassy in SF issued me a visa for 1 day instead of 1 year. Yup. My visa had actually expired before I even got there. I was sent off to a scary room with no windows to get it fixed, where nobody spoke English. It appeared that they pretty much looked through my passport to see all the places I had been, checked out my picture and used sign language and Konglish to tell me I should grow my hair long again, asked how long I wanted to stay, and then crossed out the date on my visa and wrote "1 year" next to it with a normal ballpoint pen. I mean, fuck, I could've done that on my own!

And because I don't want you guys to have any more sleepless nights, lemme assure you that Einstein is safe and sound, properly stored away back in CA. I'm sure there will be no end to my bitching about having to pay for a car that I'm not driving, especially with the current exchange rate, but he's totally worth it.
1 week down, 51 more to go! Ant and I are slowly getting adjusted to our new place. Having been in Korea before it's a bit easier for me - poor Ant is still looking a bit shellshocked, though yesterday he got out on his skateboard and we explored the neighborhood a bit and he seems to be doing a little better now.

We're in Hwarangdae, which translates roughly in English to "The middle of nowhere." It's not so bad though. Definitely has everything we need, and yesterday on our excursion we found the all-important neighborhood chicken hof, so that was a big relief.

Only had a chance to run about 3 times during the week, each time for about 40 minutes or so. Not knowing the area, I'm afraid to stray too far from the few landmarks I know. I don't want to be late for work because I can't find my way home. Haven't found a gym yet, either, though I've been told there's one near my school. I walk to and from work everyday, which is really nice. I never liked being smooshed on the subway or busses here.

We don't have internet at the apartment yet, so posting will be sporadic until that gets sorted.

As a big, general response to your emails (since my online time is pretty limited), 1. I actually don't know my mailing address yet, and, 2. I don't believe you fuckers are gonna mail me anything anyway - y'all still owe me the shit you promised to mail me last time I was here!!!

Be good.