31 August 2008

The Mother is in the Motherland

My mom arrives this evening! And, will meet up with my sister at the airport! My dongsaeng, Doogal will be here for a week, and my mom for two. It's been a year since we've all been in the same zipcode, so we are all very excited.

My mom hasn't been back to Korea for over thirty years! This was pre-Seoul Olympics, people. She's definitely in for some culture shock. Of course my mom has been following Korea's modernization thanks to all the dramas and PD specials she likes to rent. Then again, the Korea presented in dramas can be a lot more glowy and fragrant than the real thing.

I spoke to my mom the other day and she seems both excited and nervous. With the exception of her Mecca, the umma always gets a bit nervous about traveling and navigating all in English. I had to remind the umma that she's returning to the Motherland, so she can speak the Mother Tongue. She was like, "Oh, yeah. I forgot."

My mother holds this fantasy of one day returning to Korea and retiring in the countryside. I keep telling her that she should just remain in Hawaii, which is basically like Korea except with less people, less traffic, and more affordable golf rates.

My mom (thanks to all those dramas) also has the impression that all women in Korean dress-up on a daily basis. This may be true for young women in Seoul, but I told her that fashion trends are different for ajummas. Basically, there are two prominent looks favored by Seoul ajumma.

Option A: Shijang Ajumma (aka Marketplace Ajumma)
These ladies dress primarily for comfort and color. They tend to favor elastic waisted pants, sun hats, and colorfully printed blouses. This look is usually topped by a fresh pama from their favorite miyongshil.

Option B: Samonim (Wife of the CEO)
At the other end of the spectrum, you have the Korean woman who dress to impress in pastel colored suits and heels. Whether or not they have a driver, these women look as if they are driven around in a posh Samsung sedan. Instead of the tightly curled pamas favored by the Shijang Ajummas, these women go for the more relaxed perm, where the curls look like they've been blown out.

This look is the standard uniform for the as seen on TV wealthy, close-minded mother who despises her precious son's poor terminally ill girlfriend.

(Actress Geum Bo Ra source)

I advised my mom to forget what Korean women are wearing and just rock the capris and short-sleeved shirts she wears back in the Homeland. She will, of course, look more western, but that's to be expected. After all, she is an American citizen.

28 August 2008

Wonder Girls "This Time" MV

I probably seem like a big Wonder Girls fan, but I'm actually more of a JYP (the producer, not singer) fan. I think he's one of the greatest puppet masters to come out of Asia. I am especially feeling the latest video from the Girls. The song is a nice little mid-tempo ballad called "This Time." The video is part Mannequin, part The Keeanu Reeves Movie That No One Watched.

To all you "anti-fans," I'd say that the Wonder Girls are much more palatable in animation.

Let's hope that this video doesn't get taken down as quickly as that Kanye Video.

I-brow. U-nibrow?

When Cyndi first told me that she was going to get her eyebrows tattooed, I immediately thought:

I remember eyebrow tattoos being quite popular amongst the ajummas in the 90s. I also remember those tattoos being frighteningly bold, as if someoone took shoe polish and schmeared it all over their eyebrows in order to match their conspicuous mauve lip liner.

Cyndi, however, assured me that times have changed and that tattoo artists now design more natural looking eyebrows. In fact, two of her female co-workers had gotten their eyebrows done with much success.

Cyndi's eyebrows are a bit thin and she was tired of filling in her brows with makeup, so she decided to get them tattooed. I, on the other hand, have beastly eyebrows, so was not the least interested in getting my eyebrows tattooed. But I, of course, tagged along anyway to check out his handiwork.

The tattoo artist (who is also a professional makeup artist) asked that I not show his face. I thought it was because he was camera shy, but then Heng informed me that he was operating without a license. This is why I can't give you the whereabouts of his office, but I will say that he is located near Apgujung. He's apparently quite famous.

It's been over a week since Cyndi's appointment and her eyebrows look good. At first, we were all alarmed because immediately after the procedure, Cyndi's eyebrows were a very dark red. She kind of looked like a crazy woman, so she had to hide behind Heng's humongous shades. Her eyebrows remained red for about three days, but soon afterwards, the color begin to flake off. A week later, her eyebrows are very natural looking. If you look closely, you'd think that Cyndi just colored in her eyebrows with a pencil.

The tattoo artist spent a lot of time designing Cyndi's eyebrows in pencil, before he actually tattooed anything. He told her that Americans like their eyebrows on the thin side, while Korean women like their eyebrows a little fuller. (This is very true. Thinly groomed eyebrows are one of the key ways I'm able to identify a fellow gyopo.) He also told us that shorter eyebrows are in these days because it makes your face look smaller. Cyndi decided to go with the more Korean look, so her eyebrows are now fuller, yet shorter.

Cyndi says that the needle doesn't hurt at all, but you may have to go in a few times so that the tattoo artist can ensure that the ink has properly settled onto your skin. The eyebrows tattoos should last about three years are so.

Check out the behind the scenes footage, then let me know what you think of Cyndi's new eyebrows. ^^

(The video features the song "That's Not My Name" by the Ting Tings.)

Cyndi gets her eyebrows tattooed from Annalog on Vimeo.

27 August 2008

Piggy: The Inverted Cone Head

Piggy had soosool yesterday. No, not plastic surgery. She just got spayed. The vet gave her a cone to wear, but Piggy didn't really need to wear it since she hasn't been licking the stitches. I just made her wear it because it cracks me up. I know. I'm so cruel.

The doctor also gave Piggy yak in powder form. I know that Koreans prefer to take their medicine in powder form, but I didn't know that they expected their dogs to as well. Cyndi cleverly encased the powdered medicine in a slice of turkey deli meat. (That's right. I found turkey meat in Seoul!)

Speaking of spaying dogs... last week I saw the Oprah episode about puppy mills in America (I think it originally aired in the Homeland ages ago). I had naively thought that most of the puppies sold in American puppy stories were provided by professional breeders, and had even been quite judgmental about the puppy vendors in Seoul. Boy, do I still have a lot to learn.

