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Interesting View

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Today I am here to share with you a few things about a waygook perspective on weird shit in Korea. Excuse my french, but you can’t get much weirder than this place. So if the world does decide to collapse next week the day before my tropical Christmas vacation, what better place to be than Korea.

I know that I often resort back to ‘work weirdness’ when writing this blog, probably because, I am here, at work, ‘deskwarming.’ I always think of about 5-20 things per night after work however that I could write a blog, or even a book about, and just ask why Korea, or my trademark phrase ‘ohhh koreaaaa…’

It took about 4 months to accept the fact that I will never understand Koreans. This culture is beyond me and I think coming to terms with it is the best thing I could do in my two year stay here. Only being 10 months in however, each day, I discover something new; sometimes exciting, sometimes disturbing, but for the most part intriguing.

I love Korea. I love the weirdness. I’ve always called myself weird, so I think I fit in just right…. Okay I lied, I don’t fit it, and never will. I’d have to be about 80 pounds and shorter than 5’5, wear six 6 shoe, and have black hair and black eyes. I’d probably be wearing florescent sneakers with leggings attached to a skirt, some oversized sweater, some trendy jacket and lots of B.B. cream with lots of whitening enhancements.

One realization that I had after going to Japan for 5 days was that, Japan is different. I know I was ignorant and having never been, just assumed that they were quite similar. I was wrong! If you took Seoul and Osaka landscape and subtracted all the people, maybe the buildings look alike. They’re some crazy Asian language blinking and flashing everywhere, store fronts selling majority women’s clothes and accessories and tons of restaurants and bars, everywhere, open all the time.   It was nice to see a change of scenery, different crazy Asian language everywhere and people speaking differently, but most of all the people were different. Koreans all look alike. They do! They all shop at the same stores and wear the same clothes, to a T. There is a few neighborhoods that go ‘off the beaten path’ and dare to be different, and maybe I am unaware, but for the most part, these are university parts of Seoul.

Sinsa, is a main shopping district. For the majority, they are fancy boutiques, Forever 21 mixed in there somehow, and random expensive shoppes everywhere. This is a big target for where Japanese people come to shop. It is all the rage these days, to look like a K-pop star, and for starters, dress like them and change your hairstyle. You’re pretty much there.

Hongdae, a university district and very popular among artists and anyone starting to find themselves, or daring to be different. It’s a nice breath of fresh air to go there and see these people and eclectic vibe or something of the sort.

There are tons of up and coming neighborhoods in Seoul, but these two are that I have experienced to be different and quite refereshing.

Gangdong, is quite a  nook of Seoul. It is the far East side ‘south of the river.’ Most areas  in Seoul are referred to if you are north or south of the river. Not quite sure the meaning of these labels, but I know it means something. Gangnam is south of the river and just a hop skip and a jump or an hour bus ride or a 40 minute subway away. In general, I live about 40 minutes by subway to pretty much everywhere. I cannot complain, but in March I will live even closer to everything!

Gangdong is a typical Seoul outskirt neighborhood. It is very close to Cheonho dong, which is more hustle and bustle than Gangdong. Which I referred to earlier about most people dressing and looking alike, is what I see on a daily basis. I usually have to escape my area most nights of the week, if I stay in more than 2 nights during the week I feel a slight form of cabin fever creeping up on me. It is nice to feel comfortable in my surroundings, but I also like to explore new places.

The past 2 weeks have been unbearably. cold.

Haba Play School

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Friday Birthday Party 🙂

 

 

Hello again! So sorry to my three readers that I have not update in some time. As far as comments show, I have three special readers, Mom, Aunt Gail, and Colleen 🙂 And a shout out to Nicole who also left a comment before. Thank you all for the motivation to keep my monthly update.. ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋ (that is text laughing in Korean) sounds like K sound kkkkkkk

This week at the haba hagwon nightmare of an institution, I call my job, we had parent observations. After a little post on facebook about this said experience, a traveling friend I met last year, Chris put it perfectly ‘That is the day I realized I will never be able to teach in Korea again.’

It is a tramatizing experience. The homeroom teacher of the class or a Korean English teacher, and myself, with 8-11 kids depending on the class and their parents, grandparents, and housemaids snuggled into one little classroom. Oh how darling this week was. Due to the extreme hangover look in this photo, I treated myself to some ladies’ night at the local bar (free drinks 10-12 for ladies) after this was all said and done. Tuesday had 1 and 1/2 hours of observing and Thursday was 2 hours straight. 4 classes, 30 minutes each. My cousin Justin asked for an explanation of why I recently commented about the Korean school system vs. the American school system. I’m sure you can find this on your local google page, but I think I will try to make a more personal experience for him and those others interested.

