Friday, June 10, 2011

I love short weeks!

So Monday, June 6 was Memorial Day in Korea and I spent a lovely weekend on the beach (with the exception of my trip to Cuba in June I don't think I've ever spent a weekend on a beach in June).  There was a sand festival on Haeundae beach in Busan with what seemed like the rest of the country.  Quests for Mexican food took place as the restaurants were either fully booked or running out of food.  My legs were buried in the sand and I partook in chicken fights on the beach and ended up covered in sand.

Usually I find short weeks go by the slowest.  You're craving the weekend because you know its right around the corner but somehow the days drag on, and not to mention Daegu has never been hotter.  I'm reduced to wearing skirts to school (which would never happen back home) and fanning myself with a free fan I picked up from some salon promotion.  But somehow, this week would make me believe its full moon week. 

The Monk who verbally accosted me
I had a monk approach me in a coffee shop (where there were only two of us: myself and a Korean) and the monk came up to me begging me for money.  The Korean was yelling at him; he never budged, the coffee shop owner came and told him to leave; still no budging, but just kept asking me for 잔원 (1,000won) and that he was poor.  Finally the owner started dragging him out to which he was still begging for money AND the Korean was yelling at him and I kept saying "anniyo" (meaning no), until he finally left.  Weird.

The Brown Crowd
I live in an area with a fairly large immigrant centre.  There are Indians, Pakistanis, Nepalese, Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysians and the list can go on.  However, whenever I come across (what I am now deeming) the Brown crowd they do nothing but stop their conversations and stare as I walk by.  I either just pretend to be on the phone or put my iPod louder as I ignore them.  Recently, I walked past a man in the morning lighting up his cigarette.  The moment I walked past him, I swear it was like verbal diarrhea- words spurting out of nowhere in a sudden burst, and just when you think it will end, there's more!  It started with a "hi! hello!" so I say hi, then "how are you? what's your name? where are you from?" so I just walked quicker and said "Canada".  That's fine.  Just a little weird.  But the other day I was walking to school and saw a car slow down and a brown face pop out and he literally watched me as I walked past him.  Very creepy.  Sometimes its a little too much.

T-Class Coffee
There is an abundance of coffee shops in Korea.  A new one opened up so I went with a friend to check it out.  The menu made me laugh:

So, if you get the coffee therapy (which I did), you get this herbal concoction.  You dip it in your Americano for 5 seconds.  Then drink your Americano.  Then get a glass of hot water which you then steep your herbal concoction in and gulp that down.  It is awesome and very intriguing especially when the names of your drinks are Menstrual Leave, Haggard Face and Blood Type. 

No Whitening!
The best things about beauty stores are the many freebies (or as they say in Korea "service") products you get with your purchase.  Well, I went in and made sure I asked for non-whitening products.  All flustered and flabbergasted with the fact that a waygook was in the store with the insane idea of not wanting a whitening product, they took me around until I decided on what I wanted.  Then when it came down to giving me the freebies, they went on an insane search of products that did not have whitening products in it.  Every time they dropped something in the bag they'd look at me and say "Non-whiten okay?".  It was the funniest maybe most bizarre things to happen to me, but it did make my day!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge

So one of the new trends on Facebook is the 30 Day song challenge.  Every day you rack your brain for a song that is supposed to represent that day.  Instead of posting it up on my Facebook wall erasing all the other memorable posts I have up, I decided to put it here

Day 1: Your favourite song
Jem- Maybe I'm Amazed

Day 2: Least favourite song
Probably the large majority of hip hop songs that have been released over the past five years

Day 3: A song that makes you happy
Michael Jackson - Way you Make me Feel
Frankie Valli - Beggin

Day 4: A song that makes you sad
Snow Patrol - Run
Damien Rice - Blower's Daughter

Day 5: A song that reminds you of someone
Boney M - Rasputin

Day 6: A song that reminds you of somewhere

Coyote Shivers - Sugar High
Shivaree - Goodnight Moon

Day 7: A song that reminds you of a certain event
Rob Zombie - Living Dead Girl
Daft Punk - Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

Day 8: A song you know all the words to
Queen - Killer Queen and Bohemian Rhapsody

Day 9: A song you can dance to
Prizna - Fire

Day 10: A song that makes you fall asleep
Enigma (not anything from MCMXC a.D)
Pretty much any classical music

Day 11: A song from your favourite band/singer
System of a Down - Aerials
Led Zeppelin - Fool in the Rain
Enigma - Sadeness
Spice Girls - Lady is a Tramp
Queen - Radio Ga Ga
Madonna - Justify my Love
Day 12: A song from the band/singer you hate
Nickleback - How you Remind Me
Celine Dion - My Heart will go On
Justin Bieber - Baby, baby, baby
(Isn't it weird that they're all Canadian)
Rebecca Black - Friday 
Day 13: A song that is a guilty pleasure
Britney Spears - Toxic (or pretty much anything from her)
Day 14:  A song no one would expect you to love
Considering nobody really pegs me fo the type to listen to hard rock, and I do think he's one of the smartest people in the music industry
Marilyn Manson - Beautiful People

