Imagine stepping into a herd of horses loaded down with treats. What's going to happen?
Put a bunch of kids together and they figure out the unspoken, unwritten social rules. Except the weird kids who don't. Years ago, I read an article about and while I can't really remember much about the article, it stuck in my head.
It came back to me strongly the year I taught kindergarten. It was one of the best years of my life. The school was alright, but the kids. Being a homeroom teacher. Going back to sandwiching English into 40 minutes a day was tough. But I digress. My point is, while teaching kindergarten I was faced with a student who had zero social skills.
If you think about it, social skills are no different than math or science or English for that matter. Well they are different, because nobody writes them down and rarely are the spoken out loud. Nonetheless, it's a set of learned behaviors. And some children need help navigating. It can be quite difficult to teach because first you have to put words to the unwritten rules and then find a way of explaining them and finally create a safe environment for the child to practice their skills. But educating children, especially young children can have a long lasting impact on their lives.
This in influenced my thinking about horses as well. I also read a story about wild horses once, about the how the older mares discipline younger herd members who are causing too much trouble by driving them away from the herd. A horsey time out if you will and when they rejoin they do it with a lot of licking an chewing.
I didn't intervene much when Thunder was introduced to Super. We had one gelding and one mare and that made it easy. However when Thor came, he was weird. He'd ignore anything the other horses did, but out of the blue would jump, bite, and twist. He didn't give any looks or ear pinning. And they way he'd bite was scary.
So I made a paddock in the pasture and anytime he acted too aggressive he went there for a couple of hours and once, a couple of days. Months later during feeding time-- we have no stalls-- I got tired of the squabbling. So, I tried an experiment of driving the horse who squabbled away until the horse changed their and relaxed into staying away. It turned out to be way more effective than putting the offender in a paddock alone.
I've thought a lot about over the past year. If we look at wild herds where humans don't interfere the addition and subtraction of herd members is a much rarer event and less destabilizing. Probably because the wild herd includes a matriarch, a group of high ranking older mares and everyone is generally somewhat related. Even when the oldest mare dies, there is another leader to take over. Being the most aggressive is not how this leader is chose either. It's often more fluid than that. A horse that knows where to find good grazing and water and who is firm but fair. I think that in human managed herds we add horses, take them away, add new horses. We further destabilize things by just being us... grabbing our horse to feed or ride (regardless of pecking order) and much more.
Our herd has clear rules. No squabbling around people for any reason-- these days food and scratches are equally prized. Super particularly with his butt scratches. Offenders have to go stand over there and think about it. And it has worked so well that our boss horse Thor, a guy who used to suddenly lunch, bite and twist, not only gives subtle warnings, but intervenes when anyone (usually Super) is causing a ruckus.
Me: Thor, did you learn that from me?
Thor: That's too much verbal communication for my equine brain, but you're smiling.
Me: You're a good boy.
Thor: I know these words !!!! I love these words!!! Stop mucking, scratch me here (insert itchy spot) and say those words.
And of course I do.
Last night after saying goodbye to everyone, my best friend followed me to the pharmacy door... the house is attached to the pharmacy so it has to be locked after I leave or customers will come in at all hours of the night, no lights and all.
This is a common weekend ritual. Liz paused and suggested we get up early to have a fire today. We chatted back and forth and then decided to be committed to getting up. I woke up about 5:30 but lingered in bed. My friend sent me a message a little bit later that she didn't sleep until 3 am so the fire was out for the morning.
This is not normal Korean life. In fact is about as far from normal as you can get from normal in Korea. Nevertheless it's our normal. I mean having a fire in the morning or not having a fire. Or... most of the things we do. For example, Gabe (English name) recently told one of the girls in his first grade class he has three horses, Thor, Thunder and Superman. They are both signed up to take lessons from a stables nearby through the school and so he told her she should come ride his horses because they were better than the other stables. Well, her mom called my friend.
"Oh, well he really loves his horses," my friend said.
"You really have horses?"
"Yes," my friend said.
