Tag Archives: South Korea

Monday the 11th

(Authors Note: This is my last post about Korea. I am moving to Mexico. I will probably start another blog, and when I do I will let you know. In the meantime I will continue to write for instablogs, if you want to read more of my work.)

Strange thoughts on this night in Seoul. It feels like just a year ago I was writing this exact same post. I like symmetry.

I’m not sure if I’m better or worse for this year in Seoul, but does it really matter? I’m different, maybe. I suppose that will have to be enough.

Last year my feelings could be summer up by her. That seems like an entire lifetime ago. Now my feelings can be summed up by a different her. Will this seem like a lifetime ago a year from now, or will it seem like a new beginning? I know what I plan, but plans never work out, which is why I don’t usually make them.

I’m not really sure what the point of this blog was, I know I started it simply because I like to write…but did it have a purpose beyond that? Was it to keep in touch with friends? Was it a way for me to meander and muddle through my own existence in a public forum? Was it simply a vehicle for my own subconscious desire to feel important? It’s probably a bit of each of those, but whatever reason there was behind the blog, I hope you enjoyed it.

For better or worse, it was what it was
and that’s not that bad

I leave you with this statement I wrote a few posts ago, at the end of the “Looking Past Korea” post because I think it applies here as well.

“Through this series, and this blog in general, I have tried to avoid telling people what to think with my writing. Instead of being a guide I have instead attempted to be a lamp. Hopefully I was able to shed enough light that you were able to find your own way.”

Maybe when I look back at this past year I’ll have shed enough light that I’ll remember where I was, how it felt, and subsequently figure out where I’m going next.

Stay tuned…it can only get better

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A few random notes before closing up shop

– So, this will be probably my second to last post here. I leave for Mexico this week where I’ll teach high school writing and literature. I really hope they speak decent English because I’m not quite ready to spend another year sucking at a 3rd language. Plus they don’t give me a co-teacher.

– I haven’t decided yet if I’ll start another blog while I’m in Mexico. I probably will, but not immediately. I kind of want to take a break for a few weeks, just to get used to Mexico. If I do start a new blog I also want it to be more focused than this one, and since I have yet to choose a focus I have yet to create a new blog…but when I do I’ll post the link here for anybody interested. In the meantime you can keep checking me out at instablogs.

– One thing I’m worried about in Mexico, besides being kidnapped, is tequila. Tequila is either the best idea ever or the worst, depending on whether or not you enjoy ripping your shirt off in the middle of a club and dancing to “Sexy Back” even though the songs not playing at the moment.

– Was in Itaewon this past weekend for a goodbye drinking session with a few friends. At the end of the night we decided to get some Kebabs from the Kebab van. It was later in the night and they were running low on meat, luckily I was in time to order. Some of the guys behind me, not so much. A fight ensued behind me between two foreigners and a Korean guy when the Korean guy tried to cut in line. Now, the kebabs are delicious – I should know, I ate 3 – but when the Korean guy grabbed the kebab sword and started swinging it at the two foreign guys, even I thought that was a little ridiculous. I mean, it’s not like we were all waiting in line for the last ribwich…that I would have understood.

– I don’t know if it’s just Korean cab drivers that like to pretend like they’ll pick you up, only to speed up once they get a closer look at you, but I know I don’t like it. It’s not like I’m a violent looking person with a kebab sword. But I doubt that yelling obscenities as the taxi drivers passed by helped our cause.

– I’m upset that Korean men suck at basketball so much. I think if they were better, we might actually get some men’s basketball coverage here in Korea. It’s really the only event I care about, and if I have to see a replay of archery, judo or the men’s 400 something event in swimming again I might just up and move to another country – oh yah.

– Additionally, not only does South Korea field no mens’ basketball team, but they do field a women’s basketball team. I think I’d rather watch archery or Garden State, rather than women’s basketball. (and those who know me know how much I hate Garden State)

– A final note about the gum lady post. It was actually inspired by my friend Noreen, who was attacked in a hit and run by the gum lady, when she refused to buy her gum. The gum lady punched Noreen, and then ran off the subway in what is one of the funniest mental images I’ve ever had.

– The new Batman movie is sweet, but I don’t suggest sneaking beer into the theater unless you want to leave halfway through to go pee. It’s a really long movie.

– Finally, I was going to leave you with my Korean Underground Hip-Hop playlist, but when I started putting it together I thought I’d just rather give you a few artists and songs you should type into youtube. No matter how much I talk about the K-pop stars, my first love is always hip hop. It’s the thing that first made me enjoy writing when I was in high school. Anyways, the list goes as follows

1. Dj Soulscape – Story
2. 리쌍 (leesang) ft. 정인- Rush
3. Infinite Flow – 20’s
4. Deepflow – Bring Rap Justice
5. Mild Beats – Deal with us
6. Garion – Ancient Story
7. Primary Skool – So Much Soul
8. Da Crew – City of Soul
9. E Clue – Keep ya head up
10. Basick – Better than the best
11. The Unforgiven – What’s the Name
12. Digiri – 아이에서 어른으로
13. Paradigm Shift – Bewylder
14. Superman Ivy – Yes Yes Ya’ll
15. Kebee – Feeling You
16. DJ Shinin Stone – The Hypnotize

There’s a bunch more I didn’t include, like Drunken Tiger, MC Sniper or 45 Rpm because they’re big enough that you’ll stumble across them eventually. Or Paloalto and Quiett because you should really just listen to everything they have. Then this video below, because it has a member of Big Bang in it, but still a decent song.

