Wednesday, August 08, 2007

I've gained nearly six pounds in the three weeks I have been here!! I keep telling people that not ALL Americans want to eat every ten minutes, but no one listens and keeps right on pumping me full of food anyway. Yes, yes, I can not eat it; you try doing that when you risk offending the ancestors of everyone you come in contact with by refusing food. In any case, I've decided that three meals a day is too many, especially when there are three kinds of starch available (i.e. pushed) at most of them and especially when all food consumed falls within a 12-14 hour period. Yikes. Also, it seems Koreans have a particular fondness for addding sugar to everything, frying lots of otherwise fresh vegetables, and making things salty. I can't wait to come home to my own fridge.

AND did you know...

that typhoon is just a fancy word for hurricane? The odds are fairly good we will be hit by one (choose your designation) while I am here. I admit I am a little curious, but know better than to tempt the universe like that.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

ten more things you really wanted to know

The same caveat applies to this posting as my last one:

1) Jackassery knows no cultural, political, or geographic bounds.

2) The swastika symbol is used with its original (peaceful) meaning in Korea; small villages with such symbols emblazoned on road signs are not Korean Nazis, but rather a peaceful enclave. Still, creepy to see.

3) Koreans suck the grape out of its skin and discard it, but eat the seeds.

4) Korean girls are not afraid to hit Korean boys and they are not afraid to hit back. Actually, there is a whole lot of hitting among children, even to the point of giving bloody noses. In his defense, she was a tough girl and she kicked first.

5) No one, not even our Korean co-teachers, can determine or agree on the ferry schedule between the mainland and the island of Jeju-do.

6) Eating two year old fermented, pickled cabbage will not actually kill me.

7) Still, I am perhaps never going to eat cabbage again, even raw, but especially not the aged kind.

8) Pink Martini songs are played in the background of Korean evening television dramas. So is Bobby McFerrin. Also, soap operas are pretty much the same everywhere. I don't have to know the language to understand what is going on. This makes it difficult to ignore when it's on in the background.

(9) Korean men, when they are good looking, are really, really good looking. There isn't really a lot of middle ground, it would seem. Totally hot, or really not. I didn't mean for that to rhyme. Shallow observation, I know, but there it is.

10) I take direction well. Eat. Shower. Leave. I know it's really just the limited English and the trouble with translation, but I like to think I have finally learned to do as I am told. That's a bunch of crap and I know it; I only do as I'm told when I want to (it's always been this way) but I'm pretending that for once, even in a relative stranger's house, I am the good daughter.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

22 things i've learned in korea thus far...

Before I go any further, let me state for the record that what follows are my observations and my observations only; nothing should be taken as a sweeping generalization and while truthful, I'm sure not all of it can be taken for fact. Judge the veracity of my statements against your own intelligence and experience. Actually, that's a pretty good formula for judging the veracity of anyone's statements.

1) It is considered (somehow) disrespectful to wear a seat belt in a person's car.

2) I don't need to know the conversion of miles to kilometers to know that 150 kph is fast, especially on a slick, narrow, country road.

3) Mayonnaise is almost as ubiquitous as rice.

4) Foreigners can only withdrawal cash from international ATMs, making the won in my pocket pretty scarce, as I am in a reasonably rural province.

5) When asked if you like "soybean noodle soup" discard any visions of steamy broth-laden vegetable and noodle and then say "no thank you." Imagine the milky remains of a bowl of honey nut cheerios, you know, that last bowl when all the powdery cheerios falls into the bowl and makes the milk not only sweet, but grainy. Then add julienned strips of cucumber, a whole lotta fat noodles, and a single soybean.

6) Anything not human is treated decidedly less than humanely here. Little girls threaten dogs with umbrellas (and said dogs subsequently flinch) at church when they dare to consider stepping in out of the rain. They don't like people wearing shoes in their houses; you can imagine what filthy, filthy people that makes animal lovers like myself, who for instance, sleeps with two cats and would care little if I had a dog and it came inside.

7) Generally, the mosquitoes here don't really like me, but when they go in for a bite, they invariably chew on my ankles.

8) Stick figures, line drawings, and liberal gesticulation work wonders to get one's point across, especially when one's dictionary is hardly comprehensive and all shared language has been exhausted (about 12 seconds).

9) I really don't like plates of food that can look back at me.

10) Hanging squid out to dry, with clothespins, on the clothesline, right next to the towels, is a perfectly acceptable thing to do.

11) Looking like a westerner and smiling and saying "I don't speak Korean" is not enough to dissuade old ladies from speaking to you in it regardless.

12) A bow and a nod go a long way.

13) I am fluent in family.

14) Six hours of church won't actually kill me.

15) But, with few exceptions, the bible still pretty much manages to evoke at least a low-grade irritation. If I cared more, it would probably piss me off.

16) Thunder was named such for a damn good reason. Wow.

17) Postcards are almost as difficult to find as international ATMs.

18) Koreans can tell you every health property imaginable in your food (onions are good for lowering cholesterol, didn't you know) but there are trucks that drive around town letting off huge clouds of gas (imagine a dense fog that covers an entire block at a time, so thick you can't see through your windshield, and that takes a good 30 seconds to disperse) which are either anti-septic, or pesticides, to kills germs and bugs. "Same thing," they say, "makes it clean."

19) I'd almost forgotten how much I love the sound of frogs when I'm drifting off to sleep.

20) I did not, however, forget that I love the smell of rain.

21) I can't recall what it feels like to be hungry. I mean really hungry. I hope to be so as much as possible, once I leave my homestay family.

22) Koreans like ice cream. A lot.

Well, that will do for now, I suppose.