Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Haesindang Park...aka Penis Park

When I was in high school I asked my Biology II AP teacher if the plural of penis was penises or peni. He was a cool guy who was pushing 70 if not already there, and so let us get away with a lot because he was past the retirement age, and thus didn't seem to care so much. He told me, after a little smile, that it was penises because the word is Latin, not Greek. I'm still disappointed because I think peni is much more fun to say, but alas, not proper English.

Yesterday I went on a journey to Heasindang Park. Now, first let me note that Korean culture is very conservative. Couples don't do any more than hold hands, and that's been a development in the last few of years. Women just started wearing tank tops last year, and those are more like shirts without sleeves - no spaghetti straps or anything. (Although the booty short is apparently okay for some reason...perhaps the knee high boots counters it?) That makes this park so much more interesting.

Legend has it (paraphrased from the handout I got at the park) that there was this beautiful virgin girl that liked to gather seaweed on a rock called Aebawi in the sea. One day her fiance took her out to the rock so she could collect some seaweed, and came back to the village. When he went to get her later, a storm had come and he couldn't get out to sea, and she drowned (statue of him calling to her and her on the faraway rock on the right). After that, the village couldn't fish worth a damn and blamed it on the lady being (justifiably) pissed, so they had a bright idea to appease her spirit by erecting -snicker- wooden phalluses to console her bitter soul. After they did, viola, the fishing became good again, and so they continue, to this day, to offer phalluses on the first full moon of the lunar year.

And thus we have a park full of wooden penises. In the middle of Korea, of all places.

So there are a lot more pictures, which you can look at over at Flickr. They're pretty interesting. It ended up being an all day adventure to get there though. Cheri, Sarah, her two friends visiting from the States, and I met up at 7am to get on the subway, arriving at the bus terminal a little after 8. Then we hopped on the bus to Samcheok and three hours later got off...at the wrong stop. It was supposed to be an express bus, meaning it didn't stop anywhere else, and everyone else got off there too. So we waited for an hour and got on the next bus for the 20 minutes to the right place (picture of us leaving the wrong station on the left). Then we opted to pay for a taxi instead of wait the hour for the city bus to the park...Sarah sat on my lap and the taxi driver pointed out several times that there isn't supposed to be five people in a taxi (it was a $25 fare, we weren't taking 2 taxis), arriving at the park at 2pm. Then after we saw the sights we froze to death at the bus stop for about ten minutes. The bus must have been running really late, because it came an hour earlier than it should have. This got us back in town with ten minutes to spare for the next bus to Seoul, and we then caught the subway home and got back to Sanbon at about 10:30pm.

It was a bit long of a trip for what it was, but it was fun and now I've seen the Sea of Japan (or the East Sea, according to Koreans. They don't like Japan so much). I'm saddest at the fact that the gift shop isn't open in the winter, because you all would be getting penis souvenirs.
Today we're taking a break to recuperate, but tomorrow we're going to the folk village. It won't be as visually entertaining as the pictures from this trip, but it looks like it's a pretty good cultural learning experience, and we all know how big of a nerd I am. :)

Monday, December 29, 2008

Dr. Fish

Here is something I did back in the first couple of weeks I was here, but haven't posted it yet. Dr. Fish is a place in town where you can go and get coffee and such, as well as gelato. Then, with the purchase of something, you can pay a couple bucks extra for the Dr. Fish experience (I think it was $3 each). After enjoying our gelato, Gayle, Heather, and I had our experience.

First you wash your feet, as the lovely Heather is demonstrating.

Then you put them in here.

That's right, with a bunch of little fishes.

Then the little fishes eat the dead skin off of your feet. (Note my feet are the only ones that don't hit the bottom. Yeah, go ahead, laugh. Alas, I have found that Koreans aren't as short as you would think.)

See my cool, calm, smile? Not how I looked through most of it.

Not only am I not a big feet person, but it tickled like you wouldn't believe, not to mention feeling really bizarre. That, and the fish really liked my feet, so I got nibbled on more than everyone else. My non-arches were especially popular.

Gayle freaked out the longest, for a good 12 of the 15 minutes...and I caught it on video, of course! I've tried flipping them over but it's not working, so tilt your head sideways. This was after we had already been doing this for ten minutes - I only freaked out for the first two minutes or so, and not nearly so bad. Impressed? If you notice she barely has any fish around her feet either because she was next to the filter, whereas I was the fish buffet main course. In the second video, Heather is counting to five for Gayle to keep her feet still...and my laughter can be heard in both. I'm a good, compassionate friend. :)

My feet didn't end up feeling too different after the fact, but all in all it wasn't bad after the first couple of minutes.

