Sunday, November 30, 2008

Yesterday I dropped a ton of won.

I woke up on Saturday not 100 percent recovered from my illness, so I skipped Korean class. For the second week in a row. I ought to be shot, really...

Well, I started feeling better a little later, so I decided that I needed to go shopping downtown. First stop was my travel agent where I plunked down my first chunk of major dough for a ticket to Vietnam for February and the fee for arranging my visa. Feeling much lighter, I met Sarah for a lovely lunch followed by pillaging the hiking equipment section of downtown. I purchased new boots at a 20% discount (with GoreTex!) and a good bag for travelling in Vietnam (and other future travels) at a 10% discount plus free hiking socks.

Beautiful New Boots!


Today Min Gi and I tested my new boots (and free socks) on some mountain trails that start right behind my school (Waryong Mountain). We ended up wandering around a lot longer than planned, and I discovered that I have not fully recovered from the cold. Back at the apartment he continued teaching me the intricacies of the Korean card game, Go-Stop. Sometimes referred to as "the Korean poker," Go-Stop is played with 화투 (Hwatu) cards of Japanese origin (called Hanafuda in Japan). Apparently it is now available on yahoo games.

The one hand I won... So exciting!


Anyhow, after warming up, I feel better, although I am not allowed to spend any more money in all of December. This shouldn't be too difficult as I will be locked up in my school preparing a test for applicants to the foreign language high school one weekend with no access to phone or internet.

I look forward to improving my health further and returning to work tomorrow. For finals week. Woohoo!

Friday, November 28, 2008

American Holidaze.

I missed Thanksgiving this year because I've been in a foggy, sick haze most of the week. I took two days off work (and on two of them I went to, I got to hear people tell me all day how crappy I look--thanks... just what I need on top of FEELING like crap, people), have been to the doctor twice, pumped myself full of all kinds of interesting medicines, and still am feeling blah. It's weird 'cause I seem to feel a little better after eating and taking the meds, but then a few hours later will experience a new round of coughing/headaches/breathing difficulties/faintness/etc. that makes me get all pessimistic again about recovering. And my brain has been fuzzy pretty consistently, which just tends to piss me off.

Well, now that I've vented a bit about that, I would like to celebrate Thanksgiving on my own by reflecting on what I'm grateful for this year. In many ways, it's been a really tough year--I've lived in another country the whole time and my family (especially my dad) have been dealing with a host of health problems. However, I have so many things to be thankful for:

1. My amazing family. My sister is now in college and growing into the most beautiful young woman I know. I'm so happy she got to visit me in Korea (thanks, Mom and Dad!) and that she is healthy and great. My mother, who got a new job this year and has taken to reading my blog regularly and commenting on it, has become even more open minded and accepting of my oddities as a (less than perfect) daughter. My father, my heart and soul, has a strength and an optimism in the face of great adversity (I am so sorry we don't talk as much as we used to). My brother, Brian, who has had a rough year, needs all the love he can get.

2. My wonderful friends from all over the world.

3. My loving boyfriend, who fits into category #2, but deserves special mention all on his own.

4. My two beautiful cats. Princess: perfect and not too bright; Saja: destructive and curious. Life would not be half so fun without you.

5. All of the amazing people I've met in Korea by doing swing dance and taekwondo.

6. My job is interesting, full of good people (especially the students), rewarding, and not-too-stressful.

7. My health, which other than this week, has been pretty great this last year!

8. Korea, my adopted country, which has given me more than I can ever hope to give it back, despite its flaws and currently crappy exchange rate.

9. America, my homeland, that for once made the right decision about a president, and presses on ever hopeful in times of much hardship and difficulty.

10. The earth, which continues to grow larger and seem smaller every day. I hope we humans learn how to treat you right.


There are more little things, of course, but those are the top 10.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sick Food Adventures; Best Boyfriend Award.

For the last four days, I've had a nasty little cold that keeps seeming like it's going away and then coming back with a vengeance. Yesterday I went to a doctor who gave me the standard Korean packet of mixed pills, offered me a shot in the butt (which I politely declined), and sent me on my merry way. This morning I woke up sicker than ever. I don't know if the meds are making me worse or if the sinus infection just now developed or what, but I had to call in sick.