I work at a private school in Korea. I attended public school my entire life in America. Korean private schools are also called hagwons, academies, etc. My school has children 3-7 which is Korean age (1 year older than American age, when you are born you are one, and everyone turns a year older when it is a new year, nothing in Korea makes sense, trust me, just bare with me). So the children are technically 2-6 years old. The school day begins at 8:40 when the first bus load of students arrive and the latest stay till 6 pm. This is also a kindergarten, so I guess it would be more considered full time daycare for the 2 year old class. I do not teach the 2 year olds, but I do teach 3-6 years old, daily. The school is entirely taught in Korean. There are 10 teachers plus me. There are also two assistants for the younger classes, one in the 2 year old, and one in the 3 year olds. The biggest class is 13 students. So there are roughly 55 students in the school.  It is definitely a small school and more of a homey type for the children, or that is what the idea is I suppose.

This week for parent observations I got to see first hand how ridiculous the hagwon title is. Parents pay a minimum of 700,000 korean won and a maximum of 1,000,000 won per month for their children. That is easily converted to USD as  1 million won is $904.00. For the two weeks prior to the parents coming, my boss watched every class I taught tweeking and changing just about everything I thought I was going to be doing for the parents. We had to make obnoxiously large posters and display boards for games and activities we had to do to make it appear like the students were having a ridiculously fun time. We had to be extremely cheerful, loud, and happy the entire time. We were not allowed to directly discipline students, remind them not to speak Korean, or do anything they would see as negative, like we are usually told to do during normal class time. I created correography to many songs and stories that we read. I wish I had pictures. I even made little headbands with different animals on each for the students to wear and participate in one of the stories. Farmer and the Carrot. A story about a farmer trying to pull up a huge carrot from the ground so called all his animals for help. And one by one they came up and helped the farmer (me) pull up a huge carrot. Then while the parents were here, we gave them some real carrot to eat when we pulled it up. These kids are 5. It was cute, everyone loved it, crowd pleaser, yadda yadda. We also did songs and dances like itsy bitsy spider, I’m a little teapot, and those are the only popular ones you would know of. Our cirriculum is made entirely of stories, songs, chants, poems, and action activities. It is good way to learn English, have students memorize stories and songs and dances for two months and bam move up to next level whether they are on track or not, right? Wrong!

I was never a fan of school as a kid. As I grew older I remember trying to avoid it at all costs some days. I am pretty clueless and I will be the first one to admit, how the American school system operates. I do know that many people like myself come to Korea with the intention of gaining experience and going home to America, Canada, and other English speaking countries and find that there is such a huge difference, Korea is not technically ‘teaching.’ I am aware of that. For some reason also, I was always the kid to say ‘When I grow up I want to be a teacher.’ Probably had something to do with the fact that I idolized my older cousin Kirsten and she is probably a fantastic teacher. I do not think that is the path the big man up there had for me. I am okay with that, unfortunately my career path did not come with a Plan B. So that is something I need to figure out.

Korean schools make me laugh. Parents pay a shit ton (excuse me) of money for a ridiculous puppeteer show. I have had my picture taken numerous times, been interviewed, classes filmed, recorded. I have been published in multiple magazines, a newspaper, and various publications. My PICTURE is the most important part of my job. Thanks for the blonde hair pats it’s really working to my advantage this year. Baaahaha.

I knew what it was like when I applied and they required a picture and skype interview to make sure I was really the person I said I was. Only in Korea (asia).

I’ll end with this. I recently attended this Stand-up Comedy night in Gangnam (yes Gangnam is a real place). It is basically a bunch of expats like myself poking fun at the world around us, Korea and Koreans to be exact. This one guy put it quite well. He said something along the lines of, If you look around and see a 6 year old wearing heels and ask why is there a 6 year old wearing heels. You replace Why with of course and everything will make much more sense. Of course there is a 6 year old wearing heels. Only in Korea.

Much love xoxo

p.s. I’m staying another year 🙂

Dinner and a show…

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Last night, was an usual night. I say this because most week nights are pretty tame. And it was until about the last hour or two of my evening.
Had the usual yoga after school, met a friend for dinner, and she introduced me to pig feet. Since we both live near Cheonho, she told me that there is a famous street with this delicacy. So we ventured over to see..
There is an alley plentiful of pig feet restaurants. Yum! I was unsure about this meal, but was willing to give it a try. Besides, I told her I wanted to try something new, so it was too late to back out now. I was quite hungry by this point nearly 10pm so wasn’t sure if it even mattered if I liked it, I was most likely going to eat it.

