Welcome

I guess you are here because you have discovered one of my books and enjoyed it enough to find out more about the author, me. Either that or you’re a potential employer who is investigating me to see if I would be a good fit for your organization. In which case, surprise, I write books as well as teach. Some might look at that as a bad thing, and if so, please explain to me how.

For whoever finds my site, I want to welcome you, and also allow you the opportunity to follow me on a regular basis. Anybody is welcome as long as you keep your posts appropriate, and respect the other followers to this site. As long as everybody follows those two simple rules, I won’t have to kick anybody off. Let the friendly banter begin.

I am hoping to create an interactive site that everybody can enjoy. Of course, I will keep you up to date on the latest writings coming out of my head, and I will also let you know when and where I will be in the world, so someday you might be able to meet me in person. Most people regret that decision, but who knows, maybe you’ll be in the minority.

I will also tell you about my world-wide travels as this is something I do on a regular basis. I’ll show you pictures from places I have been (this one is from Dubrovnik, better known to fans of The Song of Ice and Fire as King’s Landing), and tell you the exciting stories that happen to me along the way. You are also welcome to ask me any questions you may have about the place I have been, and I will try to answer them in a timely manner.

I know it all sounds amazing, and I can see you wondering why you haven’t been a part of this fantastic experience so far, but let me tell you about the most exciting part of following this site – the interactive part.  You were probably wondering when I would get to that part I had promised you earlier. Well, I plan to create a list every month, and I want you to participate in its formation. I do love countdowns, but I am always disappointed in them. So I have decided to take matters into my own hands. You will be able to post your top ten of each monthly list and at the end of each month, I will comprise the total list to give you the countdown for that subject. Look for each new subject on the first day of each month, and the final list of the previous month by the fifteenth.

Otherwise, it is very nice to have you a part of this experience, and I look forward to all of our future posts together.

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Pyeongchang Olympics – Day 5

Yes, I have had an amazing time at the Winter Olympics. It has been a lot of fun and it is something I will never forget, but there is an ugly side to the Winter Olympics that I have not addressed yet. Large crowds descend on an area of the world that was not meant to have these large crowds, and after everything is said and done the community that hosted the Olympics is left with a bunch of stadiums, and features that the small community will never be able to support financially. I would go as far as to say that in the long run, it is bad for the community economically and leads to destroying the landscape for the chance to host the world for a couple of weeks. This goes for both of the Winter and Summer Olympics. I saw a report the other day that said the fabled Bird’s Nest in Beijing is now being used as a place where people can take tours around the track on a Segway. But I think it is even worse for places hosting the Winter Olympics. Pyeongchang is a series of towns with the largest one being about 200,000 people. It is situated in the mountainous area of South Korea, and there are not a lot of roads going between the locations where events are taking place. This means that there are insane traffic jams taking place as people try to make it to their events on time. The last event I saw took me just over three hours to get to and I only traveled 30 miles. These places cannot handle the crowds that come there. I am looking to you Colorado, because if you think I-70 is a mess now, imagine what it would be like if you added another million cars to the road.

This means that sometimes at the start of events the crowds are not up to capacity because it is just too hard to get there or people are still trying to make their way through the traffic. If you take an event like the ski jump that only takes a little over an hour to complete then people wonder why they should even bother with it.

And this goes back to the costs of hosting the Winter Olympics. This beautiful structure was not here a couple of years ago. It was built specifically for the Winter Olympics. What is going to happen to this thing after the crowds go away? Are there going to be enough people who want to come out here to try their hand at ski jumping? Or will Koreans start to take up the sport and during the next couple of Winter Olympics will we start to see them being a huge impact in this sport? Think about the five stadiums clustered together back in the Olympic Village. Is a town of 200,000 people ever going to have a use for one large stadium, let alone five, one of which was designed to house curling? Now I have been told that Pyeongchang took this into account, and they designed all of the structures so they could be torn down and transported anyplace that might have a need for such structures, like the next Winter Olympics, but it still comes at quite the cost that there is no way that they will ever see a profit with this event.

And think about the impact that the crowds and traffic has on the environment. Korea already has a problem with air quality. Do you think it is going to help things to have a bunch of idling cars spitting out exhaust? Where does all the trash and garbage go in a country that is not that large to begin with? What are they going to do with those large parking lots that they had to construct just to handle the amount of people that arrived? The Winter Olympics are definitely going to leave their footprint on Pyeongchang that is a lot bigger than a few memorials left behind that showed what life was like for the two weeks when the games were here.

But on the other hand, there is some positive that comes from all of this. For a couple of weeks, all eyes turn to see what a great place South Korea is. It is all about the people and the optimism that they put out due to their resolve and hard work. It shows the world a place that is usually associated with bad news can be about. It is not about some cartoon character to the north trading insults with another cartoon character across the sea. It is about the world coming together in harmony to show that they can be competitive and still get along with each.

It is about marveling at the athleticism of those that have a passion for the sport because this is the only time that they will be able to shine. It is about every country finding their hero, whether it is some insane mane who wants to see how far he can fly on a pair of skis or if it is a group of bobsledders showing a country in Africa that they too can compete in the Olympic games. It is not necessarily about winning. It is about just being there for that moment in time.

I have enjoyed my time at the Winter Olympics, and even though I have traveled to over thirty different countries in the world, it has showed me more about this rock I live on more so than all the travel I have ever done. Should the Winter Olympics continue? Definitely, but they need to figure out a way where it does not destroy the community it goes to while maintaining the spirit it had created.