Keep on the lookout for more updates this week - I have a week of vacation and am planning to see a couple of sights, including a really interesting one that you aren't expecting!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Wonder Girls

Wonder Girls is a Korean girl band, and their song, Nobody, is everywhere. EVERYWHERE.

I know it exists in part thanks to the girls in my classes. One of them can even do the motions that they do along in the video. Being I thought she looked really silly, I looked up the video. Nope, the motions are just silly. I also looked it up because it was stuck in my head and I had never actually heard the whole thing.

For your viewing pleasure, I give you the video, complete with English translation. My student is very proud that she knows the hand motions and the fact that she does makes her kind of cool, just so you know (she's 9). Also, the actual song doesn't start until two minutes in, should you want to skip ahead.

May it not get stuck in your head.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Freezing and Korean Medicine

I know I talked about freezing to death once already, with lovely pictures of snow. Truth is that was a cold spell and it's been warm in the 40s. (I just wrote warm and 40s in the same sentence, and I'm not referring to Celsius...gods help me...)

Well, friendly supervisor texted to let us know that the next two days are supposed to be among the coldest of the winter and to bundle up. Excellent timing and all, since I'm sick.

Alas, it's true. I didn't fight it off, I got sick. I think it's a cold, though I have no snot in my nose whatsoever (bonus) but I do have a lovely cough. It's been a week and my voice is still funny. I have yet to return to man-voice, but have been pretty consistent in the hoarse voice I have right now. Some say it's sexy, though one of my coworkers said I sound like a 45 year old chain-smoker. Actually, it seems to be females think sexy and men and children think horrid, which works out pretty well for me.

I haven't gone to a doctor and I doubt I will - the medical profession here frightens me a bit. For one, all of the other foreign teachers have been to the doctor (as we've all gotten sick), and whenever they come back they end up with 5 prescriptions. Ted has had bronchitis for a month and they just keep giving him sets of five pills.

As you might already know, I'm not a big fan of medicine. We over-medicate like crazy and it's creating the mutant antibiotic resistant little bugs we now have today. I only take the medications that I think are absolutely necessary, and things like pain killers are not among them (one of Ted's five pills).

The other thing is that here you don't get your prescription in individual bottles with a nice list of side effects and warnings. Nope, the pharmacist puts the pills you need to take at one time in a nice little parchment pouch and you get them that way. While this is convenient, you have no idea what the pills are, what weird side effect you may have, nor have they been checked against any other meds you might be on. Being I've had a prescription once that had a listed side effect of turning your urine orange or red, sometimes those are important. (It did too - bright Kool-aid orange. Imagine waking up to that one morning if you didn't know it was possible as a side effect).

On another note, I'm not impressed with their medical ideas in other areas. In order to get your Alien card you have to do a medical exam that includes a blood test, hearing test, chest x-ray for TB, blood pressure, and a pee test. First was the blood test, where the woman didn't wear gloves! That's right, no gloves, nor handwashing before me or between me and the person afterwards (I at least got a new needle). The lady who serves me free samples at Emart wears gloves, but not the lady taking your blood. Then there was peeing in the cup. Now I've peed in many cups in my day, and they are lovely plastic things that are sealed and sterile, come with a screw on lid, and usually have some discreet way for you to move it from one place to another. The cup they gave me could have been a drinking cup - hence I took the picture of it. That and you walk down the hallway to the bathroom and back with it, out and uncovered like that.

So, anyway, I won't be going to a doctor unless I have to. The fact that it'd be all translated through my not-quite-fluent-in-English boss probably doesn't help either. She mistranslated to my supervisor that she had blood in her urine when she really needed to do a urine test. Oops.

Well, that was a nice tangent/rant thing. Back to my original complaining on dying, yet again- here is my forecast for the next two days:

High: 24˚F
Low: 13˚F

Mostly Sunny
High: 28˚F
Low: 14˚F


Do you see the part where it says High, and then were the number begins with a 2? A 2! And the low, that number begins with a 1, but it's not 3 digits like it's supposed to be. It's also nice enough to tell me that tomorrow at 12pm, when it is 22˚F, it's going to feel like 8˚F. That's a single digit...temperatures aren't supposed to come in single digits. :(

This may be the last you hear from me, as I may end up frozen to my doorknob when I leave the house tomorrow.