Not wanting to drag my half-dead fanny out of my apartment but needing some kind of nourishment left me in a quandary. Although my Korean has probably been good enough to order food for myself for some time, I've resisted trying for fear of looking like an idiot. Today hunger and haziness trumped the potential embarrassment, so I ordered some 수제비, a kind of wheat "noodle" and egg soup that is good for me when I'm sick. It came in about 15 minutes and it was delicious. Go Diana Korean skillz.

A little later, two of my co-workers came by my apartment to bring me 호박죽, a kind of pumpkin rice porridge from a fancy traditional Korean restaurant. It was amazing. How wonderfully sweet of them. As I was already full from lunch, I will even have some leftover for tomorrow. I would have eaten it for dinner, but Min Gi came over to take care of me. And to make me food.

That's right. Now he cooks.

Here he is, cooking in my tiny kitchen, with all the ingredients he brought over.


Pasta and Salad. Yummy. But WAY too much food. Leftovers?


He's so proud of himself.


And, of course, I appreciate it, too. You have to understand that Korean culture is pretty set against men cooking as a general rule. They live with their moms who cook for them until they get married and then their wives do. Min Gi has taught himself quite a bit in the last two weeks (when he decided he wanted to learn how to cook). I am very impressed. I hereby grant him the Best Boyfriend Award.

It was so much fun, we've decided to cook for each other every week. Next week it's my turn. Hello burritos!

I'm still not well in body, but all this happy food and love has made me much better in spirit.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Heavy.

This weekend a reliable friend told me a secondhand story about a local bartender, prominent in the foreign scene in Daegu, currently serving time in prison for raping a customer who was too intoxicated to object. I will not publish this information, as I cannot personally attest to its veracity, but if you are interested in the name and bar of the perpetrator, please contact me privately--especially if you live in Daegu. (However, do note that as he is in jail at this time, he is not working at the bar; furthermore the bar owners had no knowledge of this crime, even though it was committed on their property, until the police arrested the man.) I am happy to give information out that could protect more girls in the future.

Speaking of rape, my attention was drawn to this lovely bit of stone-age court shenanigans, reported by The Korea Times. You really must read the full article, but in case you missed the ending of this debacle:

But [the court] gave the [rapists] suspended terms, saying, ``The accused have fostered the girl in her parents' place. Considering her disability, she will also need their care and help in living in the future.''

What??!???!?!

The Korean court is releasing rapists to care for the 16-year-old disabled girl they were just convicted of raping??!?! Are you serious?

I mean, I know Korea has a long way to go to catch up with the U.S. in its understandings of disabilities, child abuse, and women's rights regarding rape, but this is just disgusting. It's like saying, "Oh gee guys. We know it's rough to raise her, so it wasn't that bad that you raped her."

I'm not really prone to profanity (or multiple punctuation marks), but today, Korea, you've made me want to scream:

WHAT THE FUCK????!!!!????

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Romance, international style.

Last night, Min Gi and I celebrated our six-month-iversary (as I side note, I hate it when people say "one month anniversary" or "eight month anniversary," and not just because those particular units of time have little significance to a relationship once you get out of high school, but also because "anniversary" means YEARS).

Those of you who know me well know I'm not that gushy about romantic stuff. However, I have learned from my many failed relationships that lack of romance is one of many relationship-killers (or just a sign it's over).

I have also learned (from my own mistakes, but also from observing others, including my parents) that men don't always know what kinds of gestures I would find romantic, and I have to teach them how to make me feel special. Not in a demanding "you must buy me 100 roses a year" kind of way, but if a certain day is important to you, let the guy know about it in advance so he can prepare for it. I have so many friends who make a huge deal about people forgetting their birthdays, but they won't tell people when their birthdays are--that's just not fair. Also, be sure to appreciate all the little efforts your guy does make, even if it's not exactly what you wanted. Men really love to please women, but they won't bother if they feel like nothing they do is good enough.

Interestingly enough, being in an international relationship has taught me even more about communicating effectively and patiently with a partner. We have language and cultural barriers to overcome in addition to the usual barriers between men and women (or between people, for that matter). Amanda wrote a great post about this about a year ago, before I was even dating Min Gi.

Koreans don't really celebrate dating markers on the months. They celebrate hundreds of days (i.e. 100 days, 200 days, 500 days, etc.). I don't get this system. It has no significance for me because frankly, who wants to sit there with a calendar and count these things out? I don't. (I've since been informed that in all Korean cell phones, you can easily program this information into your phone and it will mark the dates on the calendar for you.) And, as I've explained, I'm not huge on the monthly "anniversaries." However, I'm really happy with Min Gi and am impressed we've been dating for half a year and wanted to do something special with him on that day.

