Monday, October 24, 2011

Self-confidence: apply daily and allow to absorb

Two things. One: I hate APS (Australian Public Service) job applications. Naturally they require a lot of time and thorough attention to detail to fill out, as well as a great deal of shameless self-promotion and bragging, and so qualify as pains in the butt. Necessary pains in the butt, but pains in the butt nonetheless. Applying to one APS bureau in particular requires the kind of information that creeps me out to have to give in such detail, and actually makes me kind of paranoid (I won't say which one, but it's probably pretty clear which one I'm talking about. Hopefully I've covered my tracks enough that admitting this doesn't jeopardise my application if it ever got to the 'checking up' stage!). Anyway, whenever I have the time, that's what I'll be doing for a while from now until I come home, and also regular non-APS job applications a bit closer to the time I'm actually back in the country. If you hear of anything good, let me know!

Second thing: the "why Barbie screws us all up" thing has been done to death so I won't go into it as everyone should have realised by now without someone else telling them that she's a terrible role model. But as a nod to real women everywhere, I do like the Dove "Real Beauty" campaign and especially their "Evolution" video. I don't know why I started thinking about this video today but I did so sorry if you've already seen it.

I know Unilever (the company that produces Dove and also that great portrayer of women as thinking human beings, Lynx) has some questionable marketing and ethics about resources, and also that the campaign is of course still essentially marketing their product, but I still like the idea of the campaign anyway :) You should also watch "Onslaught" if you want to be slightly scared about the saturation of unrealistic beauty standards we are inundated with every day. The second video is a comparison of the Dove ads and Lynx/Axe's ads for mens' deodorant.

Today's message? ... Jumping jackrabbits that sounds sanctimonious.... Anyway, todays message? Embrace the person you are, because someone somewhere loves you exactly the way you are and you shouldn't have to change to be loved. Not to say that some changes aren't good, but you shouldn't have to be asked to change by someone else to do it. All the people who are judgemental of you without ever being supportive can take a flying leap. Again, I have no idea where this has come from, so sorry if it's too preachy for your tastes!

Friday, October 21, 2011

One last thing

So I wasn't going to blog today, seeing as I did yesterday and don't really have anything interesting going on my life right now to add to, but I had to change my min after reading this article on "Illicit Sex in North Korea" from the blog Clever Turtles (thanks to James at The Grand Narrative for the referral). I know stuff about gender roles, sex and sexuality comes up occasionally here, so skip to the end for my cheery farewell for the weekend if it bores you or you don't want to be fairly horrified by the second article on sex trafficking in Australia - sorry.

First one:

An article about how North Korea is becoming a pit of sexual decadence.
A few things have to be kept in mind whenever reading stories "from" North Korea. Pretty much all news comes through a few anti-North Korean activists who cultivate communication channels with dissidents inside North Korea and refugees who have recently run the border. Several of them have religious motivations and ties with the South Korean evangelical community, who remain the most actively interested audience for news from North Korea. This is transparently obvious in this article. That said, it is an interesting window into the daily lives of the people of North Korea, and a reminder that they are no more or less than human.
I did find it humorous how the article emphasizes that extramarital sex or vaguely transgressive sexual activity is the fault of Chinese influence. Because pornography, adultery, and prostitution were alien to Korea until recent foreign influence. An ironic case where the North Korean party line matches that of anti-North cultural conservatism.
On a side note, apparently the 109 Group is special group formed under the People's Safety Department of the National Defense Committee. It was apparently formed as a task force specifically to crack down on transgressive social behavior in the northern border regions.
Original posted in the Segye Ilbo.
Prostitution, '8/3 couple' . . . Even in the North decadence spreads
Financial support to lure into adulterous relations often . . . teens prostitute in order to buy cell phones
Porno videos popular in marketplace . . . influence of weakened control over people
Also stripshow bars for the exclusive use of upper echelons

In North Korea's society, that is so closed that even romantic matters between men and women are regulated, decadent sexual culture is spreading. It is reported that prostitution as a livelihood is a matter of course and sexually promiscuous behavior is spreading like toadstools, to such a degree that they have created the neologism '8/3 spouses' for adulterous couples that finish up at the end of the workday.
An anti-North source, who early this year contacted refugees from the North Hamgyong province adjacent to China, said on the 9th, "In North Korea, in order to earn money for living expenses or disposable income, prostitution of women is spreading, and it was reported that the reality is that even young female students are appearing as prostitutes in order to buy cell phones." The source reported that in North Korea's interior '8/3 spouses' with adulterous relations are spreading like they are fashionable and some among them indulge in drugs, porn, and group sex. '8/3' refers to the date August 3rd, 1984, when Chief of the National Defense Council Kim Jong-il, who was named the successor at that time, laid down the pronouncement to "utilize the by-products in the factories and enterprises to make the necessities of daily life." but it has degenerated into a term for fake and shoddy products.
It is reported that recently they haven't stopped avoiding the net of surveillance and secretly steal looks at pornography, and even businessmen have appeared who mobilize North Korean women directly to produce and sell obscene videos. According to the results of one research study of domestically resettled refugees, 'adult products' are so popular that adult video CD-Rs, popularly called 'Sex-Rs', trade for higher prices than general movies and dramas in the North Korean markets.
Experts on North Korea see it that after the 'Hard March' period of the 1990s while economic difficulties were prolonged, they took advantage of the opportunities afforded by the weakening of the government's control over the people, and in the process of the rapid inflow of outside culture into the center from regions adjacent to China such as northern Hamgyong decadent sexual culture also spread.
In this way sexual culture became popular in all parts of society, so in a 2009 revision of the penal code North Korea strengthened the crimes of the transportation, possession, or distribution of decadent culture, strengthening the enforcement and punishment regarding sexual disorder, such as estabilished provisions so that in the case of transporting, possessing or distributing adult videorecordings one would face a 5 to 10 year sentence of labor reeducation.
But there are indications that North Korea's ruling class are an obstacle to the eradication of decadent culture. In several large cities strip show bars are operating that only party and public peace officers may enter, and refugees messages are that there are cases where public safety officers use financial support as bait to form adulterous relationships. In particular, they report that it is often the case that even agents of the 109 group, established to crack down on antisocialist activities, receive sums as bribes to pass over these matters.
Reporter Kim Po-un

