29 September 2008


The air's a little nippy, the girls are in their mini skirts and knee-highs, the mosquitoes have stopped buzzing around... it's officially fall, people. It's my second autumn in the Motherland. Time has flown by!

I spent over a year living full time in the Motherland, but now it's time for me to return home.  I'm leaving today with many memories and megabytes of a fond year in Korea.

Oh, don't cry, Internet. I'll be back.

I'll return to Korea in December, but it does feel like I'm closing another big chapter in this book I call Life.

In commemoration of my year in the Motherland, I've put together a video montage (of course) set to Holly Conlan's "You are Goodbye." In putting this video together, I realized that a) I need to start organizing all my photos and videos and b) I take way too many photos of food. The video barely covers my year in Korea, but it does include a few highlights and never before seen "footage."

I'd like to also take a moment for a very long fragment to thank the various people who have made my stay in the Motherland such a special memory. So, a big kamsahmnida to my COUSINS, Cyndi's cousins, co-workers from the Place That Must Not Be Named, my teaching soul-mate and partner in crime, Seong, EVERYONE from PD, everyone from PD that say that I look like 이효리 (yeah right!), all the Korean unnies, all the Gyopo unnies, visiting chingus from the Homeland, Umma, Doogal, all the people who help me get my beauty on, the ajummas who clean the officetel, and last but not least, our Korean BFF, Heng!

Oh! And Cyndi! 
Thanks for coming with me to the Motherland! (And thanks for picking me up from the airport.)

See you later, Motherland.

23 September 2008

TV Music by Josh Groban

My sister sent me the link to Josh Groban performing a medley of theme songs from the past 60 years of TV, including my jam from the Golden Girls. The clip is from Sunday's 2008 Emmy broadcast, so you better watch it before they take it down from youtube.

21 September 2008

Koreality TV

I usually stick to Onstyle, Fox Life, CGV, or OCN when watching TV in Korea. Other than the music shows and a few dramas, Korean shows have always been a little too "busy" for my tastes. After watching the third season of Project Runway for the umpteenth time, I have become more interested in a few variety programs. In case, you were interesting in watching more Korean TV, here are a few of my picks.

Infinity Challenge
MBC/Sat 6:35 PM
This one is a classic, starring some of those most popular male MCs in Korea, including my MC crush, Yoo Jae Suk. Each episode, the cast is given a special mission where hilarity inevitably ensues. Past missions include sportscasting live matches at the 2008 Beijing Olympics; a traditional Korean meal with Paris Hilton; and more recently, preparing for Chuseok dressed in drag. (I really wanted to see that episode). I think this is one of those shows you can enjoy without knowing a lot of Korean. Their exaggerated expressions and reactions are universally goofy.

Global Beauty Talk Show
KBS / Mon 11:05 PM

If you are a young foreign woman who speaks at least a smidgen of Korean, you've probably had a Korean person say, "You should audition for Misuda!" I used to watch this show back at home with Cyndi's mom (Thanks, youtube!), but haven't been watching the program as often now that I'm actually living in Korea. This show features young foreign women from around the globe (okay, mostly Asia) who share their experiences and thoughts about life in Korea. The show seems to be running out of original topics, but when it first began, the show offered interesting insight into the perspective of foreigners (the non-laborer types) in Korea. Most of the panelists are not ethnically Korean, so their level of Korean is quite impressive -- definitely better than mine.

춤추는 용형동제
Dancing Yong and Dong
Mnet/ Fri 6:00 PM

I've only seen a couple of episodes, but watching Shin Dong do the U-Go Girl dance cracks me up to no end. During each episode, Jung Jae Yong (from DJ DOC) and Shin Dong (from Super Junior) are assigned to learn a dance from a popular music video. After tutorials from professional dancers, they are ambushed throughout the week with pop dance quizzes where they are then forced to perform an excerpt of the dance. It doesn't matter if they're having dinner or getting their hair done at the miyongshil, they must dance. I can't recall the consequences for failing the test, but I think it's some form of shame. At the end of the episode, Jung Jae Yong and Shin Dong must perform the entire routine (in costume). I think they're allotted up to three mistakes -- collectively.

