Tag Archives: living in Korea

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(??)



Hedgie vs the Hair

12 May

Early last week I was giving the hedgie formerly known as Baji (nope still no real name yet) a bath (as seen above), when I noticed what looked like a mutant horror show attached to his leg in leu of a usually delicate paw. This discovery threw me into a panic ridden state, leading me to scour the net for possible causes and to frantically call my poor co-teacher at 1:30 am to force her to find me a 24 hr veterinary clinic (which led her to wake up a vet, leaving neither of them particularly impressed with me ….oopsie) My co-teacher was nice enough to drive me to the vet early the next morning, acting not only as my chaperone but as my translator as well. I am very lucky that she acted as the intermediary at this junction as the following is what I perceived to unfold.

*The vet removes the lid from carrying case, then shrieks and jumps about three feet back in response to the hedgie’s jarring hyperventilation, instilling in me heaps of confidence in relation to her experience with hedgehogs*

Vet: What is the matter?

Me: His leg looks swollen, I noticed it last night

*The vet proceeds to stick him with a bunch of needles. Once he falls asleep(by this point I’ve realized that the needles were an anesthetic…..or that he’s been euthanized), she takes a better look at his leg and shrieks again, shows the leg to my co-teacher who also shrieks. Vet throws me some severe cut eye *

Vet: IT’S VERY SERIOUS! SO SERIOUS! Korean Korean Korean.

Co-Teach: Korean Korean Korean

Vet: Korean Korean Korean

Co-Teach: Korean Korean Korean

Vet: Korean Korean Korean

*This ensues for a few minutes. The vet sharpens her dagger eyes and then throws them in my direction*


*Vet runs into the back area, emerging 10 minutes later to show me that his wound needs a few stitches, but does not leave to do them until she tell me something I may not have gathered…*


*The Vet takes another 10 minutes  to stitch him up. She emerges, looking exasperated by the procedure*

Vet: Korean Korean Korean

Co-Teach: Korean Korean Korean

Vet: SERIOUS. Korean Korean Korean

Co-Teach: Korean Korean Korean

Vet: Korean Korean Korean

Me: *Hyperventilating*

Vet: You have to check him often. I can’t give you an exact number, but lets just say it’s at least 20 to 30 times a day.

I’m sure it went on for a bit after that but to sum it up, if she were to have presented his case in powerpoint format, the presentation would be entitled SERIOUS! (subtitle) IT’S SO SERIOUS. As you could imagine I left the veterinarians office feeling anxious and guiltily, as if it was some sort of negligence on my part that had led out to this serious situation. However,once I asked my co-teacher what all the Korean hullabaloo was about she explained that the injury was incurred because a hair had gotten caught around his leg(to be fair I gained an understanding of this during the visit), which cut off blood flow to the paw, causing it to swell. Not only was she told that this was in fact a common situation, all would be ok if I made sure he wasn’t picking as his wound and gave him his medication when appropriate.   

I’ve brought the poor guy back to the vet for a few check ups and it’s now safe to say that the score for this round is Hedgie 1 – Hair 0. Fewf. Things were getting serious there for a bit.


Busan and a New Frenemy

28 Mar


This past weekend I took a short trip down to Busan, the second largest city in South Korea.

Busan is a hilly metropolitan city (at least in comparison to Pohang) with beaches, a cafe at every corner(usually more than one) and most importantly, some attempt at a music scene; something seemingly unheard of in Pohang, so it is not surprising that this is where I ended up first.

The night is called Rad City and it happens around once a month. Along with a live performance, DJ’s were spinning oldies that made me hungry for home(but not ravenous, which is what I would have to be to ever considering heading back) and a table where locals sold art and crafts.

The live show was by a band called Surisuri Mahasuri. Rad City’s facebook invite used terms like ‘positive energy’ and ‘spirituality’ when describing them, all a tad too new age to strike  a cord with me. But I was pleasantly mistaken as a hodge-podge of instruments, from accordion to what appeared to be a PVC tube, overlay a beat that can be best described as infectious(so no I’ve made no literary leaps and bounds by describing a beat as infectious, but sometimes tried and true works best). What I was most taken by, hands down, was the accordion, despite the pseudo rasta(??) outfitting.

