Monthly Archives: May 2006

“ranting” is a very valid category

Its 1:03am, and as the curfew here ends at 12 – I crept through the window in the laundry room. Which felt surprisingly daring in my new heeled shoes. I’ve never owned a pair before. They make everything seem daring – dancing, walking, typing, sitting, and particularly crawling through windows alone past curfew.
Today was Eun-ju’s (went on the trip to Jeju-do with me) “real” birthday. What does that mean? I’m not sure. She was too drunk to tell me and asked me to ask her later, then proceeded to get me wasted to make up for the difference. She dropped a lot of cash on expensive drinks at one western bar, then dragged me into my first clubbing experience. In korea. It was weird. There were a bunch of scantly clad (guys) up on the fanciily lit stage who danced and sang ridiculously typical songs (including heavily accented American parodies) Eun-ju and I danced together for a few songs, but the whole point seemed to be to get as close to the opposite sex as possible, which just plain isn’t possible for me. I’m not interested. But that’s another story.
Anyhow – Eun-ju proceeded to completely disappear, leaving me with some friend of hers, who let me fall prey to an evil bartender who literally dragged me over to some table with two completely non-english speaking young men who asked me numerous questions in Korean; I tried my best with my limited, drunken skills. Then ended up back at our table drinking beer. Where is Eun-ju? Finally we found her sulking outside after talking on the cell to her ex namja-chingoo, as they are called here. Her friends directed me towards a taxi after profuse hugging and words of well-being. I hope she is okay now.
But I’ve gotta say, there’s something about crawling through that window alone and late at night. I’m sorry to all of the moms that read this, but Tegan is a real-life-young person. Who sometimes does weird and crazy things like all of the other young people in the world. Probably not the best choices to make after a three day fast, but I had a beautiful and very busy day – I visited the temple in downtown Wonju (brought Kevo along, but managed the directions myself. Har har) and as soon as I got back JK called and I spent the rest of the afternoon with her at the horse ranch, paying homage to Inka’s grave and trying to negotiate a visit to a local farm some early morning someday soon. Then we went to a nearby coffee shop where we chatted, drank tea and ate organic muffins and held little golden retriever puppies. I deceided on a plan for the last week of my time here and we talked about how I don’t want to leave Korea. I’m serious – if Lars and Corina weren’t getting married on the 8th I would most definitely stay at least two more weeks to play and explore. I love it here, and one semester just isn’t enough.
Why can’t you guys get married later? Or why do I have to love you so much?
Oh well. “qwen-chan-i-ao,” I am young and will hopefully have many more opportunities for travel….

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androids are freaky

i discovered this image in the online National Geographic for this month, and found it both completely disturbing and yet somehow totally predictable. android-korea-1_big.jpg
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/05/android-korea-1.html

the article accompanying it explains “She can hold a conversation, make eye contact, and express joy, anger, sorrow, and happiness. But is she good with kids?” it goes into detail about her construction and the model that Korea’s rival, Japan, recently unveiled (more life-like than Korea’s, let it be known…) it went on:
“EveR-1 is designed to resemble a Korean female in her early 20s, according to a KITECH press release. Fifteen motors underneath her silicon skin allow her to express a limited range of emotions, and a 400-word vocabulary enables her to hold a simple conversation.”
but the article mentioned nothing about the culture that would put such a robot to use. the culture that pressures all young females to be beautiful, smart and extremely thin. “Ever-1” just happens to have all of these components, plus she seems to be pretty good with kids. isn’t that ironic. i wonder if she can sing? it’s just too bad that she can’t walk, so that she could show off her sexy 110lb, 160cm figure in some strappy, dangerously high heels. the best part is that she probably can’t talk back to her husband with a vocabulary of a mere 400 words. the sex demographic in Korea is already way off – there are quite a few “marriage aged” Korean guys out there who just don’t have the good looks or talents to get a girl – this might prove to be the perfect solution……

yikes. it feels a little colder in here all of a sudden….

