Archive | June, 2011

The Killer Bee and Me

20 Jun

….aka The Reason I’m Blowin’ This Popsicle Stand

An unfortunately familiar wave of procrastination is what led me to commence packing and laundering in the wee hours of the morning, just hours prior to my Seoul trip in early May. As I was folding the final round of clothing, what I perceived to be a giant black fluff flew off my dress. And then it flew higher. And higher. And higher. And higher. Until it flew so high that it reached my ceiling light, at which point I deduced that this fluff was no fluff at all, but a flying savage beast whose sole purpose was to pirate whatever sleeping hours I could have hoped to have salvaged at this point. To protect myself from the terror imposed by the brute perched on my lamp shade, I quarantined myself in my laundry room. This safe zone is from where with once tired eyes, now wide as saucers, I deduced that my foe was in fact a bee the size of bird. Okay maybe a baby bird…..err a fetal bird. In all honestly, no embellishments, the monster was at least 2 inches long and quite stocky. Let’s just say if I owned a DSLR camera that my work would be currently gracing the pages of National Geographic.

As my writing of this post would prove, I did eventually make it out my laundry room; with my boss as my champion, swooping in and trapping the devil in a tupperware container completely unfazed (though likely rolling her eyes throughout). The ease to which I was rescued left me completely mortified, but not surprised, as just about any insect larger than an ant can induce in me a fit of panic.

However, while dining with a friend last week, a familiar fiend buzzed into the joint, leaving my friend genuinely shaken(at least slightly). Which brings us to tonight, when said friend told me that he was convinced that we had in fact encountered the Asian Giant Hornet (seen above). Wikipedia had the following to say about it’s sting:

The stinger of the Asian giant hornet is about 6 mm (¼ in) in length,[3] and injects an especially potent venom that contains, like many bee and wasp venoms, a cytolytic peptide (specifically, a mastoparan) that can damage tissue by stimulatingphospholipase[disambiguation needed] action,[4] in addition to its own intrinsic phospholipase.[5] Masato Ono, an entomologist at Tamagawa University near Tokyo, described the sensation as feeling “like a hot nail being driven into his leg.”[3]

An allergic human stung by the giant hornet may die from an allergic reaction to the venom, but the venom contains a neurotoxin called mandaratoxin (MDTX),[6] a single-chain polypeptide with a molecular weight of approximately 20,000 u,[7] which can be lethal even to people who are not allergic if the dose is sufficient. Each year in Japan, the human death toll caused by Asian giant hornet stings exceeds that of all other venomous and non-venomous wild animals combined, including wild bears and venomous snakes.

The giant hornet’s sting reportedly kills around 40 people annually in Japan, which one could argue is rather minute in the scheme of things, but its certainly higher than that of the the common centipede, my ex-greatest foe (said friend also informed me of a poisonous centipede….let’s just eternal sunshine that conversation).

So it’s likely that I am over exaggerating the encounter slightly and am not in fact being stalked by killer bees, however, that won’t wont stop me from taking the precautionary measure of donning this outfit for the duration of the summer…

errr just joking(??)



Taxi Driver: Matchmaker Edition

11 Jun

So I just walked away from a mildly awkward Taxi ride. It started with a bang…..

*BANG* That’s the sound of me smacking my head on the frame of the vehicle. Old hat, seeing as the number of times I’ve hit my head during my three month stay here is already well into the double digits. Nothing to do with the locale though, seeing as I basically dropped myself on my head as a child…

Taxi Driver: Oh sorry! So sorry!(it was quite clear that the blow was not his fault in the slightest, but in true humble Korean fashion…)

We get the usual -“Are you American? No?”- sorting out I’m Canadian – business out-of-the-way(not that I find the mistake particularly bothersome), so then we casually move onto the next most logical topic…

TD: Are you single?

The clear answer in this situation, albeit a lie, is no, but because I have a mental handicap where I lose the ability to lie when it will save me from awkward situations my answer is… 

Me: Yes.

TD: How old are you?

Me: 25

TD: I have a son, he is 23. Marriage, ok?

Me: *nervous laughter* No no.

TD: Ha ok. *motions to head* Head ? *grimace* Sorry so sorry!

Me: No no. No problem.

TD: I have a son, he is 23. Meet tomorrow, ok?

Me: *nervous laughter* No no. I am very busy (doing nothing)

TD: Ok. My son, 23, meet this week, ok?

Me: *nervous laughter* No no. I am very VERY busy (still doing nothing)

TD: Ha ok. You are very beautiful. *motions to head* Head ? *grimace* Sorry so sorry!

Me: No no no. No problem.

TD: I have a son, he is 23. Face good, so gentle! Ok?

Me: It is so sad then that I am so very old! (not really a lie as I don’t think I’d want to date a 23 year old)

TD: Ha ok. You are very beautiful. *motions to head* Head ? *grimace* Sorry so sorry!

Me: No no no no. No problem.

TD: I have a son, he is 23. Churchee! Goes to Catholic church. Ok?

At this point I want to holler,” I don’t care how wholesome and gentle your toddler son is! I don’t ride taxis to pick up!”. But I humbly admit that much like his toddler son, I am gentle(maybe we really are a match made in heaven), and so recycled the reply…

Me: It is so sad then that I am so very old!

TD: Oh! Ok, ok. Me, I am 55. ok?

Luckily by this point I am at my doorstep, so the awkwardness must come to an end. But before I leave the vehicle you wouldn’t guess what he says…

TD: *motions to head* Head ? *grimace* Sorry so sorry!

Who knows, I may have just passed up the baby love of my life.


