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I have recently started working at a tea/coffee bar in Edinburgh. One of the regulars asked me how I had been finding my experience thus far and I would always shrug, smile, and say that there are certainly characters in Edinburgh.

The other day, one of the regulars came in to sit up at the bar with a pot of tea and we started talking about the use and perversion of the English language and lamenting the fact that YOLO was a defined word in the dictionary. That was when I was reminded of my many and varied experiences back in Vancouver working as an English conversation teacher. This particular incident I described to them is a favourite of mine and I have only really referred to it as the “BJ story”.


It was all those years ago when I was turning 19 and looking for a part time job to pay for my living expenses. A good friend of mine offered me a job working as an English teacher at a conversation club. This club catered towards international students coming in from Korea and Japan who wanted to learn English in another country. As I had no real prospects at that time and knew how to string a sentence together (Subject-verb-noun, etc.), I jumped at the opportunity.

It was quite early on in that summer when I first started working there that I had a class with two Korean guys. They were in their late twenties/early thirties and still quite buff and muscular despite having left mandatory military service a couple of years earlier. They had only recently arrived into Canada and were looking to improve and practice their speaking skills despite having lots of difficulty navigating around words. That was all fine and good; after all, that was what I was there for.

So there we sat, the three of us: tiny lil’ ole’ me as a young’un and two hulking muscular Korean guys, in a tiny room and crowded around an equally tiny table. As a nineteen year old me, I was getting extremely distracted by the view of crossed muscular arms over two equally muscular chests and did I mention that these guys were buff and dripping with muscles?

As I tried not to blush at the way they were looking at me intently (since I was technically their teacher…) or make a complete arse out of myself, I started the lesson:

Me: Hello. I’m Jordan. What are your names? 

Student 1: I am (insert generic Korean guy’s name here). 

Student 2: I am Byung-Joo (or something to that effect). ….But (he said smilingly) you can call me BJ. 

I was probably quiet for only a few seconds but in my head, it felt like an incredibly pregnant pause.

Me: Er… (embarrassed laugh) I don’t think you should go around telling people to call you that.

Student 2: What? Why?

Me: Er……

At this point, I wished I hadn’t mention anything about his name. Trying to remain mature and in control of the lesson (it’s only been 5 minutes in to a 1 1/2 hour lesson), I decided to take the practical approach to the question. Like a parent when their kids ask them where babies come from.

Me: Well… You shouldn’t tell people to call you that because “BJ” actually means “blow-job”. 

The two students exchange looks and I can hear the gears in their head turning. I was sitting there hoping for something to click.

Student 1: What is “blow-job”?

Me: Er… (crap). 

At this point, I was laughing awkwardly and trying not to hyperventilate. Right, I told myself, I have to be the mature one here. The two of them are after all, there to learn a language and the more slang they understood… then the better off they would be.

Me: Well… A “blow-job” is oral sex. It’s when someone sucks on a guy’s penis.

Student 1&2: … … … 

Me: … … … 

Student 2: What is “penis”?

And here I was, thinking that the term “penis” is a universally understood term. Showed what I knew about other languages and cultures when I was 19. There was a bit more waffling on my part and checking the clock (it had only been 7 minutes into the lesson, gods would this lesson ever end).

So I took a deep breath.

Me: Ah…. er…. a “penis” is…. well… …

Do you know how awkward it is to give the sex talk to two grown, ex-Korean-military men? Cause I do.

Me: You know how women have a vagina…

Student 1&2: (blank looks)

Me: And a man has a penis…

Student 1&2: (equally blank looks)

Me: (Shit) Okay… you know the difference between men and women… er… down there (gesturing to my crotch)… 

Student 1&2: (now looking at my crotch with confused looks)

Me: (Freakin’ hell) Like… a man has a “penis” (using my fingers to pretend I have a hard-on).

Student 1&2: (slow looks of realisation)

Student 1&2: (Sudden look of mortification)

Student 2: OH! OH ok! 

Me: Yeah… … So if you call yourself BJ… it means someone sucking on your penis….

Student 2: OH. Just Byung-Joo. Call me Byung-Joo. No BJ. 

We laughed it off.

I don’t think I taught that class ever again after that.

~JGM

During my internship in the summer, I have started jotting ideas and plot ideas here and there of a novel I am working on. This has continued afterwards though the project is still in its infancy. I have developed a habit of carrying a small notebook wherever I go. The one thing I found incredibly annoying however, is the inconsistency of my pens. Sometimes the ink runs out or it cuts short or the grip of the pen becomes uncomfortable after a while.

So, I decided that it was time to invest in a good pen.

catp_2014_1

I’ve always wanted a fountain pen and thought this would be a good excuse to go get one!

