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!!!
Last week, my oldest brother, Mark, flew to South Korea to visit me. Before he came to visit, I hadn't seen him in about 3 years. Here's his official record and impression of South Korea during his stay. Enjoy another take! -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Click here to see all the photos from my brother Mark's visit to South Korea --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
My Week in Korea Visiting Brother Chris
by Brother Mark
First Day, Thursday
After 27 hours of traveling through San Fran and Tokyo, I finally reached my destination of Seoul. Groggy yet elated to have arrived, I had prepared Chris for what I needed. Any international flight that crosses a major ocean, no matter how much I eat on the plane, leaves me starving. So off to get food we went! This was going to be a vacation with a lot of eating and drinking!!!
Walking on the winding streets of downtown Seoul there were SO MANY young women. I counted the number of men and women on the tortuous, bright streets full of convenience stores, hotels, and open air food stands, and there were 6 women for every 4 men. Chris’s efficient efficiency apartment is just a few blocks from Sungshin Women’s University. Why had I not visited earlier?! This trip was not to be about women though. Food was on my mind.
He led me quickly down a bright pedestrian street full of jewelry and clothing stores for women until we reached a restaurant that was happening. The table-grills were prevalent, ubiquitous and popular. Chopsticks and small shot glasses full of rice vodka were lifted in the air every second. I could see the Koreans like to have fun. We ordered grilled bacon. It’s called san-keaup-so. It was accompanied by kimchi, the famous hot-n-spicy cabbage that I adore. We pigged out. They kept bringing spicy vegetables, miso soup and rice vodka. It was great. I slept well that night.
While eating grilled bacon, I remembered a question I like to ask friends: If you had to give up all meat except for one type (chicken, beef, pork, seafood, or some other type of meat), which would you choose to eat? I had always maintained pork is the meat to eat. Think about it! You get ham. You get pulled pork sandwiches. You get pork tenderloin gently baked with figs. And you get bacon.
Second Day, Friday
Chris has adopted the Asian work ethic, and he must wake up at 5 am to be at work at 6am. Quite often he works 12 or 14 hours. This Friday he gets the afternoon off to go sight-seeing around Seoul with me. I slept in. zzz. For lunch we splurged at one of Seoul’s finest restaurants, Top Cloud Grill, at the top of a skyscraper. They do not know who they are messing with. We’re Americans. I order the all-you-can-eat lunch buffet. We know how to eat, and we cleaned that buffet out. We pigged out. After lunch we toured the historic royal palaces of Seoul, planned to meet some friends and got ready for the evening of more eating and drinking.
For dinner we were cajoled by a group of friends to hit another grill. I love grilled meats. Grilled bacon again. One type of pork was plain while the other was marinated in spicy Korean sauce. We pigged out. I couldn’t get enough of the kimchi. Chris even likes to grill the kimchi. We wanted more food, so we ordered beef. They served us another helping of grilled bacon. This restaurant only served pork. Mmm… bacon. I was starting to get sick of grilled bacon. The second helping of bacon was devoured anyway.
Third Day, Saturday
We awoke early to take a scheduled tour to the De-Militarized Zone (DMZ). Stepping into North Korea, although only briefly, was surreal. The DMZ is still a war zone. Justin, a friend of Chris, wanted to come on the tour, but Koreans are not allowed. A special 6 month wait list is needed for Koreans. Instead, Justin invited us to his house for a traditional home cooked meal: grilled bacon. The thought of grilled bacon for the third night in a row began to wear on Chris and me. We sat on the floor of their living room, a Korean tradition, and ate grilled bacon. We pigged out.
After dinner we sang karaoke. The 90 minute bus ride across Seoul back to Chris’s apartment had me dwelling on grilled bacon. The next day was a big day. Chris and I were considering becoming vegetarians.
