Thursday, November 29, 2007

if you want to help the GS and our other friends:

This is the official appeal from the Migrants' Trade Union. Scroll to the bottom to find a sample letter and people to send it to. Please be sure to mention Kajiman (president), Raju (vice-president) and Masum (General Secretary/my partner) in any letter you write. They've all been torn away from their lives here in Korea in nearly identical circumstances. Thanks to anyone who decides to send a letter.
Urgent Call for International Solidarity

Migrants' Trade Union Leadership Arrested on November 27th.
Stop the Repression against KCTU affiliate Migrants' Trade Union!
Free President Kajiman and other Imprisoned Union Officers!
Stop the Crackdown and Deportations!

1. Background

On the morning of November 27, MTU President Kajiman, Vice President Raju and General Secretary Masum were arrested, in what was clearly a targeted crackdown against the leadership of MTU. We, the KCTU and the Seoul-Gyeonggi-Incheon Migrants' Trade Union call on the international labor and human rights community to do whatever in their power to secure the release of the MTU leadership and end this labor repression against MTU.
At roughly 9:20am on November 27, President Kajiman was leaving his home in order to attend a plan protest in front of Seoul Immigration Office when he was confronted by more than 10 immigration officers who had been hiding in front of his house. The immigration officers restrained the Korean activist with President Kajiman and then encircled the president. After protesting strongly, President Kajiman was eventually arrested, his shoulder hurt in the process.
General Secretary Masum also left his house the morning of the 27 in order to attend the protest in front of Seoul Immigration. As he walked down the street he was passed by four 4 large men who were laughing amongst themselves. He originally did not pay attention to them; however, immediately after roughly 10 immigration officers came up from behind him. He was suddenly surrounded by nearly 20 people and despite protesting was eventually arrested.
At roughly the same time Vice President Raju was confronted by 4 immigration officers in front of the factory where he worked. Upon seeing the vice president, the immigration officers immediately attempted to handcuff him, but failed due to his forceful protest. When Vice President Raju demanded to see the officers' identification cards, they presented them along with a prepared detention order. Despite his protests the vice president was also eventually arrested.
Soon after all three men were sent to a detention center in Cheongju, Northern Choongjeong Provience, south of the capital Seoul.

2. Clear Labor Repression

The simultaneous arrest of three MTU leaders, is a clearly a targeted attack, planed in timing with an intensification of the crackdown against undocumented migrants in South Korea. Since the beginning of August of this year, the government has carried out a mass-scale crackdown in an attempt to reduce the number of undocumented migrants in the country. During this time more than 20 MTU members and officers have been arrested.
By their own admission, despite this crackdown, the numbers have not significantly decreased. Thus, Immigration Control has stepped up the crackdown in the last several weeks. At the same time a proposal is being put forth to revise South Korea's immigration law to make it completely legal to carry out the crackdown continuously without any procedures, such as requiring warrants or detention orders, to protect the human rights of the people it targets. The government has clearly stepped up its repression against MTU leadership at this moment in order to get rid of the force that has been at the forefront of the struggle against the crackdown.

3. Call for Solidarity

We, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions and affiliate the Seoul-Gyeonggi-Incheon Migrants' Trade Union, make an urgent appeal to you to do whatever you can to support our struggle to free the arrested union leaders and end the barbaric crackdown underway in South Korea.

In particular we are calling for protest letters to the Ministry of Justice, Minister Jung Seong-Jin +82-2-503-3532 or +82-2-500-9128.

Please be sure to send a copy to KCTU by +82-2-2635-1134(fax) or e-mail at

We wish you also to know that KCTU and MTU are by no means deterred by this attack. MTU has already selected a temporary leadership and we have already planned protests for the next days. We are currently making further preparations and will mobilize every means possible to win the release of MTU's leaders.