Day 15: A song that best describes you
No Doubt - Just a Girl

Day 16: A song you used to hate but now love
Beatles - Blackbird
It wasn't until I heard Rachel Evan Woods sing this song in Across the Universe that I saw it being something other than annoying

Day 17:  A song you hear often on the radio
<insert any Canadian popular band you know of here>
<insert any K-Pop song you may know here>

Day 18: A song you wish you heard on the radio
Nine Inch Nails - Closer

Day 19: A song from your favourite album
Sweet - Ballroom Blitz
Off the album Tales from the Crypt: Bordello of Blood

Day 20: A song you listen to when you're angry
Kelis - I Hate you so Much Right Now

Day 21:  A song you listen to you when you're happy
Pretty much anything by Daft Punk, JUSTICE, Arcade Fire or LCD Soundsystem

Day 22:  A song you listen to you when you're sad
Bettie Serveet - Lover I don't have to love

Day 23:  A song played at your funeral
Israel (IZ) Kamakawiwo`ole- Somewhere over the Rainbow (I'm also drawing blanks for this)

Day 24: A song played at your wedding
Spirit of the West - Home for a Rest (which I just learned now that its sung by Canadians!)
Elton John - Crocadile Rock or a likewise Jive-based song by Elvis Presley which WILL be my dance with my father.

Day 25: A song that makes you laugh
Mike O'Connell and Dr. Ken - What's it Gonna Be?
or almost all Weird Al songs

Day 26: A song you can play on an instrument
Flute - Somewhere out There
French Horn - Africa (not the song by Toto, but an orchestral piece)
Guitar - Ode to Joy (but with no chords)
Piano- Jingle Bells

Day 27: A song you wish you could play
The Entertainer

Day 28: A song that makes you inspired
Journey - Don't stop Believing (I'm drawing blanks at the moment)

Day 29:  A song from your childhood
Theme song from Jem
Bobby Darrin - Mack the Knife
Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs - Wooly Booly

Day 30: A song that makes you want to change the world
Band Aid - Free the World

Sunday, May 29, 2011

You are very pretty....

You have big eyes and a bridged nose.  I get that a lot.  I don't know if I should take it as an insult or be a little worried about what their perception of beauty is.  I edge more on the latter.  I don't think Koreans realize how beautiful they are if they stop with their incessant need to look like a "Westerner".  I guess, we as foreigners are no different, I hear the term "exotic" brought up when talking about Korean women and their looks and why the guys are attracted to them.

In any case, this is really not the point of this post.  It seems that whenever Diane and I do something, its either an adventure of some sort, or the funniest things will happen.
Case in point.  Getting a taxi to the subway station, we got a cab driver (and we always seem to get awesome drivers) that was super excited to be driving us "waygookins" around.  We opened the door to an exuberant "Anyeong haseyo.  Bangap sumnida" and when I brought up my students talking about soju, mekchu and macgeolli his ears perked up and he went into his excited mode and started telling us that soju gives him a headache and how much he hates it; about his love for dongdongju, and when I said I liked it he gave me the lowdown on what food goes well with it (to which I have no recollection of it now).  But he was the cutest, most excited man I've met and I couldn't stop laughing the entire ride.

Tonight we went out for dinner.  Exhausted from coming home from Seoul, we checked out one of our favourite restaurants that just got renovated.  Unfortunately, the meat's not the same and it changed ownership but the woman that attended us was amazing.  I believe that sometimes us expatriots get the Foreigner Experience.  They put our meat on the grill, they turn it, cut it and place it on our plates for us, essentially, doing everything for us.  This woman was amazed that I knew the little Korean I knew.  She told Diane that I use chopsticks better than a Korean (which is a total lie) and I ate better than a Korean (because I love my garlic!) and she was impressed with my Korean.  She then later told Diane that even though she is Korean, I spoke better than her (again, total lie, with my vocabulary of maybe 25 Korean words).  She then said I was pretty.  Maybe just because, but her reasoning was pointing to her eyes and her nose, as if to say I have the face they can never have.  And in Korean she told Diane that they can only have plastic surgery to have these "beautiful" features.  It is a little disheartening hearing it.  I wish Koreans didn't have to look to the media to believe what is beautiful.  If only they knew that the Western world finds them gorgeous the way they are- they don't need wide eyes or a bigger nose to be so.  She was though, the nicest woman.  She was damn attentive to what I needed.  Replacing our lettuce tray and my onion tray without me even asking.  It was amazing, and I would gladly let her adopt me as her daughter if only I could speak more Korean.  I just hope she didn't inflate my ego because she was just amazed that a Foreigner knew how to speak any Korean or know how to use chopsticks at all!
And to end our dinner we received an American $2 bill.  I don't know why they're giving them away.  It is real.  Its nice to know that the first time I've ever had an American $2 bill was in Korea. 

