Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Monday, December 14, 2009
Monday, December 07, 2009
Hi! So the holiday season is approaching...can you believe it? I'm in shock that I am 2 short weeks away from my 4th full month of living here, and 2 1/2 weeks away from my first ever Christmas away from home. Unreal.
Last week I went to dance as usual. I really really like the studio and its so easy to get to on the subway. I'm excited to have a place where I can go to classes consistently!
Sara's mom came into town last Friday. She was incredibly generous and took us (me, Rebecca, Dave, and of course Sara) out to dinner and also reserved a suite for us to stay in at the New Seoul (Best Western) hotel. She had a smaller room for herself, and left the suite to us. Being out to dinner with her was so fun. We got to teach her the Korean way to drink, eat galbi, and use chopsticks! She wasn't too impressed by kimchi, but we assured her it grows on you. The location of the hotel was great because it was in the heart of Seoul so it was perfect for sightseeing, but was also a cheap taxi ride away from our favorite places to go out near Hongdae - and located on a subway line. Perfect. Mom and Dad: when/if you come visit I definitely recommend staying there for a night or two! We did our best to keep her jet lagged mother up until after midnight in order to try to get her on schedule, and then we went out for the night.
Christmas lights up near the hotel
Our Korean dinner
Saturday I went to Myeongdong with Rebecca, Mieke, and Q to do a little Christmas shopping. After that we went near the river that runs through the middle of Seoul to cheer our friend John on in the 10K he was running that day. It was freezing out, but he definitely appreciated our support. Rebecca and I went back to my place to take a nap and grab some dinner before heading back out in Seoul for the night to meet up with everyone again.
Me, Rebecca, Mieke, and Q in Myeongdong!
We slept pretty late, but once we woke up we hopped on the subway one stop down to Uijeongbu Station. New Moon came out this weekend here finally and we had been dying to see it. I did my best to look for movie times online before we went, but of course I couldn't find them anywhere. So we decided to just wing it. Of course when we got there it was incredibly crowded, and the next available show time wasn't for about another hour and a half, but it worked out ok in the end. So, Korean movie theaters work a little bit differently than they do in the U.S. When you get there, you take a number (kind of like at the DMV). Once your number is called you can buy your tickets, and also reserve your seats. Check out this video by Simon and Martina to learn about movie theaters in Korea. They are a young married couple from Toronto who are teaching here in Korea. They spoke at our orientation about lesson plans and general cultural things that we should be aware of. They have a website and blog and YouTube channel - all with helpful and sometimes comical information about how to live and teach in Korea. The theater you see in their video is pretty much what every theater looks like from what I can tell. Overall, pretty normal.
The movie theater near my apartment is on the 14th and 15th floors of the Central Tower in Uijeongbu. Its basically just a bunch of restaurants, food courts, shops, and game rooms. Since Rebecca and I had to wait so long for our movie to start, we hit up the arcade. We played a motorcycle racing game, and a kill-the-zombies shooting game.
We practically killed ourselves trying to play some Japanese version of Dance Dance Revolution. We couldn't choose the setting for some reason so instead of doing it on "Easy" which we would have preferred, we ended up on "Totally Impossible" and made complete fools of ourselves. Whatever. We get stared at wherever we go anyway, we might as well give them something fun to look at while all eyes are on us. Its getting pretty old to be stared at everywhere we go. Its like they're waiting for us to do tricks or something offensive or something. I don't understand it and I certainly don't appreciate it. There is no possible way I am the first non-asian they have ever seen. I always have the urge to yell "I'M SORRY I'M WHITE BUT YOU DON'T HAVE TO STARE AT ME!" every time I walk onto the subway - but of course nobody would understand a word that was coming out of my mouth. It sort of reminds me of that scene in Mean Girls where Karen asks Cady why she's white. "You can't just ask people why they're white..". Makes me laugh every time.
While we waited for our movie to start we also got to talking about how we're surprised more people can't speak English given the infiltration of American culture in their country. Its so strange to think about from their point of view. Of course, all of our movies are in English, and that's pretty much how it is, with the exception of the occasional foreign film. But can you imagine if every box office in the United States had over half of the movies in a different language, and you had to read subtitles all the time? If half of the movies I saw were in Spanish, or French, I would certainly be more inclined to learn that language. And speaking of language...we also got to talking about the fact that literally everything we do can be stressful because we have the constant concern that we won't be understood or that we ourselves won't understand. Even going to the movies, as fun as it is, can be a bit more challenging because chances are that the person helping us can't speak English, and we need to somehow communicate what movie we need to see (although generally the movie titles don't change, but occasionally they do) and what time we want to see it, and where we want to sit. We got lucky this time, and the person who sold us our tickets spoke English well enough to tell us which theater we were in and where to go. Restaurants can be the same - especially if the menu doesn't have the English translation we sort of just have to guess and hope we're not getting raw cow liver...but we're figuring it out more every time.