우리 결혼했어요♥
We Got Married
MBC/ Sunday Night

At first my emo-bu couldn't understand my mom & emo for staying up late to watch this show, until one night, he watched a full episode, and then he was like "I see." The premise sounds lame at first, but stick with me. Popular celebrities are paired up by the producers and assigned to live as a married couple. This show is what VH1 would probably label as "Celebreality." The marriage and scenarios are completely staged by producers, but the show is driven by the personalities and chemistry of the celeb participants. Each couple represents a marriage archetype. Every WGM fan has their favorite couple (or spouse). I think that a person's favorite is very telling about an individual. My mom, for example, likes Crown J. A! He's showy, but sweet. I guess my mom is more of Seo In Young type of gal. My emo, on the other hand, likes Alex. I'm a big fan of Alex the singer, but Alex the husband is too romantic. He's really big on "events." I can't say that I'm a fan of anyone in particular, but if I had to pick, I'd go with Kim Hyun Joong from Double-S501. I am by no means into those so-called "idol" groups, but I do like the fact that he is goofy and weird, though a little dim. He also reminds me of a Japanese actor that I like.

Family Outing
SBS/ Sunday Night

This one's a current favorite. Each week, the celebrities, acting as family, take an overnight trip to the countryside, somewhere outside of Seoul. The producers send the current residents (usually a halmuni and harabuji) to spend a relaxing night in the city, while the "family" takes over. During their stay, the cast plays games, does chores, cooks for themselves, and torments each other -- just like a real family. The show seems to be growing in popularity thanks to the excellent chemistry between cast members. Off course, my crush, Yoo Jae Suk acts as the family patriarch. His interactions with Daesung (boybander from Big Bang), Lee Hyori (formerly of FINKL), and Lee Chun Hee (actor) are especially fun to watch. After watching the show, I also realize why Hyori is such a big deal. She's really quite personable and funny.


SBS Thurs 8:50 PM
Wow! How?
I haven't really been watching this series since moving to Korea, but my mom is a big fan. This show features segments of curious (Oh! Wow!) events, things, and people from around the world (Okay, mostly Asia). For example, I once saw a segment about a girl in China who eats chunks of dirt -- by choice. She cooked dinner for her family, and then took out a side of dirt for herself. Wow! I also recall a segment on a Korean man who eats crab shells and bones, as if they didn't have the potential to hurt his jaw. The show had the man consult with a dentist, and his teeth appeared perfectly normal.

Sorry. Couldn't find a clip.

20 September 2008

Mother in the Motherland

Here's the highlight reel for my mudder's (as well as my dongsaeng's) trip to the Motherland. Features "Oh Momma" by Justin Nozuka. I didn't mean to give the video such a sad vibe. I just recently purchased his album "Holly" so I have become mildly obsessed.

As mentioned previously, my mother has not been back to Korea since the late seventies. She was born and raised in Seoul, but immigrated to Hawaii when she was in her late twenties. You could argue that Hawaii, with its large Korean population, is not a far stretch from Korea, but my mom has spent over half her life in the ol' U.S. of A. She was definitely looking forward to her sojourn back to the Motherland.

I think she had seen this trip as a sort of homecoming, but quickly learned that Dorothy wasn't in Kansas anymore.

Here's what she had to say about the whole experience:

What did you expect to find before you landed in Korea?
I knew what it looked like because of TV [K-dramas and documentary specials]. It's more crowded than I thought. When I arrived in Korea, it felt like I wasn't in Korea.

What surprised you about Korea (Seoul)?
All the buildings and signs. So many! People changed. They are not friendly. People so mean.

People were nicer back in your day?
No, they wasn't kind, but... People now are nervous. Everybody is nervous breakdown. It's like they're [being] chased by something, so I get nervous too.

What do you like about Seoul?
All Korean people around me. It's like everyone is family. I recognize everybody. I like to see all the hangul. I can read all the signs. And, the food. Korean girls also got prettier than before. Before, it was all dark messy face.

One thing, they all over-dress. The use high heels with anything. To me, it doesn't match short legs.

What didn't you like?
Food is disappointing. Too sweet. I like country food like san-namu (moutain vegetables?). All the ingredients [for the country food] are fresh.

How do you feel about Korea?
I just want to say [its] o.k.. All I [will] remember is too many people. Scared to walking around. No more taxis on the street!

The hanshik was good [Thanks for taking us, Heng!]

