Total Pageviews

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Enormous Beet (stageplay)

At my daughter's school, we put on an English Hour every 6 weeks or so.  (The second one is coming up, but the first was awesome!)  Each class prepares something to present to the entire student body. Maxine will be the mother bear in the 4th and 5th grade presentation of Goldielocks (not Brownielocks, because that sounds weird) and the Three Bears. The higher the grade, the more they contribute to the preparation.  The 8th and 9th graders will be performing "One Day More" from Les Miserables, as well as talking about the characters and story of the musical.  The first graders are "Singing in the Rain" , and the 6th and 7th graders will be doing the bits between acts.

The 2nd and 3rd grade class chose another Korean folk tale, "The Enormous Radish".  Radishes aren't that tasty, nor are they funny, so I made a Snap Judgment, and changed it to a story with a beet.

So if you have difficulty imagining a bunch of Korean kids mangling English in a cute way, and serving ham in a manner that puts lunch ladies everywhere to shame, come visit us in Busan at Apple Tree Waldorf School on May 22nd, 10:10 a.m.  Don't be late, or you might not get a seat!

The Enormous Beet 

Narrator: Once upon a time there was a farmer. He planted beets.

Farmer: I planted beets. Beets are my favorite!

N: When the beets were ready to harvest, the farmer chose the biggest one.

Farmer: The farmer pulled the beet,
but it didn't come out!

N: So the farmer called for help.

Farmer: Hey wife! Come help me pull this beet!

Wife: Beets are my favorite! [farmer pulls beet, wife pulls farmer]

F,W: So the wife pulled the farmer
and the farmer pulled the beet,
but it didn't come out!

N: So the wife called for help.

Wife: Hey son! Come help us pull this beet!

Son: Beets are my favorite! [son pulls wife, wife pulls farmer, farmer pulls beet]

F,W,S: So the son pulled the wife,
and the wife pulled the farmer,
and the farmer pulled the beet,
but it didn't come out!

N: So the son called for help.

Son: Hey dog! Come help us pull this beet!

Dog: Beets are my favorite! [dog pulls son, son pulls wife, etc.]

F,W,S,D: So the dog pulled the son,
and the son pulled the wife,
and the wife pulled the farmer,
and the farmer pulled the beet,
but it didn't come out!

N: So the dog called for help.

Dog: Hey cat! Come help us pull this beet!

Cat: Beets are my favorite! [cat pulls dog, etc.]

F,W,S,D,C: So the cat pulled the dog,
and the dog pulled the son,
and the son pulled the wife,
and the wife pulled the farmer,
and the farmer pulled the beet,
but it didn't come out!

N: So the cat called for help.

Cat: Hey mouse! Come help us pull this beet!

Mouse: Beets are my favorite! [mouse pulls cat, etc.]

W,F,S,D,C,M: So the mouse pulled the cat,
and the cat pulled the dog,
and the dog pulled the son,
and the son pulled the wife,
and the wife pulled the farmer,
and the farmer pulled the beet,
but it didn't come out!

N: Until...

Mouse: [shouts] Mouse power! [superhero pose, big grab and pull on cat]

[beet comes out, all fall down]

N: Look what happened!

All: The beet came out!

Mouse: This beet is very, very large!

Cat: This beet is huge!

Dog: This beet is gigantic!

Son: This beet is the biggest ever!

Wife: This beet is humongous!

Farmer: This beet is enormous!

N: That night for dinner, they all sat down to eat the enormous beet. Because

All: Beets are our favorite!

N: The End!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sack Family Update

Spring has pretty much sprung, and the cherry blossoms are now mostly gone.  I did take a few photos, but this one of Maxine is the only one worth including.
"Don't take the picture while my mouth is open."
"Not possible."
Maxine was a bit upset that we didn't take a family picture with these beautiful blossoms in the background.  For her they still happen only once a year.  For me they happen every year.  Funny how the same interval can feel so different.

