Wednesday, May 26, 2010

What Kyle found at our local grocery store!

We have shopping trips every Monday evening for our weekly groceries. I can't go however, because I have taken some overtime work which keeps me teaching until 7:00 pm Monday- Thursday. So Kyle goes in my stead, which he doesn't seem to mind since he actually enjoys grocery shopping. I know! You can pick your jaws off the floor now. A husband who enjoys going to the grocery store, I am one lucky gal. And this week he brought home an extra special treat.
Yes, that does say Thai texas BBQ sauce. We have NO IDEA how they combined the flavors of Thai food and Texas BBQ, but there was no way any husband of mine would pass up a bottle like that with his two favorite meals being a toss up between Texas BBQ and pad thai. We will let you know how it turns out. Korea always has surprises up her sleeve! What'll it be next!?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Late night shopping in Dongdamun

When I taught in Korea last year, one of my primary activities was shopping. Myeong-dung is the heart of the shopping district in Seoul catering not only to the effeminate girly, bordering on doll like Korean style, but also to some Western styles, if you are small enough to fit in the clothing. My favorite store in Myeongdong is Forever 21. It is an American store, but here it has four fabulous stories. What I love about Forever 21 is its low low prices. Of course the quality of the clothing generally runs abreast the price, but the clothing is often very fashionable.

This year, my first shopping spree didn't occur until five months into our time here. This may have transpired because of the distance we have to travel in order to go shopping, but my reasoning is that last year I worked with over ten girls. These girls loved to shop and loved to dress nice. My work environment was one in which, what you wore was not overlooked. On the flip side however, here at our new school, the only female teachers I work with are Korean staff, and it isn't that they don't matter, but generally we have different fashion anyways, so what I think is stylish and what they find attractive are seldomly the same. In turn, that means, I don't really care what I look like. The guys certainly don't notice if I am sporting a new headband, or found a new eyeshadow so shopping holds much less importance this year than last year. (What an argument for being the product of your environment)

However my male counterpart, the love of my life has been begging me for a shopping trip. I tried explaining to him that there wasn't much for him to enjoy, but I finally gave in last weekend. Another shopping area in Seoul is Dongdamun. However, Dongdamun is an entirely different shopping experience than Myeongdong; reason being that the great shopping is supposed to take place in the wee hours of the morning. And by wee hours, I am refering to the hours between midnight and three am. A group of us decided this three day weekend would be the perfect opportunity for such a shopping spree because that extra day to recuperate was entirely necessary. Commiting to shopping past midnight meant that we were committed to staying up all night as the subways stop running before midnight and don't start up again until 5:30am the next morning.

What we found, was an entirely surreal affair. It reminded me of tax free weekend back in the US. It was insane the number of people shopping at this hour, not to mention the number of parents with children. I am surprised we didn't see one sleepy tempertantrum. The shopping took place inside and outside. We were told that prices dropped considerably after midnight as that is when the wholesalers come, but I barely bought anything. I couldn't find these deals of which legend had told. Maybe we were in the wrong place which is entirely possible since there seemed to be endless amounts of shopping. But my main complaint was that nothing I was interested in purchasing was I allowed to sample. I could not try a stitch of clothing on. It seems to be policy in Korea that you buy directly off the hanger and just assume everything will fit perfectly. It is true, many of them have the same figures; bird like bones, long legs and no hips but with the introduction of fast food, curves are beginning to appear in this country. How is one truly to know if something is worth purchasing unless they can try it on. It is so frustrating. So I didn't buy anything. I couldn't be sure that anything I liked would fit.
These shorts are supposed to improve the curves on the average slender Korean woman.

I did purchase one thing last year that looked amazing on the hanger. I took it home, tried it on and I was the spitting image of Peter Pan. It was hideous. Had I been able to try it on, I would have known to also look for a tinkerbell costume, but as it was, I was left playing dress up rather than dressing nice. I wasn't going to make that mistake this year.

