Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year to ME!!!

Damn Seoul Uyu's Banana Milk. Dammit to hecks.

Let me explain.

This post was supposed to be about the fantastic, awesome time I had last night. I was going to meet Min Gi at a party with all our friends in Daegu and then he got tickets (with seating!) on a train to Busan that had been sold out the previous day. I was going to meet up with Rebecca (who is back in the ROK) to watch the sun rise on Haeundae beach (it's kind of a tradition in Korea to watch the first sunrise at a beach). I was going to bring my camera and have a fabulous time. It was going to be awesome.

But none of this happened.

What did happen was I awoke from my pre-party nap with my stomach in violent knots. Within 15 minutes, I had stuff coming out both ends and I realized I had food poisoning.

Ok, fine... I'll skip TKD and it'll pass in a couple hours and the rest of the night can still be awesome, I just won't drink... right?

Min Gi called to check on me and I told him about being sick and that I was missing TKD, but I should still be at the party when I said I would. He offered to come over, but I said no, it should be ok.

Two AGONIZING hours later, relief was nowhere in sight and I wasn't able to hold down water. I called Min Gi and Rebecca to tell them the bad news. Min Gi again insisted he should come over, but I said it wasn't a good idea. I was GROSS.

He called again at midnight to ring in the new year together. Around 2 am I was considering caving and telling him to come over and take me to the hospital when I was at last able to keep some water down.

Last night was hell.

This morning I find out that my lunch was not the evil culprit. William had the same symptoms. It was the stupid banana milk we were given as an end of the year snack at work. Evil banana milk.

Sorry if this post was a bit too scatological for your tastes. If it helps, I've decided never to eat again. I'm sure once I feel better, I'll change my mind, but right now the thought of food---'s gross.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Year's Resolutions...

To keep myself accountable... some goals for the year.

1. Finish the Master's degree.
2. Be consumer-debt free (student debt will take a few more years... oh the irony that MOST of the consumer debt is paying for school expenses not covered by loans...).
3. Get 2 dan in TKD. Make TKD a DAILY priority.
4. Complete all of 2A and 2B in Sogang plus finish the Legends reader. Generally continue Korean study.
5. Take some more lindy hop workshops. At least four.
6. Commit to making a healthy diet consistent. Daily HEALTHY breakfast, more vegetables, less cheese, wine (and other such "fun" beverages), and chocolate/ice cream, no more diet coke or coffee.
7. Hike Biseulsan, Jirisan, and Seoraksan (the last two need training).
8. Travel to at least two new countries.
9. Finish two of my currently unfinished writing projects and blog consistently.
10. (Yes I'm going there...) Lose 10 kgs (22lbs).

I will post on these goals as I achieve them. I have some time in January and February to work towards them (as I only have to work 15 days during these two months--yay vacation!).

Go me!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Fantastic Christmas...Wish I had taken photos!

I ate so much food in the last few days, I'm afraid to look at the scale until the diet gets back to normal. However, it has been a wonderful few days.

Christmas Eve

Min Gi got dressed up in a suit (rare for him) and accompanied me to the EPIK teachers in Daegu dinner--a buffet at a nice wedding hall. I ran into a few people I've met over the last few months in Korea. It was good to see everyone all dolled up and happy.

After dinner, I had plans to meet my good friend Yumiko downtown. Yumiko was one of my best friends in my first six months here before she had to return to Japan to finish her master's degree. She was in town visiting her boyfriend, Jin-oo (yes, they stayed together all these last 10 months they were in different countries... impressive), but did want to catch up with her other friends still in Daegu. It was so nice to see her. And Min Gi got to practice his few phrases of Japanese that he had learned when he was exploring options exporting some kind of product to Japan (he gets lots of interesting business ideas).

I was going to meet up with William and some of our other EPIK friends at a club for dancing, but my tummy was hurting (probably from digesting all that food and drinking all that wine and soju!), but I wasn't really tired, so Min Gi and I went to watch a late night movie at CGV. We watched Yes Man, starring Jim Carey (and he spoke a LOT of Korean in the movie... hahaha... no joke!). I had been given the book by Anne right before I left for Korea and didn't bring it with me, but remember thinking it would have been a fun read. I may have to go check it out now.