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Korea is –

ideas have been running through my head lately, one-liners that can only explain what i have found to be the essence of life in Korea in my few short months here…
Korea is Kimchee
Korea is small spaces
Korea is squid, and seaweed
Korea is sleeping on the floor
Korea is sleeping on the subway
Korea is sleeping on the bus
Korea is sleeping pretty much anywhere humanly possible
Korea is taking off your shoes
Korea is little kids saying “hi” or bowing to strangers, being patted on the head in return –
Korea is friendly
Korea is ceramics and celadon glaze
Korea is pizza delivery via motorcycle or moped
Korea is high heels and miniskirts
Korea is white rice
Korea is pretending it knows about coffee and chocolate, but they are less than halfway there(if you are a fan of these intoxicants, prepare for the most fulfilling servings to come only in your dreams…)
Korea is covering your mouth with your hand
Korea is pouring alcohol for others
Korea is small, flat mattresses and huge pillows
Korea is putting mayonaisse on things you wouldn’t even imagine
Korea is bowing to your elders
Korea is norae-bangs (kareoke rooms)
Korea is Ajumas and roadside stands and something that could be classified as fish ham
Korea is sweatshop posing as namebrand sweatshop (“American Fitch”….)
Korea is smoky bathrooms
Korea is learning English, or pretending to
Korea is studying as if your life depended on it, because it does
Korea is Unification – the people here want it so bad…
Korea is pushing you out of the way in the street and saying “I’m so sorryuh!” (Korea is adding the sound “uh” to the end of every english word….)
Korea is grilled meats, fried meats, raw meat
Korea is jimjilbangs (public bathhouses)
Korea thinks it is fat
Korea is seeming like it’s completely disorganized until you learn enough of the language to realize that the culture is extremely complicated
Korea is Buddhism
Korea is green tea
Korea is its’ own national treasures – numbered #1 through ?. items like temples, statues, etc
Korea is wearing the same clothes three days in a row, but they’re nice clothes, so who gives?
Korea is sitting on the floor to eat
Korea is chopsticks and spoons and stainless steel cups
Korea is awesome mountains and conniferous trees
Korea is the World Cup
Korea is happy it’s Korea, but is pretty pissed about the whole Dokdo thing (Korea is pretty much hating Japan)

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“today is festival?! start!! go!!”

IMG_2765.JPG
festival week here on campus was completely and ridiculously awesome. thursday was the cresendo of the event with the performance of Wonju and sinchon campus’ Akaraka groups (cheerleading squad dressed in freakishly traditional clothing + slightly awkward disco boots…) this was definately the highlight of the week for me as i think i gained more of an idea of the culture here than at almost any other event. the event opened with some Wonju campus student groups, bands, dance groups and the like, then there were some famous performers (thats the rockin’ thing about being in a small country – actually getting to see their celebrities up close – its just a lot more liely to happen here) one of which was my favorite hiphop group, Epik High, so i was ecstatic. Ivy also performed, i dont really know who she is but all of the guys in the ampitheatre were freaking out. i could barely see her on the stage, she was so thin. creapily thin. but thats what they’re into here.
Akaraka finally came on after all of the dramatic buildup, and proceeded to lead the huge, outdoor crowd in Yonsei pride cheers, all of which were spin-offs of random American theme songs like “somewhere over the rainbow,” “ghostbusters” and “we will rock you,” filled in with predominantly Korean lyrics that expressed how crazy they are about their university. the crowd followed the lead of the dancers on stage until nearly 10pm. i had spent five hours there, my energy was completely spent and my legs hurt, but i sure got my 7,000 won out of it.
but its saturday now, and the wild drunken bash has ended. i just cleaned my room and finished some homework (though i ought to do more, i’ve got two 10 page papers due in the next few weeks and finals are fast approaching. i am wondering if they would actually fail my in Korean if i fail the final too…..) i am trying not to be too irritated with my snotty roommate Eun-hye, who decided to stay in the dorms this weekend. we don’t even really talk to eachother anymore. its a pity. but we’ve only got a few more weeks together. i am leaving in an hour to go to the Sileuksa temple in Gyeonggi-do for the weekend. i’ll be waking up at 3am tomorrow. i’ve been waiting for this real experience of traditional temple life for a long time and i am really looking forward to the peace.