Pyeongchang Olympics – Day 4

I will admit that I had booked for my fourth day at the Winter Olympics was the one I was looking the least forward to, figure skating. It is not that I do not think of these people as athletes. I am amazed at what they are able to accomplish on the ice, and I can see that they is a lot of preparation that they have to go through to make sure it goes off flawlessly. My problem with it has always been that it is way too subjective. Instead of having set goals that prove that one team has scored more than the other, there are a set of judges sitting on the sidelines voting for who they thought was the best and using some crazy rubric that decides how they came to that decision. It is almost like being an English teacher.

The one thing I did like about it was that it was during the day this time. I didn’t have to wait around until the late hours of the night to watch the event start, and afterwards I would be able to wander around the town at my own pace seeing the sights that have been put up to celebrate the fact that the games were here. What I was not expecting was the influx of crowds that came in this day as well. What was a ghost town of Monday had turned into a thriving community. Lines became long, food ran out again, and there was even traffic coming in from my pension. It was as if Korea started to wake up and take notice that the games were going on in their backyard. It could also be because Lunar New Year was the next day, and a lot of people had the time off to go and watch the games, so this might have been the busiest time of the whole games.

It could also have been the extra attraction of the North Korean cheerleading squad was also going to be in the area. They have been the golden goose that everybody has wanted to catch a glimpse of. I was hoping to see them to see if the reports that I have heard about how repressed the people of North Korea are is true. But the mere fact that they are so hard to see made me think that it might be true. They get shuttled around the area, and they are always separated from the crowd by a handler. They were even given their own section at the ice skating arena to watch the performance of the only two truly North Korean competitors, Ju Sik Kim and Tae Ok Ryom. They were almost as much fun to watch as the ice skaters were. They sat quietly through everybody else’s performances, and when their team was announced they got up and did a synchronized dance to show their support. Kim and Ryom gave a good performance, and after the judges scored them, they were in third place with eight more teams left to compete. This is when the North Korean got up and left. I wonder if they went back to their hotels thinking that North Korea had earned a bronze medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics. A friend of mine who was also at the event happened to be in the bathroom when they all came in to use it. She told me that a guard sectioned off the bathroom from the rest of the cheerleaders and would not let them mingle with anybody else. It is this kind of display that makes me realize that all the news reports I have heard about North Korea are true.

Besides the North Korean circus, I also got to witness figure skating. I have to say that my trepidation going into the event was unfounded. Figure skating is really amazing to watch live. I hated it growing up because that is all they seemed to show when they aired the Winter Olympics, and I wanted to see things like hockey, ski jumping, and the bobsled. But after I have been to one of these competitions, I start to understand the power of it. These people are spectacular athletes and they can do things that I would never imagine possible in my mind. The loud music just adds to the experience making it such an amazing thing to see. I would highly recommend that if you ever get a chance to go see figure skating live you should do it because it is worth the experience. After every performance people throw stuffed animals and flowers out to the competitors to show their appreciation for what they had just witnessed, and it was fun to watch the young Korean girls skate out on the ice to collect all the accolades. It is also great to see such a huge representation of all the cultures of the world present at this even that it makes it the real sport that represents the Winter Olympic games.

And as for it being subjective, I can say with confidence that the way it panned out for who was first, second and third would have been exactly how I picked it. The Germans who won the gold medal put on a powerful performance that will stick with me for the rest of my life. They were graceful, yet they showed enough strength that they would be able to compete with the brute force of a hockey player. It was fun to even see the award ceremony at the end of the competition. It wasn’t the official medal ceremony, but each competitor that made it up to the stands received a stuffed version of Soohorang that they could hold up as it is was a medal.

I can also say that the team we are supposed to pretend isn’t from Russia also did not medal again. I think I am their bad luck charm because I keep on seeing a huge amount of Russians coming to the events in the hopes that they win, and they keep going away empty handed. And it wasn’t because they deserved to win, but the judges had something against them. They were ranked number one going into the competition, but because they fell twice it put them in fourth place.

All in all, as the crowds get bigger, the events get greater and it seems as each day beats the previous one out here. The Winter Olympics are a great event, and I wish I had more than just one more day to enjoy them.

Pyeongchang Olympics – Day 3

Welcome back from Pyeongchang, and my third day out here at the Winter Olympics. Things have started to pick up. The cluster, which was completely empty on my first day, has really seen in influx of traffic. There are more people running around, taking pictures of the sights, and getting ready for various events.

South Korea has taken advantage of the opportunity too to show the world what it is capable of. There are a lot of little corners all over the place that show off the culture of this proud nation. I have started to feel the spirit of the games grow as well. There is more excitement in the air. At first I couldn’t figure out why it took a few days for this excitement to get built up, but I believe it has to do with the level of competition. On the first days of competition, there is not a lot of medals handed out because most events are in the preliminary stage. Now that things have been going on for a few days, things have started to be figured out, and the bigger medals are being decided. This is what the people came for, and this is the real reason why the crowds have started to grow. There is still not a ton of people, but I suspect by the end of the games, the place will be packed.

I had another hockey game to attend, and this time it was at the hockey rink in the cluster. I wasn’t as excited about it even though there would be hits in this one because it was a men’s game. This match-up was billed as more of a blowout though. Slovakia was playing the team we are not supposed to call Russia, and that juggernaut would surely take over this small nation that was still trying to find its identity now that it was no longer under the shadow of the iron curtain. Even though, I was not excited about the match-up, I was excited for the event. I didn’t have a choice when I put in for the tickets because who was playing had not been decided yet, and if I had a choice I would have watched the other blowout planned for the night, U.S. versus Slovenia.