(I hear you laughing, and it isn't nice. You be good or I'll drag you to Vegas in the middle of August and see how you do in 122˚.)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Random Hodgepodge

Well, the non-existent Thanksgiving is over so it is now Christmas season. Emart (the Korean version of Walmart that actually pushed Walmart out of Korea) had their Christmas stuff up the night of Thanksgiving. Crazy it wasn't up in August, huh? :)

I spent $15 on a 4' Christmas tree, which I set up today. I had some Christmas lights in my closet when I moved in, which saved me a good $10. $7 for some tinsel and a star for the top and viola! I have Christmas in my apartment. Money well spent.

(It keeps not inserting lines where I put them near pictures, giving me scary paragraphs. The stars are me trying to cheat the system).

In other news, I woke up with man-voice on Friday. Wasn't sick, just woke up with man-voice. Or as my lovely mother put it, sounding like I was in the middle of hormone treatment for a sex change. Thanks, mom. Anyway, six hours of teaching and I migrated to sexy raspy (well, according to the teachers - the kids were kind of scared of me sounding so incredibly different). Today it's more froggish and going in and out more. My throat doesn't hurt and I don't feel sick although I have a tiny bit of a cough today, but nothing like what you would think with my voice sounding the way it does.
I refuse to get sick - I'm the last foreign teacher to have not gotten sick. I refuse, I tell you! I actually had a recording of my man-voice on my computer (I wanted to hear if I sounded as weird as I did in my head), so it's down below for your viewing pleasure. You have to turn the volume all the way up to hear it though. And since I wasn't planning on sharing my random talking to myself with the world, a clip of the song I'm singing so you don't think I'm crazy. It's from the musical episode of Daria. (Make sure you turn the volume back down in between.)

On another unrelated thing, you may notice a new picture on the left side. On the night of the 25th, I officially won NaNoWriMo by totalling 50,048 words! I haven't written a word since then, but hey, I did it. :) Statistics wise, I wrote approximately 28 hours, going anywhere from 1,264 words per hour to 2,609. When I wrote at home, by myself, I usually averaged about 2,100 an hour. I wrote 21 days, averaging 2,383 words and an hour twenty of writing for the days I wrote. And all this without any caffeine whatsoever.

Here's the spiffy message you get when you win, complete with new web badges:

Through storm and sun, you traversed the noveling seas. Pitted against a merciless deadline and fighting hordes of distractions, you persevered. You launched yourself bravely into Week One, sailed through the churning waters of Week Two, skirted the mutinous shoals of Weeks Three and Four, and now have landed, victorious, in a place that few adventurers ever see.

We congratulate you on your hard work, salute your discipline and follow-through, and celebrate your imagination.

You did something amazing this month, novelist. We couldn't be prouder.

Tee hee. Novelist. My book is crap - I think it's written okay but the story concept was much better in my head than what it was on paper. Eh, now on to bigger and better ideas that kept tempting me during the month. I may like to read romance, but writing it was pretty boring for me. Crappy relationship developing.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Why there is so much Engrish

So I was planning a post at some point on the Engrish I've seen around and taken pictures of, but I'm waiting for my collection to grow a bit first. (Engrish is things that are in English but were translated very badly and make no sense. They're usually pretty funny.)

Anyway, so we were at dinner for one of the other foreigners birthday, and this new Korean teacher at my school came with us. His English is pretty crappy, and he had this book with him. It ended up being chock full of fun for the dinner table, and now I think I realize why there is so much Engrish out there - because even their dictionaries are bad. Here are some of the more choice ones, first from the drinking section and then from the dating section. Keep in mind this is just from the twenty or so pages we looked at; imagine all the fun that could be found in the 550 other pages! Also, all are verbatim - I did not typo, and the book is from 2001, so it really has no excuse. Commentary in italics.

A: Do you stand me a drink today?
B: Yes, I'll stand you a drink if you like. (Huh? We first thought this was British slang or something, but then we kept reading)

Anyway, it's getting too bored here in this club. Let's change the scenery! Hey, treat me another round.

Note: I'm a little bit high. = I had a little drink. (Is that what they're calling it nowadays?)

Get real, my friend! Smart girls like her ain't fond of party animals like you getting blacked out all the time. (Because it is important for them to learn words that aren't really words...)

I've got a crash on Jane. I love her so much I can't live without her. (Ah, those cursed crashes.)

My girlfriend dumped me because I'm a poor salaried worker. (Don't worry, you're better off.)

I've got dumped because I don't have any money. "No money, no honey," they say. I know I was just her part-time lover, nothing more, nothing less. (Important phrases to know!)

My husband doesn't drink, doesn't smoke, doesn't fool around, is physically fit, great in bed and not afraid to shower. (Ah, the perfect man! No shower phobia for him!)