Maxine is in fourth grade now.  Which, by the way, just doesn't seem possible to me.  She sometimes has some big assignments to do.  Last weekend her teacher had the students figure out how much money they had spent, then count out one grain of rice for each won (the Korean currency, about the same as a penny) and bring it to class.
1,472, 1473, 1,744...  What?  DON'T TALK TO ME!
Horyon suggested that I could do that while she took care of Quinten.  I told her that I would figure out the best way to cheat, so let's think carefully about who is doing the helping on this one.  She spent almost 11,000 won that week, which was an exceptionally high amount.  I still need to ask her how the class went, because I didn't hear back about it.

As much as I like Maxine's school, they occasionally do things like this which make me cringe just a little.  Horyon explained that this was to help them understand the value of the money they spend.  I get that.  Not sure how this is better than just keeping track of what they spend and on what, but that's okay.  She also said that it is to help build number awareness.  I think that the two of them spent a total of three hours on this project.  To me, the time would have been better spent working on estimation, weighing, and figuring out real world ways to get around measuring rice grain by grain.

In the mean time, Quinten acquired three plastic discs (he calls them medals) that are accessories for a freakishly expensive Japanese toy that you wear on your wrist like a watch.  When you insert a disc, it makes a different noise.  The discs cost 1,000 won (a dollar) apiece, and the watch thing costs 60,000 won (conversion left to the reader as a math exercise).  Fortunately, Quinten has not asked for the watch thing.  He bought one disc, and the store keeper gave him two more.  A few days later he invented The Medal Game:  you flick your disc into your opponents disc.  If you knock it off, you get a point.  If they both fall off, it's a draw.  If they both stay on, your opponent gets to flick their disc into yours.  It is surprisingly similar to Carrom, which I first saw in Nepal.
Quinten consistently beat Horyon, but I totally beat him on this one.
 Speaking of Quinten obsessions, have I mentioned that we have a stag beetle?  It is Quinten's pet.  It will teach him a valuable lesson about death some day, just like the two beetles before it did.  But first it will scurry around, eat bug jelly, and be gross for a while.  I believe it's name is "Stag", in the same way that Maxine's turtle is called, "Turtle."  We are just not that good at naming pets in our family.
As if my existence weren't disturbing enough, I'm going to walk on my food.  Yum.
So the last few weeks have been rough.  Maxine and Quinten each spent time in the hospital (read about it here), and Horyon and I have both been fighting off low-level colds.  Friday mornings are usually free for me, so I clean up the kitchen to get a running start on the weekend.  This week I had an event at Maxine's school, so I couldn't catch up on my sleep or clean up.  Horyon was at school until after nine, so I decided that we would not eat at home.  Maxine and I discussed our options, and ended up at Pizza Mall in front of Kyungsung University.  Pizza Mall is a buffet featuring eight kinds of pizza, spaghetti, clams, fried rice, cream of mushroom soup, a decent salad bar, and a dessert bar with ice cream.  The kids were about $5 and $7, and I was $13, making for a very affordable dinner.  Even though it was Friday night at 6:30, we only had to wait about 5 minutes to be seated.
Pizza?  What pizza?  All gone already!
We enjoyed our dinner, then walked home.  On the way we had a small adventure, stopping to take pictures on a rock by the huge intersection in our neighborhood.  We tried for one of those jumping pictures, but my phone camera wasn't up to the low light levels.
A rare moment of cooperation.
Later we got off of the main street, away from the traffic.  We stopped at my favorite bakery, and Quinten was thrilled to find a store that sells skeletons.  Well, one skeleton, anyway.  He spotted it from the street and dragged us in, demanding to have his picture taken with it.
BFFs, no fibula!
I considered buying it, but it costs about $2,000.  That seems kind of steep to me, especially since it has never been inside someone's body (I asked.  I had to!)  Quinten will have to settle for his book about skeletons.