Anyway, so I thought that was interesting, regardless of bias in the initial reports etc., especially after reading a novel about family and romantic relationships in North Korea (can't remember the name, sorry ㅠㅠ) that I think I got one Christmas as a present or was loaned to me by a friend which was written from the accounts of defectors, one of whom detailed falling in love with a boy in North Korea and then meeting him again when they were both adults and had made it to Seoul and the different dynamics and expectations that were at play each time they met or corresponded. I don't know where the original reference came from, but I also remember reading about someone (either a DPRK official or a visiting RoK politician) who had caused a lot of uproar when he drunkenly praised Kim Jong Il's sexual prowess at some meeting and how the DPRK Government had had problems dealing with it.

Second, a tragic article from the SMH (thanks again James) on sex trafficking in Australia. I have mentioned it here partly because one of my friends mentioned the other day about how Koreans sometimes don't see Korea as a developed country, and the fact that stuff like this happens so easily and that predators can find victims to walk into the trap of their own free will through the lure of 'education' in an English speaking country seems to kind of support that. Not to say that stuff like this doesn't happen in English speaking countries (because let's face it, there are always scam artists around anywhere you go) but I didn't realise that it happened in such a highly developed country as Korea. It's possibly also more evidence of the (somewhat ridiculous) lengths that Asian countries go to in order to pursue this desire for mastering English. Anyway, the article is really long so I haven't reblogged it, but please take some time to read it, even if it it's only to make you reconsider what you think you know about how 'safe' our country is.

Ok well that's my depressing stuff for the weekend. Sorry to bring you down! For those of you who read all the way through (and those of you who skipped to the end), here is some happiness to take you back up again into the sunshine :)
Disabled doggie still loves his walkies! Retired police dog with arthritis still living life to the full :)
cute monkey says what? ... BANANAS! teehee^^

Have a lovely weekend everyone! ^_^

And p.s. yes, I tagged this as 'love' because I don't want the kind of disappointment bound to follow from people looking for blogs about sex.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Just another Thursday

So tired...헐... I think I've got another cold coming on. This is particularly annoying because only yesterday, my office 부장님 (kind of like the head of our office) was commenting that I didn't have a cold, and how unusual that was because I'm always sick with something or other. Bahhh! I guess he jinxed me :( I think it also might be the exhausting effect of 3 hours of bellydancing a week - it's fantastic fun but yesterday she really punished us with some particularly challenging routines to really fast songs by Outkast, Jay-Z and Britney Spears. Anyway, I shouldn't complain about it - I love it too much :) Anyway, I'm going to see if I can find a better doctor than the one I have right now, since he won't admit that he doesn't understand English and also for some reason seems incapable of listening to me in Korean, even for very simple things that I know I'm saying correctly, like "I have a fever" or "I don't have a sore throat", and so persists in prescribing me what I'm sure is the same medication for everything, regardless of what I actually have (he told me he didn't need to do any tests when I went to him with a UTI and just prescribed me stuff that masked the symptoms, the result of which I ended up with crippling cystitis).

So apart from the general bitching, sorry, don't have anything particularly interesting for you today. But I didn't want you guys to feel forgotten, so here's some cute pictures that will hopefully bring a smile to your day :)

P.S. thanks to Lara for the rainbow and Yinnie for the cavvies pic! ^_^

Eeeeee! ^_^
Cool Korean version of Alice falling through the rabbit hole

Ziplining with Christy last weekend
My first real friends in Korea - <3 you guys!
I miss my KBFF :(
Happy Thursday everyone! ^_^

Monday, October 17, 2011

And then...

Fourth period today, class 2-3 (girls). Apparently one of the students who never brings her book and sits there combing her hair is so angry that she can't understand English that she wants to get a shot-gun and shoot me, my co-teacher and all the other students in her class. She wasn't joking. So apparently bad attitude is completely our faults and not hers. Sigh.

But talking about afterwards with the other teachers is interesting, and quite a bonding experience. It also shows a lot of cultural differences I think - talking about her, my co-teacher commented that she wonders what type of wife this girl Yeon-Ju will make and what kind of man she'll attract, and how awful she'll be to her children. Other teachers nodded quite seriously and one of them remarked that if this is what she's like now as a child, then she must be going to make a really awful adult, and everyone else nodded some more and tsked over how she's ruining her future. This is entirely true by the way - Korean students start getting streamed into their high schools from second grade and if you go to certain ones (mostly vocational high schools or high schools out in the boonies) then you have no chance of going to university. But apparently even acute educational failure and lack of personal depth does not exclude you from getting married and having a family (as opposed to getting knocked up) in the exact same pattern as everyone else.