The shops began to close around 3am so because we still had a few hours to kill before the subway re-opened we went to a movie. Side note: Military time goes from 0:00 to 24:00. At this movie theater, our movie showed at 27:15. When I asked what that meant she told us that it was 3:15 am. Why would they complicate such a simple time scale? Who knows. Our movie (the new Robinhood) was over at 5:30 am, however we didn't arrive back in our beds until 8:30 am because the train going all the way to Youngmun, where we live, didn't come for about one hour. I was grateful for the warmth of the evening, but grumpy at having to wait for such an absurd amount of time.

All in all it was a fun evening. Now if only I could get my sleeping schedule back to normal!

Point and case as to why I didn't think Kyle would enjoy shopping. These shoes are men shoes. They are gold displayed on gold flooring.
Guy clothing in Korea is often very effeminate as well. With this shirt, you could even have a strange linx cat to wear on your shoulder in case the shirt wasn't girly enough.

Who wants some boxers that look like the 50,000 won bill?

Corndogs covered in frenchfries. Kyle bought one. And with his mouth full exclaimed "delich!"

Matching outfits are all the rage for couples in Korea. Want to show that you care? Wear the same outfit. So far, I haven't convinced Kyle ;)

Another example of the matching couple shirts.

Obviously not a Korean shopper. Koreans all look the same, and this fella stood out! By the sound of his speech, we are guessing Chinese.

I got in trouble for taking this photo. Maybe they knew that it didn't make since.

Another one that belongs on (Braised chicken, falls in love with sea scent) A truly odd chicken who falls head over heals for the scent of the sea. I can just imagine the chicken wandering the shores of the ocean wishing for just one tangible moment with the sea scent.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The finger puppet incident

A few weeks ago, Kyle and I went paint balling with some friends. After our afternoon of playing GI Joe and GI Jane we went out to stuff our faces with grub. Specifically chicken, noodles and kimchi. It was a pleasant afternoon, but the running through trees wear janitor looking suites and huge post apocalyptic helmets, shooting at targets, avoiding sharp needles and being hit by hard exploding paint balls makes one exhausted. But what made my body quiver with fatigue was the thought of taking the subway the two hours home. Arggg, living in the country has its downsides. As we were walking towards the subway however we were stopped by two college age Koreans.
"May I ask you a few questions?" the girl asks.
We are familiar with this drill. Students are often given the task of conversing with foreigners for grades. As teachers, despite our desire to return home as quickly as possible, we felt obligated to play along.
"Sure" we said with as much enthusiasm as we could muster.
"I was given a project for my school to have a creative conversation with a foreigner. Do you mind performing a finger puppet play with me? It won't take very long." she asks kindly
I have to remind my brain to close my mouth. We have been asked survey questions before, but never asked to perform a play, let a long a finger puppet play. I volunteer Kyle as I am quite tired.
The play is written in English and is a shortened version of a Korean folktale. I didn't film the entire thing as I wasn't sure how much space we had left on our card, but you get the idea.
Click to watch here.

The Sun and the Moon (from Wiki)

In the world before the sun and the moon, only the stars existed.

It was in these early days that there lived siblings: Haesik (해식) the older brother and Dalsun (달순) the younger sister. Their mother was a poor peasant woman who sold rice-cakes for a living.

The mother was returning from the village one day when she was encountered by a tiger perched on a hill demanding a rice-cake in exchange for sparing her life. She gave it to him and the tiger went away, only to appear before her at the next hill; this time demanding two rice cakes. She gave him the cakes, only to find him again on the third hill, this time asking for four rice cakes. When the mother finally ran out of rice cakes to feed him, the tiger threatened to devour her.

The mother pleaded, saying she was the sole mother of two children. Upon hearing this the tiger's hunger grew even more vicious. He devoured the mother and then took on her clothing as a disguise. He then made his way to the house where he knew the children awaited.