If you have any questions or need more information, please contact:

Lee Changgeun
International Executive Director
Korean Confederation of Trade Unions
Tel.: +82-2-2670-9234 Fax: +82-2-2635-1134
E-mail: Web-site :
2nd Fl. Daeyoung Bld., 139 Youngdeungpo-2-ga, Youngdeungpo-ku, Seoul 150-032 Korea

Liem Wol-san
International Coordinator
Seoul-Gyeonggi-Incheon Migrants' Trade Union(MTU)-affiliated to KCTU
Tel : +82-2--2285-6068
Email: Website:


Mr. Jung Seong-Jin
Minister of Justice
Seoul, South Korea

Dear Minister Jung,

On the morning of November 27 between 9:00 and 9:30, the president, vice president and general secretary of the KCTU affiliate, Seoul-Gyeonggi-Incheon Migrants' Trade Union, were arrested, each in front of his separate home or workplace. This event has already received international attention. It is clear from the form in which the arrests took place that this was a targeted crackdown meant to silence MTU and the opposition struggle it has lead against the anti-human rights crackdown being carried out against undocumented migrants in South Korea. That this was a meditated act of repression is also apparent from the fact that the arrests came at the same time as the South Korean Immigration Control Office is stepping up its crackdown and a proposal is being put forth the revise immigration law to make it possible to carry out the crackdown continuously with complete disregard for the most basic procedures to protect human rights.

The arrests of the MTU leadership is a gross violation of human rights and a horrendous act of labor repression which targets not only migrant workers and MTU but also the KCTU, the 15 million workers it represents and the international labor community. As such, we will not remain silent.

We therefore forcefully call on you to meet the following demands:
-Immediately release President Kajiman, Vice President Raju and General Secretary Masum!
-Stop the targeted crackdown and labor repression against MTU!
-Stop the crackdown and deportation of undocumented migrant workers!


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Yesterday was a day full of fear, terror and tears. The thing we always knew could happen in Korea finally came to be. The GS was arrested.

The General Secretary, by some miracle, left our house early yesterday so that he could get ready for the day's event-- a protest at the Immigration Office and Detention Center. We said our goodbyes and I got in the shower. About 30 minutes later, I got an urgent call from a friend asking the whereabouts of the GS. "Uh, on the bus, I think." "But you don't know?" said the friend. "No." Very pregnant pause. "Well, we know that Raju and Kajiman were arrested this morning. Raju at his workplace and Kajiman in front of his house. And, uh, the GS turned off his phone." "What do you mean he turned off his phone? He was on it just before he walked out the door." "It's off. I think he was arrested too, but no one knows for sure yet." End of conversation.

I am panicking. I haven't even left the house yet. I try to call the GS and indeed, his phone is off. I try 5 more times anyhow, all with the same result. About 10 minutes later, another phone call. "Where is the GS?" "Fuck! I don't know where the GS is. I was hoping you would tell me." "I don't know. I'll call you when I have more news." By this time I had reached the bus stop. And I'm sobbing.

Ten minutes later, another call. "Did you see the GS this morning? We don't know where he is." "Goddammit, I know that already. How come he hasn't called anyone yet? Why didn't he call me?" "I don't know. I'll call you when we know something." By this time, I'm at school.

My phone continued to ring for the next two hours. And each time, the conversation was virtually the same. Finally, after lunch, I received a call with news of his whereabouts: Cheongju. That's not in Seoul. It's not even the same province as Seoul. Fifteen officers arrested him yesterday morning outside of our front door while I was in the shower and whisked him away to a minimum security jail that is really difficult to get to.

Finally at about 3 o'clock, there was a message on my phone from the GS himself. He called to apologise for getting arrested. And to tell me where he was. And to say that maybe when we kissed each other goodbye this morning, it was our last kiss. And that he hopes he gets to see me again, but he's not sure.

Here's the creepy part: They had been following us. And watching us. For a while. No one knows where we live. No one. Most of our friends didn't even know that we moved. They brought a female translator to deal with me. The called the GS by his full Bangladeshi name. That's like 5 really long strange sounding words. The GS takes medication for his stomach and cholesterol and when he got to the jail, they already had it prepared for him. I reckon they know a lot more about both of us that they just haven't had any reason to disclose it yet. It was the same story with Kajiman and Raju, who are, by the way, the other two elected leaders of the Migrants' Trade Union.

And here's where we get to the part about how I feel. Like shit, that's how. I'm pissed off at Korea. I am so angry that this morning as I was walking to work, I stopped to berate two of the conscripted police officers on my street. I stood there shouting wildly at them, shaking my finger in their faces, swearing up and down, crying. I left only when I felt like my anger was about to turn violent. I feel nothing but contempt for this country at the moment and I feel like lashing out constantly at anyone- everyone- that has any power over me.

