Archive for November, 2009

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The Parodoxes of Winter

November 26, 2009

So that cold season is here, and with that comes a few changes. Blah blah blah, the leaves have shivered off, I have to relearn how to tie a scarf, I refuse to walk to work, while my friends in California are boasting 80 degree temperatures, I’m trying to get myself out of bed by noon (the cover of two comforters is too good, too toasty to escape. I’m kind of glad I don’t have furniture so I can just sit in bed while writing this). It short, it kind of sucks. But, here in Korea, there are a few puzzling things about winter. Things you wouldn’t expect. Like, it’s strawberry season. I like strawberries– especially when they’re sold from an ajusshi on the back of a truck (right next to the rotisserie chickens being sold out of the back of a truck) at 5,000 won a basket. But, you know, I didn’t think strawberries were winter fruit. I do know it has something to do with greenhouses, etc (someone explained it to me, but I’ve forgotten/wasn’t listening– sorry!) but it’s still, you know… strange.

Another thing that’s strange about Korean winter: in addition to strawberries, it is also super sexy short skirt and shorts season. But April, isn’t it always super sexy short skirt and shorts season?

SNSD. P.S. What the hell does vaguely nautical costuming have to do with a song called “Genie?” Is this just another thing I can’t question, but merely have to accept?

The answer to that question would be yes. As we’ve learned in a post forever ago, it doesn’t matter how many miles (or kilometers, since Korea uses the metric system) of leg you show, as long as you cover up all the flesh underneath your neck with a top, it’s not slutty. Of course, why would you suggest such a thing?

Of course this does not apply to men. Um. I don’t think so. Though admittedly, I don’t see a lot of Korean man chest (am I  going to the wrong places?) Who am I kidding? I just wanted to post a picture of Daniel Henney. Um. Now where was I? Where am I?

ANYWAY…  well what I’m saying is, winter is when every woman seems to be wearing a pair of shorts. When it’s -5 degrees celsius. Why? Why would women brave the chills, feeling of frostbitten limbs to wear a pair of skimpy bottom things?

Oh, I can tell you why– because it looks cuter when you’re wearing a pair of boots, duh. And stockings/leggings of course. So, really it’s super sexy skimpy skirt short with stockings season.

Now, here would be the cultural critique, I could ramble on and on about the constant pressure to look good in Korea’s “Barbie doll culture” (thanks Seong, for the terminology)– how more often that not, women are evaluated on their appearance and are pressured to wear uncomfortable clothing to fit some impossible and harmful ideal…(I’m also thinking of all those Korean women I see clacking down subway stairs and up hills in the thinnest and highest of heels) but all that stuff has been said by more informed, more articulate people. I don’t really need to reiterate it here.

That also being said, I did buy some wool shorts and some stockings and gray boots today. Whoops. There goes my cred. It does look really cute, in my opinion.

Also I really want an anorak. Um, you know, to wear with the shorts.

In other news, Soo and I went to this great Japanese ramen place by the Kunsthalle Space in Nonhyeon.

Look at that broth, how that egg is poached, those mushrooms, that pork. Yum. Now that’s something hot that everybody can get behind (unless you’re a vegetarian, I guess).

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Who Says Contemporary Art is a Bore?

November 15, 2009

“Is it going to be cool? Because I don’t want to go if it’s not cool.”

“This show has nothing to prove to you, April.”

So what to do on Sunday night? How about go to a super awesome art show in an unfinished art museum that used to be the Korean government’s torture headquarters (former “Defense and Security Complex” during that whole ‘dictator’ period)?

Yeah, I did that. A combination of haunted house-ness (times I yelped: twice), cool lighting, and political commentary, it was a pretty brilliant way to spend an evening… even if it was super cold. Anyway, I’ll leave the  criticism to the professionals, here are just some cool pictures.

You can find more info here.

Anyway, that’s it. The exhibit is up until early December. I’d go again, defintely.

And Paul, Russell and I agreed that you’d “go apeshit” here. 🙂

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Adventures in Fancytown: Garosu-gil & Sinsa-dong

November 9, 2009

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So lately my life has taken a trip to Non Sequitur Land, with sentences like, “I fished a paperclip from a princess’ mouth,” and “I think the demon children will eat him, I can tell,” coming out of my mouth at regular intervals. Some kid told me I “looked like  a Peppero stick” the other day. I suppose I should take that as a compliment: tall, skinny, and… dipped in chocolate? But that’s all in a day’s work as a teacher, I suppose.

DSCF4558Nice building in Sinsa-dong. Changed colors in time with the building next to it. Sometimes spelled out Chinese characters. I don’t know if that’s trying to hard to be awesome or just plain… awesome.

