Thursday, November 25, 2010

You're Scaring the Children

...that's what she said!

This was said more than once during my attempt to ice skate for the second time in my life. I was screaming bloody murder while having blades attached to my feet, who wouldn't?? Okay.. obviously not you!

Skating in Korea: a little different than ice skating in America
A.)Helmets are required.. for everyone
B.)Gloves are required.. for everyone.. if you fail to bring them, you have to buy light pink gloves from their store (including the guys!)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

An Ode to Girl's Nights in Korea

Let me introduce you to 'the girls':

Mikan- a bubbly, Korean loving, blonde who is always laughing and has a funny accent from North Dakota
Laura- an amazing girl who is always the biggest sweet heart, loves techno music and anything that lights up that she can spin in the air, from Minnesota
Ange- yet another blonde with a South African accent, a good girl, she was my bestest friend here and always liked to have fun and smile
~~~These were the originals who started the tradition... as teachers come and go in Jinju, we were adding new smiles and saying goodbye to some great ones~~~

March 12, 2010: First Ever Girl's Night
Mikan, Laura, Ange and I decided to take a trip to Busan to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. We arrived, shopped a bit, found a hotel, ate at a Samgyupsal restaurant, went to the bars in PNU to listen to live Irish music and then shopped the next morning. At the beginning of the year we were crazy shopaholics and Korea was still super new to us.

At this point in time, we realized Girl's Night needs to happen much more.. the group we were hanging out with in Jinju was mostly guys & we were the only girls.. so it was soo refreshing getting away from Jinju and living it up.

April 8, 2010: Discovery of the Mecca
HAEUNDAE BEACH.. Home to Elune, Maktum & Fuzzy Navel

In our li'l city of Jinju, dance floors are far and few between. We were going a little stir crazy, and had all sorts of built up energy with no real way to release it. So, we packed up our bags again and went to Busan!
The same 4 girls, with the same missin.. fun, dance and laughter!
This time, Busan was epic.. it was unlike anything we had seen in Korea. Fuzzy Navel was found, a mexican restaurant serving amazing food and margs. We then discovered Elune, which played lots of techno. And we also found Club Maktum... which has a two story giant-silver-fuzzy-lit-up penis as its enterance! I kid you not my friends, Korea is a special place! haha

May 13, 2010: Haeundae Beach
This time, we added a new girl to the mix:
Claire- a spunky blonde Brit, who will also always stay out way past your bed-time

Of course, we had to get our Mexican fix first. Then we ventured to Elune because a British DJ, PunkRolla was DJing. Ooooh P.R., Laura and I fell in love with the DJ! However, the DJ fell in love with the Korean girls, paha.. why wouldn't you when you're in Korea?? Crushed.. :) The music pumped, we were stars as usual.. not very many foreigners there ever.

During the night, we noticed this middle-aged man who is beyond super tan (hardly looks Korean), acting as a promoter/insane dancing/whistle blowing/light up glove rocking star. He was too funny/pervy.. I was dancing on stage, and he grabbed me and put me on his shoulders and I got to bop around the club waaay up high! I won't lie, it felt pretty cool... people don't really do that in the US!!! Then, we spied a couple of white guys up in the VIP (as I said.. super easy to spot, amongst a crowd of Asians). The funny thing is, that instead of THEM coming up to US, they sent a Korean guy friend down to the floor to ask us to come to VIP to meet them... Being Korea, it definitely did not surprise us, although coming from white guys, it DID surprise us!!(Side note... there are Korean Clubs.. I have one in my city.. where a waiter will go up to a girl and say "This guy wants to meet you, come with me to talk to him".. and they DO.. and that is the whole point of the night clubs) We said heck yea, why not?? VIP? They were US Marines who were hanging out with some super wealthy Korean contractors in Busan. So we ended the night with them in the VIP/Karaoke room for a while, definitely a highlight of the night!

The next morning, we rested at the beach, and it was amazing!

May 21, 2010: Ulsan
Buddha's Birthday

Mikan, Ange and I decided to go to Ulsan for part of Buddha's Birthday (a 3 day weekend). We had an amazing time, met some hilarious people, and were bombarded by Koreans who had hardly ever seen a foreigner! This weekend was written about in a previous blog!

June 10, 2010: Haeundae
New smiles:
Christina- an adventurous and crazy soul with an inspirng New Zealand accent
Kirsten- a fun chick who is of course from South Africa and BLONDE

All I wished for my birthday is that it would be spent dancing with my girls! And I got it :) We all had so much fun at Maktum and Elune dancing the night away!!

