Thursday, February 25, 2010

Ok I've heard of gifts in kind, but gifts in meat?

Dear Korea,

Just a random note... yesterday on the train ride into Seoul I  saw a meat gift set. Now I'm not talking about a Hillshire Farms sausage and cheese set in a basket. However SPAM gifts sets are quite common here arounf the lunar new year. But,I'm talking about a meat from the butcher in a gift set box. Koreans are so strangee. " Oh Mi Jung, is having a baby...what to get?  baby clothes? a crib? too boring! Hmmm.... better go with that pig shoulder in a box...don't want to look stupid". I love that it's okay to give meat in a box as a gift. Not only was it in a box but it was in a gift box with a cow on the side and pictures of pork meat on the box with the words gift set in cursive... what no bow? I love that in Korea, meat products canned and otherwise can be elegantly packaged and given as a gift. Now that's classy! So next birthday, house warming, or bar mitzvah, don't be scared spring big and go for the meat! You'll be the envy of all your friends. Until next time keep your butcher on speed dial you never know when you're going to need a fancy gift of meat!


Ps. Packing SPAM in a pretty box does not make it any less, ridiculous. "Oh, heart disease... for me? You shouldn't have!"

Korean Taxis...hit or miss

So I've been seriously doing some thinking about Korean taxis. They are like a box of chocolates ... you never know what you are going to get. Some times you are presently surprised and others leave a nasty taste in your mouth. For instance the other day I hopped at cab t work being lazy and not feeling like hiking the hill I flagged a taxi not far from my apartment. I got n and n my best Korean told the agishi my destination. To my surprise I found out that he spoke English. Asaaa.... well not so fast. We exchanged pleasantries he asked me where in America I was from. He made some strangee American reference and I just shook my head " Yeah". Then he asks if I like music. I shake my head yes and he says " me too I like the Michael Jackson and the jazz" I tell the nice agishi that I like old school MJ and  Jazz too. He asks about the details surrouding MJ's death... as if me being American means I have the inside scoop. " So sad, I grow with the Michael, you know" ... "Uhuh" I responded shaking my head. He then clicks on his MP3 player and plays his favorite MJ song. Some obscure song I've never even heard before. He taps the LCD screen " you know?, good song right"
" Ummm... no but I guess"I responded. The driver then asks me about where Ive traveled, then tells me his whole life story over the 20 blocks it takes to get to my school.Wanting to read a quick chapter in my book I opened the novel but the agishi didnt seem to care and continued to talk about famous jazz musicians and his business he opened in the 90's. Sometimes I just like the agishis that speak only Korean , then they aren't compelled to talk to me. Since i was forced into a  language exchangee, does this mean I get a discount on my fare?
On the other hand you can get a driver who cusses at everyone who drives on the road and almost gets you into a car accident. On the way back from dinner in Itaewon one night Kate and I hopped a taxi to Yongsan station to catch the train home. We didn't know we were in for the ride of out lives. At first the agishi was nice and even rolled up the window when I said I was cold, which is rare in Korea. Then as he hit the main thorough fare he put on the lead foot bobbing and weaving out of traffic and speeding down side streets. A car in front of us stopped prematurely on a side street and our speed racer agishi hit the breaks so hard, we skid for a few meters and the whole cab smelled like a burnt tire. He then rolled down the window as the driver in the car in front of us hopped out and proceeded to call him every obscenity in the book. All I could make out was f$%k...I'll f#%$*n kill you, you idiot. The other driver kicked the car, the agishi yelled some more. Kate and I want to get out of the cab but we were afraid of getting caught up in an all out brawl.  Then the agishi put the car in drive and hit it , full speed until an abrupt stop at  Yongsan station. Kate and I couldnt hand him the 4,000 won fast enough and hopped out the cab. " Kamsamnida!" he said " Thank you for not killing us " I said as I closed the door and head for the escalator.
Sometimes you're not even that lucky and you get a really rude driver who wont even listen to your Korean or even stop as your destination until you literally scream at him. Like I said... a box of chocolates.