You see the mom wasn't calling about Gabe bragging She was calling to let his mom, my friend know Gabe is making things up. Like, "my mom drives a tractor." You know, those kind of things.
Anyway, I wanted clarify that, though we often have fires at the farm, most Koreans don't have fires like Americans do just in case someone is thinking of coming to Korea on the information I write. It's a different life that I live.
So different in fact, that after we both got up around 9, we went to the farm and because my friend had a meeting in Seoul, she suggested I go with her. Thus, we rushed through Sunday barn chores and I'm now sitting at a Starbuks in Seoul writing this blog. It's pretty lame I admit, but these the farm takes up so much of my time it's a real treat. I used to hate riding the bus and the subway when I was in Seoul, but it's refreshingly different.
Writers often talk about characters taking a life of their own. In my case I'm engaged one. His name is Dr. Bob. He has 17 ex-wives. He asked me to marry him while he was at a bar-- east of somewhere-- drinking beer.
Our relationship is quite complicated. For example, my best friend, who is also jokingly my wife (joking in the way some things that aren't true are also true), does not like him any more that my friend's husband likes her wife -- me.
Confused yet? That's okay. I'm confused too. I can't say exactly when I became engaged to Dr. Bob. It happened sometime while writing Do It Yourself Veterinary Medicine for Dr. Bob because he was at the bar drinking beer. Now, I'm working on three hundred ways to say "no" for the website. It's kind of like that song from Simon and Garfunkel.
Setting aside all jokes, I have been working this book for a very, very long time. I'm so happy the book itself is finished. I'm working on the website since the two go hand-in-hand. I'm very excited about this and a bit sad as writing it has been one of my joys in life. I'd leave it for periods and every time I picked back up, I laughed, often so hard people looked at me strange. And sometimes my cats.
I've lots or misplaced my Alien Registration Card. It's akin to loosing a driver's licence. Actually, I need it to get my driver's licence in Korea. I wrote about some of it here. What I haven't written about is my four subsequent driving test failures.
The first three times I took in a truck... because I checked the wrong box. The truck was a manual. I can drive a manual so when I failed the first time, I was stubborn. I'm going to pass this in a truck! I thought to myself. As if that proves anything.
By the third failure, I decided to ask for a car. Which, seeing that it was my third try, the department of motor vehicles obliged for a small fee. I love how small fees are in Korea. I mean they add up I guess, but it was a few bucks and I was set for my next test.
The thing is, I have no depth perception because my eyes don't work together. It's called an alternating eye. I was born with a muscle in the wrong place in my eye. But it wasn't properly diagnosed-- I was told I had a lazy eye until I was seventeen. By that time all the surgeon could do was move the muscle so kids would stop making fun of my eyes. She could not rewire my brain.
I get on in life quite well and can and do drive in the United States. I just drive slow and carefully and code the tricky spots such as a stoplight at the top of a hill into my muscle memory. I passed parallel parking when I was in high-school, but I practiced it until this action too was muscle memory. After getting my licence though, I didn't back muck. I didn't live in a particularly big city or go to university where parking was too difficult. I parked where I knew I could and avoid backing anywhere.
But in Korea everyone backs in. So the test includes backing into a parking spot, because that's how every parks in Korea.
On my fourth try at my Korean Driver's License I was given excellent news. Apparently I have failed so many times, the center has upgraded their test to all English!!!! No more English and wait for the Korean in Gangnam. Just English and the computer happily tells you every time you miss points. Let me tell you, when you're worried about failure, that doesn't exactly help. But at least I can count the ways I've failed.
Anyway, moving on. I went to Daegu in hopes of getting my ARC card reissued so that I can have one more try at the driver's licence before starting over.... except that it takes three weeks to replace.
Well, at least I haven't had to ride my bike in the rain.
The alarm on my phone rings and I hit snooze. Getting up on time has become an outright battle with me, myself and I. First, its cold. My apartment is on the second floor of the Korean equivalent of a strip mall in Bongheyon. I often say I'm in Punggi because its big enough to find on a map... some of the time.
