Monday, June 28, 2010

World Cup Disappointments

[Two of my best friends in Korea are leaving this week to go back to their respective homes.  Jen will go back to Canada.  Kyle will go back to Chicago.  I know it's part of the job to make friends only for them to leave but just didn't realize I would lose so many so quickly.]

#111.  Koreans follow you around clothing stores.  Whenever you walk into a clothing store (this pertains to other stores as well but specifically clothing) the workers of the store follow you.  In close proximity.  Now I don't know if they are just making sure you know that their clothes won't fit your non-Korean body or just to make you feel uncomfortable but I've got a tip for you Korean-clothing-store-followers.  If you follow me around I will leave without purchasing anything.  Give me some space.  Let me browse and I may give you some of my hard earned Kids College money.

#112.  Koreans are not afraid to be brutally honest.  If they haven't seen you in awhile and you've lost weight they will comment.  If you've gained weight they will comment.  They don't do it to be rude or to offend you.  To them it's just stating the facts.  In America people talk behind your back about how much weight you've gained or about how that haircut makes your ass look big.  Not sure which one I would rather have.

Well the World Cup fever is slowly filtering out of Korea.  South Korea lost to Uruguay.  USA lost to Ghana.   England lost to Germany.  The majority of the people who had teams they were rooting for are now either trying to find a team to cheer for or have thrown in the towel.  There are still many teams left that are worth rooting for but some of the magic for me is gone.  There is something about cheering for your home country while in another country that makes you feel a little extra patriotic.  I still stand by my newfound respect for soccer and will continue to watch the World Cup but I think the days of me staying up until 7am to watch a game are over.  It was fun while it lasted for both my teams.

As a Cubs fan I am the master of saying "There is always next year."  In this case there is always the next World Cup.  In 2014.  Clearly I have the time to improve my soccer knowledge.

Outside with a diehard Korea fan 

The kids of Pohang with our new Korean friends

Koreans love to throw out the peace sign

Some of the ladies of Pohang

Cheesing it up with my co-worker Kyle

Friday, June 25, 2010

World Cup Fever

[Receiving packages from home when I was in college was nice.  It was usually a care package to get me through finals or a gift for my birthday.  Receiving packages while in a foreign country is like Christmas.  Thank you Mom and Dad for the packages lately.I couldn't ask for a better way to start my day than with a package from home.]

#110.  Koreans hold grudges when it comes to their soccer.  Park Ji Sung is the best athlete on the South Korean team. He is beloved by his fellow Koreans and has always been supported...until recently.  During the game against Argentina he accidentally scored a goal on his own team.  It has been more than a week since this happened and Korea has since made it to the top 16...but the Koreans are still unhappy.  My kids at school refuse to cheer for him and tell me they hate him.  Intense itty bitties. 

As many of you know, America is not big on watching soccer.  There are three big sports that the majority of the country watches:  baseball, basketball and football (not necessarily in that order).  Here in Korea soccer is one of the only sports that matters.  Soccer fever has swept the country even more than usual when the South Korean team advanced to the top 16 for the first time since 2002.  The beaches are packed with people watching the games on a huge screen.  The bars are filled to capacity with people fighting for a spot to watch the match.  The phrase, "DAE HAN MIN GUK!" (basically meaning 'again Korea') has been yelled in the streets since the beginning of the World Cup.  

Koreans are incredibly patriotic and love nothing more than to yell their coin phrase over and over again.  In Korea there are no bandwagon fans when it comes to soccer.  They all support the team and watch as many matches as they can.  Case and point, my entire Korean staff went to our school at 330am for the deciding game to watch their team advance into history.  How many adults in America would do that?  One thing I have definitely learned about America is that bandwagon fans are plenty and right now I am one of them.  The game is fast paced, the players are hot (yes i'm shallow) and the game is relatively short (only 90 minutes).  

Yup.  I'm a band-wagoner.  Before I came to Korea I didn't watch soccer.  Didn't play soccer.  Didn't give two shits about soccer.  Now that I am here and have been playing consistently on a league (before I broke myself of course) and have witnessed the madness that is Korean soccer, I have developed an appreciation for the game. 