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The Last Shot

For the final discussion I’d ever have with my co-teacher we decided to drink a little bit. Obviously. Already a few bottles of Cass littered the table and steam rose off the grill as we placed another slice of meat on the kalbi grill. She was telling me I did a good job.

“Foreign teachers need to be excited and happy to teach, you did that very much this year,” she told me.

I wonder, what sorts of teachers aren’t excited to teach? Teaching isn’t a profession that lends itself to large sums of money so it seems that the people who would do it would do it out of love. When I first decided to be a teacher, I told myself that if I ever felt bored with teaching that I should quit. Students deserve teachers who care.

“Yes, but I felt like I should have done more. I’m not sure the students learned that much from me.”

“No, you can not do more. Hey, you only have very little time to teach students and you have over 1000. You can not teach them everything. We need foreign teachers so students feel excited about English and so that they can get used to being around foreigners. You did this, even when you were tired you still acted excited”

“But couldn’t you hire any foreigner for that? Who cares if they’re qualified teachers?” I queried.

I was beginning to feel that my college degree was going to waste. You don’t need to be a real teacher to do this job. In fact, that’s one of the education systems favorite marketing points ‘Teach English in Korea! Travel the World! You don’t need a teaching degree!’ The only qualification we need is to be born in an English speaking country. I guess I’m qualified then, congratulations to me. I took another sip of the Cass and felt just a little bit more numb.

“Yes, but that is a difficult job. Hey, there are not many teachers who can keep attention of students for forty minutes.”

She was trying to make me feel better. I didn’t really need it, but I guess it was appreciated. Nickelodeon programming also does a decent job keeping a child’s attention for forty minutes to an hour.

She continued “The students liked you and I could see that they became very comfortable with you. Two years ago when we have no foreign teacher the students were very scared to speak English. Now they speak lots.”

“Yah, but only really easy sentences, and most of the time they don’t even do it correctly.”

For example, ‘hello, nice to meet you,’ when I’ve met them twenty times before. Another bottle of Cass down.

“But we are very poor school. Students are excited to have foreign teacher. Especially guy teacher, it makes us think we are very special. The students are more prideful of themselves and think English is fun.”

Some people talk about fighting the good fight. Sticking it out when times are tough. But if I wanted to fight the good fight I’d move to Africa, or New Orleans. Besides, the kids who are smart learn English by studying themselves and by attending hogwans and the lower level students don’t care…who exactly am I teaching then?

“The students are sad that you are leaving,” she said as she tried to grab one of the waitresses as she ran by. I guess she had a point. Maybe I was just trying to convince myself to the contrary.

“I still don’t think I did anything that special.”

And with that we ordered one last bottle of soju.

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Looking Past Korea: Series Wrap Up

Well, it’s time to wrap up the “Looking Past Korea” series. If you want to check out all the posts I did for the series, simply click the link on the top of the page. During this series I wrote about things that, although superficial, I thought were important; I wrote about things that I thought were overrated by foreigners living in Korea; I wrote about things that I thought were truly important cultural differences. I made lots of generalizations.

The one thing we have to remember is that, while I write about my time in Korea and about my observations of the culture, the people who live here are still people. As a whole they make up the culture, but as individuals they have hopes and dreams and love and hate just like any other person and they are uniquely themselves within their own cultural setting. This was the main purpose of the series. I wanted to finalize what I thought were differences so that I could finally begin to focus on what really matters, our similarities.

With that said, I have one more sweeping generalization of Korea. Korea is the middle brother of Eastern Asia. It is stuck between the power of older brother China and the baby brother celebrity of Japan. These other two countries are so powerful and noticeable that Korea, many times, is caught between them when it may be the most successful of them all given the circumstances. I’m not entirely sure.

Through this series, and this blog in general, I have tried to avoid telling people what to think with my writing. Instead of being a guide I have instead attempted to be a lamp. Hopefully I was able to shed enough light that you were able to find your own way.

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The Gum Lady

If you don’t concentrate enough the monotonous clunk of the tracks harmonizes with the sighs of the weary worker after a long day at work, melodies with the hum of the fluorescent lights, and is occasionally supplemented by the percussion of a door opening and closing as an elderly woman walks from car to car singing and selling gum.