So I told him about it. A month ago. I said, "Did you know that it was five months ago today that we started dating?"

"Really?"

"Yes. But I don't think five months is that important, even though some American couples do. However, I do think six months is important."

"Ok. But I don't like to do the same thing as everybody else. It's not my style."

"I know... but we're in Korea. Celebrating six months is kind of different in Korea. I don't need our hundred days or peppero day or Christmas as a romantic holiday. I do need this."

"Ok. What day?"

"November 19. Eleven nineteen."

"I won't forget."

"진짜?"

"찐짜."

I checked that he was remembering a few times this last month (kind of as a joke, but to be fair to him). And he even asked what I wanted to do for that day.

But even with this reassurance, international relationships can have their obstacles. The day before the big day, he sent me a text with a sad-faced man that said "D-day: -1." I was initially confused by this, as D-Day in English usually means a much-anticipated event, but always in a negative way. It comes from the military name and alludes to the infamous Normandy Landings from WWII, now remembered by how they were depicted in the Spielberg movie, Saving Private Ryan.

I called him. He and my co-teacher both informed me that "D-Day" is used in Korea to refer to an anticipated event, negative or positive. As in your wedding is next week, "D-Day -7." Or something like that. (There are many English borrow words in this language that don't QUITE mean what we think they do and it can lead to much confusion.)

Anyhow, miscommunication aside, last night we met up downtown and headed to my favorite Italian place in all of Daegu, Little Italya, and then watched the new James Bond flick. Both were great.

And Min Gi gave me some little gifts: a small pot of fake pink roses (because they will last longer than real flowers), two hair clips (because they were cute), and a small typewriter figurine (to remind me of my dream to be a writer). None of these things were expensive, but the last one especially touched my heart.

When we got back to my place, I showed him my re-arranged kitchen with more cooking space for experimenting with food for his bar. We made plans for the winter (skiing, hiking, dancing, etc.) and reminisced about the good times we've had so far.

It was wonderful.

Who says men can't be romantic?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Distressing...

Oh my god!

More Korean men are now obese than American men.

American obesity rates are hovering just above 30%, but today I read an article that puts 36% of Korean men in the obese category. (Do check out that second article link for an illustration of the Korean idea of "obesity"... notice the man in the picture is NOT Korean).

So where are they hiding all the fattys? Look again, my dears.

Most US news sources will explain that Body Mass Index (BMI), a number calculated from your height and weight used to determine risk of weight-related diseases, has four major categories. Under 18 (or 20 depending on the source) is considered underweight; 18-25 is considered healthy or normal weight; 25-29 is considered overweight; and over 30 is classified as obese (over 40, severe and morbid obesity).

Although the uses of BMI vary from country to country, these guidelines are in line with the World Health Organization (WHO) standards for BMI measurements.

From the Korea Times article:

"Those whose body mass index (BMI) ― a statistical measurement comparing a person's weight and height ― is over 25 are categorized as obese, and those with a BMI over 30, as hyper-obese."


Hahaha.

No wonder I'm so fat here. I'm not just "overweight," ladies and gentlemen, I'm "obese."

In a funk... and getting out of it.

I've been in a strange funk this last week. I blew off taekwondo and the gym more than usual, have been dragging my feet again about getting stuff done around the house and for grad school, and I've even been mulling over stuff about my relationship that I have no control over and no cause to worry about at this point (stuff like if we stay together, can his mom accept a foreigner? where will we live? etc, etc, and so forth).

Min Gi was a darling about it. He tolerated my moodiness on Sunday admirably. We went to Duryu park in the afternoon, which was nice. There were lots of families and couples walking around and playing and we just talked about lots of things. Then, he had wanted to experiment with some recipes for his future bar (we have this idea about serving western-style sandwiches as they are easy to make if you can get a good bread supplier, but hard to find in and about Korea), which normally would have been a really wonderfully fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon, but I was in a funk about my kitchen being a mess and too small, so I whined about it. Instead we ordered pizza and watched a movie (my choice) and relaxed. I felt better.

Then, at work, I got the brilliant idea of how to cure my funk: rearrange my furniture. This works wonders. So I came home and hopped right in. And while I was at it, I might as well clean everything, right?

So I went to go clean my kitchen...

And my dishes were done.

I have a wonderful boyfriend and (after three hours of work this evening) a well-arranged, clean apartment. I'm a lucky girl.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Huge Flaws...