I have tried all sorts of strange Korean food thus far, and there is not anything I do not like, yet.
I’ll add this to my list of amazing Korean foods, and cross it off my bucket list. Check and Check.

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Day 3. I quit rice.

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I quit white rice. After coming to Korea, I have consumed more white rice in the past 4 months and 5 days than I ever have in my 25 years of living. And I do not particularly like or enjoy eating as much white rice as I have. It is definitely a staple of asian food, especially Korean. In order to enjoy one of my most favorite meals here, Kimchi JJigae, usually have some rice with every bite as it is a spicy soup w kimchi, tofu, and pork. But damn it is good.
Day 3. I usually wouldn’t dedicate an entire blog to my white rice quitting, but I feel like after numerous google searches, there is just not enough information about the idea…
I eat white rice at school every day for lunch. And atleast a few days a week with dinner. I have decided to stop, completely. I did cheat yesterday I will admit, having some kimbap (my favorite Korean snack, sushi roll looking thing but just vegetables and tuna salad inside). That was because we had the most horrid lunch at school to date, and they offered to go buy us kimbap. It was more a matter of survival at that point, I think… or I’ll just use that excuse for now.
I had this thought and mentioned it to my co-worker, who shared her amazing tip of soaking brown rice for a few hours before cooking it, and it becomes softer more like the texture of white rice. And like I said, I do not even particularly enjoy eating white rice, well not on a daily basis atleast. So I tried it, and it infact works, and is way more delicious.
So I have been bringing brown rice to school to substitute for the white rice I usually consume at lunch time.
That’s about all for now, nothing else. Just wanted to share my recent happenings of Korean adjustment haha.
I have also decided to join a gym with my Korean friend, so we will see how that goes. We are going to motivate each other and try to make this work.
Loves and Kisses

Ohhh Korea… Eyebrow/forehead waxing

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I think this is a phrase that I must say to myself atleast once a day.
Big ‘Oh Korea’ moment Friday calls for a post just about it.

Called my mom about a month ago.
“Mom, I really miss some things from home. I need my eyebrows waxed and some shoes for the summer.”
“I can’t help you with the eyebrows.”
“Can you ship me one of those sweet Vietnamese ladies that works in the nail salon”
“You’re in Asia”

Basically, I searched high and low. Heard about a few other places that would be good to go get waxed. The closest one being about an hour away, I continued my search. Went to a few nail salon and hair places near my school, until one day this lady told me that they do waxing. I should have known it was too good to be true. Literally, right around the corner from my school. Less than 5 steps out the door. How could this be possible?!
I went in on a Thursday hoping for the best, but she told me the wax wasn’t on and had to make an appointment to come back on Friday. I had no choice. After four months, I could not wait another day.

6:00 show up for my appointment. She does the top of one, like the slowest, waxiest job ever. I was covered in wax. She went to my hairline on the side. It was so scary, I thought I was going to lose my eye brow. (Probably googled it a few too many times and read that I should be careful because sometimes they can wax the whole thing off). Needless to say I was quite frightened.

Long story short. I left at 7:30 crying. I was still near school and had to meet friends for dinner at 8pm for a friend’s birthday and meeting new people.

She waxed my forehead. I freaked. That was the first freak out. I had to tell her that she had to used hot wax (she had unplugged it in the beginning making it stick all over). Then as ‘service’ (like something free, you get a free pair of socks when you buy expensive sneakers), I got my forehead waxed.

Luckily, there was a girl in there told me she was a journalist and knew some English. Enough to help me. After the forehead incident we went to talk to the girl and she asked my why I did not want my forehead waxed as it is nice to have a clear forehead above my eyebrows. I had no idea why. OHH KOREAAA

After the hour and half waxing job, she put alcohol on the under part of my right eyebrow. She didn’t use any tweezers, so she must have waxed this area like 10 times over and over to get each little hair. She proceeded to clean it at the end with alcohol. I sat up so fast (like in Don’t Wake Daddy!) and was tearing up. Like rubbing alcohol on an open wound. I must have lost like 5 layers of skin. It was tragic, to say the least.

Today is Monday, 4 days later, I am still raw on the right side and still red and sore on both sides. I have put neosporin on each night and morning. I paid $10 instead of the original $20 because she felt so bad.

