Inspection.

There’s a house inspector here. He is currently running the water in my bathroom and measuring some stuff.

Baxter is supervising. He thinks the man must be here to play with him, but can’t understand why he’s shining flashlights in corners and writing things down. Clearly, anyone who comes into the house does so for Bax’s sake.

As he gets more comfortable, he’ll start twining around the inspector’s legs. I hope the guy is nimble, because I think it would be quite a faux pas if my cat tripped the inspector and broke his neck.

I wonder if Ms. Flight Attendant would still buy the house.

Moving.

My house has a potential buyer. An airline attendant whose hobby is real estate would like to buy my house for her 24-year-old son.

So many things are wrong with that sentence.

In any case, at first the potential buyer wanted vacant tenancy. However, we didn’t know when that was going to be, since her purchase is contingent on the house inspection. Legally, she has to give us two months to move, but when would those two months start from? In all reality, she could leave us dangling until we were fighting for places alongside the August influx of UBC students, or even worse, September.

This whole process has been so invasive. E’s got almost all of his guitars and music stuff stashed at a friend’s. We get the place spruced up for people who don’t show up. And then, we’re told, “You have to move, but I’m not telling you exactly when.”

So we’ve decided to move. We’ll be looking to move June 1. Moving is stressful, but not knowing when is more stressful. So.

Then today I get an email from the realtor, passing on an offer from the potential buyer: Would we like to stay on, with a rent increase of $150, and start paying utilities?

Hunh. Would we? We would not. We don’t have any control of the heat down here. That in itself is okay, since we don’t pay for utilities now. They’re included. But I’m not paying for something I can’t control. Plus, we don’t know if Mr. 24-year-old takes 30-minute showers, or sleeps with all the lights on. Or if he has wild parties. And I don’t like Ms. Flight Attendant enough to pay her mortgage.

Spinach Is Evil.

So in my recent bid to get healthy, eat more fibre, and generally overhaul my life, I’ve started again with the salads for dinner. I tell the kids I’ll pay them five bucks if I don’t have a salad during the 6:30 class. They like the chance to make money, since they a) don’t have jobs and b) know my fondness for chocolate chip cookies.

However, today I didn’t have time to make my salad, so I just bought one of those big boxes of organic, pre-washed spinach, figuring I’d add my own dressing, and voila! Instant delicious salad dinner.

No dice. The spinach made my tongue hurt, kind of like I’d lacerated it with very fine-grit sandpaper. Spinach hates me.

That’s okay. I hate it, too.

Wedding Day.

My neighbours across the street are getting married today!

Alicia looks like a valkyrie who went to all the best schools, and has a head for business like a CEO. Mike makes frequent business trips to China and spends his off-time tooling around in his cherry-red mint 1965 Mustang convertible.

They have lived in sin (“What sin?” asks Alicia. “I”m to old for that stuff!”) for twenty years. However, Mike recently had some medical trouble when he was in China, and the doctors wouldn’t tell Alicia anything because she ‘wasn’t his wife’.

Feminist rants about chattel and antediluvian notions about what constitutes ‘wifedom’ aside, I’m very happy for them. They love parties and they get to have one, at someone else’s house. “I don’t even have to vaccuum!” said Alicia to me yesterday. Then she was quiet for a moment. “It feels weird. I feel like I should learn to bake or something.”

There’s always room for change.

Tragedy.

I have been in a sad dream these past few days. Almost all of my students are Korean by birth, and each feels the need to speak about the terrible shooting at Virginia Tech. It hits very close to them, and each student’s shouders are bowed a little with the unbearable weight, that it was one of their own who committed such an atrocity.

At first glance, their feelings may be hard to understand. How could the shooter’s cultural background matter so much? It’s a cultural thing I’ve been mulling over the last few years, and I still don’t have it completely nailed, but here are some things that I have observed:

Koreans trust each other. Any Korean meeting another Korean for the first time has an entire culture of similarity behind them. As far as I can tell, the Korean definition of ‘friend’ translates roughly to ‘anyone I know who is around my age’. The definition is the same for every Korean I’ve ever met, child, parent, and grandparent. The trust is implicit in the culture. Parents allow academy employees to pick up their children from school and deliver them to the academies for extra learning. Kids in Korea walk or bus home late at night with no fear; Strangers are no threat. However strange this seems to our Western sensibilities, it is their way of life.

A victory for one Korean is a victory for all Koreans. Korea is a nation whose only real resource is its people. There’s some tungsten and stuff to be mined there, but, by and large, Korea’s 50 million brains are their best bet. They’re innovating in medicine and technology faster than I can even think about it. However, just as a victory for one is a victory for all, so too, a failure for one is a failure for all. Failure of one person reflects badly on the whole nation.

Koreans do not lose control. They work hard, they study hard, and they play hard. According to one of my students, businessmen stay out all night drinking whiskey and beer and singing their old school songs. But they do not lose their minds and go on shooting rampages. As well as a ghastly tragedy, the Virginia Tech massacre is considered to be embarassing. There is a feeling that Cho Seung-hui has shamed all Koreans.

I do not know my students as Koreans. I know them as people. And although it hurts me that I cannot say anything to take away their unhappiness, I respect their grief.

Cheesy Jazz Hands.

Several of my students are putting on a whole-school, cast-of-thousands musical.

