You are currently browsing the monthly archive for December 2008.

Well, here we are. December 31, 2008. A year ago, I was in Israel, getting ready for a night of Jerusalem bars and kosher hamburgers with garlic mayo. Let’s review the past year:

High points:

Interning at the Baltimore Sun. Sam Zell can’t offer me a buyout/fire me if I’m not getting paid!

Scoring the first season of Greek on DVD from the free-stuff table in the Sun’s newsroom. Nobody likes a social piranha!

Graduating from Maryland. For this, I credit all the wine I drank as I wrote my papers senior year. Example:

“The survey results raise new and troubling questions regarding public opinion of the media. An article published in 2007 in the Albany Times Union begs the question, “Ever notice the loudest claims of bias come from the most partisan on both the left and right?,” yet so few Democrats are crying foul over the media coverage of the current administration.”

On second thought, maybe I shouldn’t have had so much wine…

The only shot of me walking across the stage.  The entire time, I was terrified of falling because my heels had no traction.

The only shot of me walking across the stage. The entire time, I was terrified of falling because my (hot red) heels had no traction.

Backpacking through Europe. I truly had no idea I was capable of planning an entire trip, but somehow, I did it. In two weeks, Tor and I made our way through France, Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany, with a 20-minute drive into Austria. I truly anticipated disaster at every step along the way, but somehow, we made it back to the States safe and sound (and with our friendship still intact, despite some predictions).

Bonjour from the Arc de Triomphe!

Bonjour from the Arc de Triomphe!

Every meal eaten at Kramerbooks in Dupont. I have documentation from some of them here:

Butternut squash and goat cheese ravioli on Erin's birthday in January.  I believe it was on this night that we decided that when I am proposed to, my fiancee will need to do it by hiding the ring inside one of the ravioli.

Butternut squash and goat cheese ravioli on Erin's birthday in January. I believe it was on this night that we decided that when I am proposed to, my fiancee will need to hide the ring inside one of the raviolis.

This was the weekend after graduation.  Rach and I had a great day at the Newseum and concluded it by meeting up with Beth at Kramerbooks.  That was my last night in College Park before I moved home.

This was the weekend after graduation. Rach and I had a great day at the Newseum and concluded it by meeting up with Beth at Kramerbooks. That was my last night in College Park before I moved home.

This was in September after my goodbye party in Dupont.  We were en route to Adams Morgan, and I was so, SO tempted to stop by Kramerbooks for one last meal of--you guessed it--butternut squash and goat cheese ravioli.

This was in September after my goodbye party in Dupont. We were en route to Adams Morgan, and I was so, SO tempted to stop by Kramerbooks for one last meal of--you guessed it--butternut squash and goat cheese ravioli.

Scoring a sick job with the City of Kingston. Working at the Visitors’ Center was truly one of the best jobs I’ve had. Plus, the world’s best cannolis were right across the street.

You can use the nice, clean bathrooms there free of charge instead of waiting in line for ages at Mariner's Harbor across the street.  This infinitely improved my quality of life at the Hooley on the Hudson this year.

Fun fact about the Visitors' Center that I didn't know until working there: You can use the nice, clean bathrooms there free of charge instead of waiting in line for ages at Mariner's Harbor across the street. This infinitely improved my quality of life at the Hooley on the Hudson this year.

Getting my first post-college job. Granted, teaching English isn’t going to be my career. But for a first “real” job, it’s pretty decent.

dsc00563

Packing up my life and moving to Korea. I still have those moments where I’m just walking home from the bus or sitting at a cafe and the thought pops into my head: “Holy crap, I live in Korea.” I live in Korea. I’ve built myself a life here in a tiny country I couldn’t even point to on a map four months ago, and that’s just awesome. A few weeks before I moved here, I said to a friend that I think I’m the kind of person who could be happy living just about anywhere. I’m not sure I entirely believed it at the time, but I truly do now. Leaving everything and everyone I know back in the States for a year is likely to be one of the toughest things I ever do, but if I can do this, I think I can do anything in the world.

dsc00321

Low points:

Leaving The Diamondback. I had a job where I came into work in sweats and played Rock, Paper, Scissors to see what stories I’d have to edit. I made some great friends and memories in that stuffy newsroom, and it broke my heart to leave. I know not everyone leaves there on such good terms, but I think that my only regret–at least, in terms of the DBK–is that I waited so long before getting involved. And maybe accidentally printing an anonymous source’s name.

n5700251_39407053_3699

Working at (and then being fired from) Roudigan’s Steakhouse. I don’t know what else to say about it except for that I’m very glad that was only a brief chapter in my year. And even though I had never been fired before, I’m pretty sure your boss is supposed to tell you that you’ve been canned, and not just leave you off the schedule one week. I find it shocking that I was fired for apparently requesting too much time off (I believe three weekends over the course of two months, which seems like a lot until you factor in the two or three weekdays I worked each week), yet cooks were dealing coke out of the kitchen and kept their jobs. Interestingly, a quick Google search has revealed that when you enter “Roudigan’s Steakhouse,” the third link that comes up is a want ad for a host/hostess.