At the house the children were worried that their mother was not returning. Haesik suggested they lock the door, when he heard a voice calling them from outside. Dalsun, the younger, thought it was her mother, but Haesik knew the voice was different and sensed that something was not right. The tiger urged them to open the door, but Haesik staunchly refused.

Not giving in, the tiger used some of the powder left from the rice cakes and applied it on the back of his hand, making them look white. When he inserted his fingers through a space in the door, Dalsun became convinced that it was their mother and immediately opened the door. The tiger chased them until the children climbed up to the safety of a tree.

When the tiger found an axe in the house and began chopping down on the tree, Dalsun made a prayer asking the heavens to send down a strong rope if they should be saved and a rotten rope if they were to be damned. A strong rope was sent down, and both siblings climbed up until they reached the heavens.

Seeing this, the tiger made a similar request, but the rope he got was rotten and he fell in a millet field. His blood stained the millet and this is why millet stalk is said to be red.

In heaven, Haesik became the sun (Haennim 햇님) and Dalsun became the moon (Dallim 달님), but later Dalsun complained that she was afraid of the dark. Thus Haesik decided to stand in for her so that Dalsun could become the sun.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Snap Photography class 2

Our second photography lesson took place mid march. The weather had been warming up and and we had begun to shed layers. In order to get to our lesson in Seoul, Kyle and I had to wake up at 8am, catch a taxi by 8:35, get on the subway for hours and arrive to our lesson in Seoul by 11am. As you can imagine, we were generally running behind schedule and this day didn't think the weather would be turning down the dial so rapidly. It was near freezing all day long, and guess who didn't dress appropriately? That is right, neither of us did. The lesson was an outdoor shoot. We froze our tushes off. And let me tell you, I am not a fan of taking pictures when my hands turn blue in order to hold the camera. It just doesn't put me in the mood for shooting. So the results are a half-way attempt at candid shots of Koreans walking down one of the hip shopping districts in Seoul. The trick is to zoom your camera lens in all the way (if you have a normal kit lens), hold the camera length ways at your belly button and cut in front of them as they walk. Most people don't notice that you are taking their picture, some do though. I was shy at first and not all that skilled. Practice makes better but I am far from perfect yet at honing this technique. Here are some of the better shots, but really I'm not that impressed with any of them. Like I said, it will take lots and lots of practice :)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

One interesting thing about living in a foreign country is the use or misuse rather of the English language. I understand that English isn't their first language. And I also appreciate that they are at least attempting to either market or acknowledge their foreign population. Either way, I am grateful for the little English that we do encounter. However, I have started a little project of misused English. Sometimes it is as simple as an oddly constructed sentence and other times, nothing about what was written makes the least amount of sense. At the very least, it provides Kyle and me with entertainment which is much appreciated. What is so entertaining about it is that all they need to do is ask a native English speaker before mass marketing and yet either lack of resources, initiative or plain Korean pride is to blame. Honestly if someone asked me to correct their advertisement as I was shopping in the mall, I would be more than happy to oblige without asking for funds in return. The Korean language and English language not only don't share an alphabet, but our sentences constructions are entirely disparate so I can understand where the massive screw ups happen, but really, the internet is widely used here. The dictionary is free. There are plenty of free resources and yet the most ridiculous mistakes are made. But like I said, they make me laugh so it is just fine for me. Enjoy!

We bought a mop recently while riding on the subway. You would be surprised what wonderful things you can purchase on the subway. I always have cash handy. Anyways, we saw this mop and as I complained a few posts back about our continuously wet floor, I thought it might be a good investment to purchase a mop. Not only was it great for cleaning our floors but it also doubled as a highly entertaining comedy sketch! Kyle is imitating the ecstatic house wife giving the thumbs up.

The house wife is happy so it must be good!
(At the top is says "Good Housewife" and "shaping your good life")

Nanometer fibre materials
Super powerful water absorbent
Virtue, wipe off dirts effectively!
Super -powerful electrostatic function
Can absorb all granular and silky things
Environment Protection, economic
fashionable and convenient!
(who knew a mop could be fashionable and convenient at the same time?)

