Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas in Korea

(Note to self: If you say "YES! We're going to have a White Christmas!" to a Korean.. don't expect an excited reaction.. or any reaction at all!! But don't let it get ya down!! :) )

It's true that there are a massive amount of Christians in Korea. It's a true that Christmas is quite a significant holiday nowadays. It's true that the celebration of Jesus' birthday became a federal holiday before Buddha's birthday did. It's also true that Christmas is a marketing ploy for many businesses & as always is great for consumerism.

During the first week of December, here in Jeonju and other areas of Korea, you began to see Christmas lights outside of businesses and huge malls.. Christmas decorations.. Christmas music (in ENGLISH :) ).. Christmas cards.. and Dunkin Donuts had special Christmas donuts.

I began to chat with my students about what their plans were for Christmas the week before it.. and most of the responses were sort of gloomy if they didn't have a boyfriend/girlfriend. Here's the difference! For Koreans, Christmas is a 'couples' holiday.. as is many of their holidays and celebrations. For the most part, families do not get together to eat a Christmas lunch or dinner, they do not exchange presents and you don't hear 'Merry Christmas' every 5 seconds of the day.

Couples do these things though. Most of the Christmas cards for sale are about 'love'.. you go on a date with you boyfriend/girlfriend, and spend the day with them. If you don't have a special someone, then most people say they are "going to have Christmas with Kevin." Who is Kevin? Kevin McCallister.. you know.. the boy from Home Alone :). Sound depressing? It is for many! I enjoyed telling my students about how we celebrate in America.. because it sounds so exciting to me.. and normal!

In Korea, if your family attends church regularly (and when I say regularly.. I mean, going to church at 10AM.. and not being finished until practically dinner time.. intense!), then my students planned on going to church with their family and then going on their 'dates'.

Walking down a main pedestrian area in Jeonju, it just seems like any other day. A stark contrast to back home.. talking to one of my students who had studied in America for 4 years and had an uncle living in New York City.. he was telling me about how on Christmas day he went to explore NYC.. and it sucked! There wasn't even anyone there to take his picture in front of 'The Tree'.. Macy's was closed.. in the beginning, he told me a story about how he was looking for Macy's on the map, and a police car stopped to help him (I was thinking, wow.. that's strange for NYC.. there's always something crazy going on, rather than offering to help the thousands of tourists that are looking at maps... and that was when he tells me that it was Christmas day! .. and I understood!).

It was so cool going to the Christmas Eve party at my friend Dawn's, because you get a big group of foreigners together and all you hear is "Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!" and it never gets old, it just makes you a little happier.. because you've had withdrawals because you haven't heard it enough this year! We were decked out in our reds and greens, asking around to see who has cried already in anticipation of another Christmas without family! No one admitted to it. We brought food, exchanged gifts (which were put under a baby Christmas tree).. and it felt like Christmas all around suddenly!

(see.. I said Christmas so many times in this blog.. I'm still saying Merry Christmas a few days later!)

This is a mannequin at a Bean Sprout Soup restaurant near the University.. she bows when you walk by and says something.. she also normally has traditional clothes on ( a hanbok )... now she's sexy Mrs. Claus!!! hahaha

Sunday, December 25, 2011

I Kidnapped Santa

Dear Children on the other side of the world,

I'll make this short and sweet. Santa came to Korea to drop off presents to all of these good little boys and girls on this side of the world first.. and.. I.. kidnapped him before he made it over to the Western Hemisphere.. I wanted to learn all of his secrets!
So I'm sorry to say,
that Santa won't be coming your way!

Sincerely yours,

JUST KIDDING! I refuse to be the Grinch that stole Christmas! And luckily, I turned my frown upside down! I was getting really sad as Christmas was approaching, because I knew that all of my close friends here in Korea were going to be going home to Canada/US/vacationing in paradise.. and I was going to feel SO lonely on Christmas without my family and friends! BUT the closer it got.. I fully got into the spirit!

On Saturday (Christmas Eve), I went to two orphanages with a group of people in Jeonju to help pass out presents and sing Christmas carols. It was a nice time, they were both quite rushed visits but I think the kids had fun! In between visits, I went with Eva and the owner of the Jeonju Diner to grab lunch.. a yummy breakfast burrito (complete with eggs, bacon AND SALSA... holla!)

Then I went to my coworker's house (Kay). We watched The Holiday and snacked on some munchies. Had a great time as we ooh'ed and ahh'ed at how romantic the movie is! A favorite!!

Then we each got our pasta/risotto ready, dressed up in green and red and hit the road to go to Dawn's Christmas Eve Hootenany party!! I only new 3 out of the 20 people there.. but it was super fun.. and the food that everyone brought was AMAZING!! Literally, it was SO positively delicious!! I take SO much American food for granted.. there was REAL macaroni & cheese there (no nacho cheese here, real macaroni noodles, REAL CHEESE), delicious mashed potatoes (I think with feta cheese!), VEGETABLE LASAGNA (which you just never ever ever get on this side of the world), a cheese assortment, brownies, homemade eggnog (which sadly I couldn't partake in.. because of my LASIK), and many other amazing things! We did a gift exchange as well! Definitely put me in the holiday spirit!

On Christmas day, I woke up around 9AM and Skyped my parents so that we could open gifts together. NOW, I must tell you that when I asked my parents whether we were going to open gifts during their Christmas morning or my Christmas morning.. their mouths dropped a little and said "Oh! We hadn't thought of that, I guess we just assumed it would be our Christmas morning. HaHa." And THAT is one of the tricky parts about living abroad.. 2 Christmas mornings, on 2 different days.. literally! It was really funny, they said that I could choose.. and I totally chose my Christmas morning.. I couldn't imagine just looking at the unwrapped gifts under my tree ALL.. DAY.. LONG for another day!! I'm a curious person about gifts.. secrets aren't my thing.. so I always like to know.. but I was a good girl and didn't peek at all!

We had a great time, laughing and carrying on. I got some awesome stuff!! My parents are so thoughtful and care so much, it's soo great! A few weeks back, they had sent the box that was filled with gifts and my stocking.. and the only thing I was allowed to open were the home baked (6-days earlier) Christmas cookies that my MaMa always makes.. and they tasted SOO fresh, it was amazing! I munched on them for a few days, and it made my heart smile! I hung my stocking and put the presents under my mini-Christmas tree.

(My amazing friends and family ended up sending me lots of Christmas cards.. made me SO thrilled!! 11 and counting! And I put them up on my little table (that is actually a suitcase flipped on its side!))

They also sent me some Kraft Mac & Cheese dinners, fruit roll-ups, skittles, the 2nd book of the Hunger Games, guitar pick earrings (awesome!), AMAZINGLY THOUGHTFUL cards that have pictures from my travels on them.. pretty much the coolest thing ever, a sweet watch and PEZ candy! :)

I'll be calling them during their Christmas morning as well, along with all of my other family and friends!! I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas!!

Later, I went to Kay's for a delicious brunch and we spent some time with Kevin.. watching Home Alone!! The day isn't over, so it's time to start writing my New Years Resolutions!! haha


Christmas night I went to dinner with a few people, then to a DVD Bang to watch Love Actually... followed by buying a pint of Baskin Robbins to eat whilst Skyping my family!!! A few phone calls and a stomachache later... I fell fast asleep!

Pre-LASIK Eye Surgery

A few months ago I decided.. "I'm gonna do it! I'm going to get LASIK!!"

So I asked around, got some good recommendations.. and chose EyeMedi Eye Center which is based out of Seoul. My friend Faith had her eyes done there a few months back, and she isn't blind, poor or distraught... so I found myself in Seoul... in the clinic... in October.

I'm still positively amazed at how simple it was.. no check of the passport, no insurance mumbo-jumbo, I just filled in a simple form.. they made a copy of my Alien Registration Card (ARC).. and BAM! I was ready to start my eye tests.

