Thursday, September 23, 2010

추석 잘 지내세요! (Chuseok Chal Chinesaeyo! -- Chuseok Well Do It!)

'Lei ho ma!' from Hong Kong everyone! It’s Wednesday night here and so much as happened since my last post. We’ll get to Hong Kong in a sec…

First thing’s first—why it is that I’m even in Hong Kong:

I mentioned Chuseok (추석basically Thanksgiving for Koreans—as such, [like everyday] the Korean outfits blow North Americans’ garbs [pioneer’s hat {with the buckle on the front} and headdress obviously excluded] outta the water) in my last post (good luck following all the brackets).

From what I understand it’s time taken to give thanks for the past year’s harvest and also to remember past relatives and ancestors as well as honour the eldest members of the family. For the modern Korean, that means three days off work during which there’s a general mass exodus of Seoul to outlying regions with the purpose of visiting relatives both close and distant. For the average Korean woman, it means a shitonne (new word: shitonne: (n) derived from the two words ‘shit’ and 'tonne’ meaning a ‘tonne of shit’ [colloq. for a great quantity of people, places or things]. Note: the (correct) Canadian spelling of the word ‘tonne’ is the product of the creator of such genius to originate from (the best country) Canada.) of preparation while tending to everything else for the family her usual duties. Although I did read an article on the plane about how women are beginning to voice their discontent with the imbalanced gender roles during Chuseok (according to the article, during preparations, the men can usually be found playing cards or watching television)… soooo can I get a ‘whoop whoop!’ from my sister suffragettes?

Ok that’s enough.

Where was I? Chuseok? There’s way to pray (probably the wrong verb... remember...?), a way to bow, a way to offer the food to the ancestors… I learned the bow at school; you can see the children demonstrating the intensity of it below:

Here’s one more adorable picture for good measure:

The 9 children I'm adopting

…Vying for ‘Most Important Holiday’ along side Lunar New Year, Chuseok is definitely the first a welcome break for workers in Korea this year. So for the average expatriate, it means big travel plans or staying in Seoul and doing what he or she does every day he or she doesn’t go into work: partying hard. Rather impulsively, I switched camps from the ladder to the former just four short days before the break and consequently I’m now writing to you—of course with a stomach full of dim sum—from the wonderful ex-British colony of Hong Kong.

That’s how I got here. Next post title? Holy Shit, I’m in Hong Kong.

For now here’s a colourful, visual summation of my job description:

"happily" drowning in children

Monday, September 20, 2010

Pre-Chuseok Mental Preparation

It's been a while. Too long I'd say.

I got up to some really exciting things this weekend friends:

Saturday was perhaps the most beautiful day I had seen... in my life. SO just after booking my impromptu trip to Hong Kong (which begins tomorrow...?), it was spent in Olympic Park at a Chuseok cultural festival where friends and I consumed everything as relevant as pajeon and makgeolli to everything as irrelevant as samosas and chicken curry. Digestion took place lying on the grass, in the sun, putting off thinking about writing reports for work and marveling at the impossibility of the amount of cuteness Korean babies are endowed with. The cuteness is definitely all of it combined, the entire package that the baby offers just by existing. But we decided that the culmination of their cuteness lies in the depths of their enormous cheeks. Which for some reason turn you into a cannibal (right? How many times have you heard "gah I'm gonna eat you!"... a million if you hang out with me).
Afterward, naturally, there was the usual: delicious dinner followed by good drinks in Hongdae followed by (luxury!... only the best.) norae banging (private karaoke rooms) followed by dancing off our booties as much as our tired bodies could muster around 3:00am-4:30am.

Today (well, Sunday-so technically yesterday) was a rainy day and so that meant that I had to eat many mandu(s?). I'm pretty sure I washed my entire wardrobe today and although the laundry drying machines here are immensely efficient (see: non-existent), I decided to hang-dry everything. And so I literally have clothes hanging from every possible inch of my apartment, including the ceiling light. I wish I could take a picture... oh wait, I just did. With the new camera I bought this evening. (ASSAH!) What's that you ask? Does it record video in HD? But how did you know? Do I sense the first rumblings of a vlogger emerging from it's vlogger-incubating womb ?
What am I even talking about anymore?

