Tuesday, June 29, 2010

World Cup 2010...Korean Style


I have never seen a nation of people so proud to be who they are. They are also by far the most racist...but that is neither here nor there. Korean people do everything better than all other nations. They are smarter and faster and the build things better. They hate the Japanese, Chinese, Americans, North Koreans and really any country that they might be compared to or have to compete with. The Argentinians are greasy, Japanese are stupid, Americans slow, Nigerians have dirty skin, and the Greeks...I don't think they knew that Greece existed until they were bracketed with them for the World Cup 2010. Once the Greeks were acknowledged as a nation, they too of course were deemed an inferior race when compared to the mighty Koreans.

Still, the amount of pride of these people have is breathtaking! Everyone just had to cheer on the mighty Red Devils soccer team (who wore blue for most matches and had a tiger on their jersey...don't know where the devil thing came from). Koreans gathered from near and far to watch their team work towards the ultimate soccer glory, the World Cup trophy.

Now, as an American I do take some amount of pride in my country. I think they did an outstanding job during the qualifying matches. I also know that in the world of men's soccer, they BLOW. I have some sense of reality when it comes to these things. Doesn't mean I wouldn't be stoked if they went all the way, but I'm not gonna put my money on them! Not these Koreans. The Red Devils will conquer any team that comes in their path because they are Korean, the superior race. Not even the likes of smelly Argentina could stop them (final score, 4-1 Argentina).

For every game, whether it was 8:30pm, 11pm or 3:30am Korean time, there was a massive mob of Koreans flooding the streets, beaches, bars, restaurants...you name it. If there was a game and a TV they were there to cheer on the Devils. Red clothes were absolutely necessary...preferably saying something that had to do with Korea, Corea, or fighting.

The Friday before their first World Cup game, I came to school unprepared. I was immediately dressed in a red Korean soccer shirt and handed face paint to paint all of the children in appropriate soccer crazy garb before they began their day of making noise makers and beating drums...no one told me this would take place...I actually had a lesson plan.



The first game was incredible and nothing that I could ever have expected. Thousands of Koreans and foreigners gathered in front of a giant screen on the beach...in the middle of a lightning storm, drunk on beer and soju.


There are so many ways to categorize the fans in that crowd...
1. The drunk business man:
This particular specimen will be wearing his shiniest business suit, and usually have a brief case (even though it is Saturday). He will be watching the game from his cell phone, even though he has made sure to take up as much room in front of you so that no one is able to view the giant screen but him. He reeks of soju, beer, and kimchi and usually comes alone, sneaking in by himself and planting is fat ass in front of you like the small plot of sand had his name on it the entire time.

2. The exhausted children:
"Who cares if it's 3am...this is your team! This is your country! You're 7 years old (Korean age...AKA 5), and you should have enough pride to stay up into the wee hours of the night to watch this game!"

3. The crying women:
If you have a vagina you have ABSOLUTELY NO FUCKING CLUE about soccer. You cry at a yellow card. You scream for corner kicks. You are a basket case of emotions...and for no reason at all. You are sporting your red devil horns and have made the Korean flag look slutty. You also are wearing 4 inch heals...in the sand. The man that forced you to come on a date to watch the game you must feign interest in hasn't acknowledged your presence since he threw down the cardboard box for you to sit on and gave you the bag of dried squid. Life is good.

4. The premature celebrator:
I am convinced that this person is the reason that Korea did poorly...they celebrate far too soon and over absolutely nothing. A GOAL KICK! LET'S JUMP UP AND DOWN AND OBSTRUCT EVERYONE'S VIEW BECAUSE WE HAVE NO CLUE WHAT IS GOING ON ANYWAYS!

5. The foreigner:
Your team isn't playing tonight and there is a Korea game on. Let's wear red and get wasted for the hell of it...you're only in Korea for the World Cup once. We can often times spot these supporters completely decked in the Korean gear, sporting wigs, drums, glow sticks, noise makers...you name it, these fans are no joke...because the game itself is a joke to them.



The second game was at 8pm against Argentina. I was sure to show up in my new "Super Korea" shirt to watch them get stomped by Argentina in front of a full, Olympic sized stadium of fans. Each goal made the Koreans more and more sad, angry, jealous, embarrassed...the list went on and on. Every single Korean I know put money on Korea...I won about 15 bucks knowing damn well that there was no way the Devils could beat Argentina. Alas, the mighty Reds were stomped out 4-1. The next day was a somber one. No one asked if I watched the game. No one really uttered a word about soccer until the next game a week later. All of the sudden, Argentina was just so good at soccer, no one could beat them..."Argentina has many professional player. Korea have 2 players in Europe. That is all!" EXCUSES, EXCUSES, KOREA!