The next day we played at Gwangali Beach for their celebration of the ocean!

Then the unthinkable happened... there was not a girl's night during, July, August.. SEPTember.. OCTOBER.... what was happening!?? There were lots of vacations imbetween, we were all out discovering Korea and other countries, some got boyfriends, there were festivals happening all over the place.. and we didn't have/take the time to plan a night out together.

Until... my last Jinju girl's night ever, came upon us!

I planned a girl's night, and made everyone promise me it would happen because I leave Korea in about a month! And it happened :)

November, 20, 2010: Haeundae
Meet the new girls:
Sam- although she is definitely not new, this was her first girl's night.. she is my super cool friend from NYC
Angeline- a fun-loving graduate from JMU, Go Dukes!
Dana- Ange's replacement, but her blonde is quite dirtier :), my li'l ecuadorian amiga

I was super excited and also a bit bummed about this girl's night. I was missing my friend Ange, because she had gone back home to South Africa :( She had been at every single girl's night before that, so it was different, but I partied in her name!
We all decided to go to Busan around noon, go ice skating and shopping, and then head to 'za beach! The ice skating hardcore wore us out (and sucked!! bah), so we were all slow at getting ready once we found a love motel. (The love motel let us have 7 in our room, niiice!!) We headed to Fuzzy Navel for mex and margs and then went to Elune!
It was an interesting night. First, at Fuzzy Navel, I noticed a girl at the table beside of us.. and she looked sooo familiar. It took a hot second to figure out how I knew her, but I figured it out! I had met her briefly twice in Beijing, once in a van on the way to different shows (Acrobatics/Kung Fu) and once on my way to Tiananment Square. We talked each time, and knew that we each lived in Korea but never had time to hang out in Beijing.
I was too big of a chicken to walk up to the table of 4 girls and ask if I had met her in Beijing.. even though my friends swore she had been staring at our table earlier in the night. Mikan ended up going to the bathroom at the same time as a friend at her table, and asked her if her friend had gone to Beijing for Chuseok (creeper!), she said yes and they each sat back down at the tables and told us. We screamed a bit, hugged, and talked about our trips! How random?? Neither of us even live in Busan! I love travelling!!

At Elune, the thong guy was there of course. He has been a highlight of all of our trips to Haeundae. Mikan and I tried to get his attention when he was on stage to talk to him, and he ended up inviting all of us to VIP. So we hung out with him a bit and roamed around all of Elune.. a great way to end the last girl's night in Korea!!!

GIRL'S NIGHT, I'll miss you!! I have soo many great memories from every single one :) Cheers to my girls, LYLAS

Friday, November 19, 2010

Say Kimchi.. Like You Mean it

Three fridays a month I have the pleasure of going on field trips with the kindergarten I work for. I have been to the Jinju Castle, Children's Library, Forest Museum, and a hike, amongst many others.

Last friday I went to a Chrysanthymum Festival and today I went to a dinosaur museum.

Now, you would think the point of these field trips would be to educate the kids and allow them to have fun (seeing as they are THREE to SIX year olds going to school 5 days a week without a nap time). However, from my point of view it is all about show.. like many things in Korea.. saving face.. glasses without lenses.. charms for your cell phone.

Our kindergarten, which is a chain throughout Korea, is in competition with the other chain kindergartens that have a lot of money in Jinju. There are obvious marketing approaches that any business would take, however I don't feel right about this one:

Every single trip we have been on, except for maybe the library,the teachers immediately take out their cameras. They take pictures non-stop, but only of the kids posed. We went to a police station one time where the kids were allowed to try on safety gear at the shooting range and it was a zoo trying to put ear muffs and safety goggles on a kid, taking the picture, putting them on the other kid, taking a picture, puttting them on the other kid, taking a picture and so on, you get the picture, ha, hopefully! The kids never actually get to experience things, it is a lot of shouting from teacher to teacher, dragging one kid away from the photo area and dragging the next kid there.

Today, we went to a dinosaur / science museum and the kids spent more time posing for pictures in groups of three in front of a model of Mars or beside this statue or 'pressing' that button than they did actually DOING the different experiences and being a kid and running around using their imaginations!! I have 20 kids that are 3 years old, and they pose without being asked.. literally pose.. either with the peace sign, one hand up to their face like they're innocent, macho poses, the works.