I'm afraid. I don't know what will happen to the GS. How long will he stay in jail? What will happen to him when he goes back to Bangladesh? Will I ever see him without a 6 inch glass barrier between us again? What will happen to us?

I'm heartbroken. Maybe more than heartbroken.I don't even know how to describe it. I have been choking on my tears for the last two days. I cried myself to sleep and then starting crying again as soon as woke up and noticed his absence. I burst into tears in the middle of a class or when I'm sitting on the bus. I can't control it. I just can't even begin to express how unfair this all feels. It makes me crazy. I just want to beat the shit out of someone. I want to make them feel as much physical pain as I feel emotional pain. I want take their loved ones and lock them away in jail. I want to ruin their lives. Whoever the hell they are. Bunch of fucking faceless cowards who never have to look us in the eye as they're fucking us over.

Everyone keeps saying that we are lucky that the GS wasn't beaten up by the police. We're lucky that they are taking every precaution to protect his rights. We're lucky that he's not in Hwaseong where the facilities are really bad, the guards are pricks and the rooms are freezing. We're lucky because he has access to phone twice a day. Well, pardon if me if I cynically add that you are right, the gods are really smiling on us now. We are lucky.

I'll be going to Cheongju on Friday night so I can make visiting hours Saturday morning. I guess I'm also lucky that I'll get to see my partner through 6 inch glass one last time before he gets deported.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Mug Meme

I saw this at RevDrMom's. Coincidentally, these are the only 5 cups I own:

a gift from a student

another gift: "Have good health"

courtesy of my friend smell

i think that's a penis~ it came from a GLBTQ group in Korea

"another little priend~ Toto and Mimi. I watch them."

"Thinking of Mimi, Toto pick up acorns. Toto and Mime like sweet mushrooms."

Saturday, November 24, 2007

I really thought that I was okay with missing Thanksgiving this year... until I read my mom's post about it. And while I'm happy that everyone was able to get together to have fun and eat what sounds like incredible food, I can't help but feel that same twinge of jealousy that hit me last year when NSLS, RevDrMom, the Kid and the wonderful in-laws gathered together for Christmas and then video skyped me. Sometimes, I would just rather not know what I'm missing, that's all.

I hope that one day I'm surrounded by happy people doing things that make them feel good instead of a bunch of cynical depressed people who have nothing better to do than make fun of how pathetic the next one of us is, which is how I spend my most of my days in Korea now. It can't be good for my outlook...

Friday, November 23, 2007

Steal Something Day

An interesting alternative to Buy Nothing Day

This has been making the rounds on Facebook. Actually, I'm not a Facebook member, but everyone I work with is addicted to it, so I heard about it from them. Reminds me of the anarchist pals I hang out with back home, so this is posted half out of nostalgia, half out of the fact that I kind of like the idea of it... An entertaining proposition in the movement to bring down Global Capitalism.

I wonder how many people will take it seriously?

Thursday, November 22, 2007


I read in the newspaper this morning that today is Thanksgiving. I forgot. Actually, I thought it might be next week. So in a moment of teaching brilliance, I deftly changed my lesson plans to include that little cultural gem we Americans call being thankful.

And what do you know? My kids were really good at it. They got a little side tracked when one of the kids mentioned that his daddy smokes and mommy yells at daddy and "every every day to him I say 'don't smoke!'" All of the other kids nodded in agreement and then held up their hands to tell stories about how their daddies smoke, too. I got them back on track by saying that I was thankful for such smart students who give me love and hard work every day. And you know what? It's true.

I'm also thankful for the woman I share my classroom with, Monica. She is a great teacher and we really do work well together. she's a good listener who doesn't gossip or say bad things about other teachers at our school, which I really respect. Especially because I always gossip and say bad things about at least 2 other teachers.

And you know what else I'm thankful for? Pecan pie. I told Monica about how it's my favorite and my mom makes it for me every year in America because she knows that I don't really like other kinds of pie. So you know what she did? She went out and bought me a pecan pie. And told me not to share it with anyone! (Actually, I have no idea when she had time to do that because she's always in the classroom, well we both are, so this feat was nothing short of a miracle and she didn't even know it was Thanksgiving until we were already in the classroom.) Isn't Monica amazing?

Well Family, I hope you have a nice Thanksgiving. I am thinking of you and feeling oh-so thankful that I'll being seeing you in just a few weeks. NSLS, have a safe drive back home. I saw that it's been snowy there this week and couldn't help but think about that little baby girl in your belly. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Best Gift. Ever.