I wasn't allowed to wear my contacts for 7 days prior to the tests, to be sure they received accurate results of my eyes. I went through a total of 24 tests....
-some just staring into a machine as they measured corneas and what not
-the classic "don't be frightened, you're going to feel a puff of air"
-they touched my eyeball with a machine
-1st or 2nd? 1st!.. okay, 1st or 2nd? Could I see it again please? 1st or 2nd? Uhhh, umm one more time? 1st or 2nd Uhhh I guess, 1st?
-tear check (they pulled my bottom eyelid out, hung a little thin strip of paper off the edge (it stuck out about 2 inches), and I had to close my eyes for a few minutes so that they could measure how moist my eyes naturally were... IF I ONLY HAD HAD A CAMERA!)
-video game - well sort of.. I had to stare at a dot, and click a button every time I saw colored dots appear around it
-they hooked thin strips of paper (about 2 inches long) onto the edge of my lower eyelid.. I closed my eyes for a few minutes.. and in then they measured how moist my eyes were
-at the very end, I was showed what the correction they would do to my eyes, and asked if I could see well (using the funky glasses thing seen below).. do you have any idea how nerve racking that was?! I was like.. I hope this is right.. but I'm not looking at too much in this room.. what if it's actually wrong.. and I don't get my eyes corrected enough.. or if they get corrected too much! SO MUCH PRESSURE!

What the machine looks like back home when you do the "A, G, H, E" chart check.

What the 'machine' looks like in Korea (similar) when you do the "A, G, H, E" chart check. Big difference huh?! It felt very old school, but I liked it much much better compared to the machine we use in America!!

After the tests, I was given my options for the procedures. Luckily! I was approved for LASIK .. the easier of the two surgeries (LASIK vs. LASEK). She said that my cornea was hard enough and large enough, and all of the tests showed that I didn't have diseases, astigmatisms in both eyes, and healthy eyes! Also, my glasses that I have owned for 9 years were basically the same prescription as the surgery (I've actually worn glasses since about 5th grade, and the prescription has only changed.. about 4 times!)... and I was ready to get razored and lasered whenever I would like!

There were a few things that I could add-on to the basic LASIK eye surgery, so I opted for an add-on (hehe that sounds funny) to help prevent seeing halos at night time when looking at lights. And I chose December 17th for the big day!

I had an entire 2 months to wait.. but I had a 2 week vacation and plenty of down time to relax and take good care of my eyes!

See how the surgery went in my next blog!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My Lucky Rabbit's Foot

Walking to work, I have a good 15 minutes to just think about (random) things. I was thinking about how popular 'fur' is in Korea at the moment.. I saw SO many things while shopping that felt like real fur.. you also see it on just about every person that walks by. Fur on Jackets. Fur on Hats. Fur on Scarves. Fur on Vests. Fur on Shoes. It's just everywhere.

I began to wonder if this was real fur.. or maybe it was just fake fur. Then I wondered if they ever used rabbit fur (even though it is probably not 'fashion' enough)... I was like, rabbit fur would be a decent and animal friendly fur to use.

WHAT?! What am I saying?! I felt like a horrible person, especially when I wondered what they would do with the rest of the rabbit they killed for fur.. would they eat it?! If they did, then that would be better.. at least it wasn't being wasted.

Then it made me think of the rabbit's foot I used to carry around on a key chain for 'GOOD LUCK'!!! OMG, I was a crazy little American girl!

I am no longer allowed to judge or think something is 'strange' in a different culture.. whether they're drinking cobra blood, eating grasshoppers (without the chocolate), eating silkworm larvae, balut egg, or wearing glasses that are twice the size they were in the 80's.

I USED TO CARRY A RABBIT'S FOOT AROUND!!!! And no one thought it was strange!! Do you understand this?! You probably had one as well. Why is that not weird?! NO, No.. NO. It is not weird.. you know why?! Because it is 'good luck' and everyone was doing it!

Memory flashback... the toenails were still attached! I took that foot everywhere. I hooked it to my purse. I would pet it. I thought I was super fly. You could buy them at the dollar store!

PETA is going to hack into my blog and delete it.. I feel like I should prostrate:
I prostrate to all of the sentient beings that died so I could have their feet on a keychain. I prostrate in gratitude for the luck my rabbit's foot once brought me. I prostrate in repentance for thinking a keychain was lucky. I prostrate as a vow to only buy purple rabbit's feet in the future for they are they cutest.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Protest That Didn't Protest

So there I am, sitting there, in the middle of Seoul... looking around, hoping, praying someone will soon be here. I'm analyzing everyone I look at. Construction worker. Office worker. Construction worker. Secretary. Tourist. Restaurant worker. Construction worker. No ajummas, no young regular looking Koreans, no 'sign' in site. So I walk around to the other side of the building. Well.. I am 10 minutes early. You know what Dad said, never be on time, ALWAYS be early. But why did I listen this time? I should have been fashionably late, then I wouldn't be so worried. But wait, if I showed up a little late.. what if the protest ended because no one was there. A protest doesn't just end though because no one is there. You can protest on the inside all you want, but where are the OUTSIDE protesters. I need them. I want to protest, I want to join a group to protest on the outside for an important issue. Geeze, this is a large building.. where are all of these construction workers coming from.

Dangit, no one is on the other side of the building either. And there's no where to sit and wait. I guess it is back to the other side I go. Should I ask that security guard, no, what if he yells at me. No, maybe in 10 minutes I'll ask him. So I walk back to the other side of the building, sit, wait, clutch my poster.. it says "You wanted comfort. They want closure" pretty clever, great teamwork by Bruce and I. I just stare at everyone, lean forward, lean back, lean forward.. no ajummas, no one shouting, no one with signs, no one with a banner.. I'm definitely at the Japanese Embassy though. But this is a huge building.. what if they're protesting inside of the building today.. no... no.. they wouldn't do that, all of the pictures were outdoors. Should I go up and see, I could ask the lady in the lobby that I see through the door. But, how do I ask.. do I simply point at the sign? I bet they're sick of seeing protesters here every Wednesday. She'd probably lie to get me to go away! ERRR, this is one of the only times I'll be able to do this, I have this Wednesday off, that's never happened before.. and I've never been able to go. I guess I could try again some other time this year.

But I don't want to give up! I don't want to.. I've been looking SO forward to this. A bit bummed that no one was interested in coming with me though. OK, it's been 10 minutes, it's almost 12:15.. time to walk to the other side again. No one. No one. No one. Well there are people, plenty of people, but none that have that look in their eye.. the look I would expect from someone who is about to protest, someone who means business. So I go into the Starbucks, they have no clue what I'm even hinting at. Then I ask the security guard, he just shrugs and says no... what the heck?! This sucks! I read every last direction I could find on all of the websites, and even one of my students called and asked for me. Maybe I am in fact in the wrong place, maybe there are two Japanese embassies? I have no clue, why didn't I bring the phone number with me?! As if they would even understand me. So I do one last check around the other side of the building, no one, so I mope away. Slightly defeated. Slightly more geared up for when I'll get to 'try' to do it again.

This is a really important issue. And one that has pulled at my heart strings since I first heard about these 'Comfort Women' when I took part in the Vagina Monologues. The stories they must have, the constant terror and pain they must be living with, how can it be brushed aside, how can the government be so weak, all they want is an apology, someone to take blame for their living hell. These poor women are 80 now, there aren't very many left, they still fight all of the time... fighting for power, fighting for a voice, fighting for their lives to return... they need closure... they need someone to take the blame so they can stop blaming themselves... they need... they live... they fight... we need to fight for them and pressure the Japanese government, we cannot allow this nowadays, we cannot let this keep happening to women, we cannot.

(October 2011)
More information on Comfort Women:

The Comfort Women just had their 1000th Wednesday protest, and they rallied around a new monument that was placed outside of the Japanese Embassy, calling it a monument of peace.
It is a very simple statue, but the Japanese government hates it.. and has asked it to be removed.. and before it was erected, they opposed it and threatened the Korean government not to allow it.
Article on the 1,000th protest:

Sleeping with a Monk

Yup! You read it right. I, Paula Ferguson, slept with a monk. Well... maybe I'm stretching the truth a bit. But I had to get you to read this somehow, didn't I?!

Here's what went down. Chelsea, Faith and I made our way to Haeinsa temple. One of the most famous temples in Korea. Famous for beauty, famous for the mountain it rests on, famous for housing the most important monks of Korea, famous for the Head Monk of Korea living there, and famous for the 13th century Tripitaka wooden printing blocks that are housed there.

Basically this place is a holy rock festival of ambient goodness! It was awesome, beautiful, inspiring and tranquil... well, when the hundreds of Korean tourists filtered out it was.

So here we are, 3 Korean city girls, dropped off in the middle of the woods... wearing simple-comfy temple clothes, struggling every 10 minutes to put our shoes on or take them off and put them in a perfectly anal straight line.