What do you have to say to the Motherland?
Manner 촘 있어면 좋껫다. (If [people] had a little more manners, that would be good.) Especially the girls.
Too many apartments. Just like a box. I miss the old time rice farms.

I think my mother had really missed Korea, but now accepts that her former Homeland has changed dramatically. In her day, Seoul was the big city, but it wasn't the metropolis that it is today. I think time and nostalgia may have colored my mother's memories of Seoul, so in comparison, today's Seoul seems noisy and dirty, and the people brash and impatient.

I wish I could experience the Seoul in my mother's memories, a city where young female bus attendants collected your fare and held people into the overflowing bus with a rope strapped to their bodies and the bus entrance. I'm curious to see Myeongdong littered with artists. I'd like to walk the busy streets of Jong-no, waiting to catch a glimpse of the day's most popular recording artists. On the other hand, I suspect that after spending a year in modern-day Seoul, I'd end up tapping my foot impatiently, bemoaning how shigol the town was.

My mom is set on returning to Korean next year, but this time with my emos in tow. Next time, however, she's going to book a tour around the Korean countryside and just limit herself to a few days in Seoul for shopping.

18 September 2008

Pigs...Not Just Good for Samgyupsal

I'm sorry if you found the picture disturbing, but in Korea, a pig with cash sticking out of its nose is no big deal. More on that in a little bit...

THE HAGWON, newly founded by one my many cousins, has gone under way. Despite all the bureaucratic hoops we had to jump through, we're finally open for business! I've taken the lead on developing the curriculum, which has proven to be demanding, but fun. THE HAWGON is not quite a month old, but if its burgeoning popularity is any indication, I think we have a bright future. Knock on wood. Or should I say, "Help us, Mr. Pig..."

During the opening reception, one of my cousin's friends prepared an old Korean shamanistic ritual. You can read more on the significance of pigs at the Seoul Metropolitan Government website, but basically, Koreans traditionally see pigs as a sign of wealth and prosperity. Thus, it is a common practice for folks to put out a pig's head at the start of a new business or big deal endeavor. The pig's head is placed upon pans of ddeok (the one with lots of whole beans) surrounded by candles and makgeoli. Guests then bow and place money in the pig's mouth (I stuck my bill in his nostrils) as a sign of best wishes. In return, guests and neighbors are given a portion of the ddeok, which I hear, goes very well with kimchi.

My cousin told me that contractors usually conduct this ritual after they've put up a building and will use the money to buy some well-deserved beer for the construction workers. We, however, did not buy beer. The money was prudently used for office appliances.

Prior to the reception, an unmarked cardboard box had been delivered to the hagwon. I unwittingly opened the box thinking it was another box of ddeok. Can you imagine my fright when I lifted up the flaps and found the Lord of the Flies!?!

I like bacon as much as the next Korean girl, but I do not want to see its face. :)

Call me biased, but I think THE HAGWON is special. I hope others will feel this way as well.

May the pork be with us.

15 September 2008

엄마 미아!

I took my mom to see Mama Mia before her flight last night. BT-dub, the movie theaters are packed on Chuseok. I thought it was only my family who went to the movies on a major holiday, but apparently it's a general Korean thing. So I guess watching Saw II on the birthday of Jesus is an inherent part of being Korean.

I saw the Mama Mia stage production a couple of years ago back in SF, and I remember it being campy, but enjoyable, so I was looking forward to Mama Mia the movie.

For those of you unfamiliar with the musical (Where have you been, people?), Mama Mia is the tale of a young woman, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), who, unbeknownst to her mother (Meryl Streep), invites three of her mother's former lovers to her wedding. One of these three men is her father (I know. The mother was such a tart!). Through a series of song and dance numbers originally performed by Abba, Sophie is determined to figure out the identity of her unwitting father just in time for him to walk her down the aisle. I know. I know. If you'll just accept the kooky premise, you're more likely to enjoy the show. Just go with it.

If the premise doesn't catch your interest, maybe these musical clips will...

No? Still not interested?
I don't blame you. You're not missing out on anything.

My sister, after watching the film online, had recommended the movie to me. I'm sad to say that it was a major disappointment, despite the presence of Meryl Street. The Broadway musical just does not translate well to the big screen. The camp and spandex are simply enlarged in film -- in a bad way. It sort of felt like an extended karaoke music video, especially during the bits when the actor pranced around the island in slow-mo. It also seemed like all of the characters were performing under the influence. There were even a few times that I thought Amanda Seyfried's eyes were going to pop out of her head. I love Meryl Streep, but her character came off as cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, if you know what I mean.