I kind of just stood back and watched today and was like MAN these kids miss out on all sorts of joys in childhood, just so my kindergarten can put a book together at the end of the school year to impress the parents so they will re-sign for the next year... or to appease the parents to make sure they have lots of fake-posed pictures of their children... not sure which.

Get Your Eagle On Girl

Drop down and get your eagle on girl
From the girls with skinny waists to girls heavy set
Come on
Flap your wings
From the girls got it good livin' in the suburbs
Come on
Flap your wings
To the ones in the ghetto with their hands on their curves
Come on
Flap your wings
Flap your wings

This is the song that I was singing to myself as a 60 year old lady in leopard print panties and a red bra was scrubbing the skin off of my entire body, literally. I definitely didn't have as classy an outfit as she, I had nothing, zilch. I found myself spending a Thursday night lying on a hot pink table, with my best friend in Korea, Dana,on a lime green table beside of me..each of us, naked... bright red... dawning green cucumber masks... with two pairs of hands scrubbing away at our bodies.

Not a piece of skin was missed.. although now some is missing.

How did this happen you may be wondering? It all began with a, "Hey Dana, let's go get a body scrub at the Sauna. My feet looked absolutely disgusting when I got out of the shower today!" She agreed that she could use some T.L.C. as well, so we planned a date! And a date it was! HaHa

First we went into the sauna (I believe I have posted about this before). If not, here is a brief run down. There is a men's sauna and a women's, although young children are welcome to go to either. You pay 5,000Won (about $4USD). Go to the locker room, change into your birthday suit and head to the showers. First you shower a couple of times, and then you head to the pools where the vagina soups are made! There are piping hot pools, super cold pools, medium hot pools, massage pools, and sauna rooms. And if you're lucky, the sauna you go to will have a body scrubbing room!!

The body scrub was 20,000Won (about $18USD), we saw this on the sign. There were two ladies and two tables, they spoke ZERO English! They were busy cleaning the room when we first arrived, and one of the ladies was trying to tell us to come back later.. but we wanted to know what time.. she didn't want to deal with it, so she sprayed us with (cold) water and we ran. Most of the time if you stand bare naked in a sauna and look really confused someone will come to help you, so we did just that for a couple of minutes (at a distance from the cold water sprayer), the other non-water spraying lady finally came up to us and took our money and motioned us to go sit in the pools. So we did just that and finally they came and got us!

The journey begins, we're already naked and a bit pruney.. the perfect start! I had already called the lady with the leopard panties because I thought she had to have sass and a good personality (two of the most important things to me when I have someone scrub my skin off.. although this was my first time), so I chose her table. We both layed down, looked over at each other to wish each other good luck with a couple of giggles, and then turn our attention toward our scrubbers. Whenever we said anything in English my lady would make fun of us and mimick us and we would all just laugh. I tried to talk to her as best I could with the little Korean I know (I figured she should know a little bit about me if we were going to become so close in the next hour). They started off by pouring buckets of hot water on us and lathering us with some sort of soap. Then, she gave me a head massage and did a crazy massage on my face that ended up making my cheeks feel numb. Then, she got a bowl of goodness, and I could smell the cucumber from a couple of feet away! I assume she is only going to put it on my eyes, but she puts it all over my face.. and I think she was telling me to shut up by putting them over my mouth too! What a nice lady :)

Then the scrubbing commenced, she scrubbed each and every part of my body at least 5 times, and each time it became a little more painful. The scrubbers felt like absolute brillo pads, insane abrasion! She started at my feet and ended at my neck, including everything imbetween. Then, she said something to me in Korean, I put my hands up in the air like I have no clue what you want me to do, so she slaps my butt and twists my leg... aaah, ok you want me on my side, ok a new angle I gotcha! So I do, and then she lifts one leg up and bends my knee (none of this in a very nice and soothing way.. it's Korea, I expected nothing less from this dear Ajuma :) ).. this would be why I had the 'Get your eagle on girl' song in my head!! As she scrubs my inner thighs I begin to feel I know her on a different level now. Not only is she totally ok with scrubbing my inner thighs, she is totally ok with my foot sinking into her pudgy fluffy belly! Once both sides were done, she flipped me over onto my stomach, I think my favorite body part to be scrubbed was my butt. Now you know alll about me, and so does she!!

