Tag Archives: seoul

K-Jeossi/Ajeossi in My Father

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Been a while since I wrote my last blog post. The past 3-4 years were the worst parts of my life. I was stressed out. My health declined so badly. Massive PMS attacks that doctors have nothing but to say “here’s your pill” or “I know it’s hard but try to relax” or “maybe it’s allergy…?”  Let’s not even go to academics. I basically fought with my nails and teeth with useless admin/authorities. Good news is, I didn’t die and I graduated. Then, a week later, a dumb teenager rear-ended me with her giant Lincoln Navigator. None of my bones broke and there was no blood, but still I had to limp and yelp for a month or so, and it took a good 4-5 months for me to feel ok to go out and work out.

For the time being, I’m back in home and I’m glad to have some time to relax. Well, not absolute relaxation, but it certainly is less chaotic.

If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that I’ve had a fair share of conflict because of my TCKness and my Korean family…especially father. My being away yet again for years and being a bit more matured in socials helped somewhat for me to deal with my family. It’s pretty simple – I try to go out and set the time so I don’t face my dad a lot in person. I get up later than him, and don’t come back until he is in bed or about to go bed. And I try to not to talk to him a lot.  Things were alright…but then things happen.

I asked whether anyone would like some tea, and my mom said she’d like some. We have a water purifier pot, and a water purifier from fridge. I don’t know why, but my mom says use the water from purifier pot if I’m making a soup or tea. Because I was about to boil water, I thought it would be less work for me if I make my Dong Quai tea as well (because of my PMS, I boil a lot of Dong Quai tea, cool it in a bottle and drink it like water).

Now you can imagine what’s in front of me in the kitchen. Three different cups/steel bowl with different teas, and a big pot of water boiling. Not a good situation to turn my eye away. So I made an agenda in my head: wait until the water boils, pour them in to the cups and bowls, and fill up the water purifier. Then 30 seconds later, the father came in to the kitchen, was about to pour the water form the purifier, and found that it’s gone. Then he saw me with all kinds of cups and bowls with tea in it.

F: You used all the water for the tea, right?
Me: Yeah…
F: Well why didn’t you fill it up? I wanted some water.
Me: (still looking at the fire) You can drink from the fridge. 
F: Well I wanted to drink from *here*. Whoever used the water purifier should fill it up. 
Me: Umm…you literally walked in to the kitchen right after I finished pouring.

Then he started complaining how this takes forever. I didn’t say anything. Then he brought up some old story that I don’t even remember – I fixed everyone’s PC with a tool back in high school dorm? Clumsy way to be friendly. I didn’t say much except “I don’t think that’s true. Where did you hear it?” “Your mom.” “That never happened. Not true.”

By then, the teas were done so I took it to my mom and took one for myself. My father still said “well, from now on, whoever used the water purifier should fill it up, ok?” I said, “Again, you walked in literally like 30 seconds after I finished pouring.”

Then he yelled stuff like I’m talking too much, I should just do what he tells me to do. I just said “yes, yes, sure” and went into my room.

Honestly, I just want him to leave me fucking alone. I respect his territory or whatever it is, and I don’t want to get into trouble. I expect him to do the same. Just because you are paying someone/gave birth to someone doesn’t mean that you can just enter and throw trash in without the person’s consent. I fucking hate when he slaps my butt as being “friendly.” I say something then he’ll scream at me again.

And really, what’s the big deal about getting the fridge water? If I find that there is no water and someone in the kitchen is boiling something, I’d just shrug it off and go to the other source. Or wait. If someone feels like he has been disrespected over kitchen water or someone explaining what happened to the water, all I can say is you have a damn low self-esteem.

That’s what I hate about many Korean ajoessi (40+ years old Korean men). They see everything, even their family, as a ranking game. They never imagine that they can be wrong and those with different opinions can be “right.” If there’s something they don’t understand, everything is “impolite” or “rude.”

Sadly, I see one in my father. And I just hate it. I know I can’t fix it. And honestly, I kind of don’t want to be too close to him because of it, as long as he is not ready to give some credit to those who are different from him. One of my fantasy is, as soon as I get to move out, I will contact my family – especially father – as little as I can.