We got home pretty late, but I wasn't tired, so I called the family and got to talk to everyone.

Christmas Day

Slept in late (it was delightful). Went downtown a few hours before I was supposed to meet up with people to do some people watching. Ended up reading a new book by my favorite free-lance journalist MP Dunleavey (I've been following her since she used to write a relationship column for some now-defunct women's website), who is actually a close personal friend of Caroline Hwang, whose book I recommended just a few weeks ago... funny coincidences.

At nine, I met some friends at a posh hotel for ANOTHER wonderful holiday buffet. I met Iosha's fiance who is visiting her in Korea for Christmas and some of her co-workers and had a really nice time.

Day After Christmas

Woke up VERY early (4:30 a.m.) to meet Min Gi, Ha Young, and Tim for skiing at a nearby resort for the day. This was my Christmas present to Min Gi, as he doesn't know how to ski. (I love skiing--it is the thing I took from my last relationship along with an appreciation of fine wines that I am very satisfied with.)

In the morning, Ha Young taught Min Gi the basics of standing in skis and how to not kill yourself (or other people) going down a hill, while Tim and I hit some of the intermediate slopes on the top half of the mountain. We chatted about his time in JET and other things. I like Tim; he's from Alaska and a good friend of Min Gi's, but I got to know him better after this trip.

At lunch, we had some problems because we had brought ramyeon cups to avoid paying outrageous prices for lunch, but there was no hot water available (probably to discourage this kind of money-saving tactic... sigh). So we all split a Dominos cheese pizza for lunch and had some of the muffins we bought that morning. Min Gi did get some cheap soup and used the water to make two of the cups of ramyeon, so we were pretty satisfied after lunch.

This time, I decided to teach Min Gi how to turn (because he should be controlling his speed with turns, not just with the wedge) and let Ha Young and Tim run off to the advanced slopes. I had a great time. He learns sports stuff quickly, being so naturally athletic and good natured, and I enjoyed just being out in the freezing cold weather with snow all around.

We made it back to the bus on time and had dinner at a 굴국밥 joint near my house. 굴국밥 is a kind of oyster soup with rice and egg. It's quite delicious.

All in all, a fantastic weekend so far. And with Swing tonight, it should be pretty amazing. :-)

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Picking Fights... Clever Boy.

Min Gi's good with people, but I only just realized yesterday that his talent does indeed extend to the way he deals with me. I also managed to figure out why we fight so rarely.

Being in the rotten mood that I was, I started picking a fight about (of all stupid things in the world) the cost of living in Tokyo. This morphed into a diatribe of why I hate big cities and how badly I need to get out of Daegu after another couple years. We were on the phone.

After about two or three minutes of working myself up into righteous indignation, he gently cut me off with a "This is something that it would be better to talk about face to face."

How can I argue with that? He's completely right. Notice how perfect it is, though? He (essentially) tells me what I'm angry about is SO important that we need to be in the same room to fully communicate it. So I can't even be mad about him not talking about it right then.

He's done this before... I realize.

Nine times out of ten when I get like this, it's on the phone, and it's either a need to vent (with a girlfriend) or picking a fight to "test" the person's love for me (with family or a boyfriend--I'm not proud of this quality of mine). I've never had someone handle it so adeptly.

Because he's way too cute to fight with in person, when he asks (and he always does) to talk about it in person next time we meet up, I usually have gotten over the need to pick a fight... so I vent if I need to (which is way better face to face anyhow because then you can get hugs) or address the real issue (not the surface bitch-guard "issue") and feel better and move on.

If he was doing it just to get out of talking about the "tough stuff" it would be a problem, but it's never like that. He always is open to talking about anything.

Just not stuff that makes me angry and likely to get bitchy on the phone. Only in person.

He's a clever, clever man.