Anyway, depressing students aside, that same class has also given me some interesting directions on how to get to their houses (a worksheet I gave them). These have included:
"go straight and walk apartment wall ant turn right that bow grandmother and Go straight and put your hands up! cross at the zebra crossing and turn left at the corner"
"Go straight. Turn right and cross the zebra crossing. Across the zebra crossing at the bakery shoe store goes to (cross the zebra crossing and go past the bakery to the shoe store). Buy flying shoes in shoe store. Wearing flying shoes go over the wall. And go straight. 'I'm home!'"
"Go straight and turn right at the corner. And hang on the tree like Tarzan. It's a little hard -_-;; And run fast than light (faster than the speed of light). Then, I arrive the home! ^_^"
"I will invest money to make a rail and take a ride in a train. I will go home!"
"My home is very near school. So I ride a bamboo helicopter!"
"Go straight and across at the zebra crossing and across at the walking road and get in the park and jump up to 12 floor (my home) and broke the window next get in the house."

Anyway. Tired. My plans for the afternoon will definitely include napping.

And just 'cos it's awesome, the 'Can't tell if...' Fry meme: (aegyo or babo? Aka '[is she being] cutesy or just stupid?') Haha, I feel like this is needed a lot in Korea ^^ Thanks Michelle for that one!

Zip zip zip!

So I don't know about all you furry bunnies out there, but I had a great weekend :) And no, I don't know why furry bunnies...


Anyway, so Saturday was ziplining with Christy, Cali Amy, Edithe, Edithe's friend Joyce and Michelle. Michelle sadly didn't quite make it, being quite severely hungover and unable to even answer her phone until 11 (we were catching a bus at 11.25 and it takes 20 minutes+ alone to get to the bus terminal from our place). The ziplining people were amazingly confused that there were only 5 of us instead of 6 - you would have thought it would be an easy concept to grasp - probably because we were foreigners, but quite understanding once I explained that our friend was MEH (missing and extremely hungover ㅋㅋㅋ). The rest of us got to Jeomchon safe and sound, quite a bit earlier than expected, and one ice-cream cake (just to kill the time of course :D) later, were picked up by the company and arrived at the site.
Joyce, Christy, some idiot, Edithe and Cali Amy
We filled out our information forms and got strapped into our gear and all piled into a truck with four Korean ladies in their thirties and set off. I was a bit worried because as we got in the guy who'd helped me with my gear very solemnly wished me 'good luck' (in English) as he helped me into the truck, and then kept an entirely straight and serious face as I panicked and demanded to know why I needed good luck. On the way up, the guides were a bit nervous that there were so many foreigners, and thought it was funny that we were all talking and joking around quite noisily while the Koreans just sat there silently. 20 minutes of nervous banter, a safety lecture and a climb up some steep stairs later and we were at the first launch platform. Cali Amy being the brave experienced one went first and debuted her specialty ziplining pose in what we would later dub 'the upside down starfish'.

Waiting to go to our deaths
Now those of you who know me will know that I'm not good with things that involve the possibility of falling suddenly to my death, such as rollercoasters. Even though I always think that I can do them and have no problems up until it actually starts, once things kick off and the drops and falls start, I completely lose my head and start screaming and hyperventilating. As well as various rollercoasters, I've had panic attacks on a Viking ship swinging ride, inside a car that my so-called friends once drove to the top of the steepest hill in Wollongong and threatened to roll down (I screamed blue murder at them and then got out and walked down), really big ferris wheels and so on (missed the entire view of Osaka from their gigantic ferris wheel because I was sitting with my hands over my face, crying... later found out that its had the most deaths and accidents of any ferris wheel in the world so that was probably justified), shocking friends and family who thought I was being melodramatic until I screamed their eardrums out and gripped their hands until they lost circulation. I even freak out a little on those 4D simulated rollercoaster things (terrible 'surprise' first date idea by the way) and at take-off or during turbulence on planes. It's a bit weird really since I used to love rollercoasters up until the age of around 11, and I've been flying in planes pretty much every year since I was a baby so there's definitely no reason for that. I also only freak out on things that I don't feel safe on, so I usually can't tell if I'm going to have a panic attack until I'm actually there and doing it - for example, I went parasailing when I was in Malaysia once and was perfectly calm. So knowing the risk, why, you might ask, would I volunteer to do this. Well, apart from being an idiot, I am also determined to conquer this phobia eventually (and it IS a phobia because most of the time it's completely unreasonable), regardless of how much experience I have that tells me that it's not going to happen. Worst reassurance (but good attempt) of the day from Christy by the way - "don't worry, you'll be fine. You'll be wearing a helmet!"

