Tuesday, May 30, 2006

election day

i am thrilled that today is may 31st. why? because tomorrow is the first day of june? no. because i don't have to work today? no. because today is election day? Y-E-S.

this is a country-wide voting day, but it's for district offices. as someone who can't participate in the voting process, you may be wondering what election day means to me. it means an end to all the obnoxious propaganda that has taken this city by storm. more power to korea for getting so involved with politics and encoraging everyone to vote, but come on, that truck that sits outside my window at the intersection every morning at 7 am blasting music and "vote for me" messages is just plain unnecessary. and, oh, the cheesiness of the posters... it hurtssss. we're talking posters everywhere you go, even giant, blown-up posters on the sides of buildings. i can't help but wonder how long they'll take to take the posters down from those buildings. it must suck for the loser, if, 1 or 2 weeks down the line, their face is still in view for everyone to see. "damn it, there i am, still on that building... back when i thought i had a chance at winning." the politicians in the running also get a team of people to wear matching shirts and line up at corners at busy intersections and bow to oncoming traffic ("ooohh i really liked candidate no. 3's team... they bowed the deepest.")

"no. 3?" you may be asking? yes, every candidate gets a number, and those numbers must appear in the voting booth along with their names. easier to remember, and i must admit it's actually not a bad idea. plus, it provides for some amusing conversations. last night alisun and i were walking, and one of the candidates was walking down the street. i didn't notice him, but al said "ohh there's number 6! he even has his hat!" i looked where she was pointing, and there he was, walking with his entourage of matching shirts. funny thing was i knew EXACTLY what she meant before i even saw him. as we walked along a little further, sure enough, we saw a poster of him, sitting with his little barbershop quartet hat.

now, i know nothing of their platforms, but i'd like to play a little game called "if i was to vote, who would i vote for based purely on their pictures?" luckily, i have a huge envelope chock full of every candidate's pamphlet that was shoved into everyone's mailbox, and each one has a picture of them on the cover. i chose my favorites, took some pictures of them, and would like to share them all with you. now, bear in mind, i have no idea what these people are actually running for, and some of their numbers are the same so they must be running for different positions, but we're going to pretend it's a contest just between these people.

let's start with contestant #7!

i'd like to start with this one because he is using popular politician pose: fist in the air. in korea, this must translate into "i have the power to lead you." either that, or it's a freeze frame from when he was a guest on the arsenio hall show. oh, but this pose isn't just for men:

yes, it seems that number 8 opted for the same "strength" shot. maybe hers translates more into "i am woman, hear me roar."

for the sake of simplicity, here is number 5:

why did i think this picture was noteworthy? imagine his face blown up over the side of the building. see, i told you it was funny.

going with the theme of simplicity, take a look at number 1:

nice and simple. look approachable and smile. the "OK!" at the bottom doesn't hurt, either (well, contestant number 7 also used that, but his was in the middle, between his fist and head. seemed a little more violent to me.)

and, i'm not even going to give the last one an introduction:

what is he? a real estate agent? on the other side of the pamphlet, he is number 5, so i'm not really sure whose competition he is, i just know that this is by far the strangest picture. what, is he so busy and dedicated to the public that he can't even take time away from his cell phone for a picture? i was too lazy to take a picture of the other side, but it involves a cheesy graphic design that looks seriously photoshopped: faded soccer balls lined up coming towards the middle, getting darker and darker until you see his face in the center one. oh korea, you never cease to humor me.

so who do i deem the winner? in my opinion, simplicity is best, and my vote goes to contestant number 1. you just can't beat a smile. ok ok really, i think i'd lie and say i voted for one, but my vote would really go to cell phone guy.

i know i shouldn't mock traditions that are different from mine, but sometimes it's just to hard to hold back. especially when they annoy me with constantly knock-knock-knocking on my door. i should just get a sign that says "i'm a waeguk- i don't care who wins!" so they'll leave me alone. and i'm still bitter about that 7 am truck that wakes me up. i'd shake my fist at them, but i'm kind of afraid they'd snap a picture of me and throw me onto the side of a building.

Monday, May 22, 2006

urban legends!

well, with the change in weather, i figured this to be the perfect opportunity to introduce you to some classic korean urban legends. now, i don't want to sound like i'm stereotyping anyone or trying to make grand general statements or implying that westerners are always right, but these urban legends are downright R-I-D-I-C-U-L-O-U-S. why are they so ridiculous? no, it's not the idea behind them, because i know that every country has urban legends like these, but it's the fact that VIRTUALLY EVERY KOREAN believes them.

let's start with urban legend #1: fan-deaths.