Back in America, people go on and on and on about the "Asian education system" and how it's so great. They picture perfectly behaved seven year olds solving calculus problems in their heads while the teacher stands in front of the class, smiling beatifically.

The reality is a bit different. Culturally, Korean students are more respectful of their teachers because the position is considered so highly in Korean culture and parents do value education above all other areas (as you can see from the fact that they spent 6.8% of the GDP on education in 1999). So, while a Korean kid would never talk back to a teacher to their face, like all teenagers, my students respect and disrespect teachers behind their backs according to who has "earned" respect in their opinions. And many foreign teachers (especially in hagwons) complain that this general respect for teachers does not extend to foreigners that Koreans view as outside their culture, so the kids act exactly as American students where you have to prove to them you're a teacher before they'll listen to you.

Also the test is paramount.

I complained a lot in the past about NCLB's effect on the American education system and how useless standardized testing is for educating students. But I've gotta say that when you look at standardized testing in America, we've got NOTHING on Asia.

Today I have the day off because it's KSAT day. William explains the significance of this more completely in his blog entry on the subject, which you should read. Like I say in my comments on his blog, what a waste. What a whole freaking waste. No wonder modern Korea has so little innovation and literature of note in the greater world--kids spend their most valuable years learning how to be drones.

I'll tell you what. They might score better on a test, but if I got stuck on a desert island and had to survive all on my own, I'd sure as hell hope my partner was American-educated over a Korean-educated one. We'd stand a much better chance.

Teacher Dork!

I'm a big teacher dork.

Yesterday was my last writing class for the gifted students last night and am buzzing high on how much progress they made with their writing in just two short months. I inherited this class from someone who clearly didn't give a darn about them (but of course didn't let that get in the way of his inflated ego regarding his own teaching abilities) and about half of them were ready to quit the class. Even though I worked them about to death, they actually appreciated having learned so much in such a short time. They wrote the most amazing letters to me for their final portfolios. I am deeply touched and honored to have taught them, even if for a short time.

Also, I am *so* excited about getting to teach To Kill a Mockingbird to the second grade students (American grade equivalent: 11). This is the reading class I co-teach with a Korean teacher. We had originally planned to do Of Mice and Men, but the bookstore ordered some kind of stupid ESL version for kids at the second grade ELEMENTARY school level. (Seriously, who does that? Who "dumbs down" a book as accessible as Of Mice and Men? It's only 110 pages. You could freaking read it aloud in a class if you wanted to! I used to teach it in TWO WEEKS back in the states to kids with half the brainpower of the dumbest kids at the foreign language high school. Shoosh. /rant.) We scrambled to find a replacement text and finally settled on Harper Lee's only novel. My co-teacher and I were both really excited, even though we knew it would be a huge challenge.

And then my "boss" (the head of the English department) had this conversation with me:

"Um, Diana?"

"Yes?"

"I heard that you are teaching To Kill a Mockingbird, but I think that maybe it is too difficult for the students."

"Really? I don't think so. It's taught in middle schools in the U.S."

"Yes, but, well, I read it a few years ago and I remember it was so hard. Because there are lots of references to U.S. History and I did not understand."

"Well, I think they don't have to understand every part to enjoy the story."

"And it is very long."

"Well, we tried to get a shorter book, but the bookstore didn't carry the real version of the novel. I don't want to use a modified text."

"Couldn't you maybe use a novel for teenagers?"

"Like a young adult book? But they are reading a young adult novel in first grade. I think it's important for them to be exposed to some of the same classics they would read in an English-speaking country's secondary school."

"Well, maybe they will not be able to finish it."

"That's ok. We just want to help them get started. They can read it over winter vacation [editor's note: about a month and half long]."

"But they will be third graders. They need to study for their KSAT."

"Ok. So, some of them will read it, and some of them won't. That's ok."

She paused, finally understanding that I wasn't backing down. "Well, you will have to help them understand."

"Of course! That's my job!" I laugh and smile.

The conversation ended.

However... if you understand Korean culture you will realize just how bad of an employee I was by repeatedly defending my choice of book when my boss "suggested" that I choose another book. In Korea, people do not directly contradict one another. When a person who is in a position above you (or hell, even a person older than you who is officially equal to you) makes a "suggestion," that is an order. You are supposed to comply.

