Tuesday, August 29, 2006

What's your name? I like you!

August 30th

Whoever is a fan of sashimi will be delighted to go to a Korean fish market!

Of course, you betta stay home if you can't stand cruelty because honnestly... it doesn't feel so good to see all those animals trapped in fish tanks. Moreover, the experience can be traumatic when they kill it in front of ya.

Yesterday after work we all decided to go to a nurayangjin in Yeoido. Of course the place stank and it was dirty, so those of us in high heels had a pretty hard time hon! hon! ;) It was filled with fish tanks in which countless fish were packed. I felt sorry. Ajashis and ajumas kept trying to sell us their stuff - there were so many stands and so few people, I have no idea how they can live on that!

But the moment I felt really cruel was when we actually bought the fish. The old lady threw it on the floor and killed it with a sharp stick. Then she "prepared" it in front of us. At some point, the fish's tail moved... still alive, or nervous reaction?

Then they took us in a dark alley leading to a very nice restaurant! The atmosphere was really great, everyone sitting on the floor, eating the fish they'd just picked. The poor waitresses seemed overloaded though.

We ate sashimi and the shrimps - it was soooo delicious! And we all had a really good time, until a drunk guy came to our table and started talking to us (what did I tell ya about alcoholism here! It was 10pm on a Tuesday). Apparently he had a bet : if he and his two friends could spend 5 minutes at our table (they provided the soju), he wouldn't have to paid for dinner.
We finally agreed and it turned out to be quite hilarious!! Except for the fact that the guy treated one my Korean friend as if she didn't exist. Plus he asked our names at least 5 times each, then he'd say "I like you!!!" and clap his hands...

We finally left and headed to my place cauz we were broke and everyone wanted to see my new pink couch!! It's so comfy, and it can also be a bed so people can sleep over now!

Everyone left around 1am but Chris stayed and we talked until 3. I was so exhausted this morning when I woke up for my dentist appointment!

And may I say I LOVE MY DENTIST! See, back in Quebec Dr. Buck was rude and I didn't trust him at all. Same for Dr. Zou. But that Korean guy is awesome and I felt really safe. Plus I kept reminding myself of Twyla's precious advice "don't cry! just suck it up man! hon! hon!".

Whatsmore, the dentist gave me sunglasses to put on so the light wouldn't bother me!! Even though I looked completely ridiculous, how clever is that?! They even have a screen in front of ya so you can watch tv while you're waiting for your mouth to be completely frozen!

Still, I freaked out a little when he said that my cavity was too deep and it took him a really long time to work on that tooth but, again he's a God, I didn't need a root canal treatment. As for the wisdom tooth, I totally freaked out when I saw his tools. It's like he was going to dig a hole in my mouth with a spade! And he gave me one stich... a first!

Anyway, I'm a little in pain but ok. Gota go back tomorrow for the "close up" (how great is that? they never do that in Canada!!) In total, everything will have cost 110 000 won so it's really cheap! Today's medicine cost 1,50$ !!

As for what happened the other night at 3am (some of you were worried but don't be, it's a safe building), turns out the janitor had the wrong apartment. What are the chances!?

This morning as I was walking behind my building I saw this woman sundrying hot peppers outside, I thought it was cute. This country is just so amazing!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Ring my bell!

August 28th

I cried myself to sleep last night. So when this morning, at 3am, while I was peacefully asleep, someone rang my doorbell and then started to literally hit the door, I got quite upset! I live on the 15th floor of a rather upper class building so I had no idea what was going on.

I sleep naked. Thus before I had time to find my bathrobe and figure out what was going on, the man (I could see him on the screen) was getting really impatient.

Scared to death I finally opened the door and he started talking in Korean. Of course, I had no idea whatsoever what he was saying. I kept mumbling "no no" and I was getting really mad. 3am??? Better be important!

He mentionned something about air conditionning.... uh?! Then he made a pause and said in English "You..... emergency... button...." He'd lost me. I said "no" one more time and he left. We were both mad and all this had happened for no apparent reason.

That was so weird, I still don't get it! Pffffffffff I really oughta learn some Korean (of course beside "tap tap hae!" haha)

The good life ?

August 27th

Lately i've been going out way too often! It's just nice to blow the steam off a little after work, and my friends are so nice and hilarious!! But i'm old now and I can't go to bed at 4am and feel good the next day... takes at least 2 days to recover :p

Anyway, my point is that during those long and lovely nights, i've seen a lot of interesting things. Whatsmore, i've witnessed them both in Seoul and Jejudo so I think it's safe to say that it concerns Koreans.