A fluorescent light vibrates at a frequency that would make a hummingbird’s wings jealous. Their light reflected off of her and back into my eyes where my brain processed the primary colors. So it was that I saw her just an instant before I heard her off key wailing as she trudged through my subway car. She did not hear me, but she saw me.

Her eyes locked on me and I tried to look away. Her Medusa gaze was too powerful and I couldn’t help but look on, curiously stoned. The woman moved through the subway car the way a cherry rolls through honey. When she walked by me she stopped. She turned. She threw a pack of gum at me and stretched out her hand. Did I have bad breath?

She would not leave till I gave her money, even after I tried to give her back her gum she just sang louder and started to poke me.

This was my first experience with the Gum Lady of Line 1.

Since that first experience I am afraid to look at her, lest she notice me. My only hope is that she turns her attention towards some other unsuspecting bad breathed soul, because once she notices you, you will buy some gum. She usually only stops at one person per subway car. Sometimes I point to people who I think she should try to sell gum to, and sometimes she takes my advice.

Despite my fear of looking at her I’ve caught enough glimpses. Her face is weathered and tanned the way only fluorescent lighting can do. Her back is bent and arched from too many days of carrying bags of rice on her head to and from various locations before the creation of the subway. She may have been beautiful once. Can beauty ever die? Also, I’m pretty sure she wears the same thing every day.

The Gum Lady is always there, haunting the passengers of line 1. Always staring at you, singing off key, forcing you to buy her gum. Her life is intrinsically linked to the subway and the subway to her. It would not surprise me to discover she secretly lived there.

She is not a beggar. Beggars offer you nothing for your money besides a guilty shot at redemption. She offers you that and then some gum. I wonder how much money she makes in a day. Hopefully more than the cost of a train ticket.

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Deciphering Korean T-Shirts

We’ve all had a good chuckle at them walking down the street. Those seemingly crazy Korean t-shirts written in English that seem to not make too much sense to us not accustomed to the Korean way of thinking.

But I’ve had a recent revelation. The t-shirts do make sense. Of course Koreans know exactly what English words they are putting on their body. What kind of people would honestly cover their body with sayings they didn’t understand? However, we as foreigners are too close minded to the cleverness and sublime wit of the Korean/English t-shirt market.

So I’ve decided to help you decipher some of the phrases I’ve seen around town so that you too can be as enlightened as me. Slogans in bold, descriptions under them.

Die or surf

In the context of English conversation two options can be given in either order. For example the sentences “we could die or surf, it’s up to you,” and “we could surf or die, it’s up to you,” have very little intrinsic difference. However, when the phrase surf or die is taken out of conversational context the order of words takes on a new meaning. The specific implication being that the first option of the two is preferable and even desired, while the second is not just a secondary option but wholly unwanted. Based on this description we can determine that the wearer must enjoy dying, and consequently sees surfing as its despicable counterpart, brimming with existential and spiritual quandaries.

He Loves the Dick/ She Loves the Dick (couple t-shirt)

Pish posh on your initial middle schoolish laughter at the homosexual implications of these t – shirts. Sexual innuendo is often brushed off as taboo in Korean culture. These t-shirts are testaments to youthful rebellious masturbation. We should all be so bold to shrug off social taboos that hold society back and create stereotypes.

Remember the sisties

The Sisties were an underground popular punk rock group that toured around the greater Mason area during the late 90’s. Damn straight I remember them.

We hookied and had lunchboxes for lunch

Poetry, sheer poetry. If you can not feel the words then you do not deserve to understand their meaning.

Peasants.

Pee all that you can pee in the army

Trusty health advice for our soldiers on duty. I imagine that spending all day sitting in bushes with sniper rifles and exploring exotic world locations on an aircraft carrier can be difficult work that would afford few opportunities for bathroom breaks. It’s important to stay hydrated and go regularly. How many more kidney failures can we endure?

I love alcohol (my fifth grade student) –

No explanation needed. Drinking culture is strong in Korea. Who cares if they start a little earlier than kids in other cultures? We should learn to never question Korean culture in any way shape or form. As foreigners, we don’t understand anything.

Want to take pictures I’m a true modek

A clever play on words for those who design modeks for a living. A walking modek? How silly and clever.

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I’m not one for too much celebrity gossip and news and stuff

but these are just two things I didn’t feel like passing up.

First, Lee Hyori proves, once again, that the only thing geeky girls need to do to become super attractive is simply take off your glasses and not carry around books.

Also, the title of her new album is Hyorish. I spent 20 minutes trying to think of a comment that didn’t revolve around the name of the album sounding like the word “whore,” but I couldn’t

Then, Miss Korea, I know it’s typhoon season and all…but damn

Anyways, that’s all I got for today. For those of you who also check me out at instablogs expect a new post up tomorrow. Not that I have anything in particular I feel like posting there but it’s been a week since I’ve written for them and I feel like I should. Since, you know, they label me as an editor and all.

I think I want Lil’ Wayne to die.

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