The thing is, my boss (as you can tell) speaks excellent English. She earned her TESOL certification in the U.S. She has dealt with foreign teachers and other foreigners for years. Yet she still has this awful habit of saying "maybe" or "I think" with everything she says in English even when she is IN CHARGE of the event and knows the answers to my questions for sure. It annoys the crap out of me.

So if she wants me to do something different, she's going to have to be direct (at least in English). Because my pedagogical choices are solid. Frankly, I'm kind of sick of having them questioned by people who have either never seen me teach in a classroom or who have no training/experience in education.

I don't know if this is me being brave, stubborn, or unrealistic about asking someone to go against their inborn cultural training... but if it serves the interests of my students, I'll risk mild alienation from the next staff party or two.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Belonging...

If you learn nothing else from my blog about Korea, learn this: The group is more important than the individual. Always. It really helps you understand a lot of the seemingly perverse logic in this country. The (unfortunate) correlate to this is that if you do not belong to the group, you do not exist. I think this last bit is one of the reasons many foreigners here have a difficult time in this country and often leave it with a strong distaste for all things Korean that has little to do with their culinary opinion of red pepper.

Trouble is, I come from the most pro-individual country in the world. From folk heroes beloved for their rugged independence to the protection of individual rights above all else in our Constitution, America is all about making your own way, doing your own thing, thinking your own thoughts. So... an American in group-minded Korea is bound to encounter some difficulties.

My desire to understand the language and culture of this strange and paradoxical place is impeded by not really belonging. I am an outsider. You can understand American culture without belonging to it; in fact your not belonging to it is PART of the culture. You can't fully understand Korea without being part of the group. So I've been trying to find a way to belong. At my job, with my Korean family, in taekwondo, with my swing club, in my life...

However, my 금라면 hair and curvy white body already make me stand out here. I also have a tendency to disagree openly and argue with people if I disagree. Not meanly, just in the interest of friendly debate--you know the food of democracy and all that. William once accused me of being confrontational, which is both true and a relief. It's so much better than being accused of being passive-aggressive (which I was perhaps accused of in high school). This presents an obstacle for the attempts to "belong" here in Korea.

Because you see, the thing is, I refuse to give up who I am in order to be admitted to the group. I've already explained how "You are Korean!" is a compliment (it's Korea's way of attempting to fit you in so that it's ok to accept you into their life), but that's not good enough for independent me. I want to be me and still accepted into their lives.

Some would say this is too tall an order.

But this weekend, after almost a year of attending swing club, I finally felt as if I belonged. As if I was accepted into the community and appreciated for who I am.

It's been a slow process. This club already had two other foreigners who'd been truly accepted--Ben, who is an excellent dancer so it was easy for him to hop right in, and Leah, who speaks Korean comfortably and with a competence and ease that never ceases to amaze me (she also learned to dance in Korea, but much faster and more gracefully than I, and is now married to another club member). I'm not trying to imply that their process of being accepted was any less difficult than my own, just that I faced other challenges. Also, there are other foreign members of the club, and I'm not trying to imply their presence is unimportant or that they are unaccepted--it IS important, and (as we know) acceptance is partly a personal feeling. But I do think that the Korean members of the club are slow to let foreigners in their hearts--partly because of the language barriers, partly because they know most of us will be gone within a year or two, and partly because most of us are beginners or close to it.

I spent months attending where I could barely do jitterbug (the easiest form of swing), and nobody would ask me to dance (both because I was a beginner and because I was a foreigner), but I persisted. Every night, I would make sure I asked each lead present to dance at least once. Some even refused, claiming they couldn't speak English (though I asked them to dance in Korean and understood their refusal, usually in English), but I would just come back later that night and ask them again.

I took classes and went out to the after parties to try to talk to people and get to know them. Slowly, I learned their names and how long they'd been dancing and other details about their lives (hard to do in two different languages). I went on trips to other swing clubs and for MTs and such. I was on a performance team for Ben's goodbye party. My lindy hop improved, and I didn't have to apologize constantly for my bad dancing. Eventually, even a few people would approach me to ask for a dance!

Ben, who had even been the president of the club in his last year here, left in July. His loss was a true loss to the club. Other foreigners have left and while the foreign members miss them, only a few of the Korean members have commented on their absence--this is what I mean by "belonging," that when you go, you're missed. After he left, we needed a new president and no one was stepping forward. I was "volunteered" and after much reluctance, I finally agreed to take on the job in October. We held elections and now I'm president.

