Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Moving on!!

So I left Seoul last June and spent 3 wonderful months home - road tripping with my pals and spending quality time with my family and friends. At the end of August, I decided to come back to Korea but not to the hectic and polluted Seoul metropolis; instead, I chose to come to Jeju island.

I was amazed to realize how much I had missed Korean culture, food, customs and the like. Given, there are things I still disagree with but overall, i'm a big fan of Korean culture.

That being said, my new blog about my life in Jeju is:

Monday, May 28, 2007

Spectacular Ilsan

Seoul is an amazing city. I've always said so - it is efficient, the architecture (especially skyscapers) are impressive and it's a place where overconsumption coexists with beautiful parks and breathtaking Bukhan moutain.

Although air pollution is a serious problem here (not as bad as in India or China but still...), Koreans are environmentally-friendly on a daily basis. There are numerous examples:

- Apartment buildings have recycling bins and COMPOST bins!

- Starbucks gives you back 10 cents if you recycle your cup (it's automatic too!)

- When you order at Starbucks, they give you a plastic thing that you bring with you to your table. When your order is ready, it buzzes, vibrates and lights are flashing

- Street food is an interesting industry; it's everywhere at night time and quite cheap to buy and to run. Everything is in their pick-up truck and they just set a big tent for people to sit, eat and drink.

- McDonald's have a recycling system as well

- "Umbrella cover": that's so smart! You know when it's raining and people walk in shops or restaurants with water dripping all over the place and making the floor both slippery and dangerous? Well the solution is simple: an "umbrella-cover" dispenser! You slip it in that long and thin plastic bag that fits your umbrella, just as shown by my good friend Woo Kyung ^^

And toilets are WELL-THOUGHT! :

- The courtesy bell....... people have a tendency to flush the toilet when they're going for number two and that is just a waste of water. So the courtesy bell is a button you press that makes the sound of a flushing toilet!

- Toilet paper always goes in the garbage, not the toilet- Auto toilets are public bathrooms; you pay 10 cents and get full service including a welcome message, classical music, and it's very very clean. I recall those in France... they'd sometimes cost a buck and be some sort of junkie paradise.
Last night as I paid a visit to Kyungah in Ilsan, a town outside Seoul, we got to see a kind of outdoor and live Korean-made Disney show at the local Lake Park. The place was filled with people and little kids running around!

It's basicallya lights and water show out of a huge water fountain. It's quite spectacular because the show revolves around music themes and whenever the musical tension would build up, the gush would go higher.
We ended up going the the game room and I kicked her ass at a car race game ^^ Then we went for delicious ice cream, sitting on swings!

Outside there were beautiful lights that looked just like Christmas time!

I thought it's funny that even Korean mascots are thin as hell! Look at those legs hehe

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Roof fiesta!

Quick memo: I don't check this site's emails too often so pardon the delays!

So. Like Sarah said, "I'm so excited I could crap in my pants. Seriously."

Roof party turned out to be quite nice with friends, beer, pizza and a really nice view of Seoul. I especially enjoyed Pam grooving to Beck's "Debra" like there was no tomorrow!

Yuni (poor thing, for a while she was the only Korea speaking person there and she tried so hard to speak English!), Ben and me

Yuni kept screaming every time I went up that ladder and Twyla mentionned something about CPR...

Isn't that a nice roof? It's all set up for people to enjoy but they keep it locked, unless you bribe them 50 bucks and promise not to tell anyone... aaaah, corruption!

Sunset view from ma roof in Seoul! I ain't forgetting that one.

Erika and me and a beautiful sky.

Sunny and Ben. Yuni was in heaven to finally be able to speak Korean.

Vanessa got Twy "THE key!" I told her not to pose...

Pam and Erika.

Katherine, Yuni, Erika, Rachelle and Ben

Of course we ended up at Tinpan and I had a wonderful time with Katherine, Erika and Lourdes. I met really cool people and had a lot of fun until... 7 or 8am? I can't remember but the sun was up. All I know is that I woke up the next day at 5pm!