Save labor very much

Cleaning magician
make it dry by a lock only

Never Remember, Hide and check!
( I still don't understand what I am not supposed to remember...)

A nut class

day and day happy
We make delicious bread with pleasant mind in the clean environment
( I sure hope you make it in a clean environment but what makes it a pleasant environment? Do you give your workers Valium?)

Your heart will beat with delight from it's perfect quality.
(except that my heart did not jump or beat with delight as this was the worst tasting cheap wine I have ever tasted in my life)

I saved the best for last. This "free girl" as the Korean students refer to her is on our English Village campus. Check out her tablet. "Jury IV." And no that word is not supposed to be jury as in a court case. It is supposed to say July IV. Oopsie daisy! We mixed up our "r's" and "L's" and no one bothered to double check before printing.

(This is a website that collects misused English from all over the world if you find what we have posted funny and just can't get enough!)

Friday, May 14, 2010

English Village Tour

We took this video footage some time ago. As you can see in the video the ground is covered in the white fluffy stuff. And although Spring has yet to have many warm days, we haven't had snow in at least over a month. I have been wanting to post this video for a while as my friends and family (mostly immediate family, not mentioning any names Mom) have been bugging us to see what the school looks like. Kyle was in charge of completing the video and as we all know, "wife's to do lists" are not always first priority when video games are factored in.

So as most people know, we work in South Korea. But about three years ago, the government of Korea decided that what the country was lacking was English Villages. Camps where students of all ages could attend to learn English from native English speakers. They endeavored to construct a campus that truly encompassed the English language spirit so a replica of colonial Virgina was constructed. The end result is a campus of red and white brick which stands out in Korea like a purple alien finger. In my humble opinion, the campus is gorgeous and the surroundings are utterly breathtaking especially now that the trees are budding leaves and are no longer deathly brown. The government did cut corners however in parts of its construction and during the rainy season waterfalls can be found in doors along the walls.

In the video, I talk about how there are discrepancies in this American village displaced to South Korea. However after reviewing it last night I realize that I made a mistake in the video. As I am looking at the beef eater statue (the current British guard for the Palace) I refer to him as a redcoat which is what I think they were going for with the militia man in a red coat, but obviously that was not their costume in colonial Virgina. I hope you enjoy our snow covered tour.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

My least favorite thing in Korea

Korea is a hodgepodge of cultural oddities. Some aspects of Korea are wonderful. CHEAP public transportation is an excellent example. I can complain all I want that the Korean subway moves slowly and is inefficient in it's design, but I cannot complain that it costs me a total of $2 to go clear across the city. The subway in London is close to $8 one way. And we all know how I LOVE a good deal.

Another fabulous aspect of Korea is the street food. It is greasy, fattening and readily available on each and every corner of Seoul. It is one of the most commented aspects from the rare tourist visiting Korea. Street food is awesome!

However, the facet of Korean culture that I least appreciate is the bathroom. But more specifically the shower. (There is more about the Korean bathroom that we shall delve into later, but as I am choosing not to write a dissertation on every irritating feature of the Korean restroom, at least in this post, we shall stay short and to the point today) Our shower is great (when there is hot water). We've got water pressure and a wide stream, however what I find fault with in the bathroom is the lack of separation between shower and the remaining space. In most American homes the shower head is either found above the bathtub or blocked off by glass walls or ceramic tiling. It is a vital design in the bathroom that the shower is separated from the toilet or the sink. I never even knew there might be others in the world, at least those with running water, who might purposefully choose to stray from this brilliant design. However in most Korean bathrooms, the shower is the bathroom, not a separated part of the bathroom. There is no barrier to block the water from spraying the entirety of the room. Our drain for the shower is actually below the sink in the middle of the bathroom. Yes, it is strange, but more than strange, it is just plain irritating.

What are the downsides to this bizarre design you might ask?