There's not much to say about it, as it's really a drag. I didn't realize how homesick I was until I was researching the JET program (Min Gi and I had a crazy idea that after I renew my current contract once more--for 2009-2010, we could go work in Japan for a year or two) and was trying to figure out what the hell I'd do with myself for the not-quite-one-year between the end of my contract at this school (end of August) and the JET start date (start of August), and realized that I could go home and teach for the 10 months easily.

As soon as the idea came into my head, I was hit by how much I miss my family (and some other things about America, like working at the suicide hotline and doing community theater) and how much I HATE not being there when my dad's suffering so much.

My mom sent me an amazing Christmas package (which I already opened, of course!), and it just overwhelmed me. What they're dealing with there while I'm off having "adventures" over here. And I felt so... lost. And really... what the hell am I doing here? Anything useful or interesting? Anything worth being unable to go home for a few months while my dad's immune system is so compromised my very presence, coming as I am from a foreign country, would seriously endanger his life? Is Korea really worth that?

I'd usually say, "yes," without hesitation because I know and I trust that his doctors are doing what is right and that he will be fine and I'll spend August at home... That this is where I need and want to be right now... That my parents fully support my decision and know I'm happy here...

But today... today I just want to be HOME.

Dammit. Stupid tears. Doesn't help that Christmas is in two days.

I thought I was going to be ok this year.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Swing, my baby.

Saturday was the closing ceremony at the YMCA for Korean classes. We had a 장기자랑 or talent show. Our teacher insisted that we sing "Nobody" by the Wondergirls; it's this year's "Tell Me." I also broke out the dobok and did the Koryeo poomsae for everybody--though I lost it a bit at the end when I saw the expression on a Chinese gentleman's face (he was in the beginner class) as my foot came too close for his comfort in a side kick. Oops.

I have enjoyed this semester's class, and attending the classes keeps my studying a little structured. Plus it's a great resource for clarifying any questions I have that come up in my daily life here. So even though I will miss three (one for a swing camp in Seoul, two for Vietnam) out of eight classes this winter, I plan to continue the course.

After class, I met Min Gi at the train station because it was the third anniversary party for the Busan swing club, Swing Life. The club for the party was in a rather red-light-ish district of Busan, so we had a hard time finding a place to stay that didn't advertise hookers, but we ended up at a nice little hotel right around the corner from the ballroom.

Turned out this was at the same place as the party for the other Busan swing club in March. About one year after starting to swing dance, I can say that it's really become an important part of my life. I had a fantastic time with people, even if I was too tired to dance all that much. Min Gi won a t-shirt by doing a flip for everyone (ah Koreans and their love of showing off, even as they protest it).

We spent a lazy Sunday morning and then returned to Daegu, where we continued the lazy theme by going to see Australia. I'm a huge Baz Luhrmann and David Gulpilil fan, so I loved it, but it's probably not for everybody. It was sappy and over-the-top in places. Plus I think I've somehow turned really pacifist recently as war scenes in movies make me very angry these days, and this one featured the bombing of Darwin by the Japanese in WWII. I spent a good 30 minutes of the movie fuming about it.

Then Min Gi and I had a lovely talk about the future... after which he was so proud of himself for being "brave" because he'd apparently wanted to talk to me about things for awhile, but had been waiting until we were drinking soju. Koreans have a belief about how if you drink soju, you can tell the truth. But he told the truth without the aid of alcohol. Good for him.

Good for us.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Oh no you didn't!

Wow... North Korea went there. They accused South Korea of plotting to kill the Dear Leader (Kim Jong Il).

After briefly opening itself to tourism last year and then shutting back down again, North Korea's apparently gone crazy. The propaganda machine keeps putting out (somewhat suspect) photos of Kim to prove his health after a top Japanese analyst was quoted as saying he thinks Kim has been dead for the last five years and other sources claimed he's had a stroke and now this.

Utter insanity.

Of course, nobody here is talking about it. And it's not even a top story in Korean papers (notice my source for the main story is American).