Despite the disappointment, I went into the game holding on to the small belief that Slovakia could somehow pull out the upset. It was only five minutes into the game before I realized that this was probably not going to happen. Slovakia was down 2 to nothing with only one shot one goal. This looked like it was going to be a bigger blowout than the women’s matchup I witnessed the night before. But the Slovakian did not give up, despite the crowd’s support for the opposite team.

It didn’t take long before the whole feel of the game changed. Slovakia patiently waited until the right moment, and ended up with two breakaways where they scored two goals, tying up the game before the end of the first period. This is when the Slovakian started to show their faces. There were pockets of them all around the stadium screaming in support of their team. The fans from the other side still cheered for the team, but you could feel their trepidation that things were not going well for them.

The rest of the game played out as a tense tie until the middle of the third period where Slovakia was able to squeak out another goal. You could feel that it was going to happen too, because they had three strong chances during power play opportunities from the team who likes to say they are from Russia. Slovakia was able to hold on to end up winning the game. It was one of the more exciting hockey games that I have ever seen, and I am glad that I was able to see it. By the way, the other game that I wished I had gone to also had an upset as well as Slovenia took down the mighty U.S., so it looks like I had the tickets to the better event after all. It makes me excited to know that each event has the potential to be great and makes me excited about the next two days out in Pyeongchang.

Pyeongchang Olympics – Day 2

Welcome back from Pyeongchang, not Pyeongyang, which I am finding out is a completely different place without so many happy cartoon characters walking around. From what I understand, it still has cartoon characters; they just aren’t that happy. And I need to start off this day by apologizing about the name of the cartoon characters around here. Yesterday, I called the white tiger by the name, Bandabi, and this is not correct. His name is Soohorang, which comes from the word, Sooho, which means protection. He is the official mascot of the 2018 Winter Games as I have been told due to my mistake yesterday. Bandabi is the name of the bear, and he is the official mascot of the 2018 Para-Olympic Games which will take place in two weeks at the same locations. I don’t know what his name means, but I am sure that as I am posting this, somebody will explain it to me tomorrow.

For those who don’t know, the tiger is a very important symbol in Korea. Its image is all over the place, much like Soohorang is all over Pyeongchang. Many Koreans believe that Korea started from a tiger, and if you look closely at the shape of Korea, you can see the shape of a tiger. I can imagine a lot of you googling the map of Korea right now to see if this is the case, and it might be hard to see. I have actually had to have my students draw it out for me before I was able to see it.

When I wasn’t thinking about tigers during my second day out at the Winter Olympics, I was going to a different location than where I was on the first day to attend a women’s hockey game, and this time, one of the teams was the team I was the most excited to see, the U.S.A. They were playing the team that we are supposed to pretend is not Russia, and I was super excited about this moment. I had watched Miracle a couple of weeks ago and this was reminding me of that historic game, except for the fact that it was women playing this time, and that it wasn’t really much of a competition. In fact, the U.S.A. killed those people without a country from Russia. The final ended up being 5 to 0, and the really indication how lopsided this game was happened when I looked at the shots on goal. The U.S. had over 51 shots on goal, compared to that other team who was wearing red and usually lived in the country known as Russia who only had 11. In fact the puck was hardly ever over on the United States side of the ice.

Even though the game was a blowout, it didn’t mean that I still couldn’t have fun at it. First off, it is always nice when your team wins. But there was enough entertainment going on to make the game just as fun. A band from the Netherlands showed up to play a few tunes. Apparently this same band has played at the Winter Olympics for the past thirty years, and they really got the audience pumped up before the action.

Also being at a sporting event in Korea means that there has to be cheerleaders. They also worked hard at pumping up the crowd while remaining neutral to the events taking place on the ice. I know there are a couple of teams in the NHL that also employ cheerleaders, but it is just weird to see them at a hockey game. But then again while I have been living in Korea, I have seen them at baseball games which is even weirder.

And it is not like if they weren’t there that I still wouldn’t have seen strange people wandering the crowd. This is probably the best part of the Olympics. People from all over the world come together to watch sporting events decked out in gear that shows what country they are from. I have never seen so many people wearing the American flag, and they weren’t the only ones here like it. I saw people dressed in Swiss gear, Canadian gear, and waving the unification flag for Korea out here. I even saw people wearing the Russian flag which I don’t understand why because they aren’t even at these Olympics.

Pyeongchang Olympics – Day 1

Welcome from Pyeongchang, and the Winter Olympics, and I can report with full confidence the weather is perfect for these games to take place. In fact it is right down cold. Last night when we were coming back from the games the weather outside register 11 below zero Fahrenheit. I don’t know what that is in Celsius, but any way you look at it, is cold. The nice thing about it is I have finally gotten to see that snow that I have been looking for the last couple of months. While I was driving back from the bus station, it was starting to spit, and by the time I got back to the pension, it was dumping big fluffy flakes that would turn the landscape to the Winter playground that is perfect for the Winter Olympic games.

And it was in this icy landscape that I got to go and experience the Olympics, Korean style. My first night was spent in what was called the cluster. This is where most of the media is housed, and where all the big stadiums are. I have tickets to three of the different stadiums here, and another one on the Kwanhong campus which is the only building that was here before Pyeongchang was selected as the place to house the Olympics. But before then I got to wander around the cluster checking out the sights.