Working at a summer camp for about eight hours. I hate nature, I hate children (not Korean children, don’t worry). I don’t know why I thought I’d like working at a camp. Especially one that doesn’t really have any facilities other than a bathroom in the pool changing area and a couple gazebos. That job was a recipe for disaster, but also made me more determined to get a better job in a timely fashion. Enter: Mayor Sottile and the Visitors’ Center.

So now I welcome 2009 with open arms. I was thinking about what I’m most looking forward to, and when it comes down to it, I think I’m just excited to see and understand more of this world that we live in. So bring on the new year, with its new challenges, new friends and new experiences. I’m so ready for it.

First of all, an apology to Rachel Nomberg, who was a classmate of Natalee Holloway’s at Mountain Brook High School in Birmingham, Ala.  Secondly, Rach, you almost knew TWO people who disappeared in foreign countries.  Too far?

Alright, but for real, back into the swing of things.  So here I am, midway through the weekend.  I guess I should tell you about my adventures last weekend before I forget them.  With the entire weekend off (hollllllla), I was set on having a fantastic 48 hours.  My weekend started last Friday evening, when I grabbed a quick bite to eat with Karen down the street.  The restaurant’s dining area was no bigger than my freshman year dorm room, with enough seats for perhaps a dozen people.  We shared a sort of rice porridge, which came in a big bowl with chopped beef and mushrooms.  Absolutely delicious and filling and–best of all–the entire bowl was only seven bucks, and it came with a sweet tea.

After dinner, we walked into Suyu to pick up a birthday cake for our friend Bill.  After choosing a cute one with sugar airplanes and stars on top, we headed over to Penelope for the third Friday night in a row.  As soon as Bill got there, he threw down his coat and bolted out of the restaurant.  Why?  To go to a local store and buy “conditioner.”  Not the conditioner we use on our hair, but some sort of drink that is supposed to, if you take it before you start drinking, prevent a hangover the next day.  Not gonna bury the lede here–it didn’t work, according to a text from Bill the next night.  Anyway, here are a few shots stolen from Facebook…

Bill was in this position for well over a minute.  We have it on video.

Bill was in this position for well over a minute. We have it on video.

Finally, the blowing of candles

Finally, the blowing of candles

This was just a cute shot

This was just a cute shot

So around 11 p.m., I left Penelope and met up with a friend who was living in Suyu.  We went back to his place and had some beer and listened to music, then around midnight, decided we were hungry.  Well, Matt decided he was hungry.  I was still full from the birthday cake.  We went to a local restaurant I hadn’t been to yet.  The place was sort of like Korean barbecue, but not.  The meat is cooked over a flame at the table, and you’re given garlic and onions and sauces and spices and all that good stuff.  But instead of wrapping the meat in a lettuce leaf, we used pickled radish.  Sounds a little weird, but it was delicious.  A few bottles of soju later and somehow, it was 3 a.m.  It was around that time that I got up to use the restroom.  While I was waiting, the woman in the stall started speaking Korean to me.  When she came out and realized I wasn’t her friend, she asked me where I was from.  I told her New York, and she said she used to live in Queens and shook my hand (BEFORE WASHING HER HAAAAANDS EW EW EW).  I did my business and returned to the table to tell Matt what had just happened.  Just as I was starting my story, the waiter came over with a bottle of soju and told us it was from the woman I met in the bathroom.  We decided that we’d both had enough soju, but apparently that wasn’t acceptable to this woman.  When Matt went over to give it back to her, she made him sit down at the table.  Not one to miss out of fun stuff, I walked over and she made me sit down as well.  She and her sister spent the next half hour making the two of us take soju shots with them.  At one point, the one I met in the bathroom gave us her card.  Here it is, albeit backwards (I used Photobooth to take the picture, so it’s a mirror-image shot):

Even though it's flipped, you can still see that it says "fox."  We both burst out laughing when we saw this, and Matt tried to explain to the woman that in English, "fox" means "sexy lady."  I don't think she understood what he was saying.