There were post-its all over my apartment begging me to come back to Korea next year. It totally made me smile.

I headed to the sauna just to relax and at least get out of the house. I love saunas. I even enjoyed the "massage chairs" - basically plastic balls hitting your back but I like to think it helps blood circulation...? ^^

As most of you already know, I lost my cell phone grrr not sure if it was in the cab or at the bar? My battery was dead so it's no use calling it. My 400$ Motorola Razr. Fortunately there's a silver lining: my addiction is over! I feel free. It's nice not to feel metal vibrating against my hip whenever someone feels like talking to me. And text messaging? Seriously? Now I must overcome my computer addiction... a hard one.

Today was a great one at work and it was hilarious to see all the teachers/staff walking as if they had been in a car accident or something... They met on Sunday to play kick ball... it's easy to see who works out hehe

Tomorrow morning i'm packing. I so don't want to leave so soon. Today again one of the guys at the organic food store chased me - this time, to give me free grapes. The "hello girlfriend!!" always brighten up my day... what will I do now?

I'm going home in 10 days and it's brutal! I still haven't figured out my plans for the summer, or even after, but i'm thinking 6 months of volunteering should be enough? I really think I need the reality-check, but I know i'll come back to Korea.

It's far, ajummas do cut in line and grab my butt, people are always in a rush, I do get stared at a lot, there is too much pollution and most men really are control freaks but... I love it here. The food is delicious, people are nice, I love the culture, the history, I want to learn the language, the kids are adorable, the city is so efficient...

Thursday and Friday are off so we're going to Deokjeokdo, the nice island close to Seoul. As for the week-end, I should visit the demilitarized zone and finish packing. My housewives are taking me out for lunch next week, it should be interesting.

I'm not ready for the 20 hour flight. I never am.

Once again, here are my lovely ABC students. Seriously. I love them more than chocolate.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

17-year-old girl stoned to death

We, Occidentals, enjoy passionate affairs and complicated love stories. Things such as cheating, getting divorced, dressing provocatively or even having orgies are just part of everyday life. Moreover, there is little racial/religious barrier when it comes to marriage. We are basically free.

Tonight as I was working out at the gym, I almost fell off the threadmill when I saw on BBC News this 17-year-old Kurdish girl being kicked and stoned to death in Iraq. It ends when a man smashes her head with a stone and blood spills all over the ground. Some guy has filmed the whole thing on his cell phone. Ironically Rhianna's "SOS" was on my ipod...

The girl was accused of have a realtionship with a boy "from the wrong religion". Reports from Iraq said a local security force witnessed the incident, but did nothing to try to stop it. Now her boyfriend is in hiding in fear for his life.

The girl, Du’a Khalil Aswad, was condemned to death as an “honour killing” by other men in her family and hardline religious leaders because of her relationship with the Sunni Muslim boy.

Miss Aswad had taken shelter in the house of a Yezidi tribal leader in Bashika, a predominantly Kurdish town near the northern capital, Mosul.

A large crowd watched as eight or nine men stormed the house and dragged Miss Aswad into the street. There they hurled stones at her for half an hour until she was dead.

The stoning happened last month, but only came to light yesterday with the release of the Internet video.

It is feared her death has already triggered a retaliatory attack. Last week 23 Yezidi workmen were forced off a bus travelling from Mosulto Bashika by a group of Sunni gunmen and summarily shot dead.

An Amnesty International spokesman in London said they receive frequent reports of honour crimes from Iraq – particularly in the predominantly Kurdish north.

Most victims are women and girls who are considered by male relatives to have shamed their families by immoral behaviour.

Kurdish authorities have introduced reforms outlawing honour killings, but have failed to investigate them or prosecute suspects, added the Amnesty spokesman.

Kate Allen, the organisation’s UK director, said: “This young girl’s murder is truly abhorrent and her killers must be brought to justice.

