Wednesday, November 25, 2009

It's just the little things...

Dear Korea,


I love you for all the little things. Like the little old ladies who push you on the subway...now would I be wrong if I pushed her back? Not in Korea... the concept of excuse me is so far removed, that I asked my co-teacher one day if I was saying the Korean phrase for excuse me right and she repsonded with " don't worry I never use it, you wont either". Gotta love it. Today I love you most  for your ridiculous television shows...
For instance yesterday I was flipping through the channels and I found the EBS ( Education Broadcasting Station) and I found a show where a plump Austrailian man in a full Chef Boyardee getup was speaking fluent Korean, in which he breaks down cheesy Korean pop songs into a English lesson. Now the the show's called Cooking English or so is the rough translation, however... his set is a faux kitchen and yet he never cooks anything. Thoughout the show mini muscal montages flash on the screen of a Korean pop group. This video can only be explained by mixing a bad  version of LL Cool J's "I need love" with  The Backstreet Boys " Bye, Bye, Bye"
Huh? Yeah that's right....make no mistake about it, it was utterly and totally ridiculous. Sounding like the Koringlish version of N'Sync... singing  lyrics like" giiiirllllll ...you be up on dis , gimme a kiss...Oooooh c'mon we raisin da roof" Oh I should have wrote the rest down so you could get the full affect. Wait.. it's not over! So then it flashes back to "the chef", where he stops kneading his prop dough and holds up a frying pan , and inside is the phrase reads " you be up on dis"  then in his Aussie accent " the chef" explains " up on this" as " being all over me" Really? After which  it swtiches back to the "pop/rap song" , and then magically " the chef " has a basket of plastic bread on the table. I'm curious as to why they even need the faux food. But hey it's Korea... I dont ask questions. Believe me when I say my desrciption does it no justice, I was in tears laughing. If I can find a link to the episode I will most surely post it. For ridiculous shows like this Korea I will continue to love and cherish the EBS.

Always,
Tiff

Ps. just curious as to why Korean pop groups consist of 9-14 members? since when  is 5 not enough?

Monday, November 23, 2009

What are you lookin' at?


So... this is an ongoing problem I'm having at work. Let me start off by saying 95 % of the time I have a quite pleasant work environment. The hours are great, my students are eager to learn and well beahved, the food is pretty decent and my co-workers are quite friendly.  Here in ladies and gentlemen lies the problem. Oh yes, they are friendly but sometimes too friendly. Now I dont mean too friendly in the "touch my ass when no one's looking, by the coffee machine " sense. I mean the "Oh can you please step away from my desk, you're hovering and I can feel your hot breath on the back of my neck or feel your gaze burning a hole in the side of my face" friendly. Now the hover seems to have been adopted by two of my male co-workers. So what started off as a seemeingly friendly" what are you doing ?"has snowballed into let me sit in your lap and play the 20 questions game.When I put on my head phones and say " let me get back to what I was doing"...guess what? thats your cue to get up and leave, not scoot your desk chair closer so you can eyeball me and my laptop." Go somewhere!" I want to shout in my almost silent co-office. But I smile and position my body as a barrier between the two of us and put my palm to my head. Thus without words expressing through my body langauge I want to be left alone. Yet in still he is peristant in asking questions about my favorite celebrity and songs I like. " For the love of God man... piss off " I say in my head.So after some time of him staring at me with his strange Korean gaze... Smiling and in the most polite Korean etiquette I tell him to "go waste time" as the cleark once told me at E-Mart. Not sure what this translation means, but whatevr it was, he got the picture... and swiftly departed. My Korean male co-workers are swift and quiet like samaurai... hold on let me check to make sure they're not reading this over my shoulder... Okay, the coast is clear! I thought about not wearing deoderant for a few days and trying the B.O.strategy but one of them smelled of fermented oyster sauce that had been sitting in the sun for about a week. So that approach is out.
Now I'm clearly going to have to explain to them in the nicest way possible about "personal space" and how much I enjoy it.So with my swivel chair ready to move and a desk partition in the works, I diligently work on red sequined shoulder pads and a hair clips that read " Do Not Disturb".


Confucius say:  beware of the" friendly" co-workers that nuisence in your ear, nip it in the butt soon or you'll be pestered for a year.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sick in Korea,,,,wasnt so bad


I do apologize for the lack of blogs this past week. I was feeling a bit under the weather. Due to the wacky Korean weather and in part to my non stop party binge. The other morning I looked in the mirror and gave myself a much needed but sad reality. " You are not 22 anymore! It takes you a day and a half to recover for each night you party, and lets not even get into breaking night! So genius...you the math" Accepting  the fact that I am no longer a spring chicken and have notedly handed in my "Party Girl" I.D. which conseqently plays Eddie Murphy's " She likes to party all the Time". I feel a tickle in my throat...Uh oh I know what that means...my age has finally caught up with me. I wake up the next morning to  find my throat nearly swollen shut and a wicked fever. I call my co-teacher and she pops round after her second period to drive me to the hospital. Having watched the hospital scene from Lost in Translation recently I'm a little apprehensive about the hospital .When arriving at the "clinic" which from the exterior looks like a dingy parking garage  I think to myself  am I going to the doctor's or are my organs going to be sold on the black market? Once inside the elevator Ms. Kim sensing my apprehension assures me that this is a very good doctor. Once reaching the 5th floor , we make our way down a brightly lit corridor. The cute little Korean nurses bow and welcome me. At the desk Ms. Kim helps me fill out the a little slip of paper. That's it ...no long series of questions...no 30 pages of medical history? after a 5 minute wait I go into to see the doctor, assesses me, asks if I have any medication allergies, then tells me I have bronchitis and he will see me on Saturday for a follow up appt.  Hold on...doctors are open on Saturdays in Korea? He shows me back to the front desk where  I pick up my prescription to take to the pharmacy.The nurse informs me that  my health insurance has kicked in and that the cost for today's visit is 3,500 won which is the equivalent of $2.00 USD." Excuse me?  Hon bon do!" She repeats herself. I pay and Ms Kim laughs. " Korea is good ...right ?" Good is not the word. As we leave I  fold my prescription and put it in my pocket. Ms. Kim says " Oh no... you need it now!" as we reach the first floor we go into the pharmacy I hand them my prescription and within five minutes  my prescription is filled and the pharmacist is explaining the dosage. I look for the bottle when to my surprise the prescription is pre-sorted into little cellophane baggies. "three times a day..this will make you sleepy"  she then says 2,300 won. Are you kidding me? I ask what the medicine is ... and she responds with "you sick...right? you take!" Well Korea you've haven't steered me wrong thus far soooo..."I take". After my pleasant hospital experience Ms. Kim me for Sol-long-tang which is this amazing beef soup with noodles, rice, onions, and who knows what else. Yummm. It's my new favorite. So let's recap for a minute here... Korean doctors are open on the weekends,  I waited less than 10 minutes to be seen, my whole trip, cost me less than 6,000 won! PSA: America you are one of the richest super powers and lil 'ole Korea has got health care down to a science.Something's not quite right with this picture.Just adding to another reason why I'm not coming back stateside anytime soon.
So getting sick in Korea wasn't that bad. My school gave me a few days off to recooperate and I'm feeling good as new. Oh a little side note remember when the trusty pharmacist said this will make me sleepy.. what she didn't say was that her magical "Korean pill cocktail" induces a sleep like coma. I woke up today, feeling so rested not realizing it was 5:08pm not am!