According to the representative from the Human Society, it is estimated that almost 99% of puppies sold in American pet stores come from a puppy mill. At these mills, breeding dogs are holed up in filthy little crates and forced to produce puppies after each heat cycle. Most of these dogs' paws never even touch the ground. It's heartbreaking. I was literally bawling throughout the whole episode. You don't have to be a dog lover to feel horrified by the grossly inhumane treatment of dogs. I don't think that I could ever buy a dog from a pet store ever again. I would either adopt a dog from the pound or search for an AFC certified breeder.

You can read more about the puppy mill investigation at oprah.com or check out clips on youtube:

This episode of Oprah, dedicated to her late dog Sophie, also profiled a woman who saves dogs that are about to be put down. Through her charitable organization, the Lange Foundation, she is able to save the dogs that most people would not think to adopt -- the blind ones, the old ones, the ones with missing limbs.

The other guests on the show, a Humane Society representative and vet also emphasized that the overcrowding of animal shelters, and consequently, the large number of animals put to sleep DAILY, could be significantly reduced if people would just spay or neuter their cats and dogs. Spay or neuter your dogs, people!

Do LPGA golfers need to go to hagwon?

The LPGA recently announced that all member golfers must pass an English proficiency exam or face suspension. Yes, I think they're talking to you, Korean lady golfers. People are definitely going to spin this as a means to trim down on some of the Korean LPGA golfers, though it sounds like the LPGA has legitimate concerns about the ability of non-native English speakers to fulfill their professional responsibilities. I bet my mom and eemo are happy about the new policy. They're always bemoaning the behavior and appearance of Korean players on the green. "Those women can't even speak English," they'd comment in Korean. Mom 'n' eemo especially dislike this one woman (I forget her name)who wears "loud" colors, tight shorts, and gaudy earrings (They're not talking about Michelle Wie). I think our mothers are also extra critical because the woman is a plus size. Unfortunately, Korean moms don't appreciate any healthy chunkiness.

Other than the fact that the LPGA is the girl version of the PGA, I don't really know anything about the LPGA (or golf in general), so I have no intelligent thoughts on this new rule. I'm not sure what level of proficiency is expected, but I would imagine that it is appropriate to expect English proficiency amongst members.

Maybe some of these golf ladies need to spend the off-season (does golf have an off-season?) attending hagwon.

26 August 2008

친구 Time

A couple weekends ago June, Taehee, Cyndi, and I cam-hyoried it up in Jeongja-dong. I've been reading a lot of What I Wore Today blogs, so I tried to pose the gals like those fashionista sel-ca pros. I don't know what I was thinking. I can't even pose myself. I certainly had no business trying to direct others.

Anyhoo, I compiled all of the photos in a little video montage, because it just takes too long to upload all the files. Yes, you read me correct. I think it's much easier (and more fun) to edit a video than upload photos.

We also met up with Sojuhee last weekend. I was looking forward to watching Cyndi and Sojuhee thrown down a couple of bottles of the Motherland's Milk, but we only drank juice and coffee because... Sojuhee's got a bbang in the oven! Congratulations Sojuee and Mr. Sojuhee!

Sojuhee might come visit us once we return to the Bay. We hope so!

Good Morning. Woo-ooo-ooo-oo.

I'm liking Kanye's new video for "Good Morning" directed by Takashi Murakami. I just love that little bear. I almost want to buy one of those Glow in the Dark Tour t-shirts in Myeondong. Hmm...That's funny. I don't remember Kanye performing in Seoul...

Cyndi: Maybe you should be Dropout Bear for Halloween!

How old AM I?

I just celebrated another birthday. Boy, does time fly. I can't believe I've already celebrated two birthdays in the Motherland!

Whenever people ask me how old I am, I always have to pause before I respond. It's not because I'm trying to conceal my age or anything. I just need a moment to remember. I know this makes me sound like an idiot, but sometimes I forget how old I am.

When I first arrived in the Motherland, I'd present my age according to the American calendar. Since then, I tell people my age according to the Korean counting system. In the Motherland, they count the time you spent in your umma's womb and round up, meaning you're one when you're born. Then, at the turn of the lunar new year, they add on another year. This means that when I was 25 in the Homeland, I was considered 27 in the Motherland. Now, I am 26 in the Homeland, but am still 27 and will be 28 after the new year. I think. I'm not sure. It's all so confusing!

In any case, I've passed the mid-twenties. Yikes!

Koreans will inevitably ask for your age because a) they want to figure out if you're date-able b) they need to know if you're their senior and thus, speak to you using formal terms. Rather than fast forwarding your age a year or two, it's best to just say the year of your birth. Koreans, after all, are good at math :)

I had to work on my birthday, but I didn't mind (especially since we had a really nice cake from Passion 5 Bakery). Also, as a late August baby, I'm used to starting school on my birthday. The girls in my class wrote me a little note, while the boys ignored the white board as if they could not believe that their teacher had an actual birthday, and was not in fact a escapee from the gates of hell.

I know that they ignore me because they secretly love me. ㅋㅋㅋ.

25 August 2008

Traditional Kayo?

Piliksu was back in town on business, so we met up with him in Seoul this weekend. Our cousin had recommended that we check out Korea House in Chungmuro. If I remember the brochure correctly, Korea House is a former residence that has been transformed into a popular tourist destination that allows visitors to view traditional Korean architecture, arts, and cuisine.

Korea House offers both a buffet and sit-down sampling of royal cuisine.
Most visitors opt for the dinner and show package, but after seeing that dinner costs between 80,000-100,000 won, we decided to just check out the show. The show is 35,000 won regardless if you purchase dinner or not.

The show features an array of traditional musical and dance performances, pre-Inki Kayo.
Unfortunately, I don't have any photos or video of the show. The reason being... I fell asleep.