-There is ALWAYS a wet floor. The Korean solution is bath shoes. Every bathroom, even public bathrooms such as in restaurants, provide shower shoes. The problem lies in that shower shoes get wet as well and if you walk into the bathroom in your socks or slip your socked feet into already wet shower shoes the result is sopping wet socks. Who likes their socks wet? Psychopaths, those are the only nutcases crazy enough to enjoy wet socks.

-Wet toilet- Have you ever sat on a wet toilet seat? And I mean a dripping wet toilet seat. Let's just say, it is pleasant. It's about as pleasant as falling into the toilet bowl because your husband forgot to put the seat down.

-Wet things- When there is no closed off storage space in your bathroom, you have the added pleasure of watering everything you keep in the bathroom. Your toothpaste, you moisturizer, razor you name it, it gets wet. If you don't think that your inanimate objects need watering and shade to grow then the bathroom is the wrong place for them.

What are the positive aspects?

I have yet to discover why this design would in the least be beneficial. Maybe it makes it cheaper to construct and also less work for the builders?

Maybe Koreans really like everything they own to be soaked daily. Maybe Koreans never wear socks in the house. I really can't answer why one would design such a disastrous bathroom, but I can tell you, I DON'T LIKE IT! And when I am getting back to the USA, one of the first things on my 'To Do List' is to take a hot bubble bath. Yesssiree, I miss my bathtub, and my normal shower.

But for all those folks who might be concerned about our welfare after reading this cantankerous post, please don't worry. We are actually very happy at the moment despite the tone of a few of the previous posts. We are productive members in society. We are together. Home is where the heart is, and my heart is lying next to me. Life is good, despite an ill-designed bathroom.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Heart Beat

As I have said before. So much of young Korean culture revolves around the pop music. This music video is a perfect example of dramatics of K-pop. Personally I like this song, and the video is highly entertaining.
Enjoy! Here is the link if you are having trouble viewing it.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

The birthday train

My birthday has come and gone. We are not discussing my newest age. I have stopped counting, so if anyone asks, I will tell you 21. Why does it seem that when we are young, birthdays arrive ever so slowly, like a feather floating on the wind currents calmly breezing and chilling on the drafts as we jump up and down trying to grab it from the sky. But when we get past 20 they zoom towards us like a blazing flame-encrusted alien asteroid shot from a speed of light powered cannon. I am dodging those ever growing alien space balls as skillfully as I can, but in all honesty, my reflexes are seriously lacking, and they hit me much too often for comfort. I am on the fast train to thirty years old, and as much as I beg and plead with the train conductor to freaking slow down this mad dashing train, he only laughs menacingly and calls out to the worker sporting overalls and a shovel in his gruff callous voice "More coals to the fire!" I can almost see the brick wall looming on the tracks with the big 30 bedazzled in pink rhinestones mocking me.

I just need a watch to slow down time. Anyone have one? It's not that I don't ever want to be thirty, it's just that I thought I would have accomplished so much more by that time. I imagined that I would be a grown up by my age, but I don't feel like a grown up. I don't feel like an adult. I still feel like we are just playing house. What I really want is a few more years before I am thirty so that the dreams of an eight year old can be realized. Is that really too much to ask?

So although I would have preferred to ignore the day reminding me of that looming brick wall, we did actually celebrate the day of my birth. A friend came to stay with us. Enchiladas were had. ( A serious treat from some lovely co-workers!) Saturday, Kyle and I had a joint birthday bash in Itaewon (the foreign district) with an Indian buffet and chic bar called the bungalow with sand on the floor to complete the bohemian vibe with friends in Seoul. Sunday afternoon, we had a BBQ with co-workers and celebrated a joint birthday with one of our co-workers wife who had also had a birthday that week. It was a solid week of celebration and super duper fun. And although I wish my birthdays would stop stacking one on top of the other like precariously piled jenga blocks, I was able to look past what it means to be my age and live life as best as I know how.