Luckily, once the shock of the first one was mastered, ziplining proved to feel safe enough that I loved it! Edithe was also scared at first, possibly by her own lurid description of ziplining as dropping from a great height at great speed suspended by a thin cable, but by the end of it we were both going for it - no hands, spinning around, upside down, bouncing on the line, and I even managed a 'self-photo' from a few. The last one was the best because it was REALLY high above a valley and you got a great view of the area at the end. I think Little Miss Adrenalin Junkie Joyce was slightly disappointed though - she was complaining that the first few weren't fast or high enough! Although they sure as hell were for those of us trying not to concentrate on thoughts of incipient mortality as we bounced and swung through and over the trees and sharp jagged rocks below us.

Unfortunately, getting back to Cheongju was a bit harder. Even though it wasn't far (about an hour and a half away), there was only one direct bus in each direction each day (11.25 from Cheongju to Jeomchon, 2.50pm from Jeomchon to Cheongju). Christy and I had planned to spend the night in Mungyeong (the nearest big city, or so we thought) and party it up, but since the city appeared to have one intersection and little else, we decided to hit up Daejeon since I would have had to go through there or Chungju to get back anyway, and if we went to Daejeon, Christy could get a train back to Busan the next day. So we and Edithe said goodbye to the others and headed off to Daejeon for some Mexican food, wine and the worst ukelele playing we'd ever heard. Not that most ukelele playing isn't bad, but these guys appeared to only know about three or four chords, only one of them could sing vaguely correctly, they had awful facial hair and frankly seemed to be high. This didn't stop them from murdering their way through half an hour of terrible covers of everything from Sublime's 'Loving Is What I've Got' to 'Let It Be' by the Beatles, until we'd finished our food and drinks and left as quickly as possible for a bottle of wine at a much nicer and very chilled shisha bar around the corner.

The next day more than made up for this however! Edithe had left early to get to an appointment in Seoul, but Christy and I had plenty of time to laze around and catch up with lots of gossip... at a cake cafe. It. Was. DELICIOUS!!! Both of our respective KBFFs Nat and Lara would have loved it, I'm sure! We only tackled three slices - a very healthy breakfast, yes? ㅋㅋㅋ - a four seasons friand-y tart thing with fruit, a maraschino chocolate and rum mousse cake and a crepe tartine that was actually made with layered crepes and a sort of sweet custard filling on a tart base. Each slice was between w5300 - w6400 and the tartlet was about w4500 I think, so it's a bit pricey, but well worth it, and definitely the best cake I've had since Dobinson's in Canberra. Yummy!

So all in all, a good weekend - ziplining, cake, and catching up with Christy, who lives far too far away for my liking! Although, granted, it's awesome that she lives in Busan and so I have somewhere to crash when I visit ^_^ If you're ever looking for something to do on a weekend, I definitely recommend the ziplining, although you'll need a Korean speaker to help you make the booking who can go with you too if possible. And if you're ever in Daejeon, I also recommend that you go to Dunsan-dong and look for the Cafe Cremes cafe near the Galleria Time-World Department store. I will definitely be going back there next time I'm in Daejeon!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Blink and blog

So called because I don't have time to write a proper post, but since I am no longer on Facebook (which by the way tried to emotionally blackmail me into not leaving when I did), I don't have anywhere else to put the funny one-liners my students give me.

Facebook's attempt to guilt me into staying.

In today's lesson with second grade boys (Year 8):
Me: So we have pandas, polar bears, turtles and rhinos. What are some other types of endangered animals?
Jae-Hyeon: Dentists!
Me: ... ಠ_ಠ
Jae-Hyeon: Ah, sorry, my mistake. I meant to say 'dinosaurs'.
Me: ... ಠ_ಠ

Also, going ziplining this weekend. Those of you who know of my rollercoaster phobia, wish me luck not to freak out and have a panic attack as soon as I push off, haha.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


First of all, if you read this today, make sure you head over to Google and play with their cute Gumby themed title. A blast from the past for all us 90's kids :)

Second of all, hooray! It's Wednesday ^_^ My co-teacher last year, the amazing Ms Shin, always used to remind me that Wednesday was "Hump Day", but me being daft took a couple of weeks of this to catch on what she meant, seeing as her English was excellent and I knew it couldn't mean what it sounded like to me. So even though this semester my Hump Day is actually a kind of camel hump of Thursday AND Friday (specifically classes 2-6 and 2-8), I still always remember her saying it to me. These days, Wednesdays are actually my chilled out day - I don't start until 9.30 (to make up for teaching extra hours within my 22 teaching hours but that are beyond my contracted 8 hour day), I only have two classes, one of whom is the best and smartest class of first years (actually... pretty much the ONLY consistently good first year class) and also boys so they actually talk and get involved, and one hour of after school class. Mind you, I do have four classes back to back on Thursday morning, ending with the dreaded 2-6, so it kind of evens out. And then bellydancing tonight, which always turns out to be fun, despite my perpetual reluctance to leave my house at night once I've gotten home and flopped on my bed.

Anyway, just some fun for today, I thought I'd share a music video of one of my new favourite songs (not more Rain, don't worry ^_^) that I tried singing with Michelle last night at noraebang (노래방 or karaoke) and that we actually did ok with. Michelle is much better with K-pop stuff than me (I don't really even listen to the lyrics of songs in English, I just pick up on the mood and then my mind tends to wander rather than actually concentate on music that I listen to) but it's not as fast a song as most so if I can actually force myself to listen I think I can get this one. And also, the music video is awesome fun to watch! "Breathe" by Miss A.