 

Should I Quit?

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It has been a bit more than a month since I started my law school.  Maybe it’s a seasonal thing, but as the time passes, I am disappointed on a daily basis. Fast.

I was warned, but the 1st year of law school education is so inefficient and broken.  It’s a lot like South Korean public education system, which has been malfunctioning for a good 10-20 years.  In South Korea, learning doesn’t happen in schools.  The actual learning happens outside of school – tutoring, study aid books, and hagwons.  These are all for to be graded in school.  The entire education is focused on one-shot-per-year college entrance exam.  In sum, you don’t really learn anything from a school.  You learn through out-of-school institutions, and the school is there to grade you for your out-0f-school efforts (and, arguably, financial means to do that).

People say it has to be reformed.  But the more you delve into the problem, you realize it’s such a complex problem.  The whole “prep” industry is based on the broken system, and I bet there are so many strong ties between the Ministry of Education, schools and the prep industry.

1L is so much like this.  You don’t learn jack shit in class.  All the professors talk about is how this case is related to that case, the history of such-such concept, how certain element is related to the case, etc.  There’s too much material to be covered in the short amount of time.  It’s not about what the law is, what the principles of law application, let alone the technical skills of a lawyer.  There are schools that are more focused on practical skills, such as learning how to interview and write court documents from day 1.  But, a lot of these schools are out of ranking system.  They are not highly deemed, and for a foreigner like me, with high possibility of getting a job in oversea (and I don’t mind that), it’s a highly risky choice.  If I had a proper residence-ship, I wouldn’t mind going into one of these schools and be a mom-and-pop lawyer.  Well, I can’t.

Just like South Korea, there is a massive industry leaching on the system.  There are myriad of study aids, advisory service and exam preps, charging students.  I don’t know how many study aids I bought this time.  I have never bought this many study aids during my journey in the American education system.  Everyone does buy.

And the only practical course of the 1st year – legal writing and research – gives you far less credit, if not ungraded.  I honestly think it would be better if all 1L students take the legal writing and research first and then do all that “mandatory” courses.

So, I don’t know.  If I were an American, I would have quit and look something else.  But I’m not an American, and I really don’t want to be tied down in Korea.  I really don’t know – should I just quit and go to interpretation school? Or just suck it up and wait for a brighter day, where I can actually socialize with more like-minded people and take more practical courses?

Let me know what you think, please.

See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Say No Evil?

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It has been a while since I last updated anything on this blog.  Well, now’s the time.

1. Good-Bye, old community.  You’ve changed.

I have been a member of certain on-line hobby community.  For the first time, I made a few off-line local acquaintances there.  Though I was not that deeply involved in the incident, and putting who’s right and wrong aside, what recently happened in that community totally put me off.  The community’s purpose is to exchange information and share/discuss thoughts.  Instead, the whole boards were covered with pointing fingers, namings, and dragging personal tweets, blog postings and some personal information.  Maybe I am slightly stronger than average because of my “rough childhood,” some people were dwelling on it forever.  All I want to do is share, discuss, and exchange info on something I like.  Fortunately, I was not directly involved in any of this.  But the whole incident and how it progressed (regressed?) really kicked my affection of that community away.  So yes, I’m done with that.

Maybe I’m biased, but I’ve seen this happening too much in Korean communities.  If there’s something right and wrong, than people who are directly involved need to take it away to somewhere and solve it, instead of spreading it to everywhere and bringing in some unnecessary stuff.  If you are on the receiving side, you’ll probably have to bow down a bit, even if the giver is being an ass (note: not advocating the givers should behave like ass).  If you want to talk about someone on his/her back, make sure it doesn’t leak.  Do not think this person and that person have exactly same opinion just because they are connected.  That is my explanation for why I always kept some distance from Korean group.

2. Marriage of Someone, and You Know All of Her Not-So-Bright Past.

Someone I know is getting married.  Marza (alias) and I have known each other for a while.  We went to same college.  We were friends, and we had mutual friends from childhood.  She turned into something we don’t want to keep close, so I don’t really call her as a friend anymore (I honestly think she needs to see psychiatrist).  Her parents and my parents are still pretty close, and her parents are good people.  I have a lot of story about her, but I’ll keep it short, taking only that is relevant to the marriage.