I'm going to be honest. I just straight up disrespected the culture of the Motherland, and slept through nearly half of the show. In my defense, I had been up since 6:30 AM. Also, the music was just... not my cup of bori-cha. You know what I'm saying?

All of the dances were accompanied by a traditional Korean "orchestra" which consisted of various percussion, string, and horn instruments. One horn in particular sounded like a snake charmer's pipe, only sharper. I think this horn may have contributed to my compulsion to nap.

I was able to catch the second half of the show, but a part of me kind of wishes that I carried on with my nap...

I was actually awakened by the fluttering of the Korean fan dancers. It was all very glamorous; almost like a Las Vegas show, but with more clothes. This dance was probably my favorite performance.

I also saw a disturbing traditional mask dance about a farmer who first stalks then wins over a village maiden. Then, this fancy nobleman comes along and woos the woman away from the humble farmer. The nobleman manages to win the woman with the clink of his gold coins. The farmer runs off stage, allowing the nobleman to get the woman with child. After giving birth, the woman runs away with shame (or terror, I'm not sure), leaving the man with the baby. The man proudly holds up the baby to the audience (a replica of himself), all "Circle of Life" style. I think I may have grossly misunderstood the tale. At least, I hope so.

The skit was followed by a somber funeral dance involving a scarf, which reminded me of the time I went with my college roomie to midnight mass and this woman in a hanbok performed a "traditional Korean dance." She basically pranced around the altar with a blue scarf. I kept thinking she was going to singe her hanbok on one of the candles. At the end of the performance my roommate looked over to me and was all, "Uh, is that really a traditional Korean dance?" I quickly replied, "Heck no. That ain't Korean." After watching the funeral dance I now realize that the woman's dance was in fact Korean. Oops. My bad.

I was really looking forward to the percussion performances, but was a little disappointed. I think the musicians were picked more for their tiny waists and bright smiles than their percussive talents. I've seen Korean drum performances before, so I was expecting much more excitement.

The show at Korea House is valuable in that it allows you to see a variety of traditional Korean dances and instruments in one sitting, but I suspect that these performances are more Disneyland than Carnegie Hall.

22 August 2008

Ginormous Bowl of Kal Guk Su in Chungmuro

After picking up our delightful new business cards (I would post a picture, but that's too much personal info), Emi, Emi's mom, and I stopped for some handmade kal guk su in Chungmuro. I'm afraid that I don't know the exact location, but it's on the strip with all the printing places.

We ordered two servings and were given a wash basin full of noodles. The bowl was ginormous, but we managed to finish most of it. I do indeed come from a line of champion eaters.

w-store in Apgujung

Thanks to sheer brute strength and the aid of our shopping kuruma, Cyndi and I managed to move all of our junk in just two days. Now I can resume blogging about the mundane moments of life. Yippee!

While in Apgujung, we happened upon w-store, a new cosmetics drug-store type (because they don't sell any drugs) shop, similar to Watsons and Olive Young. The logo makes it look like a cellphone store, but step in and you'll find a dazzling supply of Korean and foreign import beauty goods.

I was tempted to buy a lot of prettily packaged lotions, toners, and creams that I would not know what to do with, but I held back and just picked up a few items that I needed. Yes, I am using the word "need" very loosely.

Item 1:
I decided to try out the L'Oreal Elseve Anti-breakage Nutrigloss Conditioner (Dang, that's a mouthful). It seems to be similar to the L'Oreal Vive Pro conditioner I used back home, only it's called "L'Oreal Elseve." Based on all the Japanese on the bottle, I'm assuming that this is the Asian version of L'Oreal Vive Pro.

Item 2: I bought an adorable contact lens tray that I had first seen at the eye doctor (Honestly, pun was not intentional). I like it because the "R" and "L" label are clearly marked, and the tray comes with a pair of tweezers in case I ever wanted to be hygienic. I was hoping for the extra large lens tray, about the size of a Nintendo DS, but I think it's only available for eye care professionals. The tray is made by a Korean company named MioTTiCa.

Item 3: W-store also had a bin of sample-size fragrances that were around 6900 - 9900 won. I don't think they are authorized to sell samples, but I picked up a couple of mini bottle for my sister and I because I thought it'd be convenient for traveling. I chose Anna Sui's "Magic Romance" and "Flight of Fancy."

In appreciation of my purchase, the store staff gave me a box of cotton pads, two sanitary napkins, and a full size bottle of Coogi Coral Water cleansing foam. Not sure if such generosity is customary or just part of their grand opening promotion. Probably the latter.

20 August 2008

Only Seoul Women Would Wear High Heels on a Freeway

Today, I saw the most alarming sight on the freeway. The bus had just turned onto the express lane, when I was startled by the bus' blaring horn. I instinctively turned to the right, towards the driver's window. I was surprised to see a young woman on the shoulder of the freeway! She was dressed in a yellow blouse, black dress pants, and of course, high heels. It's strange enough to see a person walking along the shoulder of a freeway, but it was especially startling to see an office lady strolling like she was in Apgu.

She turned at the sound of the bus horn, but she seemed unfazed as the bus sped past her. She looked as if she strolled the freeway all the time. Scary.

I didn't see any sign of her car, so I can't imagine where the woman was going. First of all, she was on the inner shoulder, right between the freeway divider and the bus express lane. If she wanted to exit the freeway, she'd have to do some serious Frogger moves and dash across four lanes of traffic.

She may have been hitchhiking, but in my opinion, she had picked a terrible spot for hitching ride. Perhaps she had gotten into a major fight with her boyfriend and had made good on her threat to jump out of the car RIGHT THIS INSTANT. If that's the case, you picked the wrong place to make a point, lady.

Whatever the case may be, I hope she got to her destination safely.

On an unrelated note, I probably won't be posting for a couple of days. Since our lease is up, we have to move to another officetel. That means we have to haul a year's worth of crapola to the other officetel. I'm not complaining though. Free rent is free rent.