With Meryl Streep & Colin Firth, Abba songs, and raunchy old people jokes, Mama Mia is strategically designed for ajummas, and yet, even my mom fell asleep.

Today, my sister tells me that she fast forwarded through all the bits with dialogue. Thanks a lot, Doogal. Wish you had told me that earlier.

The movie has a few fun moments, but I would by no means recommend the film. If you don't like Abba, then you're definitely not going to like Mama Mia the movie. If you love Abba, then you may want to look out for the sing-along edition now playing in select theaters. Check the movie website for theater listings.

14 September 2008

Making Songpyun: The fate of your children is in your hands

The streets are eerily free of rampaging pedestrians and young women teetering in their high heels. There's a curious hum in the air, uninterrupted by the sound of blaring horns. Where have all the cars and people gone? Mass alien abduction? Nope. It's Chuseok time!

Most of the Seoul Patrol has headed out of town to spend quality time with their family (both the dead and living), so the city feels relative empty. Me likes it.

I can't believe I'm celebrating my second Chuseok in the Motherland. Last year, we went to down to Busan to fry fish with Cyndi's relatives. This year, since my mom is still in town, we're spending Chuseok in Seoul. I have to admit, Seoul sans half its population is quite pleasant. As my mom would put it, it's a little less jeongshin eopso. I feel like I have more room to breathe and think.

My cousin Nani invited us over to her house to make songpyun, traditional rice cakes shaped like half-moons. It is a Chuseok tradition for the women of the family to sit around and gab while making songpyun. My family of course is always big on the gabbing and gossip, but we usually buy the songpyun from a store. Fortunately, Nani is quite knowledgeable about Korean traditions and was able to school us on some Motherland culture.

In honor of Chuseok, my family and I offer you a simple tutorial on how to make songypun.

In order to make the "dough" (not sure of the correct term), take soaked uncooked rice (쌀) to the rice mill professionals (방앗간) and have them process the rice with salt, producing a sticky rice dough.

In order to add color to your dough, you made add one of the following ingredients:
omi tea (오미자차) = pink
jujube (대추) = brownish
mugwort (쑥) or spinach (시금치)= green
By no means, should you use artificial coloring for your songpyun. Nani told me that it is strongly frowned upon in traditional Korean food culture. You can dye your hair, but don't mess with your ddeok.

This is what the "dough" looks like with no additional ingredients.

This is what the "dough" looks like with ground jujube.

As a product of harvest celebrations, songpyun are filled with beans, chestnuts, or sesame seed pastes. We had three different options:
- chestnuts (밤) mixed with sugar
- sesame seeds (깨) mixed with brown sugar and honey
- sliced jujube (대추) - not pictured


Please view the video for a demonstration of how to assemble the ingredients.

According to my mom, your ability to make "pretty" songpyun foretells the prettiness of your children (she also says this about making mandoo). My mom claims that she was told that her songpyun were very pretty. Following suit, this means that my sister and I are "neomu yebbeo (so hot, hot)" all thanks to my mom's mad skills. I don't care what you haters think. The songpyun never lie.

Based on the sorry songpyun that I made today, let's just pray that my future children have sparkling personalities.

Nani also told me that the songpyun are half-moon shaped, rather than completely round because the shape suggests that you still have something to fulfill (or to accomplish), while a complete circle suggests that your life is complete; meaning there's nothing left to be done. It's all over. At least, that's what I think she said.

It'd definitely be much easier to roll the dough into a little ball, but I appreciate the significance of the half-moon shape. It's a shame, though that my ineptitude for making pretty half moons will mar the beauty of my future offspring. Mama's really sorry, future kids.

Steam your beautiful little half-moons upon a bed of pine needles. The pine's purpose is two-fold. 1) It keeps the songpyun from sticking to the pot. 2) The pine needles infuse themselves in the songpyun, making the ddeok much more tasty and fragrant.

After steaming the songpyun for about 15 minutes or so (no sure about the timing) rinse the ddeok in a bowl of sesame oil, or if your calorie conscious, a mixture of sesame oil and water. The sesame oil will leave your little ddeok babies glistening just like the ones made by the professionals.


