Sunday, January 31, 2010

You know you've been in Korea too long when...

~37F constitutes a "warm" day perfect for a run in t-shirt and capris.

~You introduce yourself by the Korean pronunciation and syllable emphasis of your name: "Hello, I'm Moohneekka."

~You noteece the soft "i" sound deesapearing from your speech.

~Seeing white people on the subway isn't exciting anymore.

~You've grown bored with heavy drinking.

~You take your shoes off in your apartment.

~You understand your students' Englishee just fine (though it hasn't improved).

~You kind of like your students' Englishee in a 1984 Newspeak sort of way. ("Teacha bery good.")

~Putting your life in an insane bus driver's hands is no longer a prospect so daunting as to give you pause.

~You can order food without pointing and grunting at the menu.

What are yours?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Mt. Taebaek kicked my ass

I went to the Taebaek Snow Festival this past weekend. It sucked. The crowds were infuriating and the sculpted ice art looked like shit because the crowds are allowed to climb all over it for pictures. There was a coal mine, which interested me mostly because it was indoors. Turns out it was just a bunch of rocks. The history of rocks. Wow. Another lady on the trip and I went sledding. But sledding in Korea is like the in Finding Nemo. Where I come from, the ambulance makes at least 2 or 3 trips to the sledding hill every weekend. Because that's what sledding should be- dangerous.

Then we hiked the mountain. I went on this trip because I've been hiking in the mountains in the states and generally enjoy it. But this was a real bitch. I was miserable. About halfway up, the inner monologue started mocking me in a whiny, high-pitched voice: "So you wanted to go hiking. So you thought it would be fun. What now, you dumb bitch? How do you like the windchill below 0 F, huh? Betcha wish your toes would hurry up and go numb and get frostbite just so you can't feel the pain anymore, huh?" ... and so on with more negativity than I ever thought I had in me.

I've heard the hiking in Korea is great, but I'm not gonna find out. Fuck a bunch of that noise.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

101 in 1001

The Mission:
Complete 101 preset tasks in a period of 1001 days.

The Criteria:
Tasks must be specific (ie. no ambiguity in the wording) with a result that is either measurable or clearly defined. Tasks must also be realistic and stretching (ie. represent some amount of work on my part).

Why 1001 Days?
Many people have created lists in the past - frequently simple goals such as New Year's resolutions. The key to beating procrastination is to set a deadline that is realistic. 1001 Days (about 2.75 years) is a better period of time than a year, because it allows you several seasons to complete the tasks, which is better for organising and timing some tasks such as overseas trips or outdoor activities.

Start Date: Monday, January 25, 2010
End Date:

For health
1. 100 pushups (in progress)
2. 200 crunches
3. 200 squats
4. 25 pull ups
5. 4 pack abs
6. Exercise 2 of every 3 days (in progress)
7. See a dentist
8. Find and visit an OB/GYN in the RoK (Sept. 4)
9. Attend a yoga class
10. Find a successful skin care product/routine
11. Run 1 nonstop lap (2.4 km) around Ansan park (DONE! 7/7/10)
12. Run 2 nonstop laps (4.8 km) around Ansan park (DONE! In a monsoon, no less.)
13. 8 minute mile
14. Run a 10k
15. Run a half marathon
16. Eat one piece of produce every day (so far so good)
17. Daily multivitamin (so far so good)

For finance
18. Get caught up on payments (Done! 5/16/10)
19. Pay off student loans (0%)
20. Pay off Wells Fargo credit card (21%)
21. Pay off Bank of America credit card (27%)
22. Pay off personal debt (5%)

Things to do
23. 100 postcards at (56/100)
24. Send 20 parcels through (0/20)
25. Participate in a Secret Santa
26. Go stargazing
27. Go rock climbing (DONE!)
28. Go camping in Korea (DONE! May 1)
29. Create (zombie apocalypse) emergency plan
30. Beat my current best bowling score of 165
31. Back up all files on my laptop
32. Stay out until dawn (DONE! 2/12-13)
33. Create a vision board
34. List 100 things for which I am grateful (in progress)
35. List 100 things that make me happy
36. Make a list of all the places I will travel in my life (in progress)
37. Buddhist temple experience (DONE! 2/20-21)
38. See 5 theater productions
39. Career-related certification
41. Barefoot running
42. Daily meditation
43. Bum around on a beach for a day (DONE! 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 1)
44. Dance in the rain
45. Watch "Gone with the Wind"
46. Write a letter to my youngest sister imparting wisdom for teenage years
47. Climb a mountain (DONE! May 2010)
48. Hug a baby