Also on my list of Korean songs (that I can remember right now) to master at the noraebang are:
- Big Bang "하루하루" ("Haru Haru")

- 비 (Rain) EVERYTHING!!! ^_^ Especially "난" ("I")

- Infinite "BTD" ("Before the dawn").

Songs I can actually sing semi-decently:
- "샤방샤방" ("Shabang Shabang") - a Korean trot song, meaning a kind of classic that catches or creates a certain mood that most people know. This is about a sexy woman with a S-line body and a V-line face, like the Korean parallel to Sir Mixalot's "Baby Got Back" (aka the "I like big butts" song).

- 비 (Rain) "I Do", "널붙잡을노래" ("Love Song")

- MBlaq "Y"

- Miss A "Bad Girl Good Girl"

- f(x) "뉴 예삐오/NU ABO"

- GD & Top "High High"

- GG (GD and 'Great Park' {박명수}) "바람났어" ("I cheated")

- CN Blue "사랑빛" ("Lovelight"), "외톨이야" ("I'm a loner")

- 2NE1 "Go Away" < I only know this one because some of my students translated it for a class activity last year. I hate the music video though and the terrible English lyrics and will refuse to sing it as much as is possible to resist it's catchy beat.

- I also feel like I could now sing most of 2pm's "Hands Up" purely by osmosis, that is, going to noraebang with Michelle who sings it as often as possible.

- Fly to the Sky "Missing You", "Sea of Love"

- Se7en "와줘", "Come Back To Me" (the first two are the same song in Korean and then in English), "욕심", "Girls" (ft. Lil Kim, in English) and "난알아요" ("Nan Arayo/I know"

Songs I've given up on ever getting the whole way through :(
- 김현정 (Kim Hyeon-Jeong) "B형 남자" ("B-type Man")

- 백지영 (Baek Ji-Yeong) "사랑안해" ("I won't love {again}")

I haven't tried singing a lot of the older songs on that list for a while though so I've probably forgotten how to do most of them. Also, when I say "I can sing these" I don't mean in a way that holds me accountable for actual accuracy of pitch :D A lot of these songs are also my favourites to listen to and are not a bad place to start (although by no means comprehensive and of course skewed completely to my own tastes) if you are curious about what Korean music is like.

Oh and I showed my good class *N Sync's "Bye Bye Bye" yesterday for a listening activity and they thought that they looked like the idol group ShiNee (pronounced 'Shiny'). Sadly, I only heard that eavesdropping in Korean so I couldn't say anything, but I think they would have been flabberghasted to know that *N Sync pre-dated their precious ShiNee by a good 15 years or so. They were amazed to see Justin Timberlake though in his "bubble hair" phase (as they put it). What do you think? ㅋ ㅋ ㅋ

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Rainy Tuesday ㅠㅠ

An amazing talent to even make a buzzcut look hot!
Actually it's not - it was really foggy in the morning here and cold, but it seems to have all burned off in the afternoon sun. But it is raining in my heart at least, because today my husband Rain goes into the army. *sigh*... 가슴이 아파...('my heart is breaking') ㅠㅠ;;

But at least I got a few good videos of him at his last concert, which I have now uploaded to Youtube. Haha, that sounds almost pervy, I know ^__^

And sorry for the terrible sound quality in this first one - I think we were too close to the stage for such a loud song! ^_^

P.S. For those interested (few but myself I know) there is also another article summarising his successful career here at Seoulbeats. If you read it, the last comment is about the story that when he first auditioned for a recording company they told him that he'd never be successful because he didn't have the double eyelids so prized (and paid for) amongst many K-pop idols today.

Monday, October 10, 2011

It's Raining Rain!

 And I've never been happier!^__^

Or actually, sadder too because tomorrow (Tuesday, October 11th), my beloved husband Rain goes to the army to (finally) get started on his military service. It will be a long 18 months without him :( And yes, I know he's not classically K-pop idol good looking (as in, he's not girly and he doesn't have double eyelids) but that's exactly why I like him. Or rather, that's why I like him after the fact that he can actually sing AND dance and has some videos with some amazing choreography.

So to farewell his fans, he hosted a free concert on Sunday in Gangnam, Seoul, and of course I went! And it was pretty damn amazing! First of all that they closed down about 500m of one of the busiest streets in the area outside CoEx Mall and the KEPCO building (seriously, who else would they do that for??? NO-ONE!!!!! That's who!), and secondly of all because he really went all out to amaze, and didn't skimp on anything (except possibly clothes.. he could certainly have done with less of those...^^).

Oh Rain, you sexy beast you ^__^
What a waste of an opportunity!

 Oh and thirdly because he's very charismatic and has a great stage presence and his MC-ing between songs was genuinely funny - like teaching the audience dance moves for one song, and then stopping it because people weren't doing it enthusiastically enough and threatening to stop the whole concert until they joined in, or responding to chants of "Jeong Ji Hun!" (his name) with "네, 알겠어요." ("Yes, I hear you.")

He also made some lucky fangirl's day when he got her to come up on stage, sang a song to her, hugged her and gave her a huge teddy bear and flowers! But he was a little taken aback to find out she was in fact 20, not a high school student like he thought - appropriate crazy fangirl age! Michelle and I kept joking that he likes them young, because he also kept calling out to young girls (who of course went crazy!). He also was very awesome and told people off for pushing too much when he saw a woman with her 10 year old kid getting a bit squashed.