Born this Way

This is my direct reflection after experiencing Pride in Seoul on May 28,2011:

I never liked Born this Way by Lady Gaga until I attended the Pride parade in Seoul today.  I have no problems with her, but I've never been a big fan of her music.  Yes, she is almost integral in promoting LGBT to the rest of society, but in my personal opinion, I feel Madonna set the landmark.

Nonetheless, I am straight.  I have lesbian and gay friends.  I try to promote tolerance whenever I can.  Being a minority, this is the way its always been.  Many people may guess I'm Indian, but I try to talk about Goa whenever I can.  My Indian friends will tell me I'm not "Indian enough" or "white-washed", sometimes it gets through to them that the way I am is because I was born in Canada or my culture is inundated with Western influence so sometimes I can't help it.  I've always wondered what it means to be Indian.  I've always wondered what it means to be truly understood.  Not pidgeon-holed or assumed to be something else. 

Which brings me to the Pride Parade.  I live in Toronto.  Unfortunately, I've never been able to attend the Pride parade in Toronto, which made me want to attend the Seoul parade even more.  Call it the Eastern culture, but they are more conservative, believe in family values and tradition (even more so than their Western counterpart), so I was even more curious to see how Koreans would react to this parade. I love being around people that just don't care.  Don't care about what people think of them, what society makes them believe they should be and people that challenge the dominant views of society.  What I liked even more than seeing the turnout of LGBT's, were seeing Koreans bringing their families to the event.  It makes me happy to see people changing the ways of society; being more modern.  I'm a big proponent in the acceptance of the LGBT community, because I really do believe they were born that way and you can't take that away from someone.  They are no different than me or you, and you shouldn't belittle them or look down on them because they are attracted to a different sex than the heterosexual community.  I do believe that religion is a driving force behind this fact, but that's a topic for another day.

I've had many conversations with family members and others in the acceptance of the LGBT community.  I understand their apprehensions because it is something unknown to them; something that challenges the way they view the world and what they believe.  I never believe that naivete is a bad thing, just that it needs to be corrected by trying to teach acceptance.  I don't want to preach.  That's not what this post is about, and somehow I feel its going there.

What I would like to say is that, I'm proud of Korea.  I have never been to Homo Hill in Itaewon, but I love it.  I have met some awesome people because of the Pride Parade.  I will definitely party in Itaewon again.  And its not because I love the attention I get from gay men because I'm one of the few females in the place. But because, I love to see normalcy.  And normalcy to me, is people being themselves and not worrying about judging stares and what people are going to think of them if they act themselves tomorrow or the day after.  This is how I try to live my life.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Teacher Late!

I have a tendency of getting to school right at 8:30am.  Two of my grade 6 girls have to clean up the front of the school around this time and if they ever see me they have no problems yelling out "Teacher!  Late!!  You are soooooo late!"  to which I'll always ask them what time it is.  Sometimes they'll retract their statement, other times they'll tell me I'm a little late.  Either way, Joung Hwa and Su Bin (who used to be Crystal but then I guess became embarrassed having the only English name in the class) are two of my favourites.  Maybe because they give me candy, and I can have semi-conversations.  But this is the start of my day. 
When I get up to my floor which is full of my third grade students, they always yell out my name, bust out a "nice to meet you!", either give me a high 5 or run across the hallway to fling themselves in my arms. 

Monday's are always the worst day of the week and I hate the thought of teaching and being at school but my saving grace is that I only have third grade classes and they are the cutest things ever.  They always have something to say.  Surprisingly, they can talk a little bit in English so its not too difficult.  And they are just too adorable.

The only problem is, I miss my little cousins at home.  One is turning three tomorrow.  He is the joy of my life and sadly I can't be there to run around and play with him.  Either way, I hope he plays with Thomas the Tank Engine's for a few more years before he moves into being a suave Ladies' man, which I know he will become. 

Happy Birthday!!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Quest for side dishes!

Costco is a glorious place.  In Canada, it was where the free samples constituted my Sunday lunch.  In Korea however, its where I'm reminded of home.  Bacon, cheese, chocolate, pesto sauce, Tim Tam's; these are some of the things I live for in Korea.  Now don't get me wrong, I love Korean food, but sometimes you just need something that reminds you of your life outside the ROK.  