Anyways, she ended up taking my mask off of me, telling me I was super dirty.. especially my hands.. because I had so much skin that she had rubbed off of me on the table.. which I don't think is my fault!! haha. She lathered me with soap and washed me, gave me a light massage, put oil all over me and slapped the side of my butt to tell me to leave. We (mainly me) giggled, bowed, and then she blew me a kiss goodbye.. she was one cheeky lady and I loved her!

I know this situation would be rather disturbing to most Americans, but to Koreans (even the Christian ones) this is more than normal. I now consider myself a 'Korean American'.. I believe I've earned my stripes :)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Living History

After teaching the other night, I had a quick conversation with one of the mom's of my students. Hopefully, it will turn into a long conversation before I leave. But this is an interesting story to share, and very inspiring!

This (Korean) lady had told me once before that she had lived in Argentina for a couple of years when she was about 8 years old. I found that quite strange, and the next time I saw her I asked her more about it. She said that her parents and some of her family were fleeing Korea because of fear of a war. There was already an uncle living in Argentina, and he was doing very well for himself and so the family chose to move there. The family being some aunts & uncles, and her mom & dad.

This past tuesday, I asked her a couple more questions.. yes, a.) because it is a strange story and b.) I couldn't be any nosier than I already naturally am.

She told me that her parents were married in North Korea, and during the Korean War they fled to South Korea (nice-uh!). The mother left all of her family and friends, and successfully made it to South Korea with her husband's family. They stayed for about 8 years, and when word spread about North Korea building tunnels underground to invade Seoul they decided they had to leave the country. They were terrified of living under North Korea's rule again. When they moved to Argentina, they worked in restaurants and in the fields.

----In 1965, 13 Korean families arrived in Argentina by boat. Between 1970 and 1978, 500 more families (about 2,800 individuals) arrived, the Argentinian government was allowing these families to settle in the less-developed areas of the country. They were supposed to have great knowledge of farming, however few did and many ended up relocating to cities. (Wikipedia)----

When the threat of another North Korean invasion dwindled, her family decided to move back to South Korea. Her mom to this day has not spoken to any of her family members, does not know if any of her 8 brothers/sisters are alive, and will probably pass away never knowing.

Two words,



Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween is for Witches

..that's what she said! I guess that doesn't quite fit there.

BUT, that's what my boss said when we suggested having a Halloween Party for the kids at the hagwon. He sent an e-mail to Dana saying 'We will not be having a Halloween party, I believe halloween is for witches. How about a Christmas party where we give out candy to the kids?'

As I have said many times before, Korea is home to extreme-ism. I will leave it at that.

Well, too bad for the kids at the hagwon, I got to have a Halloween Party for my kindergarteners at BebeGung... AND I hardcore broke the rules and stayed dressed as a panda bear for my hagwon classes.. sue me << sticking tongue out >>! It was the cutest thing since.. I dunno, apple pie? Anyways, the kids had been learning a couple of 'autumn inspired songs' and the trick-or-treat song for the past two weeks and performed them for a couple of 'candy elves' (also known as parents) in return for candy. I LOVED IT, except for the singing part and dancing with them.. it's far to early in the morning for that kind of thing!! I definitely did not expect the kids to be as decked out as they were! They were sooooooo darn cute! Insanely cute! It just made my day!

Lyrics to the song below:
I love the mountains.
I love the rolling hills.
I love the flowers.
I love the daffodils.
I love the fireside.
Where all the lights are low.
Boom-dee-a-da Boom-dee-a-da Boom-dee-a-da Boom-dee-ae
(And yes, I have 3 year olds that can sing this :) I'm soo proud!)

For the adult festivities, we pre-gamed all dressed up in our costumes (panda, teacher, two school girls, bad spider man, a bum, and a werewolf) with Bloody Jello and then walked around the streets of Juyak-dong tormenting the innocent. Followed by a crowd of about 40 foreigners all decked out in cotumes dancing at Rock Bar in Sunupdae. It was quite an interesting night for any Koreans who dared to roam the streets!