You would think that to be the leader of a club you'd have to "belong" but I really think that my election was the beginning of, not the result of, my acceptance. I was elected because it's fun to have a foreigner as the mascot of your club and because no one else would do it, but since being elected, I've been feeling the subtle shift in my focus at the club. Taking on Korean logic (klogic, if you will) about the group. Like worrying about my appearance and dancing abilities because if I'm not pretty enough or good enough, I might let the club down.

Finally, this weekend we had the sixth anniversary party. I didn't really do much to organize it... that was the last vice president's "baby," but I did mobilize the troops (i.e. delegate responsibility) for getting decorations together and making sure the night ran smoothly and that we had enough staff that no one had to work the whole night and everybody could enjoy at least some of the party. I still feel like I didn't do much to earn the congratulations of everyone, but congratulate me they did.

But while I'm not going to detail the events of the party, after party, or workshop the next day (perhaps in another post if I don't get lazy about it), somewhere in all that dancing, and Korean-speaking, and organizational flurry, I realized that I do belong in this group. That my language and dance abilities have improved enough in a year to make me worthy of this honor, and that if I leave, I will be missed by more than just the other foreigners.

And that's a nice feeling.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Reason #512 to Learn Korean:

You understand why the 시티병원 is funny.

(For you non-Korean speakers, "시티" is the Hangeulized word "City" and "병원" means "Hospital;" so the place's name is "City Hospital." However, Koreans don't have the sibilant s/c sound followed by the "i" vowel sound, so the pronunciation of "시" is like "she." Ergo... Shitty Hospital.)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Wow! I'm proud of you, America!

I'll admit being away from the hustle and bustle of DC has kept me out of the loop regarding the 2008 presidential campaign. This is possibly the least informed I've ever been--and it's the most exciting election of my lifetime. I feel a bit of guilt about this, but at the same time... not so much. America is a distant place from out here in East Asia.

To be honest, politics has left a bad taste in my mouth since the evening of the 2000 campaign where my friend sat up in my college dorm room all night picking a louse (yes, just one) and its nits out of my hair (she had accidentally spread an outbreak in our overnight read-a-thon that weekend), while we were glued to CNN. Every 10 minutes they would say "Bush has won!" and then "We can't determine it!" and then "Gore may claim a victory!" and then "Nope, we're still idiots down here in Florida who have no idea how to design or count a ballot!"

It was a very bipolar evening. It was my first election ever voting. I voted for Nader. (I'm from Maryland. The Dems ALWAYS win Maryland by a landslide. However my grandmother from Florida did almost disown me when she found this out.) My roommate and I plotted the death of Bush before he could even assume office, thus forcing an emergency election rather than having the VP (I shudder to mention his name) take over. Obviously, we failed to execute our plan...

Which brings me to this year...

I was excited by the primary. I wanted Clinton to win. She is an AMAZING politician (yes, that includes both the negative and positive connotations of that word). She's smart. She's awesome. And yeah, I like the idea of a woman in office (note to Republicans: a COMPETENT woman please).

Thing is, I was also thrilled with Obama. He oozes charisma. He's idealistic. His resume reads like a dream for being groomed for the office of president. And yeah, I like the idea of a black man in office.

On the issues, they were pretty close to identical, just different emphases.

I was, at that time, highly concerned about the national electability of either candidate. I thought as far as the race/gender issues were concerned, America was probably more ready for a black man than it was for a white woman, but (and I'm really glad it didn't come to this) Republican campaigns are not usually known for their uprightness and honesty. Case in point: since the 2004 election people STILL believe a Texas oil millionaire's son was one of the "regular guys" and a middle class fellow who put himself through law school was an elitist snob born with a silver spook in his mouth. (The middle of the country also seems to believe that the last election was mainly about gay marriage--failing to notice we were ENGAGED IN WAR at the time of the election. Hello, people!) Hence a person whose name happened to rhyme with the most despised known terrorist might be even more subject to the evil low-brow ploys of the campaign machine.

Furthermore, as far as McCain goes, he was by far the most palatable candidate that the Republican party has put forth in the last 50 years or so. I may have disagreed with many of his policies and plans, but I think he would have made a fine president. (His running mate is a whole other story...)

So when it was McCain vs. Obama I was hopeful about Obama's chances, but not dreadfully optimistic.

