Category Archives: news etc

year of the lucky pig

here’s to a brand new year, the year of the “lucky pig”.  apparantly this is a rather rare phenomenon that occurs only every 600 years or so because of the allignment of the stars or something; perhaps this means that somehow korea will be able to wiggle out of the sticky FTA aggreement the USA is imposing on them…. probably not.

well. here at the temple the new year is celebrated like it is at many temples, with a big party and lots of praying and very little sleep. i thought the kun-su-nim was joking when he asked if i would do 1,000 bows last night, but i was mistaken. luckily i have jetlag as a very valid excuse for not participating – i can’t even imagine the pain that i would be in today if i had. but that’s not to say that i got any sleep. after settling down for the night on the floor in a room off the main buddha hall with a pillow that was about as cozy as a rock, we (JK and her adorable neice and i) were made to move to another location to accomodate all of the worshipers. the new room, connected to the kitchen, smelled of cigarette smoke but the floor was as comfortable as any. women came and went all night, making sure to leave the door open to the cold night air and the bright lights on each time. i thought i was going to explode with frustration and lack of sleep, but that wouldn’t be very buddhist of me, would it? i wandered in an out of sleep while i listened to my book on tape and enjoyed my rock pillow as the women that slept next to me pulled the single blanket that we shared in every direction. haha. it is times like these that breed real tolerance and bravery.

the fun part of the whole event was not the act of attempted slumber, believe it or not, but the immense fire that blazed through the night near the foundation of the new buddha hall. i finally gave up and got off of the floor at 6am for coffee (instant…) and to watch the sun rise. we chanted and prayed around the fire as the sun rose behind a blanket of clouds – but we knew it was there. for one beautiful instant it peaked through the clouds like a bright, pink-rimmed eye to bless us in the new year. very nice. then we all had a traditional new year’s breakfast of 떠국, a spicy rice-cake soup with seaweed. JK and her niece had to get on the train this afternoon, so we spent the morning at a nearby hotsprings spa which was absolutely packed with people and i was definately the only white person for miles, reminding me harshly (because of the stares that i earned from said position) that i am, indeed, in korea once again.

i just had tea with a few of my students and their parents, it was a wierd, nervous experience for all. there is a certain immense pressure on youth by their parents to learn english and this is often exhbited when i am in the vicinity of the unlucky young ones. this pressure is unfortunate because, like with all children i meet, i just want for us to enjoy eachother and the last thing i want is for them to feel uneasy around me. we will have our chance for fun tomorrow, if i ever focus and develop some sort of lesson plan. i am really just excited to start and get a feeling for my teaching ability so that i can stop being nervous as well, but i am also excited because of how much fun it will be. i am planning to devise my lessons for each day the day before, that way i can feel out the students (and also be entirely lazy). the temple gave me the impression that they were prepared for the class but in reality the only preparation that has taken place is the aquirement of about 20 desks. there are no crayons or paper. pretty much nothing but desks and a smoky room. and less than 10 students. but i can do this! the less the better for a fulfilling challenge!

that’s it. time for a nap, i’ve earned it. there will be photos on here as soon as i can figure out how to upload them on the korean operating system. happy new year back in wisco! (i think it’s 1am there now…)

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settling in

waking up early this morning and looking out at the incredible mountain range that surrounds the campus, its idiosyncratic peaks and ridges, the colors of each range that fade out into the distance – I was floored both by the immensity of Korean history and by the realization that I really am on the other side of the world and that it was relatively easy to get here. riding on the plane, too, I contemplated this and reveled in thoughts of future travel. the world is at our fingertips and all we need to do is reach out –

its 7am here in wonju and I can’t sleep. somehow I thought I was going to get the better of jetlag – subverting it with my newfound travel vigor. but no, 9 time zones and a fifteen hour difference later my confused and aching body lays testament to the journey…

so.
korea is still absolutely and completely amazing. I can’t believe that I even contemplated not returning. JK and I have had a splendid time together these past few days. yesterday we went to a traditional hanji (Korean papermaking art) place at the base of chiaksan mountains. we made some traditional coasters in a cold room upstairs where the heater only comforted my legs. I also had the chance to visit with Eun-ju on Friday, we went out to eat at a Japanese bar downtown and then to my favorite jimjilbang; and last night with Sung-gyu and Jin-hyung, we had pajan and maccoli in Maeiji-ri and talked about their upcoming army service and prospects of girlfriends.