Monday, December 15, 2008

Second Wife/화요일 남편

I met some of Min Gi's computer school friends once before on the eve of a wedding for one of them. It was after a long night of drinking for both their group and my swing club. All of them are older than me (though one by only two months, which makes him the same Chinese zodiac sign as me, but not the same age, apparently), but he's the second oldest in the group, so they all called me 형수님, which means "older brother's person (wife/girlfriend/whatever)."

I nearly died the first time one of them said it. I know in Korean culture it's polite and appropriate, but I don't appreciate being referred to as anyone's person, especially not with the whole complex respect automatically given to age in this country. I told them just to call me Diana. One of them balked at this still, but I think it's just too ingrained into him to be a Korean gentleman. Eventually we settled that he can call me a nickname based off my Korean name, 다인이. A fine compromise.

On Friday, they were getting together again, and Min Gi invited me to go. Since it was my last chance at freedom for the weekend, I readily agreed.

Some of the members of their group who didn't make it out the last time I met them all turned out to be quite fun as well. One of them, who introduced himself as James Dean, took quite a shining to me. By the time we were on the second or third round of soju, I was speaking enough Korean for him to inform me that I would be his second wife (he said that phrase in English, but the rest of the conversation for the evening proceeded in bad Korean--forgive the mistakes below!).

"하지만, 한국에서 두번째아내들 없어요. But in Korea there are no second wives."

"괜찮아요. 당신은 외국사람이예요. That's ok. You're a foreigner!" We all laughed at this.

"아마도 남편 결혼하고 싶지 않아요. Maybe I don't want to marry a husband."

"제발? Please?"

I think about it a moment.

"요리해요? Do you cook?"

He grabs the tongs for the shellfish from the man who had been cooking and proceeds to demonstrate what a fine cook he is.

"청소해요? Do you clean?"

He takes up one of the wet towels we used to wipe our hands before beginning to eat and scrubs down the table.

"응... 아마도 화요일 남편이예요. Maybe you are my Tuesday husband."

Everyone laughed.

It feels so amazing to pull off a joke in a second language... even if your skills in that language are still at a very low level. After that, I was pretty much accepted into the group, and even the guys who hadn't met me before had few reservations about talking to a foreigner in her broken Korean. It was a fine evening.

Certainty: Being a grown up.

I didn't realize that I'd get a "moment" where I finally realized beyond a shred of doubt that I am now a responsible grown up. I just kind of thought it happens bit by bit, the dimming of wonder and magic and fear, until at last you are a hollowed out mundane creature with no soul--just like every other grown up in the world. And this moment I'd feared since my first viewing of Peter Pan came at the most unlikely of times. It happened this weekend, while locked up with the other teachers at my school working on the entrance exam for next year's TFLHS students.

Upon the realization, I experienced the grief and nostalgia I expected, but the actual feeling is so much more complicated. And more beautiful.


Ten years ago (holy fuck, was it *REALLY* TEN years ago??? Actually... doing the math again... it was 11 years. Yikes.), my friends and I went on a camping trip to the wilds of Virginia. Rose and I made up an elaborate ghost story on the four-hour drive out there to keep ourselves occupied. Every one of the 17 or so campers on the trip had an integral role in it, including the dog. We had plot twists and surprise endings and planned to turn it into a movie as soon as we could. It was really good (at least we thought so).

We were so into it when we finally pulled into the campsite, that we were frightened half to death when our friend we had picked to be the murderer jumped up to the van we were in, his white face rising suddenly out of the darkness, smashed awkwardly and grotesquely against the window. It took us almost five whole minutes to recover from the shock.

All weekend, we played games at night to frighten ourselves--vampire games and storytelling contests. During the day we played violent war games in the woods and silly daring games on the river that had some mild rapids. We climbed the mountain and pushed ourselves out to the edges of the precipices of the rocks. We revelled in the rush, the fear. We invited it, soaked in it, loved it.

People say teens are fearless. That's not really true. We were scared, we just pretended not to be. If we hadn't been at least a little scared, the games wouldn't have been fun at all... they would have been dull. The truth that no one tells you is that the state of being a child is a state of fear. Of uncertainty. Innocence comes from not knowing what we know when we grow older and get some experience.