One night, we bumped into 5 guys who were totally drunk. One of them was unconscious and the others were holding him up but he was quite heavy and they fell on the ground. They were laughing hysterically, while the guy was probably in a coma. And probably hurt.

I've often seen drunk guys trying to walk on a street, that sad and confused look in their eyes, sometimes making a quick stop to throw up.

But most of the time, it's old Korean man that get hammered.... before 11pm! Apparently they just get off of work, go for dinner and get drunk on soju. It's quite common to see them leaning against a good friend (usually not drunk) and trying to look ok while talking nonsense. Just last night, I saw two of them in the subway around 10:15pm. Uuuuh but what about their wife and family?

You also see them in bars - they're at the next table, either trying to stand up, or being served another drink by the waiter. So I wonder what's the deeper explanation for such a habit?

To be sure, we drink a lot in America and, as most teenagers, i've been drunk in public quite a few times but never to the point that i couldn' walk or even hold my head! As for adults, we do see drunk people on the streets but I believe they're usually homeless. I really gota look more into this.

Actually tonight I met my friends at a Noraebang (karaoke, even though I was exhausted) and... well first of all may I say that noraebangs are just amazing! You get this private room for you and your friends with a big screen and you pick the songs and have a blast! We can usually drink and smoke in those rooms. I've gone with a lot of people at once and it's so fun! Last night we were at a very classy one in Hongdae, I definitely recommend it.

Anyway, we headed to a nice lounge around 1am. And there at the entrance, this beautiful girl in a black dress, totally drunk, could barely walk, not laughing at all, her head swaying. She was with a couple of other people, one of them trying to hold her up but he was just having the giggles and couldn't seem to stop it. I probably looked shocked because he gave me a big smile and said "ok ok"

I'm trying to imagine what happened to her when she got home. Or even on her way home. Or did she even get home? Maybe Koreans are more into having a good time without taking advantage of the situtation.

But about two months ago, a girl working at my school got drunk and took a cab at night. The cab driver took her to a hotel and tried to rape her. But then again, many Korean cab drivers are former criminals who got this job because it's so easy. Thus we can't generalize here either.

A lot of Occidentals have a tendency to either be mean, look for trouble or become hypersexual when they're under the influence of alcohol. They also have car accidents that can be fatal. Koreans I have seen seem to be overly happy and not at all threatening. I don't know about road kills here... uuuuuh yeah, I gota stop speculating and get facts :)

Gay or straight?

August 26th

The first time I set foot on a Korean street, I was actually quite confused. Girls holding hands, guys touching each other's butts, isn't this supposed to be a rather conservative society? My ex-boyfriend, who's been here before, said that it's just how Koreans are and there's nothing to be suspicious about.

Today I went with Mike in Sincheon to try to find the museum of erotic art (or something like that). We never found it but to be fair, the website he had consulted was from 2001. Instead, we wandered on the streets around Hongik Univeristy and witnessed quite a funny argument between lesbians.

As it turns out, this seems to be a hot spot for gays in Seoul. There was a park where all sorts of people were hanging out, includnig a homeless sleeping on a bench. The girls were loud and had incredible haircuts that didn't seem to fit Korean faces. Some of them seemed really drunk and three of them actually argued right in front of us. Guys stood there, apparently looking or waiting for something, someone. It was quite interesting.

Mike, who's been here much longer than I have, explained to me that it's both really easy and difficult to be gay in Korea. Apparently, homosexuality here is not accepted but tolerance is increasing. Nonetheless, Koreans are oriented towards having a family, having kids (a boy preferably), the woman being a good housewife and the man being... the man!

Korea's traditional values such as the beliefs that one has to carry on one's family name and that one has to get married if one is to lead a wholesome life definitely interfere with being gay. (This is not to say that they are the sole bases of homophobia in Korea, of course.) When combined with some of the characteristics of Koreans, namely, the willingness to sacrifice themselves for the benefit of others (esp. parents) and the capability to withstand extreme oppression, these beliefs tend to discourage gay people from coming forward.

But I read that recently students at a University came out of the closet and actually set a gay rights committee or something like that. It was a pretty big step I think.

Still, Mike said that it can also be easy for a Korean to be gay without people knowing about it because it's such a "touchy-feely " society! Like I said, you see girls holding hands and it is perfectly okay for men to walk with an arm over another's shoulder; when you're drunk, it is even okay to walk hand-in-hand!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Tales from a hopeless dentist case

August 25th

One fine day in 2005 I decided to go to the dentist in order to take care of an unbearable tooth pain. What I didn't know is that I would meet Dr. Buck twice a week for the next two months.