Places to go
49. Go to the aquarium (3/14 DONE!)
50. Go to the zoo (4/10 DONE!)
51. Travel to Jeju-Do (DONE!)
52. Attend Korean Mud Festival (DONE!)
53. Travel to DMZ (DONE!)
54. Go to an amusement park in Korea
55. Tour a Korean palace
56. Seoul Tower (3/13 DONE!)
57. Penis Park
58. Backpacking in Europe

A little pampering
59. Get a manicure
60. Get a pedicure
61. Splurge on a pair of asstastic jeans
62. Visit a jimjilbang (DONE!)
63. Give myself flowers on my birthday
64. Give myself flowers just because
65. Have professional photos taken of myself

Things to obtain
66. Get a DSLR
67. Buy traditional Korean dolls for collection
68. Need a proper backpack for Europe
70. Obtain Polaroid instant camera

Things to learn
71. Learn hooping
72. Learn a new game (I just bought a book of 300 card games.)
73. Learn to French braid my hair
74. Learn to shoot badass portraits
75. Learn to shoot badass landscapes
76. Learn each of my camera's every setting like the back of my hand (in progress)
78. Learn to play darts passably well
79. Learn a martial art (3 muay thai lessons done)
80. Korean 101 (in progress)
81. Spanish 101
82. Learn touch typing
83. Learn 20 origami patterns

Being artsy
84. Solo belly dance performance at an advertised event (DONE! May 7)
85. Solo fire performance at an advertised event
86. Join a troupe (DONE! Performed with Raks Azhaar May 7)
87. Fill a sketch book for the year (in progress)
88. 365 Project (in progress)
89. Print & bind K-blog as book
90. Sphere play in the park 100 days (1/100)
91. Finish locking the synth hair I've purchased
92. Make a young me/now me photo project
93. Complete a 3 minute song with zils without missing a beat
94. Spend a day every year just taking photos
95. Photograph a landscape from the same location, capturing all four seasons (2/4)
96. Shoot/edit 12 poi/belly dance videos

And as for this list
97. Finish this list
98. Think of & do something spiffy to celebrate completion of list goals
99. Make a new 101 list for when this one expires
100. Donate $5 to charity for each task I don’t complete

Suggestions, tips, links, resources, and questions are all welcome.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Mundane is good, too

My days are beginning to feel mundane, and I'm really OK with that.

Today brought a delightfully warm and rainy front of about 48F. So I was dripping sweat everywhere I went indoors because Koreans determine weather not by mercury but by the date (season), and still have the heaters blasting inside. All the same, I found today to be a blessed reprieve from the long winter. Tomorrow will be even warmer. :0)

My phone wasn't working this weekend, so I asked my boss about it. He said the prepay costs 10,000 won ($8.50) per month and he'd put 20,000 won on it when he gave it to me. He said I can put more money on it at any cell phone store and pointed to one across the street. After work, I went there with money in my hand and gestured at my phone. The salesperson shook her head no and waved me away. The same at 2 other shops on the same block.

In Ansan (and most of Korea, as I understand it), you can't throw a rock without hitting a Dunkin' Donuts, Paris Baguette, and a Baskin Robbins. And cell phone boutiques easily outnumber all these combined by 3 to 1. I resolved to spend as long as it took to find a shop that could help me; there are at least 20 across the street from my place. Luckily, the first one I hit in my neighborhood said they could help me tomorrow because it was "close time," though all the lights were on and the sign on the door read "Open."

Returning the next morning, the salesman asked for "card-uh" in addition to my money. I pulled card after card from my wallet, and he shook his head "no" for every one until I reached my alien card. Success! It's amazing how far one can get in Korea with little more than "Hello" and "Thank you" to her vocabulary and a sunny disposition.

So I've finished reading "The Traveler's Gift" and have to recommend it. It's a personal success/self help kind of book with a good fictional story weaving together "The Seven Decisions for Personal Success." Whatever your opinions of the 'power of positive thought' trend, the book's advice has practical applications. Inspired, I decided this week that a bunch of shit head children could no longer determine how good or bad my day was. I reclaimed happiness in my own name and have had a pretty good week thus far.

