Tuesday, May 31, 2011

haiku in honor of my afternoon snack, vi.

Ice cream in a bag,
You are my hot, summer joy.
You won't melt on me.

I'll admit-- the first time I laid eyes on these little contraptions, it seemed unnatural. I mean, this is ice cream... if I can't see it, and lick it off a cone, what good is it to me? All it took was one squeeze and I was sold. Not to mention, it's got all the flavor of ice cream but it's not as heavy on the cream. It's becoming blatantly obvious as to how these Koreans stay so flippin' thin.

Summer weather, come swiftly. I gotsta get my ice-cream-in-a-bag on.
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Camera G33k

Okay, it's no secret that I'm a really big camera nerd. Also, I love traveling (see 'camera nerd'). So what do you do in a foreign country when your steady and true travel companion-- your Canon or your Nikon-- is in need of repair?

Like, let's say you drop your favorite lens.

Ouch, indeed.

Fortunately, if you live in Ulsan, South Korea, you can take all of your Canon goods to the following service center. As with basically all services I've encountered in Korea, it was relatively inexpensive (even for being a brand servece center) and of course... extremely fast.

From the Jung-gu Home Plus, take bus 127 to the Taehwa Rotary and walk about 1 block down from the bus stop. Look for a bright green building (you will also see Canon signs by this point) and head on up the the 4th floor. All you need to provide is your broken equipment, name and cell phone number. They'll call or text you when it's ready for pick-up.

Good luck to you, travelling photographers!
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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sticking to the 'rolling stone' thing, because rolling kimchi just gets chili juice everywhere.

It's time to look forward, and time for another travel announcement, which always start the next chapter of the Playing with Elephants blogging.

In just 2 and a half months, I will be flying from South Korea-- leaving my now-second-home-- to travel Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Vietnam, and a re-visiting experience to Thailand, my first love in Asia) for a few weeks. Then I will be coming back to the Seattle area. To stay put for a bit.

In the coming weeks, I'll post more information about the trip, including travel information I glean along the way. Don't worry; Korea posts will still commence in tandem with the other posting.

If you want to know when I'll be returning to the States, you can click on this handy-dandy countdown timer. You can check it every day if you want. Or every hour. I know you really miss me.
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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

On being 'healthy', cont.

"My school English teacher is so kind and pretty and talented teacher... she like a snow white. But I am ugly. I'm sad. I want a laura teacher face."

I found this in my student's English diary today. She is an advanced student and has a special agreement with me where she writes journal entries and I correct them. She knew I would see this. And it breaks my heart.

This is not just a case of pre-teen self-consciousness. This student's sentiments are not a lone voice in South Korea. In fact, idolization of the 'Western image' has been creeping its way into Asia at an alarming rate for some years now, and having a scary effect on our world's children. Watch the following CNN video, broadcasted just last week, and you'll see what I mean.

I understand that the media has a massive effect on the way we view ourselves, but when it becomes so viral and downright vile that it threatens to wash away the uniqueness of other cultures and turn us into a singular, cloned version of Barbie, isn't it time we take another approach? I know it's easier said than done, but aren't the differences the very things we should be embracing about ourselves? And shouldn't cultures be proud of this, instead of trying to erase them?

At the end of the day, I'm still not sure what to write as a response in my student's diary, with exception of three words:

you are beautiful.

I can only hope that has some effect.
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Sunday, May 8, 2011

On being 'healthy'.

It's rare to find a young woman who doesn't feel the pressure to conform to society's ideal body image, one that varies by culture. In the States, I would argue that the 'ideal' body type still remains to be a size 2, 18" waistline with a 34D cup bust, even though the majority of women never could and never will fit into that size. We're just not built that way (nor should we be, generally speaking). 

However, after living in Korea for a while, I've seen how much more slim the women here are supposed to look. As a woman in the States, I feel like muscles are a sign of physical power and health. It means we are being active.

But as I said, the ideal body type varies by culture, and South Korea's image is definitely different from that in the States.

As a foreigner, I feel as though I am generally excused from these standards because I am not Korean (although I understand this is completely subjective). However, it makes me a little more than uneasy to see this and not be able to do something about it. Check this out. You only have to watch the first third to understand what I mean.

And if that's being 'healthy' or 'sturdy', then I'll take those labels anyday.

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Friday, May 6, 2011

my accomplishment of the day.

Today was Sports Day at my school, and what better way to make use of the token foreigner than by having them participate in a race? Little did my staff or students know that I would dominate.

This has now made me a legend at my school, if only for a day. Students spent any conversation time with me swinging their arms in a 90-degree angle saying, "very very fast!" or giving me the thumbs-up shouting, "GOOD JOB TEACHA GOOD JOB!!!"

Both a source of pride and a boost to my popularity to have a 1st place stamp on my hand.

It was a good day.

There is a lot more to say about Korean Sports Day, but I'm about to go to Seoul for the infamous Lotus Festival (which celebrates Buddha's birthday). Thus, this rolling stone's gotta bounce.
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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

those weird foreigners.

Now that I've been living in Korea for over 8 months, I realized how much foreigners like to point out all the strange things Koreans do, but rarely look at it from the other way around. After all, our normal is, well-- normal-- to us, leaving the remainder of things we see outside our realm of comfort as abnormal.

So in the spirit of bridging the gap, I'm compiling a couple lists. Because that's what I do.


1. We have the obligatory, "bless you" after sneezing, which, when said to a Korean person, hangs awkwardly in the air like a forgotten high-five.

2. We dress in animal onesies to go bowling. This is a new tradition my friends and I have started in Ulsan, because we feel like we get stared at enough already. PS: Our herd is 30+ strong.

3. We like to hug. Sometimes a lot.

4. We play the ukulele, an instrument almost no Korean (and, strangely, some people from the USA) have never heard of.

5. Despite our hugging (see point 3), we like to keep our food to ourselves, and will rarely share a meal off the same plate. That's so Lady and the Tramp.


1. I will bow to my elders, and maybe to a little head nod to my friends and co-workers.

2. I won't want to use a fork, and maybe pull out chopsticks at the dinner table. Along the same lines, I will eat rice with a spoon.

3. I might forget to give the obligatory, "bless you" when people in my vicinity sneeze. Apologies in advance.

4. I will confuse people with my wardrobe.

5. I will be hugging everyone in sight because that's the one thing in Korea I really don't like living without.

And an announcement for those who haven't heard: I will be leaving Korea in about 100 days (mid-August), and returning by mid-September to Seattle. It was an incredibly tough decision, but I know it's going to be the right choice for me.
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