Archive for April, 2009

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The Milk Carton is So Passé

April 30, 2009

So I was teaching quantifiers to my students the other day, you know, “cup of coffee,” “sheet of paper,” “piece of pie,”… and well it just highlighted the fact that South Koreans are a little more creative with their product packaging choices. For example, when I say, “what comes in a tube?” I had about ten kids screaming, “MAYONNAISE!” “KETCHUP!!”

I was going for “toothpaste,” but anyway…

Here is a tribute to different kinds of milk boxes that I’ve found at my local 7-11.

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Strawberry milk and banana milk… both have the flavor of faux candy fruit flavors, the kind of strawberry you find in Pepto Bismol and the kind of banana you find it Runts. Yet, at the same time, mixed with the milk they both are kind of pleasing in a weird way. Banana milk wins over strawberry though. Anyway I like the packaging, perhaps because it’s smooth to the touch and I don’t know, cute, like mini barrels from the near spacey future.

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Coffee milk. I assume the plastic triangle shape is to make it easier to recycle. It does make it harder to drink without a straw, or a pair of scissors to cut a corner off.

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Okay, milk in a bottle. Not really that unusual, except for the fact that it’s DMZ Milk (there is also DMZ Rice). Tastes like normal milk, no hint of landmine.

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10 Months.

April 29, 2009

Okay okay, I know some of you hate this picture… but I think it proves a point. So I’m going to post it anyway.

First, this is a picture of me in the summer, around the first week I was here:

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Look at that newbie innocence! That cheerful smile! Oh, I was adorable, once.

And here’s a recent picture of me now:

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This is what some would call the face of evil. Any vanity/”16 Year Old On Myspace-ness” hinted at in this picture is totally ironic. Or not.

Or here’s a better, but no less cam-whorey (that would erase the essential Koreaness of it) version.

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Now, doesn’t that prove a point? As in, aren’t you glad I started using whitening cream and got that eye surgery done?! I kid, I kid.

I guess 10 months anywhere will change anybody. I suppose I’ve become a more…. well, maybe I’ll leave that opinion up to you.

Two months left. Yay?

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Cafe Porn, Part 1: Hongdae

April 27, 2009

So guys, I have to admit something to you: I have a problem. Dating I could do without, drinking [alcohol] is kind of a shitty hobby anyway, but I cannot, for the life of me, stop ordering tea lattes in fancy cafes. They don’t even have to be particularly good (most of the time they’re not and they’re expensive to boot), but South Korea does the cool cafe thing so well, that’s it’s addicting. It’s kind of become something I do every time I have  a chance. I’m doing it right now!

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Cafe Lautrec, how you take advantage of the slim pickings of the area and become one of two places I go to in my own neighborhood. I’m actually not here right now though. I’m actually at Cafe Beyond, listening to Elliott Smith.

[Side Note: Do you know there was actually an Elliott Smith themed bar in Hongdae called Between the Bars? I think it closed because, well, it was between two other bars, and I don’t know about you, but when I think about Elliott Smith, I don’t exactly think “party”]

Anyway, I guess I should go into the background of cafes in South Korea. In short; they’re ridiculous. They’re kind of this embodiment of an ideal of what a hip cafe should be: excellent interior design, cool lighting, good music (err, most of the time) so much that it makes me a little uncomfortable. Not to mention there are a billion of them on a street corner in each of Seoul’s cafe hot spots: Hongdae, Samcheondong [North of Anguk station], Sinsa-dong in Apgujeong…. each with its own, no not flavor (because that is a stupid word not in a context of ice cream), but well, to use a word from a friend of a friend, its own “shtick”. I say this because there’s always something put-on and fake about their coolness (but then again, isn’t that always the case, with most things? God, I’m sick of people talking about the “real me,” or “finding our true selves,” though that’s a rant for another time and place)… yet is a fakeness that I really kind of appreciate because sometimes the idea of something is better than what something actually is. Like how Russell said once that South Koreans do European styles better than Americans (or even Europeans) because it’s not built from what is, in reality, but from an imagined fantasy of Europe. You know, like a theme park. Only your life. All the time. That’s what Korea’s like.