Forth Day, Sunday
After visiting Chris’s favorite Christian church, we head out for lunch. Anything but grilled bacon. Ugh. Chris tells me to try a Bob Stick, which is a rice stick with meat on top. I order the beef. He orders the pork. I don’t know if it was karma or fate, or maybe it was simply bad luck, but while trying his pork Bob Stick, I was clumsy and dropped a huge piece of pork on his lap. The God of pork was talking to us. No more bacon. Fortunately, a friend of Chris’s brought us to a restaurant where we ate beef vegetable soup, cooked over an open flame at the table.
After lunch we hiked. We hiked 5 miles up a mountain half a mile tall overlooking all of Seoul. The view was amazing. At the top of the mountain I begin to open my snacks, and I enjoyed a delicious Korean Oreo cookie. I don’t know if the thin air made it taste better or if the different recipe for Korean Oreo cream caused the party in my mouth, but the cookie was as amazing as the view. I did get pissed at Chris though. He took an Oreo cookie and then traded the rest of the 3 cookies to another hiker for a raw cucumber. I burned 5000 calories to hike up a mountain and then I had to eat a raw cucumber!? I grumbled as I ate my half of the raw cucumber. I was not happy. We were beginning to act like young brothers again.
After climbing down the mountain I threatened to take him to eat grilled bacon. We ate grilled beef instead. We pigged out.
Fifth Day, Monday
This was one of the 14 hour work days for Chris. We go out for lunch. He tells me to stop mentioning grilled bacon. I say it 4 more times just to spite him. We argued like when we were younger. It’s clear we are brothers. And it is nearly time for me to return to the USA. We order beef and cheese bi-bim-bap, which is a super hot rice bowl full of beef, cheese and vegetables. The stone bowl is seriously about 500 degrees, and the rice and vegetables cook as you eat. More kimchi. Koreans never get sick of kimchi, and I still adore the mouth-watering spicy cabbage. We pigged out.
Sixth Day, Tuesday
I flew back to the USA. My goodbye to Chris is short, fun and full of love. It’s a quick, manly hug and slap on the back. I don’t like sad goodbyes. It will be a long, long time before I can eat bacon again.
April 8th was my birthday, which I celebrated in Korea.
Near my work, I like to get coffee from a nearby coffee shop, and the owner has gotten to know me a little. She's Korean and her English ability is minimal, but when she found out it was my birthday, here's what she did for me. (^.^)
Well, thanks to my friend Gahyun, I was finally able to do something that I'd been wanting to do for a long time!!! And that was: See the Korean dance performance called "Ballerina Loves a B-Boy".
It's a dance performance, like a play, which has no words. The title explains the entire story. Honestly, the story itself is nothing to rave about. It's pretty generic. It provides a backdrop for the dancing, a way of entertaining the audience and giving us something to follow along with.
The dancing, however, was amazing! I TOTALLY recommend this performance to anyone!!!
Details: We saw it at a theater behind Doksu Gong Palace - which is near City Hall. Tickets were 40,000 won each.
During the performance, everyone was allowed to take pictures and encouraged to shout and cheer. After the show, the performers went on stage and invited the audience to come up for pictures.
The theater was small - so ALL the seats were up close and personal. At one point during the performance, there were 5 dancers on stage. Four of them stopped dancing and found empty seats in various parts of the theater, sat down and started cheering on the 5th dancer. It was really funny seeing some of the audience reactions.
My FAVORITE part of the performance is represented by the pictures below that are dark. The dancers put on dark clothes and creepy traditional Korean masks. Then they started moving in strange ways and dancing while creepy music was playing. It was really great. hahaha
Okay, here are some pictures and a video I found on YouTube!
On my left and right are dancers from the performance. ^^
Above are pictures of the ballerina and the B-Boy. I love that style. She's really cute.
The girl on the left is the dancer I got my picture with.
He's actually spinning. My camera is just that awesome.
Awesome picture, too, even though I think his leg should be more horizontal.
Here, she's trying to impress the B-Boys with her ballet. Great picture, though, eh?
Here is THE ballerina and her two friends before she met the B-Boy.
The two pictures above represent my favorite part of the show! It was SO cool!
I didn't take the video (below), I just found it on YouTube. The dancers in the video aren't the ones I saw, but the routines are the same.