Today I received my first Christmas gift. That's right, Christmas. And it was the Best. Gift. Ever. If I were talking to you, I would want you to guess about what it is just so I could say, "Nope." "Not that." "Try again." So you want a hint, right?

Does that help? Well, I had to use my dictionary to figure out what it was. I mean, it looks like it might be a pot. And it kind of is. 고급 means high class. And 요강? That one means commode or chamber pot. So you see, I got a high class chamber pot. Amazing, right? Here's what it looks like out of the box:

The best thing about it (besides the fact that it is a classy chamber pot, of course)? It's stainless steel.

Definitely gonna use that one...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

and just like that

it was winter.

Well, Fall ended before anyone had time to enjoy it around here. It seemed like the leaves were golden and dropped to the street in the same week, and yesterday it snowed. Well, I didn't really think it snowed because where I come from whatever it was falling from the sky would've never qualified as the season's first real snow, but everybody here thought it was so I guess majority takes it. Anyhow, yesterday we had this kind of semi-frozen icy rain which occasionally looked like snow as it was falling, but never stuck to the ground. And I had to walk home in it in high heels. I know, weird right? I was wearing high heels yesterday. For like the second time in a year. So my feet were cold and wet and whatever that was falling from the sky definitely wasn't snow.

But this morning, I had this view of the city buses from the like the 3rd floor of a building, and the bright green locals looked kind of iridescent because of the icy sheen from lasts night's frozen rain. It was pretty cool.

And tonight at dusk as I walked down the no-longer yellow brick road, I noticed that the ginkgo trees were had nothing more than their berries hanging off their branches, and the persimmon trees have only bright orange persimmons hanging by their little stems, which actually looked kind of garish because the orange is so bright and and everything else is only brown and grey. Kind of look a tired hooker with paper grey skin and bright red lipstick.

And thus ends my stream of consciousness.

Monday, November 19, 2007

bulleted lists are for uncohesive thoughts

  • I was thinking yesterday about what I was like when I graduated from college. That was almost 8 years ago now, and at that time I thought somehow I was going to do something important to change the world. I was a good student and all of my professors were quite fond of me. I think it's safe to say that they expected a lot from me. I was one of the those young people that made older people feel comfortable about the future.
  • And now I just kind of wonder what happened to me. After political organizing, union organizing, antiwar activizing, and being involved again with migrant workers and unions in Korea, I just feel tired, cynical and jaded. I don't want to try to change the world anymore. My own life is hard enough to deal with, much less trying to take on any systematic problems.
  • And that really depresses me. Because it seems that all of those people who expected me to be some kind of amazing person must be disappointed in my ability to be involved in the world any more. And I'm disappointed in myself.
  • I used to be, well, ambitious. I knew what I wanted and I did it. I always did it. I stood out amongst my peers as a leader, but whenever I actually found myself in a leadership position, I would back out of it or quit. I never trusted myself to make the right decision, and in the end, I was too afraid of making the wrong decision and being held accountable for it.
  • And now I regret that. If I could manage to get some of that energy back, I would want to take charge. I would want to do it my way. Because I think I know how to do it. But then again, that would require me to actually care about something other than my own life. And for some reason, I don't know if I have the capacity to do that anymore.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Feeling Dap-Dap Hae

Koreans have this thing that they do when they are feeling exasperated, exhausted, frustrated, misunderstood, confounded, anxious, oppressed, heavy... I list so many adjectives here because there is no good English translation for this word, but this thing that Koreans do, well, I think everyone should do it because it just makes so much sense. They "dap-dap" their chests.

And now you can do it, too. Just ball your right hand into a fist, making sure to keep your thumb on the side of your fist, rather than curled in front of your fingers. Now thump the left side of your chest just above your heart with your right hand in a quasi-King Kong-like manner. It's like you are thumping all of that, uh, stuff, right out of your body.

I have been doing a lot of this lately. Partly because I feel half heart-broken, half numb. Partly because every day I question my future with the GS more and more and wonder if I should just give up now. Or if in fact that my hopeless attitude and half-numb heart will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I have been doing this because I can't seem to make decisions about what I should do or where I should go when I'm finished with my teaching contract. I just feel stuck out there in emotional limbo.

And so I'm dap-dap hae. And Dap-daping on my chest feels like an apt expression of all that emotion that I'm not sure how to talk about.