Confucius say: beware of Korean pill cocktails in clear little baggies one might end up sleeping until next week

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Rebirth....


So don't get all freaked out by the picture. I am not pregnant. Nor do I plan to be anytime soon. However I did have a curious dream last night it might have been providence, or the curious pill cocktail prescribed by my  most trusty Korean physician. I was here in Korea and waddling around some archaic theatre complete with a chandelier, velvet seats and a balcony. Curls piled top my head, draped in jade jewelry, having contractions in a flowing navy colored Bohemian dress . My mother helped deliver my first child, my son as I continued to push and await the arrival of what I somehow knew to be my daughter. Amidst the pushing I woke up. My legs and torso still sore... Isn't that strange? So I immediately looked up the meaning of this online.
I found that the interpretation of giving birth means a new aspect of yourself is about to be born. It is your responsibility to develop this side of yourself. This is always a positive dream, as to allow a new aspect of yourself to flourish you must let go of whatever kept it suppressed. This dream usually comes after doing some developmental work on yourself.
In reading this....I have come to terms with  my new existence.  While finally settling into my new life  I am a bit nostalgic of my old life. However, memories are like carbon copies of the past. Etched ever so slightly upon the pages of my mind. But in time they fade... like all things.  The November air is cold and reminds me that winter is just around the corner, ad yet another season has come to pass. I know this post is not my usual mix of banter and comedy but it is something that needed to be expressed. This, here, now is my life, and I am contented. It has been an interesting road of obstacles that has brought me here. I do not regret the things that have brought me here. I am a better and stronger person for having made it through the meandering path. So after a month's time.... Korea has become a home I never thought possible.  As I dig my heals into foreign shores, I exhale and welcome my rebirth.


Confucius: the seasons shift and transform as do our hearts, they swell in rapture like the winds of change and await the tides of life


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Oh really Korea...

 My Dearest Korea,

Today was a sad day for us both. We lost Fran,back to America. But once again you bring some laughter to my life, when on the train back to Anyang I catch a glimpse of none other the "kimchi merge".
Kimichi merge : the blending of the Korean female's clothing/accessories with that of and her male counterpart.Beware of this phenomena, if unaware, at first sight it can be daunting. Not only did they have matching phone charms well they were to big and furry to call charms, matching shoulder "satchels",  and wearing matching striped shirts but also sporting similiar hair cuts. I almost threw up in my own mouth. I wouldn't be suprrised if they were sporting the oh so popular matching underwear sets I see floating around local department stores.
Oh Korea how you encourage the emasculation of Korean men by producing boxer briefs in rainbow polka dots, satin, and stars to match their girlfriend's lingerie sets. You never cease to amaze or amuse me.



Always,
Tiffany

P.s. Korea don't ever ask me to wear matching cardigans and undies ...I'm just not into that.
P.p.s 1994 called it wants it's trend back!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Nights of Itaewon Part II