Okay, I know that they're not much to look at, but I think we did a pretty good job. We all especially liked the sesame filled songpyun because unlike those stingy professional songpyun makers, our ddeok was bursting with the sweet, honey paste.

Chuseok is the time to pay respect to your ancestors, hang with your family, and give thanks for the bounty of this year's harvest. I hope you take the time to do this, wherever you may be.

Special thanks to my family (Umma, Emi, Emi's BFF, Nani, and Vice President) for letting me blog and post pictures about our songpyun workshop.

즐거운 추석!

12 September 2008

My Loony Bun is fine Benny Lava.

I dare you not to laugh out loud.


My mom desperately wanted to get out of Seoul (I don't blame her) and visit a more shigol area. Thanks to the help of my cousin we decided to take a day trip to 춘천 (Chuncheon), the capital of Gangwon Province.

You can get to Chuncheon by car, bus, or train. Heng told me that a 고속 bus would be the quickest option from Bundang, so we caught a bus from the Yaptap bus terminal. About an hour and half-long nap later, we were in Chuncheon (Bus Terminal).

At first, Chuncheon looked a lot like Seoul, only less people, less litter, and less traffic. It was quite nice. We picked up a map from the Tourist Info Center, then with Heng's helpful instructions, headed out to find the bus to Soyang Dam. Unfortunately, people gave us conflicting directions so it took us a while to find the bus stop for the #11 bus to Soyang Dam.

We waited at the bus stop for a little bit, staring at the "Pumpkin" Night Club, but we started to get a little antsy, so we hopped in a cab. The driver said that it would only take 10 minutes, but I think the drive took about about 15 minutes.

The Soyang Dam was an interesting sight. I tried to take a picture, but our taxi driver aka Speed Racer flew up the mountain (I think he was trying to get there in 10 minutes). I didn't even have time to take out my camera.

This picture of the lake (and mom & I) will have to suffice.

Once at Soyang Dam, we were able to take a boat to 청평사잘 (Cheongpyeongsa Temple). I wish my dongsaeng Doogal were with us, but I don't think she would have enjoyed the boat ride. It was short, but quite choppy.

I know this sounds very childish, but the boat ride made my feel like Big Bird in China. Since I usually worked on Saturdays, I never really made an effort to explore the world outside of Seoul. It's easy to mistake Seoul as a representative for all of Korea. I'm not a nature person per se, but I do miss being surrounded by trees and water that weren't planted by a Mayor aspiring to be President. The boat ride on Soyang Lake was a refreshing reminder of Korea's lush, green beauty. I regret not exploring more of the countryside. I must make a point to do so in the future.

Chuncheon is known for its dalk galbi (Spicy marinated chicken) and mak (noodle soup), but we had 감자부침 (potato pancake), 도토리묵 (acorn jelly), and 더덕구이 (some kind of grilled root). Even though there wasn't any gogi, the meal was so tasty, like something your Korean grandmother would make.

도토리묵 (dotori muk) & 감자부침 (gamja buchim)

더덕구이 (deodeok gui)

There are so many food stalls selling absolutely the same thing, so I asked my mom, "How do they make money?"

My mom replied simply, "Luck."

It's a weekday and just before the Chuseok weekend, so tourist traffic was quite low. Apparently, it's quite busy on the weekends. I hope so. Look at those lonely stalls.

We were going to hike up to the temple, but my mom was wearing inappropriate shoes and was not feeling up to the 30 minute hike. Hence, no pictures of the temple. You'll have to use your imagination. Think of something Buddhist.

I finally decided to join the youtube bandwagon, so you can check out some scenic footage from our boat ride. I apologize in advance for the Blair Witch moments. I don't have very steady hands.

We only had the time to look around Soyang Lake, but there is a myriad of activities and landmarks around Chuncheon. You could definitely spend a couple of days looking around the city. Chuncheon is probably most famous for 나미섬 (Nami Island). Yes, you too can walk along the same foot paths as the illustrious Bae Young Joon aka Yon-sama. Chuncheon is also the home of the Gangwon Drama Gallery. It is a Japanese ajumma's Disneyland.