Soccer is without a doubt the favorite sport of people around the globe.  I may have started out as a band-wagon fan but after catching the World Cup fever, who knows.  

South Korea plays against Uruguay at 11.  USA plays against Ghana at 3am.  I'm rooting for them both.  I figure i'm an American living in South Korea so that means I can have two teams.  Right?



Watching the Korea vs. Argentina game at Bukbu Beach

Cheering on America at Whistlers Bar

Korean man at his finest.  Dae Han Min Guk!

The Pohang crew sporting red to support South Korea

Clearly happy with the USA win.  GO USA!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Hundae Sandcastle Festival

Here is a slideshow from a sandcastle festival at Hundae beach in Busan.  The sandcastles were ridiculous, the beach was gorgeous and the city was spectacular.  Hope you like them.

(Mom all you have to do is push the play button and be patient)

Summer in Korea - slideshow maker

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Fractured Ankles in Korea

[So as many of you know...I fractured my ankle.  Leave it to me to go to a foreign country and fracture my ankle.  I  am indeed accident prone but actually FRACTURING my ankle?  Who knew.]

So this past Friday was the going away party for Mr. Nick Kelly.  Right as the festivities got underway I took a casual hop off of the patio (about 2 feet off the ground) and fell.  True. It's not even a good story.  It lacks in imagination and it in no way impressive.  It takes a long time to explain how the 2 foot fall fractured my ankle so the general story told to the majority is that I fractured it  by playing soccer.  Now, playing soccer is believable and seeing as how I already play soccer, not so out of the realm of possibilities. I guess this will teach me to not take casual hops off of patios.

The process of actually figuring out it was fractured was complex to say the least.  I got to the ER on Saturday afternoon and was given a seat on an ancient hospital bed.  Think of an ER circa 1955.  Complete with dingy walls.  Mysterious brown smears.  Beds that have the pull up rails.  The whole picture.

My doctor finally gets to me and does the 1-2-look.  Now the 1-2-look to foreigners is a look that has been perfected by Koreans.  The first look is a once over of "Uh-oh.  Not Korean."  The second is a look of fear.  "They aren't Korean.  They won't speak Korean.  Shit."  No words are necessary to convey those messages. Trust me.  After getting over the initial surprise of me not being Korean, he begins the examination.  Now in Korea the "examination" consists of asking questions about diseases and grabbing the affected area as hard as humanly possible to ascertain my pain level.  Let's just say my pain level was high enough for the entire hospital to hear me scream.  In America doctors don't grab something that looks as swollen as a small melon. No.  Absolutely freaking not.

Well the rest is a long drawn out process so the short story is...after crazy amounts of xrays, CT scan and shots in the butt (you know how those Koreans like the shots in the butt) I was told that I had a radial linear fracture.  Sweet.  A fracture from falling 2 feet.

The cast goes on next week and will have to stay on for 3-4 weeks (if i'm lucky).  I have to play in a Mudfest tournament on July 17th (imagine ridiculous amounts of mud, wrestling, volleyball and obstacle courses) so let's hope it's off before then.

And here is the ankle the morning after in all it's glory...even though the picture just doesn't do it justice.

Here it is almost a week later.  Sexy, I know.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Korean Traditions about Childbirth/Parenting

[After talking about this with my good friend Frank I decided I needed to devote a post to it. This post is devoted to the oddities of Korean traditions regarding their children.  While I do not agree with the vast majority of the way that Korean children are brought into this world or raised, I acknowledge that the American and Korean cultures are completely different.  I have a deep respect for any woman that is strong enough to bring another human being into this world.  Please take my words at face value and realize these are just my viewpoints, not an attack on the Korean culture as a whole.]

#103. Traditionally, boys were treasured and girls were thought of as 'leftovers'. Just as in China, boys were sought after instead of girls because the new male generation would be able to work in the fields and also keep the family name from dying out.  If a wife was unable to give birth to a boy, then a surrogate mother was sought after to provide a male child. The mother-in-law would choose the surrogate mother for her son.  No thank you.  If I can't provide my husband with a boy then he will freaking accept a little girl.