So the Nights of Itaewon is now officially a sequel. Once again Fran and I put on the shortest dresses  and the tallest boots we could find , and headed out to Itaewon. This time we met up with a few fellow expat teachers. Stacy, Kate and Eliana at Helios.  Looking quite fab with my freshly pressed hair and my knee high suede boots I was definitely feeling myself. At Helios, the patrons ran the gamut from "Say what" Korean girls trying to pull off a bad Little Kim impressions,  American "wankstas" and their hype men, to a few white Americans sprinkled in the mix for diversity and a number of expat teachers. We all had our free drink and peaced out.However, I did linger for a moment to see a Korean guy in a Coogi sweat suit with a blingged out hat pop-lock on the platform...Ridiculous! Bearing the cold we ran across the street to our "favorite" spot UN Club. "Ladies Night" Oh yeah no cover.... as we get down stairs Kate says " I paid!" They group chuckled..." Go get your money" as we head to the bar. Against the backdrop of what seems to be an American club, we find our niche and post up surveying the crowd. In a sea of faces I see  my black people and I smile. This however was short lived when I  noticed the ghetto boops are here in full effect...silver boots, tacky backless shirts and bad weaves, the "Word Up" Korean boys are bobbin on beat with fresh Jordans on , wanna be Bloods sans shirts and  mouths  fronts are swinging bandanas in the air. Ummm Bloods in South Korea? I think not! ( PSA: Dear fake punk fakers... the real thugs called and they want their colors back), Nigerians posing as Americans. " So where are you from"  New Lork City" " Really? New Lork City.... you sure about that?", and it wouldn't be complete with out the token drunk white girls crying in the bathroom. Are you sure I'm in Korea and not in a club in North Philly? Laughing at this unbelievable spectacle, the girls and I order  our second round.Then I get a phone call...It's "Andy" saying he's coming out! " Cool " I say " See you later!" Then off to the dance floor to tear it up.As "Andy" arrives I see he's alone. " I hope he didn't come alone just to see me..."  I say. He says hi to the girls and gets me a drink. While he's at the bar Fran leans over and says " Bringin sand to the beach... is a no no" , I laugh... " I'm so not even going there with him and I thought he was coming with his friends" ... " thought wrong!" she says and laughs. After a few giggles from the girls I let them know.. he is NOT my boo. Back out on the dance floor starting to sweat my press out, when  the DJ spins" This Is How we Do It" yes they did blow the dust off it....Random Nigerian men are trying to infiltrate our group as we swiftly make our way back to the bar. I make a B line to the bathroom, upon coming out of the lou, there is " Andy" lookin all sad with the puppy dog eyes. " What's up?" I ask as if I dont know what he's about to say " I missed you today" .. Ummm yeah I was way off on that one! (What? he misses me? I just met the guy yesterday and we've only ever hung out at the club... ummm I might have a Nigerian stalker  on my hands) Then he tries to dance with me and hold my hands...Okay.. I've had about enough. I say " Andy we need to talk! K!" He looks at me intently" Listen you're nice, but you're trying to boo me up IN THE CLUB, I think you're a nice guy but you should go home" " I will call you later" and( by later I meant the Monday after never). Crisis averted as he's walking out the door  the song " No Wifin in the Club" comes on...how a propo.  I owe Fran twenty dollars FML..So now with my wanna be boyfriend out the way the girls and I go back to the bar freshen our glasses. After which Fran has found a Korean boyfriend MingSu who cripwalks... you know she likes em gangsta doesnt matter the nationality. I look over to see Kate dancin with Long Duck Dong and Eliana and Stacy tearin it up as well and I  made a new friends with some military guys. Oh so American. There was an abundance of cuties at the bar that night , everyone was feelin what the DJ was putting down, and the drinks were strong. Cant be mad at that. In fact the drinks were so strong that after a few more Grey Goose, Orange and Cranberry , Fran started dancin with "soulja boy".. and he literally is a soldier. Later on he came back to dance with her and Fran says "oh wait i didnt recognize you with your shirt on!" As the night wore on into early morning , I remembered less and less how many rounds we had. All I know is my pressed hair was not longer issue because I was dancing as if my life depended on it, Kate was entertaining some random guy, Stacy was gettin with it, Fran was on the stage with soulja boy, and Eliana was unsuccessfully avoiding Nigerians.
We received lollipops from our would be suitors... maybe it's a Korean thing, but is a Chupa Pop a sign of going steady in 2009? I know you're not supposed to take candy from strangers but we made exceptions just this once. Sitting on the stage enjoying out Chupa treats when this Nigerian man who we've all verbally abused throughout the night came back for one more attempt... I put my hand up " No, Stop, dont even go there K!"
As my buzz turned into full on drunkeness and my feet started hurting , the dreaded military curfew was in affect so... what seemed like 70% of the drunken club goers filed out the door. Along with our dance partners. As the girls and I notice only the Nigerians and the belligerent white men are left,we grab our jackets and make a hasty exit. Outside the streets of filled with people, street meat vendors, cabs swerving in at out of traffic and half dressed girls. Oh wait that's us!The night air was electric and we cracking up laughing as we recalled some the nights events. Filled with questions of " was he cute?", " yo, what were you drinking?", " Do you remember his name?", "how long were you up there?" and " why am I so damn drunk?"
Beacause it's Itaweon and that's what happens.


Confucius say: when one hits the streets of Itaewon with the girls in tow be sure to keep the drinks strong, the skirts short, and the cell handy because you're bound to meet a of couple of men chupa pop candy