All of the sponsors have booths along the way and NBC’s Today show broadcasts live from the plaza. I was able to watch them set up for the next show even though I did not get to see any of the stars of the show. In fact, it was oddly quiet among the buildings that were set up in this little corner of Korea. I was expecting to see a lot more people moving off to various events and participating in all of the fun the Olympics had to offer. I did see a lot of security. The Police wander all over this place in packs to make sure nobody is doing anything dangerous, but I saw them spend more time posing with Bandabi, the tiger mascot of these games. And of course, there were a lot of people hanging outside of the McDonalds, but that was probably because this was the only place serving food with any substance in the cluster. In fact, that is probably the one serious complaint I have about this event. I went into the stadium for my first event thinking I would find some food, but I was told that they were out at every spot I stopped at. It just showed me that the Korean Olympic committee was not prepared for what was going to happen. I hope that they can correct this before the end of the week because I do like to eat from time to time.

It was perfectly fine though because I got to spend the bulk of the night inside watching the semi-finals of the mixed doubles curling between the Swiss and the O.A.R. For those of you who don’t know, the Russians were disqualified from the Olympics this year due to some questionable practices during the last Winter Olympics. Because of this, they were allowed to send some athletes who did not engage in this behavior, but they could not come under the Russian flag, so they are designated as the O.A.R. At first I couldn’t imagine what this meant. My thought was “Officially Ain’t Russian” but I soon discovered while watching the match that they were consider “Olympic Athlete from Russia”. In retrospect, it is a more respectable distinction.

Curling is a strange sport to watch, and I was surprised at the crowd that had gathered for the event. I have no idea where they came from because it was empty when I first got there, but as soon as the event started, people started piling into the Curling Center. Some people even really get into this. Some people from Minnesota that I met on the bus down to cluster were out here specifically for these events. They had watched the Americans in their earlier events, and had tickets to not only the finals, but the game between the third place and fourth place teams. And even though it is like watching a big game of shuffle board played out on the ice, it does have some cool aspects about it. The participants wear these really cool shoes that allow them to glide over the ice. I would love to get a pair of them for my classroom, but then I would spend a lot of my time waving my hands up in the air and telling my kids to “look at what I can do.” It is probably a good idea that I stick to the traditional way of walking around the classroom.

The game itself looks like something that would be really fun to try if I ever got an opportunity to get on to one of the courts. Of course, it would be more fun if there was beer waiting for me in between each throw, but I could see myself wasting away an afternoon playing this with a couple of friends. As a spectator sport, it does not hold the same appeal. You need to be quiet to not distract the thrower, and then you patiently wait as you watch the stone slide slowly across the ice, guided by the helping hand of a sweeper. At least, I was entertained by the not-Russian team as they yelled at each other to sweep at the right time and the right place. I am not quite sure what they were yelling at each other, but it made me suspect that they were not really good friends. Or it could have been Russian for you are doing a really good job and I am glad to have you as a partner. It didn’t seem that way though.

All in all, it was the perfect way to spend my first day at the Olympics and I can’t wait to see what the next couple of days have to offer as I get to experience the events with more of audience participation with them. Hopefully, I can find a place to eat, and place to stay warm in the meantime.

Accountability – Part 3 – Chapter 2

There will be a break for a week before the next chapter appears because I will be covering the Winter Olympics next week. I hope you enjoy my coverage of the games, and look for Chapter 3 in two weeks.

2
Even though I was still regretting the image of the child, I knew that if I wanted to accomplish what I started out to do I needed to play up to Steven with the façade I had created in my booth. He was obviously offended and his mouth was shouting at me with his usual drill sergeant zeal. Spit was flying off of his lips at a rate I had never witnessed before.

“I have never been so disgusted by a display of debauchery in my life. You should be ashamed of the way you have acted. You will be severely punished for this act, Miss Ervaring. Get your ass moving down the hallway right now. The owner wants to see you in his office right away.” He pointed towards the end of the long hallway I had first wandered down when I arrived at the Mother Mall. There were elevator doors at the end of the hallway. I had never noticed them before, and my curiosity made me wonder what was behind them, but I wanted to have a little fun with Steven before I did what he asked of me.

I pouted my lips and found a strand of dry hair I could twirl in a display of innocent flirtation. “I’m sorry, Steven, didn’t you like my little demonstration?”
He stood there breathing hard through a pursed frown while still pointing down the hallway. “I most certainly did not.”

I moved closer to him so the hem of my skirt started to brush against his knees. “I don’t understand, Steven. What wouldn’t you, a big strong man, not like about my demonstration?” I started to trace my index finger ever so lightly across his chest.

He started to stammer and his hand began to lower from where it was pointing. “That… that… that is not a way a mother should act.”

I moved closer to him so he could feel my breasts brush up against him. I tried to keep an innocent puppy dog look on my face. “I’m trying ever so hard to follow what you are saying, Steven, but my simple mind can’t comprehend why what I did was inappropriate.”

“If my mother ever acted that way…” he began to say.

I leaned in even closer so my face was close to his. I nodded up and down as if I was trying really hard to understand what it was he was trying to get across.
“…I would be horrified,” he breathed out as he tried to keep control of his emotions.

I brought my lips within a breath of his and said, “Well, I’m not your mother.”

He started to lose control as he closed his eyes and whispered, “I know you’re not.”

I put my hand on his crotch and felt the battle of the bulge he was trying so hard to win, but was losing more and more with every move I was making. I turned my head ever so slightly as he tried to withhold the moan escaping from his throat. I told him in my best imitation of Marilyn Monroe, “And I think all signs indicate you rather enjoyed my demonstration.”