After all of the foreigners got scolded for our messy shoes sitting outside of the temple stay practice room, and the Koreans got told their shoe line up was the Japanese way... we became very careful... yet some still got scolded later on.. awk-ward! The shoe Nazis were always lurking around the temple apparently.

We were divided into 2 groups, 6 Koreans in one group with their special monk, and 8 foreigners with our own special English speaking monk.

When they first walked into our practice room, we were sitting on our mats, awaiting their arrival.. my first thought was, Geeze, they aren't even smiling, they're so quiet.. I bet any minute now they're going to break out into Monk-Ninja mode, and we're going to get BEAT UUUP!

False alarm. Not ninjas. One can hope.

First, our monk taught us how to do a proper full bow, and how to bow when you enter the chanting hall (one half bow, 3 full bows, one half bow). We did it, quite sloppily.. but we moved right on to the next thing...

Our monk was honestly terrified of us. SO terrified. He was very nervous at first, and couldn't quite portray what he was trying to.. struggling.. pulling the words out.. yanking them out.. about 7 minutes after struggling, he finally explains a meditation technique.. we think we totally understand him.

He gives us 5 minutes.

We meditate.

We finish.

He asked how many sets of numbers we got through.

One guy says 7, and I'm thinking. Ha. Haa. I did 8.5 sets!

Then Faith says "One. 5 minutes was the perfect amount of time to finish one set."

We all look at her, WHAT?! How slow are you?? But, it was us who did it wrong.

The monk. freaked. out. Realizing most all of us did it wrong, and didn't quite understand him. He started rambling about how we need a lot of clothes on, because tonight it will get to about 30 degrees, and we have some ceremonies outdoors to go to. Then he just leaves. Flustered.

So I stand up, and say, "Welp, I'm gonna go put all of the clothes I brought on." And everyone just sits. No one is going to go. I think they're crazy, because it has already started to be freezing cold outside, and our temple clothes aren't the warmest of things. But they weren't sure if he told us to go change or not, so they didn't want to get left behind.

Heck, I just didn't want to be cold. I HATE being cold. SO I left, and went to our room to change. I was in there for 2 minutes, when Chelsea and Faith ended up joining to put clothes on as well. One thing led to another, and we started taking pictures of ourselves in ridiculous poses in our super cool temple rags. And by the time we walked back up to the practice room.... there were no shoes out front... the light was off... no people... no one anywhere... no tourists... no monks... WHERE DID ALL OF THE PEOPLE GO?!?

I look at Chels.. head slightly lowered, angel eyes on, pouty face on... "Whoopsies" is all I could let out. "Hey! You guys can't blame me. You followed me! You could have stayed." ... Their only reaction, "OH MAN! OH MAN! Now what are we going to do. How could they not have told us?? He told us to put warm clothes on. We shouldn't have gone!" My reaction to their fluster.. "ha.. ha... ha.. this is pretty funny huh?" Silence. "We'll find them don't worry, hehe, sorry! Sorry guys, I swear that's what he told us to do!" I could tell that Chelsea was a bit angry/worried that we wouldn't find them. BUT we sure did find them. ALL of them were already sitting down and eating in the cafeteria area. But this wasn't a normal cafeteria...

... we walk in, and there is nothing but silence. No one tells us what to do, we definitely look like we're trouble makers. Sure to get kicked out of the temple for not following directions. How funny would that be though?! Hilarious! Well to me, Chelsea looks even more upset than before. Still, all I can think of is whoopsies!

We grab plates and go through the buffet style set-up, and sit down, there are about 50 people in there, a few are monks (who sit on their own side.. and also have their own separate entrance), our group is about half way finished eating.

We definitely didn't grab enough food.. worried because we heard you cannot waste ANYTHING at a temple (even though there wasn't any one ensuring this.. we thought there would be)... we didn't know if we were allowed to get seconds either. So we had a few hours before we could go to sleep and veg out on our snacks we bought at the market earlier in the day (lifesavers for sure!!).

Then, we went to the drum ceremony. It was pitch dark outside, really cold. And the drum ceremony was AWESOME! They do it 3 times a day, first one at 3:30AM!

Next, we walked over to the large chanting hall that houses the golden Buddhas. Here, we took part (well watched) in the chanting and bowing.. the monks and followers did most of it! I really shouldn't have taken this video, but it was such an interesting experience I just couldn't help it. I feel like I should be a spy or a journalist, I enjoyed sneaking it and almost getting in trouble SO MUCH!

The next part of our evening was the tea ceremony.. where we could ask lots of personal questions to our monk (who finally about 5 minutes into it, calmed down A LOT!).
We asked him if you had to be a virgin to be a monk (answer: When you are a monk, you cannot have sex. But if you become a monk after you've been married or have children, that's acceptable. You just can't be married when you're a monk). So it made me wonder if Buddhism accepts divorce, but I didn't ask it.
We also asked him why MOST of the followers in the chanting hall were all women and ajummas (old ladies).. where were the men (answer: .. and an honest answer at that.. he said that the men in Korea like to climb mountains and drink at night)?! Couldn't argue with that, I KNEW that was what he was going to say.
We asked how much he traveled (A LOT!), about the robes, why he has an IPHONE!!!, if they're allowed to use the internet (yes), why there were no nuns in the chanting hall (answer: they have their own.. separate but equal I suppose.. and so the monks aren't tempted.. it's best to have them separate)... and many many other questions!

Finally after way too much green tea at night, we went off to bed. We were EXHAUSTED, and lights out at 9PM was not early enough.. that's for sure!

Guess what?!? Wake-up was at 3AM!!!!!!! Paaaiiinnnffuullll, but we did it! First order of the day> drum ceremony, second order>chanting hall, next up>108 bows.

OH the bows, 108 of them. We listened to the English version of what each prostration was for (that sounds so dirty, I've never used that word before)... and the monk would slap his stick thingy every time we needed to bow, it was an experience!

Why 108 bows? Watch this:

I thought I was going to die, it was SO hot.. the ondol floor heating was on, and it was toasty&roasty! Holy moly, it was insane.. I kept trying to get Faith to open the window that was beside of her, because I felt like I was going to puke.. so did Chels, and almost everyone else in the room. I have to admit, after the first 50 bows, I started to lose my 'proper bowing techniques'.. I just didn't care, it was 4AM.. and I had just done 50 bows, what am I doing with my life. When will this torture be over.

THEN, there it is. I prostrated in gratitude to the sparkling rainbows. I can feel happy about continuing bowing.. then it gets a bit boring.. OH wait! Now I'm prostrating in repentance for having thought that only what I smelled was correct. OK, I'm going to make it. Almost finished. OH 108 bows, done, finished, success!

Everything we prostrated to:
    1. With sincere devotion, I take refuge in Shakyamuni Buddha.

    2. With sincere devotion, I take refuge in the Dharma.

    3. With sincere devotion, I take refuge in the Sangha.

    4. I prostrate in repentance for being ignorant of where I came from and unmindful of where I will go.

    5. I prostrate in repentance for being ignorant of my true self and correct situation, relationship, and function.

    6. I prostrate in repentance for having taken this body for granted.

    7. I prostrate in repentance for having neglected my original nature.

    8. I prostrate in repentance for having taken my ancestors for granted.

    9. I prostrate in repentance for having taken my parents for granted.

    10. I prostrate in repentance for having taken my relatives for granted.

    11. I prostrate in repentance for being unmindful of all those who have contributed to my learning and education.

    12. I prostrate in repentance for being unmindful of all those who have grown, prepared, and provided my nutrition.

    13. I prostrate in repentance for being unmindful of all those who have made and provided my clothing.

    14. I prostrate in repentance for being unmindful of all those who have built and provided my shelter.

    15. I prostrate in repentance for manipulating people for my own selfish needs.

    16. I prostrate in repentance for having ignored the effects of my misdeeds on others.

    17. I prostrate in repentance with complete devotion to eradicate Karma accumulated in the past, present, and the future.