Point is: I got a camera. A pretty shnazzy one too. And for a really sweet price (Shout out to ma' boi Yongsan-Digital-Super-Department-Store and an actually shout out to my amazing friend Lindsay for helping me SO much with anything that goes beyond 저는영어선생닝이에요. [Such as the acquisition of Shinee's 'Lucifer' as my ringtone on the cellphone that she ALSO helped me acquire in my quest to call people with something that doesn't encase its battery with scotch tape]). What this means for you is a more enjoyable reading experience and VIDEO updates. That's right people. I've decided to join the big scary world of youtubers sooo wish me luck!

Tomorrow (well, in 6 hours) I'll be donning my hanbok at school and teaching the children about Chuseok, a holiday that they the definitely are more informed on than I am (but don't worry, I've done my research: and you better BELIEVE I'll be taking pictures. Who could pass up a photo op wherein he or she will be looking totes ferosh amidst more than necessary swathes of colourful fabric? The answer is no one.

OK goodnight!

Friday, September 17, 2010

How I Feel Each Time I Eat Ramyeon

I think it's even better because I understand about 15% of it...

Classes are going well! LOVE the Gwanak campus and surrounding area... I find all my favourite places in Seoul tend to be around Universities: Hyehwa, Hangsung, Ehwa, Hongdae, Wangsimni, and now I can add Gwanak to the list. I think I'm going to become a student again just so I can be one in Seoul. I feel like there's no better occupation here.
Well - maybe k-pop star but... A boy can dream ^^

Monday, September 13, 2010

Monday, Monday

Monday in two words? Full; hectic.

6am - wake up, work out
9am-6pm - teach children English/become human jungle gym
6pm-7pm - Travel to Korean class (which actually starts at 6:30 and for which, I must be late every Monday)
7-9:30pm - Sit in Korean (still didn't really learn anything I didn't already know today -_-;; hullll)
9:30-10:30pm - Sit in a noodle house and eat wonderful 만두국 (mandu guk - an Asian dumpling soup) as I finish my homework.
10:30-11pm - Subway
11:00-11:20pm - Walk home from station
11:30 - Type to you... my millions of devoted fans.

I swear, pictures will come soon. I just need to buy a camera first.
(You can totally donate to that cause)

adios amigos.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

So I started Korean classes at SNU (Seoul National University) last Thursday. I wish I could do a post about the education system here (or at least how I've come to understand it) because it's fascinating, ridiculous and admirable all the same time. BUT! The way I've told myself I can post (semi) regularly... at least as I get into the habit is to keep these babies under 5 minutes....

SO! Korean classes. First of all, hassle of my life to get into these classes: They're absence and lateness policy are like nothing I've ever seen back home and so coupled with the fact that my hagwon works me past 5pm regularly (I'm a "morning" teacher - tell that to me when I'm still at work at 8pm) it's literally impossible for me to get to the campus on time for 1/2 of my classes.
So first (after I payed the non-refundable $50) they wouldn't let me take it. Then they said "The way the policy stands, it will be impossible for you to complete the course... ...But you can take it." I don't even know what this means. Then I actually went to my first lesson and my professor essentially said "we'll work something out." So I guess all is good.

All that being said I'm suuuuper excited to be in these classes. Something I've wanted to do since I've gotten here. And people have brought up the fact that "uh, you know you can learn the language on your own for free, right? I mean you're in Korea... right?!" Yes I'm well aware of the fact. BUT! Let's be honest how many people make the intention of coming to Korea and picking up the language while they're here? At least 1000 a year. I counted.

And how many actually do? Maybe 5. So I'm one of those 5 don't be jealous.

Anyway my classmates all seem really cool and it took me really off guard because I didn't think about it at all. I just figured we'd all be English Teachers from either Canada or America - the typical congregation of foreigners in Korea (and not that english teachers aren't cool but... I'm used to that haha). But 2 (myself included) of 16 are teachers. The rest are Business, Science and Economics PHD students and instructors at the university. The countries represented in that little classroom are: Canada, USA, Germany, France, Congo, Mexico, Singapore, Thailand, Austria, Turkey, Sri Lanka and Nepal. SO cool. I've never been with such a variety of people in one place at one time.

So that's a cool thing of my lessons. Much to my chagrin, they placed me in level 1... So the classes have been anything but challenging. Although it'll be really easy at the start.. Perhaps after the first month, it'll get really challenging. And this is an excellent chance to build up my vernacular because I'm exposed to about.. 40 new nouns each class. That'll obviously be helpful...