Onto the next game, which like a loyal fan I attended at Haeundae Beach at 3:30am. Again, thousands of people in the sand making far too much noise and drinking massive quantities. A report in the Korea Times said that condoms and liquor sales went up by 55% on match days. Considering Koreans believe that kimchi will prevent AIDS, I'm going to say the condoms were a drunken impulse buy.



The sweet 16 was a big accomplishment for the Koreans. They put up a nice fight but alas, they failed to overtake Uraguay. Excuses were made of course on the Korean's behalf...poor refereeing, unfair advantages, timing. Everyone fails to mention the own goal that wasn't counted when the Korean keeper caught an easy shot INSIDE THE GOAL and then stepped out.

But, all in all it was amazing to have a World Cup experience outside of the States, where the beautiful game of soccer is actually appreciated. Red Devils for life! 대한민국!!! video

A Series of Amazing Events

I last left you with my amazing trip to Suwon and a rant about my Korean co-workers and poor little Nick. Well, since them much has happened, being that I have taken over a month to update my blog that I promised to update once a week...my apologies.

My list of things to do has been significantly growing and things have been checked off of the list day by day. Here is what we have so far...

Hike some mountains (so far we have hiked from Changwon to Jinhae and Jangsan Mountain)
Camp on Geoje Island (고제도)
Mudfest (Boreyeon...July 17th 2010)
Lantern Festival (Jin Ju, October)
Snowboard on Mt Muju
Green Tea Fields (Boseong)
Beomosa Temple (Busan)
Temple Stay
Paragliding
Ziplining
Runs (so far we have run the Breast Cancer 10k in Haeundae and the Daedapo 10k)
Ocheonjang Spa
Spa Land
Rafting
Go to Daegu and actually see the sights...not just the food and boys
explore Changwan
Turtle Ship (Jinhae)
Jagalchi fish market at 5am (Jagalchi, Busan)
Everland themepark (Seoul)
Go to a water park
Firework Festival (Gwangali, Busan, October 2010)
See the sites of Seoul
sit in the "Exciting Zone" at a Lotte Giants baseball game (Sagik, Busan)
See a Busan Mighty Wings basketball game (Sagik, Busan)
See a Busan soccer game (Sagik, Busan)
Stripper Norebong
Screen golf
Suwon Fortress
Jeju Island
Kunsan (and surrounding islands)
Ice fishing Mountain
소락샨 National Park
take silly Korean photos
Drink in a bag...as much as humanly possible
Songjeon Beach
Ulsan
Wine train
Osan
walk on the Gwangan Bridge
Ulleong-Do
Dinosaur Museum
Gyeongju
Half Marathon
Make Kimchi
Sokcho
DVD Bong
ATV/Bungee/Paintball Trip

I have been fortunate enough to enjoy the delights of places like Osan, Pyeongtaek and Daegu lately, as well as exploring Busan more and more. My friend Linda and I have been training for ultimate goal of running the Gwangali Half Marathon in October.
This past 10 days we have been doing the Master Cleanse Diet which totally BLOWS. It's 10 days of nothing but lemon juice, maple syrup, water, and cayenne pepper. Today is the last day and I am so beat, but 12 pounds lighter.
Last weekend we went rafting up in Inje (cross it off the list) and bungee jumping. Rafting is such a joke in Korea...so silly. Of course life jackets and helmets are required when slowly and carefully drifting down the peaceful shit smelling river at a glacial pace, hitting only a pebble or two along the way. White water rafting, Korean style! Pictures to come! We then got to bungee jump off a 52m tall bridge for a mere 35,000 won (30 dollars). The feeling was amazing! I recommend it to anyone and EVERYONE.

Will update with pictures soon!
Love yas
e

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Maybe I am insensitive but...

Yesterday, little Nick, one of my 5 year old students fell while playing on our play ground equipment in the "gym room". He ended up landing head first on the edge of a ramp and splitting open his forehead.
This was just as I was walking into work. I was greeted by the hysterical cries of my co-teacher, Jimmy, screaming at me in Konglish to find a towel and that she needed help. Nick was not crying at all and being that I have seen a good deal of head injuries, didn't seem to be bleeding a whole lot either.
I ran and got a towel, while the rest of the Korean staff backed away in horror as if they have never seen blood before, gasping for breath and really just getting in the way rather than helping the situation. Nick was put into the school van with Jimmy and rushed to the hospital down the street while the other teachers called him mom and in hushed tones whispered about how horrible the situation was.
When Jimmy returned to school she was so distraught. She said she felt horrible and that his mother would be so angry and went on and on about how bad she felt.
Now, in Jimmy's defense, Nick was not supposed to be in the gym by himself. His clumsy ass fell down all on his own...so why was she feeling so bad? If she was in the room, what could this 5 feet tall, 110 lb woman have done to prevent the situation?
Everyone was just so upset that we canceled all lesson plans for the 5 year old class and made "Get Well Soon" cards in every possible language imaginable. Then, as a school, every teacher walked 2 miles to his house to apologize profusely to his mother.