    18. I prostrate in repentance to all those whom I have harmed through fits of anger.

    19. I prostrate in repentance to all those whom I have stung with hurtful words.

    20. I prostrate in repentance to all those whom I have harmed through arrogance.

    21. I prostrate in repentance to all those whom I have harmed through avarice.

    22. I prostrate in repentance to all those whom I have harmed through my jealous thoughts.

    23. I prostrate in repentance to all those whom I have scorched with the flames of my rage.

    24. I prostrate in repentance to all those whom I have harmed through attachment to my possessions.

    25. I prostrate in repentance to all those whom I have harmed through attachment to like-and-dislike mind.

    26. I prostrate in repentance to all those whom I have alienated through thought, word, and deed.

    27. I prostrate in repentance to all those whom I harmed through gossip, slander, and bad speech.

    28. I prostrate in repentance to all those whom I have looked down upon.

    29. I prostrate in repentance for my cowardly thoughts, words, and deeds.

    30. I prostrate in repentance for all my hypocritical deeds and lies.

    31. I prostrate in repentance for poisoning other beings through my mindless materialistic overconsumption.

    32. I prostrate in repentance to all sentient beings that I have harmed or killed for entertainment and pleasure.

    33. I prostrate in repentance for conceiving of this world only through the lens of my ego.

    34. I prostrate in repentance to all those I have harmed through attachment to my thinking.

    35. I prostrate in repentance to all those I have harmed through foolish or unnecessary speech.

    36. I prostrate in repentance to all those whom I have injured by engaging in relationships based on using each other.

    37. I prostrate in repentance for all thoughts, words, and deeds which create attachment.

    38. I prostrate in repentance for having thought that only what I saw was correct.

    39. I prostrate in repentance for having thought that only what I heard was correct.

    40. I prostrate in repentance for having thought that only what I smelled was correct.

    41. I prostrate in repentance for having thought that only what I tasted was correct.

    42. I prostrate in repentance for having thought that only what I felt was correct.

    43. I prostrate in repentance for every action born from I-my-me mind.

    44. I prostrate in repentance for not seeing clearly my true interconnectedness to all forms of life.

    45. I prostrate in repentance for having disregarded our only home, Earth.

    46. I prostrate in repentance for selfishly polluting the air.

    47. I prostrate in repentance for selfishly polluting the rivers and lakes.

    48. I prostrate in repentance for selfishly polluting the mountains and the oceans.

    49. I prostrate in repentance for selfishly destroying the flowers and trees.

    50. I prostrate in repentance for a lifestyle built on the suffering of other forms of life.

    51. I prostrate in repentance for discriminating between the rich and poor in my choice of relations.

    52. I prostrate in repentance for discriminating between high and low, the superior and the inferior.

    53. I prostrate in repentance for discriminating between "good" and "bad."

    54. I prostrate in repentance for seeing this world based on absolute "right" or "wrong."

    55. I prostrate in repentance for my lack of compassion for the sick or grieving.

    56. I prostrate in repentance for my lack of compassion for those suffering from depression.

    57. I prostrate in repentance for my lack of compassion for the poor and needy.

    58. I prostrate in repentance for my lack of compassion for those who are stubborn or hard to work with.

    59. I prostrate in repentance for my lack of compassion for the lonely, and those trapped by addiction.

    60. I prostrate in repentance for my lack of compassion for those in trouble with the law.

    61. I prostrate in gratitude for having come to take refuge in the Buddha.

    62. I prostrate in gratitude for having come to take refuge in the Dharma.

    63. I prostrate in gratitude for having come to take refuge in the Sangha.

    64. I prostrate in gratitude for coming to realize that all beings are interconnected as one.

    65. I prostrate in gratitude for coming to realize that all beings can communicate and sympathize with one another.

    66. I prostrate in gratitude for coming to realize that all beings live in accordance with the Universal Law.

    67. I prostrate in gratitude for coming to realize that all beings have the same True Nature.

    68. I prostrate in gratitude for coming to see the beauty of this world.

    69. I prostrate in gratitude for coming to know the wonders of all life forms.

    70. I prostrate in gratitude for coming to hear the pure beauty of the birds' singing.

    71. I prostrate in gratitude for coming to know the spiritual sound of the wind.

    72. I prostrate in gratitude for coming to hear the bubbling music of the streams.

    73. I prostrate in gratitude for coming to feel the energy of new life in Spring.

    74. I prostrate in gratitude for coming to see the beauty of a shimmering rainbow.

    75. I prostrate in gratitude for coming to see that true peace of mind comes from being in harmony with nature.

    76. I prostrate in gratitude for coming to see that nature is Universal Law.

    77. I prostrate in gratitude for coming to see that nature is our Great Teacher.

    78. I prostrate in gratitude for coming to see that compassion is the greatest blessing of all.

    79. I prostrate in gratitude for coming to see that a heart filled with hatred and resentment is the greatest misfortune of all.

    80. I prostrate in gratitude for coming to see that selfless love is the greatest power of all.

    81. I prostrate as a vow to live in the embrace of the Buddha.

    82. I prostrate as a vow to live in accordance with the Dharma.

    83. I prostrate as a vow to follow the teachings of the Sangha.

    84. I prostrate as a vow to refrain from greed.

    85. I prostrate as a vow to refrain from anger.

    86. I prostrate as a vow to refrain from arrogance.

    87. I prostrate as a vow to refrain from jealousy.

    88. I prostrate as a vow to refrain from saying hurtful things.

    89. I prostrate as a vow to refrain from hypocritical speech.

    90. I prostrate as a vow to refrain from slandering.

    91. I prostrate as a vow to refrain from looking down on others.

    92. I prostrate as a vow to refrain from resenting others.

    93. I prostrate as a vow to be humble in all that I do.

    94. I prostrate as a vow to do my best in all my endeavors.

    95. I prostrate as a vow to be honest in everything I do.

    96. I prostrate as a vow to be positive in everything I do.

    97. I prostrate as a vow to live with a compassionate heart.

    98. I prostrate as a vow to always have a bright and happy heart.

    99. I prostrate as a prayer so that all beings may live in peace.

    100. I prostrate as a prayer for an end to all wars.

    101. I prostrate as a prayer for an end to poverty.

    102. I prostrate as a prayer for an end to all diseases.

    103. I prostrate as a vow to always practice the disciplines of the Bodhisattva.

    104. I prostrate as a vow to cultivate transcendental wisdom.

    105. I prostrate as a vow to never regress in practice.

    106. I prostrate as a vow to meet eminent teachers.

    107. I prostrate as a vow to meet the Buddhas who always appear in this world, from moment to moment.

    108. I prostrate as a vow to transfer all merits accumulated through compassionate action to all beings in the ten directions.

YAY, break time.. for about 10 minutes we got to take a mini-nap.. OF COURSE I wake myself up on my first snore.. hehehe. The whole time I was just praying we'd get to go eat soon.. but NOPE....

...it was meditation time. The most painful time of the trip. I couldn't believe it, I thought it was going to be SO easy, and I was going to be SOO good at it. But trying to sit half lotus style for 15 minutes (well.. to be honest, it ended up being simply cross-legged by the end of it).. my legs were IN PAIN.. I'm not that flexible obviously! I just couldn't handle it, I started freaking out a bit. I was so tired and hungry, I couldn't do the correct counting.. I WANT TO SLEEP! I WANT TO EAT! I want to do anything but this. I peak a lot, I couldn't help it, I wanted to see if anyone else was in as much pain as me. I quietly stretch out my legs, luckily Faith is doing it as well beside me. When the monk got up to check our posture and our 'meditation hands'.. I perked up, but when he sat back down and closed his eyes... I became a bad student, AGAIN. Of course!

FINALLY, breakfast time. I have been starving since I got here, I'm not sure why.. we've been munching like crazy. It's tiring being a monk and being so quiet, I'm not used to so much effort (being quiet that is).

We went and had a silent breakfast, it was yummy, of course! And vegetarian!

Next up, we went on a tour of the temple with our monk. It was extremely informative, and we were still the only people at the temple, besides the other followers who had arrived at the temple at 3AM for the ceremonies! We also went to see the Tripitaka that Haeinsa is so famous for. Haeinsa has been burnt down about 7 times over history, but they've always managed to save the Tripitaka that are from the 13th century!! AWESOME!

We had a mini-tea ceremony with the lady who runs the program, asked her a few questions, told her how much we enjoyed the temple stay. She gave us presents. We wandered around and took some pictures, then off we went.. back to our normal city girl lives!

Sunday, November 13, 2011


I know we've all heard it..
Q: "Is assumption spelled with 1 S or 2?!"
A: "Don't forget, ASSumptions make an ass out of you and me. 2."

Ooooh assumptions! Chelsea and I visited our friend Faith in Cheongju this weekend and while wandering around to the different 'foreign hang outs' in town, we entertained ourselves... with a little people watching.