So if any of you have any skeletons in your closet that you are willing to share, let me know.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Liver Quest (a revised Korean folk tale)

Once upon a time there was a Queen who lived under the sea.  She was very powerful, but her reach extended only as far as the waves.  Her fleetest and most trusted servant was Turtle.  In those days Turtle was very different from today:  she had four long, strong legs that she used to kick through the water and run on land.  Her body was soft and vulnerable, but she could outrun or swim any animal who tried to catch her.

One day Turtle brought some bad news to the Queen.  "Your Majesty!  Some fish are conspiring to overthrow your government!"

"Lead me to them!" ordered the Queen, and Turtle did so.

Turtle pointed out the guilty fish to the Queen, and she quickly ate them, thus ending the rebellion.  Unfortunately for her, the guilty fish caused even more trouble after their executions than they had caused before.

The Queen became very sick.  Her doctors told her that she would be dead by the next sunrise, and could only be healed by a potion brewed at midnight from the liver of a rabbit..  The Queen summoned her loyal servant Turtle, and told him that she needed a rabbit liver by sunset, or she would die.  Turtle swore to do her best, and quickly swam towards land.

Turtle knew that she would never find Rabbit's home, because in those days rabbit had short legs, and survived by her wits and by hiding well.  So Turtle ran quickly and quietly until she spotted Rabbit grazing in a thicket.  She cornered Rabbit, and told her, "I need your liver to save my Queen!  Give it to me, please, or she will die!"

Rabbit was a quick thinker then as she is today.  She replied, "I cannot give you my liver!  I keep it in a box in my home so that it does not get lost!"

This made sense to Turtle, as she knew how valuable a rabbit liver could be.  "Then let us go to your home, and you can give it to me!"

"Surely not!" protested Rabbit.  "If the other animals see us, they will follow us to my home and eat up my family!"

Turtle was at heart very kind and compassionate.  Though she needed Rabbit's liver, she did not want Rabbit's family to suffer.  "Then you go fetch your liver, and I will wait here for you!" suggested Turtle.

"Thank you!" said Rabbit.  "I should be back here by this time tomorrow."

Turtle was dismayed.  "That is too long!  My Queen will be dead by tomorrow!  What can I do?"

Clever Rabbit realized that not only was she going to keep her liver, but that she might gain something from Turtle's need.  "I've got an idea!  Why don't you lend me two of your long, strong legs?  Then I can get to my home and back in no time at all!"

Turtle was so relieved that she immediately agreed, and gave Rabbit her back legs.  Rabbit put them on, and bounded off, laughing as she went.

Turtle thought about this as she waited.  She came to the conclusion that Rabbit was not going to return, but by then Rabbit was out of sight.

Turtle didn't know what to do.  She stumbled her way up to the cliffs overlooking the sea, wanting one last glimpse of her home before leaping to her doom.  Her path was watered by tears for the Queen she loved, but could not save.

As Turtle stood at the brink, she was surprised to hear a voice behind her.

"What's the matter, dearie?"  She turned around and was surprised to see a wrinkled, old woman cooking soup in a cauldron over a fire, where previously there was nothing but grass.  The woman spoke again.  "I can help save your Queen, but it will cost you."

Turtle was by nature conservative and slow-thinking.  She would normally have nothing to do with witches and their magic, but this time was different. "Anything!" she said with no hesitation.  "Everything I have is yours!  Just save the life of my Queen!"

"This potion will cure your Queen when it is done, but it still needs one thing."

Turtle's heart sank.  "I know.  You need a rabbit liver."

"Mercy me no!" laughed the witch.  "It just needs more stirring!  Can you do that?"

"Of course!"  Turtle looked around.  "Where is the spoon?"

"There is no spoon.  You must use your leg," the old woman said with a sad smile.  "The power of the potion will come from you."

The potion appeared brown at first, then blue.  Then pink.  It was difficult for Turtle to look at, actually.  It was also bubbling and steaming, making noises that almost sounded like words.  The smell was less suggestive of something to be eaten than of something that did the eating.