When he looked at my teeth, everything was perfect! But then the Xray came in and he found considerable cavities in between my teeth. Note here: everybody should FLOSS! I had the most painful root canal treatments and suffered from terrible headaches. It was awful and costed my parents quite a lot of "doobies"!!

Now that i'm in Korea, of course, I had to be in pain again. Wisdom tooth this time, so I went to the dentist this morning. He seemed so happy to speak English while his secretaries were talking about me behind my back.

One thing I don't understand though is why they feel the need to whisper!!! I don't understand a single word of what they're saying so they could just pretend to have a nomal conversation and I wouldn't notice anything! Instead, they put their hands in front of their mouths and turn all red when I look. Come on!

Anyway, the dentist said that he'll extract the tooth but I must take some medicine before, just to prevent infection and to kill the pain. He took an Xray and talked to me for 30 minutes. How much did it cost?! 5 dollars! And the medicine? 2.50$!!

As for the rest, I was quite impressed with their technology! Usually in Occident they take the Xray and then show it to you on a kinda trnasparent sheet. But here, there's the hygienist lady that's dragging her feet to the room, chewing gum and looking for a place to put the laptop on which you can actually see your entire mouth! How great is that?! 5 bucks, really?!

Extracting a wisdom tooth is covered by medical insurance. Taking care of a cavity is too, unless I want good stuff that'll last - then it's a undred bucks. As for crowns, they were 700$ in Montreal, they're 450$ here, but I heard you can get them for 200.

I also gota have an old filling replaced cause it's degrading itself and that could damage my tooth.

I don't know how much of this is true, but I had to share this wonderful experience! And some of you might have to go to a dentist so let me know if you need any references. A lot of things are covered by medical insurance too so you should be aware of that.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Another day in paradise

Totally Korean!!
Rearview mirror
With a coconut on a cliff... niiiice!
Awesome view!
Delicious Sashimi... know what I mean with all the sidedishes?!
Jejudo's official statues... no one really know what they stand for
Great convertible, thanks to Marvin too
Just like a kid, spent most of my time snorkeling
See what I mean? Awesome beach!

Greatest seafood BBQ ever

Was in my own little world on the back seat of our Volks
Laughed so hard when we took the pic, took a while to stop
Squid lady

Yes, a cow
Cute Chris
Pout 2
In my own thoughts... plus sunburned

Adorable street dog
Crowd at the ferry for Udo
Bridge near our hotel, romantic?
Cloudy sunset

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Naked truth and paradise in Jeju

August 16th

Well I did it! The saunas aren't that bad, if it isn't for the Asian women staring at my naked body. Even my Korean friend couldn't help but let her eyes go down as we were casually talking. Tres comique.

We also got massaged right after being sunburned. I was in such pain, and the lady kept rubbing my back as if she didn't hear me scream!!! The facial was pretty nice though...

We spent 4 days in Jejudo, a wonderful island south of Korean. It was nice to forget all about the school. We needed the vacation! I loved it all - the beaches, the food, the people, the mountains, everything really.

We actually rented a red convertible Volks. Oh the stories with that car!! One in particular is when we drove through the moutains and found a spot advertized as the greatest view ever. We thought it must be worth seeing it so we went there.
3 girls in a red volks, me standing up at the back of the car, Marvin Gaye playing loud. We got there, glanced at the view (truly nothing to see), took pictures and left. All this probably lasted 5 minutes and the whole time all those Koreans were staring at us, like we'd just appeared from nowhere and left the same way. It was hilarious, but like any story, you kinda had to be there ;)

The cab drivers are like tour guides in Jejudo and they really love to take time to tell you all about it! They are the nicest, quite the opposite of Seoul.

On our way to Udo (paradise island about half an hour boat ride from Jejudo) we saw this woman hanging out some fish on a line by the sea. She was dressed as if it was winter, anyway, pretty impressive. The cab driver was more than happy to stop for us to take a picture while he was having a smoke.

We ate really well too. A LOT of seafood of course. And remember the BBQ grill at your table? Well instead of Kalbi, we had seafood on it. So delicious. On our last night we had sashimi but the portions were ridiculously enormous! When we thought we were done, they brought more food, saying that it was now the main course. Ooooh!! To be fair, it cost 80 000 won for the three of us so of course they couldn't be too cheap. Was amazing!

One funny thing I noticed about Koreans hanging at the beach is that they are almost fully dressed! Some of them actually looked quite shocked to see three girls in bikini... but of course it could have been the Occidental factor!