As nice that this is that they were so concerned and all, is this really necessary? I mean kids fall down...they break bones and crack themselves open. It is what they do, especially little boys! Well, not in Korea. This is a catastrophe! How dare we not watch this disobedient child every second that he is in our care. How could we betray this mother's trust and not dive across the hard wood floor to cushion his fall? GIVE ME A BREAK!
Best part...Jimmy tells me, "Erika, you could see the bone!"
"Uhhh, ya Jimmy, feel your forehead. Is there a lot of muscle there? Is there a lot of skin? It's not like he sliced 4 inches deep and was impaled by the corner. Facial tissue breaks open easily. It also heals quickly."
That was comforting enough for her...until the doctor told his mother that the nerves might have been damaged and that he may never open his eye again...
TALK ABOUT MALPRACTICE INSURANCE...let's tell them the worst possible scenario that will absolutely never happen, so when it turns out to be just a simple scar, everyone praises me and says what an amazing doctor I am!

So, that is my rant for the day. I wasn't even going to write about it until another Korean teacher, Lucy came up to me just now to say, "Wow, Nick's mother is very generous." Mind you, Lucy's English is...I don't want to say not good since she is going to classes 5 days a week...but, not where it should be as an "English teacher". So, I say, "Really? Why? What did she bring us?" thinking that she saw our unnecessary gesture of showing up to her house unannounced was cute and wanted to thank us.

"Because she forgive us."

I don't feel as though forgiveness is needed or warranted. The kid not listening or following the rules fell down, as kids do and happened to end up with a couple of stitches.
Well, little Nick, enjoy getting your ass kissed for the rest of the year. Just don't knock your block head on anything else!

Monday, May 17, 2010

A little late but worth the wait!

Sara and I finally ventured outside of our dynamic city of Busan and into the wondrous world of the Seoul Metropolitan area. We ventured north on Parent's Day weekend up to Suwon and Osan, home of an amazing fortress, the US Air Force base in Songtan, and the biggest market in Korea, Osan Market (home to many battles in the Korean War).

We began our journey bright and early, on the KTX train headed for Cheonan Asan. Since it was a holiday, all of the reserved seats were sold out for hours. We were forced to stow away, finding a stop of ground to sit on wherever we could. We ended up finding a perch in between cars 9 and 10. We ran into Ronald Weasley and Harry Potter there as well...(get it, 9 and three quarters?)

We made it out to the fortress in Suwon, not really knowing what to expect. We took a KTX train, the Seoul subway, and a bus to get there. Upon first seeing it, we thought we had traveled so far for nothing, being that where we were dropped off there was only an old wooden building that could not be entered, circled by a high traffic round about. We ventured further into the market area, to find that the fortress didn't just encompass that small area, but almost the entire city of Suwon. We grabbed a map and followed the walls around. It was a beautiful, clear day! It took us about 2 hours to walk the entire thing. Nice little cultural outing for the two of us!




The rest of the weekend we spent next to the Air Force base in Songtan. We ate the most amazing western food, drank way too many free drinks, danced our socks off, and bought things that were totally unnecessary. All in all it was a good weekend while an incredible drunk ride home.

The next week of work was capped by "Funny Zoo Teacher" on Thursday, bringing the cutest mini pig ever! Learned lots about the pig family and how every breed is different...did you know that pigs for bacon have curly tails while the other ones don't? And, there is such a thing as a sheep pig. It has a sheep body with a pig face, which doesn't sound so impressive, but was still odd to see. Here's my new little buddy...
And then came Teacher's Day, my favorite day of the year. I was showered with gifts and goodies and all of the kids were forced to tell me how much they loved me! I totally scored this year, being the only foreign teacher...we're talking GNC, Kiel's, Body Shop...oodles of goodies! Love my kids, love Korea, lovin life!

