Pensive Poultry

25 11 2010

Technically Thanksgiving Day.  I feel as if I should be a bit more nostalgic or homesick maybe, but to be completely honest it’s not phasing me in the least.  These emotions could possibly be pacified by the knowledge that I will be celebrating with some friends this weekend to simulate the whole experience I would be having back home, or maybe the whole thing just doesn’t seem real at this point considering the lack of indication by my current surroundings that such a holiday ever existed in the first place – maybe all the warm memories are a construction of my vivid imagination…

With this admittance out in black and white, I am not sure whether to credit my seemingly heartless detachment as an example of strength and independence, or take it as a sign of some sort of borderline anti-social personality disorder.  Or, just maybe, in some between-the-lines reality things like Thanksgiving Day are never really meant to be missed.  The whole fiasco seems so easily to become more a grudging chore to everyone involved than something that is really appreciated.

I’ve always enjoyed the times with family and friends more when they’re not built up so much.  When I’m there enjoying their company because we choose to be, rather than because once upon a time some ‘Indians’ were killed, before helping some Pilgrims pick corn, before Captain America decided I get 2 days off work to pay for a ridiculously inflated airline ticket so I can wait in ridiculously long lines and listen to people complain about ridiculous things like security scanners seeing the shape of their body under their clothing.

It all seems like a bit of a racket to me.  Then again, I never really have been the conventional type…

This year I will be glad for the opportunity to Skype with my family who is slightly less spread out than usual, and then spend the rest of my evening streaming documentaries at home while the ondol floor heating aids the makkoli in warming my belly.

I wouldn’t feel right ending this post without noting the fact that I have an incredible amount to be thankful for this year and every year.  I love you all.


Q & A

11 08 2010

I am rapidly approaching the point in my journey in Korea where its novelty is beginning to slip through my fingers like sand; I might actually say I am getting used to life here.  As a result I have been quite dry of new things to write about lately.  Yet after speaking with my family via Skype this evening, I became enlightened of a few tidbits of information that you still might find new/interesting.  Here goes.

What was the thing that most surprised me?

Fresh off the boat:  shoes off at the door, bowing during greetings, sleeping on the floor (in most cases), dining etiquette (eating seated on the floor, sharing many dishes, etc.), no bathtubs, no ovens, no driers (hang dry only), at least half the toilets are hole-in-the-floor squat style, BYO toilet paper everywhere you go, street food everywhere, sea creatures swimming in tanks outside restaurants on every street, everyone is very well-kept in appearance at all times, the prevalence and popularity of public bathhouses, the circa 1950’s gender roles.

Through time here:

1. The only way to offend a Korean when it comes to dining etiquette (including snacks) is to not share what you are eating.

2. Early on during an introductory conversation with someone, you will be asked: “How old do you think she is?” usually in reference to an older woman.  I was dumbfounded at how to respond to such a question, as age (especially among women) is not a topic of friendly conversation in the states.  At first I thought it to be a vanity thing, so I venture a guess of about 8 years younger than I really think, followed by “Oh, how do you all keep your skin so young-looking!”.  Through time I came to realize (or assume, as this has yet to be affirmed for me..) it is likely to establish the hierarchy of this particular social situation, as age determines etiquette for all such social situations.

3. On first glance you could assume everyone here is gay (in reaction to their ever flawless appearance and tendency to link hands/arms with members of the same sex – both male and female), yet society as a whole is very naive on this issue; it’s almost as if “gay” doesn’t exist in Korea.  It certainly does, I must add, but you have to know where to look for it.  It’s not out in the open as it is in the West.

4. The fact that the entire world freaks out about “rising tensions” with North Korea, except South Korea.

What do I miss most about home?

This one is easy, as I have spent ample time reminiscing on the following list since stepping off the plane.  After the first few weeks I began to REALLY miss western breakfast, i.e. greasy hash browns with fried eggs and toast. Though this one did fade within the next month or so as I got used to Korean food and now the memories of home-style sustenance rarely pang my stomach.  With the following exceptions:

1. Good, black coffee.  I can’t handle the creamy, sugary crap that plagues this country.

2. I terribly miss microbrew beer.  The only stuff here that is any step above PBR or Keystone Light is imported Guinness or Hoegarden for about $3-4 per 12 ounce can.  Ouch…

3. Good cheese.  Cheese, in Korea, means American Kraft Singles, which is imported and in turn insanely expensive, not to mention insanely disgusting.  FYI: NEVER order anything here with cheese – the quickest way to ruin a good meal is to smother it with melted Kraft Singles.

What would I bring back home for America to adopt?

1. Their gun laws.  No guns in Korea = no need for me to worry about my classroom getting shot up.  I can listen to my kids joke around about guns in their video games without crediting it as a “warning sign”.

2. The shoes off rule.  I think it is more respectful, and we get to wear these cute little slip on’s inside.  Also, eating dinner at a restaurant in your socks is rather comfortable.

3. Emphasis on learning other languages.  America could stand to be at least a bi-lingual society.

What’s my favorite part about being here?

Favorite part would have to be gaining the realization that life really can be whatever you want it to be.  That the “conventional life” doesn’t necessarily have to trump another one you may have in mind for yourself.

Also the opportunity to learn about a culture in a way I never could in school or online.  Though difficult, frustrating, and unnerving at times, i have been forced innumerably into reconsideration of my own perceptions and ideologies about life.

Any other questions, you know where to find me!

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….


26 04 2010

I initially began this post with an attempted unbiased summary of what I have noticed so far of the Korean way of life  in terms of family and such, but mid-rant I spoke with a friend of mine from Europe and he sort of put me in my place about Americans tending to think their way of life is superior to that of others.  Although I would have to disagree with him in that it is “mostly Americans” who “tend” to do this, it did help me to realize that is exactly what I was doing.  So I’ll start over.  Koreans seem to have extremely close-knit families and everyone seems very happy for the most part.  I have not yet met anyone who has been divorced and despite going to school literally ALL day and night, the kids still act like kids.  Gender roles have not changed much since the time of the war, yet there is no visible disgruntlement by this.  Veeeery interesting.  Although, I do think times are changing a bit here with the younger generations; time will tell, I guess.

One thing I found hilarious this weekend was when me, Sue (the mother), and the 2 boys were home while Dad was out, and we decided to watch a DVD.  So we turned on the flatscreen TV and all 3 boxes that are now required in the world to watch a movie, and spent about 10-15 minutes trying to find all 5 remotes for each device and decide which button turns the thing on!  Sound familiar?  🙂