Friday, November 16, 2007

I have nothing to say.

So instead, look at this cute picture of my class:

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Bonus Conversation

WW: "Ew! look at the air!"

Co-worker: "Oh my god, I can see the air!"

WW: "I know, isn't that gross?"

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Fall in the Emerald City

As I have written about before, Fall in Seoul seem to pass unceremoniously. If you leave the city or manage to make it to a big park, you can easily find places where bursts of color shock your system. I've only noticed the yellow hue of the gingko trees in the last week and was a bit disturbed to find that the sycamores are dropping their leaves without so much as a hint of color.

But last night I found myself walking down a shimmering gold sidewalk at dusk. The wind had blown all the leaves from the trees, and the stone underneath was catching the soft light of the sun and the street lamps which gave the overall appearance of a yellow brick road.

Monday, November 12, 2007

It can get worse. And it does.

When I'm in a bad mood, the director of the school is in a bad mood, and my supervisor is in a bad mood, none of us should bother to speak. Yesterday, I got my ass chewed for a making what I thought was a rather modest suggestion. Maybe I said it in an offensive way, I don't know, but what I do know is that the rather innocent comment was not worth the 45 minutes of conversations I had to have as a result of it. Lesson: Keep your mouth shut at work. Whatever it is, it's not worth it.

Especially not when the universe is in a particularly spiteful mood, as it has been this year with me and the GS. And on that note, we are rather rocky at the moment, thanks for asking. He is extremely depressed and feeling hopeless. I'm feeling the same and also neglected. We are just an argument waiting to happen, witness last night circa 1am.

I'm tired. I'm grumpy. I don't want to be at work. In fact, the only place I want to be is in bed. And I'm counting the days til I can leave this job for good. And do what? Who the hell knows, but at least it won't be here.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Quickie

*Looking forward to going home. Last time I went home, I was filled with anxiety about returning to America, but right now I feel excited- I can't wait to see my family, eat good food, go in a BIG English language bookstore, drive a car, go on a hike, play in the snow (hopefully), drink decent wine...

*The weekend was totally uneventful. It consisted only of eating, cleaning the bathroom, doing laundry and watching TV.

*Is the debt crisis in America going on beyond the sub-prime loan fiasco? If so, I certainly have something to say about that. On another day when I have more time.

*The US dollar is in the toilet. This is actually good for me because it means I'll bring more money home when I come. Although I guess if it continues to suck, I should consider banking in another currency...

*And now it's time for work... I'll try to think of something more interesting tomorrow.

AnyBand "Talk Play Love"

Goes with the post below.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

AnyCrap "Music to Save the World"

Last night as I lay sleepless in my bed, I flipped through the television channels hoping to find something that would bore me into sleep. Instead, I found something which was utterly irritating and disturbing. On MTV after hours, I saw this:

It's Called Talk, Play Love and hosts a plethora of Korean pop stars under the name "AnyBand."
So what's wrong with that? Well, if you live in South Korea, you know that anything with "Any" in front of a name is owned by Samsung. I, for example, have an "Anycall" phone; there are advertisements for "AnyCar" all over Seoul. Samsung in ubiquitous in South Korea. They own everything from sports teams to life insurance, electronics to construction. They have a banking/credit division and they even own a university. There is nothing that Samsung doesn't do in South Korea. They are the largest conglomerate here and perhaps the largest employer (although I'm not sure about that one).

They are also vehemently anti-union, and anti-worker in general, backing an irregular worker law that allows them to hire a majority of their workers on a contract basis, which in turn prevents the workers from securing basic working rights such as the right to form a trade union, suppresses wages and means that most Korean workers exist without any job security at all.
As I'm sure you can imagine, a company with as much capital as Samsung also exerts and enormous amount of political power. They are, in effect, untouchable here. Most people suspect them of being corrupt, buying favor in parliament and in courts, being involved in mafia outfits and in using thugs to suppress workers who dare protest against their policies.

So back to this video. Why does it piss me off so much? Because it was on MTV. Shown smack in the middle of legitimate music videos. As you can imagine, it was chock full of Samsung products- from computers to speakers and phones. And if you watched the video, you would see that the plot of the story is about rebels in an authoritarian state. A state where everyone is forced to wear the same clothes; where loving, playing and talking is banned. Where there are big brother TV screens monitoring the every move of the people walking in lines on the streets. The message: Samsung's technology will set you free. The irony of this message was a little too much for me.