Even though it's flipped, you can still see that it says "fox." We both burst out laughing when we saw this, and Matt tried to explain to the woman that in English, "fox" means "sexy lady." I don't think she understood what he was saying.

And yes, the card IS gold.  Well, gold-colored.  So after the card exchange, my bathroom mate (who looked about 27 but claimed to be 43) told me that I had to come with her when we were done at the restaurant.  She didn’t say why, just that I had to come with her to her store for an hour.  Then her sister started stroking my hair (which I’ll admit, thanks to my new Korean straightener, is sleeker and shinier than ever) and arm and telling me I was beautiful (duh) and sexy (duh again) and had a small face (um, what?).  It was then and there that I decided they were trying to kidnap me to sell me into some sort of Asian prostitution ring.  After a little while of this, Matt and I decided it would be a good time to leave and get away from these crazy women.  We went up to pay, but just as I took my wallet out, one of the woman grabbed my arm and pulled me out the door, leaving Matt with the bill.  When he came outside, we started briskly walking away from the women, who shouted after us until we were too far away to hear them.  We finally hit the main intersection, but there were no cabs at the corner.  Behind us, we heard a increasingly loud “clip clop, clip clop.”  The women had run a block and a half down the sidewalk to catch up with us!  After a few more minutes of them trying to take me and Matt using his broken Korean to explain that I wasn’t leaving with them, they peaced out for good.  As soon as they were gone–really gone–I hopped into a cab and headed back to SEV, completely in shock and trying to process what had just happened.

Anyway, that was the story of my ridiculous night, and I wanted to get it all down before I forgot about it.  Lesson learned from the night?  Don’t trust any woman who initiates a handshake before washing her hands in a public restroom.

I’ve read some blog posts that are absolutely incoherent. Hell, I’ve written quite a few. But usually they follow a few glasses of wine or a long solo drive with too much thinking time. I’m hoping that whatever comes after these words is a little more readable.

I got an e-mail from my mother Tuesday morning, literally two minutes before walking out the door to work, telling me that my grandfather passed away. I kept rereading the e-mail, waiting for the words to sink in, waiting to feel something, waiting for anything. But nothing happened. Just a numbing shock. But not even REAL shock. My 83-year-old grandfather, up until last summer, was in better physical shape than anyone else in my family. He golfed regularly, he went to the gym, he stayed active. This July, after a year of hospital visits, routine procedures and not-so-procedural hospital slip-ups, he suffered a massive stroke, and that was when we all knew things weren’t ever going to be the same again.

The week before I left for Korea, on a visa run down to New York City, I went to the rehab facility where my grandfather was, so I could say goodbye. I didn’t fully know what kind of goodbye I was saying at the time, but I hadn’t discounted anything at the time. I brushed away tears as I walked out of his room to the car and headed into Manhattan to get my visa. A week later, I boarded my plane mere miles from the Brooklyn rehab center where my grandfather was.

I had said my goodbyes, I had made peace with the idea that not only would I not be be in the States in the event that my grandfather did pass away, but that I would miss the funeral and subsequent shiva.

But making peace with an idea is a lot different than dealing with something when it smacks you in the face. In this case, I got smacked at 8:30 in the morning, too early to be a good time for anyone to get smacked by anything. My morning classes went by in a blur; I can’t remember a single thing from the three hours I spent teaching Cooking. It was in those few hours that it began to really hit me. The only grandfather I’d known (my mother’s father passed away a few years before I was born) was gone. The Weisses are not a big clan, and I was one of only two grandkids on that side of the family. To say I was doted on would be putting it lightly–Joanna and I were both spoiled rotten. When I was younger, trips to my grandparents’ house in Brooklyn always included a trip to the toy store. By the time I was 11, I’d already had my hair permed four times, each time going to the salon around the corner from my grandparents’ house. My grandparents were the ultimate Jewish bubbye and zayde (though we never used those names, weirdly enough), and that rocked.

So by the time my third class ended Tuesday, I wordlessly had a few bites of lunch and then came back to my apartment. After a brief phone call home, I spent the rest of my lunch hour crying. It’s one thing to be at home and going through this, surrounded by other grieving relatives. While mentally prepping for the move to Korea, the idea that I’d be going through this alone never crossed my mind. It’s just not something you think about, you know? I don’t think I’ve ever felt as empty and defeated in my life as I did earlier this week.