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Nights of Itaewon Part I


This weekend was soo ridiculous I couldnt fit it all into one blog, so be on the look out for Nights of Itewon Part II. Well now that I've had time to let all the events of the past couple of days sink in I thought it was time to put them into some cohesive thought. It's been such a whirlwind, and I've been tagging along for the ride. I've been partying non-stop since Thursday. I haven't done that since my college days. I thought I was too old for breaking night 3 consecutive days. Apparently I've still got it!
For Fran's last weekend in Korea, hungover and sleep deprived,Friday after work I packed my bag and she and I headed for Seoul. We checked into Bebop House hostel. Which by the way I highly reccomend if you need a inexpensive, and fun place to stay while you're in the Seoul metro area. We arrived at this seemingly ordinary white house in Hongdae with a colorful street sign the reads Bebop House. Inside we find a friendly Korean guy to welcome us and asks us to sign in. Taking off my shoes at the door as customory Korean etiquette dicatats. I make my way to the table. I take a seat on the floor pillow and sign in. The common room is quaint and ecclectic, backpackers' memeroies clipped to a clothesline that hangs on the back wall. a bookshelf filled with maps and travel books and a mini computer station. Our host carries our bags upstairs and we meet our two roommates. After a much needed nap Fran and I get dressed and hail a cab to Itaewon. As the cold fall air whips us in our faces as we exit the cab we cant help but think maybe we should have re-evaluated our club outfits. But none the less with hit the pavement in the direction of Club UN,  we were told by a friend was a "down southesque" hip hop club. We make our way inside we hear familar " Shawty wanna thug...." while the bass is bumpin, we make our way downstairs where the smoke is thick and the drinks are flowing.  As we hit the door I'm flooded with brown faces. So much brown I forgot I was even in Korea. It was more transporting myself to ATL. Bandanas, fronts, tall dark brothas, "Shawty" be yelled to a near by girl from a guy in a coogi suit...lol. Not even there 10 minutes and the men swoop in, droppin cheesy pickup lines and of course the all prevelent question here " So where ya from?"  Mostly military men, but there was no shortage of Nigerian men trying to make me their wife within the first five minutes of meeting. I laugh and am flattered by the attention. Fran is craking up at the bar while a guy with fronts is hammered and all in her personal space, and know how much New Yorkers loooove that!
After having out fill of drinks and make the acquaintence of a nice Nigerian man named " Andy" we all know thats not his REAL name, but I'll let him rock with "Andy". We head out to Club Zion for a little Reggae. At Zion "Andy" and I hit the dance floor. As we are dancing the tall African man kisses my forehead. I stop and say " listen you're nice but I'm def not into that..." He smiles, apparently not understanding and says " Oh you're so cute". Once again not trying to be anyone's girlfriend...or romantic interlude. Making my way back to the table with Fran, "Andy" buys us a round of drinks and boy is he a talker. And those of you who know me... For ME to call someone a talker, now thats saying something.Oh and I got an invitation to go to Africa....sounds fun but, I'm thinking he might try to marry me as soon as we get off the plane. So... I have to re-evaluate that offer...dont want to end up like Sally Fields in Not without my Daughter.After my "conversation" with " Andy" where I only understood ever 2nd or 3rd word due to his serious accent, Fran and I decided to call it a night, well a morning because when I looked at my cell it definitely said 6:30am.Heading back to the hostel we, we sat in the common room for a while make friends with a cute Malaysian guy and Ari a fellow traveller. When our eyelids could no longer hold themselves open , Rran and I headed for the room. The fun thing about hostels and shared rooms is it's kind of like a slumber party with strangers. This arrangement can either be really fun or unbearable. In our case out bunkmates wer prettycool.( Yes, I said bunkmate...We both had the top bunks.) Have you ever tried to climb into a bunk bed when you are hammered? It is No Bueno ladies and gentlemen.The next afternoon we roll out of bed looking " Oh so fabulous" and made our way to Family Hair Salon in Itaewon. Nervous about my impending hair appointment Fran assures me by saying "Really ? can some one really mess up and press and curl?" I say " Ummm ... helllo have you seen my hair" we shrugs, cross our fingers and hope for the best. As we enter the shop and climb the steep set of stairs  I spot a Dudley's certificate on the wall.... "Hmmm...Dudley's?", the familiar smell of  a hot  pressing comb and oil sheen calm my nerves. " Is Jung Su really giving that girl micros over there in the corner? " " Is that Motions I smell...?" Sure enough as we take a seat I see Motions hair products in all their glory on the shelf. I'm put a little more at ease, but you can have all the products in the world...doesnt mean you can do hair. As this little Korean woman waves me to come back to the shampoo chair I take off my headband and unleash the beast. After a few minutes of vigorous washing, she puts in a deep conditioner , piles my curls ontop of my head and places a  pink bonnet on my head that looks more like salmon quilted russian hat than something that belongs in a salon. "Deep Condition" she says in Koringlish. I nod and wait for the rinse. In the mean time Fran too decides on to get a wash and blow out. "Perry" the shampoo lady motions me to the stylist chair where there familiar smells of the oven heating up,and  as my stylist grabs a jar of B& B grease, this assures me that she knows what she's doing...and hour later she turns my chair around, and I see staring back at me a glimpse of my former American hair fabulousness. Excited, I hop up from the chair and pay her 35,000 won. Which is roughly $20.00. I put on my diva shadesand  grab my bag, looking fab we grab our coats. Satisfied with our oh so silky Korean hair experiences we hit the streets of Itaewon.

Confucius Say: One should never doubt the skill of Korean hair stylist, when doing black hair, with Dudley's on the wall and the smell of Motions in the air

Apology to Seoul

Dear Korea,

I was too hasty in my first assessment of Seoul. I called it crass, uncultured, too westernized and just not my cup of tea.Well after this weekend, I'm writing you an official apology. Your hip hop clubs, random street meat vendors, adorable all day brunch cafes,cute boys, fantastic " Black" Korean hair salons, and pretty awesome hostels have changed my mind. You can be my side jawn... just don't tell Anyang. So until my next visit, I'm blowing you digital kisses.


Always,
Tiffany

Ps Seoul you're like an ugly boy with a cute personality. I don't want to like you, but I do. In a drunken haze you seem like a great catch.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Because of you

Dear Korea,
I'm reminded oddly enough of a Kelly Clarkson song " Because of You"...
Because of you, I'm always happiest with a "That's Y" or a " KGB" in my hand. You provide me with the conduit to make all my inebriated dreams come true. Take last night for instance. Late night happy hour at Psycho. A seemingly empty bar turned into a night of shennanigans and a day of hangovers for all involved. But without the Korean magic in the air last night, copius amounts of alcohol, chance meetings, knitted sweaters, bar top dancing, throw back hip hop jams and crazy expat teachers... it would have never been possible.

Always,
Tiffany

P.s: knitted moccassins and rouched sateen pants should never be in the same ensemble!

my first love note to Korea...

In an on-again off-again relationship that I have since entered into with Korea , I have found many interesting, amusing and irritating idiosyncrasies about my love. So this is the first of many love notes from me to you Korea.

Dear Korea,

I love that your men carry "man bags"! This oh so "manly" accessory ranges from the leather understated satchel to the most flamboyant blingged out man "purse". I've seen many of your fashion forward country men sport these jazzy bags over the shoulder or merely carried like a purse. I'm not sure what to think of this Korea, but I do know this one thing. Ladies if you have to ask your man can you borrow his bag because it matches you pumps... this is No Bueno. Until next time Korea.... I love you and your kimchi.


Always,
Tiffany


P.s: the Beatles called,  and they want their hair back!


Oh Korea...