I just wish that I had a better way to transport all our stuff than the death traps they call elevators. In general, I've noticed that Korean elevators have very poor sensors, our building especially. You don't know how many times my arm/shoulder/leg has been smushed by the jaws of the elevator. My biggest fear is that Piggy will get slammed between the elevator doors.

In addition to Wi-Max, perhaps Korean engineers should also work on elevator sensors.

18 August 2008

A Home in the Homeland!

We've pretty much secured a new place of residence, so I guess it's official. Prepare the fireworks and the welcome home parade, because Cyndi and Annalog are heading back to the Homeland!

Cue The Stars and Stripes Forever.

It was quite stressful trying to find an apartment from abroad. Cyndi scoured Craigslist like it was her job, but to our dismay, we either found apartments that were way out of our price range or apartments priced suspiciously low. Come on now. A two bedroom house in downtown Mountain View for $900? I don't think so.

I forgot how hard it was to find housing in the South Bay without a Silicon Valley paycheck. It's a good thing I got my favorite cousin to help me split the bills :)

Just when we had resigned ourselves to settling for a one bedroom with an extra large dining area, our superhero J.W. secured us the apartment right across from her! Yay! We're going to be neighbors. I can already see the shenanigans. Maybe we can play a game of trivia, and swap apartments :)

So what is the plan for this next chapter of life? I'm going to open up my own hagwon...just kidding. Cyndi's going to resume working for the American branch of her current employer, while I'm going to be unemployed. I'm serious. As I reassure my mom every time I speak with her, I'm going to spend the bulk of the fall working on a few personal projects that will ultimately help my application to a doctorate program. (That sounds much better than "blogging and torturing Piggy," right?). Then, I will return to the Motherland in the Winter to teach, and of course, make loads of money. The plan is to spend the next year floating between the Motherland and the Homeland. Thank you F4 visa!

I can't believe that nearly a year as gone by. I guess this means you'll be seeing a lot more retrospective posts. It's going to be like VH1 during an "I Love the 90s" marathon. Stay tuned...

17 August 2008

French Type Bakeries

According to one of my cousins, Paris Baguette, Paris Croissant, and Passion 5 Bakery were all founded by the same family. In fact, the family even bought their own flour mill, because, you know, they're rolling in dough. (I'm really sorry, but the pun had to be made.)

I recently bought a half-sandwich from Paris Baguette (ham and fried egg, of course), and noticed that the plastic wrapping said "Paris Croissant." It also had the following blurb:

The Best French Type Bakery paris croissant concept is based on a range of high quality french pastry goods always fresh and prepared in full view of the customer.

Here's blurry photographic proof. I regret not getting a shot of the sandwich, but I was kind of famished.

First of all, "French Type Bakery" is an excellent term for these Korean bakeries. Their goods aren't exactly French in nature, but they are certainly "French Type." I must, however, disagree with the bit about how "goods [are] always fresh and prepared in full view of the customer." I've been to the U.N. Village Paris Croissant a number of times, and even though their counter top is a little too high for me to see over, I'm pretty sure that they're not preparing the pastries in full view of the customer.

Please do be careful of your use of "always."

I am 파인.

In my opinion, Konglish goes both ways. Just as Koreans for many decades have adopted English words as their own unique means of expression, gyopos around the world have integrated Korean terms into their daily expressions.

Though we primarily speak to each other in English, Cyndi and I, for example, are prone to use certain Korean terms because it just rolls of the tongue more easily.

Here are some of our favorite Korean words, most of which do not have an exact English counterpart. I should note that our usage of these words may slightly depart from the dictionary definition. That's why I think of them as Konglish.

naesoong (내숭 )
Approx. meaning: To be coy
Example usage:
Salary Man: Sshindi, one shot!
-Cyndi takes a small sip from her soju glass-
Annalog: Cyndi is being so naesoong right now. She drinks a whole bottle of soju for breakfast.

bbijyeo (삐져 )
Approx. meaning: To be ticked off; miffed.
Example usage:
(1)Piggy is bbijyeo because you're sleeping on her pillow.
(2) The ajusshi had to skip sam-cha, before his wife gets bbijyeo.

byeollo (별로 )
Approx. meaning: shoddy; unimpressive; it sucks.
Example usage:
(1)Dang, that restaurant is so byeollo. I can't believe they charge man-won for that abomination they call "steak."
(2)Annalog: Cyndi, what did you think of that guy?
Cyndi: Byeoll0...

daechoong (대충)
Approx. meaning: to do roughly/approximately; half-arsed.
Example usage:
(1)Cyndi: The recipe calls for 50 grams of butter. How much is that?
Annalog: I don't know... Just daechoong it.
(2) I made Cyndi some miyeok-gook for her birthday, but I just made it daechoong. I just used dashida and water.

(Neither Cyndi nor I really use this term, but I like the sound of it.)
jjajoongna! (짜증나!)
Approx. meaning: to be mad irritated.
Example usage:
(1)Blech. That ajusshi... Jinjja jjajoogna.

It's really easy to make fun of the Engrish on Korean t-shirts or stationery, but I'm sure that if native speakers heard our usage of Korean terms, they'd have a laugh as well.

Even though their usage of English may sound hilarious to my ears, Koreans at least have a sense of humor about their Engrish.

See. Check out this pineapple ice bar. It's called the "I'm Pine" bar. It's a Konglish pun! I'm not sure if the makers of this confection were being ironic (especially given their default recitation of "I'm fine. How are you?") , but I like to think so.

The bar has a creamy strawberry exterior and an icy pineapple flavored interior. It's not as tasty as it sounds, but it's only 700won.

16 August 2008

Forever 21 Coming Soon to Seoul

A few weeks back, I noticed that they're constructing a Forever 21 shop in Myeongdong, which seems odd to me, because I tend to think of Seoul as one large Forever 21 store.