She was always involved in Korean community, far more than I did.  I wasn’t involved in any of the Korean community in college (had some individual Korean friends, though).  Soon, everyone knew how she was “weird,” “twisted,” “attention-freak,” and “slut.”  She was sleeping around with EVERYONE.  She had a ton of sex toys.  While doing all of these, she had a boyfriend – whom she always bragged about how smart and successful, how they will be engaged soon and how she won’t have to work hard anymore.  It turned out they weren’t in that passionate/stable relationship, and the boy was as strange as she is.  She always tried to show off how American she is.  In fact, she had far less American friends than I did.  She lied to people around her a lot.

Her mom would call my home and complain about her own daughter.  She never worked, except some part-time English teaching job.  She’d complain how her family is “poor.” She asked my mom to find a matchmaker for her daughter, since she had no choice but to marry off.  My mom introduced a matchmaker (also her friend) to Marza.  The matchmaker said she can’t do anything for her – quoting from her, Marza was insincere and could not read air.  She said she can’t risk losing clients and having a bad reputation because of her.

Somehow, Marza’s parents’ friend introduced this Korean doctor guy.  Who knows what happened, but it seems like they hit it off.  The guy is said to be of some rich family, and fond of expensive stuff…like Marza.  But knowing her, and given the fact that he likes her, I think he’s from one of those families where they have $$$ but lacks quality.

Usually, when someone says they will get married – someone who is close to me – I am a bit concerned, wondering he/she met the right person and how they will maintain a stable life.  Then I’m usually happy for them, especially I met them.  For this, I feel relief – for her parents, not her.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they file divorce few years later.

Now here’s the irony.  Few years ago, I was the hermit with few friends.  She went to ton of socials and knew everyone.  Now her parents almost begged me to come to her wedding, saying none of her friends are coming.  Maybe she didn’t invite them, because everyone knows her past and how crazy she is.  If only I did not have any connection with her family, I wouldn’t go either.  But I have to go.  I am terrible at putting a PR face when I’m with someone I really don’t like (business incidents excluded).  Usually, at friends’ wedding, I’d throw bad jokes and mess around with bride before the ceremony.  I can visualize myself just seeing her, with a weak smile, and simply say “hey, congratulations.”

New Year Family Reunion….Ooops.

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You might already know about the big Asian family reunion, and how the whole family thing takes more priority than western hemisphere.  Being a member of typical Korean family, I’m part of it, too.  Here’s the drill.

Usually in new year, lunar new year, end of the year and/or Chusok, the entire family gathers, including your uncles, cousins, their spouses, their kids, grandparents and sometime someone who you’ve never seen before.  There will be ancestor veneration ceremony.  Huge amount of special foods are needed.  Usually, this is done by the ancestor’s direct sons’ wives.  Let’s apply this to my case.

The hero of ancestor veneration ceremony is my grandfather, who passed away when I was mere 4.  My Uncle, K, is his first son, and my dad is his second son.  So the food preparation duty is assigned to my mom and K’s wife.  People pitch in, but my mom and K’s wife have the main responsibility.  My dad’s family is rather old school, so men don’t really help out (and this is a prevalent problem in modern South Korean society – back in the old days, it was alright because women’s job was to tend the home.  Now, Korean women have to work to earn wages AND tend their home.  No wonder why the rate of divorce and argument skyrocket after those ceremonies).

Since my grandmother has been hospitalized, we haven’t had this kind of reunion for a while.  Though this sounds sad, but my family were somewhat pleased to skip the ceremony.  My grandmother is still in hospital, so we expected a quiet family time.  I don’t know why, yet all of sudden, uncle K decided to have the reunion this year.  Meaning, my mom has to go through the food prep track again.  Individually, I bet uncle K is a nice person.  But he’s not the most organized person.  Well, most Korean men are same…my mom isn’t happy for sure.