Some days I'm so overwhelmed by you and other days I rue the day you were born. Ok it's usually only a few minutes of  expatriate ranting and a few pouts. But everyday you bring something new and interesting to my life. For instance the joys of Premium Gold toothpaste with real flecks of Gold in it or your culinary ability to get me... hater of all things slimy to try octopus jello and squid tentacles. Who knew the sweet joys you would brings to my life. But let me digress and talk about the not so spectacular language barrier. Now don't get me wrong ladies and gentlemen, I fully expected to have some language difficulties. I was under no misconception there. However, I've been told by many Koreans that I pronounce Korean like a Korean this had made me more confident in my language endeavors. Now I don't knhe cab drivers and E-Mart sales people are on some other wavelength, but they do not share the same sentiment. It could very well be that they see my almost 6 ft, African-American self, and think how could anything other than English come out my mouth. They could be in a daze from my big eyes and dazzling good looks. I'm not really sure. Let me give you a prime example of this most magical occurrence.
The other day I was on my way to the Korean Immigration Office to pick up my Alien Registration Card. Having made my way to Seoul before, Fran and I make good time on the train. In order to cut out transferring trains, we decide to cab it from  a station not too far from my intended destination. Earlier that day I wrote down the address in romanized Korean and even practiced the pronunciation. In a furious hurry Fran and I climb what seems like a never ending flight of stairs ( while Fran gets to use her favorite Korean phrase "Bali, bali" which means hurry up).As we reach the street and flag a taxi, both of us panting heavily, we take a moment and compose ourselves. Pulling out the address I read it to the cabbie. " Bo?" he responds. Ugh...Houston we have a problem! I show him the paper and say it again. Then I give in and give him the name of the nearest train station to the Immigration office. As we pull up to the station... I try one last time. Saying the address and showing him the paper. He looks at the paper again and in Koringlsh he says "address?" then repeats the address I told him earlier in Korean. OMG.... that's what I just said!  Now late to pick up my card, I am furious, but I keep my composure as Fran shakes her head. I think I might have to get a shirt in Korean that says " I just said that!"  Another of " I.J.S.T" was just yesterday on our way to the KBL game. We get in yet another cab on our way to the stadium, I tell the cabbie the address and once again " Bo?" I repeat the address! Frustrated by this little man, I call Ms.Kim (yes she is on speed dial) , I hand the phone to the driver, "Odeso?" He says.... " Ney, Ney!" Then repeats the SAME address I told him. Yet another instance of " I just said that! Oh the joys you bring me Korea! So, I willl you posted on the " I just said that" Show, Until  next time!

Confucius say: When attempting to communicate with foreign cabbies, one would do well to purchase a voice recorder or possibly an easy button... "I just said that"....

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Surprises...the good,bad and the ugly


Last weekend was full of surprises. First off we went strolling in my favorite department store. LOTTE! Fran discovered a supermarket equipped with a food court on the lower level. Are you kidding me? All Lotte needs is some beds on the top floor and a night club and you would literally never have to leave the building. You have to see it to believe it. I know I'm a little obsessed. lol. After having our fill of Lotte and checking out a cute little sushi place for lunch, we made out way to Anyang station where a Korean children's variety dance group called " Popcorn" was performing. These pint sized performers were gettin with it. Silver blinged out combat boots, hot pink skirts, and MJ gloves. Really ? A group of children ranging from ages 3-8 were puttin in work on the elaborate choreographed dance routine and they sang at the end. Only Korean children.
Later that evening  Fran and I were invited to my co-teacher's house for a traditional Korean dinner. Everything was so delicious ( mashsisoyo). A full spread! Her family is soo cute. Her daughters Su-Hyun and Seng Hyun are my instant new little buddies, not to mention they are talented. What is it with Asian children and being gifted and perfect? After dinner her eldest busts out classical music on the piano while her younger daughter commences to draw me an equestrian masterpiece. Why cant American children be child prodigies? Yet another reason why Asians are going to take over the world. I'm convinced. Then my co-teacher says " You like Nori bong right?" ( Nori bang is Karaoke). " Do I ever" I replied. " Ok ler's go now" she says! SO me Fran and my surrogate Korean family head off to Karaoke. It's okay to bring children to karaoke late on a Saturday night? What do we Americans know about raising children anyways? So off we went. The kids are singing cartoon theme songs, Ms. Kim and her husband are belting out "romantic" Korean melodies, while Fran and I are getting with  tunes Beyonce, Drake, and Maroon 5." Are these popular American songs?" asks Ms. Kim. We assure her they are. The mood doenst pick up until Fran and I sing, Y.M.C.A followed by Hey Jude....typical. You dont know contemporary American tunes  but you know The Village People and the Beatles? We should have known something was up when the cd in the car, played old school Toni Braxton and Total Eclipse of the Heart. Overall is was a great night. Oh and Ms. Kim sent us home with a Korean goodie bag complete with a few cans of " That's Y" lol...gotta love it.

On Sunday Fran and I waited for the ridiculous thunderstorm to pass before heading out to Seoul. We hopped on an express train where when we arrived at our designated seats a old Korean bum was sleeping in my chair. I tapped him, not having the vocab for this sort of situation and showed him my ticket. He acknowledges it, then moves over to Fran's seat! I now show him both tickets. He sucks his teeth and gets up and stands the rest of the way. Ummm...
I paid my $2.50 to ride in comfort... sorry Mr. Bum. ( gotta say Mr. it's Korea!) Upon our arrival in Seoul, Fran and I look at one another in a culture shock..." Are we even in Korea anymore?". Talk about westernized. When I asked for directions in Korean, and young Korean man pulled his phone away from his ear in the clearest English he said " Hold on a minute I'll help you, I just have to take this call" Almost disgusted that this man spoke English...I said ok and waited patiently. Never thought I'd see the day when I wasn't excited to hear someone speak English. The further we walked into Seoul the more we were flooded with western restuarants, signs in English and waves of foreigners. Don't get me wrong, I was excited to meet new foreigners. But their numbers were overwhelming. I've noticed that racism transcends a leap across the pond. I find that most Caucasian foreigners dont even speak or acknowledge you as you pass. I figure we're all American...we're all in the same boat....ummm sike my mind. Let me set these rose colored glasses to the side for another day. But it doesn't stop their folks, even my own people of color are rare to share a friendly word. Now that infuriates me! What is up with that my black people? Really you come to another country and you cant even acknowledge your fellow brothas and and sistas? SMH. Well on a lighter note, as Fran and I are leaving the station we see a Peruvian man and his band decked out in knitted ponchos singing none other than that oldie but goodie...La Bamba. Wait La Bamba...in Korea? Please tell me how you and your band made it here to South Korea of all places and decided that La Bamba was an appropriate song for the Seoul Station quad. As waves of foreigners pass and Korean becomes the least spoken language I hear,it saddens me and I miss Anyang. Fran and I take ourselves on a bit of a walking tour ( we got lost) then found our way in the subways and made the acquaintence of two African- American females who've been teaching in Korea for almost a year. They gave us the ins and outs of Seoul and showed me where to" get my hair did". I was most appreciative to my newly found friends and made plans with them for next weekend. As Fran and I said goodbye to the girls we made our way to the busy streets of Itaewon. Foreigner Central. We  had some fab sushi at Rollin Up and I tried KGB which is Vodka with Lemon in a bottle...def good times.I found some "special surprises" in my Udong soup...Umm yeah definitely not sure what everything was. Very squishy and chewy. I've learned just to go with it and swallow. lol ( get your minds out the gutter!)  Anyways after settling the tab, Fran and I made our way to a near by stoop and decided to play 1/100. Interestingly enough, we came across Fran's future baby's father. This gorgeous man we've talked about at length, was a mere yard away and the " Choke session" commenced. I wont go into detail to spare those involved, but just know this Wednesday she will redeem herself at the KBL game Anyang vs. Seoul. Hwai Ting! After sitting for a bit and being accosted by strange, badly dressed Nigerians, Fran and I made our way back to the train station and promptly on our way back to Anyang. As we stepped off the platform and made our way to the street, " Ahhh home" I said. I never thought I'd be so excited to be somewhere so foreign. Getting used to the " Oh my god" stares and the " Aniyo" every time I ask " Yongol haseyo?" (do you speak English) I relish these moments. Anyang, my little piece of Korea. I love it.