In other news, I'm taking the One Hundred Pushups Challenge, a six week program designed to help me reach 100 pushups in one set. I managed 14 good form pushups for my initial test, not bad considering I only do 10 every morning right now. I'm excited to start this program next week. Anyone else want to join me?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Inspiration is a dark night predator

Inspiration is a dark night predator, sneaking in and taking advantage of me prone, just as I've laid down in my warm bed. He throws me violently awake and won't let go. I'm left panting and out of breath when he finishes, when the words are on paper, when I'm too shaken to fall easily back to sleep.

This is the mess he left behind:

There is something to be said for falling completely in love with you
for only tonight.
No reservations, no turning back
It's all or nothing
and, Darling, I want it all.
Let me give you my all.
This is everything
because there is nothing more to give
or to be had.
Love me and I'll love you,
if only for a little while
What say has Time in these things anyway?
There is something to be said for falling in love,
knowing there will be
no lies, no games, no empty promises,
no broken hearts.
No holding back, Baby, I'm all yours
All yours unless we had all the time in the world.
All yours for only tonight.
Show me, what can you make of it?
And I'll kiss you goodbye, my love,
in the morning. The end.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Bundang book exchange

So the trip out to Bundang only took 30 minutes longer than I estimated, for a boring two hours total if you count the time it took to walk to the subway station and wait for the next train.

The post on event calendar said 4 to 7 p.m. I arrived at Pub210 at 4:40 p.m. and the place was closed, locked, lights out. Cranky from such a long train ride, I was displeased to say the least. I figured the pub would probably open in a few hours, so I bummed around a bit.

I found a Kodak store and got batteries for my camera cheaper and of better quality than I'd found at Family Mart and grabbed a few extra rolls of good film while I was there. At least there's a developing place at the HomePlus next door to my apartment.

Then I hung out at Starbucks and worked on some scrapbooking from the Seoul Doll Fair. I don't know what Koreans don't get about coffee houses supposed to being chill places, but damn it was crowded and noisy in there. Unfortunately, there were only two other coffee places on the block, one too small and the other I don't care for. Pleased with the results of my crafting, I packed up, cleaned up my table, and headed back to the pub about 6:30 or so.

I walked in to find a bunch of tables pushed together right by the door piled high with books. I had only brought four with me and intended to only pick out that many to take home, assuming that's how book exchanges work. However I was soon informed that the same 20 people or so had been circulating the same 40-50 books, so I brought home 10. Ridiculous, I know, but they were eager to be rid of them. Many people are leaving Korea this time of year and trying to avoid packing the books, too.

Sure, it's four times as far as the library, but it's only once a month, and the company, conversation, and Costco pizza certainly made it worthwhile. The people I talked to thought my being a newbie to Korea was so cute. Lol. I look forward to next month's meeting and have already nearly finished The Traveler's Gift by Andy Andrews on the train home. I highly recommend it.

Here's the rest of my loot:
~The Bible
~Korea Calling: The Essential Handbook for Teaching English and Living in South Korea
~Before they are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie
~Soon I Will be Invincible by Austin Grossman
~Slow Man by J. M. Coetzee
~The Red Wolf Conspiracy by Robert V. S. Redick
~Journey To Ixtlan by Carlos Castaneda
~Counting Up, Counting Down by Harry Turtledove
~The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

Saturday, January 16, 2010

God's children

I read a lot of expat blogs deploring the rampant racism and discrimination against foreigners by Koreans at large. But this is not true everywhere, and some people are so good to foreigners that it merits mention.

Religion is one of the big questions you may get here in Korea along with the standard "Where are you from? How old are you? Do you have a boyfriend?" Though I no longer practice, I figured it would just be easiest to tell my coworkers that I am Catholic, one of the big three Christian sects in Korea.

One of the teachers I used to work with drew me a map to the local Catholic Church so I could go on Christmas, but I couldn't find it. Then my boss searched it on the Korean equivalent of GoogleMaps and showed me the camera street view route how to walk there as well as which buses would take me. Last week they all asked if I'd gone, but I admitted I did not get up early enough. Anticipating the question again this week, I did get up early enough to go.

(My religion and beliefs are fluid and undecided since college. I'm not just going to church because of what others will think. I'm also going because it's a small comfort that reminds me of home. And because a friend recently helped me realized my only problem with Christianity is Catholic dogma, which is not necessary to celebrate mass. It's not like I really have anything better to do on a Sunday morning, and 10 a.m. is not early.)

It was a smallish church and much more simply decorated than that fancy one I went to on Christmas with big screens and lights and a huge soundboard. (One thing about me: I am offended by opulence in churches. I helped build a cinderblock church in Mexico, and any church that wastes money on things like fancy sound and light systems fit for Broadway productions when that money could have gone to an impoverished community disgusts me.)

