Saturday, February 27, 2010

FML cont'd

Friday, February 26, 2010

It's called "culture" show a little respect.

I just saw the most adorable 7-year-old little girl in cute pink and black tights stop to spit the biggest, nastiest loogie on the sidewalk while her mother waited for her and watched without saying a word.

God bless Korea.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


I was told yesterday a tenant had not yet been found to replace me, so although my new apartment would be ready Saturday, I could wait to move since I was ill.

I was told today I have to move out Sunday because a new tenant is moving in Monday. I saw my new apartment, and whoo-ee, it's a real shitter. No loft, and the whole space is smaller than my first floor is now. There's enough mold to have the place condemned in any first world country and it smells. Figures that nearly two years after I graduated I have to have the shitty college apartment. FML.

7:30 p.m. edit: The director called to say she didn't know the mold was so bad. She's having ajumma clean tomorrow morning and will have the mold taken care of and new wallpaper in place in about a week. Also, she said I'll be moving out at 4 p.m. tomorrow. Great.

3:20 p.m. Saturday: The landlady just came to ask when I'd be out. I told her 4 o'clock today. She said I was supposed to be out at 1, but at least she wasn't mean about it. I love being in the loop. I really hope my ride isn't late.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Belly Dance Evolution International Stars 2010

Sunday night I went to the Belly Dance Evolution show. It's an international show and competition featuring the best performers from around the world.

(No filming allowed, so I had to hide my LCD screen. Sorry for the poor quality.)

Aside from the little kid occupying the $60 seat in front of me flashing his Nintendo DS screen in my face throughout the performance, and despite having to pinch my nose against the kimchi halitosis FROM HELL sitting next to me for a 3 hour show, my seat was really great- about 7 rows back and maybe 10 seats left of center.

The dancers and choreography were also great.

The production values were worse than a high school talent show. I think they let the special kids run sound and lighting. It's not a fucking rock concert; spare my ear drums please. The music was unnecessarily, even painfully loud. Seriously, when I enjoy your show better with earplugs in, someone is a little "deet-de-dee." And the spotlight consistently missed performers' entrances. My friends who worked in the Collin County Community College theater department would be appalled.

Let me repeat, the dancers and the choreography were really good. Like, my jaw on the floor throughout the tribal parts, good.

And I got to meet and chat with other dancers. So I'm not too disappointed in what I paid for the show. In the future, I'd rather see the production in another country that has its act together.

I don't have cable

... so thank God every shop in Korea is tuned in to SBS.

I hereby grant Korea permission to win every event henceforth on the condition that their winning Olympians wipe out upon crossing the finish line.

I am also A-OK with the U.S. not earning another medal so long as our athletes take down a Korean and a Chinese with them in every race.

Man, I love speed skating.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Interview #2

Interview with school #2 was a bust. Longer hours for worse pay and occasionally having to work Saturdays. It's only been open for 3 months and has only a handful of students, meaning it's as likely to go under tomorrow as not.

And the owner actually asked me if I'd be willing to share my apartment if they hired another English teacher. Maybe that shit flies for Koreans, but as a foreign teacher, I expect a certain standard of living. I said no as politely as I could manage. Fortunately, Koreans have as hard a time reading foreigners as we do them, so my thinly veiled growing disgust as the interview went on went unnoticed.

And she asked if I could plan a 90 minute lesson for the four-student kindergarten class tomorrow so she could observe my teaching style before making a decision. I said OK because I'm coming down with a respiratory infection and will most assuredly lose my voice by morning.

I'll ask my director for one more interview because 3 is lucky, but school #1 is looking pretty good to me. And I really like the idea of having a higher income without having time to blow it on frivolity.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Interview #1

I had an interview today at a beautiful hagwon, cleaner, nicer, and bigger than mine, and there are other foreign teachers! The salary is better but the hours are possibly the longest in the country, and it comes down to the same pay hourly. But I had lunch with the foreign teachers, and their ONLY complaint was the hours. Otherwise, they actually LIKE their jobs. Their kids are cute and great and NICE! The position's mine if I want it, but I told my boss I'd like some more options and asked him to keep looking.

When I left work today, the severity of my situation really hit me. I'm trying to tell myself this is all a blessing in disguise.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Laid off from the fourth job in a row

I just found out a few minutes ago that my academy will be closing and tomorrow is my last day of work. My boss gave me the option to fly home or look for other work here. I want/have to stay, and he said he will help me find another academy in Ansan.

This is a small academy and my boss said he has made sure to always pay the teachers on time but has been late on the school's rent to the landlord, so the landlord does not want to renew the contract with him.

I am not freaking out, and I am not going to cry... yet.

I just got paid this week, so I'm sure everything will be OK. Please send out some prayers and good vibes for me. I'm glad I found out today so I can refrain from signing up for the belly dance and muay thai lessons I wanted to take this month.