As of me, the Korean family reunion is half-day awkwardness, starting very early in the morning.  My dad is a sort of red herring in his family (in a good way).  In a same way, I’m a mutation.  I’m the only person in the entire family to spend my life living in foreign countries.  I’m the only person in the entire family to attend foreign school.  My dad is super-liberal when compared to uncle K.  There’s nothing to be shared between my cousins and me.  Nothing.  At the same time, I should be social, and try my best to not to be looked as “snob.”  It is hard, especially in culture where not saying much can be seen as “snob” and pointing out someone’s misunderstanding can be seen as “impolite.”

Examples 1.

My aunt (father’s side) saw my high school graduation pics.  My high school made all girls from graduating class to wear white gown.  My aunt asked why I’m wearing white gown, when Korean students wear blacks.  I just said (with a smile) that’s what my school just did.  Then, with a big nod and a look of enlightenment, she said, “oh, now I have to remember – that in America, the graduation gown is white!”

Examples 2.

After graduating from college, I got a job in Korea.  All of my cousins pestered me, asking “why didn’t you get a job in America?  I was surprised to hear that you came back.”  Yeah, I wish it is that easy.  I explained what happened.  I don’t think they understood though.  Until now.

Examples 3.

My cousin took me out for a play, which I think is an incredibly nice gesture.  I thought the play was too typical – mom and kids not getting along,  then mom is sick/dead/hospitalized, kids thinking differently, learning more about all her sacrifices (how she didn’t buy a single piece of nice clothes and such) and regrets, or return to a good mom-kid relationship.  On the top of that, my mom is nothing like her.  I love my mom, but unlike typical Korean moms, she’s not the kind of lady who would give up her fashion statement for her child (and that’s what I like about her).  After the play, I almost said it.  But I found my cousin was crying, saying how it was touching.  I just zipped my mouth and lied.

So naturally, after getting things done that has to be done, I just want to leave as soon as possible.  Yet my parents, uncles and aunts have to catch up (or at least pretend to, because many will take early leaving as sign of disrespect). Not for once I think I am “better than them” or look down on them.  It’s just awkwardness I can’t take, and not knowing what to expect.

I don’t know – maybe I’ll take the thickest book written in English this time and just read it in the corner of room.

LSAT and so on

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I finally finished climbing the toughest hill – LSAT, and now working my butt off on all that optional essays and personal statements.  Yes, I feel far much more relaxed than working on LSAT, but it still feels like there is another stone  hanging on my neck.  But, comparing that to my LSAT studying, I really can’t complain.  There’s a short story written by Haruki Murakami – all of sudden, a small middle-aged woman pops up out of nowhere, and just stick herself to the main character wherever he goes.  I feel for the main character.

Three days before the October LSAT, I took prepatory tests, using the three most recent tests.  I did really well – in fact, far better than I expected.  So I was in a good mood.  Maybe it’s because that bread incident that my dad still pests me about, but the result wasn’t good.  In fact, it was far lower than my most recent prepatory tests.  I still think I deserved a bit better score.  I cried my eyes out after I got my scores  – it is upsetting when you really tried hard but get crappy result.  But then, it isn’t my first time and life isn’t fair.  There’s nothing I can do anyway at this point except applying.  I’ve used up my test limits, and I already took a good one year off, devoting everything for the test.

On a positive side, the test was tough.  Actually they set a record for score curve.  LSAT is getting more difficult.  There are schools that weight your undergrad GPA, and I am glad I graduated from university with great national reputation.  Thanks to the economic downturn, I heard that schools give more credit to those who have work experience.  I do have one.  And I will be categorized “international student,” though it feels weird to me.  But as long as my passport stays as Republic of Korea, I will be one, and it doesn’t hurt for application process.  And I’ve been working on my personal statement for a while, so unlike many others, I really don’t have to hustle.  So all I need is to marry off with some American guy and get a green card. Hell yeah. (JK)

Meanwhile, my ex – an US military officer – visited me.  It was surprising.  Since breakup, we didn’t contact each other for about good 2-3 years.  Then out of blue, he contacted me about 2 years ago, saying he will be deployed to Iraq soon, and he wanted to apologize me for unable to handle the situation better.  I accepted it.  Then another 2 years passed.  He e-mailed me, saying he’s temporarily stationed in Dongducheon, got a few days of vacation and would like to spend some time with me.  Sure, why not.  To me, he was distant friend at best.  I expected things to be cool.

