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,