Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Walking a mile...

There are a number of websites (google and therefore blogger is one) in which they have chosen to have all the different commands be represented in the language of the IP address of your computer. If you never leave your country of origin or you never go some place where another language is the native tongue, this is not an issue. However, some of us do travel. Not just people like me who go and live somewhere, but flight attendants, sales people, retired folks, etc. who visit and experience different cultures for the short term.

A problem we didn't plan on pops up. When we log onto a computer, we can't read it.


In an internet cafe, it's fine that the other language comes up - of course! But MY computer? MY blog? I can't get into my own writings because I can't read the directions? Some websites (wordpress for example) allow the writer (that's me) to choose the language and then they respect my choice. They don't change the words so I can't read my own blog directions. Some other websites (MSN and Yahoo for example) come up in the native language with a little flag or sign that allows you to change the language with one click. That seems very reasonable. Respect the local language, but don't make foreigners (there are ONE MILLION of us in So. Korea alone) be abandonded to ignorance.

I've been reading up on how to fix this on Blogger because one of my friends invited me to read her private blog. She's spending a year at wilderness camp, learning to live off the land, how to read the stars and to track, and I don't know what all, but it sounds realy cool! So I click on the link she sends me (the link is in English, she's in the USA, she speaks only English), and then the page that comes up is all in Korean! I have no idea which of the 15 or so buttons I should click. There is no option to change her page to English (I can't even change my own page to English for reading purposes). So what to do? It took about 15 minutes to figure it out. *I signed into my gmail account and then tried again. My gmail account was made while I was in the USA - thank goodness - and allowed me to get the English version of things. Now I can read her blog! Yay!

I'm reading the responses to people who have asked google about this on the forums. The responses often say something like "If you go to another country, you should learn the language." Ummm ok. So, I shouldn't be able to use my own? I shouldn't be able to communicate with other native English speakers? I shouldn't be able to access my own accounts? I should be even more cut off from communication until I learn to read Korean really well? That will take at least a year. And what about when I travel to Japan for a few days or a couple of weeks? I shouldn't be able to post photos or share my experiences with anyone because I can't read Japanese? As an aside, have you ever tried to learn Japanese? I mean seriously? Do you know how many characters they have in their language? Let's not even consider Chinese!

So, to the naysayers who sit in their happy little chairs telling me that it is part of the travel experience... Let me say this. Get a passport. Go visit somewhere and see how difficult simple day to day living is. I'm not talking about staying at the Seoul Hilton or the Beijing Ritz or the Tokyo Embassy Suites. Those are places wehere the staff all speak English and will take you to all the really nice tourist attractions where everyone speaks English or at least the signs are in English.

I'm talking about getting an apartment where the rental agreement is in a language you can't read. You don't recognize the food in the grocery store or what the menu says in a restaurant. You can't navigate the bus system or even find someone to ask for help. You can't see a doctor because you can't read the phone book. You overpay because you can't get the discount card because you can't read the application and no one can help you. You can't even try to figure stuff out because the words and letters of the language look like a doodle and you can't see the difference between one symbol and another.

After you do that, and you end up crying in the subway trying to figure out where you are going, or you get so angry and frustrated with trying to get a meal that you end up at the local McDonald's instead of trying the amazing local cuisine, or you stay in your room watching old episodes of NCIS because you can't figure out how to get anywhere... after you have those experiences, you come and tell me how I should learn these other languages just so I can write this note on my computer or call my mother from skype or upload a picture to my flickr account. Yeah, come here. I have an extra pair of mocassins I'm happy to share.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Food and love

Offerings to the gods,

..........hallelujah G*d call

.....grasping failure
..........spaghetti squash brained schemes.

loss of self
.....liquor... and sugar... and flour.
..........fog of forgetfulness

erasing failure. -glorious food!- forgotten celebration of life.

Life from food
.....flavors and scents
..........stirring and heating
...............tantalize, awaken

The skin of love
.....The skin of grapes
..........pacifier for the soul.