The younger ones are excited, but the older ones are slightly chagrined.

“It’s…a little babyish,” reports K, hunching his shoulders in a gesture that says ‘I’m in Grade Six and I’m humiliated.’

“They have us dancing in a stupid way,” concurs Moonsung, who’s in Grade Seven.

“Like what?” I ask. Mostly I’m curious. How bad could it be?

They look at each other and grimace. Hmm, must be pretty bad.

Later on, Moonsung shows me. Now, this is pretty amazing on a number of levels. Last September, she was a girl who communicated mostly in shrugs and yesses and noes. Now she’s willing to perform embarassing dance moves? Nice work, girl!
She taps me on the shoulder to get my attention. “We do this.” She does Jazz Hands. “And this.” Shuffles right and then left, sideways, like a crab.

I nod. “Looks like dance moves for even the little kids.”

She nods enthusiastically, pageboy haircut flying. “But we’re not little. It’s just…cheesy!”

I gasp. “Did you just use ‘cheesy’?”

‘Cheesy’ is one of the hardest slang adjectives to teach people from a culture that hasn’t developed its own cheese. Cheese, the milk byproduct, ‘fermented milk solids’ just doesn’t equal ‘tacky and slightly embarassing’. It’s not a natural linguistic leap.
She nods. “Was it right?”

“It was so right. Gimme five.” I reach out my hand and she slaps.

Cheesy or not, she’s come far.

Ambush on Broadway.

I was walking along, minding my own business. I guess it’s my own fault. I should have been more aware of my surroundings. I should have crossed the street and not looked at all. I am taking responsibility for my own actions, believe me. I just wasn’t thinking, that’s all.

All of a sudden, they’re right there in front of me. There’s no last-ditch crosswalk to get me across the street. If I turn around now, they’ll know I saw them. The only option is to run out into traffic, and I’m not going to do it. Why does no one else see my plight?

I face them. I know I can’t show weakness. They run in packs, and they have some kind of inner sense that knows when they can get you.

They approach. I look pleasantly disinterested, but it’s not enough. They hold up their little boxes. “Would you like to buy some Girl Guide cookies?”

I am undone.

Touched.

Today was a mostly sunny day, and I went out, with high hopes, to get some supplies for the cherry-blossom bags.

I think the sun brought out some of the more unusual denizens of the city. I met one of them on the bus.

The woman in the blue tea-cosy hat had long brown unkempt hair. She was a happy soul, china-blue eyes wide and aware of everything around her. The politically correct term is ‘developmentally delayed’, but it’s more poetic and more fitting to her sweet demeanor to say she was touched by the fairies.

She sat behind me and asked, “What’s that book?”

I showed her the cover. “It’s a murder mystery. Only a really evil guy gets killed, so it’s a mystery but not too shocking. He deserves it.”

“Wow. So you read it before?”

I nodded. “But it’s nice to read the story again.”

She agreed that it was nice to do that sometimes. Then she asked, “Are your toes always so pink?”

I glanced down at my be-flip-flopped feet. “Yeah. They usually are. I can’t take them out in the sun much or they get pinker.”

“They’re cute. I’m going to North Vancouver, you know by the garden centre? They’re having free hot dogs over there,” she informed me.

I was sorry that my stop was coming up. “That sounds like a good idea,” I said. “Enjoy your hot dogs.”

“Thanks. Enjoy your day!” she said, and waved gaily as I got off the bus.

It Made Me Mad.

Recently one of our neighbours came over with a bunch of ‘light reading’ books she thought I might be interested in. Since I am addicted to reading, sure enough, I did want them. Sometimes I just can’t get to the library, you know?

One of them has me fuming. This author, who shall remain nameless here, is an appalling writer. Here’s my list of complaints:

She has an allegedly ‘feisty’ heroine whose feist seems to be limited to stumbling into the most far-fetched of situations and being able to draw conclusions based on the most tenuous of connections.

She builds suspense through “Hmm, I sense something’s off about him,” thoughts in her characters. Furthermore, she uses the third person limited omniscient to build what she is labouring under the illusion is called suspense: IE, May wondered if there was something wrong with Jack.

She has characters doing totally random things. Why was there a boring couple writing an article on how to have an exciting relationship? Was it meant to be funny? Then why was the husband a closet Lothario? No reason? Oh, right, then.

She ‘plots’ by having people do seemingly random things, and then explains it all at the end through an implausible ten-second conversation: Someone was causing havoc in the novel with small acts of vandalism. On the fifth-to-last page of the book, two other characters have a conversation where they decide to stop telling the bellboy to commit the acts of vandalism, now that their clothing line is going to be famous. Okay. One, this is how you tie up a mystery when you are in Grade Four. Second, the vandalism had no actual effect on the characters’ fate or the plot of the book.

This woman has a multi-book deal. I am convinced I need to keep writing, because, by God, I know I can write better than she can.

Green Bean Casserole.

So I was at an Easter dinner last night at Fran and Jim’s.

These affairs are always a little ragtag. We invite whoever hasn’t another place to go for holiday meals. Last night there were fourteen of us.

My friend Julie brought green bean casserole. It was fabulous! I’ve read about it in novels: You know, green beans with mushroom soup and some crunchy onions? Yeah. It’s in books set in New Jersey and Brooklyn.

It was a true cultural experience.

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