The implications of this kind of music video worry me. This goes beyond the disgusting product placements that we always see in sitcoms, dramas and movies. This is all about co-optation. Am I being extreme? Well, it should worry us that commercials are being passed off as music videos because it won't be long until other kinds of art and entertainment follow suit.

The Latest

The GS and his family are appealing the court's decision, so it will still be several weeks (at least) before we have any real answers. The GS seemed more upbeat yesterday, but I'm not sure if I can get on the being hopeful bandwagon. But in the meantime, his daughter is at his family's house, so she and his mother are both feeling much better.

Baek Ji Young - Sarang An Hae (Jung Da Bin MV)

I feel empty and drained. I'm going to meet the GS for dinner and the latest news on his situation. More to come tomorrow.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Possible Solutions


*The Two-State Solution: I summer in Vermont and winter in Bangladesh

*Did I mention bribery?

*Fucking off and forgetting about everything

*Does any country grant asylum for people who are persecuted by their in-laws?

*and that brings us back to bribery- Money really can buy happiness. Maybe.

The Judgement

The judge found against the GS. He has been ordered to pay US $50,000 or serve jail time. We don't know what the length of the sentence would be yet. Custody of his daughter was awarded to his family, but that is being appealed.

Needless to say, the GS doesn't have $50,000. He doesn't even have a thousand dollars. He would have to borrow money just to fly back to Bangladesh.

He is crushed and defeated. And I'm sitting next to him feeling exactly the same way. How do we move forward?

I won't tempt fate by saying that things can't get worse. Because unfortunately, they almost certainly can.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Planning Christmas

Should I spend $240 to go to Orlando for a day and a half to see my grandmother when I'm home for Christmas? Would it be horrible if I didn't go at all?

The problem is that I'm home for so little time. And I imagine visiting my grandmother would also entail staying with my aunt or cousin, which I can't say that I'd be very excited about. Nor would I be excited about being there alone. Nor would I be excited about Florida.

Honestly, I don't really want to go. But I have a whole bunch of guilt. I haven't seen my grandmother for maybe 5 years. ( Actually, I'm not sure, but I think it was at my grandfather's funeral) And well, she's old and moved into a home now and doesn't get around so good, so you know, it's kind of a now or maybe never thing. But our family (as in my mom's family) isn't exactly what you would call close. And honestly, I don't really mind all that much... I just mean that I'm used to it so it doesn't really tear me apart to not see them on a holiday.

And there are a lot of people in Vermont that I'd really like to see.

And what about my older brother? He's engaged now...Where is he going to be?

Why does planning a trip home for Christmas have to entail how everybody I know feels about my homecoming?

Maybe I'm just a rotten and selfish person. I should go...

Monday, November 5, 2007

never a dull moment

This week. Um right, this week. This is the week. This is the week that decides the fate of the General Secretary and his life in Bangladesh. Well kind of. How should I put this?

The GS is married. Not to me. You knew that right? And he has a daughter. Approximately 12 years old. Well, the GS has been in Korea a long, long time. Long enough to have never met his daughter, and definitely long enough for his marriage to fall apart. Several years ago, he tried to get his wife and daughter to move to Korea. But his mother-in-law wasn't having any of that and they never came. So when it became clear that he wasn't ready to return and his wife wasn't coming here, they decided to call it quits. I think it was pretty mutual, although I, of course, have only heard the story from the GS. So she moved out of his family's home and back into the house with her brothers and mother. That was in October of 2005- when the GS and I were only pals. He seemed tormented about it- not over the possibility of divorce, but over the possibility that he might never get to meet his daughter face to face. At that time, his mother-in-law was merely using his daughter as a bargaining chip- trying to extract whatever money and belongings she could get by dangling a threat over the GS's head. And well, it would have worked except that the GS hasn't held a real job for more than 3 years and there was really no money to be had.

Fast forward to this year. This year, the wife's family decided to sue the GS. For one million dollars. That's right, a million dollars. And we're talking about Bangladesh. A million dollars would've been excessive in America, but in Bangladesh, that's just downright ridiculous.