So yes. I don't have a conclusion for this post except that I'm sleepy. It's Monday tomorrow and I have to wake up bright and early to go to me sweet (read: sarcasm) gym. And I have a nice long 9 hour day of teaching and then Korean class take 2! Sooo I'll be home at 11pm tomorrow!
Time for bed! 안영히가요!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Cheon Hwa (Telephone) Calls

"Neh Neh"
"Deeehhhh deh deh deh"
"Deh! Deh."
"Neeeh neh neh"
"Neh Anyong."

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Push and Pull

Ok I'm never going to write about the intention of posting more often again. Instead I'm going to use reverse psychology and just tell myself I might post tomorrow or I might let 4 months go by again and either option is perfectly fine. For now, I do really want to keep this blog alive so we'll see...

My time in Asia has been amazing, varied, surprising, frustrating, enjoyable, dislikable, delicious, hot, cold, beautiful, dreary, draining, energizing: I suppose it's been life - no? A bit of the the ying and and a bit of the yang... I haven't really mentioned anything about daily life in Seoul and that might change (remember, no intention setting!) but of course I've done an insane amount of stuff here, tried a ridiculous amount of new things and adhered to some good and some bad habits from home. I feel as though I'm both the same and a completely different person I was over 6 months ago when I departed from Toronto.

I know that 'Part 2' never came and who knows if it will! But I think it goes without saying that I obviously found a job here (a pretty decent one... in some respects...) in what is--in my opinion--an amazing part of Seoul: I'm on the doorstep of the Peace Gate, which is the entry to the stunning Olympic Park. I really have so much to share with you that I feel completely overwhelmed but I wanted to write. It's been a while (clearly) and although my track record would imply otherwise, I actually adore writing on (in?) here.

This really is a quick update because I really must go eat sushi now... but I hope it finds you well and I just want to say that you can expect many or no posts in the coming weeks!

Signing off,

Monday, May 10, 2010

Just a quick 'anyong'

No every title will not have 'Anyong' in it. I just feel that the best way to get into a habit is to write everyday. Even if you don't really have anything to write. I mean I have tons. But it's late. And Mondays are Indian night so I'm sleepy and full of chick peas and naan. I should blog about that Indian restaurant...

For now I just wanted to say I'm starting on that back-story pt. 2! Because even though my consideration of how this blog will function is changing (offering a narrative--it kind-of has to at this point) , I really feel as though that backstory starts it off nicely. So that'll be coming.

For what to expect will happen to this blog? Well... I'm considering different things. But right now I have thoughts of a photo blog with short commentary. I have thoughts of a "Eating my way through Seoul" blog which--I don't know if it interests you, but I'd certainly read (and I don't really know who 'you' are and if 'you' exist. But I'm definitely going to change the look from dark to light! So check back - there's more in store here!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Seriously though, Anyong Haseyo.

It's just one of those nights... you know? One of those night when you have to write. Do something. Your body's filled with some emotion, your worried that its this immense sense of sadness, of loneliness but you're not really sure. So you write. So I'm writing.

I feel like trying to give you a backstory part 2 at this point is just tactless - at least for how I'm feeling so that'll have to wait. For now I just want to write. About anything. Writing makes me happy. I was thinking tonight about the many times I've said to myself 'How can I be happier?' A list follows: 'I'd practice more yoga, I'd be more in-shape--exercising every day, I'd be eating healthier, I'd be have a general sense of well-being, I'd be loosing myself in my art, I'd be taking pictures, I'd be writing in my blog...' Well walking in my sijang (market) tonight (oh yah, I'm in Seoul, btw) I had pretty much had enough of it and came to the realization that I'm really the only one preventing myself from doing any of this. I mean, when I'm in Richmond Hill, living with my family--I can just blame all my problems on them, right? "OH I wish my mom would..." "Ah I can't do this and this because my dad would...!" "Living in Richmond Hill sucks because I can't do..." But now I'm in Seoul. I'm living the dream right? I should be waking up every morning with a huge grin on my face; so excited about the fact that I'm even here.

It's not always the case.

More often than not, I wake up with a groan. I'm not excited to wake up (at least Mon-Fri). I'm not coming here to do what I thought I would be doing...

