Tuesday, April 12, 2005

the day of ups and downs

I got out of the house around 7:45 today; the renovators were there when I left. I had to stay in the neighborhood, though, because my buddy Jang-woong had called the Dacom internet people to swing by and pick up my two cable modems, which have been sitting there, uselessly, in my domicile. This pickup is the final stage in my cancellation of their service, since I'll be moving into a dorm with a LAN hookup. I had two modems because Dacom did my setup twice, once for each time I'd moved (to Jangui-dong and to Bongch'eon-dong). Unfortunately, the Dacom folks couldn't give Jang-woong a specific arrival time: "early or late afternoon," is what Jang-woong told me. Nice. I missed a second opportunity to get on base with Charlie and George because of that.

The Dacom guy called around 1:30PM; I rushed back to my place and gave him the modems. Saw Adjoshi, our pretend foreman; he was taking the liberty of drinking bottled water from out of my refrigerator when I walked into my place. Gonna have to buy some more water this evening. Maybe an extra bottle for him to suck on. I collected my possessions and left again without a word.

The next part of my day was devoted to sitting in a PC-bahng and reading the entire screenplay of "Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith," which can be found here, if you truly want the world's biggest spoiler. If the script is any indication, the movie ought to be pretty action-packed. Kenobi comes off as a big wuss at all the critical moments except the most important one.

My teeth have been killing me all day. Might have to get the removal done earlier than expected, and not just one tooth, but two: the upper left wisdom tooth and the molar right next to it. The wisdom tooth, as I mentioned before, has a huge cavity in its side, and that cavity has reached the nerve and sits right at the gumline, allowing food inside, which I have to dig out (painfully) with one of those little metal dental hooks made for household use. The next-door molar also feels pitted when I tongue it, and the mere sensation of the tongue sliding over its surface makes it hurt like hell. So it's gotta go, too. I've been doing some online and offline research about dentists, and have some idea about prices now (they vary widely from clinic to clinic, and also depend on how complex the tooth removal turns out to be), and which dentists to avoid.

I got some aspirin and some chewing gum for my teeth. The chewing gum temporarily made the problem worse, but after an hour of chewing, when I spat the gum out, my teeth relaxed so much that I was relatively pain-free. Just to be sure, I took four aspirins. Things have been painless for about three hours now.

Am running low on funds as I await my first Smoo payment. They pay on the 15th (May 15 being my first payday), and my first payment will be only for the work I do in the final week of April. Not much. Luckily, I'm getting a bit from my class with 10-year-old Min-sung in Apkujeong, but there's still the question of where I'm going to get the money for yet another plane ticket to Osaka for the visa changeover.

A partial solution presented itself last night: another teaching opportunity that, if I work it right, should occur in the evenings. I'll have to ask for pay in advance, and even that probably won't cover the roughly W600,000 (about $600) I'll need to go to Osaka, process my new visa, and come back. I have to visit Smoo tomorrow and see if they'll give me an advance to cover the cost of the flight, otherwise Uncle Kevin might not be able to get his work visa.

Min-sung, my tutoree, was good tonight but a bit tired-looking. Like many 10-year-olds in Korea, his days consist of school and homework, plus private tutoring and hagwons. I'm simply one of several teachers in his life, though I suspect I'm one of his favorites. We're doing real work this time, not just free talk, and he's balking a bit, but he's a naturally good student so I don't expect much resistance.

Min-sung reported that the family very much enjoyed my seafood white sauce and fettucine-- his big sister Min-young in particular really loved it (Min-sung has two big sisters; the eldest, Min-ah, is in Canada).

Min-sung also seems to have developed a strange tic. It was somewhat alarming, because I don't recall seeing it last week or the week before. His head kept jerking to the left. I decided to be frank with him and ask him what was up. He didn't know-- in fact, at first, he was wondering what I was talking about. The tic came and went. Whenever Min-sung would talk to me, or whenever he stood up to do one of his little superhero battle pantomimes (he's always concocting preposterous fight scenes) there was no tic. But whenever he was listening to me, or reading aloud from the book, the tic would be there, and it was disturbing to see. A strange, irrational thought-- Parkinson's-- flashed into my head, but I don't think a kid that young can have Parkinson's, nor do I think it can manifest itself that suddenly. I jokingly asked Min-sung whether he'd been hit in the head recently, but I was really fishing for an etiology.

And just now, another thought erupted in my mind: "Awakenings." Remember the character Lenny, played so poignantly by Robert DeNiro? Remember the uncontrollable tics he developed as he slid back into his previous catatonia? God help me, I'm reminded of those.

Maybe I'm just scared for Min-sung. I hope this is nothing. Maybe it's just a little boy experimenting with some "move" he thinks might be cool-- just tossing his hair back too much. But that's not what it looked like to me: it looked involuntary, and when I asked Min-sung (in Korean, to make sure there was no misunderstanding), "Are you doing that on purpose?", he said no. At one point he jokingly held his head with both hands, as if he could stop the twitching that way.

Tics like that are a symptom, not a cause. But a symptom of what? Something nerve-related? It sure as hell can't be something psychological-- no one in Min-sung's wonderful family strikes me as outside the normal range, and I can't imagine that he suffered some horrible trauma over the weekend. Is it physical? Is it going to continue? I'm afraid of what I'm going to see on Thursday. If I were the praying type, I'd be doing a lot of praying tonight: Let it be nothing. Please let it be nothing.

I'll tell you more on Thursday.

The trip home tonight was punctuated by an old man who got on around Shindang Station, which is where Lines 2 and 6 meet (I was on Line 6). The doors hissed closed and the old man farted loudly right next to me. It was a good, healthy, 2- or 3-second-long fart. Thoughts of Min-sung were temporarily erased as I experienced a mix of disgust, horror, and a desperate need to laugh. I couldn't hide my expression, either, and the old guy saw my stifled laughter as I was turning away from him. He got off at the very next station, perhaps too embarrassed by his foul deed to remain on the same subway car with us. Luckily, his fart followed the "loud = odorless" rule (fart connoisseurs ruefully note that not all farts follow this rule). I spent much of the rest of my ride trying to wipe that goofy expression off my face, eventually settling on a look somewhere between bemusement and incredulity. Just so you know: I was standing by the doors, and the lady sitting next to me can confirm I didn't fart because her head was so close to my ass.

So if you're the praying type, maybe say a prayer for little Min-sung, even if he doesn't need it. I'm skipping out on Namsan this evening in favor of a quiet dinner alone, a bit of Harry Potter, and another perusal of the textbooks I'll be using at Smoo in the weeks ahead. I've got a Smoo meeting tomorrow to look forward to; here's hoping I can persuade the office to offer me an advance. If not, I'm fucked, so... while I hate to do this:

You can make a PayPal donation to me using bighominid@gmail.com as the address. I'll have to pay you back in June, when I receive my first major payment. If twenty people contributed $30 each, my immediate problem would be solved.

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