Confucius says: When in doubt and your agishi's en route, whine "Agishi odi kiyo?" and do a Korean pout!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


The other day I hit up the "Big Size" a clothing store in Itaewon which is for anyone who actually looks like a real woman and isnt shaped like a pre-pubescent boy. I was trying on dresses and looking for jeans because all the jeans I own are too big.
Side note: I saw the pastor from my school the other day and he asked me " Tippani are you ok?" " Yes, why " I responded " You are looking the thin, these days are you eating?" he asked.  Of course Im eating... look at that hill I have to climb everyday. Even Ruby would look different after months of that.
In a country that is so OBSESSED wit appearance, it's a crazy thing to witness. It's a shame really but my Korean co-workers comment on it ALL the time. I get the top three questions 1. You are looking like you lost the weight...Are you ok?  2. Do you not like the Korean food? 3. Are you sick these days?
But I digress to the clothing store appropriately names BT OK! ( Big and Tall Ok? Really though? As if Koreans are saying "Oh you are the big and tall... Ssssscch... maybe it is Okay!") At BT Ok! trying on pants I come across a little rack of shorts." Oooh these are Ipo" I say. I've been going back and forth whether or not I was going to buy shorts all winter. I put them down and said I'll get them next time. The shop clerk said " ssssch...winter is almost over no more shorts after these!" Let me fill you in on the shorts swearing phenomenon in south Korea. Shorts are worn in winter here with sheer or opaque stocking and boots, chucks or heels. But then complain of it being cold.. " Oh chuahai!" You could just opt for pants....I know when you think shorts you think summer right? Shorts in the winter ...WTF? You might ask. That's right, in the dead of winter you see Korean women young and old sporting short shorts. Like that?... better not. Trust me I think it's strangee  too but when in Rome...
I have yet to sport my shorts but I promise to post a pic when I do.

Confucius say:  In bitter cold , better put on shorts and stockings, put the pants down you  don't wanna look stupid now do you?

You like that magic...Mashisoyo?

So recently I find myself eating extremely Korean things. I remember when I first got here and the thought of anything with seaweed or rice cakes skeeved me out. Well let me just say, when in Rome...
So first off there is the ooey gooey  duk stick ( that looks like an oversized glue stick), when lightly pan fried in oil for a few minutes... it's awesome, next is the oh so tasty Ho Duk which is the Korean equivalent of a funnel cake in pancake form with cinnamon inside .. Nom, nom, nom Or let's talk about my compulsion to pour or wrap anything in seaweed." I've become a Gim hoe.. thanks Kateuh!) Mashisoyo! Anyone who knows me knows I like to keep my food groups separate from one another. Mixing is not appreciated...well that is until I came to Korea.  One of my all time favorite Korean snacks is "Isaac's toast". It is a sandwich with toasted honey spread on both sides, a scrambled egg with bean sprouts and peppers, a galbi patty( beef possibly pork meat who knows it's Korea), fresh cabbage, some mysterious green looking fruit jelly, and strawberry jam, complete with a slice of cheese. Now I know that sounds like a McStomachache but its party in my  mouth and only Im invited.Any other time I would have said  " fruit, egg, and meat on one sandwich? Ummm. no" Who knew it would be so delicious..not me.  But make no mistake I've had a guide on this ever changing Korean snack journey... Kate-uh an almost native( she's a gim hoe herself).You now it's bad when you  and your friends want a midnight snack and are craving fried rice cake or gimbap.
Kate who is by definition a " Kyopo" understudy has talked me into eating a number of strangee Korean snacks, with a smile saying face she says " Oh Chincha Mashisoyo" . With an open mind and palette I agree, open my mouth and hope for the best!

Confucius say: Put down the American treats and get with Gim and duk , lots of tasty Korean treats for  just under a buck

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Let's call this an intervention

Dear Korea,   I mean seriously let's take a moment and REALLY think about your choice of "pashion" displays for the public.( after a student of mine called fashion...pashion, I will hence forth refer to it as such)   This is NOT okay. You are setting the standard for the Korean public... this says " Hey this outfit is jazzy, you should buy it" but in the real world this outfit says " WTF were you thinking? " Was the clown wig really necessary? I think Koreans do a great job with ridiculous hair styles without needing wigs.This is was definitely not a good idea. In perusing Korean "pashion" displays one might think " Oh... did you color blind, special needs cousin dress you? Hmmmm.... Secondly let's talk about my friend the Korean "Prince"  I found on the  train right here in the tan jacket...if you can call it that. His double ponytail dusted off from 1991. I think might even have had scrunchies in (Note: scrunchies are still alive and kicking in Korea by the way... I'll send you some Fran!) Do you " noticfy" ( a gem I got from Kate's Korean teacher) the magical fur on his the collar of his coat that looks like two gerbils mating? Or maybe his skin tight blue sateen pants.... oooh 칙 차 ㅣ포! This outfit is definitely not for the ladies...this tame compared to other outfits I've seen this week. Lastly, I'd like to take a look at my friend I found in the shopping complex underneath Anyang train station. When I saw this magical clothing combination, I knew I had to share it with you. A blue Engrish hoodie that said " I an super boy, my happyness is for smiles" wtf? A  "ladies" knitted zip up hoodie, tiger print valour pajama pants and shower slippers 3 sizes two small . Did I mention it's winter in Korea! What was he thinking? He got dressed and was like 아 사... there's no way this isn't a good idea! Now I know some Korean pashion can be alluring and even cute but these displays definitely have to go in  the 파 보 갘 애  file. Consider yourself issued 4 pashion violation tickets ( two for the old skool double pony)
Utnil next time korea....