Anyway, someone told me that it has to do with weight. As it turns out, a lot of Koreans are quite superficial when it comes to looks and most Korean women think that they're too fat (haha they're sooooo thin compared to Americans!) Whatsmore, they assume that no man likes fat women. So they try to hide their body, especially at the beach.

Men do it too, but from what I understood, they do it because they don't want to get sunburned.

I should actually have put a t-shirt on because I spent the whole time swimming and snorkeling so, naturally, by back was sunburned!!!! I was in paiiiiiiiin!!

Anyway, for those in Seoul wondering how to get to Jejudo, simply get a flight from Gimpo airport with either Asiana or Korean Air. It's expensive during the August 4 days holiday (about 230$) but cheaper for the rest of the year. The flight lasts an hour and believe me, it's totally worth seeing! You'll also notice touns of singular statues on the island - it's not clear what they mean exactly but it's part of Jejudo's history!

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Gimme some lovin'

August 10th

Intensive classes are eating me alive. But i'm lucky enough to have the sweetest students ever in my morning class!! They keep leaving notes on the whiteboard. Could they be any cuter?!

Lucy actually told me i'm her sunshine. Ooooh my heart was melting! But as the unemotional clumsy girl that I am, I believe my exact answer was "oh thank you! now, homework check!"

I'm quite happy to get home at night and to hear nothing except sometimes the sound of my guitar. Peter actually bought one and he practicing like crazy! Since he's lefty I can't really teach him the way I usually would but he's getting pretty good at it.

One night we had everyone come to the roof of the school and we played, sang and drank beer. It was pretty nice, with a warm breeze and a couple of smiles. I just can't sing though!!!!!!!!

Skyview, rice cake

August 4th

Girls night out! We went for cocktails on the 40th floor of a typical Korean building. Nice ambiance, we were the only ones singing with the lady "I can't live without you"

The prices were totally exhorbitants though. Ok, we were at Skyview, but 10 000 won for one beer?

Thank God earlier that night I had tasted some delicious rice cake provided by one of mystudent's grandmother. We actually had a really good time in class, laughing at Judy who was eating, and I quote my kids, "like a pig"!

Karaoke, beers and an island

August 2nd

About 2 hours from Seoul is Deokjeokdo ("do" means island)

Young recommanded it to me. She said when she went with Kevin they had a wonderful time and there was no one in sight - even though the beach is beautiful.

As I needed to spend some time alone, I decided to go.

Only problem is that I had been up until 4am the night before. Totally drunk singing songs with friends at a karaoke bar.

I had to get up at 6am to catch the ferry. Of course I missed it and ended up walking around Incheon, learning about the Korean US alliance, the Korean war, and its culture and traditions. Quite interesting actually.

What was McArthur?

Deokjeokdo was CROWDED like you wouldn't believe!

But it is a pittoresque island, totally worth seeing.

The ferry ride was totally worth it though - I ended up alone on the dock of the boat, staring at the sunset and the moon rise. Priceless!

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Just lovely, but call me big brother!

July 20th

My kids are so adorable! Their smile is priceless and they are so spontaneous - especially the young ones.

Today the weirdest thing happened. Two boys were fighting when I entered the classroom. The other students explained to me that Jason is 10 years old whereas Nate is 11 years old. Jason kept calling Nate by his name when he should actually have said "Opa" (big brother). So Nate got mad.

This is totally proving me wrong. Even new generations did assimilate the Confucian system!

Foggy Beijing

July 14th
I flew to Beijing last week-end, oh what an amazing city! Saw the Great Wall, Forbidden city, had some Pekin duck. Food there is awesome, and it's true, they do specialize in cooking noodles!

The city is reminiscent of the communist regime and the two things that struck me the most were bicycles and poverty.

In Montreal it was quite common to see homeless people. It was particularly sad in the winter, when you actually thought they'd freeze to death. In France, it was the opposite - they were trying to hide reality I guess, and any homeless person was automatically taken to shelter.

But in China, well in Beijing, the city was filled with them! Some sleeping beneath a statue, others on the stairs of an abandonned building, some just sitting on the street and beggin with one hand while the other arm seemed to be missing. A woman (or a man?) was curled up right in the middle of an underground path, begging for money. Pretty harsh reality.

Unfortunately I didn't stay long enough to get to know more about its culture and customs. But you get the visual idea, and if you ever go there, be prepared to witness the cohabitation of countless contradictions.

Those of course include ghettos next to palaces...

Also, get ready to use those bathrooms, and to see quite paranoid people!

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