But that's not all. He's also being charged with spousal neglect. Well, fair enough, I suppose. I mean he has been gone for 12 years. Although frankly, that's common for developing countries where the biggest export is labor. But that's not their problem.The problem is that he didn't turn over a certain percentage of his earnings to his wife. Which I guess is technically true. He was working illegally and Korean law forbids foreigners to send money out of the country unless they can prove that it was earned legally. So he used brokers to send money. Sharks. Who knows how that money gets to Bangladesh, but it definitely isn't by legitimate means. All of that money went to his brother who then distributed it amongst the proper family members. And his wife did live in their house at the time. So, she basically got money, there just isn't any record of it. Tricky.

Anyone know what the penalty for this "neglect" is? Jail time, although we are not sure how much. Could be weeks, months or years depending on the political climate and level of corruption in the courts this week. It might might not be jail time at all. He might just have to work off some absurd debt the good old fashioned way. Whatever it is, we'll know this week. That's right, this week. As in November 7th.

And hey, I'm not saying that the GS was good to his wife. He has made a lot of bad decisions. He has fucked a lot of stuff up. But I do know that he would've never cheated her. And I know that if he had money, he would give it to her, even now. And I know that more than anything, he is afraid of losing his daughter whom he adores even if he's only seen her picture and heard her voice.

The thing about this situation is that so much of it is actually structural. This is where the global economy gets really personal- it is the economy which shaped his decision to come to Korea when his wife was pregnant. And it was for economic reasons that he stayed for so long. And it was because of the injustice of the economy that he started organizing migrant workers trade unions. Now I'm not saying that he has no responsibility in this situation, but so much of it is due to the fact that when you are a migrant from Bangladesh, you are choosing between shit and shit, and even when you stick your nose up in it, it is hard to tell which one smells worse.

We've both been losing sleep over this the last week. Literally. It's really taking a toll on both of us. There are too many possible outcomes in a situation that is totally out of our control. I've had it. If everything doesn't work out this week, I'm not convinced it ever will....

Then where will that leave us? OH jesus am I scared.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

bonus conversation re: NSLS

One of my coworkers always says he wants to have sex with pregnant women. So I asked him if he wanted to have sex with my sister, because well, she is pregnant...

So I showed him this picture and...

...he said, "No! Your sister looks like you!" To which I replied, "Are you saying I look like a pregnant woman?" to which he replied, "No. Well yes. But in a good way. You have the same freckled chest."

"Are you sure that's what you mean?" I asked.

Fumbling ensued.

Result: I actually look like a pregnant woman.

Moral of the story: never ask a coworker if he wants to have sex with your pregnant sister.


I made about half of the kids cry on Halloween because I was so darn scary. They don't really have Halloween in Korea and most people think it's for looking pretty. So all of the little girls came in dressed like a princess, Belle or Beauty and most of the little boys came in dressed like spiderman. That's alright I guess, but we only had about 3 kids who actually tried to be scary- a werewolf, a devil, and a... well, there were a lot of cute witches I guess. It was an awful lot of work so such an unimportant holiday. We had an all day party. I never want to do Halloween again! Check it out:

Saturday, November 3, 2007

in which i prove that i am still inept in korean

Yesterday, I got up early and was out at the bus stop by eight o'clock. I was on my way to visit a good Nepalese friend at the immigration detention center in Hwaseong. Hwaseong is a really small city more than two hours from Seoul, and home to a rather large holding facility for undocumented workers, perhaps owing to the fact that the city and surrounding areas are also a magnet for industries that employ undocumented folks. I had to reach Hwaseong by 11 in order to make visiting hours, and I thought that leaving at 8 would get me there with time to spare.

So, bus stop, 8 am. No bus. At least not the one I need to get me to line number one. I waited 20 minutes and then hailed a taxi.

Seoul Station 8:45 am. I get down to the platform and wait for the express train. For 15 minutes. It doesn't come and no longer makes sense for me to take it. I get on the slow train.