People watching, one of my favorite pastimes in Korea... who am I kidding, EVERYWHERE!

We came to this one bar called MJ's which was more than entertaining:
You had your usual:
-a group of girls dancing
-random foreigners and Koreans mingling together
-the bar and 2 bar tenders
-the computer for self-DJing
-pool table

You had your.. semi-unusual:
-the 2 guys having a dance off (.. the whole night)
-a guy with a nose ring
-a Bob Saget lookalike
-a group of guys who looked South American
-a guy wearing an Alpaca sweater

The super-unusual:

So of course, I had so many questions... and I needed SO many answers... and I'm not shy... which is probably not a good thing all the time... so I asked...

The 2 guys having a dance off (+ nose ring guy):
I ASSumed, that since they were being super cocky, and super fist pump-alicious, that they were OF COURSE from New Jersey.. absolutely had to be. Guy #1- from Connecticut, HEY I was close. Guy #2- who is ALSO the guy with the nose ring... from NOVA SCOTIA. Fail... I told him I was SO sorry, I thought he was from New Jersey, haha.... ha... but he didn't find the humor in that.. he OBVIOUSLY isn't a fan of MTV's Jersey Shore. (It's okay to make West Virginia jokes... therefore it's okay to make Jersey jokes !)
He probably also thought I was hitting on him... awkward.

Bob Saget LookaLike:
The truth is in the picture...

Group of guys who looked South American:
While Chelsea and I were chatting, I noticed a group of guys... one had tan skin & quite a distinct nose (my thoughts, HAD to be Peruvian), another was short, tan & spunky (mm... random guess for him, maybe Colombia), and the last 2 were tall, skinny & had Euro-Mullets (MUST be from Argentina!).
Oh! And wait! They were taking tequila shots.... my thoughts: 'That's it.. I HAVE to ask.. they're taking TEQUILA shots.. I have to, it's a sign!'
Mr. Peru- actually from IRAN
The other 3- actually from RUSSIA "Errrlrlr-ussia"

You can imagine my disappointed, but I made friends! They're students at a local university.

(The guy in the blue and brown were the two ArgentineanRussians, the others weren't included.. best picture we could get)
The PeruvianIranian

Alpaca Sweater Dude:
:::I walk over to him, so confident, so internally excited....::::
Paula: "Hey! WHERE did you get your sweater?!"
Mr. Smiley: "Ha, do you want the truth?"
Paula: "mmm.... sure."
Mr. Smiley: "I got it at a thrift store."
Paula: "Gah!!!!! Darnit!"
Mr. Smiley: "Where do you think it's from?"
Paula: "I think it was made in Ecuador!! Geeze, err. OK"
Mr. Smiley: "Sorry! I've had a lot of people ask me that. Were you hoping we could have traveled to the same place and we could connect and gab about trips?!"
Paula: sad face "Yes! K.. now I'm sad."

I return to Chelsea to tell her about ANOTHER defeat.

15 minutes later.

I decide I NEED pictures of everyone to describe my failures on my blog.
We decide to act like she's taking my picture, but really she'll zoom in and take pictures of all of the people.
Although we were successful... Mr. Smiley heard us giggling and laughing about what we were doing... he took my camera... told us we were pervy little girls and wanted to know what we were taking pictures of.
He wouldn't give the camera back.
Give it back!
Give it back!
No! I want to see, what you two are up to.
Give it back, pleeeease! OK, well you can look at it, but I have to tell you why we took each of them.

So I told him the same things I just told you... adding in how we accidentally took a picture of his friend because he walked into our picture while we were taking it..

and the picture of a guy's butt was an accident with the zoom and the darkness of the room... and YES in fact, we did have a picture of his Alpaca sweater.

I think he believed us... but that just put the icing on the cake. I haven't laughed that much IN A WHILE!

Good times!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Violated by my Toilet

Since I moved into the teacher's dorm at the University, things have been a bit different.

As in I now have a bidet in my private bathroom.

These things are like $300 in the store!!! I'm not understanding why EVERY toilet on campus has one, in all of the buildings, ALL of the dorm rooms....

Anyways, they're kind of lovely in the winter because they're heated.. I did a post on this earlier..

So this past week has been record breaking hot.. but to me it felt like a normal beginning of Fall in the states (about 65 degrees steadily.... whereas in Korea, when Fall comes, it is FREEZING at night and in the morning, and pretty hot during the day....). So I really didn't need my buns toasted when sitting down to do my business. Therefore, I tried to turn it off.. unfortunately all of the buttons are in Korean.. and there are about 13 buttons.. go figure! So I pressed the one towards the end that was just a square.. thinking this MUST be it..


I started hearing some noises like mechanisms moving around, then all of a sudden SPRAY to the butt. I screamed and laughed, and about died... and it lasted for about 7 seconds.


Friday, November 4, 2011

I'm a Prostitute

Part A: Article used in a discussion class
Part B: Main points of discussion from the actual class
Conclusion: Foreigner = Prostitute

Naturalized Korean decries refusal of entry to sauna

Ku Su-jin, an Uzbek native who was naturalized in Korea, shows her passport indicating Korean nationality during a media briefing at Gyeongnam Migrant Community Service Center in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province, Thursday. Ku said she was prohibited from using a sauna in a case of racial discrimination. / Yonhap

Lack of law against racial discrimination leaves foreigners vulnerable

By Kim Rahn

An ethnic Uzbekistan woman has filed a petition with the National Human Rights Commission after she was denied entrance to a sauna here.

A sauna employee refused to admit to the woman, a naturalized Korean, saying she was still a “foreigner” by appearance and foreign users may “make water in bathtub dirty” and “pass on AIDS.”

Such an action was possible because there is no law on discrimination by race, according to a support center for immigrants.

“Many foreigners face such discrimination often but mostly they remain silent because they don’t speak Korean well and don’t know where they can appeal,” said Ku Su-jin, whose Uzbek name is Karina Kurbanova.

Assisted by a civic group, she held a media briefing at Gyeongnam Migrant Community Service Center in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province, Thursday.

“I’m filing the petition on behalf of other foreigners and especially our children including my seven-year-old boy, as I don’t want him to be discriminated against because of physically appearing different to Koreans,” she said.

Ku visited a sauna in Busan at around 3 p.m. on Sept. 25. But the employee denied her entry, saying foreigners are prohibited.

She reported this immediately to the police.

“The sauna worker told police that foreigners are not allowed there because they may make the water dirty. He also said Koreans customers don’t like using the facility with foreigners because in the town there are many foreign women working at bars and there were rumors that some have AIDS,” she said.

Ku is legally a Korean as she obtained citizenship in 2009 after marrying a Korean man. She told this to the owner, but he said she was a foreigner by appearance.

Police officers said there is no law to regulate such racist discrimination, advising her to go to another sauna, she said.

Officials at the center, who are supporting Ku’s petition, said the owner took advantage of a legal loophole regarding discrimination.

“There are laws banning discrimination by gender or by worker’s status. But there is none governing discrimination by race, not only do Koreans discriminate against foreigners but also Koreans discriminate against other Koreans like in Ku’s case,” a director of the center said.

The director said if the rights commission recommends the sauna to change, the group will help Ku file a civil suit against the sauna owner for the mental distress she sustained.

She said what Ku and the center ultimately call for is the establishment of a law banning discrimination by race, against both foreigners and naturalized Koreans.

“In these modern times when 1.3 million immigrants live here, it is shameful that they have their human rights infringed upon and are deprived of many entitled rights in daily life only because they look different or they came from other countries. Korea claims to stand for multiculturalism, but is far short of laws and systems for immigrants,” the director said.


I used this article in one of my discussion/debate classes.. I'll let you guess which one. My face turned different shades of red during the class, but I kept my anger and disappointment under control for the most part. It made me super sad though, because some of my favorite students had this view that... was just disturbing. One of my co-workers said that he would never do that topic in class... he'd probably get fired because he'd get so angry at the viewpoints discussed. I had a more optimistic outlook on it I suppose.. one that I shouldn't have had. I thought that since most of the class has traveled to other countries, they're educated, and have lived long lives and seen many things.. they wouldn't have the view that was expected. Because the sad thing is, is that many of us (expats in Korea) WOULD expect the views of the employee in the article to be shared with many Koreans. (the bolded phrases below come from things said in class, the non-bolded text were responses from me said during class... the class took place 2 hours ago)

~This is a very special case, it doesn't happen a lot.
-But it DOES happen a lot. As the article says, many aren't reported. This lady luckily speaks Korean and was able to hear what the sauna worker said about her, and the police officer also spoke with the employee and he said them same thing. There are more cases, it's not just this one in Busan. I've experienced some discrimination, others have experienced more.