It was SO FRICKING AWESOME!!! Michelle and I got there at 6 (it started at 7) and luckily were just in time to jump on the end of a queue for free wristband tickets to get into the main central area right in front of the stage. Cali Amy came a few minutes later and ALL of the wristbands for all of the sections (there were 8000 people just in that bit alone apparently!) were gone but luckily found a really nice and sympathetic security guy who let her in since we were already in there. A bunch of contestants from Superstar K (the Korean version of Pop/Australian/American Idol) came on first to warm up with 널 붙잡는 노래 ('Love Song') and the whole crowd immediately surged forward, then muttered disappointingly, and of course when Rain actually came out everyone rushed forward again, so we got REALLY close. And then at the end he got into this cherry picker type thing and swung out over the crowd in our section so we were even closer - as in, close enough to see the sweat on his beautiful face! (The photo on the left is from that). Below are some photos from the concert, of course chosen by how sexy he looks ㅋ ㅋ ㅋ ㅋ ㅋ ㅋ

Oh and lol, I told one of my co-workers about it today at lunch and she laughed and responded with "Oh, because you always use him in examples! I think you like large men, right?" (She's about 150cm and her husband is apparently not much taller). Haha, I guess I do ^__^

Videos to follow when Youtube finishes uploading.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Cockles and clams and all things steamed^^

Spaland, Busan
Including me! Monday was a public holiday, as well as quite cold, so I spent most of it in a jjimjilbang (찜질방) with Edithe. We went to the one in Dreamplus, which was huge! Nothing like the scale of Spaland in Shinsegae Department Store in Busan that you could easily spend the whole day in, but it was pretty good all the same. First we went and had a soak in the baths, and then went to relax in the communal areas. For those of you not familiar with Korean jjimjilbang's,  they are a kind of combined bath and sauna house, which is great for those of us living in tiny one-room apartments with no bathtub (our shower is one of those on a nozzle that hangs on the wall, or in my case hand-held to stop it flooding my apartment). It's a great place to hang out too because it's one of the few places where you see lots of space, exactly for that purpose, which is a commodity on short supply in such a heavily populated country.

A pretty typical 찜질방 bath set-up
So people usually go there for the full bathing experience - first you shower yourself and have a good scrub down to get rid of that nasty top layer of skin (you can buy little glove things for this purpose and rely on a friend or neighbour to do your back for you, or pay an old woman to do it for you, assuming you want EVERYTHING scrubbed down to that last nook and cranny - beware though, your skin CAN get addicted to this so once you start doing it you kind of need to keep doing it again every so often), then go for a nice soak in one of a number of baths. There are always baths of at least three temperatures: cold, tepid and piping hot, just like the Roman bath system, and sometimes there will be extra baths with special water, like salt-water or mineral-enriched water etc. The one at Dreamplus was an odd dark yellow colour and the sign just said it was an "event bath" (i.e. they change the type every so often) so we didn't brave it, and the "massage bath" didn't work, disappointingly, but we gave the other three a good work out, changing between them and the sauna rooms every so often.

And yes, you ARE expected to be completely naked in these places. In fact, you're likely to get roused on if you try and wear anything in. But really, at least you can stare back at people if they stare at you, and nobody really cares - everyone's seen at least one naked person before in their lives (assuming everyone knows how to look down!) and unless you freak out and act weird or have some weird gigantic piercing or a massive tattoo, no-one's likely to even pay you any attention.

Must figure out how to make these ram hat things!
Anyway, after the cleansing, you put on the short and shirt they give you and move into the communal areas. Earlier on, we'd almost walked out there butt naked as we'd been nattering away and not really paying attention to where we were going, but luckily a(nother naked) woman had stopped us and directed us to the baths instead. Here you can do whatever you like - most people just lie around and snooze, chat, read or watch tv, but there is also usually a restaurant, a massage place, a snack shop (unless you're somewhere like Spaland with very high tech keys that also track your bill, don't forget to take money with you if you want to buy anything) and the communal (non-naked) saunas of varying temperatures. At Spaland these are over a whole floor and half a mezzanine level and include things like the Pyramid Room and the Sonic Vibration Room, but at the Dreamplus things were a bit less complicated, so there was just the Ice-Room, the Salt-Stone Room, the Charcoal Room and the Gem Room, which we went into as it was a moderate 40 something degrees, and had crystals embedded in the ceiling. Our sotto-voce chatting was apparently too loud though as the only other occupant there who'd appeared to be asleep started snoring quite ostentatiously after about 15 minutes so we didn't linger, but went back to the communal area to read magazines and gossip with the others.