Play time, however, has become a bit fancier than those Incheon days. No more Max Riders and cheese kimbap, now it’s…well to be honest, now it’s sitting in my apartment and watching Top Chef, but sometimes, I take a bus south of the river (Fancytown Seoul) and indulge in its… fanciness. For those that aren’t “in the know,” South of the Han is known for being home to the wealthier districts of Seoul: Gangnam, Apgujeong, Cheongdam, etc.

On Sunday I went with the work crew (work gang? work unit? which do you prefer?) to Spa Lei in Sinsa-dong. Spa Lei is a women’s only facility and it’s pretty much a public bathhouse or jjimjilbang, but “without ajusshis cleaning their face with their own sweat.” It was amazing and super relaxing. There were green tea baths, rosewater baths, outdoor (but shielded from lookey-loos) pools, steam rooms, ovens, infared rooms (to feel like a piece of reheated fast food?), and a ton of other stuff. I got my face threaded, which is just as painful as it sounds. Basically you could spend a whole day there just lounging around without clothes or in your robe, eating sweet potatoes and eggs, taking baths, watching soap operas, and getting pampered. I like it. I really like it. It’s like spending time at home being lazy in your underwear, but with a bunch of strangers…. Doesn’t that sound, uh, appealing?

You’d think the whole “naked” thing would make you feel embarrassed and squeamish, but it’s not awkward at all. It’s a very communal, casual, I’ve-got-no-clothes-on-and-so-do-you. It kind of makes you wish that the States had such a healthy non-prudish relationship with nudity, that nudity didn’t necessarily equate sexuality and what not, that people could just be comfortable with their bodies as is, in a family environment. There seems to be so much shame in American culture, about things that are normal and everyday, and I just feel like we should all, you know, get over it. But anyway, I don’t want to sound weird, but you really haven’t lived until some middle aged woman has scrubbed off all your dead skin while you lie on a table. Seriously.

sheep_headObviously, I have no pictures, but at jjimjilbang you can fashion your towel much like Princess Leia. Get it? Leia hairdo at Spa Lei? That was bad, I’m sorry. From here: http://www.randomwire.com/sheep-head

Anyway, afterwards, we headed off to Garosu-gil, which is this famed tree-lined street in Sinsa-dong (is this its own dong or a part of the greater Apgujeong Fancy District?). It’s a really nice place, lots of shops, brunch places, cafe places, and people so beautiful they make you feel bad about yourself. We ended up eating at School Food, this fusion Korean place, which is basically a kimbap joint classed-up with a few Western influences. It’s kind of the Korean equivalent to Ketchup in West Hollywood (a place where I’ve sat next to Paula Abdul while eating kobe beef hot dogs, ah but that’s another story). On the menu there are some questionable items like carbonara tteokbokki (who knows, could be amazing) but we ordered this less extreme variant with mozzarella and a sweet/hot tteokbokki sauce. It was my favorite thing we ate:

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I have a ton pictures of the other stuff we ate, but I guess you can just check my facebook for that.

So I’ll end on that note.  Until next time, everybody.

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Gangnam– You’re alright.

November 1, 2009

There are few things that I love more in this world than some properly prepared, fresh guacamole.

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This pretty little cup of awesome is from Uncle 29 Mexican Grill in Gangnam. Okay, so I’m never in Gangnam, mostly because I find it’s dense vertical city-ness kind of cold and charmless compared with home-y Hongdae. It’s too many chains, too many people. However I guess there are some interesting things about it (the little poles with internet access and games, and oh yes, the wealth) and this place is one of them. Here is a picture of a burrito.

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Now, I am in no way comparing this to the perfect states of grace from home (ie, a suadero taco at 3 am from a taco truck, eaten on the back of a Corolla with your mildly inebriated friends)… I think it’s mainly a meat issue. I feel like in South Korea, when it comes to Western food, it isn’t about the meat, it’s about the fixings. The burgers are like that. You will never get a perfect patty– but you can decorate it real nice with things. It is the same with Uncle 29. And what fixings they have! LIMES. AVOCADO. Things that are almost fables in these parts. And the beans, oh, gorgeous beans.

Other places of note in Gangnam are:

DSCF0695Butterfinger Pancakes: Home of many gastronomic massacres.

And the Underground Shopping Center (located in Gangnam station)! I go there for all my basics: nice sweaters, boots, black cardigans. Though sometimes it still breaks my heart. An 80,000 won pink plaid dress? Banana yellow flats? A black motorcycle jacket? These things are foolish to buy. But I want to. I really want to. Oh! And the Underground has this great french fry place which satisfies my need for fake nacho cheese and potatoes:

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When did this become a blog about what I’ve put in my belly?

Is this better than me lazily putting up k-pop videos?