~Laws will eventually happen... one day... not now.
-I realize that, and the US has been in the exact same position. But worse, 100 times worse. We grew stronger though, and stopped being brain washed.. we were all able to unite, live together, and racism is not as harsh now.. there are laws, not always upheld, but the government and many agencies work hard to minimize racism in the USA. I know it's different here, because Korea was homogeneous for an extremely long time, but the government and the people have been asking foreigners to come to Korea.. the culture strives for multiculturalism now.. as the article says, there are 1.3 million immigrants living in Korea. ONE POINT THREE!

~Foreigners in Public Bath Houses are a problem, many prostitutes.
~This was in Busan, there are many prostitutes in Busan.
~The prostitutes are dirty, it's a problem.
-So all foreigners are prostitutes? The funny thing is that, many MANY Koreans believe this. You say it as a joke, but I know a few foreign women who have been approached by men, asked if they are Russian, or prostitutes, and you know what they're response is? "I TEACH KINDERGARTEN CHILDREN IN YOUR COUNTRY". Is this fair? It gives Koreans a very bad name when this continues to happen. It is a problem all over the country, not just Busan, not just Seoul.

-The employee in the article said the woman would make the water dirty and pass on AIDS to the Koreans. Is this what a majority of people believe? That you can spread AIDS in the water?
~I think she said this to prove a point, to make her point stronger.
~HaHa! AIDS is passed on sexually.
-This makes the employee sound extremely ignorant. And people like this make the entire Korean culture look ignorant. Is that okay?

~The Public Bath Houses need to be separated.
~Just like the men and women are separated, foreigners and Koreans should be separated.
-This lady is a Korean just like any of you, she has a Korean passport. She IS Korean. She wasn't born here, but she's married to a Korean, she has a 7-year old son.. WITH a Korean.
-Where does her son go? Does he go to the Foreign side or the Korean side? Is he dirty because he's 1/2 foreign?
-What will happen to children like this one? Do they have to live the rest of their lives like this?

~I think you need to look at both sides.
-What side am I missing? I realize that when Public Bath Houses began there were hardly any foreigners living in Korea. I also realize that Koreans think they are different from every race on Earth. I understand it must be weird to see people in the Bath House who look different. But this lady is legally Korean, her son is Korean, her husband is Korean.
-What about the Korean men who sleep with all of these prostitutes. Should they have a separate sauna too.. because if the prostitute has a disease, welp, he's going to as well. Should there be separate sections between men who sleep with prostitutes and men who don't?
-I'm sorry, I guess I don't understand.

~Actually, prostitutes do get regular health checks.
-Great sir, I'm glad that you know that. So does this mean that not all foreigners are infected with AIDS?

Conclusion: I'm a foreigner so I must be a prostitute, have AIDS, I'm just plain different, from another planet.... I'm glad I now know the truth, my parents have been lying to me since I was born!!! Laws need to be changed if Korea wants to keep growing to be a powerful nation in the world... things like this can't just 'take time'... people need to start saying, 'No! You're wrong!' and stand up for what they believe in.. then maybe other people's hearts will change in the mean time.

Note: I don't believe ALL Koreans share the same views as in the article. I DO however believe at least 1/2 do, in some way, deep down. I DON'T believe change will happen anytime soon, I think it will continue to be brushed to the side. I have many Korean acquaintances and friends that I know don't believe all foreigners are prostitutes... however I know many that do. So the disturbing facts become surreal...

I can honestly say that last year I wandered around Korea with a veil over my eyes. I ignored most negative qualities, and didn't truly believe many things I had heard about the culture. Now, however .. after working with students who can say more than "Purple, Door, Cookie"... views change... in some ways I wish I had stayed in the dark, I think I'd be happier living here... but if everyone ignores what goes on in the world, society will soon be worse than it already has become!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


No other culture can grab some shuteye like the Koreans!  Impossible!  Many businesses/schools even have nap rooms for their employees... pretty legit!  You find many asleep on the sidewalk on your way home at night or at the cafe.. sometimes in class... but ALWAYS, you find them asleep on the subway!  And I rarely read a book or use my iPOD for entertainment.. because I know that I can count on my Hangookin Community to keep me well amused!

Bruce & Paula Subway Siesta Fiesta

Feet Like an Elephant

A Forever 21 that has 4 floors should have a pair of shoes that fit me, right?!

If I enjoy leopard hooker boots, then yes!  Bruce and I looked through basically every pair of shoes in that stupid store and couldn't find a size 10.. rarely a 9!  Welcome to Korea! I got really sad, and after our shopping day with the girls on Sunday I shopped around in some of the Korean shoe stores that sell boots.. thinking since it's Seoul, MAYBE they would have my size?!

Errrr... wrong again!

After trying on 2 pairs of XL boots.. and me about to cry.. the lady said "These boots are for Korean women's feet"... so I boohoo'd my way out the door!

BUT after venturing to Myeongdong AGAIN the next day (as well as the day after that ^^), Forever 21 had restocked and I found a super cute pair of ankle boots that were my size! Yippee!!!

Here's a looksy into what Myeongdong is like on a CALM Monday :).. Imagine what it's like on the weekend.. SO FUN!

..Yes, it is super random... in almost every way possible!


While Ali asked the nice old man how to find Hooters in Gangnam, Seoul, South Korea... I decided to give you a mini tour!

We didn't expect much out of Hooters, we just really wanted the experience... luckily. Prices and food quality were poo-zy! But had an absolute blast with friends! <3 <3

Emotional Journal Entry

Guess what?! I finished my first quarter! Who'da thunk ..... I survived!!! 2 months ago, I would have said (and did!) 'I'm not going to make it working here!'... but now, my engine has been started and I'm ready to take over that classroom and show them who's boss!

Last Quarter:
My 3 conversation classes (University students/adults from Jeonju) were absolutely amazing, and I enjoyed all of them! There was one small class that was awkward at times, because it was 4 girls.. and each came whenever they felt like it. 2 were older women, and 2 were my age.... anyways, one of them constantly looked like she hated life, another had a smart phone permanently attached to her hand, and the class was just.. WEIRD! I never knew what to expect.. and I learned not to expect too much, that's for sure!

I had 1 class of children, who were absolutely heaven sent. I've never had a group of kids that I've enjoyed more! They were (and are.. I still have them) extremely well behaved, SO smart, and we had a lot of fun!!! At least I think we did, ^^.

AND THEN.. there were the professors! As many of you know, I almost peed my pants from fear when I first walked into that class. Korean professors are VERY VERY VERY different from the professors I'm used to. And it fully has to do with the culture, it just isn't quite what I had expected because I've never been around Korean professors before.

This was more of a growing experience than I ever in my life expected to have.. I knew that getting a big girl University job would change me as a teacher, but I feel like this class has actually bettered me as a person! I am much more informed with the world around me now.. I'm sure you're wondering how on earth that could happen.. but I meet this class 5 times a week for 7-weeks straight.. it's titled a 'Discussion & Debate Class'.. however I was informed quite early on that the professors aren't a fan of debating, and they don't want to discuss politics/religion. They want to talk to ME, they don't want to talk to each other (HELLO, it's a conversation class.. 10 Professors.. 1 of me..) WELL, there goes extremely controversial topics, the news, LIFE... and I know you're thinking.. well Paula, this is YOUR class, YOU'RE the teacher, do it anyways.

It doesn't quite work like that here in Korea! LIFE is based around who is higher up, who is older, who is more important... I can't change a culture.. in a classroom or out, no matter how hard I try. I've adjusted and I've asked them to adjust as well, and in turn we've worked together pretty darn well!

So I give them news articles or interesting TIME Magazine articles every day, they can read it if they want to or just discuss anything they know about the topic from previous knowledge, and then we discuss that article the next day in class. This system has worked out amazingly well, and this is how most of the previous teachers worked the class.