Koreans use a type of heating called ondul. You heat the water, water runs through pipes under the floor, heating the floor, heating the apartment. This is ancient technology, stretching back thousands of years. In some ways it's very effective. Sit on a hot floor and your heart sends warm blood to your limbs.. which might be chilly. Yet it's a unique and pleasurable experience of hot and cold.
Most apartments or villas have others to the left and right and up and down. This means that even though this heating is ineffective, there is a cumulative affect. Now, below me are businesses that don't turn on the heat. Instead, you'll see them sitting around a space heater during the day. They're closed at night. Thus, I'm freezing and my gas bill is $200.00 a month.
On top of a freezing apartment there is the English Center itself, which is not much different than whn I worked here before. It's harder to be on time to a job you're not interested in. I suppose that makes me human.
Finally, there is the habit of hitting snooze. You can foster good habits and bad habits, and while tucking oneself deeper into the covers on a cold morn feels, it is nonetheless a bad habit. One I intend to break in 2019. So what is your resolution this year? And no resolving to make a resolution does not count. I tried. Liz said, "Nuhu."
This a photo of the kids at night. I do evening shift so that means feeding and scooping poop after dark. My favorite tool thus is a Milwaukee battery powered light. I move it aound the pasture as I clean. Out redneck unelectrified electric tape is there beause Thor fell twice going into the barn. The hill is steep and fixing it is on the list of major construction that has to wait until spring thaw. Thankfully none of our guys are pushy about fences. The only one who comes in the barn is Thunder to eat. The boys are getting a half scoop of grain once a day with their twice daily hay buffet. The Canadian hay from Prairie International is exceptional. Its so tender its the horsie equivelent to a smoothy so I have to give a thumbs up to tge growers. Its far from cheap but the horses are do happy especially after the batch of weedy hay.
Yesterday morning was unseasonably warm as I was riding my electric bike my way to the bus. It was raining and my pants were getting wet and I should have walked to the stop. But that requires not rushing out of the house at the last minute.
Leaving the house anytime that isn't the very last moment is getting harder to do as February approaches. Starting the first of March my friend's Hagwon opens and I become, of all crazy things, and ESL teacher. Classes will be held inside a storage container on the farm near the horses. Happy kids and happy horses. That's really all I wanted my entire life. And while I can't be a partner in the full sense... the visa requires a $300,000 dollar investment... I can be an ESL teacher. Not saying I wouldn't refuse anyone who wants to donate that to me any more than I'd refuse a beer. Well, these days its scones, but that's a story for another. Okay, okay. There is a new bakery in Yeongju that makes killer scones and you get 2 for 3,000 won ($3.00 usd) which a really great deal if you consider a slice so-so desert is the equivalent of five or six bucks at the coffee shops. And the only place you can get even a so-so baked desert in Yeongju is a coffee shop. Or was.
Now, Yeongju has the scone standard. It is like the gold standard only it uses scones to determine the value of something. For example, is a that car worth the price of 1,000 scones? No. Then it's not a good deal. Which is kind of not really while I'm still riding and pushing my electric bike up the mountain to feed the horses every night.
Well, until yesterday, when the weather was warm and rainy and my bike which had been action funny, stopped played dead. No amount of tickling made it act funny again. Thus, after work, I had to walk 30 minutes to the farm. More on that later.
Nothing much of interest happened at work. I'm writing a book. Literally. It's for our winter camp, and I only had one class to teach yesterday so I spent six hours out of nine hours making ppts and writing the winter camp text book, forty minutes teaching, twenty minutes drinking coffee, one hour for lunch and forty minutes playing with a 3D pen. I made a pair of glasses and a Christmas tree. I had fun but I'm not sure how to make it into an English lesson.
Thirty minutes after everyone's finale class it was five-thirty--- go figure.
And because it's Yeongju English center, Mrs. K scolded us for creeping toward the door thirty-seconds early. I'm being only slightly factious. And yes. It does require a modifier modifying a modifier to express the situation. (Only modifies slightly, which modifies factitious which itself is a degree of humor.)