And one day, I was sitting in the office at my school (oh yeah I'm teaching English. I should really write that backstory pt. 2) and thinking 'ahh I can't wait to get outta here and head over to Melbourne' (my next destination). 'That's when I'll be happy. That's when I'll get to do the things that I really want to do.' And then I thought 'Hold on a minute. Isn't that exactly what I said about Asia from Richmond Hill? Wasn't it here that I was going to find my happiness? Find that person who was SO excited about life and possibility, meeting new people, exploring new places, eager, with an undying thirst for knowledge--who I somehow lost between my 20th and 21st years?' 'Wasn't that ALL supposed to happen HERE?!' The thought of it all saddens me even more. That I haven't found that. That really, getting in a plane and just changing your surroundings is not really the answer...

Now if I walked away from that feeling of hopelessness having learned nothing that'd be a shame, right? So what I did walk away with an understanding that, sure I can choose to be happier in Melbourne. Or at location X, Y and Z... and maybe I will be! But those places, more specifically my visiting them, will inevitably come to an end. And then I'll be back at where I started. Lamenting over the fact that I'm back to my 'boring life in Richmond F*#$^ing Hill.' I learned that that happiness starts from you, not next year or month or tomorrow for that matter. Right now. I can choose to hate my job or like it. I can focus on the good or the bad. It's all my decision, my reality.

And yet, nights like tonight happen. When I just have this overbearing sadness. I think it's natural when you feel alone. I could surround myself with throngs of friends, and yet feel incredibly lonely tonight. And so 'fuck it,' I thought, I'll write. And here I am. And it is helping. But I'm not really sure what I wanted out of it. I didn't really expect it to make me feel better. It's just been a goal of mine to write here more often. Start it up... again. I feel it's important to document this journey...

I've thought a lot about documenting things. I've though a lot about documenting things in a few ways but the most blazingly clear one is whether I'm feeding this story of my life that we all seem to create. This sense of "me" and maybe these pictures might give me some more sense of existing; of being real. I've thought the same about this blog and 'why really am I writing in it?' Is it just to look back and remember? Is because I want to give meaning to something that is inherently meaningless (our lives). Is it because, even worse, I want to become attached to my stories here? Which really are all just that. Things happen to me and then they pass--and so why do I feel the need to record them? What purpose does it serve? They're over. You know? This all goes on. Every time I think of taking a picture (which I have only done about 20 times in the more-than 2 months that I've been here. Or think of writing in this online journal.

And yet, I feel it's important to document this journey. It's too busy up there, especially since I've stopped practicing yoga (heart crumbles). And if putting a bit of all of that noise out here on the internet means a bit of a respite, then perhaps you'll be hearing more from me...

I hope to visit here tomorrow. I would love to visit here on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for that matter. I'm not going to promise you or me that I will--but I hope to. For now I go to bed a little lighter, with a cathartic release, and a sense of stillness and peace. For now, I say goodbye.

Oh yeah! And mom, I love you so much. I think of you all the time, but just because it's today, I'll state it publicly. You drive me crazy but I would never trade you for any one in the world. Your love, happiness, excitement, undying support, strength, and yes, your craziness, anger, frustration, tears... it's all shaped me into the man I've become and I thank you everyday for how we've grown together. All the best to you! Know that you are loved and missed from the other side of the world!


Monday, February 22, 2010

Backstory Pt. 1

This post has taken FAR too long to come to fruition. The next will follow very shortly! For now, read on brave, bored internet-user... read on:

First post! (?) This one comes from Canada. I’ve yet to actually go to Korea but I think we should start off with a bit of a back-story with this so that the narrative will unfold as we go along. So here it is. A bit of my travel story. Up until now.

It’s been a few years since I’ve wanted to go to Asia—China, specifically. Since I was thirteen, actually. And this might sound lame but it’s the truth—I’ve wanted to go ever since I saw the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Now I know what you’re thinking: ‘you’re basing this decision to go off of some blockbuster movie you saw. When you were 12.’ Yes. That is correct—That and an amazing fascination with the cultures of far-east Asia. I grew up with Chinese friends. I ate Japanese from the age of 7. I took the time (as a child) to read up on philosophy and history; everything from Confucius thought to the Han dynasty. This isn’t really something I shared with everyone nor was it pastime of mine. Just something I did informally but that has also been a constant for the past decade of my life.