I moved my hand up ever so slightly and he just lost it. A wet spot started to form on his trousers as he let out a quivering moan. I moved away from him and made my way down the hallway towards the door he had indicated earlier. I left behind a slumping, shuddering mass in the hallway next to the door of the room I used to live in. As my heels clacked down the hallway, I felt more power build up within me with each step. I knew for the first time in my life, I was gaining control, and there wasn’t a person out there who could take it away from me.
I pushed the open button for the elevator and the doors slid open. I walked in and turned around to see Steven crumpled down on the floor in the fetal position. When the door shut behind me, the light to the elevator turned on. According to the panel, I was on the G level. Below that button on the panel there was the B and above it there was a 1, a 2, and a P. I figured that the P stood for Penthouse and this is where I needed to be so I pushed that button. The elevator slowly rose up and I was a little worried about what I would find at the top. Even though I was starting to believe I could handle anything I came across, I knew whatever I found on the other side of the door needed to be handled it with confidence. I needed to abandon the timid way I handled situations in the past.
When the elevator stopped, the doors opened and I strode into the room. It was an extremely large room taking up the whole floor. The ceilings were very high making the room look immense. There were hard wood floors covered with a Persian rug. They must have made the carpet in the room because there was only a foot or two of hardwood floor showing around the edge of the carpet. On the walls to the left and right of me, there were bookcases reaching up to the ceiling covered with richly bound books. In between each bookcase was a piece of art highlighted with its own spotlight. There were paintings from famous artists such as Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and El Greco. I don’t think they were replicas either. There were also statues that could have been carved by Michelangelo himself, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out they were. A window reached from the ceiling to the floor on the entire far wall. It looked out over the city of Denver and gave a perfect view of the downtown area. I would have chosen to have it look out over the mountains of Colorado, but I wasn’t the one who designed the building so it wasn’t made to my tastes.

In the middle of the room, closer to the window, were two desks. There was a smaller one turned catty-corner to the door I had just exited. At this desk there was a woman dressed like a graduating secretary from the Capital Limited Re-education Center. She was typing away at a computer at her desk and working her way through a stack of papers resting on the left hand corner. The other desk was extremely large and took up half the width of the room. There were various knick knacks on it placed in strategic locations to create the feeling they belonged in the places where they found themselves. There was also a telephone placed close to the large mahogany chair behind it. On the center of the desk, there was a book opened up as if somebody was reading it. There was nobody sitting at the desk. Instead the owner of the desk was standing at the window and looking out of it. Even though I saw his back, I could tell it was Sam Hogston. I had finally made it to the top of the domain, and I started to wonder how many women had made it this far and what they needed to do in order to get here.

I didn’t have much time to think about it because if I let the old Rachael return I wouldn’t be able to let this new person I had found within me take me to the places I needed to go. I walked across the room towards the large desk at the other end. Mr. Hogston continued to ignore me as I made my way across the room. The woman at the desk stopped her work and looked in my direction. As I moved closer, I recognized her. It was difficult at first with her hair tied back in a bun and the business suit attire, but behind the cat-rimmed glasses, her eyes gave her away. I would remember those eyes anywhere. I grew to love their kindness and it warmed my heart to realize they had found a place where they could reside in comfort. It was my old mentor from the Capital Limited Re-education Center. I wanted to rush over to Karen and give her a big hug, but a wink from behind those glasses prevented me from doing so. Looking back, if this is what I had done I would not have found myself in the place I am now. I continued my walk over to Sam Hogston’s desk and the two chairs sitting in front of it. I sat down on the edge of the right one. I crossed my legs so one could tick away the time casually like I didn’t have a care in the world. I didn’t lean back in the chair to make myself comfortable, but instead leaned forward to give my audience the attention they believed they deserved.

I only had to wait a moment before Sam Hogston turned away from the window to give me his attention. His look of astonishment told me that sitting there by myself was not what he was expecting. I felt I had stolen the opening move away from my opponent in a game of chess.

“Where is Steven?” He asked as he looked over at Karen Moore.

She looked up from her work and said, “I don’t know. He didn’t come in with Miss Ervaring.”

I interrupted at this moment, “He’s a little indisposed at the time.”

Sam Hogston turned his attention to me and looked down on me over his glasses which hung precariously on the edge of his nose. “Is that so?”

“Yes, something came up.”

Sam huffed once, and then made his way over to a large, leather office chair behind the desk. He sat down. Karen got up from her spot and made her way behind the large desk where she deposited a file on the blotter in front of Mr. Hogston. I could see on the side the name of the file, Rachael Young, written in nicely typed letters. The name Young had been crossed out and the name Ervaring had been scratched down underneath it. Karen returned to her desk after she made sure her boss had what he needed.

Sam Hogston opened the file and started to read what was inside of it while I looked around the room. My dangling foot counted the seconds he wasted by reading my file. When he was finished, he closed the file and placed it gently on the blotter in front of him. He took off his glasses and placed them on top of the file. He folded his hands with his two index fingers pointing directly at his bloated chin. He looked me up and down trying to figure me out. I turned to meet his gaze.

“That was quite the show you put on down there, Miss Ervaring,” he said as he regarded me further.

I smiled at him pleasantly, “Well, I was only doing what I thought was necessary in order to bring the company the money it needed to continue to operate.”

He leaned forward placing his hands still folded together on the table. “Is that what you believed you did this morning, Miss Ervaring?”