But as October came around and his polls were still steadily in his favor, I started to think that my hesitant Obama nay-saying (in my head, as I know out loud it could have been detrimental to the campaign... I learned my lesson when I called the Kerry/Bush fiasco of 2004 back in March of that year, and it played out PRECISELY as I said it would), might actually be incorrect. Could we win? Could we have the first president of my adult life that I could be PROUD of?

And today, my American brethren have proved that they can be trusted a little more than I thought they could.

Just not the people from Texas (ahem, William).

Biggest (happy) surprises:
* Virginia, Florida, and Ohio going pretty solidly for Obama.
* Homeless folks turning out in record numbers to vote.
* North Carolina being too close to call with Obama leading by just over 12,000 as of right now.
* McCain conceding, no fight, before California was called.
* The stock market is optimistic because of the vote.


I cheered in the staff room when it was announced right after lunch. The Korean staff seemed bemused by my elation. I was surprised I was as happy as I was. I guess I really wasn't so apathetic about this election after all. Even if I was too lazy to turn my absentee ballot in on time, so I failed to vote.

Yay for live-action history.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Things I watch now that I live in Korea...

...

1. America's Next Top Model
2. CSI
3. CSI Miami
4. E! Hollywood News
5. Whatever movie is on TV
6. The Biggest Loser
7. Hell's Kitchen
8. Project Runway
9. The Bachelor
10. MTV

... I hate myself.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Being a Fuddy-Duddy.

I'm a fuddy-duddy--and I LOVE it.

I don't say this lightly. I spent years of college worrying that I wasn't "cool" because my alcohol consumption and penchant for ending up in stupid situations was well below your average co-ed. When I first moved to Korea, you may recall that I spent some time trying to right this imbalance. I discovered that while bars, clubs, and intoxication can have their moments of fun, I get little true satisfaction from these activities.

I've noticed that I'd rather meet a friend for an afternoon coffee than at a downtown party; I'd rather go swing dancing than clubbing; I'd rather read a book than get drunk. I'm just not a "party girl," and I don't really want to be. I've finally found a happy medium here... I can go out with some friends one or two nights a week and have fun, but spend most of my time doing daytime activities and relaxing. Actually, even though I had more friends in the U.S., the stress from my job prevented much partying. That means my social calendar here is way busier than it was back home and sometimes even gives me a little stress. I like this.

(Unfortunately, though, it seems like this is not a great way to meet new people. I think almost all the good friends I have in Korea I've met at bars, including Min Gi, though usually through some mutual acquaintance, not just random encounters. Notable exceptions are people I've met through the YMCA class, people I've met through work, and people I've met through swing dance. As I suspected when I was single, the social odds are stacked against the introvert.)

You may be asking yourself, "What's so great about being a fuddy-duddy?"

Well here's the thing. Fuddy-duddy life doesn't mean you are inactive. On the contrary. I go hiking and dancing, out to dinner or lunch with my boyfriend and other friends, enjoy hanging out or shopping downtown... I just don't do the regular "party" things that other 20somethings seem to enjoy so much.

Case-in-point: My weekend.

I love Halloween. But I think I love it for its positive associations with partying (American style, meaning at a private home) with friends and dressing up. This weekend I just did NOT want to go out to the BIG event on Friday. I felt like I should, as a good friend of mine was heavily involved with the preparations for this event, but it's just not my scene at all. And I'm a little sad because I missed Halloween, but this weekend was one of the best I've had in awhile.

Saturday
I went to Korean class, which was interesting and fun. I ate Chinese food and introduced William to my favorite Italian restaurant downtown, Little Italya. I met friends for "coffee" (one needed lunch so it was at a restaurant) and lost my winter coat (oops!). I went to swing dance, where I had fun and convinced a swinging couple from Pohang to come to our big party next weekend.

Sunday
Min Gi got free tickets to a show that was part of the Korea in Motion festival at Kyungbuk University, so after a lovely afternoon catching up with Gwen (at Little Italya, of course!), we met Iosha and some other swing club members (including Genie, the charming man who had obtained the tickets for all of us) to watch the show. It turned out to be a pretty awesome dance show that was extremely Korean in ways I cannot begin to explain. But then at the end, Iosha, being one of the representative foreigners, was pulled up on stage, so afterwards we got our photo taken with some of the dancers:

You gotta love Korean B-boys, no?


Then I went home and cleaned my house.

I felt completely happy and content. Nothing about this weekend was super-special, it was just nice.

After next weekend's huge party (the swing dance club's six year anniversary party), I think I'll take this lesson to heart and rest a bit.

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