He was caught two-timing by his girlfriend last night and he's in hospital because his girlfriend beat the living crab out of him. (You go girl. I wonder if the crabs came from the one he was two-timing with? Use protection people!)

A: Have you done anything behind your wife's back?
B: The only thing I've ever done behind my wife's back is zip her up.

I have been on nude beaches before and I'm certainly no prude, but I'm very uncomfortable about being seen in public with my deformity. (Deformity? Is this really a common problem that people have with going to nude beaches?)

This one was especially fun for my American co-worker who is half-Chinese:
Hey, I hear you're going out with a chink. What's up with that?

A: Does he drink, gamble or chase women?
B: No, he doesn't drink, he never gambles, and he detests women. (Sounds like he is fabulous! - if you know what I mean.)

A short fling won't quench your thirst - it will only stimulate your appetite and create more problem.

A: When are you going to marry? You're already 40.
B: Don't worry, mom. There's a lid for every pot.
Also: Every Jack has his Gill

Who is your main squeeze among those babe?

And ones that are just funny because they use Dick as their generic male name:
You know, Dick. I'm tired of being single. So it would be nice if you could set me up with someone.

A: You can call me Dick. Now we are on a first-name basis.
B: Being on a first-name basis isn't everything, you know.

That's it! Dick and I are through! (I think I've said that at some point in my life...)

And one last example to send you off. You know, maybe they understand better than I thought:
After retirement, you have a new boss - your wife. She doesn't issue orders; she uses diplomacy. For example: "We should wash the windows." "We should clean the cellar and garage." "We should trim those high bushes." You will soon be learned "we" means, "Honey, you..."

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I'm going to die.

I am.

It is so cold here right now, that even if I survive all of the body parts I'm going to lose from frostbite, the hypothermia will get me.
Now, I know you're probably thinking, hey Anica, you are such a cold wimp. True. I am, and I readily admit that I am a desert rat. However, this is what greeted me when I left for work this afternoon:

Yeah, that's snow. In November. That was about as much sticking that it did and it all melted right away, but still. You know, that song I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas might actually make sense now - and here I thought those things only happened in movies.

Oddly enough, it's a lot warmer tonight, in the 30s. Last night, it was 22˚! And that's in Fahrenheit; it's a much more scary sounding -5.5˚C. Yup, going to die.

In a cultural tidbit for you, I present with you how Koreans keep warm. They don't seem to be big in the scarf thing, but instead wear these masks that look like medical masks to keep your face warm. They're less than a buck, so I got one just because I could:

However, two main problems. One, it fogs up my glasses, just like a scarf does. I'm currently debating which risk is greater: losing the nose to frostbite by not wearing one, or breaking and deforming the nose by biffing it since I won't be able to see where I'm going. Your thoughts?

The second problem, which you can kind of tell, is that I think my head is too small. It doesn't look like that on the Koreans, anyway. So, I solved my problem, tee-hee, tee-hee. I bought a smaller one (which was twice as much money), for my little head. I give you the really cute kid version:

(It says "I'm Happy!") I wore it for about two minutes...it fogs the glasses as well.

I've seen some of my kids in their cold weather gear, and I may have to go shopping again. For my warmth, of course! Beanies that look like an animal head with sides hanging down that can be used as a scarf or are mittens seem to be really popular. That's certainly better than just buying earmuffs. :)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

NaNoWriMo and my first jimjilbang

So I'm participating in National Novel Writing Month this month, or NaNoWriMo. It's become an international event and is in its 10th year. The idea is that you write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. Why? To prove you can do it. Being I can't remember the last time I wrote anything that wasn't school related, let alone fiction, I thought it would be a good thing to try. It turns out there are a bunch of foreigners here that are doing it, so I've been able to make some new friends as well. You can view my progress with the little meter on the left side - at the time of this writing I'm doing good at 31,969 words, though I really hate my novel at the moment and have gone a few days without writing. Oops.

Anyway, on Saturday, which was the midpoint, we had a writer's retreat at a jimjilbang (sounds like jim-juh-bong). It's a sauna type substance that is pretty popular over here. We went to the Dragon Hill Spa, which is seven floors and kind of crazy.