It was late afternoon, and the sun was starting to go down.  Turtle sighed, and gingerly put her left front leg into the potion and began stirring.

It hurt.  A cold, deep burning.  After just a few minutes she pulled her aching leg out to find that it was only half as long as before.  "Keep stirring," encouraged the old woman.  Turtle used her other leg for a few minutes, then switched again.  When the witch finally told Turtle she could stop, both of her front legs were barely long enough to reach the potion.

The old woman filled a clay jug with the potion, put in a stopper and gave it to Turtle.  "A noble sacrifice is never in vain," the old woman told her.

Turtle looked at her short legs and vulnerable body, then down the long path back to the sea.  "This sacrifice may prove to be in vain," she sighed.  "Without my long legs, I will never get back to my Queen in time!"  She turned back towards the witch.  "What shall I...?"

The hilltop was empty.  The witch, the fire, and the cauldron were gone.  The only sign that they had ever been there was a wisp of smoke from the fire, twirling in the breeze.  Twirling in circles, actually.  Circles that moved faster and faster, until Turtle felt herself picked up off of the ground, and lifted out to sea.

When the wind slowed enough, Turtle fell gently into the waves from just above the surface.  She swam to the palace as quickly as she could, and into the Queen's chambers.  The Queen was weak, but able to drink the potion.

As the Queen recovered her strength, Turtle collapsed to the floor.  "Turtle!  You have saved me!  But what has happened to your legs?"

"It is nothing, your majesty!  I am only pleased that you are well."  Exhausted from her ordeal, Turtle fell into a deep sleep.

The Queen could not bear to see her trusted servant broken as she was.  She cast about for a reward, and spotted the clay jug, which still had a little of the potion in it.  The Queen ground it into powder, together with the remaining potion, a little sea water, and a few drops of her own blood.  They made a thick paste which the Queen applied to Turtle's back and chest as she slept.  She then took her to the surface to dry in the sun.  When Turtle awoke, she was so thankful to be alive and see her Queen that she decided to forget her long legs and be happy with her new body.

To this day Turtle still has short legs and a hard shell, and she needs to spend some time in the sun. Rabbit is still tricky, with long hind legs and a hidden home.  Of course, Rabbit and Turtle never got along well after that.  Eventually their feud came to a head in a foot race, but that is another story.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

A Family Divided

In Korea staying in the hospital is not nearly as big a deal is it is in The States.  For starters, if you have insurance it is surprisingly cheap.  At less than $50 per day*, including meals, it's often used as a sort of quarantine.  They keep you hooked up to an i.v. so you don't dehydrate, take your temperature regularly, and the doctor comes to tell you how you are doing on a regular basis.  My kids have gone through some version of the flu, an H2-N something.  Contagious, messes with the digestion, but not too serious.  In an effort to avoid spreading this bug, they've both spent time in the hospital.

Last week Maxine stayed in the hospital for five days, and with Horyon's parents for one more.  Horyon stayed at the hospital with her, and I stayed home with Quinten.  We were hoping that Quinten wouldn't catch the flu.  It didn't work.

This week Quinten stayed in the hospital for five days, and will be coming home tomorrow.  Horyon stayed at the hospital with him, and I stayed home with Maxine.

During one of our rare moments together this week I said to Horyon, "Whose turn is it next week, you or me?"  She laughed, an even rarer gem these days.

"You can't get sick," she told me, the italics clear in her voice.

"Fine," I said.  "You go next."  Another laugh, but this one was tinged with exhaustion.  It is possible that staying at the hospital where you have easy access to an I.V. is the only thing that has kept her from getting sick.

We were very fortunate in one respect.  This week Horyon's school took their spring trip on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  She was originally to have gone with them to Yangsang, about an hour and a half from home via public transit.  She would have spent the days out there and come back to spend the nights with Quinten in the hospital if it necessary, but she got permission to skip the trip, so she spent those three days as well as the nights in the hospital with him instead.  I suspect that she found it very restful.