I know that their products are manufactured in Korea, but has Forever 21 grown so much that they're now considered "name brand"? I'm kind of skeptical about its potential for success since I can find Forever 21 type clothes for half the price all over Myeongdong, Kangnam, and Edae. I even remember buying a dress for man-won two summers ago in Edae, only to find the dress at Forever 21 for $30.

Just this week, we were looking around the underground shopping area at 고속터미널 when I spotted these earring for 1000 won a piece.

Cyndi and I will be sure to check out the Myeondong Forever 21 before we head back to the Homeland. If the Myeongdong Forever 21 isn't open yet, I'm sure it will open soon. Shops are built at lightning speed in Korea.

Goodbye, Laser Nazi.

I went in for my final laser hair removal treatment (five out of five). I have to say that the 120,000 won was well worth the pain. There is still a bit of hair growth, but I can probably get by without shaving my under arms for close to a month.

Just to recap, the first time around, the laser treatment was excruciating. I felt like James Bond in Casino Royale when he gets WHACKED! in the family jewels. Okay, kind of different, but my level of pain comes pretty close. The second time around the treatment was virtually pain free. The third time around, on the other hand, hurt like a witch (mostly because I wasn't expecting the pain). The fourth treatment was mildly painful, but bearable. This last treatment had a few tolerable moments of discomfort, but overall like a walk in the park.

Given that today was my last treatment, I thought the staff would send me off with a congratulatory "You did it, girl! Hope you enjoy your bare under arms. Have a nice life." Of course, the laser lady was as sour-faced as usual.

I had hoped to get the "doctor" (i.e., the guy in the white lab coat) because he seems more thorough. Unfortunately, I got my regular laser person, Lady with a Stick-Up-Her-Butt. You'd think that I'd be used to her surly demeanor by now, but I am petty and obsessive, so I refuse to let her stank attitude go over me without a good ol' blog rant.

Cyndi has also been on the receiving end of the staff's generally stinky attitude, so I had marked the lady as the Soup Nazi of laser hair removal. BUT THEN, as she was coating my under arms with the cold gel, I heard her say to the customer next to me in a surprisingly cheery voice, "Anyeonghaseyo?" Then, in a chit chatty tone she inquired about the little bump on the girl's nose. She even told the girl "Jal kaseyo." What the Frankenberries!?! I've been to the clinic five times, and she had yet to say anything more than "Lay down", "Arms up", and "The cream is cold."

Call me overly sensitive, but after the laser lady lasered my arms, without a word, she disappeared to the back room, and left the assistant to clean up my arms. When she was done, she didn't even say goodbye or an obligatory "Thanks for coming." I, in turn, left without a single kamsahamnida. I didn't even say goodbye to the desk lady. Yeah, that'll show them. I'm sure my chilly slight was felt by all at the Kangnam One Clinic.

To be honest, other than whimpering like a chump during the first treatment, I'm not sure what I did to rouse the grumpety grumpiness of the laser staff. Perhaps they've read my blog. If that's the case, all I have to say is, "Shame on you, Laser Lady. Shame on you."

14 August 2008

Please don't punch the bus driver.

Now I know why bus drivers these days need those little protective enclosures.

Today, the man seated directly behind me got up from his seat and said loudly to the bus driver, "Ajusshi, is this bus going to Woosung Apartments?"

Uh oh, I think to myself, does he mean Woosung Apartments in Kagnam? We are heading on the freeway towards Bundang. Wrong way, dude.

The driver says over his shoulder, "You mean Woosung Apartments in Bundang or Kangnam?"

Uh oh...

The ajusshi behind me steps away from his seat and stomps towards the driver. "What do you mean!?!" He shouts. "I asked you TWO times already! You said this bus goes to Woosung Apartments!"

(TIP: When confronting a Korean, always take a defensive tone. Regardless if you're right or wrong.)

The driver says sharply , "When you said 'Woosung Apartments' I thought you meant the one in Bundang. How was I supposed to know you meant Kangnam?"

The ajusshi becomes even more irate and starts to encroach into the driver's personal space.
Then, he starts railing on the driver for giving him the wrong information. Of course the driver is all, dude it's not my fault. This repetitive exchange continues on for at least another twenty seconds, only with each iteration, their voices grow louder. (My ears are still ringing.)

Meanwhile, I (precariously seated directly behind the driver) begin to sink into my seat. It appears that the ajusshi is going to punch the driver at any moment. I selfishly think, please, God, don't let my last moment on earth be spent in a Bundang Express bus during rush hour traffic.

Both the raging passenger and driver continue bellowing, typical ajusshi style. Suddenly, their roars are interrupted by amused laughter. The ajumma to my left says in a sweet voice, "Ajusshi, the front of the bus clearly says Bundang."

Oh snap.

The ajusshi abruptly turns around and starts directing his fire at the audacious ajumma. "How was I supposed to know? I'm not familiar with this bus system." Yada yada yada.

The woman says with great politeness, "Ajusshi, why are you getting mad at me?"

(That ajumma is so my hero. There are so many times I wish I had the cojones (so to speak) to say to a rampaging ajusshi, "Why are you getting mad at moi?")

The ajusshi simply ignores her comment and goes back to yelling into my ear, I mean, yelling at the driver.

After a few more seconds of futile rage, the passenger settles in his seat and resigns himself to muttering behind my back.

Eventually, as we began to near Imae-chon, the ajusshi says to the driver in a pouty, yet polite voice, "How long would it take for me to get back to Kangnam?"

The driver replies in kind, with a reluctantly polite tone.

It was like listening to two little chastened boys converse after a big row on the playground.

Not sure if the bus driver misinformed him or not, but I honestly felt for the ajusshi. It seriously sucks to realize you're on the wrong bus when you're half way to Bundang. I've been there, man.

I just wish he hadn't been so belligerent. Can't a girl just listen to some Justin Nozuka in peace?

13 August 2008

May I Cut Your Belt?

Both Cyndi and I have become moderately obsessed with belts, especially the wide ones with the elastic band that cinches your waist like nobody's business. We just picked up a few at Migliore in Dongdaemun a couple of weeks ago.