Maybe it’s me who is overreacting, but things weren’t so cool.  He said how it is good to see me again.  Alright.  Despite my objection, he insisted on paying for everything.  I did not like this, since I really didn’t want this to be like a date.  He kept checking on me, sometimes just looking at me.  I guess he has some feeling left for me.  Or maybe it’s just because he didn’t get to see many civilian girls.  Or maybe it’s because he went to Afghanistan and Iraq, blowing stuff up.  He is a gentle, caring person.  But I really don’t want to get back into whole romantic relationship thing with him again, unless he is better at handing a relationship with woman and out of military.

Besides, having a conversation with him was a tad bit boring.  When I reunite with a friend, I want to know what changes were there in his/her life.  His stories were pretty much same, since his life revolves around military base.  I don’t know I will send him a Christmas card.  If we were casual friends, I’d sent it.  I still feel bad for him, since he is away from his family, pretty much all alone, and doesn’t get to see his family (I know it can be hard.  Trust me.  CCK with boarding school experience).  But we didn’t start from “casual friends.”  I don’t want to give him any wrong signs, and I really don’t want another headache.  I don’t know.

I Blame It on the Magnesium Powder

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I know there are so much more pressure on women’s look in South Korea than Midwestern America (where I grew up), and I also know the place of my residence is known as the mecca of plastic surgery in the entire South Korea.  But still, I had too much trouble with my parents because of this.

My mom just wouldn’t stop talking about my looks.  When I was working in the office, she kept going on and on and on and on about how I look fat and unattractive.  I said my BMI index is fine.   Of course this didn’t stop her.  Fortunately, she became aware of my LSAT stress and the effect of it (= losing weight) so she stopped talking about it.  Then another issue came up – clothing.

As someone grew up in Midwestern America, I really don’t care much about clothing, unless I am going some kind of social or formal occasion.  As long as I  wear something that is not embarrassing and appropriate of the time, place and occasion, that’s it.  For other times, I should be able to wear whatever I want, and people shouldn’t give a damn about it either – especially when I am going to spend next 5 hours sitting in the library, struggling with LSAT questions. Think about it – do you want to wear fluffy spring maxi dress with toe-tightening shoes when you know you’ll have to walk with a heavy backpack and sit down for more than 4 hours?  I know I don’t.

But she thought differently.  And she just can’t say it in a nice way either.

In addition, she’d always say how I need to get a plastic surgery on here and there.  Unfortunately, my stress resistance gauge was already at its peak, all thanks to LSAT.  For several times, I said to her without getting upset, that all I am focusing now is LSAT and such, so it would be very nice if she can at least tone it down.  She said yes.  But again, of course, she wouldn’t listen.  She listened to me only after I screamed and cried and threw stuff around.  Then she accused me how I did not tell her beforehand.  Oh gawd.

I don’t want to be a drama queen – the thing is, she’d listen only when I become a drama queen.

Then there’s my dad.

I know I blogged a lot about my dad.  Since then, I think he figured out how to keep a safe distance from me, which is really nice.  But then, he’s still awkward.  One day, I suspect my mom talked him about how stressed out I am (and thus behaved like a drama queen…*facepalm* if only she did not mention about clothing/plastic surgery again!!!)  Then all of sudden, he started to get my backpack, and give me random neck massage.  Uh, thanks, but really this is awkward, and it wouldn’t magically make you a caring dad, so the best way is just let me be and give a bit of moral support.  That will do.

I was on my way to the local department store, and ran into my dad.  We said hi and all.  Then all of sudden, he started to mention how I should keep my upper and lower teeth together – because I’m not doing it, and it makes me look like an idiot.  Oh thank you very much for your kind words.

I have been loosened my jaws intentionally, ever since the oriental medicine doctor (for non-Asian readers: in many parts of Asian countries, oriental medicine doctors ARE formally educated medical doctors with PhD, managed by governments) told me I put too much pressure on my jaws by tightening up way too much – all that anxiety, tensions and stress.  Not only this affect my blood circulation, but it also made their treatment difficult – they couldn’t get the acupuncture needle in my jaws.

So I explained this.  Then my dad told me how he doesn’t trust them and he knows better.  I had enough comments about my looks from my own parents.  I was annoyed. Making the matter worse, my mom was helping him along.