I guess that's all there is to say.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Staying out until dawn

I went to this Hands for Haiti benefit concert in Hongdae Friday night. 10,000 won cover gets you into Jane's Groove, Club FF, and DGBD, and all proceeds go to a Haiti children's org. I met a friend at Jane's Groove, and then we walked over to hear the bands at FF. I really liked the opening act, whose name I didn't get. Next up was Easy Boy, Banco, Jergey Merley, and We Need Surgery. Banco and Jergey Merley (reggae in Seoul!) rocked the house. I thought the last band was horrible, so I left to find something else to do, no easy task when you're alone in the city at 2 a.m.

I ended up at some new club that played a good mix of dance music and was really enjoying myself until Mr. Creepy Old Korean Dude took me over to the bar and trapped me between himself and his friend on a bench. Then I realized guy #1 was only Weird Funny Korean Dude, and his friend was Super Creepy Mute Old Korean Guy. He kept trying to buy me drinks, but I'd been dancing and dehydrating myself, so the *last* thing I wanted was an alcoholic beverage. I settled for an O.J. I hate Korean O.J. but at that moment, it was delicious.

So WFKD asks if I'm Canadian because he says I look Canadian and he likes Canadians and blah blah blah. This didn't stop after I said U.S.A. Eventually, he moved on to "I am 38." I smiled and nodded. "I am 38." I smiled and nodded again. Ad infinitum. "Are you married?" he asked. Why do I always forget the correct answer is "Yes"? *Facepalm* Stupid, stupid, stupid.

When he tried to dance with me, the situation inexplicably jumped from awkward to hysterically funny, and I couldn't control my laughter. Then he'd had enough to drink to breach physical contact and it was time for me to leave. I booked it outta there.

So it's not quite 4 a.m. and my bus doesn't arrive until 7. What to do, what to do without spending a lot of money because it's almost payday and I'm broke? I wandered around and saw the lights of the cutest coffee house ever beckoning to me. So I went to Anne House to sit and read in the warmth. 6,000 won for a cup of shitty "Cafe Americano," a wonderful slice of cheesecake, and the chance to sit indoors for an hour or so. Not bad.

Where'd the teacher go?

I've just returned home for the first time in 104 hours and have 400+ photos to upload to the computer, crop, edit, and upload online. Heaven help me. I had a blast. Lengthy update is forthcoming.

Creepy old Korean men
Chickens & chonies
Toasted sandwich
Engrishee to the max
Koreans + snow = fail in more ways than I can count

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Cabaret Noir pt 3

The French Magician

For fun: favorite words

My brain was bored today, and I don't get to use my SAT words anymore now that I teach a bunch of dumb little kids. So I made a list of my favorite words, for their sounds, their spellings, and sometimes their definitions. In the end, I think this list says horrible things about the kind of person I am.

(Okay, so it's a proper noun, but I can't help giggling every time I pass this station on the subway.)
(Another proper noun, author of "The Time Traveler's Wife." But I can't find a better N word.)
Ogle (It's not oogle or oggle, dumbasses!)
(The most ridiculous spelling of a word.)
Reconnoiter (A very silly word typically used to describe very serious missions of very serious soldier-types in novels)
Shussboomer (A fast downhill skier)
(a fish)
Zuit suit

Honorable mentions: adage, lackadaisical, undulation, titillate, manipulative, rut (as animals do), presage, wanderlust, loquacious, renege, sycophant, malapropism, bailiwick, praxis, silhouette

What are yours?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Cabaret Noir pt 2

Tim on accordion & guitar
Intermission piano

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Wicked weekend fun

Friday night I went to a burlesque fundraiser show for Haiti called Cabaret Noir at Club TA. Luckily I ran into some foreigners on the subway going to the same place because it took us 20 or 30 minutes to find it after going down the wrong street and passing it twice on the right one.

This was just the thing to snap me from a two week funk. The crowd was awesome, everybody laughing and talking and having a great time- not an emo kid in sight, surprisingly for a burlesque show. After the show, about 15 people stayed to dance and had so much fun doing it, none of that restrained, trying to impress attitude you see at the usual clubs. Dan, Daphne, and Mitch- y'all would have LOVED it.

I met a Korean girl named Sunny, and she introduced me to her friend from NY, Alex, who showed us to a reggae bar where we hung out until the trains opened and giggled at the ajushi passed out and sawing logs at the table next to us. Sunny also introduced Veronica, who took both my hands in hers, squatted, and greeted me with a long and loud "HIIIIIIIIIIIIIII!!!!!!!!!" then stood and pulled me close to wrap me in an awkward and amusing warm embrace.