“Well, Mr. Hogston,” I could see he was taken back by the fact I knew his name, but he quickly composed himself in a hope that I wouldn’t notice I had broken through his façade. “I believe I did what was necessary in order to make my way into motherhood again. It has been a long time since I have been able to be involved in the nurturing of children and it’s my strong desire to once again make the move back into that field. The way I was going about it in the past was not getting me results and I noticed the women who were allowed to return to this noble profession were doing it through the manner I displayed today.”
“I think there might be a little difference between your demonstration and the ones put on by the other women.”

I deliberately tilted my head to the side before saying, “How so? Do tell.”
Sam Hogston contemplated my request for a second before saying, “The best way to describe it would be in terms of movies. What the other ladies were doing would be considered PG-13. The demonstration you put on today on the other hand… Well, if Steven hadn’t interceded, I believe it would have progressed to the demonstrations displayed on the screens of seedy movie theaters catering to lonely men.”

“Are you trying to say my demonstration was X-rated?”

“To put it mildly, Miss Ervaring, yes.”

“Well, I was only doing what I thought the company would like me to do, Mr. Hogston.”

He got a little chuckle out of that. “Where would you get an idea like that, Miss Ervaring?”

“From a conversation I heard the previous night. The theme of that conversation seemed to be ‘Sex sells.’”

“Funny. I thought you were asleep last night, but it appears you were eavesdropping on my conversation with Dr. Blur. You are correct, Miss Ervaring, when you say sex sells, but there is a distinct difference between the sex you were selling and the sex I was talking about last night.”

I mocked him with a look of shock. “How so, Mr. Hogston?”

“You see, Miss Ervaring, the sex I was talking about last night needs to be subtle. It needs to be the Disneyfied version of sex. You know the mermaid wearing seashells as a bikini top, or a buxom Indian princess in a short revealing skirt. It is just enough to tantalize the more carnal instincts within a man, yet stay wrapped up within this wholesome story speaking of family values and Christian morals. It gives the viewer that sexual satisfaction they crave but they are able to walk away from the experience feeling they have had a lesson in ethics making what they have seen worth their time and effort.

“On the other hand, what you showed them was on a different level. Yes, you might be able to argue your display is more honest, but when all is said and done, it will only make the viewer feel dirty as if what they saw was against the moral fiber of America. What your demonstration was about should be relegated to the moral degenerates of our society or kept within the bedrooms of loving couples. It should never be displayed on the showroom of a respectable business. It is something like what you did that could bring down a company and place them in the dark corners of the city intended for those individuals only there to obtain a quick burst of pleasure until the time when their hormones once again call out for it. If we hadn’t stopped your demonstration, we could have ended up on the five o’clock news talking about our lack of morals before prime time television came on to give the masses the moment when they would be able to lose themselves in our version of those lack of morals. The version that is not X-rated, but in some instances could pass for PG or do I dare even say it, G. Do you understand what I’m talking about Miss Ervaring?”

“So you’re saying we as a society all know sex sells, and we buy our products according to this principle, but you want us to conduct ourselves as if we believe this principle doesn’t exist.”

Sam Hogston leaned back in his chair and smiled, “Exactly, Miss Ervaring.”

“Wouldn’t that make us hypocritical?”

“Only if we allow ourselves to believe we are. Now, Miss Ervaring, I’m willing to overlook this display you put on today as long as you promise never to do something like that ever again.”

I knew I needed to go on the offensive or I might not make it out of this conversation without moving into a lower section of the Mother Mall. I needed Hogston to place me back on the ground level so I could find a husband and work on the next part of my plan. “How am I supposed to find a husband if I’m not allowed to sell myself to the needs that attract them?”

Sam Hogston leaned forward, “Oh, I’m not saying you need to take sex out of your demonstrations. In fact, I’m proud of you for taking the initiative today, but I need you to tone it down a bit. I need you to use your sexual prowess in more subtle ways, so the demonstration we saw today is not repeated by other women who are also looking for a husband. Do you understand what I’m saying, Miss Ervaring?”

“I believe so.”

“Good. Now I would’ve asked Steven to return you back to your booth, but he seems to have gone missing. I can’t have you walking around the Mother Mall by yourself, so I’m going to need to find another escort for you. Maybe…”

Before Sam Hogston could finish his thought, the door to his office was opened and a salesman who I had seen on the floor numerous times ran across the large expanse of room. He went up to Mr. Hogston’s desk and ran around to the other side. Mr. Hogston looked at the intruder annoyed, “Can you explain to me, Mr. Moe, why you have interrupted my conversation in such a disruptive manner?”
Mr. Moe quickly apologized then bent down to get closer to Mr. Hogston. He shielded his hand in front of his mouth and brought it close to Mr. Hogston’s ear. He started to whisper something to him while looking at me out of the corner of his eye.

Sam looked up at the man in disbelief and the salesman shook his head to indicate that what he just told his boss was the truth. Sam looked past me to the smaller desk where Karen typed away at the work she was doing. “Miss Moore, may I see you for a moment.”

Karen looked up from her work and pushed the glasses she was wearing to the back of her nose. She grabbed a pen and small notebook from her desk and pushed her chair back so she could stand up. She straightened her clothes then proceeded to walk behind the desk and stand next to her boss. “Yes, Mr. Hogston?”

Mr. Hogston motioned for her to move in a little closer. When she was bent down by his face he looked at me. After a few seconds, he looked over at the salesman and said, “Well, tell her.”