In addition to natural landmarks like Soyang Dam, Mt. Samaksan, and Deunseon Waterfall, you may also want to check out Munbae Village, a traditional folk village, Animation Museum, Chuncheon Shooting Range, Jade Palace, Chuncheon Coffee Theme Park, Yu-Jeong Literature Village, and MBC Children's Museum. You can also golf during the spring, ski during the winter, and paraglide in the summer.

I have not explored any of these attractions for myself, but they definitely sound interesting. I am especially intrigued by something called the "Song Monument of I feel like living in Gangchon" (강존에살고싶네노래비). I swear, I did not make that up. That's how it's listed on the map.

Chuncheon also plays host to a lot of big festivals including the Chuncheon International Play Festival (October), Chuncheon Puppet Festival (August), Chuncheon Mime Festival (May), and the Chuncheon MTB Race. According to the brochure, the Mime Festival is a 5-day event. That sounds...disturbing.

While in Chuncheon, at the very least, you must pick up the English Tour map. It has all sorts of interesting tidbits, including this blurb for the Chuncheon Preserve.

Not sure if you can see it clearly, but the caption reads, "Where you can enjoy with your family." The accompanying photo features a group of hunters smiling in front of bloody bird carcasses.

I'd rather hang out with the mimes, thank you very much.

11 September 2008

I Will Ask a Korean: Batting Cages in Insadong

Previously on I Will Ask a Korean...

New Question: Can you please tell me the direction for the batting practice please?
submitted by PP

Of course. Especially since you asked so nicely!
I'm not terribly good with directions, so I had to ask Cyndi. She says that the batting cages are at the end of Insadong; opposite from Anguk station (i.e., all the way at the other end). The batting cages are near the little B-boy stage.

Cyndi went the extra mile and even made us a little illustration. I never knew that she had such impressive Paint skills.

I'm mostly a pseudo-expert on B.B. creams and cheap shopping, but if anyone else has got any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments.

No, she is not my halmoni.

My mother has been referred to as halmoni (grandmother) since arriving in Seoul. Actually, people have commented that she is a "멋쟁이 할모니." My mother is definitely not a halmoni, but they keep mistaking her for one because of her salt and pepper hair. Only halmonis rock their natural hair colors. Evidently, ajummas, are supposed to regularly dye their hair and get a fresh perm.

Dang, society. Can't a woman keep her natural hair color without being booked into a care home?

Anyway, given that people keep mistaking my mom for a halmoni, you'd think that they'd be a little more respectful (i.e., give up their seat on the bus or NOT elbow her in the stomach while entering the subway car). That definitely has not been the case while in Seoul. What's with young people these days? No respect, I tell ya.

Fancy Cheese...Mmm...

Envious, right?
Last week, we went over to my cousin's house and to our pleasant surprise, we were able to partake in a sumptuous platter of fine French cheese, fresh from France. My cousin's friend, a professional French chef (Le Cordon Bleu, people!) prepared a lovely quiche, while my cousin prepared a yummy goulash.

10 September 2008

Deux Cremes Tart Seoul

I took my posse to Deux Cremes in Sinsa-dong, somewhere along Karosogil. The tarts are so yummy. They're almost worth their exorbitant 8,000 won price tag. I love, love, love the banana cream tart.

image source
(The rest were taken with my Luminix. You can probably tell by their stellar quality)


"Ay, no pictures."

"Talk to the hand."

"Fine, one picture. Which camera are we looking at?"

"Candid camera. Shh..."

Drive by Ranting: Pascucci

Annalog: Fruit shave ice hanayo.

Pascucci girl: Neh? (with a perplexed expression)

Annalog: Kwail shave ice.

Pascucci: Neh?

Annalog: (Points to large poster on the window) "Gelato Shaved Ice"

Pascucci: Ahhh...bingsu. Biiiiingsuuuuuuu-yo?

Annalog: (thinks internally) I knoooooooww. I am not an idiiiiiiottttttttt.

Annalog: (says aloud) Neh.

I can forgive a place for calling bingsu "shaved iced" instead of "shave ice" or "shaved ice", but I cannot forgive them for treating me like an idiot when I order their so-called "shaved iced" instead of crappy bingsu, which it essentially is. If you had advertised it as "bingsu" I would have ordered "bingsu", beeyatch.

Usually I return the tray to the designated area, but that day, I left the whole mess on the outdoor table. That'll show them.