Now that I've given you a grammar headache, I waited 30 minutes for the bus, went home, discovered I could not tickle the bike to life, rode/pushed it home, took the battery in to charge, discovered my cat had eaten crackers and vomited, put the battery on the charger just in case, cleaned up after the cat, made dinner, ate dinner and changed clothes to go to the farm.
By changing clothes I put on my Carhartt overalls. How did I never know about them before? Layered and insulated I started waddling up to the farm. As I climbed the first hill, mildly steep compared to the next two, I began cursing all those scones. Because the problem with the scone standard is that you get the most value for your money by purchasing scones. And scones go to your thigh and hips.
"This is your fault," I said to myself. "You keep saying you're going to loose weight and NOT buy any more scones."
Yes it's my fault, but what can I do? When I try to share the scones withe horses they only lick the sugar off the top and drop the rest on the ground. Clearly, they don't understand the scone standard.
Hay is 1,400 won per kilo and rising. Beyond sticker shock, we had a problem with our August hay. It was infested with the three big bad weeds: Foxtail, Sandbur and Tickle-grass. The first pallet was good, but halfway through the second pallet, the horses started drooling. At first I thought it might be clover related, except we haven't been grazing them.
But my friend kept bugging me about it, so I grabbed Thunder's tongue and had a peek in her mouth. She had tones of blisters and seeds. Thor was the same. And the two of them actually appreciated us pulling the seeds out. Super, on the other hand, was having none of it.
The last time I'd read about Foxtail, was in a 4-h book twenty years ago. Even taking that into consideration, it was not until this year that I encountered it in person. So I consulted google and learned that it looks a lot like Timothy and sometimes not so honest companies pass off Foxtail as timothy. We ended up burning quite a few bales ( $.90 cents per kilo =(
Hopefully this new batch stays surprise free.
Public transportation is excellent in South Korea, and even with a splurge on a taxi now and again, much cheaper than owning a car. Nevertheless, winter is coming and not in the Game of Thrones way. It's October. Next month is November and after that comes December.
Thank you captain obvious. What isn't so obvious is that I've been riding an e-bike since about April when I reached my limit for walking to the farm. The electric bike has been awesome except on cold days and raining days. Then it kind of is a miserable experience. A rain suit will help but it's time to drive. Thus, on Saturday I went to the driver's license center in Gangnam.
Information on getting a driver's license was both easy to find and unclear. For one thing, Google searches didn't turn up explicit instructions. I like those. It's hard to get it wrong. For example, can you take any part of the test on Saturday? The answer is yes, but you should have someone who speaks Korean to call and find out the dates.
At the location in Gangnam they had English, Chinese and a few others. Over the phone my friend was told and then told me that you have to take the test and then watch a video. This turned out to be an important misunderstanding. Two test times, meant I had to be there by 8 am. Coming from Punggi that meant going to Seoul the night before and staying in a hotel or catching the 3:30 train. I was supposed to go last month, but lack of sleep meant it was pointless. I could barely put on a shirt correctly at the time. This month, however I was good to go in that, though the night before I left the farm at ten pm and had to get up at 2 am, I had actually slept that week.
But alas, my bike decided to NOT cooperate by having a flat tire. With time too short to walk to the train station, I went back to bed until five. I got up again, trudged to the bus station and tried to get a seat to Seoul. Even the 6:15 am bus was booked, but thankfully the desk clerk checked the next too buses in case a seat was sold but the person didn't get on. I was in luck. The 7 am bus to Gangnam had such a seat. It was double lucky because I needed to be in Gangnam, not Dongseoul which is where the other bus terminal is.
My best friend was a bit uhg when she found out because we had discussed all the reasons going late was pointless. But I told her I have to try to get at least something done.
As it turned out, now that the test is on a computer there is a line... a line not unlike lines for things like riding a roller coaster or getting a hotdog at a busy hotdogery. The difference being that the line is for a computer. When a computer opens ups up the staff tell you to go sit down. You type in your number and your name appears and you take the test (7,500 won).