“Unless the authorities respond vigorously to this and any other reports of crimes in the name of ‘honour’, we must fear for the future of women in Iraq.”

(source )

There's of course a video and I must warn you that it is REALLY disturbing. It totally freaked me out. Sometimes I can understand how people might turn to crime after a shitty life, but this is BEYOND understanding. It's sick. Barbarian. NOTHING could ever justify anything like that.

They think she committed a sin? She was in love! They're the ones who'll be burning in hell.
God bless her soul. And all the other ones.

It's too horrible to even post this here. It's on a fellow's blog though and seriously... it's really harsh.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Just... Korea?

That's good news!

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Fun for me

Tuesday was Teachers Day ! Yes my friends, being a teacher is celebrated in Korea! And believe me… I got spoiled with flowers, chocolate, tea, pencil case, agenda, Korean traditional fan, stickers, a pin and free tickets to the movies! Yeeeeeeah!

On Monday I met a friend for dinner in Gwanghwamun and we ended up having too many drinks and celebrating along Chonggyecheong – this beautiful stream downtown Seoul. I love that place so much. Went to bed at 4am and I was very thankful that I only teach at 3pm on Tuesday/Thursday. Oh yeah. I peed in Chonggyecheong too.

Things are going well and I only have 15 days left in Korea. It’s heart-breaking. This Saturday I’m having a party on my roof – watch out! A 16th floor roof in Seoul, with trees and flowers, and my going away party = …. Uh, just watch out ;)

I joined Facebook and it’s amazing to see what old friends have become. But I'm getting tired of it pretty quickly...

Marc ordered me my first Ibook so I’m thrilled. Aurélie got me tickets for a cool concert in Quebec City (

Pete is planning our road trip en Gaspésie! Patrice invited me to Edmonton. Bella invited me to Madrid. Patrick invited me in France and Cédric/Paolo might visit me in Quebec. And I’m sooooooo looking forward to seeing old friends when I get back home (Rosane! Nono! Janvier! Kev! JF! JC, Bergeron, Emilie, AndreaneS ;), Vero, les Brodeur ?????????)

And my brother and sister, boy I just can’t wait to see you!! Je vais yéller!

I’m looking for volunteer opportunities in Latin America. Most of my stuff here is already sold. A dude bought my pink couch for his dog. I’m not judging hehe

Today I had a blast with my students! They are my big chunk of love; I adore them more than chocolate! We took many random pictures and I thought I’d share a few.

Eddy is as wide as a sheet of paper!! He floats in his clothes and he is soooo adorable and smart! Every class he yells "teacher!!!!!!!!!" and won't quit until I help him unzip his crappy bag.

Julie always begs for me to pick her up. She is totally in love with me and I love her too! Plus she's my top student with a 99.8% average!!

Class at work!

Still not sure what was with that... the kids were obsessed with the big "Freedom" written on its chest.

Sophia showed me the ultimate sign of adoration when she gave me a comb... she always gives me that cute look that's impossible to resist!!

Korean kids go insane when it comes to stickers! So they have a sticker sheet and I give them one every class if they complete their homework. Stickers are also used as bribes to keep them quiet, ensure class participation and prevent them from speaking Korean. They're also good rewards!

As you've probably noticed, Koreans are obsessed with Caucasians. My students particularly enjoy staring at me and discovering my body - especially my hands and face.

And my feet!!!

Amy is always spaced out. So is Paul, who blissfully smiles when I snap my fingers next to his ear. Today he spent 40 minutes SMELLING his peppero (chocolate stick). The other kids ate the thing in a second.

Harry took most of these pictures. He's Korea's next greatest artist. He is so smart. Average? 99.6%!

Cobi always looks at me with a big smile and whenever I say something, he says "Yes! I understand!" He's my first ABC student to ask "May I go to the bathroom" when the other kids still struggle with the word Apple.

Average? 99.5%!

I had to put the flowers between those two because Charlie kept accusing Brian of cheating. The kids always make fun of Brian and accuse him of every single thing. The flower idea was good cauz they both laughed and forgot about it.