So I went out and picked up a Lamy Al-star fountain pen. It’s a good basic starter fountain pen. I picked this over the Lamy Safari because I think I prefer the aluminium casing than the plastic one. I got this at John Lewis for about 24 pounds though it would be cheaper to pick one up online.

I am not much of an expert so this isn’t a comprehensive review by any means. Especially since this is my first fountain pen. There are quite a few good ones on YouTube by people who are quite a bit more knowledgeable than I am but here’s what I think of this pen:

– Good weight but could be a bit heavier as I found it still a bit too light
– Smooth, easy to write nib
– Ink flow is fantastic, doesn’t cut out
– Quite durable
– A bit hard to insert the first cartridge (needed quite a push to break through the plastic seal and quite a bit of squeezing to get the ink to flow properly the first time but this could be because I’m quite weak)

The pictured above shows the standard Lamy ink on Moleskine paper. As you can see, I write on both sides of the page and there is little bleed through.

 

~JGM

I love Autumn. It is finally cold enough to wear a hoodie without people giving you strange looks. I am definitely for sweater weather.

In any case, going through a lull in employment before I start up again, I’ve been doing quite a bit of experimenting and cooking of Chinese cuisine. Mostly because my significant other complains that I don’t make any Chinese food that he likes. So I found a great recipe for Meat sung/Lettuce wraps that I’ve been playing around with.

Here’s what I have so far!

Meat Sung / Lettuce wraps

This makes enough for about 4 people if you’re treating it as an appetizer. However, we’ve been treating it as a meal for the both of us so adjust the portions as you see fit. This recipe uses chicken and shrimp but these can be substituted for pork as well. I’ve tried using ground turkey but thought the texture was a bit gritty for my taste. I just prefer chicken and shrimp and I find it a lot less heavy.


Ingredients:
3 chicken breasts (ground/chopped really finely)
100-150g of shrimp (finely chopped)
1/2 tin of water chestnuts (or according to preference)
4 dried shitake mushrooms
Approximately 1 1/2 tbsp corn starch
1 – 2 stalks of green onion (finely chopped)
Iceberg lettuce
Hoisin sauce & sweet red chilli sauce for dipping
1 tbsp of oil for cooking

Marinade:
The marinade is a bit touch and go as I haven’t really been using proper measurements as I’ve been eyeballing it. So whatever measurements you do decide to use would be dependent on how much meat you’re going to be cooking. For this amount of meat, a part is about 1 1/2 tbsp. I would recommend using a tablespoon measurement first and then adjusting it as you see fit.
1 part  shaoxing wine
1 part soy sauce
2 parts oyster sauce
2 parts kecap manis (sweet soy sauce)
1/2 part white pepper
1 part white sugar

Recipe:

1. Take the dried shitake mushrooms and put them in warm water to allow them to soften up. This should take about 5 to 10 minutes.
2. Take the water chestnuts (they’re usually sold in tins in the UK) and drain the water. Chopped them finely. It’s good to have a bit more of them than a bit less as they give the filling its texture.
3. Take the now squishy shitake mushrooms and cut around the stem. Chop these finely.
4. Put the water chestnuts, shitake mushrooms, and mix it with the chicken and shrimp in a large bowl.
5. In the meat mixture, add in the ingredients for the marinade (Note: I usually don’t combine the ingredients from the marinade first. I usually just add it to the meat as it’s easier for me to tell if there should be more of something depending on the consistency).
6. Mix the meat and the marinade ingredients together. Add in the corn starch and mix it again. It should be quite wet.
7. Leave this mixture to marinate for about 30-45min.
8. In a large frying pan on medium heat, add in a bit of oil and wait for it to heat up.
9. Put in the meat mixture. Start stirring and making sure that the meat does not clump together. If it does, break it apart with your spatula.
10. When the meat is slightly cooked but still pink, add in the green onions. Continue to stir and break apart the meat.

11. Make sure the meat is cooked all the way through before removing it from the heat. And you’re ready to serve!
12. Take the iceberg lettuce. There’s two ways you can do this and it depends on how big you want the leaves of the lettuce. You can either cut it down the middle (down the stem) in half before cutting off the stem, or you can simply cut of the stem of the lettuce and use the whole head.

13. Add your favourite dip and you’re good to go! I usually use hoisin and sweet chilli sauce simply because it goes well with the flavour but I have seen different variations as well.

In any case, hope you guys enjoyed it. It doesn’t look all that pretty but tastes amazing and it’s quick and easy to do when you’re short on time. Add a bowl of soup and prawn crackers and you’ll be good to go!

~JGM