This weekend, I was locked up in my school with the other English teachers to prepare the entrance exam. The building is big and old and very dark at night. I joked to a co-teacher that we were in a horror movie. That she would be the first to die because she's going to get married next month and she's one of the youngest.

I said it as a joke.

But as soon as I said the words, it hit me that the scene WAS perfect for a horror movie--the full moon outside was huge. We were locked in the school and then later the dorms alone all night. There was a small group of people randomly thrown together from different backgrounds. And we'd even been self-righteously mocking Chinese vampires.

And the memory of the camping trip and our never-finished movie came rushing into my mind as I realized that even in the eerie dark stillness of the cold school building in a faraway land (Korea), I didn't feel even the slightest flinch of fear. I was completely confident that we would finish our task easily, that I would sleep comfortably during the night, and that I would awake in the morning to the test-takers, who would be the ones with REAL fears.

And in that moment, I knew that this mean I was grown up. That my imagination had sufficiently dimmed to the point that I couldn't feel a moment's hesitation that something outside the realm of the possibilities I knew to exist in this world would cause me any harm or grief. My world is now concrete and predictable. I feel safe.

I still experience fear as an adult. But it's real world fears... that I'll fall off the cliff if I'm not careful; that North and South Korea will fail to reach a peaceful accord; that our world will passively accept the sexual abuse of women and children; that humans will irretrievably damage our planet by consuming all its resources. I'm not afraid anymore of things I don't know anything about--dark places, death, monsters, even terrorists. This is the stuff of fantasy.

If my fears have changed so that I am a grown up than what of my sense of wonder and creativity? What of the positive side of imagination and innocence? Have I lost those, too?

I don't know. I'm looking back on the world of childhood through a hazy veil because of the certainty I have now as an adult. I know certain things didn't happen, such as seeing a unicorn by the stream in the woods as a girl, but I know it because my adult sensibilities tell me that there are no such thing as unicorns. In my memories, it exists just the same as all my other memories from that time. I know now that Santa didn't bring me toys because I helped my mother wrap "Santa's" gifts for my younger sister when I was sixteen, but I remember the magic of waking up in the morning to check if the milk and cookies we left out for him were gone (they always were).

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Taekwondo Girls

These days at taekwondo an older man has joined the 9 p.m. class. I'm not sure, but I think he's close in age to me, maybe a couple years older or younger. His uniform reads R.O.T.C., which in the US is the reserve officers' training corps, kind of like a college association for people who intend to become career military officers. Could mean the same here, but I don't know. He's spoken to me a few times, after figuring out from the other kids and teachers that I can understand some Korean, although I haven't asked him many questions yet. It's nice to have another adult in the class since the two uni students who sometimes join have been super busy with their exams.

I feel a bit bad because one day after practice the girls and I were in the changing room and he came in without knocking. Since then the girls' nickname for him is 변태아저씨 (byeontae ajosshi... meaning something like "perverted man").

Speaking of the girls... as they are the ones I've gotten to know the best... there are four who come regularly. I'll call them Navy, Tomboy, Cutie, and Toughgirl. I know their Korean names, but not that well. It's easier just to give them nicknames.


The oldest was the one who spoke to me first in that class and took the most initial responsibility to make sure the other girls spoke to me. She has an orange belt (meaning she has only been training a few months before I joined the studio) and is finishing her last year of high school, so she's older than most of the kids in the studio (which I had guessed before I asked her as they all call her 언니 or 누나, meaning "older sister). She plans to go to Keimyung University (just up the road) and major in military studies because she wants to join the Navy. Navy's really kind and funny, though she was stressed out a lot just before the big test. I'm glad she seems to have relaxed a bit now. I hope she continues next year. She's a great girl.