I’ve gotten off track. What I meant to say was, cafe interior design has become somewhat of an obsession. I guess in this post I’m going to highlight a couple cafes from Hongdae that I’ve found. These are mostly on the Westside of Hongdae, near where the clubs are, but more err, westerly, away from the clubs. Anyway, I found these while wandering around one night. It’s become one of my favorite neighborhoods.

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Godard Bar in Hongdae, although technically a uh, bar, the same basic idea. Plus they showcase movies every Sunday. Something to check out, if you can.

[Though, a problem is that there are so many of them, all bunched together. It gets exhausting, because you’ll see a cool place, and think “yeah, I want to go to that one!” but you’ll walk a couple more feet, and see another one, another one, and another one… It’s kind of gotten to the point where I wish I was served coffee that tasted like dirt in a box propped up with aluminum siding. But you know, not really.]

Yesterday, I went to a new place called Cafe Egon (named after Egon Schiele, someone who recently came up in a conversation about the hotties of the Vienna Secession, a club which there is probably one member). It was pretty nice. The outside has that kind of rustic bayou shack vibe and the inside has that vintage-y library/mad scientist hangout from the 19th century vibe. Plus there are a couple of Schiele paintings drawn on the walls. Anyway, I like it.

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Also of note is Cafe 405 (which I hope is named after the freeway), which has a nice outdoor patio that I haven’t had the chance to enjoy yet because the weather hasn’t been nice enough. Maybe next time.

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Anyway, maybe I should stop putting up pictures. Oh, I do have more. A lot more.

For my birthday I plan to go to this place called Ho Ho My Roll, a cafe that has a giant silver trailer in it, from which coffees are served. I think I’ve become too susceptible to cute quirk. But maybe I was always such a predictable person.

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Busan: The Sequel

April 23, 2009

korea-busan-busan_tower-01Picture stolen from Wiki.

[written on Thursday] Screw you guys, I’m going to Busan tomorrow.

[written on Monday] Busan was…. well, it was a lot of things. On one hand, it is a beautiful city and we were really excited to go (though not as excited as we were when we originally planned to go, wherein which the preceding week was filled with random exclamations of “BUSAN!! BUSAN!!!”). We saw lots of amazing things like the Beomosa Temple, which is on this mountaintop:

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And we overstuffed ourselves with food like with sashimi from Jagalchi Market (the small set is uh, not small) and uh, Krazy Burger. And talked to interesting people (like a rich and reviled importer of U.S. beef and his old friend, a ship engineer who ain’t afraid of no Somali pirates). I think the highlight of the trip was seeing a guy unexpectedly breathe fire at the Fuzzy Navel on Gwangalli Beach, leaving the chair in front of him still singed… but I suppose that’s something you can see anywhere (right?). That bar, I actually went to back in July and it’s still the most fun I’ve ever had sitting down.

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In the backrground, the famous Gwangalli Bridge and two drunk guys getting booze from a takeout window.

But overall, the trip seemed kind of off. I think the thing is traveling to a city like Busan needs some planning. For one thing, the subway system isn’t as awesome over there, the stops are fewer and farther than they are in Seoul. So basically, you can’t just wander around looking for one (or even looking any other amenities you might need, like maybe I don’t know, a place to stay for the night). The beach was nice, but it was the off season, and actually, here’s a Southern Californian secret for you: I hate the beach, or rather, I don’t think it’s worth the trouble a lot of the time. It was my second time there, and I was really looking forward to doing things not on the beach, like the Contemporary Art Museum (kind of “meh” and invaded by a loud children’s magic show at the time), and the super ritzy area, which does “make Apgujeong look kind of silly” because it overlooks the cliffside and has HOUSES really, actual, European/American style fancy smancy HOUSES (but then again, one can only eat so much food/drink so many tea lattes in an afternoon).

And it was raining. And nobody likes walking anywhere with squishy socks.

Maybe I’ve gotten too used to the comforts of Seoul. I don’t want to sound like a cranky middle aged person (“Oh this isn’t the way I’m used to! I don’t like it!”), it is a great city with lots of things to offer… It’s just that those things to offer were hard to find (oh Korea, why do you insist on treating addresses like treasure maps?) or in the end, disappointments to our over-hyped expectations. Maybe we’ll have better luck next time (maybe when the Busan Art Biennial comes around, maybe when it’s Film Festival time).

Next stop on our tour of Korea: Gwangju, home of Korean democratic protest and sad, sad, history.