Ps. next time go with the Panda slippers instead of your sister's shower shoes.... don't wanna look stupid

Office Party... yeah!

So Friday night was my principal's retirement dinner. We all filed out of the school promptly at 4:30. A trail of ridiculous driving Korean teachers made their way to a 4 story "gogi" (meat) palace in Pyeoncheon. We all took our places sitting Indian style at the long short tables. The ex-foreign teacher Ryan joined us. He's Canadian but good times. Against Korean norms Ryan chose to sit next to me at the women's table. My fellow teachers giggled as he took a seat next to me. " Just a word of warning... go easy on the Soju , stick with the Cola or they will get you drunk off your ass" he said " thanks for the warning"I nudged him and poured myself a glass of cola. . As the principal  and vice-principal arrived we bowed and the feasting began. With the numerous sides dishes placed before me I thought if I would even have room for noodles or rice later. Galbi was on the menu tonight! As the waitresses brought out slabs of meat for our grills and the garlic and meat hit the grill my mouth began to water. Minutes later we dug in. Chopsticks moving swiftly and  balls of lettuce being stuffed in mouths mumbling.  Faint conversation was heard over mouths jam packed with galbi deliciousness. Because as I mentioned before it is not rude to shovel food into your mouth while continuing a whole conversation in Korean culture. A few teachers are being transferred to other schools  and so Koreans make it their business to get their departing co-workers sauced up. So the Mr. Jo, Ms. Kim, Mrs.Oh and the principal were poured shot after shot by coworkers. Then as I was munching on the mass of goodness in my mouth I heard " Tippani teachuh... soju?" I turned around and it's Mr Park with a bottle of Soju and a shot glass. He sat down next to me poured me a drink.. I tossed it back like a champ . He said "apo!" I repeated after him " apo!" then as Korean custom dictates I poured a drink from the same glass for my elder. I smile he says " Okay! Thank you!" " You're welcome " I said. I didn't even know he knew any English. I turned back to my table and continued my meal. I thought I was out of the woods.. not quite. Unknowingly I opened Pandora's box. Co-worker after co-worker offered a shot to me and I offered one in return. In the mean time more meat was put on our grills and more bottles of Soju were placed on the table. Just when you thought the eating and drinking was over fresh bottles of Soju were put on the table, the side dishes were refreshed and more meat was put on the grill.After three hours of eating, drinking and hearing speeches, dinner was winding down. Drunken laughter was in the air and most of my co-workers had turned an interesting shade of pink. We smiled. I spoke my "best " Korean for them  as they battled through English for me. As we were about to get up from the table Mr. Park comes over and says " Tippany we go to Hof.. now... you come!" My principal comes over to me rattling a a paragraph of Korean I couldn't even begin to understand....Ms. Kim kindly translated "He said  Korean dinner is 3 parts, this was the 1st... now we got to second, it is your duty to come drink, and the 3rd part you can come or not, you choose.. Okay?" Wait I knew I was a little drunk but it's my duty to go get drunk with my principal...Asaaaa! Just another reason I love Korea. Then we grabbed our coats, put on our shoes and headed for the " Hof" (Bar). I helped  a couple of my stumbling co-workers down the street to the bar as we laughed. We got to the bar, got comfortable and my principal said in English " You are good teacher! I like you" and smiled as he poured me a huge frosty mug of beer. Those of you who know me.. know I hate beer, but after so many bottles of Soju and not wanting to be rude to my principal I accepted, clinked mugs with him and the VP and took a sip of my beer. An hour later, a couple unwanted mugs chugged, after a sing a-long and a few games of Rock, paper, scissors with co-workers I had had my fill. I said thank you to my principal and VP  and goodbye to my coworkers. Drunken and full Ryan and I hopped into a cab I  and made our way to Anyang Station. As I walked in the door Kate said " Eeewww Agishi you smell rank!" I smelled of soju and kimchi, which I couldn't smell Apparently after brushing my teeth and changing my clothes  I still smelled It was emanating from my pores. My apartment smelled of a Korean subway on a Thursday night.. I had become my worst nightmare. A drunken agishi.! I've definitely gone native.

Confucius say: kimchi and soju are good in theory but when mixed together the ladies do not come near me