I have to pat myself on the back because I bargained the belts down to 3 for 30,000 won. He had told us the belts were 13,000-14,000 won a piece, so I'm quite proud of my growing bargaining skills. (I know. I know. They're probably $5 on eBay. Please don't burst my bubble.)

I've been wanting a skinny belt for awhile now, but since I like to wear my belt high up (a little below the boobage area), belts have proven to be too long. To my surprise, the ajusshi offered to the belt for me. Basically, he takes off the buckle; chops off a few inches; then nails the buckle back on. I think he only does this for the cheapy belts, but the service is free.

If you too are interested in shorter belts, I suggest stopping by his belt stall. He's on the third floor of Migliore, immediately to the right of the escalator.

By the way, you're probably asking yourself, "What's the deal with the mannequin?" We plan to sell some children's clothes on eBay. We got the whole shebang for 20,000 won in Namdaemun.

11 August 2008

Have a Nice Day in Seoul.

Some people reading my blog may have found me through the big ol' Korea Blog List. I remember when I added my blog to the list back in '07, I had a momentary bit of an identity crisis. Very brief. Nothing world shattering.

When you submit your blog the Korea Blog List has you list your blog under one of four categories:
Foreigners In Korea
Koreans In Korea
Koreans Outside Korea
Foreigners Outside Korea

Since I had intended my blog to chronicle my year in the Motherland, the "In Korea" part was easy. The big question though was am I a "Foreigner" or a "Korean"? There are definitely moments when everything feels all too familiar in the Motherland, and I'd easily check the "Korean in Korea" box. But, more times than not, I am aware (or made aware) of the fact that I am indeed a foreigner in Korea. I suspect that a lot of gyopos and Korean adoptees must be asking themselves the same question. Am I a foreigner or a Korean?

With great foresight, I knew that I would be more Foreinger than Korean while in Korea, so I identified myself as a "Foreigner in Korea." In the Homeland, I would not hesitate to categorize myself as Korean, but in the Motherland, I always feel like I'm an impostor when I say that I am Korean. I prefer to say that I'm a gyopo or... Japanese-Canadian.

Anyhow, my main reason for posting was to point out a blog that I just discovered while recently perusing the newest (new to me) batch of Korean Blogs. After watching the Park Tae Hwan 400m race for the umpteenth time in two days (It's starting to feel like Groundhog's Day), I hesitate to watch any more of the Olympics as presented by the Korean broadcasting community. Instead, I've taken to reading the Olympic highlights at A Nice Day in Seoul. I think what got me hooked what his Jang Mi-Ran Watch.

This picture alone brightens my day.

BBQ Samgyupsal. It's as good as it sounds.

If Koreans and Texans combined their superior grilling powers, they'd probably get something akin to the BBQ samgyupsal at 옛골토성 in Yul-dong (about a 10 minute drive from Seoheyon).
BBQ samgyupsal is basically thick slabs of smoked pork flesh. It was mighty tasty, especially when you wrap it in some white kimchi (baek kimchi). Cyndi likens the flavor of the BBQ samgyupsal to bo-ssam. Heng and I concur.

(Correction: It doesn't really tastes like bo-ssam. It just looks like it.)

The samgyupsal has already been grilled, but you'll want warm it up on the metal grill to release all the yummy heart attack juice from within the fatty flesh.

We also had a platter of ribs, which basically tastes like ribs back home, only without all that excessive BBQ sauce.

Despite how yeolshimhae Cyndi looks, she's not a fan of BBQ samgyupsal. She prefers Classic Samgyupsal.

I, on the other had, am a big fan.

By the way, do you like the sharpness of these photos? I used Heng's new Sony A300 DSLR camera. I'm so jealous. I want a DSLR...

I know. I watch too much terebi.

Since , September 2007, I had been wanting to watch the CBS reality show, Kid Nation. To my surprise, after watching a rerun of 우리 결혼했어요, Kid Nation premiered on the MBCevery1 channel. Unfortunately, it airs on Sundays at 12:15 AM, but I'm still going to make an effort to watch the program. Say what you will about exploiting children or annoyingly precocious TV kids, but I enjoyed the first episode. The young participants are completely endearing with their earnestness and forthright personalities. The show captures why I enjoy working with children. They may be bouncing off the walls at times, but they usually have something interesting to say.

Speaking of American TV, I'm increasingly seeing more and more programming from the Homeland. A year ago, I basically stuck to the OnStyle network for my American TV fix (i.e., ANTM and Project Runway), but now I'm finding American shows all over the cable networks. Midu (Miguk Dramas) like Prison Break, 24, Law & Order SVU, and CSI, have been popular for awhile. More recently though, I'm seeing a range of sitcoms, dramas, and reality programming that I had not expected to find in the Motherland (e.g., I Love New York, Sunset Tan, and Dexter).

I'm especially excited that some of my favorite shows (which I had been following online) have made it to the Motherland (albeit a month or season behind): 30 Rock, Brothers and Sisters, Samantha Who?, and How I Met Your Mother. Speaking of HIMYM, in the Motherland, it's called "I Love Friends." I'm not sure if the name change is an intentional allusion to the once mega-popular NBC sitcom, but the new name bugs me. The HIMYM moniker is central to the premise of the show. I suppose the name is a bit of a mouthful. It would have been really funny if they just referred to the show as "Your Mother." HIMYM and 30 Rock air on FOXLife. Brothers & Sisters and Samantha Who? may be found on StoryOn.

In addition to re-watching some of my faves, I've also discovered shows that I never thought to watch back in the Homeland, more specifically, House, Bones, Ghost Whisperer, and Two and a Half Men (Oh, yes, I did.)

I probably shouldn't watch so much American TV if I really want to improve my Korean, but Korean TV shows are just not the same. The variety programming is fun, but sometimes overstimulating. The Korean dramas can be engrossing, but require a huge investment of time, energy, and emotion. As for the gag shows...no thank you.