I believe then next oldest (who is the tallest and highest belt rank--taller than me with a black belt marking her 3 dan) is in second grade high school, but she may be as young as third grade middle school. It's hard to tell. This girl is built like a tank and her personality is kind of obnoxious. I actually didn't like her that much at first. She says stuff like, after I decline some fried pork (tang su yuk) and explain that I'm a vegetarian, "then why are you so fat?" And when I showed pictures of my boyfriend on the internet to the other girls, she kept talking about how ugly he is and how I should date a tall western guy. She also asked me about what western guys would think of her (she is so not the typical "Asian woman" that white guys into Asians would like... but I told her she's pretty...). I've come to realize that this is just her way. It's teasing that borders on meanness, but she does it in the same spirit the boys beat the crap out of each other. And her laughter is infectious and her heart is big, so I like her now.


The shy second grade middle school girl with shorter hair is unbearably adorable at times, hence her nickname. Cutie has a boyfriend I sometimes see her chatting with when I'm walking to the studio. She is by far the most "girlie" of the girls in the studio, and she's also the lowest ranking student with a very newly obtained orange belt. I've had to remind her a few times to take off a necklace or earrings before we start practice. When we play games, she hovers around the edge of the studio, avoiding confrontation as much as possible. However, before and after class, she is always happy to see and chat with me about all kinds of things.


Toughgirl is in the same grade as Cutie, but she wears a 1 poom (the red/black belt for young kids equivalent to black belt), so I guess she must have earned it a long time ago and then re-joined the studio more recently. She seems to do poomsae on about the same level as the only boy who has a color belt (his is a purple belt), though she does sort of know all the 8 color forms. She is as tomboyish as Tomboy, but much kinder about it. Toughgirl tries to keep up with the boys when we go running and always does her best at practice. She's funny and smart. Her cousin also does practice with us (he's a middle school boy the others have nicknamed 돼지, or pig--as you may have noticed, Korea is not a place for the slightly tubby can afford to be faint of heart), and she lives in the same small neighborhood as I do, so sometimes we walk home together.

For a month, there were three second grade high school girls who joined (two brand new, one with a black belt), but they haven't been back since December started. They didn't really talk to me much, so I didn't get to know them at all.

I skipped tonight because yesterday I hurt my ankle at practice, but I missed them all, so I thought I'd introduce them to you. I feel very grateful to them for helping me get along better at the studio.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Fun Chick Lit with Korean Theme.

This weekend, I started (and finished) In Full Bloom, by Caroline Hwang. It's about a young Korean-American assistant at a fashion magazine whose mother has decided that it's time for her to get hitched. Surprisingly (for chick lit), romance is barely present in the text as the main character struggles with complex family issues and an identity crisis of immense proportions. As someone familiar with and interested in Korean culture, that aspect of the novel was fun, but Hwang's style makes it palatable to a more general American audience without sacrificing authenticity. As is typical of chick lit, the plot is a bit ridiculous, but engaging.

Definitely worth picking up.

Also started New Moon, the sequel to the ever-popular Twilight. So far, it is consistent with my previous evaluation of the other novel.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Straight Hair and Swing Night.

Women Utility: What's most disturbing about this sign is that it was over the children's section of the bookstore...

I went to Korean class yesterday for the first time in a few weeks and had a great time. After class, I wanted to get my hair dyed again, so I went the The Wiz, a popular place downtown near 2.28 Park. I'd had my hair cut there once before and the English speaking stylist remembered me.

Note to self: Hair CUTS in Korea--cheap as hell; Hair DYE in Korea (especially for long hair)--guaranteed to make you eat kimbab and ramyeon only for the rest of the month. Eek.

Well, the color IS pretty, so I don't mind. And then I got them to blow dry it straight as I never have the patience to do this to myself, but it does look (and feel) pretty nice. (Note--it took two PROFESSIONAL people about two hours to blow it out... this is why I don't do it to myself.)

The only evidence of my straight-haired styling... gone as soon as I shower.

I had another hair-identity-crisis last night as a result...

