A day in the life…

14 10 2010



First alarm goes off.  Hit snooze.  Second alarm goes off.  Hit snooze.  Third alarm goes off.  Hit snooze.


Roll up out of bed to put on water for coffee and check the interwebs for news from the other side of the planet.  Find that not much has happened since 8 hours prior during the last check.  Get on Skype for a chat with Mom, then put down (at least) one full french press of black coffee.  Kill another hour mindlessly meandering social networks and travel articles on the laptop.


Leave the apartment to catch the bus downtown for weekly language exchange.  Arrive at the Western chain coffee shop just in time to wait an hour resulting from his ‘faulty’ alarm clock on a newly purchased smart phone.  Twiddle my thumbs in secret gratitude for the delay as I can now enjoy the beautiful fall weather, $6 Americano, and my iPod instead of struggling with a Korean lesson.  Him – “How can I make it up to you??”  Me – “Hmmm… I guess you can just owe me lunch.”


Head to the restaurant for lunch of beef rib and rice noodle soup.  Kick my shoes off, step up to the eating floor and sit on a pillow at the shin-high table.  Try to avoid sticking out more than I already do being the only white person in the restaurant by graceful use of the eating utensils, with no such luck.  Eating wet, tough ribs off the bone with flat, metal chopsticks is no easy task!


Stop at the corner mart on the way into work to purchase good-behavior-bribe candy for the otherwise hellish kindergartners, and bananas to try to share with my Korean co-workers, though knowing they will most undoubtedly be refused.  No matter how much observation I commit to the curious habits of this sharing-oriented culture, I always manage to make the wrong choice.  Knowing I will more than likely leave work today having regretfully eaten 4 bananas out of guilt of letting them go bad overnight, it’s better to offer and be potentially refused, than not offer at all.. right?

1:40PM – 8:20PM

At work.  Chase a few kindergartners around the desks to physically drag them out of class by the arms and position them arms-up, facing the wall near the teachers’ room.  (Still getting used to the necessity of physical discipline here..)  Next class am told I have “good fashion today” by one of my 3rd grade girls, and soon after, that I have “strange fingernails”.  Next class I must, once again, try to contain my immaturity and inner desire to screw around and talk about video games, hierarchy of cuss words, and words I do and do not know in Korean and keep these three 5th grade boys on track.  Me – “DOES she have black hair?”  Boys – “Yes, she do.”  Grrrrrrrr…


Head out to the little hilltop park near my apartment for a workout.  While using the rope/pulley arm workout thingy, can see the only other patron of this outdoor makeshift gym, an older Korean man, out of the corner of my eye trying to get my attention.  Here we go..  I hesitently pull out my earphones to a barrage of Korean.  Me – “Uhhh.. Hangu mal, choko..” (I don’t know what the hell you’re saying to me!!!)  Didn’t solve the problem.  Me – “Uhhh… Migook?”  (America?)  Him – “Ahhhh USA!!”  Me (in my head) – “Success!!”  After exchanging broken English/Korean life stories I am given an extensive tutorial on how to use the rope/pulley arm workout thingies ‘correctly’.


Begin receiving the usual Friday night texts to head out to PNU for drinks.  I crack some soju while getting ready then head out to catch the bus.  Arrive at one of the many “foreigner bars” of the area to mingle with foreign counterparts and a plethora of Korean women presumably looking to catch a line outta this place.


Usual weekend-night dilemma left in the wake of my refusal to take $20 cabs home: either finish my last drink and dip out before public transit closes, or commit to stay out till 6AM.  Again.  Ehhh, you guessed it; I’m in for the long haul!  Few drinks here, few there, time for second dinner with the group, then norae-bang!  Nothing like a private karaoke room to speed along the sunrise.


Hop on the first subway, haggard and exhausted among beautiful Koreans already crowding the surrounding seats.  Arrive home to a sunlit room and lay on my rock-hard mattress for sleep.


Sexual Soju Korea

5 10 2010

I would like to welcome myself, once again, to the 21st century.  I just uploaded my very first YouTube video!!     …Wooooooooow.  Since I don’t yet have the capability to upload videos directly onto here (because I am too cheap), I will prompt you to click the link below if you would like to see it.  As they say in Korea, it’s “nothing special”, but I found it rather hilarious at the time.  Enjoy! 

–Click Me–


Ode to the Rooftops

15 07 2010

I write this post in appreciation for the little individual freedoms that still exist in Korea long after they have ceased in so many other countries thanks to those few idiots who go and blow it for everyone.  Possibly one of my favorite among these is the insanely easy access to nearly any roof of any building in the country.  I have indeed taken advantage of this perk and am no stranger to rooftop shenanigans, but I must say we discovered a real winner last night.  While escorting some traveling Hungarians about town, our eventual boredom of the ocean view from the sand led us to head out in search of a better place to enjoy our soju.  By this time it was rounding 2AM, businesses were closed and the flicker of neon lights was beginning to diminish from the water’s reflection.  There are twin towers to the east of the beach – the tallest buildings on the skyline.  We made the short stumble to the front doors from the street, and to my partial amazement the front doors were unlocked.  Too easy!  Up the elevator 20-something floors, through a few corridors and unfinished rooms, out another door and up a few ladders, we were taken by the most stunning view I have seen in Korea.  We were up high.. VERY high.  Convenience store drinks, a stunning view, and good company.  As they say in Hungary, Egeszsegedre!

