Follow up to Northern Exposure

27 05 2010

2 Korean women’s response to my inquiry regarding North Korea:

“I don’t care [about social, economic, or politial issues].  There are enough problems in the marriage and things at home, all we want to think about is happy things.  Like fashion, shopping, and money.”


Northern Exposure

25 05 2010

Relations with North Korea are beginning to boil, once again.  As broadcasted, trade has been restricted, border controls tightened, and as of today South Korea has positioned loudspeakers along the border projecting propaganda into the North.  It is interesting how many perceptions and predictions arise from such a dilemma.  I haven’t heard a word on the issue from any of my Korean acquaintances.  In fact, when I ask for their thoughts they seem completely clueless to any quasi-recent developments on the matter. On the contrary, my American friend suggested registration with the US Department of State just in case shit hit the fan, and my journalist European friend believes it is just another  story in the newspapers.  From complete oblivion, to mild paranoia, to incredulity.   While each of these assumptions have some credibility in theory, I believe what can most safely be taken from these hypotheses is that in all honesty, we don’t know.    As frustrating as it is there is not much that can be done to wipe the fog from this window; no one knows what the future holds for this troubled peninsula except the king of madness, instability, and little-man syndrome himself, whom I would venture to guess is as unsure on this one as we are.

I feel obliged to note that my thoughts on the matter have little bearing in historical competence; obviously.  History was never my forte.  All I know is I took my American friend’s advice and took the few minutes to register with the US Department of State, because what I do know, is all you can do is prepare for the worst and hope for the best.


23 05 2010

The simple pleasures make life worth living.  Like killing hours in the grass outside E Mart by way of idiosyncrasy-induced drinking games.  Like gaining perspective from locals on the roof of a coffee shop.  Like tacos and tequila.  The Makali Man.  CCR and Jason Mraz covers songs.  Like way too many people in a love motel.  Long bus rides through the countryside with views so stunning, how the hell can you be staring down at a book or iPhone?  Like the echo of “June-bi!  Ha-na, Dool, Ha-na, Dool..” off the rock walls lining the river.  Like savory Korean BBQ in the rain at a pension with friends over beer, soju, and Presidents and Assholes.  Like the Myeongdong city guide granting salvation to our grumbling stomachs with a map to the nearest Indian food joint.  Like girl talk, guy talk, and small talk.  Life is great, and so is Seoul; excited to go back again soon.

Goldfish sponges

19 05 2010

I never had much interaction (at all) with children prior to my acceptance of a job requiring constant interaction and dedication to molding their sub-developed little brains for 7 straight hours a day.  Seems reasonable… (ahem!).  But in Korea, the fact that my birth certificate was printed in America and that the preceding years of my life left me with a Bachelor’s degree in hand, I am somehow qualified to do so.   I can only imagine the incredulity of those close to me upon my declaration that I was headed overseas to teach little children in primary school.  I have preached tirelessly the fact that i will never, repeat, NEVER have children of my own, although never quite penetrating barriers of skepticism.

Against all odds, overall, I think I am doing swimmingly!  Everyday is a surprise, to say the least.  I will waltz into work one day with high spirits, in disbelief that I actually get paid to do this, only to walk out of my first class ready to drop dead from exhaustion and frustration.  Other days are just the opposite, and I can’t remember how I could ever be upset with these little angels.  My dad always used to say “Now I know why tigers eat their young”; …so do I.  The reason tigers eat their young is exactly why evolution made children so adorable.  Something about cute, miniature humans makes you just fall in love and somehow forget about all the time they spend making you want to rip your hair out.  There must have been some force of intelligent design at work here, in one sense or another…

So I have decided that kids are like goldfish sponges.  They have the amazing ability to soak up audible information like a sponge, even when you are certain they are paying absolutely NO attention.  At the same time, they have the memory span of a goldfish; their temper tantrum could easily trigger a spontaneous combustion one moment, and 3 seconds later they will be happy as a clam.  Must admit I am slightly envious of this capability…

I still maintain I will never have a goldfish sponge of my own, but I am starting to really like the little buggers.