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the bathroom hurts my lungs

(and that’s just not right…)
within the first few days of my new life here, i noticed a peculiar phenomena. at first, i almost liked it, the smell of comforting cigarettes in every bathroom i enter – some holding just the lingering sniff over the typical bathroom smell, while others affront you directly with an obvious cloud of the cancer-causing grey stuff. after quitting a few months prior, the familiar smell in an unfamiliar country had a calming effect. but soon enough it began to sicken me. i could not figure out why people were too lazy to go outside, and i began to avoid public restrooms when possible. i quickly realized that the issue was only a problem in women’s bathrooms, because in Korea women are not supposed to smoke. but women smoke everywhere in the world, and thus they smoke here, and thus they find wierd, sneaky ways to committ the scrutinized habit away from the public eye, particularly those of the elders. i live on the girl’s side of a co-ed dorm, so i really had to grow used to this somewhat irritating phenomena. as a current non-smoker i encourage pals to abstain, but as i mentioned before – women smoke everywhere in the world. this archaic social constraint is outdated and wierd. but thats why i came to Korea. i want to know about the archaic and wierd, and i want to revel in it. i know longer notice a smoky bathroom, but appreciate a public restroom’s usefullness in a reasonably timely fashion, avoiding wet cigarette butts and piles of ashes on the toilet seat, and then get the hell out into my own newly discovered fresh and preferred source of oxygen.

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soju and school spirit

i left my dorm this morning at 10am and just got back. its 10pm.
i guess you could say that i have been fully appreciating my quickly disapearing time here. or is it just because the campus has come alive with the sounds of celebration during this week of school spirit? there are strawberry waffle stands, soccer games and high-flying flags, free ice cream, fancy outfits and makeshift bars set up in tents outside of every building. drumming, megaphones and constant singing and dancing. why can’t school be like this all of the time? more realistically, why don’t we have these celebrations at home? okay, i realize the whole “tent bars on campus” wouldn’t really fly in the states, but we could still have fun. or maybe not. but the whole event is really ‘major centered’, so to say.
the wierd thing about school here is that everyone has close-knit circles of friends that they rarely wander outside of, and those parameters are usually set by one’s major. that is, korean students don’t know other korean students who don’t share their major. this event serves to initiate some contact beyond those parameters through sports competition and getting wasted in other majors’ tents. so it’s fun in more ways than one, sociologically speaking.

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loss of words

Dreams never smelled so sweet
Windows down, sun on my face, wind in my hair
Jasmine floats in the warm air
As we speed past citrus and nutmeg trees
Over deeply hidden volcanic caves, along the sea
Garlic patches that flourish in the fertile dark soil
Bob their heads in revelery for the mighty Hallasan
Harraban, with their chubby hands resting on their bellies
Chuckle at the quiet omnipresence of that magnificent,
Sleepy volcano that has the means to create and destroy
But rather, sits quietly, witnessing the ins and outs
Of days and nights for millions of years and never tires
A haze settles across the hills and valleys, stretching
Out across the ocean with its long fingers
Fishing boats disappear into mysterious corners
Of the universe, and harvest mysterious creatures
From mysterious dark depths
Waterfalls crash down upon huge boulders
Spraying fresh, green, voluptuous trees and vines
With life-giving blood of all things
Eels squirm their long bodies through the pools below
Ancient volcanic rock, unable to restrain it’s grainy,
Unrefined self from participating in all of the action
Witnesses the lives and events of every living creature
On this paradise island
My eyes must be lying
But how did they get my ears, nose and fingers to
Cooperate?
Jeju-do dream come true.

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