10 August 2008

Get your skinny jeans on..It's time to Tecktonik!

The Parisian dance phenomenon known as Tecktonik has made its way to Korea. From fashion trends (skinny jeans, day-glo t-shirts, and Reebok high tops) to k-pop, you'll see that Tecktonic's neon bright influence has quickly pervaded the Motherland. Though the Tecktonik trend has been around for awhile now, Heng, Cyndi, and I have only recently become enamored.

The dance style may seem quite goofy at first glance, but the more you watch it, the more enthralling it becomes. Also, once you actually try the moves, you'll find that the dance is more challenging that you thought. Or, maybe that's just me and my two left feet.

Everyone's getting in on the Tecktonic craze...

Model/Actress Go Ara (Etude House)

Korean guy at Coscto (I like the nonchalant reactions of the other shoppers.)


So, what are you waiting for? It's time to hit youtube, and start practicing!
"Vomit; vomit. Eat it; eat it."

Buddha's Belly in Itaewon


Our fabulous cousin (shout out to S.H. Unnie) took us to dinner at Buddha's Belly in Itaewon to celebrate Cyndi's ----------th birthday. Buddha's Belly is classified as a Thai restaurant. The dishes we had were different from any Thai food I've had previously, but it was certainly tasty. The dishes at Buddha's Belly are moderately priced, and the restaurant has a nice lounge vibe. Also, how cute is the name of the restaurant? Overall, I'd say that Buddha's Belly is worth a second visit.

If you are interested in checking out Buddha's Belly for yourself, it's to the left of the Hamilton Hotel, sort of behind the KFC. Please note that Buddha's Belly is on the 2nd floor.

"우리 Park Tae Hwan!"

We just watched Park Tae Hwan win a gold in the 400m freestyle race, and I think our TV was about to explode. I usually tune out the commentators, but I couldn't help but notice the incessant shouting of "Uri (our) Tae Hwan!" I completely understand how it's easy to get excited over S. Korea's Olympic poster child and his washboard abs, but let's recognize the other international talent in the swimming pool. As Cyndi points out, after Park Tae Hwan won the race, the KBS commentators then went on and on about how small and young Park Tae Hwan is compared to his competitors. If fact, the women swimmers are competing as I write this, but the commentators are still speaking about Park Tae Hwan.

Oh, Motherland.
Yes, we know. "We" are an underdog. Aja. Aja. Hwaiting.

Watching the Olympics in the Motherland is quite a contrast to watching the games in the Homeland. The Motherland is noticeably Motherland-centric.

Last night at dinner, my cousin S.H. pointed out that during the opening ceremony, when an African country appeared the commentators noted how AIDS was prevalent in that particular country. Oh, Motherland.

I understand that given its history, the Motherland feels compelled to revel in small triumphs, but if it truly wants to be a player on the global stage, it needs to examine its prejudices and act with confidence, not bravado.

This is ridiculous. In a span of 10 minutes, I've seen the Park Tae Hwan 400m race (in its entirety), three times over.

Oh, Motherland.

09 August 2008

Watching the Beijing Olympics in Korea

You can catch the events live.

You only see the events where Korean athletes have a chance at earning a medal. (I guess this is a plus if you like tae kwon do, fencing, archery, or Park Tae Hwan.)

I suppose that in this day and age, people don't really have to sit at home and watch (or tape) their favorite events. That's why the internet was created.

I usually look forward to women's gymnastics and the opening ceremony. Sounds like the Americans don't really have a shot at garnering an all-around medal, so I'm not really missing out this year. I did catch 30% of the the epic opening ceremony last night, but mostly because I wanted to check out Ralph Lauren's designs. ( The U.S. athletes did look pretty smart.) The opening ceremony extravaganza was way too long for me to watch all the way through, but what I did catch was beautiful, yet a little mystifying. I also like to watch the procession of countries because it's a good way to learn about countries I never knew existed. (That's right Brunei Darussalam. I see you.) Also, did you notice how instead of their standard flag, Taiwan carried a modified version of the Beijing Olympics flag? And, when Hong Kong entered the arena, the announcer shouted with great emphasis, "Hong Kong China!" It's easy to momentarily forget about all the political tension surrounding China when you look into the smiling faces of the adorable little Fuwa.

Since my family doesn't like it when I write a long post with no pictures, I'll leave you with a triumphant photo of my Olympian Mii.

The big question is: who will I root for when/if the Motherland or Homeland come head to head in an event? Let's just say, I'm rooting for the winner. ㅋㅋㅋ

08 August 2008

From the crayon of babes

I should really work on my lesson plans, but I'm easily distracted...I found about the Wonderland project via Prêt à Voyager , where Korean artist Yeondoo Jung translates children's drawings into photography.

Happy Birthday Cyndi!

Today, Cyndi turns kkkkkkkkkkkkkkuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhh. Sorry bad connection.
This year her birthday is on 08-08-08. This should be a lucky year.

Dark Knight

We finally say Dark Knight, and boy, was it good. It literally had me on the edge of my seat. Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker totally lived up to the posthumous hype. Strangely though, his interpretation of the Joker reminded me of what I imagine is George Clooney on drugs. My only complaint (aside from Christian Bale's Batman voice) is Maggie Gyllenhaal as Rachel Dawes. I like Maggie Gyllenhaal as an actress, but I thought she played Rachel with a little too much moxy. I preferd Katie Holmes and her wide-eyed self-righteousness.

Also, is it just me or the did the movie feel really long? I felt like Dark Knight was five movies in one. Don't get me wrong. It was five exciting mini movies, but I kept thinking to myself, "It's not over yet?"

I definitely recommend seeing Dark Knight on the big screen. The action sequences, the intense drama, and Christian Bale are all deserving of the movie ticket price.