Michelle considering how much food we'll have to eat
So it was a very relaxing afternoon - so relaxing in fact that we missed our perfect bus that would have gotten us home in 20 minutes and instead had to take the regular 40 minute one and didn't even care. But get home eventually I did and went off to have dinner with Michelle. We decided to try chogae-guii (조개구이), or roasted mussels, which we'd both heard about before but never had the opportunity to try. We went to a place called Chogae Gung ('The Mussel Palace') and after some discussion with the waiters (who were very confused and then intrigued that we weren't fully Korean and thus didn't know what all of the things on the menu were) ordered the basic 조개구이 set menu for 33 000 won. And yes, that IS a lot for a meal in Korea, but it soon became apparent why - we got at least four different types of shellfish cooked for us at our table, as well as coleslaw, gyeran jjim (계란찜 - steamed egg soup), miyokguk (미역국 - seaweed soup) and  pajeon (파전 - savoury shallot pancake). The different shellfish included some gigantic mussels, cockles (called 조개비 or chogaebi), scallops (called 가리비 or caribi), and some others that I didn't recognise but were basically delicious! Most were grilled, some were steamed (in that foil parcel you can see) and some were even chopped up and put into a cheese ddokbokki for us. Here are some photos of our delicious dinner.
So all in all a very steamy and successful public holiday! Oh and then yesterday I got to school to find a 'bribe' of custard filled pastries on my desk from the third year girls who want me to help them with their English study group. How sweet!^^

Sunday, October 2, 2011


Since the other post today was quite long and I have other stuff I want to blog about I thought I'd break it up into two so you can choose which looks more interesting and read-worthy :)

So tomorrow is our long-weekend, which is why I have the time to blog on a weekend instead of sleeping or doing house-work or homework etc. I thought I'd throw in a few random thoughts and updates.

First one: a random update. I've lately started bellydancing three times a week and so very quickly noticed that my ankle and wrist joints are not really up to the quick turns and turned hand/foot positions required. My back has also been hurting a lot more since then, and I've also noticed how much my ankles and wrists click when I simply flex them... or when I walk. I don't know if it's because I never realised it before, or that I did and have just begun to take it as normal background noise, or that it's more noticeable now that it's getting colder here, but when I got up and walked to my bathroom this morning, I was accompanied by a series of noises from my ankles that made it sound like I was walking on bubble-wrap. Which when I thought about it was kind of weird. And last Friday at bellydancing, I also noticed a kind of weird pulling feeling from the tissue over the joints in my shoulder when I had to lift my arms into "the snake" position over my head. The week before, I'd freaked my teacher out when I hadn't done a position right and she'd turned my hand into position for me (arm in front of your chest with your hand turned outwards) and felt the bones in my wrist grind together and make quite a loud noise. Although this was possibly also because I yelped a little and she thought she'd broken my wrist. I'm assuming that this is all the result of a slight calcium deficiency, and a quick trawl of our trusty friend the internet suggests the usual inclusion of more leafy greens and seafood (I've heard that the Korean anchovies myeolchi [멸치] are especially good). It also suggests more orange juice and nuts, which I didn't know were good for that, so there you go. Of course, the obvious answer is a calcium supplement, but these usually have lactose or soy bases, to both of which I am intolerant and currently trying to avoid to see if it helps with other health issues. If the clicking (which freaks me out now that I'm aware of it) continues or gets worse I think I'm going to have to go for them though, as the list of related health problems REALLY scared me. Hopefully I'm young enough that I can change my diet to help my health enough to avoid these completely - cooking and eating at home would probably be a good idea rather than going out for dinner all the time. Fingers crossed that my laziness and reluctance to venture out into snow will actually work in my favour in this case as winter progresses. But if anyone knows of any additional ways that I can up my calcium intake easily (especially in Korea) or of any non-lactose, non-soy supplements, please let me know!

Secondly, a food update! As in something you can try, not just me niggling about my very lazy diet :) Yesterday I went to Daejeon to hang out with a friend, and got to try something new and yummy - jjajang ddokbokki! 짜장떡볶이 is just like normal ddokbokki but has the slightly salty black bean sauce you usually get over noodles at Chinese restaurants instead of the spicy red sauce. This one was especially cute as the ddok (rice cakes) were shaped like little stars, hearts and clubs, and there was ham and cabbage in the sauce like you'd get with jjajangmyeon. Very cute!

There was also a guy giving free hugs, and who can say 'no' to a free hug? Of course, the fact that he was quite good looking may have had something to do with it. I probably wouldn't have been as keen on a hug from a hairy wall-eyed midget in his 40's ㅋ ㅋ ㅋ ㅋ You can't see the girls, but the kids you can see in the background had been standing there giggling for about 5 minutes trying to get up the courage to go for one, and when I was going for my hug a five foot ajumma pushed me out of the way to get in first :)

Lastly but not leastly, some more from my students. A couple of weeks ago I gave them a writing task where they had to draw a picture personality test. The picture had to include a house, a tree, a sun, some water and some flowers. You've probably done this before, and so know that the house = how you see yourself, the tree = how you see your mother, the sun = how you see your father, the water = emotions, flowers = your friends. They usually all look more or less alike, although I did have quite a few of my students draw the water as a glass or a bottle rather than an actual body of water which I thought was interesting, as none of my students who did it last year did that. These were some of the rather terrifying results from the boys.