Cyndi and Piggy Go Home

Cyndi and Piggy left for the Homeland today. Boy, did time fly by! Cyndi left with four pieces of luggage: 2 check-in pieces; a carry on roller bag; and Piggy. Less luggage than you expected, right?

Don't be silly. We shipped a bunch of stuff and had Cyndi's dad take a couple of suitcases back to Hawaii.

Speaking of flying, my mom told me that catchy song from the Jin Air commercial is a classic children's song.

After hours of (okay, I exaggerate) of googling in Korean! I managed to find the original lyrics to the song -- I think. My translation is in the parentheses.

원숭이엉덩이는빨개 (Monkey's butt is red)
빨간건 사과 (Red apple)
사과는맛있어 (Apple is delicious)
맛있는건 바나나 (Delicious banana)
바나나는 길어 (Banana is long)
길면 기차 ([If] Long train)
기차는 빨라 (Train is fast)
빠른것은 비행기 (Fast airplane)
비행기는 높아 (Airplane is high)
높은것은 하늘 (High sky)
하늘은 푸르다 (Sky is blue)
푸른것은 바다 (Blue ocean)
바다는 넓다 (Ocean is wide)
넓은것은 지구 (Wide Earth)
지구는 둥글다 (Earth is round)
둥근것은 공 (Round ball)
공은 튄다 (Ball jumps)
튀는것은 토끼 (Jumping bunny)
산토끼 토끼야 어디로 가느냐 깡충깡충 뛰면서 어디를 가느냐
(Mountain bunny, bunny-ya, where are you going? Hoppity, hoppity, running. Where are you going?)

09 September 2008

모란 시장

My mom and I went to Moran Sijang today and I'm still slightly traumatized. Having shopped at the open markets in Namdaemun, Dongdaemun, and a few neighborhood spots, I thought I understood what sijang is. Dang, was I ignorant.

Moran Market is a true Korean outdoor marketplace. This is where the natives go, yo. The market was bustling with ajummas, ajusshis, halmonis, and harabojis, all looking to pick up some produce, fish, dried foods, flowers, extra large underwear, or transistor radios. I saw absolutely no foreigners, not even gyopos. My mom and I definitely stuck out. I was literally the youngest shopper there.

According to my mom, this is how they used to shop back in her day, and yet, she still seemed taken aback. The primary reason for our discomfort was the line of cages that greet you towards the entrance of the market. These cages were filled with chickens, goats, and dogs for you know what... Heng had mentioned that you could buy dogs at Moran Shijang, but I thought she meant puppies! Not dogs for you know what...

If you take a look at my video, I was ignorantly filming some chickens when I suddenly noticed a cage of dogs. I feel like crying just thinking about them. I had to walk with my big Gap tote in front my face in order to shield my eyes from the line of cages until we were able to exit from that alleyway. I'm trying not to be judgmental, after all, I still eat pigs and cows, but such a sight makes me feel very sad and disappointed.

Seeing livestock so up and close makes me want to become a seafoodatarian. I've occasionally thought about only eating food that I could personally hunt and gather (i.e., seafood and vegetables), but I just love gogi to much and veggies too little. Bacon, hamburgers, fried chicken, meatloaf, steak, samgyupsal, deep fried turkey... it's gonna be hard for me to covert, but I'll definitely try...

The Moran Shijang is only open a few days a month, but thanks to Heng and Kwak-kun Oppa, we learned that the market was open today. My mom was able to pick up dried squid, sesame candy, Korean rice krispy treats, dried anchovies, and some scary looking dried fish, called daegu. My mom says that daegu sells for over $100 a piece in Hawaii. Yowza. She paid man-won per fish. Good deal.

I'm glad that I got to experience an authentic Korean market, but I don't think I'll ever feel the urge to go back. I prefer to get my groceries from a matu, even if it is overpriced. To be honest, Korean open markets are not for everyone. Don't go bringing your visiting relatives from Podunk, Idaho. The sights and smells may be a little too hard to take in if you're just visiting. Stick to Namdaemun instead.

The market is also surrounded by a lot of evangelists -- representing both Christian and Buddhist sects. I have no problem with your desire to share your faith, but don't go and shout in my face with your little a/v system and tell me that all non-Christians will go to hell or that I should buy your Buddhist charm for good luck.