While at the movie theaters, to my great excitement, I noticed that Hana Yori Dango Final will hit Korean theaters this month. I'm tempted to watch it, but that means I'll have to read the subtitles in Korean! I've tried reading subtitles while watching various TV programs, so it's possible, but very challenging. I might just have to wait until it hits mysoju.com or crunchyroll.com.

07 August 2008

I think I need a notebook to take note of all my notebooks.

I like to think that I'm frugal, but then I look back at my blog and I realize that I spend a lot of money on frivolous things. The truth is I'm quite the spendthrift when it comes to food and stationery.

Korean stationery is just incomparable. It's inexpensive, yet extremely cute; so cute that I'm willing to ignore befuddling Engrish phrases like "I'll say my name to you this morning, certainly" or "Stay with me like now, leaning on each other, feeling irresistible happiness."

I especially like Korean notebooks. Kyobo has all sorts of notebooks and diaries to help you hypothetically organize your life or memories. I really dig the notebooks with grid-lines. (I think this is because I secretly want to be an engineer, despite my disinterest in physics.)

Notebooks to write music, create a story board; write about how much you miss your mom.

This one helps you track your weight loss progress.

I actually bought this cash book to help me keep track of my spending. Yeah, that's working out well...

My teaching gig only increases my compulsion to buy more stationery. These are the notebooks and planners that I'm currently using. I really like the planners by MMMG. I've been using the green one (PLANNER.M) because it has a lot of room to jot down notes from my various classes, but I plan on switching over to the red "Draw Your Tomorrow" planner so that I can take down even more thorough notes. I also have multiple notebooks for lesson planning, story writing, Korean class, and random ideas. I know it's more efficient to consolidate my notes, but I'll take any reason to buy more notebooks.

I also wanted to point out my favorite pens. I am currently obsessed with the Zebra Espina Pearly Rubber ballpoint pens. The "pearly rubber" grip is very comfortable and is perfect for my freakishly small fingers.

I also like these fine point marker pens by Monami. I've been trying to grade in green or purple because my students say that my comments seem much harsher in red. The pens are very cheap (500 won?), so I'll probably stock up on them before I head back to the Homeland.

I recently purchased these "Funny School" stamps with a few useful Korean phrases. I think I'll save the "Power Up" stamp for the students that bomb their vocab quizzes.

I didn't buy this label maker, but I was very tempted. It prints labels in Korean, English, Japanese, and a few Chinese characters. I already have a label maker, so I don't need this one. I just like to admire it from afar. Clearly I am a geek. :)

For those of you who don't have the good fortune to live near a Kyobo bookstore, come along with Cyndi and me, as we take you through our neighborhood store.

05 August 2008

Introducing Cyndi & Annalog, Asia's Hottest New Pop Stars

Our pop albums are ON SALE NOW!

Just kidding.

We just received our glamour shots from Taiwan. At first we were 신났어. I mean, what girl doesn't want to have some professionally photo-shopped portraits of herself? But, then we started to feel a little embarrassed. I mean, what girl wants an album full of unnaturally photo-shopped portraits of herself?

Regardless of our mixed reactions, we were still curious to see the photos. We purchased the smallest package available, which came with a 4" x 6" photo album, a large 8.5" X 11" portrait, a CD filled with the jpeg files of the photos featured in the album, and a small double-sided key chain.

Guess what my family's getting for Christmas...

Here's what we each got:

Meet Cyndi-san, the newest singer to hit the J-Pop scene.

Meet Annielog, Cantonese Pop Star Wannabe.

You take a bunch of photos during the shoot, but you only end up with twelve in the album. Usually, you get to pick your photos, but due to scheduling constraints we had to let each of our photographers select the photos. I SO wish we could have had a final say because there are definitely some cheesy photos. Oh well. C'est la vie.

Against my better judgment, I am going to post a few photos. Otherwise, why take glammed up photos if you're not going to show anyone, right? After I show my family and friends, I'm going to store the album and not look at it until I am old and wrinkly.

Before we proceed, let me warn you that all of these photos have been generously photo-shopped. (I'm glad that they whitened my teeth, but did they really need to reshape my nose?) They seem to do a lot of editing around the face area, but they didn't really touch up the rest of the body, which is a shame. We really would have appreciated longer torsos and legs or toned arms.

By the way, I better not find any of these photos in some Asian mail order bride catalogue...or worse.

Without further ado...



A note about the first picture: I'm surprised that the photographer put this photo in my album. Throughout the whole photo shoot, he kept telling me to stick my tongue out in that cutesy way. Every time I tried this, we both ended up in a fit of laughter because it looked like I was having a seizure. I guess after twenty tries or so, I managed to get the pose right.

Sticky Pics + Kaohsiung Wrap-Up

This first pic is dedicated to JS Unnie.

This sticky pic is way back from our Taiwan vacation. The machine suggested poses, so we just mimicked the models.

Here's another one from Taiwan, featuring Ben, Ben's Wife, and Ben's Brother. :)
This one is adorned with all sorts of junk because the sticky booth attendant took it upon herself to help decorate our pictures. She went crazy with the borders and message stamps.

Speaking of Taiwan... I had meant to write up a nice summary of our time in Kaohsiung, but I've sort of lost steam. I'll just say that Kaohsiung was lovely. It reminded me of Hawaii -- a little bit. We're very grateful to Ben + Ben's Brother for being such attentive hosts. I don't know how we would have gotten around Kaohsiung otherwise. There is a newly built metro system, but I don't think it's been centralized yet. The city is gearing up the World Games in 2009, so if you're interested in checking out Taiwan's largest port city, I suggest waiting until then.

Here are a few of my more scenic (non-food) photos:

Cijin Island - Home of one of Taiwan's oldest naval forts.

I'm not a fan of black sand, but the sea looked beautiful.

Dream Mall

Um...something of cultural significance?

We spent a very long morning hiking, and got to hang with a bunch of wild monkeys. Monkey poo is quite nasty. I suspect that it's particularly nasty because these monkeys are feasting on abandoned cups of bubble tea. Do not feed the monkeys bubble tea, people!