Confucius say: the grass is not always greener on the other side but the eye candy is Seoul is worth the ride

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Lost in translation...



Yesterday I taught my lower level English classes. The kids are great but a bit rowdy.( did I mention you can hit the kids here) Don't worry I dont hit any of them. I let my assistant dole of the iron fist. I have this student... lets call him "Hueng". At the beginning of each class he gets me chalk, passes out papers, after which we do a brief language exchange. His English is coming along quite nicely. However yesterday he decided to put his newly acquired vocabulary to good use. "Miss teacher...do you have boyfriend?", "No, no boyfriend " I reply. He smiles..."you look berry Beaauteeeful today. Your hair is berry pretty". " Gamsamnida" I say and go back to writing the Idiom of the Day. " I want be your boyfriend Miss", I smile and say " Awww sweetie.. you are too young and I am your teacher". Pointing at his chest " Not tooo young! I am and 60, and you are 27!" I correct him "Sixteen not Sixty". " Oh" he says looking surprised.Choosing a seat int he front row,throughout the class  he stares and makes hearts in his notebook writing my name in Korean. Needless to say he is sixteen in Korea and 15 in the states. Unlike most Americans I didn't come to Asia to sleep with little boys. So let's dispell that stereotype right now.
However, last night Fran and I embodied that old American stereotype about people of color and fried chicken. Leave it to Fran to find the only KFC in Anyang. As we wait for our nail appointment Fran and I decided to get a bit to eat.Knowing how much she LOVES KFC I say Let's go. Approaching the restaurant we see two floors filled with Koreans eating baskets of fried chicken. There is something so wrong with this picture! Behind the counter is the world's tallest Korean. He had to have been about 6'4 which is mammoth for a Korean man. Fran orders a two piece and I order what seems to be a chicken sandwich. We take our meal to the 2nd floor and take a seat overlooking Anyang Il Bonga.The fried chicken was extra spicy and pretty tasty, and my chicken "burger" was awsome! BK in the states you better watch out. It was good down to the last bite depite the strange hashbrown they put on top. Two enthusiastic thumbs up for Korean KFC. The funniest is the advertisments posted in KFC of a smiling, very petite Korean woman with a bucket of fried chicken, standing a a green pasture with the words "Safe and Clean KFC...Really!", as if one needed assurance of this. So strange, but so fun.
After reinforcing an age old stereotype Fran and I were off to the nail salon.Cosmo Nail Salon....the most fab and most expensive mani/.pedi ever in life. Apparently "Ninety and nineteen" are apparently synonymous in Korean vocabulary.Such a mix up in the states might get you cut by a black woman. But I dont know the rules about walking out on Korean businesses. So best to play it safe and just bite the bill. Damn I need to learn my numbers. So off to Say Cafe after that anal rape with no lube of a salon trip, I needed something sweet in my life. Let me just say ( no pun intended), Koreans know how to do cafes. One can be readily found on every corner. Most situated on the second to third floor of most buildings these swanky little bistros have more than sweet treats and good coffee. Overlooking the city you are treated to your own private "tea room" complete with plush velveteen french benches and a chandelier. It's like something out of Marie Antoinette's sitting room. So as the smooth euro fusion music plays, Fran and I review our day and the ridiculous nail experience we just had while sipping on frosty creamy beverages and sharing a freshly made Belgian waffle with Hagendaas Icecream. I could get used to this.


 Confucius say: be wary of Korean nail technician's faulty math you might find yourself  paying a price at first makes you cry then makes you laugh...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

So far removed...