Eating - intimate, life giving.
heightened senses
fire charring
burning feral need

Biting and tasting
pleasured love making


Breathe sweet
.....sweet nectar
..........slipping down

salt simmer of life.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Father Judge

Father Judge.

His picture has been circulated the world over. He has taught more people about love and commitment through his death than anyone could in a life time.

Father Judge died giving last rites to a fallen firefighter on September 11. May we all believe so deeply that we give our hearts and bodies to the good.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Guardian of Wisdom

That's my teacher look. Is it daunting enough? I'm such a goofball in class, sometimes I think they don't take me seriously. Now, strong words:

Where's your homework?

There is a great responsibility that comes with teaching. When we present information, we are the experts, we are molding minds and opinions.

Never has that been so real for me as when I received requests from my students. I am doing a research project. What do students here want from their teachers? A wish list, three items. I thought they would say things like "be prepared" or "show videos" or "speak slowly." A few did. Certainly. However, most were about personality - they all boiled down to this: don't hurt me, be kind.

So, today, I remind myself - they are nervous. They want to do well. It is *MY* responsibility to create a safe environment for them to learn, to try, to succeed and to fail, to dust themselves off and get back on the horse.

So... unconditional positive regard. Thank you, Carl Rogers.


The child is the parent of the adult...

I received this note from a man today. He and I went to high school together.

"I realized years ago I and many others were mean to you."

He's not in a 12 step program. He doesn't have to apologize for any harm he did to others. He's just a kind man that realized what he did a long time ago.

I remember high school. I remember it as so many others do - hell. *I was going to say "challenging" but let's be real... It was one of those places where the social was much more difficult to navigate than the intellectual.

This man was not the worst of the people. Hell, I don't even remember the kids that much. I remember being traumatized from what had happened years before. I lived my entire teenage years still reeling from some pretty horrible abuse that had happened in my younger years. I was one messed up kid! Today, people would notice. Perhaps people noticed then, too, but they didn't know what to do.

This one man's apology made me cry, made me remember how hurt I was. It also softened up some hard part in my heart. I hate going back to my old hometown. If it were all forgiven, I wouldn't harbor anger and resentment. Thanks, buddy. Thank you for waking up that sleeping dog and taking the thorn out of its infected paw. Now it's time for the healing.


(yep, that's really me. 9 years old. I've gotten bigger over the years.)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


I can hear the policeman's whistle. Shouting - I understand the words "go" and "where". I'm not sure what is being said. There is a woman's voice - frightened and excited. The rumble of the many hanging signs sounds like thunder. Maybe it is thunder. The wind blows pressure in the ears, that moment of no sound then boom! Sound everywhere.

I look out the window. Trash, papers, wrappers, swirling up, defying gravity to rise and then fall as the rain pelts it. The policeman's whistle. Shrill. Rain staccato in its force. Whoosh drop drop. Whoosh drop drop. The street littered with broken bottles and yesterday's news. Today's terror painted with yesterday's foibles.

The center of the typhoon is an hour north. When did space and time collide to become measuring points for one another?

I wonder if classes are cancelled today. They probably are not. Koreans are tenacious people. Perhaps there is an advisory. I can't read Korean. I do not know.

All the weather stations in English say is "wind, rain". They forgot to mention that it's a typhoon.

Tornado drills in high school. I open the door of my room, allow the wind to blow threw. It will end soon. A typhoon is just a hurricane, a tornado. They are all the same. It's just a matter of waiting. Waiting. Listening to the whistle of the wind, the whistle of the policeman.

Funny, the song "Whistle While You Work" runs through my head. It is 7 a.m. now. It's light out. The storm is moving on. And yet it remains, shaking things up, waking people. Is this what life is? Do we need a storm to shake things up, clean out the garbagtge in our souls, let us feel passionately and then clean up the muck?

Hmm. I don't know. What do you think?

*map is from