So that's two more things off of the list! But I have definitely added more...
Here's a revised version...
Hike some mountains (so far we have hiked from Changwon to Jinhae and Jangsan Mountain)
Camp on Geoje Island (고제도)
Mudfest (Boreyeon...July 17th 2010)
Lantern Festival (Jin Ju, October)
Snowboard on Mt Muju
Green Tea Fields (Boseong)
Beomosa Temple (Busan)
Temple Stay
Paragliding
Ziplining (May 23, 2010)
Runs (so far we have run the Breast Cancer 10k in Haeundae and the Daedapo 10k)
Ocheonjang Spa (check)
Spa Land (check)
Rafting
Go to Daegu and actually see the sights...not just the food and boys (this weekend)
explore Changwan
Turtle Ship (Jinhae)
Jagalchi fish market at 5am (Jagalchi, Busan)
Everland themepark (Seoul)
Go to a water park
Firework Festival (Gwangali, Busan, October 2010)
See the sites of Seoul
sit in the "Exciting Zone" at a Lotte Giants baseball game (Sadgik, Busan)
See a Busan Mighty Wings basketball game (Sadgik, Busan)
See a Busan soccer game (Sadgik, Busan)
Stripper Norebong (check)
Screen golf
Suwon Fortress (check)
Jeju Island
Kunsan
Ice fishing Mountain
소락샨 National Park
take silly Korean photos
Drink in a bag...as much as humanly possible
Songjeon Beach
Ulsan
Wine train
Osan (check)
Gwangan Bridge Walk
Ulleong-Do
Dinosaur Museum
Gyeongju
Half Marathon
Make Kimchi
Sokcho

We just keep checking off more and more!
xoxo

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Checking Things Off

3 weeks strong on the blog...woooo me!
I have been actively working on my list, making changes, adding, crossing off...making sure I can absorb all that Korea has to offer this time around.

School this week was extremely short due to Children's Day, which was Wednesday, May 5th (also Cinco de Mayo and an excuse to drink excessively). Our original plans for our day off consisted of a 4 hour bus ride to the Boseong tea fields for lunch, a picturesque view and a little fresh air. Unfortunately, or alcohol induced brains led us to change our plans for a day full of adventure and beauty to a leisurely visit to the Orcheongjang hot springs and sauna (also on the list, so not a waste of time!).

This spa is said to be the biggest in all of Asia, complete with waterfalls, pools of water varying in temperature and mineral content, saunas, steam rooms, and mass amounts of naked Koreans oogling our rotund western bodies.

The spa experience is nothing new to me...I am quite used to being accosted by older women sitting next to me in the buff. Being followed around by a group of naked Korean 6 year olds does not phase me anymore. But this particular day, being Children's Day, there was an unusual amount of stalkage and we three lone Wae-gooks (foreigners) were pinned into a corner, drilled with short and simple questions and answers..."I am happy. How are you?", "How old are you?", "Do you have baby?", and so on.

After pruning up for a couple of hours in the baths, we decided to splurge and get the full Korean spa experience, complete with an exfoliating scrub and cucumber mask. I officially am ready for summer, as all of my tan lines and I believe some of my tattoos have been scraped from my body by an older half naked woman with a hand sock that felt like a Brillo pad.

After our relaxing visit and an hour of skin scrapage, we retired to a friends apartment where the 3 of us prepared a Cinco de Mayo feast for 20...frijoles, enchiladas, quesadillas, pico de gallo, burritos, fajitas, albondigas, mexican rice, rice pudding, guacamole, sangria, margaritas...you name it, we foreigners were there to devour it. Needless to say, work was slow today, being that I didn't sleep until 2, and woke up with Jose Cuervo laughing in my face as his evil hang over melted my brain.

Lots planned for the weekend...there are more things to check off of the list!

(We did check off a few more...
Stripper Norebong CHECK
Hiking Jangsan Mountain CHECK

more to come next week!)

Until next time! <3

Monday, April 26, 2010

Ginhae Cherry Blossom Festival

Last year, this festival in Ginhae, South Korea was literally my second time out of Busan. We got up incredibly early, went to the wrong bus terminal, and made it out to the crowded streets of Ginhae to see the wonders of the season.
This year was quite different. Different people, different route, different mentality. But, all in all the same amount of beautiful!



We started our long, long journey at the Sasang bus station in Busan. A group of us met up to do the unthinkable...climb a mountain from one city to the next. The bus dropped us off at the Changwon bus station, only 45 minutes away. We started at the bottom of the mountain and trekked our way all the way to the top. Traversing the treacherous ridge and then repelling our way down the rocky, steep mountain and into the city of Ginhae. Ok, yes this is a dramatic retelling...but, we did eat shit a couple of times on the way down. The hike took us about 2 hours to get up, 1 to get down and then another hour to get into the city. Our thighs were burning and we were drenched in sweat, but the effort all paid off in the end!