“Mom, dad, seriously, can we just stop talking about me?!?!”

Then my dad got upset because I “talked back,” and behaved in a rude way (I can’t really recall – as he started this, I really didn’t give a flying f*ck, thinking ‘here it goes again…’).

Here’s the funny thing.  Though I have that problems with my mom, I somewhat understand her.  You can tell she really cares about looks and such.  But my dad isnt’ as sophisticated as my mom.   He never ever helps with the house chore – he thinks as long as he dumps the bowls in the sink (without filling the water), he gets a big pat on his shoulder.  He’d simply command “hey, you need to wipe the table” and walks away into his room.  He never ever answers the home phone.  He doesn’t even know how to make a tea out of teabag and a cup of hot water (I still can’t believe this).

He can’t keep his clothing together with time/place/occasion, nor social.  His table manner isn’t great either (for this I am grateful to my mom) – he’d goggle with the water after we finish eating, he frequently makes sound when chewing, and he would jab his spoons into pretty much everything on the table.   My mom or I would comment on this once in a while, but he never takes it seriously.  I guess, for these reasons, sometimes it’s hard to take his “advice.”  I can’t help myself thinking “so you are advising me on right clothing/posture/behavior while you can’t even dress properly or keep up with the table manner?”  He admires the western lifestyle.  At the same time, he can’t take his daughter who integrated the western lifestyle.  Once, as we were watching some travel TV program on Belgium, he said “they have a lot more relaxed lifestyle than us.  I think I will fit in there.”  I almost laughed – you never know what it takes to be in the world of individualism, especially being prepared to cover your own butt for every situations.

Thinking about bringing my future fiance to my family dinner scares me because of this.  If we have dinner at some restaurant, my dad won’t be natural at all, never enjoying it.  He’d think it as a work, not as an enjoyable meal.  If we bring him to our family dinner, then my future fiance will have to see my dad absolutely not keeping up with the table manner.  Marrying off without notifying my parents is a really convincing option to me at this point.

I understand the parental care and love and all that stuff.  But why can’t they just listen to me and give me some credit when I talk them nicely?  Why only listen to be after I end up screaming like a drama queen? All I remember as a reply when I talk nicely was “shut up,” “you don’t know better,” “you’re crazy.” (which, by the way, would worked better if I were 5.  But I am well over the legal age!) If you want someone to change something about them, you need to ask nicely.

For instance, you think your friend is wearing a bra that’s not for her, and you want her to change.  There are two ways you can say.

“You need to get a new bra, because-“
1. you look like an old crackwhore in it.
2. your bra will affect your blood circulation negatively.

It’s pretty obvious which would work better.  However, for some reason, my parents always go for #1.  And they think while they can’t do #1 to others, to me it’s okay, because they are parents and I’m their daughter.  For the same reason, I can’t do #1. I really don’t know why.

Since they never ever give any credit to what I say, maybe I should blame everything on how I forgot to have my magnesium drink.  That’s right, I’ve been so stressed out, so I started to drink the magnesium supplement powder called the Natural Calm, which seems to work.  And I forgot to drink it today. All my fault.

Snippet of Borderline Case

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As I walked back from the public library to the bus station, the gigantic franchise bakeries on the main street were throwing opening special events.  One was Paris Baguette and another one was Tour les Jours.  In front of Paris Baguette, a bras band made of three or four white men was constantly playing tunes, wearing uniforms as if they are one of the Paris Baguette crew or bakers.  Of course they are not.

In front of Tour les Jours, they, too, had a random white guys in front of the newly opened store.  Also in Tour les Jours uniforms.  But I doubt they are actual staffs. Either way, the stores hired some random white boys for a one-time event boys.  Like how old Harrods department store used to have exotic animals to attract more customers.

I couldnt’ help thinking how they are like caricatures of foreigners in South Korea: good ornaments, looks like they belong ,but not so in reality.  But who cares, they are 외국인 (foreigners).

Then what about me?  I look like belong but not so in reality.  I might be a good ornament, but less so because my passport, looks, blood and names are not foreign enough.  I can’t really tell which is worse or better.