being back in wonju has been really weird because I guess I had more or less resigned myself to believe that I may never see these places again – chiak mountains, downtown wonju, the inter-spa public bathhouse,  maiji-ri, and the Yonsei campus – it has been such a treat to be back and remember that I actually did experience this as life, that this place is a reality, not a dream…


today we are departing to the temple where I will embark on my mission to propagate the English language to the adorable middle school children in the Young-ju/Pong-gi area. we have been staying at a guesthouse at Yonsei these few days because JK says her house is too small, which is pretty much true. her niece arrived here last night and she will come with us to the temple this afternoon, then stay overnight with me so that we can watch the sun rise in the morning from the temple.


my internet access has been sparce at best. at Kum-gun san (my temple) I will have more regular access but it will likely still be quite limited.

fancy tea with JK in Insadong –

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the morning view from the guesthouse –

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making Hanji with JK near Chiaksan mountains –

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train ride to Youngju –

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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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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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who said plastic surgery was wierd?

i relaxed between classes this afternoon in my dorm room eating kim and checking out the news. Dawn sent me a package that i had requested a few weeks ago including some homeopathics for my sore throat, cough, etc, and i just received it on monday. i was elated, but didnt need the medicines anymore so i promptly sickened myself – virtually overnight – so as to put them to use before i leave this place. haha. why is it that life works that way? so as i said, i was chilling out in my room feeling a little out of it and reading the online paper. the Korea Herald is really my favorite paper and main newsource, other than the BBC (and the Onion, and yes, it counts…), at this point. today’s issue featured an article on Korean women and their propensity towards obsessive dieting. the study was done by London University and involved 22 universities, Korean college girls ranked #1 in the study – “Koreans ranked one notch above Japanese women who were also found to be the most likely to perceive themselves as overweight.” i found the whole thing, while completely ridiculous (come on, these people are the smallest in the world, aside from the Pygmies perhaps…) totally familiar. creepiest is the fact that according to this study most of my Korean friends are constantly trying to lose weight: “Results showed that 77 percent of female Korean university students were constantly attempting to lose weight” this article is in the archives now, but here is the URL –
http://www.koreaherald.co.kr/archives/result_contents.asp?id=200605170008&query=lose%20weight (i love that meditereans care the least)
the fact is that Korean people are predominantly overly-concerned with how they look. it was one of the first things i noticed about this country and its true that it initially made me a bit uncomfortable, as anyone who knows me can testify that being concerned about my looks has never been one of my strongest attributes. i really take advantage of the fact that the majority of the US population could really care less about what i wear to school in the morning. but even the boys here blow dry their hair everyday. it amazes me. i was out with a few friends the other day and the fact that one of them (currently dieting) had unnaturally curly eyelashes came up. she unabashedly admitted to having them permed. i didnt even know that kind of technology existed!! i cant imagine the anxiety one would experience while undergoing such an unnecessarily dangerous and expensive procedure for such petty results. the real question is, why are they doing it and who are they doing it for? clearly, most of these women do not have weight problems in comparison to the rest of the world’s women. and perms were not invented for eyelashes. is it because they are more regionalized – comparing themselves only to the people that surround them? and do they try so damn hard to look amazing simply because the country is so homogenized?- (part of my epiphany has just been realizing that in some parts of the world ethnic diversity does not exist) my friend So-youn has naturally brown-ish hair and as a result was tormented all the way through highschool by envious black-haired schoolmates, today she seems to suffer from all sorts of inferiority complexes. that just doesnt happen in the USA. frankly, i’m a little exited to get home and not feel overweight. but it’s almost time for my 10pm jogging….

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little diddy

here is the article i finished this week for my student newspaper, the Promethean, at UWS. it was printed on wednesday.