One odd thing, every woman wore a white lace or embroidered veil on her head. Every one, save me. Back home, I've seen an old lady or two wear one from time to time, but today I really felt the odd one out (which I can handle), and I could only hope my bare golden locks didn't give offense. Also, everyone brings their own missal/hymnal in Korea. I wonder if I could find one in English in a book store in Seoul or something. While I'm sure English Bibles abound, an English version of the Catholic rotation of scripture might be a tricky thing to find.

In Korean mass, nobody holds hand for the "Our Father" or shakes hands for "Peace be with you." Instead they bow to one another. When it is time to donate, everyone lines up to drop money into baskets in front of the altar instead of passing the baskets around. And there was no wine for the congregation, only a small chalice for the priest. Where I genuflect, they bow. Where I dip my fingers in the holy water and make the sign of the cross when entering or leaving, they bow to the altar also and do not touch the water.

A sweet lady sat next to me and asked if it was my first time here (I said yes and she said, "Good for you") and translated a handful of things the priest said for me. After mass, she invited me to coffee downstairs with everyone and told me her English name was Scarlett, after Scarlett O'hara (sp?). As we drank coffee, she introduced me to her husband and asked if I liked ---. I asked her to repeat herself- it sounded like dog or duck. Do I like dogs? Yes, yes I do. Do I like duck? In fact, I do. I told her yes. She said "I will treat you." Momentary panic. Oh no, are we going to eat dog now? She led me to a table in the foyer and bought me a rice cake (deok). I actually happen to like those, too. They're mostly bland but a bit sweet with different nuts on top. She said I was so brave to come there by myself and she looks forward to seeing me next time, which I told her will be in two weeks because I am traveling next weekend.

God bless you, Scarlett. You've made my day and it's only just begun.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Thinking about the DMZ

Upon meeting nearly anyone over here, foreigners and natives alike, I ask what they recommend I see while in Korea. The DMZ is at the top of everybody's list (along with Jeju-Do). There are innumerable tour agencies headed there daily, most at good prices, too. The DMZ is perhaps the number one tourist attraction in Korea.
dmz tour 039
The problem is every time I go to look at tour information, I'm not sure why anyone would want to go at all because my mind still associates the DMZ as this:
For some reason, I just can't wrap my head around the DMZ being a tourist destination. Am I the only one who thinks that's at least a little messed up?

(Holy crap, I can't believe my coding was actually perfect on my first try and needed no editing. I am amazing.)

Note: All images lifted shamelessly from Google. All rights belong to someone else.

Public transit gets the juices flowing

Riding on the bus, standing room only, my hands in a death grip on the bar far above my head, I feel silly and smug thinking half the country can't do what I'm doing right now... reaching that bar.

The urge to lift my feet from the ground and monkey around a bit every time the driver slams to a halt at an intersection is hard to resist. But there are enough people in close proximity to kick, so I refrain.

I pick a spot standing next to sleeping ajumma. She startles awake and looks baffled as hell at my presence. Then, probably figuring me for a dream demon, she nods off again. This happens two more times before we reach her stop.

*I* am the whitey who will ever more haunt her dreams. That's one of my unvoiced lifelong goals- to haunt someone's dreams. I just always thought I'd have to be dead and restless to do it. I'd say it's quite an accomplishment. Teacha can has sticka plz?

One of my students today was wearing a Disney knockoff hoodie with the following Engrish (Konglish?):

In your carears you will meet many people. All are signillcant They deserve you allantion and care, oven if all you do is smile and say HELLO.

This really brightened my day.

Here's a fun exercise: count how many things are wrong with this scenario.

Teacher's cash payday is the 16th of every month, and the 16th falls on a Saturday this month. Teacher's contract stipulates she shall wait no longer than 31 days between paychecks, and so she assumes she will be paid on the 15th. At the end of the work day on the 15th, the boss asks for her bank account number so he can transfer payment on the 16th. After admitting to not having a darn clue what the account number is (seriously, why would anyone know that?), he suggests she text message it to him when she gets home, then.

Edit: In attempting to text my boss, I discover I cannot text numerals on my phone (It's only practical use is for beaning a mugger.) and have to write out the numbers in Englishee. Added security for me, huh?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Sorry for the heavy editing in this, I'm too drugged up to be coherent for a full 5 minute post.

I don't know if you can see it in the video, but my pupils have been dilated for days. Even I can't believe I'm not high.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Note to self...