I've never eaten at the food court since I'd be full of free food, but I came across the most amazing thing while eating my bulgogi bake.  Much like the Costco's in North America, the one in Daegu comes equipped with an onion dispenser (for hot dogs that they do not sell).  I would see plates of onions drenched in mustard (sometimes ketchup as well) and I would watch in amazement as Koreans would eat it alongside their pizza as if it was a side dish like kimchi. 

So of course, in my true fashion, I had to try it to figure out what all the fuss was about.  It turns out, when combined with ketchup, this mustard-onion concoction tastes just like relish.

Now, when trying to figure out how such a thing came about, the only thing I could think of was that Koreans need to have a side dish, their quest for a side dish, if you will.  However, I was told later that side dishes are also eaten to combat the oiliness of food.  Lettuce and Sesame leaves are given, and the mustard-onion mixture is to help with the oily pizza.  Go figure!

Urban myths.... or are they?

From the time the earthquake hit Japan I have been bombarded with, what I believe to be, nonsensical and crazy "facts" from my co-teachers and other Koreans that I know.  Now, I am not in any way, belittling or criticizing Koreans for their lack of commonsense because North Americans are no different at times, but information is only as good as its source.

The day of the earthquake, my coteacher came back to our office after talking to her coworkers and told me that I shouldn't spend too much time outside because the radiation would affect me and to use an umbrella if it were to rain because of any "bad things" that it might contain.  I just brushed it off.  If there really was anything to fear I would hear it somehow on one of the many news sources I check up on throughout the week.  I know in North America, America mainly, the news is mainly based on fear.  Following the same theory in Michael Moore's movie, "Bowling for Columbine", the media is constantly instilling some sort of fear into the public, which is clearly happening in Korea as well.  I've heard stories of my friend's coteachers saying they don't want to go to Busan due to fear of radiation, and this was after the initial shock of hearing about the nuclear reactors getting hit in Japan.
Today (April 7th) was the first rainfall after the earthquake and everyone's Facebook status' are commenting on the radiation, we've all been warned about using an umbrella, and now I'm blaming my headache, laziness and lack of brain usage on this "radiation".

Either way, this whole thing got me thinking of the one thing Koreans fear the most in this world- fan death.

Yes, the thought that leaving a fan on in your house with the windows closed will swallow up all the air molecules causing you to suffocate, has been proved "scientifically".  According to the Korean media, they will have everyone believe that people die regularly due to sleeping at night with the fan left on.  Electric fans are sold with timers on them, so if the nights are too hot and sticky, you leave your window open and set that timer or else you will never live to see another day.
I have a friend that freaks out if she hears the fan running, even if she is in another room AND the windows are open.
In trying to find other sources about fan death, I came upon the Ask a Korean blog:
"Here is the science of how a fan could kill. Remember the conditions under which Koreans say Fan Deaths happen – summer (=heat), enclosed room, fan directly on the body. An electric fan cools your body in two ways: by pushing cooler air onto your body, and by allowing your sweat to dry rapidly and take away heat in that process.
But clearly, the fan does not generate the cool air on its own, unlike an air conditioner. And eventually -- especially if you are a passed-out drunk who is already somewhat dehydrated from the alcohol -- your body will run out of water to turn into sweat. So what happens when it is very hot, but the entire room is enclosed such that no cool air comes in from outside, and you have no more sweat to cool your body with?
Basically, the entire room turns into a gigantic turbo oven. Turbo oven is a conventional oven that has a fan inside that continues to blow air onto the food. This oven is known to cook at lower temperature than a regular oven, yet cook more quickly. Similarly, in a heated room without an outside source of airflow, very hot air is constantly pushed directly to your body, which is a far more effective way of raising your body temperature rather than “baking” in hot air. If you get enough of this, you would die – of hyperthermia, or abnormally high body temperature.
So Korean people had it right after all – fans can kill. They just tend to give the wrong reason." is probably the most comprehensible website on this different wavelength. So, take what you will.  However, this notion of Fan Death does not exist outside of Korea.  I don't aim to ridicule their beliefs, because this happens in North America as well (the media portraying a certain way of the world that people believe although its not true at all), but here are a few other things I've been told that I've had to think twice about:
- kimchi curing cancer/ being a preventative measure against SARS or H1N1
- the fat in samgyeopsal (삼겹살) is good for your throat as it coats it to prevent dirt/dust from getting stuck in it (now some of this may be true, I was just confused when my diet crazy friend told me that fat was good for you)
- grey hair is really just dead hair that has no hope for growing back.  So unlike the tale that we tell where if you pull out a grey hair three more will grow back, its a Korean myth that if you pull out grey hair no hair will grow back in its place
- If you hear a magpie at morning you will get good fortune/news, if you hear a magpie at night you will get bad news