It's sort of funny how it's been over a year since my oldest brother, Mark, came to Korea - and yet if you scroll down just a little bit you can see a blog post about the last time he came, as though it were recent.
Seoul, Myeongdong, and Namsan (Seoul Tower)
Well, Mark had business in China. Since he was in the neighborhood, he flew to Seoul just for the weekend to visit me. We had a good time catching up, and he stayed at my place in Bucheon. We ate Bulgogi for lunch and it was good. In the evening, we went to Seoul We met up in Myeongdong and, from there, we went and took the cable car to the top of Namsan, the location of Seoul Tower. The cable car ride was not spectacular, but we had a great time up top. It was a cool night and the view was nice. We walked down the road a ways, past the bathrooms, to my favorite look-out. It takes about 5 minutes to walk there. It's down a bit, but the view is well worth it, as it's comparable to the peek.
On the way there, we walked past some walls. My brother commented that they must be very old walls because they weren't built with mortar in between the rocks. Later, we checked on the internet and learned that some of the walls on Namsan are roughly 600 years old.
That night, we ate galbi in Myeongdong. It was the same restaurant Chain that President Obama ate at during his stay in Korea for the recent G20 summit. The lady at the restaurant said, "Obama liked it!". lol - it was very delicious.
The Homeless, Crazy, and Drunks in Korea
We were tired when we took the subway back to my home. While we waited, Mark interacted with a crazy homeless woman. She was crazy in a nice way, but crazy all the same. He was surprised when she walked up to him and poked him in the gut with her pointer finger. What my brother DIDN'T know, which I DID know (and I had found out the hard way), was that the homeless, drunk, or crazy people in Korea behave a bit differently than the ones you might see in USA. IN USA - it's generally harmless to engage with them. You just talk, then say goodbye, and that's that. In Korea, however, I've had guys give me food, put their arm around my neck and harass a nearby Korean girl to translate his words to me (despite the fact that she was adamant several times that she did NOT know any English!), and another time a man started kissing my hand. He wasn't even homeless, just drunk.
With each meal, of course we drank Soju. Mark is quick to fall in love with this traditional Korean alcohal. It has a very smooth taste that compliments Korean food well. You'll notice that our first meal was Bulgogi, and our second was galbi. The next day, we woke up and had a late lunch. Sangyupsal, of course! To westerners, it's basically just thick cuts of bacon - but there are many qualities and ways of eating it. The place we stopped was pretty good and very filling.
I know - that's 3 meals of heavy meet! Plus soju and rice and kimchi, of course! But... hey, when my brother is here for just a short time, gotta live it up!!!
This is not the first Korean Drama I've watched - BUT - it IS the FIRST Korean drama I've watched that I will confidently recommend to my best friends back home! Although each episode is a little lengthy (running at 1 hour of PURE tv versus in US where a 1 hour show is actually 45 minutes of show + commercials) - it is absolutely excellent. It's interesting, unpredictable, and captivating. It can be funny at times (and not the kind of funny where you're laughing at the people who made the show. Trust me, they're intending you to laugh), and it's filled with drama and action.
This is a historical show, which follows the life of a prominent figure in Korea's history: Jumong Taewang. There aren't a lot of details in the records about Jumong, so of course just like any good non-fiction creative writing piece, the writers were free to create the drama - but you can still learn a lot from this show as long as you know what to look at.
KOREAN IDENTITY AND MY IMPRESSIONS
This is the first historical drama I've watched in Korea. For me, it has taught me more about Korean identity. When foreigners come to Korea, they usually feel (as I once did) that Korea lacks identity and still struggles to find itself. I'm not so sure that this even vaguely resembles the truth for Korean people, though. This show tells me about Korean identity: how they fought the Han (Chinese) for territory and how their ancient people are very distinct, separate, and different from other asian nations such as China and Japan.
'Foreigners' living in USA tend not to see that. I was telling Nuri that 'we' generally view Korean, Chinese, and Japanese people (as well as others such as Phillipino and Vietnamese etc) as being the 'same'. An unspoken popular thought might be: well? Look. Same color skin. Same color hair. Same kind of hair (generally silky black/dark brown, straight and thin), same color eyes, same body type... they're obviously descended from the same people with slight variance. This is all apart from culture, of course - which, even that, can be viewed as categorically the 'same' (rice consumption and chopsticks being common denominators).
Nuri could understand this because she said there is a similar sentiment in Korea regarding westerners. Many view 'us' as being the 'same' - white skin colored bread-eaters. lol
Jumong will teach you both history, and a lot about Korean identity - as in: how they view themselves. Of course it's flavored a lot (for example, the people in this show are using Taegwando! LOL), but it's still very fun to watch!
Although I've been away from my blog for too long, it has not been forgotten. I'll consider this time just an extended hiatus. I've taken pictures and gathered thoughts for many blog posts during this time - and I'm overdue in starting all of it flowing again.
My apologies to the blog lovers. I hope you enjoy the renewed flow of thoughts and information.
Here's an update on what has been happening from the last time I posted until now.
1) I completed my contract working at YBM Premier Adult English Center in Jongno, Korea, after July, 2009.
2) I collected my severance pay as well as Pension. I moved back to USA and went to my sister's wedding.
3) I rented an apartment in my home town and worked temporary jobs as well as substitute teaching.
4) I took a vacation to New York for the first time, spent two weeks seeing the things I wanted, visiting my aunt Terry who lives in Hell's Kitchen as well as two Korean friends. By the way, my aunt is a singer. Here's her website: www.polishdiva.com - she's really great at what she does. I think she just needs a new webspage. :)
5) One of the Korean friends I visited in New York was Nuri, the girl I had dated in Korea. We got back together during that time and kept in touch via Skype. I began planning my return to Korea.
6) Ultimately, I hope to get a job teaching at a University in or very near Seoul. That's what I want. At some point, I wouldn't mind trying Public High School. Other than that - I just flat out love teaching English!
7) I accepted a job at SLP (Sogang Language Program) in Mokdong, Seoul. It's a Hogwon (or a private kindergarten + afterschool program for elementary school kids). I accepted this job primarily because it is only 10 minutes from my girlfriend, and I was hired to work daytime hours (9-6pm teaching kindergarten) but it never happened. After six months, I still wasn't working daytime hours, so I parted ways with SLP and found a new job.
8) I no longer live in Seoul. I live in Bucheon, which is halfway between Incheon and Seoul. I now work at a small private kindergarten. It's a family owned business and I absolutely love it. My kids are absolutely adorable and great. My boss and my coworkers are very nice.
9) I will stay in Bucheon and finish this contract. I will probably resign and work at least until the end of February, 2012. After that - I might fly to Thailand and get my TESOL certificate. That will put me a big step closer towards a University Job in or around Seoul! BUT - these plans aren't set in stone! We'll see what happens!!!