#104. During childbirth, the mother was restricted to only seeing things of beauty. It was believed anything that the mother looked at would influence the child's appearance such as shape and features. For instance, mothers would not be able to look at dead flowers since it would have a negative omen for the childbirth.
#105. The expecting mother was and still is placed on a strict diet.  The diet usually excluded spicy or hot foods, ugly foods, and broken pieces of food or even duck. Spicy/hot foods were excluded because the mother is already hot, therefore it would clash with the creation of the baby. Eating ugly food could result in an ugly child, which included bruised foods or a food that had a blemish.  Broken foods include things like broken noodles broken crackers and et cetera. Then there were the animals such as duck that were excluded from the diet since it would give the child "webbed" feet or other unwanted features.

#106.  Korean mothers are made to keep quiet throughout the entire childbirth process. This is from the belief that screaming shows signs of shame and weakness which will be passed along to the child.  If I am in the process of squeezing a human life out of my body and I want to scream there is no one on this earth that would think of stopping me.  A sign of weakness?  I think not.

#107. After birth, the baby is usually with the mother at all times, even when sleeping. At this time, the mother is only allowed to eat warm foods and drinks (even in the summer) since the mothers are considered "cold".  A common soup was "miyuk guk", a kind of seaweed soup, since it was to clean out the toxins from childbirth and was to be eaten by the mother for four weeks after giving birth.  4 weeks of the same food.  I like a bit of variety in my diet thank you.

#108. From the time the baby is young, it is a common action for parents to massage the baby's legs to increase growth and make the baby tall..

#109. More recently, parents also like to massage the eyelids of the baby while sleeping to try to get the baby to grow eye folds.

There you go.  Koreans and their childbirth and parenting skills.  I think the American way suits me just a little bit better.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Korean Men and Old Women

[So I have been without a working computer at my apartment for almost a week.  That's one week of not skyping with my family (sorry Mom!), being able to watch my choice of movies or television shows in English, etc.  I am entrusting my computer to a friend I work with who is a computer whiz for the weekend to hopefully fix it up. I can't handle being cut off from everyone back home for too much longer]

#101.  This is going to be the most disturbing Korean-ism thus far.  It is not a widely known fact so I am not certain of its validity so take this with a grain of salt.  Fact or fiction?  Who knows.  Here goes. In the Korean culture men are considered to be of more importance than women due to their ability to carry on the family name.  The only way to carry on the family name (in any culture) is to produce viable offspring.  All of this you probably already knew.  What you did NOT know is that in order to make sure that their sons can do this is to help along the process at an early age.

Now what the hell does that mean you may ask?  Well, when Korean men are between the age of around 4-14 (give or take a few years) their parents masterbate them at night to make sure they can get an erection. They say it is for their own good and that they will thank them when they are older and can maintain an erection in order to impregnant their spouse and produce MORE viable offspring.  In America this sort of "help" is called molestation.  In Korea it is just part of the culture.

#102.  Continuing on the same sick Korea it is not uncommon for an old woman to reach her hand into the stroller of a baby boy and touch his penis and make sure it is satisfactory.  This is common in Korea.  While the parents may not like the idea of their little bundle of joy being touched in that way by a complete stranger, it is not their place to disagree with an elder.  In America that old lady would be bitchslapped back to Korea.  Twice.  .

Alright...enough of the disturbing topics.   Little recap of last weekend for you.

So last weekend I went to Busan with a few of my close friends Jen, Nick and Tim.  While the BUS ride to Busan was not eventful...the subway ride into Busan was a  completely different story .  Right off the bat we were promptly annoyed by a drunken korean man in a zip up jumpsuit.  (Jumpsuits are all the rage here in Korea by the way.) He assumed that the two boys and two girls were together (most Koreans make this mistaken assumption) and kept bowing to the boys and giving them thumbs ups.  It was fun and games until he took Tim's bottle of beer,  shotgunned it and ended up spewing it all over the floor.  Not funny.  He ended up lighting up a cigarette (smoking is prohibited in subways by the way) and was forcibly removed from the bus.  Think of when people are thrown out of bars.  Dramatic but effective.