i'd never heard of this before coming here, but according to korean belief, if you leave a fan on all night in a room with your windows closed, you will suffocate by the fan sucking up and stealing your oxygen. many a foreigner has tried to reason with koreans, be it coworkers, students, or significant others, and i have yet to hear of one case where the korean has thought it to be baloney or changed their mind. honestly. and when some teachers prove to their students that they have, in fact, slept in an enclosed room with a fan facing them directly all night, the students respond with "it's because you're not korean" or "oh, you were lucky that night." so apparently this isn't a world-wide epidemic because it's something that only koreans are prone to. in fact, just about every fan sold here in korea now comes with an automatic timer that turns itself off so you can safely fall asleep with the fan on. oh, and in some cases, it's not just limited to fans. some people believe the same thing will happen in an air conditioned car, so the window should be opened a crack. with the rise of popular shows like mythbusters, you'd think the media would be there to debunk this myth... nope, the media here is the main reason that people believe this. every summer, there are multiple "fan deaths" reported in the news. yep, korea, a leading country when it comes to technology and science, also lists "electric fans" as a cause of death on death certificates.

and, i bring to you urban legend #2: acid rain and baldness.

now i'm not really too familiar with the facts behind this or how many people believe in it, but i can tell you that many koreans think that if you don't use an umbrella or cover yourself in some way, you'll go bald from acid rain. i don't know if the pollution in asia has had an effect on rain or if there is any hint of reality in this, but i'm quite sure it isn't true, unless maybe you are standing under this rain 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. i wasn't even aware of this until i was leaving a restaurant today with my coworkers jim and fred (who are korean-american and korean-canadian, respectively). it happened to be raining, and we were strolling casually to go back to work next door. i thought to myself "we're so obviously foreign because we're not madly dashing for cover or trying to use our hands as a makeshift umbrella," but had never thought about the reasoning behind our reactions to the rain. we rather enjoyed the rain, and fred commented on some guy who ran past us who was covering his hair, but the size of his hand compared to the size of his hair/head didn't seem be doing too much in the way of the prevention of wetness. fred told us about how when he and his korean wife visited vancouver, which is notoriously rainy, she just couldn't believe the vast numbers of people who were just putzing around out in the rain, while she was frantically trying to seek cover. she, along with many other koreans, are believers of acid rain baldness.

i just can't believe people are that gullible. anway, i've gotta get going. i've been trying to get more sleep because i've been cutting coffee out of my diet- i hear it stunts your growth.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

just call me phyllis

so lately i've become sort of a recluse. my daily routine has consisted of getting up, going to work, coming home, and crashing. on weekends i hang out with alisun and melissa, maybe see a movie, but i do nothing that would tire myself out. let's just say that i've turned into an old lady. i just can't do nights out anymore or huge group socializing. it takes too much out of me. i'm greatful for al and melissa because when i hang out with them, we don't have to do anything or talk, we can just lounge around and be happy. so yeah i'm sad that i haven't really seen anyone lately, but the thought of a night out or even a big get-together gives me a bit of a headache.

anyway, last night (sunday) we ended up planning a taco dinner and rounded the whole crew up for it. i think the total head count was 13 or 14 people crammed into melissa's apartment. it was fun, and the night ended in a noraebang session, but today i'm realizing why i just can't do nights like that anymore. it took so much out of me. granted, the wine and singing probably didn't help AT ALL, but i woke up today without a voice just feeling tired. kind of reinforces the fact that yes, i'm damn entitled to come home and crash at 9:30 every night and should keep doing so, because i think if i don't, i'm going to feel like crap for the rest of my time here.

it makes me sad to think about it because life here used to be go out and come home at 5:30/6 am. it was fine for a while, but my body just can't handle it anymore. i had a lot of fun last night and it felt good to socialize and sing, but i'm just not the same person i was when i first got here, physically and mentally. i haven't been eating much because of being sick, so i couldn't finish my taco, but that didn't stop me from splittling a bottle of wine with someone, which had more of an effect on me than it should have and i ended up feeling like i drank a LOT. so no, i'm not hungover this morning, but just feeling used and abused from last night and thought i'd gripe about it on my blog. it just amazes me because seeing everyone last night, i had to catch up with them. they're still doing the out all night/come home in the morning thing weekend after weekend, and i just can't understand how their bodies are still letting them do that. yeah call this my whiney blog entry, but i guess i'm sick and tired of being sick and tired.

jeez, looking back at pictures from last night though, i did my usual bogart the mic routine. i don't know what it is- the second i get into the room something takes over, and i'm up front the whole time. c'mon, tanya, practice a little self-control. at that rate, it'll take a few good months until i'm better. well, here are some pictures for thought:

(salsa, me, and dp. who invited these losers?)