Anyway, where was I? …Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Ok but seriously… have you seen this movie? And if you have, were you bored? If so, you should watch it again—not only because the fight sequences are pretty bad-ass but more so for the beautiful landscapes of rural China that the movie does such an amazing job of showcasing. Seriously, I bet ‘Tourism China’ was in on the making of the film—it’d be hard not too want to plan a trip to China after watching it. And so since then I’d just always assumed that I’d be traveling to China later on in life.

Fast-forward to my third-year of university. After having completed a teacher training in yoga I discover that there are amazing teaching opportunities in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Beijing and I’m extremely excited about this. They fly you out, they house you and offer you competitive wages; it all worked so perfectly! And to Asia! Much to my character, I plan the 2 years following university: I’ll travel to Europe right after graduation, Trinidad until the end of 2009 and then China from January 2010 to the following year. Perhaps I would travel around Asia a little more after that and then come home in the spring of 2011. Perfect…

…Until I actually started looking into teaching yoga and contacting the people over there. First off, I could rule out Kuala Lumpur and Singapore because, well, I really just didn’t want to go there. I wanted to wander around rural China on my weekend, which would be hard from Malaysia so, Beijing it is. Then there was the issue with going to Beijing: From what I’ve heard, Beijing isn’t the nicest city to live in. I’d much rather live in the thriving metropolis that is Shanghai. Ahhh Shanghai! Where do I begin with Shanghai? The things of heard, the things I’ve researched, the areas of the city I want to visit and/or live in… The things I want to eat! I need an entire post to describe my love for Shanghai to all of you—and I’ll probably do that later.

Ah tangents! Ok so I’d be living in Beijing. Big deal. I’m sure I can suck it up. It’s China. It’s near the Great Wall. It’s closer to the Wudang Mountains, which are really the reason I was going to China. It’s close enough to Shanghai that I could visit. Anyway—I’m sure I’d love Beijing. So I contact the people in China. They don’t sound to eager. And I don’t know… I just don’t pursue. I wasn’t really feeling it, you know? It didn’t seem like the thing that I was going to do in Asia—teach yoga…

We’re talking around August 2009 when all this job searching was going down in preperation for a January departure… After a very-quickly upcoming trip to Europe and three months in Trinidad until the end of the year. Well my friends, plan but don’t be to rigid with them because sometimes life happens. And I don’t mean that in a cynical, pessimistic sense but in a sometimes-your-dad-gets-diagnosed-with-cancer-and-you-know-it’s-more-important-to-stay-home-until-he-has-his-surgery-and-is-completely-healed kind of way…

Needless to say, I didn’t go to Trinidad but opted to stay home instead and be with my family during what I knew would be (and has been) a trying time. I probably could have spent my time making life a bit easier for those around me and myself rather than having terrible thoughts of self-worth and “oh why the HELL am I STILL in Richmond Hill?!” but that’s another blog-post. For now, suffice to say that I didn’t go to Trinidad OR Asia of any kind in January. The problem was that now it was January and I still hadn’t contacted anyone about going to work anywhere in Asia. March is SO much closer when it’s January 1st vs. Dec 31st—funny how our perception works, isn’t it? Anyway two weeks go by, it’s now January 15th and I figure I HAVE to get on this Shanghai thing if I’m going to go any time soon and that’s when my whole notion of what I’d be doing, where I’d be going, etc. would change…

To Be Continued!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Blog? You've Started a Blog? Really?

I know, I know. Who even writes in blogs anymore, right? Well you can all relax your little tweeting selves and I’ll dispel any rumours now that I may not have realized that the Internet hasn’t progressed since 2001. I too Facebook (the verb not the noun, in this case), tweet, dailybooth, Youtube as well as read my daily blogroll—I’m pretty sure my middle name is Online-Social-Media (my parents were forward thinkers for 1987). Yes, I’ve been keeping up with the trends but while all of the social-media sites I mentioned above (save Youtube, which I will be using once I’m in Korea) offer a quick fix on validating your online ego—nothing quite does the job like a wonderful sweeping narrative arc that so far, is only offered through blogging. So that’s what I’m here to do—offer you all a wonderful story about my travels to Seoul to teach English and then to the rest of Asia from what I discovered was a nice little international hub (Incheon International Airport). For now though, I’m gonna go shower because it’s almost noon and I can’t justify “blogging” as all I did today…

note to self: don’t inform readers of current state of cleanliness…