The first article wasn't so hot though... it was about South Korea working with Russia to build a pipeline through North Korea into South Korea... an important topic to Koreans (I thought).. and it turned out that it IS important.. however the author of the article was extremely biased.. and this TICKED my professors off. I began asking them questions to get the conversation going.. and you could almost hear a pin drop.. they didn't say anything! NOTHING! OMG, I think they could almost see my heart pounding.. until one professor finally chimed in and told me about how the article is biased. WOW, I definitely pulled the foreigner card on that one and tried to get them to tell me how/why but they were totally shut down and shut off. Later I find out that you don't argue with people who are of a higher status in society than you are and you surely don't express opinions that are contrary to the majority. This really bothered me at first, I was imagining every class being that strange and just weird! There was OBVIOUSLY something to talk about there, but it was almost like they couldn't! After that day, I can't even tell you how stressed out I was about the class.

For the next few weeks...
.... all I could think was that I'm only a Li'l 23 Year Old Bachelor Degree Holding Uninformed American ESL Teacher... how the heck can I be expected to converse with Korean professors like this?! Are you judging me? Do you hate me?! How can I be better?! Will you ever like me? What did I do? Do I look bad? Do you think I should wear more make-up to class?! Do you think I'm dumb? Unintelligent? Unimportant? Unworthy of your time?! How can I be better? What can I do? What DO I DO?! How do I handle this stress? I hate this city! I hate this University! I hate that I didn't move back to Jinju! I hate that I left my family and friends again, for this... For this treatment! Do I cry? Do I relax.. but what if that makes the class even worse? I can't relax! I can't stop worrying about it! This is my character, myself, me, it was ruining me.. I didn't feel happy, I didn't want to be me, I didn't feel like I could go in that classroom and be optimistic, I didn't think that was what they wanted.. but I am optimistic.. I'm not the girl that worries about things like this....

After a few weeks (the longest few weeks of my life), we got used to each other and I felt more comfortable. I thoroughly enjoyed some of the classes, I thoroughly HATED others and just wanted to punch something because they made me so angry... but that comes with teaching right?

I've snapped out of my 'woe is me' attitude, I'm back to crazy antics, and I'm enjoying my lovely time with new friends!! It's shaping up to be a great year (9 1/2 more months.. but who's counting?! ^^)

This Quarter:
Everyone's schedules got cut, so I'm now down a class.. which I don't mind, although that means no overtime..
My 2 Conversation classes consist of new students, for the most part.
Kids class is the same, 3 new kids who I think will get the hang of things quickly.
And the professors class.. they all came back! Plus 1, so it must not have been too unbearable for them. I now have 11 professors, and this 7-weeks is starting off a WHOLE heck of a lot better than previously.. Thank God! I'm enjoying researching everything going on in the news, I'm becoming much more informed & I adore it, and I feel like I know them much more, so that is helping me choose topics! However, it may start getting difficult finding something NEW to talk about everyday, without recycling any of the ideas from last quarter! But, that's part of the challenge.. and I'm ready to take it on!

OK, end rant! I had a lot on my mind.. and now it's off :)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Love of a Taxi Driver

So I've had some issues with taxi drivers over the past 8 weeks here in Jeonju... they either love me or they hate me. Some will have me repeat "Yeoul Chodunhakyeo" about 8 times because I say "Yo-ool" instead of "Yo-eul"... and then they give up because I continue to (in their minds) butcher their language!

But whatever, you win some and you lose some, right?!

So one day, a cabbie tried to strike up a convo with me in Korean. I told him I could only speak "Chokum Hangeul"... he smiles and goes "Chooookum" (in the absolute funniest voice ever), so I try to repeat how he says it because it's so funny.. for about 30 seconds we just continued saying "CHooOOoooOkum" back and forth, whilst giggling. So fabulous and cute! Highlight!

On a different day, I was taking a cab to work. And the driver looks back and says "I lub you" (quickly).. "huh?"... "I luba you"... "OH! Ha.. (sketched) Ha"... "I luba you"... "Uhuh!"... "I luba you, KAMSAMNIDA (duh?)".. "Ah, Thank you (does he really think you say Thank you after someone says I love you?!?!)"... "Sam-ship? (30)"... "NO! I-ship-sam (23)!!!"... "OOOOHHHHH (all giddy) I LUBA YOU!".

::::Thoughts.. holy cow, get me out of this car right now! Egh, this is disgusting!!::::

Car stops. I pay him. "Tip? Tip?" ..."ANIYO!!" (NO).. dirty old creep!!!

OH my life! Sometimes I have to just stand still and soak everything in .. and LAUGH .. you'd go crazy here if you didn't!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Korean Ants Climbing Moaksan

So we know that everywhere around the world has ants... carpenter ants, fire ants, army ants, leaf cutter ants, big head ants, lemon ants, congo ants... have you ever seen Korean Ants?!

I went with a lovely group of people to climb Moaksan Mountain, which watches over and protects my fabulous city, Jeonju. It was definitely difficult, my calves and buns are still burning from 4 days ago!!! And it was hardcore the 'Korean' hiking experience.. people EVERYWHERE! People scurrying up, people scrambling down, people wearing brightly colored-brand new-super expensive-brand name hiking clothes/masks/gloves/shoes/visors. A majority enjoyed listening to K-Pop/Traditional Korean music on the way up, everyone had picnics, smelled like Kimchi, offered us fruit and coffee.

BUT there were liars among us, we were told that Makgeoli was sold at the top of the mountain.. a reward of sorts.. that was why we did it quickly and wanted to get to the top so bad.. Makgeoli? MAKGEOLI? Where is the MAKGEOOOLLIIII?!?!!

Easy. There wasn't any.

Fail. On many levels.

Tired. In more than one way.

Ate Me a Live Octopus, Y'all!

Yes, you read that right. It wasn't just 'raw'... it was ALIVE... go ahead, call PETA now, I'm ready for them. Forgive me Lord for I have sinned. I have already repented and I still feel horrible for that poor li'l guy...

... given the same cultural situation, I think I would try it again... I'm sure the Makgeoli within our systems did not help steer us away... but this is what Koreans do, this is how they live, kids eat this without crying!

The video in the YouTube link is quite.. umm.. graphic, let's just say that there is no remorse! Korean.
JoJo attempts.
Korean shoves wiggling leg in his face.
JoJo denies.
Then takes it like a man.

I decided to try it myself... it took me a little while to muster up the guts (no pun intended) to do it, and it was still wiggling even though it had been hacked to pieces 5 minutes earlier.
Morning after.:
Wake up.
Use the bathroom.
Wash hands.
What happened last night?
stayed in the bathroom.. blech..

Stuck in the Middle of a Buddhist Ritual


What happens when curiosity gets the best of you?!

You get stuck in the corner of a room while 15 men are bowing continuously... 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25... oh no... 26, 27, 28... I hope my friends don't leave me... 29, 30, 31... how did I get myself into this?!

Easy explanation, while hiking up Moaksan with my friends, there was a small temple about half way up the mountain. At this temple I wandered around while my friends sat and rested, I got snoopy and walked into one of the buildings.. then a whole bunch of men came in, one tells me to sit, as he could see that I was seriously curious, and I ended up sitting in the worst place possible.. in the corner farthest away from the door!!!

It was SO calming though, and quite relaxing.. I just sat there in awe at their dedication/rituals.. they were all extremely serious, and just.. in a trance of sorts! I liked it until I realized that they're probably going to bow 100+ times.. and then I figured when I left, my friends would be at the top of the mountain already! Luckily, I got to sneak out... side-step, bow, side-step, bow, side-step, bow... and eventually, I reached the door without accidentally touching anyone or making too much noise!

Almighty Soju Tent

Have you ever sat in a tent with hundreds of Koreans drinking Soju?

I have, and I am here today to tell you how it changed my life.

When we first arrived, I thought it was winter time... Christmas time to be exact... then noticing all of the signs, I realized that it was in fact New Years. HAPPY NEW YEARS everybody. Then I had to be told that it was all a lie.. that I was living a fantasy life.. a Korean fantasy life... in this life there were 50+ tables of Koreans sitting around chatting and giggling whilst drinking the almighty Soju.. not because of Christmas, not because of New Years, because of LIFE! In this fantasy, I realized that I am IN FACT living in Korea... and loving every minute of it!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

My Bum... it is...Toasty!

Thought of the day:
I wonder if Koreans now spend HUGE amounts of money on heated toilet seats.. because their butts had to go without a resting place for oh-so long??? I mean, I'm not hating on the squatting toilets or anything.. but daaaang my bum feels like a princess' when the heat radiates off of that seat!