My Korean nickname is 금라면 because usually my hair looks like gold ramyeon noodles. My hair is a huge part of my identity and my only real beauty indulgence. Whenever I straighten it (or let it get too blond for that matter), I feel weird. Like glamorous and pretty, but not myself. I used to HATE having curly hair--it's such a pain to take care of and if you get it even a little off, instead of looking pretty, it looks like a frizz ball exploded on my head. Now... I think it's unique and interesting. I finally learned how to stop fighting it (never brush when dry, for example, and usually let it air-dry) and now it often looks fun and cool.

In Korea, the permanent "magic straightening" is affordable (compared to the U.S. where initial treatments at reputable salons begin at around $500). I've considered it, because dammit you girls with straight hair don't know the half of how easy your life is... And then last night, as everyone was complimenting me and saying how I should do my hair like this every day (I know full well if I did it, they'd be asking three weeks later why I never wear it curly anymore... *sigh* There's just no pleasing folks...), I started to consider taking the plunge once more. I've had two friends here do it (one who has curlier hair than mine and one who has much closer to wavy) and both were really happy with the results. But as I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, I realized that I don't yet feel comfortable this way... Everyone else has straight hair. Like losing weight, it's just one more thing that will make me look the same. And I don't know if I want that or not... I'm so confused.

I know, I know. It's stupid to be this hung up on HAIR for christsakes...

But well... what's your vote? Straight or curly? (And no, spending three hours every morning with the blow dryer and flat iron is NOT an option. If I go straight it WILL be chemical).

Finally, I leave you with some pictures from the party last night at the other swing club in Daegu, DNA, to celebrate their new club (which is lovely, btw).

Club owner Anna and my DNA buddy (holding the cake) blow out the candle.

A man nicknamed 나쁜사과 (Bad Apple).

Busan Boy (aka, the Impregnator, because his dancing is so sexy, you end up pregnant) holds Leah, my favorite Aussie, to his tummy.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Random thoughts.

Three days later my house still smells like burritos... specifically, it smells like chili peppers. Maybe this batch was a little too spicy. But Min Gi enjoyed it.

Today it snowed. I, in my foolishness, did not grab my camera in the morning. By the afternoon, it had melted. I have no pictures, only memories.

Just like everyone else in the world, I'm reading Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. It's highly readable. I've finished most of it in a single afternoon. I would have liked it better as a middle schooler, but I at least now I know what all the "fuss" is about. I'll go see the movie sometime this weekend.

Life with cats is amazing. I spent the afternoon cuddled in blankets, next to a space heater, reading about vampires, with a purring machine for a pillow and a ball of fur as a foot warmer. It was heaven.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Hospital Visit.

Yesterday afternoon, I got off work early because the students have final exams (lucky me!), so Min Gi and I went to visit our friend Ha Young who has been in the hospital for about a month.

Now, I know you Americans back home are thinking he must be close to death's door, but the semi-socialized medical system in Korea actually makes this kind of lengthy hospital stay reasonably affordable, even for graduate students like my friend. His illness is not contagious, but he was rather seriously jaundiced the first time I visited him a few months ago. He was yellow--not like we stupidly refer to Asians as "yellow." I mean his skin and the whites of his eyes approximated the color of a lemon. It was a little shocking. I've been worried about him as he lost about 12 kgs (over 25 lbs) in the hospital and has been bored out of his mind.

He was moved to a hospital closer to my side of town, so I plan to visit him again soon.

Some things about Korean hospital culture are strange to me. People walk around the neighborhood in their hospital attire, dragging IVs behind them, often smoking or just taking in the freezing air. Things seem a lot less regulated than in US hospitals (which have an air of paranoid cover-your-ass lawsuit fear about them at times). He is sharing a room with about five other people, none of whom are seriously, seriously ill.

One thing really bothered me. Doctors don't seem to share basic medical information about illnesses with their patients as clearly as back home. I was familiar with Ha Young's condition and provided him with some information from websites and stuff that his docs hadn't alerted him to; stuff I thought would be basic, like how to prevent transmission to others. It seems that Korean doctors expect their patients to unquestioningly accept their word as they would a god's. This seems risky to me, but I do come from the land of second opinions.