Basically, I learned my lesson, I will be making the trip to foreigner Itaewon for the next time. Hopefully that won’t be for awhile. I was about to go get my hair cut by a Korean with some translations written by a co-worker, but I have decided to make the trip, spend the extra money to keep some of my locks.

I have concluded the lady has never picked up a waxing utnesil in her life. She didn’t even know which direction to pull it off. I had to keep reminding her each time, and had the mirror in my hand inspecting each move she made.

That is my Oh Korea moment for the week. I’m sure I’ll have more soon, as this seems to be a frequent occurance in my life living in a foreign country.

Note to self/others: Do not get your eyebrows waxed in any Korean salon that was not previously recommended by other foreigners.

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Festival season

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Just a small update on recent events here. Really starting to enjoy Korea, Seoul, and life abroad as a whole. After a bit of a rocky start can only go uphill from here right.
Spring beer festival was in napsapyeong to kick off the spring weather of intense rain showers and down pours. But as you can imagine it didn’t stop us beer drinkers seeking free delicious homemade beer. After working at a microbrewery and being spoiled with delicious brews its hard to drink cass and hite on a regular basis. Much free beer was consumed from a variety of places and all in all good end to the day with some pork tacos from a truck.

Cherry blossom festival in yeuido was a bit of a let down since they were exactly bloomed yet, but a good time with good company and a nice park in the city is always a good change.

Lotus lantern festival and parade was incredible. Def can cross that off my bucket list i took a stupid amount of photos and loved everysecond of the two week period the lanterns were displayed at various temples.

World dj festival was held just east of seoul this year in yangpeong. Amazing weekend bit of a storm passed through ripping practically every tent out of the ground and away some that never were to be found( sorry alan and mark 😦 )
But all in all amazing weekend of dancing drinking djs and silent disco oh and being dirty just for another d word but yes we were smelly by day 3.

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This weekend will be attending korean queer culture festival. Not sure what I’m in for, but should be interesting never been to one before but Korea isn’t exactly an accepting place for gay culture so we will see.

Next up in Mid July is the Mud Festival which I have always seen photos of friends that have been to Korea before so I’m pretty excited to experience it first hand. I will be joining a group of people through my Korean language class, CLS (Conversational Learning Seoul) and they seem like a fun group, so should be good.

After that will be the UMF Korea. This is probably what I am most pumped for at this point. Huge DJ names will be performing there, unlike when I went to World DJ festival I didn’t know anyone that would be playing, but I couldn’t pass up this opportunity so I bought a ticket on my birthday and greatly anticipating this 2 day mayhem just a walk away from my house 🙂 Woo really take for granted sometimes being sooo close to everything living right in Seoul, but I will be happy when I can get out one of these weeks and travel.

Next weekend, June 9th, I will be traveling to Yeosu Expo in the South of Korea. Most of the posts (trying to not make it that way though), are from events sponsored by them and given free tickets to go see some shows. Most of them being non-verbal shows or musical type deals, but all been pretty nice especially when it’s free 🙂

Pretty excited for the weekend to get out and get away. Although I wasn’t able to attend the orientation, it seems like we will be put to work photographing and going to different parts of the expo to take some photos and later post about it. Not quite sure what I got my self into, but anyway free trip can’t beat that.

June 6th is Memorial Day here in Korea happens to fall on a Wednesday so looking forward to another short week next week. Just found out last night at dinner with some c0-workers we will be having a Pajama Party at school on a Friday in July, gotta love when school sucks up my weekend hopes of leaving this city. School again on the Last sunday in June for father’s day. Ohhh Korea. It’s a love/hate relationship.

In better news, two weeks and counting until I am reunited with a good friend of mine, Maggie. Maggie is Canadian and we met in Australia when we worked at lovely Hog’s Breath together. She now lives the life (literally) in Singapore and I was able to visit her last year for St. Patty’s Day and now she has a layover in Seoul on her way to home to do a roadtrip of the Us/Canada (nice), and we will spend the saturday night dancing away till early sunday morning when she has to depart again. Really nice to see familiar faces around here. And being reunited with old friends of course.

It’s Friday here, thank goddd. Going hiking for the first time Sunday, so that will be nice. I am going to try and post here more regularly (and make it more interesting for my 2 readers out there, much love). Hope all is well back on the home front,

Love always xoxo

World Beat Vinari

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World Beat Vinari Seoul, South Korea May 2012