When it rains, it pours…

18 05 2010

…and I mean that literally.  The mighty gods of precipitation have not been holding back today.  I was awakened this morning at 8:30 by the dull thud of rain pelting against my window.  When I headed out to school at 1:30 PM, still pouring rain.  Walking home for the evening at 8:30 PM, yep, still pouring rain!  A solid 12 hours, at least.  I had heard that Korea has a monsoon season although wasn’t quite sure what that meant.  I must admit it was kind of nice; the dreary weather seemed to suck the lifeforce right out of the kids leaving a very even toned, monotonous day in its wake.  Although this can be a welcome change once in a while, the novelty wears off quickly.  I am bracing myself for another rainy season and am unnerved by the memory of my winter in Portland.  At least this time around I have a job and am not in the midst of one of the most horribly depressing times of my life.  Which I couldn’t be more thankful for overseas, considering Comedy Central won’t let me re-watch every damn episode of South Park ever made unless my laptop is sitting on a coffee table in America.

On an unrelated note: my co-workers think it is the most bizarre thing on the planet that I eat raw carrots for a snack.  Carrots are for cooking, not for snacking!  Silly me….

Coffee break

17 05 2010

I will never tire of people-watching on the porch of a coffee shop.  Short list of Korean commonalities that make me giggle:

1.  Very drunk business men stumbling down the sidewalk hand in hand bantering passionately about God-knows-what.

2.  So many young couples walking around in matching outfits you would think it’s Sadie Hawkins.

3.  High, high heels with short, short shorts.

4.  Men and women alike constantly pulling out mini vanity mirrors to ensure they still look flawless.

5. The eruption of umbrellas at the slightest indication of rain.

All these things I used to find insanely bizarre are starting to become quite endearing.  Although it angers and frustrates me when overhearing “way-gook” (which is a less than congenial term for ‘foreigner’) among some locals when entering a store or restaurant, there are those who will make a point to come up to say “Hi” in the street, or go out of their way (sometimes very far out of their way) to try to help you out.  These simple gestures of kindness, consideration, and curiosity more than make up for those of the ‘we hate foreigners’ persuasion.

I am waking up early tomorrow to trek to the PNU area for my first Korean class; excited to finally start learning other words besides “ne” (yes), “anniyo” (no), “kamsahmnida” (thank you), “yeogi” (here, taxi), and “muliao!” (I don’t know!).  Also trying to learn “Kai, Bai, Bo”, which is the Korean version of Rock, Paper, Scissors with slightly different rules.  (Honestly, “trying to learn” and “Kai, Bai, Bo” are two phrases that should really never be used in the same sentence, but it seems the only opportunities to learn are posed in the middle of the night after a few too many rounds of soju…)  Once I learn this my kids might think I’m cool.  Although I did win my boys over today during our “What did you do over the weekend” conversation at the beginning of class.  They always answer with “play computer games”, but this time I got a bit more detail – “play GTA.”

Me: “Grand Theft Auto?”  Boys: “Brittany Teacher! You know Grand Theft Auto?!?”

I won some major brownie points with that one…

Road trip!

14 05 2010

So I have been itching to do something a little different this weekend.  I am once again in a new place where I have not yet exhausted all the potential destinations for mini weekend road trips – my favorite thing!  I figured I better get on it quick, since summer runs out in the blink of an eye and I know I will lack the will and motivation to do it during the awful, bloodsucking winter.  I did some research and decided to head to Suncheon-si; a little town about 3 hours away by bus.  What drew me to Suncheon was initially Seonam-sa Temple, which is apparently one of the most famous and beautiful Buddhist Temples in South Korea.  The internet tells me it is nestled back into the mountains and surrounded by hiking trails and rivers; sounds like the perfect place for a little soul-searching.  I also came across a place called Naganeupseong Folk Village.  This old village apparently has a castle of some sort, which is surrounded by indigenous dwellings complete with thatched roofs where people still currently reside.  I am very excited to see this place… promise to take lots of pictures!

I was planning to head out alone tomorrow morning for a relaxing weekend to myself, but after a chat with a friend I was persuaded to invite him along.  Overall I am pleased with my decision since he has a motorbike that we can ride through the countryside to get to Suncheon.  Sounds like a winner to me!