The musical blender alarm clock spun it's artificial milkshake letting me know  it was a new day! The cheerful tune roused me from my sleep I pulled off my black lamb eye mask determined to start my day with a cup of coffee and a real breakfast. Which consisted of a clementine and a Korean doughnut twist ( which lies somewhere between a the taste of a funnel cake and the consistency of sponge cake) it's not very sweet... it's an accquired taste. After breakfast, I headed for the bus stop, my soundtrack this morning cosisted of Adele's Crazy , Natasha Beddingfield's These Words, Cassidy's B-Boy Stance, Mariah Carey's Shake it Off, Trey Songz' Cant Help but Wait and Junior Mafia's Get Money. I know... it's a crazy conglomerate of songs but thats what you get when you put your I-Pod on shuffle.I miss American radio, never thought I'd say that. Thanks to some strange Korean restriction on certain internet content Pandora is a no go. Any solutions people?
I will have been in country, two weeks tomorrow and I feel sooo far removed from everything American. When I studied abroad in Italy I missed out on sooo much American pop culture... it took me almost a year to catch up and I was only gone 5 months. I cant imagine what I'm going to miss.But let me say. the kids over here are crazy about Beyonce and Lady Gaga. Oh and of course my ill rapping skills! ( yes I did just say that! me rapping... so laughable) However I can't say I miss home, but I miss certain American comforts, like being able to READ ! lol No seriously. I am truly enjoying my experience thus far, the good severly outweighs the bad. I live on the other side of the world, rent free, paid well and eating all kinds of crazy things. What do I really have to complain about? I am truly living the life I always wanted for myself and that is an amazing feeling. For all of you who read my blog, I hope you too are living the life you want. " If you dont like you situtation, then do something about it!" No if, ands or buts about it. Life is too short for second guessing and ardous planning with no action. Okay enough with the Tony Robbins moment,back to what I'm sure all of you read this for: the ridiculous American<---->;Korean language/cultural exchange.
So yesterday my VP and Ms. Kim came over to check out my apartment, to make sure it was up to par. Now in previous blogs, I mentioned how sweet and cute my V.P was. At the apartment , he and Ms. Kim inspect the bathroom. He asks in Korean where I wash my face, since he doesnt see a sink. Me being the excellent communicator that I am,  I act out waching my face in the shower. He and Ms. Kim giggle. He then says to Ms. Kim " What about when she's not showering?" She translates for me. I again rely on old faithful, showing him through a fun game of charades how I wash my face without showering. The V.P and Ms. Kim  burst out laughing. I'm sorry... did I miss something? What so hilarious about washing your face in the shower? He asked if I had a basin for my face... I look to Ms Kim for the translation. ( it's like we're playing an international version of Telephone) I shook my head and replied " Aniyo". The V.P exchanges a few words with Ms. Kim as I wait for the translation. " He will get you a sink" she says, while he smiles with his kind eyes. I smile and say " gamsamnida" to the V.P. He then proceeds to look at my windows making sure they are thick enough and at my appliances.On top of my fridge sits the Holy Grail of breakfast cereals, the V.P looks strangely at my Cinnamon Toast. Thinking to myself... (He better not get handsy I might have to slap someone). After a once over he and Ms. Kim bow say how much they like my apartment , my decor, and that we will all go to dinner next week. Better prepare my vocab and sharpen my miming skills.
This morning I enter the office with the usual "Anyanghaseyo" and take a seat at my desk. A co-worker Mrs, No a.k.a Dr. No ( she cracks up everytime I call her it) gave me a black bag containig two plastic cider bottles (Oh B.T.W Cider is the Korean equivalent of  mix between 7Up an Ginger Ale) I thank her and put it under my desk. Let me backtrack for a second...yesterday I typed up a notice in my best Hangul, asking teachers to please donate plastic bottles so that I can make a vocabulary bowling game for my students. A few minutes after the first bell this morning my V.P ( a.k.a my Korean grandpa) comes in with a huge black bag. He bows and gives it to me. Inside are at least 15 bottles. How cute is he. Ms. Kim explains that yesterday after work he went around to recycling bins in his 3 piece suit collecting bottles for me. Oh Grandpa Hyun...
While sitting at my desk " Dr. No" comes over to me and says the "Vice Preenceeble lubs your hair! He think you are very beautiful today". I smile at him and say " gamsamnida" I'm not sure if some things were lost in translation. For instance the other day when Fran and I were waiting for the cashier at E-Mart, she motioned for us to sit down after I gave her my card. She said " Waste some time". " Waste some time?" Fran and I mouth to one another, somewhat confused. " Oh, you mean... wait" I say " Ne, Ne" she replies. So one can never be too sure what is being said. Don't get me started on Google's English translation of Korean movie websites. Inglorious Bastards: ( Korean Translation)  The Bad Guys by Qwenten Tahrehtikno Ummm... yeah something definitely went wrong somewhere.
Next week I'll be getting a new cell phone, and in Korea, there is a cell phone store literally on every block. There are so many choices. I havent the faintest idea what to get. And I thought it was tough picking out a phone  stateside. For the past few days I've been scouting out the Korean versions of the LG and Samsung websites. Let me just say my fellow Americans, you are being had. The Korean version of these websites and the products they offer are monumental in comparison to their meager American versions. ( wah, wah, wah!). So as you probably have guess on the phone front, LG ang Samsung seem to be leading the pack. Did I mention these two companies monopolize most products in Korea. LG even has a healthcare line here!SMH! I'm almost tempted to pick up a Korean child and check for the LG logo on it's foot. This is your life...made by LG!

Oooh yeah.. Korean teachnology ...
Possible Korean LG theme song " Dont you wish your technology was hot like Ours?"
Be sure to click the pink TVCF tab in the middle of the screen. Sorry I had to tease you a little bit!
http://www.lge.co.kr/brand/xcanvas/main/BrandMainCmd.laf?brand=XCANVAS

Confucuis say: Beware Americans...Samsung and LG will some day rule the world one must pick the which logo they prefer

Monday, November 2, 2009

Not so wonderful beginnings...