At about 6 a.m. Saturday I made it to a jimjilbang in Itaewon to pass a few hours and freshen up before belly dance class. It was my first time ever, and most everyone was asleep, so I had the pools all to myself. At first I was a little bored sitting alone in the jacuzzi without even a book, but soon I realized how much fun swimming naked is and was jumping from the warm to hot to ice pool like a little kid, swimming over the bubbles and giggling as they tickled my tummy, and swimming in circles for kicks. I had too much fun. Unfortunately, there were no sleeping mats left, so I slept on the hard marble floor with no blanket, but it was nice and warm.

I couldn't rouse myself early enough for the tribal lesson I wanted to attend, but I saw the tail end of it and stayed for an oriental lesson. I will definitely be returning to try out the tribal.

I wandered Itaewon hoping to find a Mexican place to have lunch. I'd given up and decided to return to the subway when I passed "Amigos." Oh happy day! I had a chicken burrito con queso and a watermelon margarita. The food was mediocre, but I'd been craving it something fierce, loved the atmosphere, and had a nice waiter. I left with that intense, dreamy, ultra satisfied post-coitus look on my face. :0) It was good.

Next up: Korean lessons. Nothing sticks, and I don't study, and I find it terribly dull. But going to dinner with my classmates after makes it all worth it. Good food, good company, and often weird conversation. And then sugar pumpkin bubble tea! FTW. The weird conversation led to my being invited to bake cookies Sunday afternoon and I got to watch Die Hard and play Scrabble. Good times.

The end.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

I'm an asshole-io-ioloiole...

I learned today that I am one effing rude foreigner- knocking down old ladies on the bus who won't move an inch so I can reach a handhold and walking in on women in the bathroom who don't bother to latch, much less shut the damn door. You should have seen the vitriolic looks they and everyone in the vicinity gave me and heard them curse me in their strange tongue. After a day like today, my ass is so deported.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Culturally retarded

Some of my kids really threw me off yesterday. My last class on Monday consists of six 14-year-old boys. This was one of the few days they didn't seem to be trying to gas me out of the tiny classroom. Our textbook led us to the conversation topic of dieting. I asked if high schoolers in Korea worry a lot about dieting. (I ask them a lot about the norms for Korean teenagers so I can explain the differences with American teens.)

Somehow they decided to discuss who they think is fat and needs to go on a diet: Charles, the previous teacher in my position, and Claire, my favorite of the Korean teachers at school. I was aghast and countered that she was not fat, but they insisted. I explained that maybe because I am from the U.S. and see a LOT of fat people every day, I have a different opinion of the definition of "fat" than they do because they see only skinny people every day, and that no one is wrong; we just have different cultural perspectives. But they would have none of it.

I was really hurt, inexplicably personally offended on her behalf. Claire is only a little heavier than me but in a good way with wide hips, and she wears awesome jeans that look darn good on her, if I may say so. I guess because I don't associate much with Koreans I don't experience the opinions on weight in this society- I've only heard *about* them...until now. It's disgusting.

I have no doubt that I have the mental fortitude to weather a year in this image-obsessed culture, an image I can never ever live up to, fit into, or meet. But it's still depressing to consider the pressures put on young women here to be rail thin, moreso than we see back in the states. The most fashionable clothing is not made larger than the equivalent of a U.S. size 4 because designers don't want fatties wearing their clothes. (See link below.) Children's mothers will starve them out of their natural childhood pudge. And I mentioned in an earlier post a person's character is often determined by his or her weight.

Anorexia runs rampant but is blamed on the permeation of American ideals and emphasis on image. Part of the problem is that this country doesn't believe in psychology. Yeah, you read that correctly. Psychiatric doctors are few and far between and haven't a clue what to do about the cases of ana on the rise. "Crazy" doesn't mean the same thing here as it does back home. Every Korean is the picture of mental health because such a stigma is placed on showing signs of anything to the contrary. Mental health "problems" such as depression and anxiety (both highly treatable, by the way) are screened before you can even get a job teaching here.

"Experts debate whether these problems are caused by Western pathologies that have infected their cultures via the globalized fashion, music and entertainment media..."
"But standards of beauty have changed dramatically in the 1990s with democratization, as South Korea's government decontrolled TV and newspapers, allowing in a flood of foreign and foreign-influenced programming, information and advertising." (Read article here)

But explain to me how the U.S. could influence a whole country to put mirrors on every escalator, cell phone, trees on hiking trails, sides of vendors' booths, even in individual bathroom stalls so one never need worry about how his or her hair is looking. And explain to me how the U.S. can be to blame for upwards of 76% of Korean women getting plastic surgery in their 20s and 30s. (From another blogger, not sure of the source.)

Sorry, my html-fu is limited.

I like to think of myself as an open-minded person. But there are just too many things in this culture that are retarded. And I am ill-equipped to influence my students to see outside their wacky Korean cage.