And as an added bit of goodness: In the lower left hand corner of the picture.. that would be the University's seal and it also has "Chonbuk National University" on it as well (in Korean)... I guess just in case anyone was wondering where they were, and why they were in that tiny room, and why their butt is now roasting.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Note to Self

When having a discussion/debate about the successful sex strike that took place in a rural Filipino village ( http://articles.cnn.com/2011-09-19/world/philippines.sex.strike_1_village-strike-drug-trafficking?_s=PM:WORLD ).... don't be surprised when you try to turn the last 10 minutes of class into a discussion about plans for the weekend and a student (::cough:: Professor) interrupts:

"I heard they give out condoms to students in high school in America?"

Umm.. ok, different topic, out of no where.. well kind of.. I now know now that this will be a good discussion for a different 50 minute class! They were all very curious!! It cracked me up considering when we first started talking about the sex strike, and the same man chimed in and said a.) "I'd never have to worry about that, I'm too old." b.) "This would never work in Korea.. Korean men have OTHER ways ;)"

AND that would be referring to the prostitution that runs rampant in Korea... totally different subject... but in case you're curious to know... in 2010, 13 Million US Dollars were spent on prostitution... there are brothels/parlors everywhere you turn... if you see 2 barber poles spinning in opposite directions at a business, welp, you've found yourself some prostitutes, good job!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Entertaining My ADD Needs

돈 Sounds like 'Don' in "Don't".... I got quite a big chuckle over this while waiting forever to get my cell phone ^ ^

돈 = Don't .... Get it?! :)

Oh Nooo You Di'int

Intro to my class: Level 2 (out of 5) English Conversation Class, 9 students attend the University, 2 students are adults (1 we will call Dr. Smiles.. is a doctor)

Teacher (me.. hehe): Can you think of some more illnesses that are not listed in the book?

(very short 2 second lull)

Dr. Smiles: CONSTIPATION! (with a smile on his face... hence the name)

Teacher: Uhh... (takes about 0.5 seconds to think... looks at Dr. Smiles... erupts into laughter... stops... giggles...) Uhh... hmph... okaaaay... does anyone know what that means? (tilts head to the side, gives Dr. Smiles an evil glare) Oh my gosh! I can't believe you said that (giggling... thinking about writing it on the board) No! Sorry, oh my gosh, another illness, a DIFFERENT illness!

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Kimchi People

What happens in the Hanok Village.. stays in the Hanok Village... HA, right.. this aint Vegas baby!

Story time...

As a good little Jeonju-ite, I picked this past weekend to be my first official weekend in town. It's been a bit difficult to actually STAY in town on the weekends, because I now have friends in many different cities! However, I've realized that I need to make Jeonju my home, make friends here and get to know the city. So, I went to one of the major attractions in Jeonju... the Hanok Village, a traditional village that still runs and is fully functional. There are people who live here and there are many little tourist shops and cafes to hang out at. It was bloody hot on Saturday though (90 degrees+), so Chelsea and I scurried through it real quick. LUCKILY we had great entertainment.

To our amazement, there was a huge fight going on between 2Men/1Woman & a different man. Because we don't speak Korean, we have noooo idea what was really going on.. but hope to have it translated soon!

What happened right before I began filming the fight, involved everyone screaming at each other, and then the man in white picked up a medium sized kimchi pot and tried to hit the other guy in the head with it.. he failed and crashed it into the mailbox, thankfully.. that could have seriously done some damage to the guy.

(super thick ceramic, we kept a couple of pieces :) ).

The crazy part, was that when the police came.. the first police officer was smiling as he was talking to the people... they NEVER handcuffed anyone, the officer had to push the guy in blue a couple of times to keep him from assaulting the lady more, he managed to squeeze by one of the cops and push her.. AND STILL, no handcuffs. The police officers allowed everyone to keep quarreling in the middle of the village, and didn't try to get the huge crowed that had gathered to leave. It was insane, but so hilarious to watch, we just took a seat and asked everyone that made eye contact with us if they spoke English... one guy was a Chinese tourist, and he spoke amazing English.. he was so confused, because he basically began to walk directly into the fight because he didn't realize it was going on, and the man in blue started screaming at him.. but he doesn't speak Korean, so he had NO idea what was happening. We told him that Korea isn't normally like this.. then we kind of took our words back and said welll..... when soju is involved a lot of ajushis (older men) get in arguments, but they're more funny and not so serious.... he told us that he had heard that "The Kimchi People" had bad tempers.

KIMCHI PEOPLE! Ha! That was the funniest thing that Chelsea and I had heard in a long time!!

That was basically the end of the excitement, another Korean man told us that two of the people owned the auction that they were standing in front of.. so maybe the man broke something/stole something.. oh and he also said that the man punched the woman twice?! Not a clue!

Welcome home Paula :)

Radiostar - A Live Band Bar in Jeonju

Korean Rock band from Jeonju that broke into some Christmas music.. starting with Feliz Navidad ending with a Korean version of 'Santa Claus is Coming to Town'. That would be the only one I understood! (I'm guessing, they didn't know too many songs, so they had to add that in :) )

Great times though.. ear drum bleeding loud, but different from the norm!

Friday, September 16, 2011

A World Without Adoption

Can you imagine a world without adoption?

I know I would be minus a few amazing friends, many families would be 'missing' something in their hearts, and I think it would feel quite... lonely!

Think of all of the 'adopted' family you have in your life today... I know I personally have 'adopted' sisters, an 'adopted' grandmother who used to cook lunches at my old Korean Kindergarten, and the list goes on and on! I am so thankful for each and everyone of them, and I know that had life turned out differently & I somehow ended up adopted into their family, I would be loved!

Isn't that what we all want? Even if some people seem like they only want money, or things, or beauty.. they still all want LOVE!

I had a seriously mind-boggling conversation with my professors class today, which got me to thinking about all of this. I introduced the concept of a 'Cup of Conversation' today, to ensure that everyone had a chance to talk in the discussions (some are quite shy about voicing their opinion), each professor went around.. said their question, and gave their answer/explanation.

When it was one professor's turn to speak, he looked at me and said, "This is a very elementary question."

I'm thinking... uh oh... "Okay, go ahead." :::smile:::

"What makes a family, genetics or environment? :::huff of air::: A brother is genetic!"

Well, okay. How do you respond to that? "Alright, so this topic is about abortion. Is this a very popular thing in Korea?"

The general idea was that no, it wasn't popular.. but it did happen.. and when it did happen, kids were often never told that they were adopted. One of the other professor's friends had adopted a child.. he is 12 now, and she is afraid to tell him that he is adopted, especially this late on.

So we discussed the popularity of adoption in the USA, and how kids are generally told at a younger age, and often given the option of whether to meet their birth parents or not. I told them that I have friends who never plan on meeting their birth parents, and others who have met their birth parents... some whose birth parents are actually Korean, living in Korea!

The conversation just broke my heart a bit, I'm afraid to bring up other topics like .. I dunno, donating organs and environmental protection.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Your Girlfriend My Introduce

What happens when you walk down a street in Korea?

 a.) you dodge cars, mo-peds, ajumas/ajushis, bicycles and you try not to trip on the bricks
b.) lots of giggles... is he seriously wearing that? is his bike purple? did her shirt seriously say that (in English)?
c.) you smile at the people staring at you as they walk by.. and they just continue staring (cultural thing)
d.) when the occasional ajuma/ajushi smiles at you, you get all excited and bow

  E.) A man pulls his car over on the side of a 4 lane highway, gets out and starts a conversation with you. First telling you his name, asks your name, asks if you know Korean...as you say 'chokum' (a little)... he starts speaking in nothing but Korean, when you give him a blank stare and say, "Sorry, I can say Hi, Bye, and count to 4.. I don't understand". In his broken English he asks where you're from, he responds with an "OooooOooh America! You girl friend america" "Friend? Yes" "You girl friend america my introduce" "Boyfriend?" "Girl friend married" "No, I'm not married. I have friends" "You girl friend america my introduce, card-uh card-uh" I'll spare you the rest of the details.. but after about 7 minutes I managed to nicely get myself out of the situation so I could keep walking back to my school. But I took his business card and just said, "OK, work, I call you, girl friend my introduce! OK? Thank you! Nice to meet you! Bye!"

 I still have absolutely NO idea what went on. But I had a nice giggle out of it on the way back to work!!