So anyway...we saw New Moon. We even got awesome Korean "New Moon" (뉴문) posters! This picture is backwards since I took it with the camera on my computer but since most of you reading this can't read Korean anyway...you get the idea.
The movie was in English of course, but there were Korean subtitles to go with it. I'm afraid some of the comedy of it was lost in translation. There's a part where one of the girls is being incredibly sarcastic and bratty and Rebecca and I were cracking up - but we were the only ones laughing. Guess it didn't come through in the subtitles. The movie was...well those of you who have seen it, or seen Twilight know the quality of those movies. We didn't care though, we loved it. At least we can recognize that the acting is bad. My students on the other hand think it deserves an Oscar. They aren't used to those Michael Bay/James Cameron blockbusters that we are so accustomed to in the US - so their expectations for movies are a little bit lower. There really isn't a film industry anywhere in the world like Hollywood - so they think anything that comes from America is amazing. Its pretty obvious by watching any Korean movie or TV show that they just don't have the same quality of production. Here's a trailer for a movie that came out this summer here called 해운대 (Haeundae)...pronounced hay-oon-day. It was filmed on Haeundae Beach in Busan where I visited a few months ago. Its about a tsunami that hits Busan. Look for the Rainbow Bridge and the fireworks! I saw this movie after I had visited there, and it was so strange! But this movie is a recent Korean hit and everyone has seen it and loves it. The trailer alone will probably make you laugh (although believe it or not its supposed to be a really sad movie) - but hopefully you can gain enough insight from the trailer into the film industry here. No joke, its apparently the best movie that came out this year. Yikes. I admit, it was a little sad...but I would not say it was good.
Last week I did "celebrity interviews" with my kids. We reviewed the basic who, what, where, when, why, and how questions and then I showed them a mock interview that I did with Kanye West as an example. I handed out sheets with different prompts and told them to choose a partner and interview a celebrity of their choice, or they could make up their own celebrity (like themselves). In addition to the "who, what, where, etc." questions, they also had to ask 3 'fun' questions not using those words. Then they had to draw a picture of their celebrity or signature "gear" like Kanye's shutter shades. One of my students decided to interview me. I'm sure you can only imagine how that went. Since I needed to be walking around the room helping the other kids, I asked him to write down all of his questions and then I would stop back to answer them. Some of the questions made sense. But here are some word-for-word examples of what I found waiting for me when I went back to his desk...along with my responses. Of course I corrected his grammar as we went, but the questions are so much better in their original form.
Min Joon: "What your hopes?"
Me: "To have a good career."
Min Joon: "Where did you fall in first love?"
Me: "We met in high school through a friend."
Min Joon: "Do you funny Korea?"
Me: "Yes I think Korea is a lot of fun."
Min Joon: "Do you delicious Korea food?"
Me: "Yes I like Korean food but sometimes it is too spicy."
Min Joon: "Do you love me?"
It was all just so adorable I had to laugh. Of course I answered the "do you love me" question with a simple "yes". However, he changed my answer so that it said "Yes. I love Min Joon". Gaaahh! This was the same kid who a few days before had interrupted me while I was teaching class with "Amy! What's your name?". All the kids, including the other teacher in the room with me burst out laughing. Definitely up there at the top of the list of memorable quotes from my kids, along with "I am English very well".
Here's the picture he drew of me (backwards again from being taken on my computer). It totally resembles me, right?
In the spirit of the holidays I made a little video of me and Jin on Elf Yourself. I sent it to her, and she told me she almost cried watching it she was laughing so hard. Its a pretty common website among my friends and I during the holidays, but Sang Jin had never seen it before and she thought it was absolutely hilarious. Made one for the fam too, so you can watch Bob break it down here. You can also see us in the country version and the singing version.
Next week is finals for my students, which means no teaching and lots of time for skyping everyone! Also, I'd like to send some Christmas cards home to people so leave your addresses please and I'll send you some (don't judge me on the improper English, I'm just working with what I can get over here).
My student's "do you love me" question made me think of this song for your K-Pop video of the week. Maybe this is where he got it from? This song is called Abracadabra by the Brown Eyed Girls. The music video is incredibly racy for Korea, and I have to admit even by American standards its up there with some of Britney's. I've linked you to the version with English subtitles so you can understand what its actually saying. The video still doesn't really make sense with the song - but that's Korea for you.
Its getting really cold here. Luckily it doesn't snow much, I've only seen a few flurries. But I'm still not happy about it. 39 days til Thailand!
"Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind."-- Seneca