While in Busan we went to the sandcastle festival (pictures to come later when my computer doesn't hate me.)  These were more than just mere sandcastles.  They were freaking works of art.  Some were 20 feet high and so intricate that I had to remind myself they were made of sand.  To name a few there were sandcastles depicting Jesus,  Abraham Lincoln, The Statue of Liberty,  Eiffel Tower and the Bat Mobile.   Epic.

I also managed to acquire the first coveted Coach purse to send home to the women of my family.  More will follow but hopefully the one will suffice for now.  Happy Momma? :)

All in all a pretty solid weekend.  Good friends.  Sunny beaches.  Amazing western food.  Hopefully this weekend will be just as solid.  Fingers crossed kids.  Toes too.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Hitting Children

[Korea is finally out of the top headlines in CNN.  Keep those fingers crossed that it stays that way]

My 100th Koreanism.  Drum roll please.  Here we go.

#100.  Koreans confuse the letter "L" and the letter "R" quite often.  Think "A Christmas Story" when they are in the chinese restaurant.  Deck the harrs with bars of rarry.  Fa ra ra ra ra ra ra ra ra.  The movie actually paints a pretty acurate picture of how hard it is for them to pronounce the correct lettter.  Sad but true.

So I was insulted within an inch of my life today.  My supervisor informed me that one of my itty bitties in my late afternoon class told his mother that I hit him.  On the head.  Hard.  Me.  Hitting a child.  I think not.  The mom told the school she didn't believe him because apparently he makes up stories often but she is pulling him out of school anyways.  My school promptly accused me of hitting him.  I repeatedly told them I did not hit him.  They did not believe me.  Super.  Take the word of a tiny child over a grown ass woman who has been around children her ENTIRE life. 

They eventually said they were sorry and that they DID in fact believe me (after asking me to tell the "truth" repeatedly) but the accusation still stings.  I will never understand a culture where it is ok for the Korean teachers to smack the shit out of their kids.  Thankfully this is not the case at my school but in some it gets to the point that the kiddies require hospitalization they are hit so hard.

In Korea the kids get smacked around (sometimes roughly) by teachers but hugs are commonplace in almost every social setting.  In America kids aren't allowed to be touched at all by teachers.  Hugs aren't allowed for fear of a lawsuit.  Isn't there somewhere with a happy medium?

If you know of a magical place where a happy medium exists give me a holla.

Ending this semi-debbie downer post with a picture of Hansu.
One of the cutest itty bitties around.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Let's Make a Deal

[It is June.  I have been here for more than 3 months.  In a few weeks the majority of my close friends I have made here will go back to their respective homelands and will return to their former lives.  Or at least a semblance of what it was.  I will remain here for the next 9+ months and continue on my travels in Korea.  It's bittersweet.  Kind of like bittersweet chocolate chips.  On one hand it is a chocolate chip so it can't be all bad but it's just not the same as the deliciousness that is a true chocolate chip]

#98.  In America when you are admitted into a hospital you stay in the said hospital.  Sometimes there are portions of the hospital that have the sole purpose of allowing you to go "outside" while still remaining in the confines of the hospital. Sometimes not.  Korean hospitals either do not have these portions or the patients choose not to utilize them.  It is very common to see patients out in front of the hospital (while still in their hospital pajamas) smoking cigarettes and walking around.  Point America.

#99.  DVD Bongs.  In Korea this is a room you can rent to watch a movie.  Most have pull out couches and really big tvs.  Basically these places are for the younger crowds to go for those more intimate moments that can't happen at home.  You know what I mean.  Think Barry White's classic hit "Let's Get It On."

So this past week I played "Let's Make a Deal" with my school and came out on top.  My director revealed my new schedule for next term and hell about froze over.  I currently work 9:30-6:20 with ONE 50 minute break and 10 minute breaks in between my classes.  With no prep period.  They wanted to add yet another class to my schedule and have me stay until 7:30 with no break. Hell freaking no. 

After seeing my supremely angry face he realized he needed to pony up the big bucks or he was going to lose me.  I negotiated him down to 9:30-12:10, long lunch, 2-5:30, prep period, 6:20-7:20.  O and a hefty bonus added on to each paycheck.  Well well I can successfully negotiate a contract. 

I'm a big girl now.