Now it’s nearly a week later. That emptiness is still there, but some of it has been replaced by sadness. I’m sad that I’m missing sitting shiva, I’m sad that I couldn’t be there for my family. I’m just sad. But I’ve got some good friends here, and a support network that literally extends around the globe, and I am eternally grateful for the stream of IMs and e-mails that have come over the past few days.

Now that I’m over the initial shock, I can process my feelings. It’s taken a couple days, but I’m finally able to turn my thoughts into words here. And then think some more.

It’s weird to think that, when I eventually make my way back to the States, I will no longer have a reason to go to Brooklyn. I went from going every month (or at least what felt like it) as a child with the rest of my family to going for some holidays with my father and sister to spending a night, just my grandfather and I, whenever I made the Kingston-to-College Park trip. In recent years, I’d gotten to know my grandfather a lot better thanks to those overnight stops, and I’m grateful for that. I know my visits brightened him up as his friends and neighbors began to leave, and especially after his brother passed away in 2006.

I suppose the one thing I have really, truly made peace with is that he is finally at peace. My grandmother’s four-year illness took a toll on the whole family, and after she passed away in 2001, nothing was ever the same. I know that, after she died, he began to question his faith much more than he ever had. To hear that as a loud-and-proud Jewish teenager should have been terrifying to me, but at the time, it was oddly comforting to know that there truly is never an age at which one stops questioning his beliefs.

I learned a lot from my grandfather, but more than the lessons he didn’t realize he was teaching me were the memories I have that essentially sum up who he, at least in his final two decades, had come to be:

-The first time I ever spent the night on my way down to College Park, I stayed awake, as usual, longer than my grandfather. I probably went to bed around 11 p.m., but something was keeping me up and I couldn’t figure out what. Finally, I figured it out–I had left my crappy Dell laptop in my car and didn’t think to lock my car, even though I was in New York City, because I am a huge, huge idiot. I silently freaked out for a few minutes until I decided that I had to wake up my grandfather so that he could deactivate the security alarm for me to get outside to lock the car. I expected him to be pissed (though in all fairness, I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen him pissed), but he was cool with it all. Very few people would be OK with being woken up in the middle of the night for something this unimportant.

-My entire childhood, every visit down to the city would involve my grandfather trying to trick Joanna and I into believing that he had canceled all of the TV stations we watched. I’m pretty sure it only worked once or twice, though I have a feeling Joanna will tell you never. You can bet I got my Degrassi fix when I went down there.

-About a year and a half ago, I stopped in Brooklyn for a night on the way back up to Kingston. I went out for dinner with my grandfather and his girlfriend, Mary (oh yeah, at the ripe age of 82, my grandfather had a girlfriend). My meal came with a complimentary glass of wine, and not being 21 yet, I flashed my fake, and the waiter decided not to question the fake ID of a girl out with elderly relatives. As he walked away, this:
My grandfather: “Wait a minute…you’re not 21.”
Me: “I know…”
Mary: “Oh Sandy, it’s those fake IDs. All the kids have them now.”
My grandfather: “Oh.”
Me: “Wanna see?”
My grandfather then inspected my ID, deemed it passable and I drank half of the absolutely disgusting, cheap wine (And I’m not one to dislike wine). When I couldn’t finish the glass, he did.

-When I first began writing for The Diamondback, I would excitedly cut out my clips and send them to my grandparents, because neither one had a computer.  As time went on and I had several stories published each week, I stopped cutting them out and sending them off.  But the novelty of seeing my byline began to wear off, to the point where I wouldn’t even read my stories in the paper the next day except for to skim for inserted errors.  I truly regret that I stopped mailing my clips out (well, except for this one.  Something tells me my grandparents wouldn’t have gotten a kick out of it…).  But while The Diamondback doesn’t circulate up in New York, USA Today does.  Whenever I had a blurb in the On Deadline section of the Nationline column, I’d give my grandfather a call and tell him to pick up a copy of the next day’s paper.  When I visited this past summer, a year after my stint at the paper, I remember seeing random page 3As scattered around the house.  My grandfather wasn’t a journalist, but he understood how important writing was to me.  I couldn’t help but smile when I’d move around papers on the table looking for the remote control and come across an old clip instead.

-At our family’s Passover seder in 2007, we drove out to Long Island to see some of my cousins. My sister told a story about how she had recently gone to Atlantic City and gambled and bought a drink. My grandfather put on this great act and pretended to be extremely disappointed in her and gave a lecture about the evils of drinking and gambling (and then proceeded to have several glasses of wine at the seder). One of my cousins captured the Kodak moment:

n5700272_33894041_136Sadly, that’s the only picture I have of him here.