My Tuesday morning started off not so wonderful. I woke up later than usual which means I rushed to get dressed for work,my hair wanted to do this crazy Dragonball Z anime thing, my hot pink tights only came up to my knees  (TALL my behind, more like vertically challenged), running late, I didnt get to have my morning cupof coffee  ( never a good idea). In running for the bus I twisted my ankle yet again and in pulling a loose thread near my crotch I made a whole in my new pants, the size of Texas. FML. Well that just about sums up the morning. Oh and I forgot D.O! I'm not Asian so no hardcore activity, dont want to smell like hoagies! I know you're thinking, do you want some cheese with that whine? But hey it's my blog, and my digital space to vent, if you dont want to read it there a nice little red X in the right hand corner. :) Get it, got it, good.
So after finding a few safety pins in my desk drawer and downing two cups of coffee, the world seemed a bit more bearable and I could feel the tides shifting. It might be an Ok day after all. Tuesdays are probably my favorite because the students in this block are particularly active and are open to trying English conversation. To them I am a sassy, quirky, Amercian who says things like " I need it for my life", " Magical", " Get wit it!", and many other colorful phrases that fly miles over their little heads. But they laugh at my "accent" and my attempts at Korean but they brighten my day. (Awww such a Kodak moment...click) This is one of the reasons I love doing what I do. No matter how my day starts out, my students bring out the best in me, and all the other BS just fades into the background. Today a boy in the classroom next to my 2nd period class and says in his best English " Hey gwurl, how you dooo-ing?" in a Shaniqua meets  Long Duck Dong sort of way! Had to love it. I gave him a hi five and said " Nothin much boy, who you doing?" He then turns back to his friends giggling and excited. Just a question though... what's up with Asians and the lack of physical contact? The hi-five is so strange to them, the girls  flinch thinking I'm trying to hit them and the boys either tap me lightly or miss my hand all together. They know peace signs but not hi-fives?
Flashback: ( Wayne anf Garth's spirit fingers commence) So in the spirit of independence, even though I've only been here 12 days and my Korean is less than elementary I'm still determined to do things myself. So instead of waiting for my friend/interpreter Bella. I whisk Fran to E-Mart to return a curtain that is too small.  Earlier that day I asked Mr. Kang  for the translation needed for this exchange. He was more than happy to help me. So all day I practiced what was to be my ultimate commerce experience at E-Mart. With no receipt in hand, we arrive at E-Mart with a too small, unopened curtain. I figure if all else fails , I can pull out the dumb American card. So we arrive at the counter where immediately, I am pushed aside by an elderly Korean woman. " Wait I thought I was 206?" So patiently I wait as Fran laughs. Then it's our turn! I take out my trusty vocab notebook and repeat the Korean phrases proudly. The cashier looks a me..."Bo?" I repeat again. "Aniyo" she says shaking her head. No dice ladies and gentlemen. She then starts speaking at at unbelievably fast rate, shrug and say " E hey buteyo" and give her the " hold on a minute finger" while I dig in my mary poppins bag for my cell phone. Thank goodness Ms. Kim is # 1 on my speed dial. Pressing one , Ms. Kim picks up on the other end and I hand the phone to the cashier. An exhange goes on and apparently Ms. Kim sets the world right. I give the cashier my card and she looks up the purchase. Eureka! Not so fast, we're not out of the woods yet folks.The clerk then calls me back to the counter and begins to explain what I can only imagine is the return process. Now if I didn't understand you the first time you spoke to me in full on Korean, what makes you think is now any different? By this time Fran and I both have confused looks on our faces.( no matter how long you listen to someone in Korean you will NEVER understand or even make out a semeblence of anything in English so dont even try.) In our utter confusion a small voice says in the clearest English says " Do you guys need some help?" I look down and a Korean woman all of 5ft has now become my night in shinning armor. " Yes, please" I huff. She then turns to the cashier says a few phrases and moments later the cahsier is handing me a refund for my curtains. After many thank yous to the woman I now know as Nick, I ask if she wants to exchange numbers, maybe we can all go out for coffee and she or that maybe she could be my on call interpereter. She agrees and now I've made a new friend. Off to conquer E-Mart....
 So back to my original statement about Asians and peace signs...a little history for those of you who may not know but prior to Hitler's inception of the Nazi party the Swastika was seen as a symbol of peace. Notedly Fran and I were perusing the jewelry counter at E-Mart yesterday and what do we come across but a blinged out swastika, right next to the gold cross and Buddha. " Should we be offended?" says Fran. Knowing the history of this symbol I'm not sure how I should feel.Me, being a bohemian at heart, do I purchase the shiny swastika and wear it as I would a peace sign? " Getting you that for Christmas" she says. We laugh and continue our long search for trahsbags. Now you would think E-Mart being the commerical paradise it is, that we would readily find trash bags.We spent almost 30 minutes searching around E-Mart. We asked numerous E-Mart clerks, but ended up riding the conveyer belt escalator up and down multiple floors. When we tired of this charade, we decided to try one last time. This time Fran says "use your hands! it always works". Once again finding the youngest Korean on the floor I say "Youngol Haseyo?", "Yes a little" he replies. " Traaash Baaaags" I say slowly mimicking a trash can with my hands " You know... garbage?" , " Ooooh, he says" , I think I almost saw a light bulb.  He leads us to a random home goods aisle with recyclable bins. Ugh soo not what we were looking for. We had almost given up hope, only to end up finding "refillable bags" for something called a Magikan which resembled a trash can. A little skeptical I tell Fran I'm not sure these are trash bags. While I play the lookout she opens a box and it appears they are indeed trashbags.  One more trip down the Jetson-like escaltor with our cart of goodies, we stop at the bottom floor market for some sweet bread and bulgogi wraps. The intoxicating smell of spicy beef lures me in to a near by sample cart. As we aproach the stand a family of hungry Koreans bombard the spicy beef server, a man almost knocking Fran over. I ask Fran if she is ok. " No he stepped on me and cussed" I laughed indisbelief. You cant say excuse me, but you can say " Whoa, oh shit!" something isn't quite adding up here.After our near trampling experience Fran, a true New Yorker, was soo over sampling E-Mart's finest meats " C'mon it's time to go" she says, " the swine flu is in full affect, and you're over here wanting to try some shit" unable to hold it in, I burst out into an uncontrollable laughing fit as Korean women look at me strangely. However it could have been the fact that I was six foot in boots, wearing a bright orange beret, matching glasses, and bright green scarf. We may never know.So after checkout signing my life away for $110,000 won curtains  (by the way since Koreans value quality, you wont be finding any cheap $20 sheers people) We box up the new comforter, "herb" pillows, random carb snacks, and my curtains that will someday be past on to my children, we hail a taxi and head home.
After bearing the cold Korean weather, which came out of nowhere, we made it home safe after a few hiccups with the taxi driver as to where my apt was located. In unpacking items I go to put a a trash bag in the can only to find that these " Magikan refill bags" are nothing more than a never ending peice of plastic posing as a trash bags. So now I have a huge box of DIY trash bags.Simply cut and knot the bottom. Anyone in need of handmade trash bags? So now I'm tempted to hang on to this plastic and make Christmas hats with my students. When I show Fran she burst out in laughter. "OMG...really?" " I told you" I say " This is Korea, you never know what you're gonna get." Amused with the DIY trash bags I make a couture DIY trash bag hat, so does Fran, and we commence to an impromptu avant-garde photo shoot,complete with asian pears and old school glasses. All we needed was a "That's Y" to make the night complete!
Your days may not always start out the way you plan and they almost never end up any way you've imagined, so be flexible, go with it! You never know where the day might take you.

Confucius say: Korean products may often lead you astray no pitures, or translations one may look for sugar end up with powdered panda ejaculation