From: (Yong-Mi Kim)
Newsgroups: talk.bizarre
Subject: back when dinosaurs roamed the earth...
Date: 1 Dec 1997 17:56:12 -0500
Organization: U of Maryland, Dept. of Computer Science, Coll. Pk., MD 20742
Lines: 62
Message-ID: <65vfac$>
X-no-archive: yes

[This is actuall a repost of something I posted many moons ago to

The elementary school I attended for part of fifth grade and all of sixth
was a public school in a new development "south of the river" in Seoul.
What this meant was that the student body was an odd mix of kids from
yuppie families who had just moved to the newly built apartment complexes
in the area, and kids from poor families who'd been living there all along
and still lived there because they couldn't afford to move.

Elementary school classrooms in Korea back then had wooden desks designed
for two; the kid who sat next to you at the desk was your "pair" or "buddy."
Anyway my sixth grade teacher somehow got this notion in his head that
I was a sweet-natured little girl and made me sit at the same desk as
a slightly retarded boy.  I am not quite sure if he was retarded, or had
some other problem.  I don't recall his ever speaking in intelligible
sentences.  Being a rather fastidious little girl, I was of course
mortified to sit next to him day after day, especially since he never
seemed to bathe or change his clothes.  His face always had a streaked
look, stripes in various shades of dirt.  He had an annoying habit of
swinging his legs together with his feet on the floor, knocking his knees
together.  This would cause our shared desk to shake, and I could hardly
write on my notebook.  I would kick him viciously under the desk, and he
would stop for a couple of minutes.  Then resume shaking.  Kicking resumed.
This went on for a semester.  His lower legs had colourful bruises
interrupting the streaks of dirt, but the teacher still persisted in
believing I was a saintly little girl.  Finally, I got so fed up I
incited the other girls in the class to propose ending this system
of seating boy and girl pairs at the desks, and instead split the
classroom into a boy-half and a girl-half.

So the next semester I ended up sitting next to a girl who gave me
head lice.  And who didn't know such a thing as toilet paper existed.
I had seen insects crawling down her neck before, and I would point
them out, and she would just catch them with her hands and smoosh them
on the desk.  Having had a pampered upbringing, I had no idea what
this insects were, until one morning my mother looked at my hair
and went into hysterics.  Being a country girl, my mother immediately
recognized what those little white sacs clinging to my hair were.

Oh, the toilet paper?  One day before class I asked her if she had
brought her homework, a worksheet that had been assigned the day before.
Casually she said that her mother had "used it in the bathroom" - in
other words, wiped her butt with it.  I was taken aback.  But didn't
she have any toilet paper?  I asked.  It was her turn to be taken
aback - there's paper used for just that purpose?

Older houses in Korea used to have toilets that were just holes in
the ground - a hole over a large pit.  There'd be a stack of scrap
paper to be used as toilet paper, and a wastebasket to dump the used
paper in.  Waste-pumping trucks went by regularly in residential
neighborhoods, collecting fertilizer, i.e., emptying the pits.
(Newspapers pretty regularly carried stories of some unfortunate
kid who had fallen into a toilet pit and died)  This habit of disposing
of toilet paper separately has persisted despite the introduction of
Western style toilets and toilet paper that dissolves in water, and
so even bathrooms in otherwise immaculate Korean homes stink badly,
because of the decomposing used paper in little wastebaskets next
to the toilet.