-The one thing I just didn’t understand about my grandfather was how he ate his pasta. Most people, they put spaghetti sauce on pasta, right? Right. Well, not my grandfather. He topped every bowl of pasta with ketchup (“They’re both made from tomatoes–it’s like the same thing!”).

-My absolute favorite story, hands down, took place years ago. I was probably in middle school or just starting high school. My grandfather had come up for a weekend to visit, and took me shopping at the local mall. When we hit the checkout line at Old Navy, he told the cashier that he was my sugar daddy. At 14, I was mortified. At 22, I find it really, really funny.

Like the blog title said, this is the post I never thought I’d write. But now I have, and I feel better for it. Maybe it isn’t too coherent, but I really don’t care. My mind has been cloudy all week, and getting some of these thoughts out of my head and into this blog was the only thing I could think to do. Now that it’s all down on virtual paper, the moving-on process can begin. Starting now.

Sanford Ira Weiss, z”l

המקום ינחם אתכם בתוך שאר אבלי ציון וירושלים

OK, here’s my big appeal for help. SEV is giving us a week off at the end of January, which, when you factor in weekends, turns into a week and a half. Now here is the question–WHERE ON EARTH (well, Asia) SHOULD I GO???

To help me in my decision-making process, I’ve created a spreadsheet of pros and cons (because anyone who knows me can attest to my love of the ubiquitous pro/con list). It is my first Google Doc spreadsheet, and possibly my first spreadsheet period since freshman year of college, so don’t be too harsh and judgey.  At the moment, I can’t figure out how to get the spreadsheet onto my blog (because apparently that online journalism class I took and built a website for last year taught me nothing), so bear with me and go the extra mile and click on the spreadsheet link.  Nothing to download, and the page loads quickly, I swear.

Obviously these aren’t all of the options, and that’s where you folks come in. If you have any suggestions, any at all, please, I beg you, throw ’em at me! What should I do? Where should I go? Keep in mind time (a week and a half), budget (around $2,000) and my attention span and need for a hot shower on a semi-regular basis.

Absolutely not options: Australia/New Zealand, Israel (much as it breaks my heart) and coming back to America. Sorry, it just ain’t happening.

Thank you all in advance for helping me out, and I promise to take your words of advice and wisdom into consideration as I figure this out!

Well, I’m sick again. Sick and grumpy. I’m tired of the Korean meds that I get from the random pharmacies around town–they just don’t work. And I know it’s not because it’s crappy medicine, but that my body is used to the much stronger stuff you can buy in America. I’m just so frustrated by the fact that I’ve been in less-than-stellar health on and off for the last two months. Understandable, right?

In an effort to update the blog for the first time in a week, I’ll show you some of the letters kids wrote to me in Post Office. These are my personal favorites:

I personally like the hearts over the 'i's

I personally like the hearts over the 'i's

This kid was cute.  How can you not love someone who says you have a happy smile?

This kid was cute. How can you not love someone who says you have a happy smile?

A girl I had in Cooking wrote/drew this for me.  Incidently, I wasn't wearing my glasses when I taught the class.  Smart girl to know I have crappy eyesight!

A girl I had in Cooking wrote/drew this for me. Incidently, I wasn't wearing my glasses when I taught the class. Smart girl to know I have crappy eyesight!

This kid asked me for change on the first day of class, but I didn't have change for 5000 won so he could get a drink, so I gave him a 1000 won bill I had found on the ground earlier and he was totally confused.

Preface: This kid asked me for change on the first day of class, but I didn't have change for 5000 won so he could get a drink, so I gave him a 1000 won bill I had found on the ground earlier and he was totally confused.

Here are the close-ups of the drawings:

OK, so the machine is not accepting his money (and making a "chicki chicki" noise as it spits the money out), then he sees me and asks if I have change...

OK, so the machine is not accepting his money (and making a "chichi chichi" noise as it spits the money out), then he sees me and asks if I have change...

Now I am giving him the money I found on the ground, and he's entirely baffled by the situation, as evidenced by the "What????????"

Now I am giving him the money I found on the ground, and he's entirely baffled by the situation, as evidenced by the "What????????"

LOVED that kid.

And there you have it, my favorite letters to date. It’s almost noon here, which means a trip down to the cafeteria to get some (hopefully edible) food. Worst case scenario, I have a can of Campbell’s condensed chicken soup here, and I’m not afraid to use it, especially on a day like today.

I started this post in a terrible mood, but after reading these letters, my spirits have been lifted.  Plus, there’s a light snow falling outside, and nothing makes me happier than snow.