It has been interesting observing how my children behave when they have long stretches of sibling-free time.  Maxine has definitely adjusted to it better than Quinten did.  To her, he is still the interloper.  But Quinten was generally quieter without his sister.  He was more demanding of my time, of course, but playing with me was much less likely to lead to crying and fighting.

From him, at any rate.

During Quinten's week I helped him with a few projects, mostly encouraging him to keep making.  I am still sure that he will be the first kid on the block to have a 3D printer.  But in the mean time, he gets so frustrated when he can't get the picture in his mind to manifest in the real world the way he wants it.  The most valuable lesson I can teach him is patience, a lesson which is difficult to teach if you struggle with it yourself.  The sound of Quinten whining and crying wears down my patience like using a belt sander on a cookie when I am tired.  The best way for me to deal with it was to push bedtime earlier.  If we start to get ready for bed after he is tired, the whining is inevitable.  But if we can do snack, pajamas, and the brushing of the teeth while he still has enough energy, then he can get some bonus playing/making time, and still have time to read some books together before bed.

Maxine and I get along much more easily.  We can both spend time reading without getting uncomfortable, and tonight I made a wonderful discovery:  she has been learning the recorder since she started at Apple Tree School, and I have heard her play in groups and at home a few times.  I was moving some stuff around and found my recorders, a soprano (the one you are probably thinking about) and an alto (a few inches longer, lower, mellower tone).  I can't usually resist taking out the alto and playing a bit, so I did.  I let Maxine play the soprano.  She immediately started playing the Pachelbel Canon.  So I joined in playing one of the counterpoints.  Well, probably more than one, as I have never studied the piece.  We then moved on to a couple of Christmas carols, Amazing Grace, and one or two more.  She can hold on to the melody while I play a harmony!  We will definitely be making time to do this again.  She wants to surprise Horyon and Quinten with a duet, so I will try to get us some practice time before we are all together again.

I am so looking forward to being all together again.

I especially miss Horyon.  We talk on the phone from time to time, and even see each other a bit.  It's not as bad as last summer, and has been good in a strange way:  the last seven months have been relentlessly stressful, and we were both becoming more and more sensitive.  Every married couple has times in which they lash out at each other.  We know that for a short time we can let loose the dogs of war that have been chained up in our hearts, because the target is the only one who will take the full brunt of the attack and immediately forgive.  If not immediately at least by the next morning.

We can take it because we have bound ourselves together.  Every time we have ever kissed and made up we added a strand to the bond.  Every time we hashed out a disagreement, and came to share the same resolve it tightened and strengthened the bond.  Every tough decision we've made, every crisis we've weathered, every tear we've shed together has built up that connection a little more.

At Kwanganli Beach there is a display case with a sample of one of the cables holding up the Kwangan Bridge.  It is made up of hundreds of cables, each about the thickness of my pinky finger.  Any one of those cables on its own would snap under the weight of the bridge.  A bundle of ten or twenty would do little better.  But hundreds are practically unbreakable.  Even if there is a flaw in one cable, and it snaps, the load is immediately taken up by all the cables around it.

With fifteen years of adding strands to our relationship, we can handle this.  God knows we could take more of it if we had to, but just between you and me, I seriously hope that this is not the warm up for a repeat of Job.  Because we do need to fix a few broken strands, and it would be nice to get back to adding new ones.

We will be a complete family again tomorrow.  I think our first plan is to sleep late Saturday morning.!  Wish us luck!

*I'm not absolutely sure of the price, as I don't handle the bills here, but I think this is the price for a double occupancy room.

A Brief Introduction

Roblog is my writing lab. It is my goal to not let seven days pass without a new post. I welcome your criticism, as I cannot improve on my own.

Here is a link to my cung post, which remains the only word which I have ever invented, and which has not, as far as I know, caught on. Yet.