The salesman once again hid his mouth with his hand and whispered whatever he had told Mr. Hogston to Karen. When he was done with whatever he had to say, he removed his hand and Karen and he both turned their heads in my direction. Mr. Hogston picked up my folder and handed it to Karen. “I think you know what to do with that.”

“I most certainly do,” she said as she grabbed the folder and returned to her desk.
The salesman stood up straight and faced me. He had a big grin on his face. Mr. Hogston leaned in closer to where he could talk to me in a more straight-forward manner. “Well, Miss Ervaring, it looks like you’ve been sold.”

Even though I was surprised, I presented myself with confidence. “Of course I have.”

Mr. Hogston huffed at my response, “Normally, I wouldn’t let a display such as yours lead to a sale because others would be encouraged to imitate such behavior, but the amount of money…” He stopped again as if he couldn’t believe what he was saying and looked up at the salesman. “Really?”

The salesman nodded his head again. “I saw him count it!”

“Cash?”

“Yep.”

Mr. Hogston shook his head in disbelief. “Wow! Anyway, as I was saying, Miss Ervaring, the amount of money being offered for your services is way too much to be ignored. It is with a slight bit of regret that I will have to allow this transaction to take place.”

Karen returned to the desk, this time by my side holding out my file folder. Sam pointed to it as I took it. “That file has all of the necessary paperwork. Mr. Moe will show you to your new husband and your new life.”

I opened up the file to look through the paperwork. I saw release papers, a sales receipt, my scores at the Capital Limited Re-education Center, some information about my stay at the Mother Mall, and then the next page was something I wasn’t expecting. There were pictures and papers which obviously didn’t belong in my file. They confused me a little bit at first, but the salesman started making his way around the desk towards me. If it hadn’t been for Karen who closed the file before he could see what I saw, there would have been a couple of people in trouble that day. But Karen remained composed and looked at me, “Don’t worry about the paperwork, honey. It’s all there. You now have everything you need to make a new life and change the world.”

I looked up at Karen and she winked at me.

I stood up and hugged her. The salesman made his way over to me and motioned towards the door leading to the elevator. “This way, Miss Ervaring.”
I turned away from Karen and Mr. Hogston to make my way to the exit. The salesman pressed the button for the elevator to return. When the doors opened, he, like a gentleman, let me enter first. I stood in the back of the elevator as he pushed the button to the ground floor. He stood in the front of the elevator at the doors as it took us down.

He broke the silence by saying, “I’ve been working in sales for the last twenty years and that is the first time I have ever seen anything like what you did today. It was quite the demonstration.”

I smiled because I knew he couldn’t see my face. “Thank you,” I told him politely.
He shook his head and added a little chuckle as we made our way down to the bottom floor. “I could see that demonstration changing the way women present themselves in the future. I won’t have to do hardly anything to make a sale in the future. Instead, I’ll just have to wait at the cash register and just take the money.”

“Well, I’m glad I could make things a little easier for you.”

The elevator stopped and he turned to look at me. “You don’t even know how much you’ve helped me. I’ve been struggling for the last couple of months on the floor. My boss was starting to wonder if I had what it took to be a salesman. Not only that, but my commissions really stunk. I was barely making enough to squeeze by. But I’ve made more money today then I’ve made all year, thanks to your commission.”

His comment peaked my curiosity. “How much money did somebody buy me for?”

The young man continued in his innocence, not wishing to ruin the good luck graced upon him. “Oh, we’re not allowed to tell you that, but your demonstration really opened up my eyes as to what I need to do in order to sell a mother. I used to think I needed to point out her features, such as what a great cook she is, or how great she gets along with children, but now I understand there is a much easier way of getting that commission check. I only have to sell her abilities in the bedroom.”

My heart frowned at hearing this. In my need to get out of this building to set things straight, I may have opened a Pandora’s Box I wasn’t so sure could be closed again. Would people be willing to listen to the information I had obtained the night before if they knew about my behavior the last day at the Mother Mall? What Karen Moore had slipped into my file was a whole other thing I would have to figure out. I was still trying to puzzle out the meaning of those papers and pictures. They made what I had to say to people a lot more believable. Any way I looked at it, it was too late to turn back now. I had set my plan into motion and I knew I needed to see it all the way through for it to have a chance to work the way I hoped it would. The salesman could evidently read all of the thoughts running through my head on my face because he quickly lost his excitement from the day and changed the subject to something simpler.

“Well, I guess we need to get you out to your new husband. I’m sure you are really excited to meet him.”

I shook myself away from my thoughts and looked back at the young man. “Yes, I guess it is time for that.” I took in a deep breath and prepared myself for what I was about to endure.

“Follow me,” the salesman said as he led me out of the elevator. We walked down the long hallway in silence until we reached the door I knew opened up to the sunshine, blue skies and freedom I had so yearned for since that fateful day when I was taken away from my house. The salesman opened the door and at first I was blinded by the bright natural light I was not accustomed to. I stepped out into the light and let the warmth of the sun soak into my soul. It felt so good I didn’t want to be interrupted by the reality of my situation, but the salesman ruined that feeling for me. “There he is. Right across the parking lot, standing there waving at us.”

I opened my eyes to see a man standing at a pick-up truck waving in our direction. He was wearing a battered baseball cap with a fishing hook sticking out of the brim. It hid his bright red hair, and shaded his eyes so I wasn’t able to see if they were filled with anger or kindness. He wore a flannel shirt and spit tobacco out of his mouth as he continued to wave in our direction. He was wearing tattered blue jeans with a big belt buckle holding up his pants. I knew the well-worn boots he was wearing probably smelled of some of the fields he walked around in before finding some time to go and pick himself up a new wife.
The salesman grabbed my hand and shook it, “Well, Miss Ervaring, it was really a pleasure working with you, and once again I want to thank you for everything you’ve done for me today.”