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Magic Marker Meanings

April 22, 2009

About a month ago, I had bought these markers for the whiteboard, clearly labeled “magic markers.” Alright, where I’m from, I’m pretty sure a “magic marker” is one with ink that vanishes after being written, right?

Turns out that in Korea, “magic” means that it won’t go away, regardless of how much you scrub the board with your finger, even if that finger is wet with spit. “DIRTY!” my students said.

After I was rescued by some Korean 409, my co-worker told me, “Magic means forever. Don’t you know?”

I kind of like that idea, that the fact that something is permanent, the fact that something still is, is the thing that’s magic, not a thing’s inherent disposability. I think it’s kind of romantic that way (not to mention accurate, it is a kind of wonder when things don’t go away, isn’t it?).

Though not when you’re trying to erase a board during your five minute break while 6 year olds dancing around you.

Anyway, here are some other meanings in Korean that I’ve found interesting:

The verb for “to ask” and “to bite” are the same (but conjugated differently). I like the imagery of that one.

The word for “husband” translates to “man side.” I find this cute.

The word for “wife” translates to “house person.” This I find not so cute.

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Oh Incheon, We Need to Talk.

April 21, 2009

dscf1259When I say I live in a shithole, I mean that in the most affectionate way possible. I mean, I do live next to a huge sewage disposal plant. Also pictured: the men\’s only poolhall which is next to the sex shop which is next to a chicken place next to my house.

Lately, it has been brought to my attention that  I live in the ghetto. Please bear in mind that what is ghetto in Korea (err, South Korea) is an extremely subjective term, really really really safe, instead of, well, REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY safe, I guess. Incheon is the Hangul-ified New Jersey, I\’ve decided; with its huge factories (I live next to the big Daewoo Plant, p.s.) and Seoul-inferiority complex. Also, apparently my neighborhood is one of two that \”people are afraid of getting beaten up by teenagers in\” and the guys \”wear their pants too tight.\” AND, there\’s middle school student I have whose voice reminds me of Fran Drescher (or is that Long Island?).

Anyway, point is, Incheon is trying to be a city on its own. Apparently there\’s some sort of 2009 World Expo here and there have been tons of ads for the city all over metro stations. Here is one.

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Alright. Yeah, looks nice, right? What\’s the problem?

Problem is: It isn\’t real. This is what the Incheon coastline/skyline looks like:

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(I don\’t have a better one, sorry. Maybe because it isn\’t really worth taking pictures of.)

And that\’s fine. What\’s a little photoshop embellishment between cities?

Side story: Russell and I like playing this game with pictures of places in South Korea. We play, you think it\’s \”Photoshop or Summer?\” Because summer is really nice here, all verdant and nice looking, whereas the other seasons, don\’t fair as well visually (winter = \”impressive ugliness,\” Russell deems it; I call it, \”brown as shit plus gray buildings.\”)

But then we noticed something else. Look closely for a second here.

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Um. Isn\’t that the Transamerica Pyramid? In San Francisco?!

Upon closer inspection, we saw a building that supposedly will be built in Incheon, a few selections from the San Diego skyline, and finally…

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The Sydney Opera House.

Incheon– really, who are you trying to fool? You can’t go around masquerading as other cities like this! You should be confident in who you are! Even if you are kind of, a gray industrial wasteland at the moment… but you know, it’ll get better.

Maybe I’m reading this the wrong way. Maybe this is about the “World Expo” which means to imply that the different cities of the world are coming to Incheon. I guess that could have been the point. I can see that, but, really Incheon, you could have at least tried to put some semblance of reality in there. I also doubt that shiny cruise ships drift across Incheon’s pristine blue harbor water.

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Conversations Only Had in Foreign Countries.

April 19, 2009

“God, this toothpaste is terrible.”

“Yeah, when I first tried it, I checked on my dictionary to make sure it wasn’t toe cream.”

Here is another picture of socks.

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These socks convey my sentiments on a variety of issues.

Real updates coming soon. Possible titles include: Incheon and its Photoshop Fakery, Cafe Design = Porn, Hoegaarden Happiness and Designer Dress Heartbreak: My Reconciliation with Southeastern Seoul, Busan (Part Two).

I know you’re all excited.

But um… if you were that curious about me, why don’t you shoot me an email?