Remember Chandler in Friends? "Kids! Roll your way to child obesity!"

That's basically what Paul does, but look at his ankles... he's so skinny! This kid is a rebel but totally in love so last week when he heard it was my birthday he got me a gift. But he tried not to make a big deal out of it....

He "rolled" up to me in the hallway and said "here teacher. happy birthday" It was a funny prank he had brought to class the day before and I had laughed so hard when I saw it. He remembered. aaaaw so cute!

Time for Pisa after the big final test! An all-boys class and they're just lovely!!

John is the most interesting kid i've ever met. I love him so much! He wears shoes twice his size and baggy pants because his mom just got divorced and she want to save on clothes. He is nice to everyone and always smiles.

I’m sick of work. Sick of 5 minutes break. Sick of some people. Sick of city life. Sick of pollution. Of traffic jam. Of people in a hurry. Of hang overs. Sick of negativity. Of not knowing. Sick of mind games. Of temptation. I love Korea so much that I hate it. Doesn’t make much sense but Annabella you understand, right?

Fortunately those guys at the organic store by my place always yell a nice “hi girlfriend!” every time I walk by. It’s endearing, really.

Life is a wonderful gift!

Except when they put this giant ad at the end of the alley... believe it or not, the bright light reaches my 15th floor and gently prevents me from sleeping...

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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mothers Day

Koreans don't really celebrate Mothers Day - they have Parents Day, which was last week actually.

Rumor has it that this day was originally Mothers Day, but fathers complained it was unfair and so it became Parents Day. It think it's clever to combine it all in one day. Back home we have two separate days - Mothers Day and Fathers Day.

I called home to wish my mom a happy day. Before hanging up my day said something quite hilarious to me: "tu es un superbe spermatozoide ma belle!" hahaha

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Saturday, May 12, 2007

The time is now

Fortune tellers are an important part of Korean culture. So are Chinese astrology and the four pillars - the Hour, Day, Month and Year of one’s birth, which contain some sort of esoteric code and have a positive/negative energetic influence on one’s life.

From time to time, Korean women will have a C-Section in order for their baby to be born at the exact date and time that is supposed to generate a genius. A second later might prevent the newborn from being the next Sejong Wang!

One of my housewives students is having marital problems. When she first met her husband, the fortune teller said that, according to their birth dates, the chance of them getting divorced was 100%. But they were so in love!

So they lied to each other’s parents. She told her mom his birthday was in June. He told his mom her birthday was in September. Of course both moms went to a psychic and were told that, according to the birth dates, the relationship would last. So they gave their blessing.

It’s ten years later and she’s giving up her beauty and liveliness… just waiting for her daughter to be old enough to handle a divorce. In ten years she’ll be fifty. The fortune teller was right... OR was it just a coincidence?

If you like spooky stories, there are tons of them over here.

A little girl was really sick. Her mom was so worried that she went to a psychic. She was told there was a spell on her daughter. Actually, it was meant for the husband but something had gone wrong in the process and the little girl was “paying for it”.

The mom was desperate. She bought a very expensive piece of paper on which the psychic wrote some Chinese characters intended to break the spell. She still carries it in her wallet. She showed it to me. A month later her daughter was cured and never sick again.

The only problem I have with such a belief is actually the same I have with Calvin’s theory of predestination: so there are no accidents? No twist of fate? Everything’s already planned ahead and supposed to happen?

If so, what about free will? What’s the point of me living my life? Is this just a big show to entertain some sick almighty?

I look at all those pictures, think about all those memories, recall conflicting emotions and I can’t help but think that I’ve just been very fortunate. People are lucky. People are unlucky. They make things happen for themselves.

In the end, aren’t we the ones making the decisions? As I get older, the line between “blame it on society” and “take responsibility for yourself” gets blurry.

Anyway. No matter what, even if life is fucked up, the best you can do is keep trying. Like Moloko sing – the time is now.

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