Suwon Station 9:45. I still have plenty of time. I used to live in this city and know where all of the bus stops are. I just have to figure out which one I need. I ask for help (in Korean). But here's the rub. In Suwon, there is an old fortress by the same name of the city I want to go to, so every time I ask for directions, people think I'm a confused tourist and try to send me to the local buses, which I know are wrong. I get to what I think is the right bus stop, find the bus which goes to Hwaseong and before swiping my bus card ask the driver if I'm going in the right direction. He says no, go to the other side of the street. I think he's wrong, but I go anyway, wait another 10 minutes for the next 999 and then ask the bus driver on that side. He, again, tells me I'm wrong and sends me to the other side. By this time, I've visited 4 of 6 bus stops and it is 10:25. The General Secretary isn't answering his phone and I can't find anyone who can actually give me useful information about where to go. So I am, predictably, angry. Really angry. Angry at my shitty Korean. Angry at all of the idiot Koreans who think I'm just a stupid tourist and don't bother to listen to what I am actually saying. Angry with the bus drivers who should know their damn bus routes and who shouldn't dismiss me just because I have funny accent when I speak Korean. Angry at the GS for not answering the phone to help me. Just angry.

10:30 am. Still in Suwon. There was no way I could get there in time. The bus, if I could ever get on one, was going to take another 40 minutes. I gave up. I was tired. And hungry. And on the verge of tears. I got a coffee and got back on the train to Seoul. On the train, the GS called me and told me that, actually, he was wrong, I had until 12 to get there. But by this time it was too late. I was already leaving.

12:20 pm. I arrive at City Hall in Seoul. From here, it's only a short bus ride to my new home. But I just moved and I've never take the bus from there before, so even though I'm pretty confident that it's the right bus in the right direction, I double check with the bus driver, who does exactly the same thing that the jerks in Suwon did. He tells me I'm on the wrong bus (which, once again, I wasn't, but not wanting to go 20 minutes in the wrong directions decided to take his word for it because, well that would suck). I get off and now I start crying. I've been here for 2 and half years and people still can't understand me when I ask if he's going to Hong yeon e gyo? I mean, I have an accent, but it that bad?

12:30 crying in a taxi, who managed to understand where I wanted to go through my tears. After five minutes in the taxi, we passed the bus that I was supposed to be on. Just more evidence that he was a jerk and I was right.

12:45 home. exhausted. frustrated.

So my friend in the detention center didn't get his medicine. And I didn't get to say goodbye to him. And by the time I got home, I was wishing that I was the one being deported because this country just totally kicks my ass sometimes.

i hate microsoft

Why do I have to enable microsoft on my computer to renew my anti-virus subscription? I don't use the windows suite or microsoft explorer, but I needed to buy Norton again, and nothing worked properly until I re-enabled all of the microsoft shit on my computer. I still us the MS opperating system, but I wish I didn't. It really pisses me off and actually, I still haven't been able to get all of the Norton programs working properly. I played with it for a few hours last night and my software still isn't updated. What a bunch of bullshit.

Friday, November 2, 2007

random bullets of anyway

  • Today is NSLS's birthday! Happy Birthday, lil preggy sis. Your belly looks so cute, BTW!

  • In not so nice news, a really good friend of mine and the GS's was arrested in a factory immigration raid on Halloween. I'm going out to the boondocks detention center tomorrow earlyish to check on him and deliver some medication. Not really looking forward to that, but I guess it may be my last chance to see him. It's shocking, really, how many of the people I befriended 2.5 years ago have been caught and deported, mostly in the last 3 months. Korea is becoming a lonelier place everyday.
  • In other news that's not bad or good, I moved last weekend. I now live a little itty bitty one room apartment with the GS. It's really close to my job and allows me to live in my own squalor but not have to tolerate other people's, which is exactly what I like. Although fortunately, there isn't any squalor here yet.
  • In somewhat sad news, rani the cat had to find a new home. She lived in the one room place with us for about a week, but she was getting cagey and driving us so crazy we couldn't sleep. The GS enquired at the pet food shop and the folks there generously agreed to help us out. I miss rani already. I wish there was a way to keep her.
  • In super exciting news, I'm definitely going back to America for Christmas, and I'll get to stay 2 whole weeks. No word yet on what the actual plan is when I arrive, but it can't be bad whatever it is. I need a break from Korea!

Already blown it

Well, I was supposed to start posting every day in November for what every that acronym is for National Blog Posting Month, but well, I failed to post on the first day. But I swear, it wasn't my fault. I moved last weekend and I couldn't get internet at my house until today, the 2nd, and I tried to access blogger from work, but for some reason, I haven't even been able to read blogs the last two days, much less post on one. So, I guess I disqualified myself already... Does that mean I shouldn't even bother with the rest of the month? I'm only one day late, that couldn't be such a big deal, could it? What if I was to post December 1 to make up for it??