I looked over the young man shaking my hand and said, “You’re welcome, Mr. uhhh… What was your name again?”

“Mr. Moe, but really it’s not important. Go off and enjoy your new life.” He waved me away like we were good friends for many years and would see one another again very shortly, but I knew better than to think I would ever see this man again.

My high heels clacked on the pavement of the parking lot as I made my way to the truck and my new life. For as much time as I thought about the outside world, it now seemed as foreign to me as some distant dream. In my imaginings of this day, I always pictured a handsome man waiting at some luxury car and his children rushing over to greet their new mom, but instead I was making my way to a truck driven by a redneck whose morning errands probably included picking up a new can of chew. I also imagined a summer’s day when I first obtained my freedom, but after my first initial enjoyment of the sun, I could start to feel an autumn chill start to pervade the air around me. My reality wasn’t as perfect as my dream, but I knew I had many important things to accomplish and I needed to continue down this path towards my inevitable destination.

My new husband hopped in the truck as I made my way over to it. I could hear the rumble of the car as he started it up. Diesel smoke belched out the back end and I once again wondered if I was doing the right thing. There must always be sacrifices made if something important truly needs to be accomplished.
The window to the pick-up truck rolled down and I saw the face of the man who bought me staring down at me from the front seat. It made me wonder if I was going off to a better place or if I would be better off staying at the Mother Mall where I knew I would be safe. As much as I hated the place, I didn’t know if the condescending grin coming from the man in the seat would be any better.
One of the advantages would be I would no longer find myself on some perverse stage every morning trying to play out some farce for the enjoyment of a group of strangers I would never see again. There were also quite a few disadvantages and I didn’t know which way the scale of fate tipped at that time. Of course, I would now have children whose wants and needs I would have to attend to and I had no idea what wants and needs the grin meeting me in the truck would be, but after the demonstration I had put on, I could only guess.

I would be able to sleep on a comfortable bed again. It had to be better than the lumpy sofa bed giving my back problems every morning. Of course I would have to be sharing it with this complete stranger and I was sure there would be nights I would once again beg for the solitude of my old booth rather than the impending trespasser presenting himself in my new situation.

The thing I knew I would enjoy the most about my new location would be the landscape. Anything had to be better than the desolate desert of the Capital Limited Re-education Center or the impersonal touch of the Mother Mall showroom which had been my only comfort over the last six months. I would love to see trees and green grass again and I was sure my new place would have that. It was this resolve that allowed me to find the courage to open that truck door and enter its cab with this new stranger and this new chapter of my life.

Research and Development

I know that I have posted about the Experiential Education trips many times on this blog, and this is another entry on that discussion. But there is going to be a huge difference between this one, and the ones that I posted previously. The trip I took this time was not accompanied by the students. It was just a small select group of teachers that went with me this time to tweak the trip we take every year.

Don’t get me wrong but I really like the trip that we have designed for the tenth graders at my school, but there has always been a couple of things that seemed lacking, and I was looking for ways that we could improve the trip. This caused me to look beyond the borders of the Boramwon camp to find what the neighborhoods in the area has to offer. It allowed me to see more of the country of South Korea and experience some more of the ways Koreans experience adventure. This took me to the town of Mungyeong and the national park that is close by with the same name. Even though I did not get the opportunity to explore the park, there were enough other great activities in the area that would make for the perfect retreat for those who are planning to stick around a little after the Olympics. Some of the highlights include a museum that highlights traditional Korean pottery, and will teach you how to make it, the longest zip line in Korea, and some amazing Korean bar-b-q restaurants.

But the highlights of the area are not what I really want to talk about. There was something more important going on then looking at other features that the camp we take our students to does not offer. It was about never settling. This is something that I consider a lot especially in my teaching and my writing. I know as a writer there needs to be a time when I need to let things go and introduce my new project to the world. But that does not mean that I settle as being at the level of writer that I find myself at when I release that new project. Instead, it is about working towards my next project and figuring out how I can make it the best book possible. My goal is to make each proceeding book better than the last one, and that is what I mean by never settling.

Teachers need to adopt this attitude as well. Too often, teachers will present the same curriculum that they have for many years, believing that they do not need to change what they have done in the past They become complacent and just let what stands stand. They do not look for ways that they can make their curriculum better, and they do not look for ways that they can become better teachers. I am not saying that all teachers do this, or even the majority of teachers, but there does exist a group of teachers that do. I do not ever wish to be one of these teachers or writers.

This where this research and development trip I just took comes into play. It takes this trip that I’m really proud of, and it allows me the opportunity to make it better. There are a couple of areas with the trip that bug me about how things are not going as well as they could, and this gave me an opportunity to find way to make them work better. I believe I have found them on this trip and it makes me proud to know that next year when my sophomore students go off on their experiential education trip that they will get even more out of it then the group that went the previous year. This makes me feel that I have earned the respect that I get as a teacher because I am always looking for ways that I can improve.

It makes me want to give the same challenge to everybody else out there. What is it in your life that you feel does not live up to the standard that you demand of yourself? Is it because you have not tried to improve it in a long time, and have become complacent? What research and development can you do to take that aspect of your life to the next level? How will you feel about it when you do take it to that next level? And what will you have to do to take it to the next one later?

I believe if we all strive to be better than we will constantly be amazed at what we have been able to achieve.