Do not wiki "complications" associated with one's diagnosed illness. Oh, the horror.

Officetel = fail

Two nights ago I threw my mattress from the loft to the floor because I've been sick and too fatigued to keep climbing the stairs. I slept with my head toward the window, the mattress a few inches from the wall, and trusted the 4 inch sill to catch the usually massive amount of dripping condensation from the window in the morning.

Today I awoke to raindrops falling on my head. But it was a bright, sunny, clear blue sky morning. The snow melting from the roof two floors above was bypassing the sealed window to drip on my head about a foot away from the window. What. the. fuck.

Supposedly I'm moving out of here by the end of the month. Dear God, I hope so.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

New year fitness unoriginality

So it's a new year, and like everyone else, I want to be in better shape.

To this end, I've found a couple of belly dance classes around Seoul and will bounce around those until I settle on one I like. I took lessons for a semester four years ago but have not had time or money to do so since then, and thus have failed to improve appreciably. Yesterday I attended lessons from Belynda and the zills (sp?) made me feel dumb and the veil work taught me I need to lift weights more regularly. Can't afford finger cymbals of my own at the moment, but I hope to get some soon because I intend to practice. It was great, though, because I learned lots about the minor differences between styles that I hadn't been taught before.

I also want to check out lessons with Eshe. A woman I met in lessons yesterday said she'd taken lessons with Eshe but didn't care for them because of the tribal fusion focus, something which I would love to learn. I hope to go next weekend.

Also, I thought I'd share the five tips/rules I've been following that seem to have been working.

1. Be a grandma: I don't know about you, but my grandma always has candy or crackers in her purse. I carry a nutrition bar in my pocket whenever I go out so I don't have to stop in at McDonald's or Lotteria for a cheeseburger. Mmm...cheeseburger.
2. Be a 5-year-old: Last year I drew smiley faces on my wall calendar for every day that I worked out. Seeing them add up gave me both a sense of accomplishment and the motivation to at least go for a walk on a blah day. Today I purchased ridiculously cute stickers to put in my planner for the days I work out. Hey, if it works for 5-year-olds...right?
3. Hoof it: Anything I need in Ansan is within a 30 minute walk. Sure, walking in the cold sucks, but less so than standing 20 minutes in the cold waiting for a bus. Also, I take the stairs as much as possible.
4. No lollygagging: I hate people (read: Koreans) who walk slow. Even without time constraints, what would possess a person to walk slowly in subfreezing temperatures? Aside from burning a few extra calories by walking quickly, I warm quickly, too.
5. Go to the grocery store often: When the apartment is stocked, I don't have to eat at the bakery, at the burger joint, etc.

I took a "before" photo of myself at the beginning of the month and will post it alongside a "progress" photo at the end of the month. Since my arrival, I've lost 3 inches each from my hips, waist, and bust. Yay! I don't have a scale, though, so I don't know my progress in kilos. Unfortunately, I'm going to have to buy some new pants before long; there's only so much a belt can do.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

New Year recap

Dec. 31- I went to the COEX and spent 15 minutes trying to find the exhibition hall. For W10,000 I got to see the Seoul Doll Fair. It was like nothing I could have imagined- there were fashion dolls, baby dolls, Bisque dolls, vintage dolls, sculpted dolls, exotic dolls, cutesy dolls, dolls based on historical figures and paintings, paintings and photographs of dolls, anthropomorphic dolls, figurines, celebrity dolls and busts, military dolls galore, movie dolls, cloth dolls, teddy bears large and small, life-sized in traditional Korean clothes, teddy bears in scrubs in an operating room, dollhouses, miniatures, and zombie dolls! There was even a collection of mechanical roller skating baby dolls just like the one I used to have as a child. Try as I might, I simply could not hold back my gasps and squeals of delight.
Photo 21
I got to stuff my own teddy bear and gave him eyes and a face.

I got business cards for every exhibit that I could, most of which have web sites. And with a little luck I may manage to navigate them in Korean. Sorry Mom, but I think my collection may explode after another paycheck or two.

Remembering it had been 17F during the day and was dark by the time I left the exhibit, I scrapped the ice skating idea yet again and bummed around the COEX mall for a bit. I decided around 8 that I was too tired to stay out all night and caught a train home around 9. Only I caught it going the wrong way and did not realize this until the last stop. This effectively tripled what should have been about an hour ride home, so that I was traversing a mile of icewalks when the clock struck midnight. Bah freaking humbug.