I don’t know him but he was really eager for me to take his picture so here we are:

Use that force!….or something(this is likely the extent of my Star Wars knowledge)

The rest of my stay was a mosaic of old staples from home including huffing down a giant bowl of pho, indulging in overpriced coffee, sifting though hoards of secondhand goods( though back home overly ornate ajumas- a term used to describe older korean women- aren’t there to tell you with …erm… the utmost politeness that you are picking from the wrong pile)  and having special moments with my Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

Full moon look out

Busan bridge from afar

Nampodong Market

Oh, you’ve been missed

Effective, as we would have forgotten

All in all a 24(ish)hrs well spent.


Shortly prior to my departure, a fellow Canadian expat who is nearing the end of her Korean residency made me an interesting offer, as not only would she be soon leaving Korea behind but a pet hedgehog as well, and so was in search of a new owner. Ironically, I had fairly recently befriended another woman, who among many things, is a proud hog owner(and a literary hog at that…..her prickly antics can be followed here: The Pickle Jar ) and felt the situation too serendipitous to pass up.

Thus the main cause for the trip though was to pick up my new “friend”(I use the term with discretion as I feel that such relationships work best if one party is not in hate of/petrified of the other party-more on that later). And after what must have been the longest, most terrifying trip of his little life, Baji** arrived safe at my dark stale cave.. erm…I mean apartment.

Despite attempts to make my subpar living quarters as livable as the bright chic condo he previously resided  and feeding him disgusting… I mean dee-licious!(ala Tony the Tiger) dried maggots, he growls?(or at least thats what I feel he thinks he is doing; in reality he is too small and cute to do so with any conviction) and has has full blown anxiety attacks when I come within a 1 meter radius of him. And though I was initially contemplating giving him Valium or fashioning him a mini paper bag as both have been proven to diminish hyperventilation, I have discovered upon further reading found that such behaviour is normal and it will simply take some time for him to trust me.

In attempts to have Baji gain his bearings and to win brownie points I let him out of his cage. And though I thought I had restricted access to any hard-to-reach areas in my room, I was clearly mistaken, as he decided to furrow himself  under the furthest corner of my wardrobe, the same place he resides now. And despite the fact that he has access to food and water, which he has clearly indulged in while the giant was sleeping or working,  I myself am now experiencing bouts of anxiety. Will Baji ever emerge from his comfy corner?  Won’t he be lonely with only dust balls as friends? Will this traumatizing experience prove to be all too overwhelming, causing the little thing to dramatically commit hedgicide?

To further my anxiety this is hauntingly similar to when I first brought home my second cat at sixteen. At the time only a kitten, it playfully climbed up into the frame of my pullout couch, where it stayed for nearly a day. Reasonably convinced that the feline was tragically trapped in what was destined to be her tomb, I spent the day bawling and hollering through my sobs “by the time we get to her she will be dead!” while my family rolled on the floor with laughter. Surprisingly the story is a happy one as she came out on her own accord and continues to reside in my family home.

Thankfully, what we can deduce from my tales of animal rearing is that I will be a calm and reasonable mother someday….

For now its back to the fruitless task of coaxing Baji out of his hiding spot. Mama Shauna out.


**Baji in Korean means “pants”, or if mispronounced…… “lady parts”, thus I feel it may be necessary to rename him as I feel a tragic, albeit familiar, faux pas a-brewing, likely involving that very judgmental mother from my Hagwon.

UPDATE: HE’S OUT HE’S OUT! Oh man, has ever such a sigh of relief been released? Ah! First thing he does with his new found freedom? Run back and forth across a 1/2 foot track underneath my bed. What a weirdo! I am confident that we will get on just swimmingly…

Too Cool!

23 Mar

I came to Korea with fantastical views of insanely low prices for just about everything.( during pre-trip research I read tall tales of teachers coming over with $60 and the clothes on their back so what was I to expect?)  To my dismay, nearly everything beyond eating out and riding in taxi cabs(which are my two fave toronto past times to be honest), is at par with or more expensive than Toronto. Due to overwhelming interest (not that any has been explicitly expressed, I just know my audience)  I will be releasing an in depth empirical study of the price disparity between my old and new home in the form of a super exciting blog post in weeks to come.

This certainly made me regret my decision to wait until I reached Korea to buy a new ipod, as it turns out that Apple products are far more overpriced here than they are in North America. Apple’s sad sad pricing left me in a deep dark depression once again when a friend forwarded me this awesome video about their newest product. (no I am not some Apple patriot…just watch the video and then try to convince me you aren’t dazzled by Steve Jobs)

Alas, it is for the best as this pauper has no need for such pricey toys (despite its obvious utility in realizing my dreams of kpop stardom).