 Oh and just for good measure, any of my readers who are in Cheongju or at least Korea, make sure you check out the bingsu at Lovestory Cafe downtown at least once before you leave. Bingsu is a yummy summer dessert with shaved ice, fruit, syrup or condensed milk, tiny rice-cakes, jelly lollies, Frosties, and traditionally also red-beans. This one had ice-cream instead of condensed milk but no beans because it was just a fruit bingsu (과일빙수) instead of the usual ppatbingsu (팥빙수), the ppat being the red beans. Anyway, Lovestory does some really good ones. They also have a good variety of coffee, milkshakes and herbal teas (which are ridiculously overpriced in my opinion at 6000 won a pot). Below is a photo of a giant green-tea sundae that the waiter had made bingsu style (but with about seven scoops of ice-cream instead of ice as a favour because he's a friend) I had with Shelly the time she visited from Busan, and then another more recently of the lovely Tiffany enjoying a strawberry Oreo milkshake and our fruit bingsu :)
Tiff and yummies^^
녹차 sundae

So happy Sunday everyone! If you're in Korea, Happy 개천절 (?), the public holiday no-one can explain, tomorrow! If you're in NSW in Aus, Happy Bank Holiday! Hope you're doing something fun and/or eating something yummy ^_^

The Day Jin-Seon Went Troppo And Tried To Kill Someone

So following through on Wednesday's promise (a couple of days late I know), details on what else happened on Monday besides my run in with the Knitting Nazi. Last Monday will forever be known as The Day Jin-Seon Went Troppo And Tried To Kill Someone. Now I haven't mentioned Jin-Seon before, but he's one of the sweetest kids amongst the boys at my school, which is saying a lot as the rest of first-year are mostly little terrors. Jin-Seon is a really calm and earnest kid, quiet in class, happy to help explain stuff to others, or if he doesn't understand something will write it down and look it up later. (I know this because he will often then try to use whatever it was the next week). He's also confident enough that he actually talks to me and gives answers in class. Unfortunately for him, my co-teacher for his class, Ms Yun, makes students sit by number, and the boy he has to sit next to, Hyeon-Seok, is a bully. Which is kind of surprising because he doesn't look it - he's skinny (to be fair, they all are), average height, not particularly charismatic, arrogant, smart or handsome, where most of the others have at least one of these. He's also the typical teenage boy stuck in a subject too hard for him when he's not studious at all either, and doesn't know how to listen, sit still or at least shut up (again, fairly typical). He's not really a bother in my classes, as in I've never caught him actively trying to injure one of his friends, destroy something mindlessly or tell him off for screaming out obscenities, but this might also be because he's one of many little monsters in the worst first year boys' class, and his level of mischief pales in comparison to some of the others. I have seen Jin-Seon getting irritated at him before and trying to ignore him though, and about three weeks ago I saw them having a punch-up in the corridor and had to break them up - for the record, Jin-Seon was doing a pretty good job of beating the crap out of him so I don't know why Hyeon-Seok keeps needling the poor kid. Boredom perhaps?

So on Monday, when Jin-Seon started hitting Hyeon-Seok with his pencil case I didn't really think anything of it. I just said his name and shook my head at him and he stopped. Therefore I was extremely surprised when about two minutes later, Jin-Seon started again, except this time using his pencil case as a bludgeon, grabbing the back of Hyeon-Seok's collar and going all out. My co-teacher and I both ran over and about five of his classmates jumped in to try and separate them, but Jin-Seon was so upset his face was red and he was crying and wouldn't let go, while Hyeon-Seok's arms were flailing around as he was being choked to death. Five minutes of struggle later and we finally managed to pry Jin-Seon's fingers open, but my co-teacher had to actually physically pick him up (she's in her early 40's and not very big) and carry him away to stop him trying to kick the shit out of Hyeon-Seok, who's neck had gone red and actually had some grazes where the material of his shirt had broken the skin. Sensing the opportunity for further delaying the lesson, four of his friends picked him up and carried him outside, and then one of them put him on his back and they all tried to take him to the nurses office. Since Hyeon-Seok was laying it on a bit thick and pretending to faint all over the place while still having enough energy to keep saying "Oh, it hurts so much! Oh, I'm dying!" and the sort (in Korean) but not crying or seeming like he was actually hurt, I was a bit suspicious and said only one of them could take him, who of course couldn't really carry him, so they brought him back in and I sat him down to rest in a chair where he could lean against the wall if he was really injured. And of course five minutes later he was acting the fool again and joking around with his friends, I'm pretty sure about how he'd managed to make Jin-Seon snap. My co-teacher had a talk with Jin-Seon outside to figure out what had happened, but of course had to make a show of punishing him a little once they came back and made him stand at the back of the classroom. It was obvious that whatever had happened was Hyeon-Seok's fault, so I was really annoyed that he was sitting with his friends, not paying attention once I started the lesson again while poor Jin-Seon was all the way at the back (my classroom is the length of one and a half classrooms so it's really far back) straining to see and write down what I'd written on the board, even though he'd been so upset and could have easily gotten away with doing nothing. After class I got the details: Hyeon-Seok had been bullying Jin-Seon for a while and in fourth period right before lunch, had done something which Jin-Seon had been blamed for and punished by their homeroom teacher (probably meaning being caned). So as soon as they'd come into my class in fifth period right after lunch, they'd had to sit next to each other and of course Hyeon-Seok immediately started jeering Jin-Seon for getting the blame and he'd responded with his pencil case. When I'd asked him to stop, Hyeon-Seok had gleefully continued being an arse, which is when Jin-Seon lost it.

Anyway, so next lesson I'm going to move Hyeon-Seok to a desk by himself in the last row. As he doesn't pay attention anyway it's hardly going to impact his ability to study, but it's going to make it easier for my co-teacher to keep an eye on him while I teach. And hopefully Jin-Seon will be happier too.