Want a virtual tour of Moran Market? Check out the video. (If you don't want to see the cages, skip the first 25 seconds.)

Featured song: "Lesson" - Lee Hyori

Ajusshi Integrity

The bottom of my moms spangly sandals had loosened from the top of the shoe, so she took it to the gudu fixing guy in our officetel. The ajusshi took one glance at the sandals and said tersely (in Korean), "I can't fix it."

"Can't you just put some glue in between the two pieces?" asked my mom.

"I can apply some glue, but it's just going to fall apart again," he mumbled in between a bite of banchan and bap.

"It's okay," said my mom. "Can't you just put some glue for now?"

"Ande," he said gruffly, waving his hand in the air like he was Jennifer Hudson.

"No, no, no, no way," said his wavering hand.

We walked away with her sad sandals, unfixed.

I was quite amused by the shoe repair man's sense of integrity. My mom was willing to pay the man for just slapping some glue on the shoe, even knowing that the glue remedy would not last very long. He, however, refused to repair the shoe knowing that the fix would be fleeting. I feel like shoe repair dudes in the Homeland would look at my mom's desperate expression and end up charging her double.

This brusque sense of integrity seems to be common amongst many ajusshis in the service industry. Cyndi and I have both encountered taxi drivers who told us to walk or take the bus instead of taking the taxi because our destination was so close. (I guess they could have also been reacting to the high gas prices. ) Though the ajusshi demeanor can be, on most occasions, off-putting, I do appreciate their honesty.

As for my mom's shoes, we took them to a second shoe repair stand. This ajusshi also told my mom that glue wouldn't really be any help (because of moisture or something like that), but after she insisted, he complied and slapped on some glue.

08 September 2008

It's Not Hyorish!+

Despite it's appallingly bad title, I finally caved and bought Lee Hyori's new album It's Hyorish. I know. I know. I too can barely think the name without my eyes rolling towards the back of my head. Even though I had let the ear worm "U-Go Girl" invade my head, I hadn't intended to buy Hyori's album (even if she did pose in front of a Love's Bakery truck). But, then, I heard a sampling of her songs while shopping in Myeongdong, and found myself liking what I heard.

I remember that back in the day, when Hyori first went solo, they used to compare her to J-Lo. I think the comparison is quite apt. Hyori's music, if I may call it that, is simply ear candy; not wholesome for the soul, but undeniably enjoyable. If you can accept the strategically catchy beats, (eh, how should I put this) curious Engrish, and highly produced vocals, then I think you may find a surprisingly appealing album. It's very conducive to staring mindlessly out the bus window during rush hour traffic.

Anyway, in case you're curious, I've uploaded the songs to imeem so that you can take a listen. Really, it's not that bad.

Its Hyorish

Leading Lainbow

We took my mom (and Piggy) to Kyobo.

Whenever I'm in Kyobo, I always look at the Korean books wishing I was more literate in Korean. I can read the hangul, but my little brain has to work way too hard in order for me to comprehend a complete paragraph. I hope at some point I'll be able to read a whole Korean book -- or maybe just an entire magazine article.

Korean books are just so much prettier than American books. Given the high quality of the paper - smooth, thick, and expensive smelling-- Korean books seem relatively inexpensive. Korean books are printed on hardcover-quality paper, but are about the price of an American Trade Back book.

If books weren't so heavy and if my reading skills were better, I'd be tempted to pick up a few of these books:

Title (Rough English Translation): The Travel Book that IDEO Made
(I'm not sure what or who Ideo is, but I wonder if it has anything to do with "interior design" or "ideas.")
This one contains inspirational photos and description of interesting products, concepts, or designs found at popular travel locales. This particular book features photos from London.

Title (Rough English Translation): Let's Go Eat in Japan
This one features photos and blurbs on things to eat in Japan. Enough said.

Title: 1 cm
This is a quirky little book featuring illustrations and (often wry) comments/observations about life. I don't quite understand all the text, but it seems like the book is an amusing read.

I'm a big fan of children's and YA literature, so I'm very curious to see what they have out there for Korean teens. I don't know how Korean teens have time to read for fun in between school work and hagwon homework, but I'm happy to see that such a genre exists .

Looking at the covers for Twilight (the novel is split into two books) and its marketing as a manga-type story, I'm a bit wary of what I'd find with Korean YA literature.