강 아지 똥: Doggy Poo Story

11 Jun

Near the end of this past week I discovered the following posted in the stairwell leading up to my Hagwon…..

And incase you couldn’t quite decipher the title….

The star of the show

Critically Aclaimed

Incase you are still confused, this is a poster advertising the upcoming run of the popular children’s play Doggy Poo Story(강 아지 똥).  Considering my only other encounter with a heart warming story about poo is starring Mr.Hanky, I found(find?) the whole thing- from the person with in the fuzzy poo costume with smears on their face to the ernest, glowing reviews from the critics- to be just a tad bizarre.

I decided to vaguely inquire about the production with my boss. She was completly unfazed and told me that it was based on a famous Korean children’s story. And deriving from the light research I’ve done it can be concluded that she is in fact correct.  Apparently the book won a Korean children’s literary award in 1968 and has even been adapted as an English animated short film.  According to to a customer on, the following is the heartwarming plot of said  story,

Doggy Poo is just that, and from the time he is ‘born,’ we find him questioning his purpose in life, to anyone or thing that will listen, including a hen, a bird (sparrow?) and a friendly pile of dirt. Much like Hans Christian Andersen’s ugly duckling, our lead character’s appearance (and seeming lack of purpose) causes him to be rejected, pecked and made fun of. But when all seems just about lost, a friendly girl weed grows up next to him and tells and tells Doggy Poo that she needs him for fertilizer in order to become a beautiful flower. And so he finds his purpose in life, and happiness in the process.

So maybe the story’s a heartwarmer, but I think I’m a bit too immature to appreciate it…..


Seoul Trip in Photos

6 Jun

So I’ve been more than a lota-bit lax with keeping this gong-show updated during the month of May. To be fair it’s been a pretty busy month thats included my birthday and a well saturated sleep schedule.   Also celebrating a birthday in May was Buddah, who like me, is a Taurus. No wonder we have so much in common!   Beyond explaining our almost scary similarities(I’m wise, he’s wise, I’m super popular, He’s -mildly less- but still super popular, and so on and so forth), this meant I had a four day holiday during which I took the chance to visit Korea’s capital. For the first time in my life I felt like a townie taking on the big city. Although hailing from Pohang, with a meger population of 520,000, would hardly qualify me as a townie, having been born and raised in Toronto certainly makes it seem so in comparison.

Although I wish I could to regale you with hilarious tidbits from my holiday, it was over a month ago and seeing as I’m now a quarter of a century old my memory is slipping(was it ever there to lose?), so the best I can do is bombard you with pictures.

I traveled to Seoul via Korea’s version of the Bullet Train – the KTX. I took this picture as the train was pulling out of the station in hopes of capturing it’s super speed (clearly I failed). Surprisingly, the ride felt a little less like the Vortex at the CNE(or whatever traveling carnival comes ’round your parts) and a little more like, well, a train ride(go figure).

One of our many stops on my short trip was to Gyeongbokgung Palace(which apparently translates to “Palace of Shining Happiness”). The palace was built in 1394 by the Joseon Dynasty.  During  the Japanese occupation of Korea in the early 20th century, much of the Palace was destroyed in order to eliminate any symbolism of the former dynasty. (Wow it’s almost like I know stuff……or maybe the pamphlet that followed me home from my trip has been well read)

We were just really excited to be able to take a picture with a man who donned such a luscious beard

Looking back at the palace gate

Geunjeongjeon Hall, where the king held his court. Also, note the slight angle at which this photo was taken. Some would say it’s crooked, but if you look closely, you’ll see the hallmark of a true artist.

K’naan, this one’s for you

Bad-ass Urn – aka I don’t have any infomation on this one

This is part of the palace’s back garden. The pavilion is named Hyangwonjeong, which translates to “Pavilion of Far-Reaching Fragrance”

Perhaps it’s because I hail from Toronto, but whenever I spot a mountain range I get excited (this means I am excited quite a bit in Korea)

Like a true tourists we also visited Seoul Tower, which is located on Namsan Mountain, and is known to boast some of the best views of the city. Unfortunately our view was rather gray and melancholy

Couples write messages on locks, which they attach to the gates on the base of the tower as a symbol of their commitment to one another

The tower at nightfall

One of my favourite places on the trip was a traditional makgeolli bar whose interior was filled with log huts that may/may not have have come straight from the jungles of Indochina. Mageolli is a sweet milky liquor made of rice and I have yet to decide on weather or not I like it as one time it was bearable, the other time not so much.  What was definitely delicious here were the buchimgae, which is a savoury Korean pancake which can contain various ingredients such as seafood or kimchi(to be fair, I am unsure if all variants of the dish are called buchimgae),and could be described as Korea’s answer to a latka, except better.

We followed up this Korean gem with equally classy joints

They brought me to this bar, aptly named “Garage Bar” seeing as it’s in an old public parking garage, in jest.  Much to their dismay I took quite a liking to it, mostly because I could relate to its trashiness, and maybe because I am a bit pretentious??

I’m not a fan of Andy Warhol, infact, I think he’s a bit of an a-hole, but this restaurant’s signage had a neon, worn nostalgia that I can always enjoy

Starbucks has a significant presence in Korea, usually made known using their familiar romanized sign. However, this location’s Hangul take on the iconic sign acted as a reminder that I’m just a little far from home.( another,but not as obvious, reminder would be all the Korean people who live here)

And I’ll end this one with a picture of the health food snack we snuck in after our shopping frenzy at Dondaemun market . Yes, this is a corn dog deep fried in fries. Pure Genius.

This thing will be updated more I promise. May was just a sleepy month……..