Before you can do that part you have to have a health check (6,000 won) and a traffic safety video (0 won). The video is styled after a Korean drama and isn't nearly as bad as the ones I remember from driver's ed in high school.
However, before I could watch the video I had to get in the right line on the 4th floor. First, I lined up in front of the classroom because I'm a genius an didn't read the 13 the lady had written on my paper. Then, I lined up at counter 13 and waited. And waited. When I got to the front, I was told that counter 13 was for internet reservations and go to counter 12. So I got into the back of that line and began sweating. By this time, there was a chance that maybe the room would be too full. Or not. Because, as it turned out the room sits more than a hundred people and I was number 66 and only a few more seats were into the 70's. We then watched the hour long movie for 35 minutes before it was time for the clerk to begin processing us out of the room.
From there I went to another line and then finally the line for the computers. On my next trip to Seoul in November I get to prove I can work windshield wipers and stuff. It would have just exchange my license before it expired but hindsight is 20/20.
Kathy Jeffords is an artist/graphic designer/writer/creative person with too many ideas and too little time. She says she can be long-winded who could have turn this contest into a 7000 word story . However, she asked me not to challenge her to do that =). She loves music, reading, and her three dogs. Her family is pretty cool, too, especially her 12 year old niece, who is turning out to be an artist/graphic designer/writer/creative person, too, for which she will take all the credit.Check out her Etsy shop and connect with her on twitter.
Follow the Yellow Face Road
Lauren woke up with a playing card stuck to her cheek. She peeled it off. Instead of a Jack of Hearts or a Queen of Spades staring back at her, it was an emoji.
Beyond the basic smiley, winky, and frowny, she had trouble figuring out what emotions the little yellow faces were trying to express. For instance, the one Twitter described as "weary" looked like it was having a straight up meltdown to her.
This one appeared nervous.
Propped up on the nightstand was another card, with the image of a paintbrush on it.
She texted a picture of the cards to Jason, with a question mark.
He responded with a skull and crossbones icon, wearing a safari hat. She recognized it as the logo of the mini golf course -- Jungle Joe's - which was across the street from one of those studios where you paint your own pottery.
She sent Jason the gif he called the confused frog, but got no response, so she dressed and headed towards Ocean Drive.
"Lauren?" the girl behind the counter asked, as she entered the pottery place.
Lauren nodded. The girl handed her two more cards. On one was the image of a silhouette of a man's head with his brain outlined inside. The other was an apple.
Thinking for a minute, Lauren wondered, "School?"
She drove to the high school. The parking lot was empty, except one car. Beneath the wiper blades were three more cards. One had a bullseye on it and the other a beer. This clue was easy. Whenever they disagreed, she and Jason headed down to the pub to settle things with a game of darts. The winner was declared right. The third card was of a character that looked like the baby of a purple people eater and a traffic cone.
At the pub, the bartender -- wearing a t-shirt with the purple people eater traffic cone creature on it - gave her another card, featuring an icon reminiscent of the ghosts from Pacman.
At the arcade down the street, she found another card with the logo of Jungle Jim's resting on the Pacman machine.
She sent Jason the confused frog gif again.
Her phone dinged with his reply: A picture of a man's hand, holding a stopwatch, followed by a picture of a running frog. They said HURRY, without using the word.
Lauren texted back the picture that looked like three arrows making up a rainbow circle. She hoped Jason got the meaning: Why are you making me go 'round and 'round?
He answered with a pointing emoji that Lauren interpreted to mean, "GO. NOW."
When Lauren got back to Jungle Jim's, Jason waited out front. He handed her three more cards.
One had the diamond ring emoji printed on it.
She tore up the card that had NO written on it. She handed back the one that said YES. And they both smiled, like the happiest of all the happy emojis.
Mariel R. is an ESL teacher, horse trainer, writer, editor, sporadic blogger, and lover of beer. She lives in South Korea with two house cats, three horses, a German Shepherd and three barn cats .
Bear (Gom in Korean) then (above) now (below)
Geumbi (Goldy in English) R.I.P February, 23, 2018