(kevin, sulking that we're not at the noraebang yet, motorcycle helmet et al)

(lucy, schooling everyone norae-style)

Thursday, May 11, 2006


last weekend was a three-day weekend, and we decided it'd be a good opportunity to head to gyeongju. salsa was unsure whether or not she could come, so al, kimchi, and i took the 7 am bus on friday morning. upon arrival (around 10:30), we decided to head out to the coast thinking that would be a fun place to stay for the night. during our trek, salsa called us and said she had gotten a bus ticket for later that afternoon, so she could meet up with us. we hit the jackpot with the coast- there was a whole line of motels along the water, so we got a motel room with a sea-side view. it was awesome to go to bed/wake up the next morning to the sound of waves. oh summer, i've missed you so.

anyway, while we waited for salsa, al and i decided to go to girim-sa, a mountain/temple. we found the bus we needed to take, but that only dropped us off at the bottom of the mountain at a rather empty intersection. we weren't sure how far away the temple was, so we decided to walk, but then nixed that idea because of the traffic and lack of sidewalks. we headed back down again and tried to hail a taxi, but taxis were few and far between. so, we asked the lady working at a convenience store if she'd call a taxi for us, and soon we were on our merry way up the mountain. it was quite happening, seeing how it was buddha's birthday AND children's day- music, people, and decorations galore.

after walking back down the mountain, we headed back to the motel just in time to go meet salsa. i'd been feeling like crap all day and we were all tired, so we called it a night.

saturday was pretty foul, weather-wise, but that didn't stop us from doing some sight-seeing. first, we went to see the underwater tomb of king munmu. it was definitely underwhelming, considering the rain and the fact that we were dropped off on the beach and there was no tourist information there. hard to believe it's an important historical site. yep, just a big pile of rocks in the sea. we came, we saw, we conquered, and ran back to the bus stop.

after that, we went to bulgok-sa, checked into a motel, and headed across the street to the mountain. despite the crummy weather, it was definitely an awesome place. lots of temples and gorgeous scenery. there are some great views there, including a spot where you can see the tops of the temple roofs- total crouching tiger, hidden dragon gone korean.

after that, we headed back to motel. not able to handle the rain any longer, we decided to go into the city to find a movie theater and see mission: impossible 3. it was decent entertainment for a rainy saturday night, just what we needed.

we were up bright and early sunday morning to take the 10:40 bus back. and so ended our trip to gyeongju. all in all, it's a great place to visit, and you could do it a couple of times without seeing the same thing twice because there's so much to see. the city is pretty widespread, and getting a taxi for the day or befriending someone with a car would be beneficial, but it's not completely necessary. the bus system is pretty good and quite reliable and got us where we wanted, and we spent way less than we would have if we used a taxi all weekend.

it was good to get back on sunday because all of us were beat and i was sick all weekend. not quite sure what happened to us, but all three of us ended up getting sick- al and salsa were both pretty much projectile vomiting sunday night and through monday. i wasn't throwing up, but my stomach most certainly wasn't my best friend. let's just say my toilet and i got a little bit closer. salsa's convinced it was food poisoning, and maybe it was, but that doesn't explain why i had a temperature of 101 on monday and felt like absolute crap.

on a more interesting note, i was tested for mono last time i went to the doctor, and i got the results back when i went in on tuesday. turns out mono is the reason i've been getting sick, and it's leaving my body now. just good to know why i've been feeling like crap off and on since february. anyway, i'm still not quite over whatever it was that i got over the weekend so this week has again consisted of coming home and going right to bed. i think now more than ever i'm looking forward to going home just so i can be HEALTHY again. salsa said the second she was home for that week over easter, her swollen glands started to go down (i'm convinced she also had mono because she also has been sick non-stop). also, one of my coworkers said his wife never got sick back home, but was sick for pretty much her entire time here, and was completely fine once she got home again. so that's one more thing to look forward to!

Monday, May 01, 2006


so it took a while, but great scott i found it!!! it all started in either january or february, when this horribly catchy/catchily horrible commercial began to take our precious commercial airtime. so, ladies and gentleman, i present you with one of the most terrible commercials known to man.

  • yeogi

  • to me, it just sounds like some 50s doo-wop kind of song, and sometimes i sing along to it with my own lyrics. then one day it hit me that these are actual words that this man is singing. i came to this realization when one of my students was singing the song in class one day. no, these aren't some sort of voodoo/witchcraft chant, these are real-life words, folks.

    oh and they eat it up over here. it isn't just some random actor in the commercial, it's (from what i hear) a big-time movie star, lee jun-gi. korean women actually consider him attractive over here, but to be honest, the first time this commercial invaded my commercial screen, my first thoughts were "who is this transvestite and why is he on my tv?" not that there's anything wrong with transvestites, but the whole commercial just seemed odd for korea if it was a transvestite singing to a room full of women. oh, and if you're wondering, the loose translation is "all the pretty girls drink pomegranate juice." sure man, you just keep singing your commercialistic prophecy.

    so, enjoy the commercial, and may god have mercy on your soul.