Anyhow, while at the hospital, the older man in the bed across from Ha Young's took some opportunity to talk my ear off about Dokdo and ascertain my beliefs about this issue. I simply said I don't know. But then he went on about how America should do something about it, and I tuned out. He was speaking really fast in Korean about politics and it was almost impossible for me to follow it.

Sigh. I wish my speaking was half as good as my listening or reading comprehension... then I could have explained better to him about what I feel.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


At my taekwondo studio, I've been sort of loosely accepted by the middle and high school students I train with. I am caught somewhere between older sister, exotic oddity, friend, and (occasional) translator. For example, last night, one of the boys was struggling with a passage in his English practice book and asked me to tell him what it meant. I surprised myself at being able to provide (rather easily) a rough approximation of the Korean. Granted the English level was at about that of a second grader in the U.S., but still... I was happy I could help him.

The girls are really sweet. They talk to me a lot. Sometimes I don't understand everything right away, but we're both getting good at re-phrasing it so that we understand each other eventually. I've learned quite a bit of Korean this way. However, they tend to ask me to translate the English in Korean pop songs (or English pop songs played often in Korea).

It's funny because they often don't know what they mean at all.

For example, pop sensation 이효리 (Lee Hyo Ri) has a new song out called "U Go Girl!" (The uninitiated should watch the video here.) So naturally, the girls want to know what "you go girl" means because to them, with their lack of exposure to American hip-hop, it sounds like she's saying "go away, girl!"

I translated it as "여자 와이팅!" (Girl Fighting!)

(As a side note, Ms. Lee has some of the WORST English pronunciation I've ever heard. It sounds exactly like foreigners mocking Korean pronunciation of English. It is both comical and sad to hear: "Hei gull! Gull! hei yoo goh gull!" Please, please someone help her.)

A few days later they asked about Abba song "Mamma Mia," which is very popular here now as there is a movie based on the Broadway musical of the same name out in theaters. They thought it was about someone's 어머니 (mother). Anyone who is familiar with the lyrics knows this song is about a cheating guy (which I also explained to the girls).

I translated the song's title as "이타리아말: 아이고!" (Italian: Oh my god!)

Even then we had problems because they thought I said, in English, "I go," as it sounds like "아이고."

I may not be studying as hard as I once was, but I'm definitely still learning. Now if I can just get back to studying...

Monday, December 1, 2008

Re-visiting old thoughts...

I stumbled upon my own words from over a year and a half ago today. I find it amazing how much this revelation still echoes for me today.

I was thinking about relationships and how in previous ones I never would have felt comfortable going on a week and half long vacation without my significant other because... well... I have no freaking clue why. I wish I had studied abroad in college, but I was always afraid to leave my boyfriend for that long. It's sad and pathetic. Even the major travel I did on my own in the U.S. (for my grad school program to Martha's Vineyard) was a program I signed up for when I was between boyfriends (though I was dating Mike for two of the three summers I went... funny coincidence that the last summer was the best one... haha!).

I think women, in particular, make a lot of their decisions based on the input of those around them, especially those they are romantically involved with. We are taught to compromise. We compromise before we are even asked to sometimes. We hope that the guy will look into our souls and see the great dreams we are giving up to be with them and realize how amazing we are for doing so and make it worth having done so.

Unfortunately, it never is.

This is the first relationship I've been in where I have felt both comfortable making my own decisions about things and supported in the decisions I've made. Sure, Min Gi would like to come with me (and I'd really love for him to be able to go), but it's ok that he can't. I still want to go. And I will.

My grandpa Joe whispered to my mom on her wedding day, "Don't give up too much, too soon." She said she never really understood it until much later, but she was lucky that she had managed to follow it anyway. My parents did Peace Corps together; they got their Ph.D.s at the same time; they waited to have kids until 12 years after their wedding. I had hoped to find that kind of partner early on... One that I could grow up with. But it didn't happen that way. In some ways, I'm glad it didn't. Now I know I can do all these things for myself. And will.

It's funny how it sometimes takes not getting what you originally wanted to find out what you actually need.


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