Ever tried kimchi? A few of the UWS students studying abroad in South Korea this semester had never even heard of the spicy fermented cabbage but have now grown accustomed to the condiment with every meal. And yes, that includes breakfast. A new taste for diverse foods is among the many changes and exiting lessons that our students are experiencing abroad, for example Kevin Pattee says: “Being here has inspired me to learn more about where I am from.” Who would have guessed?
Last semester an amazing study abroad opportunity came to our campus right before finals week and resulted in the export of seven of UWS’s students. The students, who come from varied backgrounds of interest, major and year at UWS, bravely joined the new program and flew out of Minneapolis on a grueling flight to South Korea on February 22. The Global Village Program, developed at the Yonsei University in Seoul, invited UWS students to participate in the initial trial run at the Yonsei branch campus in Wonju. UWS was one of eight universities visited by ambassadors from Yonsei last year. Lucas Behn says of his experience “Not only have I had the chance to make friends with many Koreans, but also to meet a diverse group of American students who are living in the same new and foreign circumstances.” The GV program is intended to integrate Korean and American students in social circumstances to promote the informal teaching of English conversational skills. The American participants also have the opportunity for an in-depth experience of Korean lifestyle and culture.
The adventuresome students Lucas Behn (Psychology), Stacy Farnham (Elementary Education), Ryan James (Botany), Andy Johnson (History-Secondary Education), Jason Johnson (Social Work), Kevin Pattee (History-Secondary Education) and Tegan Wendland (Political Science/International Peace Studies) are participating in the GV program for one semester, which lasts from March 2nd to June 19th, at which point the students have the option to continue travel or return home. Currently the students spend their days attending Korean language and culture courses, in addition to up to four elective courses taught in English. As participants in the program they attend the “team meetings” and “mutual mentor sessions” necessary to fulfill the required 15 hours a week. These sessions serve to encourage the American and Korean students to socialize with each other and are meant to stimulate cultural and language exchange. The GV program offers free housing and tuition to participants, as well as a comfortable stipend that covers living expenses and even offers enough coverage for some interesting leisure activities. Seoul, a world city with a population of ten million, offers many opportunities for adventure and excitement and is merely an hours’ bus ride from the Wonju campus. Ryan James stated “The Korean experience is multi-faceted, the people here are conservative, they work very hard, but also know how to have fun sometimes.” Needless to say, the majority of students in Wonju, native and international, take the weekends off to romp in the metropolis.
Jason Johnson, a graduate of UWS who is accompanying Professor Judy Dwyer in developing a social work internship program in Wonju to compliment the GV program, advices other UWS who are thinking of joining the program to keep in mind that “It’s a beautiful country and an exiting experience. But don’t expect it to be the US – because it’s not.” This program offers a rare and exiting opportunity for UWS students who are interested in East Asian culture or language and who desire to gain what Ryan James claims he has: “a unique perspective, a new taste for food and a new outlook on life.” UWS hopes to send ten students to Yonsei for the Fall ’06 semester with preference to students who have taken a course in Asian History. The program will have gone through a few changes by then, including added tuition fees from UWS, but the costs will not exceed $5,000 for the semester, says Cherie Sawinski in the office of International Programs “Our two universities have entered into an exchange agreement through which we hope to continue sending students indefinitely with the hope of also hosting some Yonsei students for a semester here at UWS in the future.” If you think you are, as Kevin Pattee advices, “prepared to not be prepared, and ready to go with the flow” or if you would like to know what it feels like to fall “in love with the people, the geography, the food and the culture,” as Jason Johnson has, look for more information about the GV program and stop by the office of International Programs, or go to
http://www.uwsuper.edu/oip/study_abroad/

The UWS crew in our friday afternoon Taek-yun classIMG_1935.JPG

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jack handy et al

making an effort to blog at a more regular bliggity-blogging-basis means more variety in content, if my presumption is correct. today i layed around a lot, ate kimbop, and did a little homework. later, i went out with my friends Sung-gyu and Jin-hyung for dinner and coffee in downtown Wonju. last night was the full moon. i am procrastinating from finishing my article for the Promethean (UWS student newspaper) about GV, instead i am reading the Korea Herald, and, less productively – chuckling at Jack Handy quotes. i just can’t get over that guy. here are a few that have kept me guffawing until the wee hours…
“At first I thought, if I were Superman, a perfect secret identity would be “Clark Kent, Dentist,” because you could save money on tooth X-rays. But then I thought, if a patient said, “How’s my back tooth?” and you just looked at it with your X-ray vision and said, “Oh it’s okay,” then the patient would probably say, “Aren’t you going to take an X-ray, stupid?” and you’d say, “Aw fuck you, get outta here,” and then he probably wouldn’t even pay his bill.”

“Dad always thought laughter was the best medicine, which I guess is why several of us died of tuberculosis”

“To me, clowns aren’t funny. In fact, they’re kind of scary. I’ve wondered where this started and I think it goes back to the time I went to the circus, and a clown killed my dad.”

“If you ever fall off the Sears Tower, just go real limp, because maybe you’ll look like a dummy and people will try to catch you because, hey, free dummy.”

“He was a cowboy, mister, and he loved the land. He loved it so much he made a woman out of dirt and married her. But when he kissed her, she disintegrated. Later, at the funeral, when the preacher said, “Dust to dust,” some people laughed, and the cowboy shot them. At his hanging, he told the others, “I’ll be waiting for you in heaven–with a gun.”

okay okay, i can stop now. but its your fault if you read them. or if you feel yourself becoming addicted… search for deep thoughts by jack handy. it might keep you up until 3 am. meanwhile, the Korea Herald has informed me about surging stock rates and the tension with Japan over the Dokdo islets (they leave much to be desired, but apparantly have great fishing waters), and korean carrot soup. i don’t know if i can sleep i am so exited. i think the only thing funnier than jack handy right now is the fact that i have not been following the news in the USA for almost two months straight – and the only thing funnier than that is the fact that i havent even noticed…..
here is the disputed Dokdo
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(image courtesy of google search engine)

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