Korean Mamma Drama

27 06 2010

Sitting out on the porch one Friday evening enjoying bamboo soju and guitar sing alongs after a week’s work, an older Korean woman stopped by for a chat with the occupants outside the other half of our duplex.  Her interest in the singing way-gookens soon brought her over our way.  After the usual greetings and clarification of “Me – Me-gook (America), and he – Canada”, I was escorted by the enthusiastic woman around the building and up some flights of stairs into a rather nice apartment on the 3rd floor.  A young Korean girl about my age was also in the apartment, and my confused expression reflected on her face made it clear that this would surely be one of those weird, random occurrences that are so characteristic of life in this country.  The older woman left me standing in the middle of the living room dumbly grasping my glass of soju with her daughter, presumably, as she ran off into the kitchen babbling a million miles an hour in Korean.  It was about this time I began hoping Pat was still behind me and about to walk through the door to meet me here in my stupor.  She came out of the kitchen with giant grapes and melon and sat me down on the couch.  It was then she remembered: “OH!  Chingu!! (translation – “oops, I forgot about your friend!”) and ran out to fetch him.  Pat soon met us in the apartment with the same dumbfounded expression that had not yet faded from my face.  He sat down with me on the couch and we started to nibble on the fruit, Ritz crackers, and smoothies that lay on the table.  On any other night, this would have been a a great situation to find ourselves in, except on this particular evening we were kidnapped immediately preceding our departure to a good friend’s birthday dinner, and we were now bound and shackled to oblige her as it is extremely rude to refuse hospitality from Koreans.  We sat around the table nibbling on the snacks whilst piecing together our limited knowledge of the others’ language to conjure up some understanding of one other.  Apparently this woman used to own a restaurant, looooooves soju, and is our new self-proclaimed “Korean mamma”.  We were instructed to come knock on her door anytime hunger pangs strike and she will cook for us.  She home-makes a medley of kimchi, 3 of which were dished up in tupperware for us to take home, and also home-makes a delicious drink concocted from flower petals soaking in soju mixed with fermented plum juice (that has been fermenting in a barrel in the the rear of her kitchen for 5 years) and green tea.

Although it took 45 minutes, we finally got the point across that although we would love to stay, we were late to meet our chingus for dinner and must go.  I was pretty bummed we had to leave – this woman was fantastic; so sweet, hospitable, and full of energy.  After all was said and done we ended up missing dinner with our chingus anyway.  Definitely worth it.

Muscle memory and chauvinism on a Saturday afternoon.

6 06 2010

“Even if she is a killer, she’s still a woman.  She’ll come around.”

Quote of the weekend from the Korean horror film, BlackHouse.  This film was intended to be background noise to naps in the DVD bang after a day of open air market in Nampo-dong, patio beer at the touristy of tourist restaurants, and my first sannakji experience.  Sannakji – freshly severed, still wiggling octopus tentacles with raw potential to murder us more brutally than the woman in the film.

This entire experience was terrifying, yet sickeningly thrilling at the same time.  The poor little octopus was swimming circles in its shallow deathbed upon our arrival in search of a thrill.  To her apparent apprehension, our hesitant request for this Korean delicacy prompted the ajumma (middle aged, working woman) to hand pluck the poor fellow from the bucket and take him behind the counter.  Within seconds, a plastic plate literally crawling with our late friend’s severed tentacles doused in red sauce and garnish was presented alongside dipping sauce and soju.  (Visual Evidence..)

Tip: Make absolutely certain you chew each bite thoroughly; the tentacles still have their suction capabilities at this point, and a few people have actually met their death while enjoying this snack.

They say octopus’ are very smart creatures; strolling through fish markets you begin to notice that each shallow octopus tank has its own octopus babysitter continually blocking escape attempts, shoving the poor bastard back into the water each time its arms drape over the side to try to make a run for it.  Pretty morbid.  Ingesting wiggling, severed octopus appendages now has a big, red checkmark next to it on my official Korean To-do List.

Love and madness in Korea.

2 06 2010

I love this country.  I really do.  It is absolutely crazy and bizarre and I can’t, for the life of me find any pattern of predictability with these people.  On the surface they are very serious, conservative, and keep to themselves.  Don’t bother to smile at a passer-by in the street if your intention is to receive one in return; their stony, lifeless expressions are unaffected by such a nonsensical gesture.  Yet an “Anni-yang-ha-se-yo” coupled with a slight nod will get you one step closer to basic cordiality, and if you are comfortable enough taking it a few steps beyond that, you are very likely to find yourself in conversation so peculiar and hilarious you forget how you could ever feel lonely in a place like this.

I find it so adorable that for the first time since 2002, I am once again repeatedly asked “Brittany, as in Britney Spears?!”, as if it’s the first time anyone has ever made that connection.  I love conversations with university students in the subway who turn out to be 15 year old girls (who knew?) and ask many questions about Eminem and Justin Timberlake.  Better yet are the middle aged men seated next to us in the street food tent hand-feeding us soju, beef, and jalepenos from their table (we didn’t even have to use our own hands!).  Nothing better than dinner accompanied by ever-popular Korean fart humor from a group of true professionals.  Gom-be!  After dinner and a show, what’s better for digestion than walking at a steady pace away from some (drunk?) high school girls and their riddles regarding something about being a nurse?, or purse? or kayak, maybe?.. in the middle of the night, while begging my 30 year old mi-gook friend for a kiss.

Rarely a dull moment.