Sara and I at the top!

Once at the bottom, we meandered into the city, stopping to eat in a tent and rehydrate on beer and makoli and refuel on pajang (Korean pancakes) and a meat plate of epic proportions.
After filling our bellies and giving our livers a little kick, we ventured further, seeing the sights. We made it to the famous love stream. It's a small creek, lined by cherry blossom trees and small bridges to cross over. It was very romantic for all of the single waegoks (foreigners) involved.




After over indulging in the sappy sights and taking one too many pictures, we headed to the train station to see if we could avoid the Sunday commute's traffic back to Busan. We made it to the train station just in time to catch the last train out of GInhae. Since we got our tickets so late, we all had to sit in different cars, most of us ended up falling asleep. At our connecting station in Changwon, I was politely awoken by a Korean woman, since I was now sitting in her seat and it was time for me to get off of the train. One of our friends wasn't so lucky, waking up in Daegu (about another hour away) with no cell phone or money.

All in all it was a lovely day, amazing adventure, and a major kick in the butt. Love cherry blossoms....love Ginhae...love Korea!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Korea...Round 2


I shamefully admit to being incredibly neglectful of my blog last year. Things in Korea became mundane and nothing really surprised me anymore. Exiting the bars as the sun was rising was a common occurrence. Soju and beer in a cab was a norm. I was not even phased by the belligerent business man meandering the beach at 11am in his suit from last night, but no shoes. The culture shock wore off and everything started to be just normal incidents in my everyday, Korean life.
Before leaving in September of 2009, I was fortunate enough to experience Korean white water rafting (sitting in a calm river on a tube and trying not to hit your oar on the rocks 2 feet below you), temples, festivals, beaches, restaurants and bars galore, amongst other splendid Korean forms of entertainment. I drowned myself in alcohol and stuffed my face with cheese that costs triple the price as it would in the states. I woke up at 5pm every Saturday to find texts messages I don't remember sending, to people I swore I wouldn't speak to again. The hang overs were killer. The dinners after were filling. The nights enjoyed were plentiful. But, this time around, something has to give.
I have sworn to myself that not only will I not misplace my precious weekends at the bottom of a bottle, but also to explore, travel and experience this fine country.
So far, I have been able to savor many experiences in the 8 short weeks since my return. I have celebrated with feast and friends, games and wine...all the comforts of home with far more life and personality. I have hiked mountains, gone to shows, ran, enjoyed festivals and still been able to enjoy a cocktail, without braking the bank of my liver. The adventure continues. I have put together a list of things that I must do or see in Korea this time around. Thus far, my progress is great.
I vow to document these events this time around. If not to feel a little accomplished, at least to give me something to do besides my Master's homework...procrastination is my speciality.
So, here is the list thus far. No particular order or method to the madness...just things that must be done and places that must be seen. Keep you posted!

  • Hike some mountains (vague....yes)
  • Camp on Geoje Island (고제도)
  • Mudfest (Boreyeon...July 17th 2010)
  • Lantern Festival (Jin Ju, October)
  • Snowboard on Mt Muju
  • Green Tea Fields (May 5th 2010)
  • Beomosa Temple (Busan)
  • Temple Stay
  • Paragliding
  • Ziplining (May, 2010)
  • Runs (next 10k in Busan is May 16th 2010)
  • Ocheonjang Spa (Ocheonjang, Busan)
  • Spa Land (Shinsaegu Department Store, Centum City, Busan)
  • Rafting
  • Go to Daegu and actually see the sights...not just the food and boys
  • explore Changwan
  • Turtle Ship (Jinhae)
  • Jagalchi fish market at 5am (Jagalchi, Busan)
  • Everland themepark (Seoul)
  • Go to a water park
  • Firework Festival (Gwangali, Busan, October 2010)
  • See the sites of Seoul
  • sit in the "Exciting Zone" at a Lotte Giants baseball game (Sadgik, Busan)
  • See a Busan Mighty Wings basketball game (Sadgik, Busan)
  • See a Busan soccer game (Sadgik, Busan)
  • Stripper Norebong (Kyungsun, Busan)
  • Screen golf
  • See Suwon
  • Jeju Island
  • Kunsan
  • Ice fishing Mountain
  • 소락샨 National Park
  • take silly Korean photos
  • Drink in a bag...as much as humanly possible
  • Songjeon Beach
  • Ulsan
  • Wine train
This list will be constantly updated as tasks are completed and added. I SWEAR.
>
erika