You pay to get in ($10 for the time I got there), and they give you clothed and this bracelet with a key and barcode on it. You then take your shoes off and lock them in a locker with your key number right by the entrance, and then go to your gender's locker room - the women were on the third floor, the men on the fifth. You then see a lot of naked Asian women. A lot. And not all 90 year old women like when you go to the gym. (Or maybe I was just always that lucky?) Anyway, then you have a locker where you change into the t-shirt and shorts they gave you, or in my case, go back and exchange them because the waist of the shorts, while it stretches, is as wide as the length of my foot. I'm not exaggerating - I should have taken a picture. Anyway, then you roam about.
We wrote for a while in the cafeteria area on the first floor, then I ate dinner and tried some of the co-ed stuff on that floor - a rock salt sauna, a wood-fired kiln. The rock salt sauna was 55˚C (131˚F), which felt like a hot day in August to me (on right - not my picture). The kiln ones didn't have temperatures, but I wished they did. They had a low, medium, and hot kiln, and by hot they mean the surface of the sun. I was barley glistening in the first sauna, but the hot sauna it was pouring off of me. Inside the floor was wood and there were wooden blocks to sit in, and I still had to sit on my towel on the wooden block before I didn't feel like my butt was burning. Actually, I have a little burn on my knee from where I knelt on the floor for 15 seconds to reach for a wooden block someone had just gotten up from in hopes it would be cooler. The first time I think we lasted two minutes, and I went in a second time, since the other saunas really didn't do anything for me after that, and I think I lasted a whole four minutes. When I pushed my glasses up it felt like the metal burned my nose, and as you may recall, I have a lot of pieces of metal attached to my body. My entire body was also red for a while after that. It was interesting.

I also tried the ice room, which was 10˚C (50˚F), which surprisingly felt really good. This was after the uber hot sauna - well, after adjusting to what felt like an icy temperature of the general room for a couple minutes, and then going into the ice room.

Then I checked out the women's only sections. I didn't have a lot of time for this, as I didn't find out until 8:30 that they charge the overnight rate of another $12 at 9pm, so I was trying to get out before that. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention - you can sleep in them. There are lots of open spaces and people just pass out all over the floor. It's an odd experience.

As for the women only section, which was a little bit of the rest of the third floor and the entire second floor, there was a lot of nakedness. Actually, I didn't see a stitch of clothing on the second floor at all - there may have been signs saying as much for all I know. Luckily, I am surprisingly comfortable being naked when other people I don't know are naked, and I think me walking around was educational for the toothpick Korean women, especially since tattoos are illegal to get here. ;)

There were open shower stalls, or sit down versions with handheld shower heads, all over the place. There were pools of varying temperatures, some with salt water (on left, also not my picture). There was a nice jacuzzi pool as well with jet streams. I didn't see the whole thing, but I believe there are saunas down there too, and there was also supposedly an outdoor women's only pool...which I would assume would also be naked. I may have to try that at some point.

There were also additional services you could pay for - for anything you did extra, you just swiped your bracelet and paid the balance on the way out. Even the restaurants and vending machines worked that way, which was cool. Anyway, they had massages available (I wish I had had the time!), some scary thing called string hair removal, and body scrubbing. I saw some of the body scrubbing, and it consisted of a woman scrubbing down your entire body while you were on a massage table, using a loofah and some kind of scrub. The women scrubbing you were not naked, of course. They are at work, after all. No, they were wearing black bra and underwear! They were all probably in their 40s, but still.

So yes, I've decided that a gay heaven probably includes a jimjilbang. The funny thing is that a lot of Koreans go with friends. I don't know how I'd feel walking around and doing a bunch of stuff naked with my friends. I guess it happened with showering at the gym and all, but this would be hours of hanging out together, naked. What do you think?

Anyway, so that was my cultural experience this weekend. I'll have to try again when I'm not worrying about the time. That's a pretty good deal for $10, although I hear most of them are only $5 but are also a lot smaller.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

I'm here!

Well, I am here in South Korea, and have been for almost 48 hours now. I don't have internet yet but I found a wireless that is letting me connect.

I just moved into my apartment today. The people who were in it before left it a giant mess and it needed to be cleaned. It was bad enough that the Koreans were wearing shoes inside to clean it, which apparently is a big sign of how bad it was. They told me that the one guy who was cleaning will stop in the doorway when carrying in a heavy piece of furniture to take off his shoes, so him wearing them in here was fairly significant. I saw it after they had been cleaning for a while, and I wouldn't call it disgusting, but I've seen some pretty gross places. It was left with a bunch of crap everywhere.

Anyway, I start teaching tomorrow, which is also the first day of school for OSU...kind of ironic, don't you think? I'm a little nervous. There is another new guy who got here a couple hours before I did, and we are observing a class and then have to teach our own. On the upside, the classes we should have are beginning English kindergarten kids, so we don't have to do much, especially the first day, but the fact that they're going to be five and six is not helping here. We'll see how it goes.

So far it's been pretty busy for me. I've been staying with Gayle, one of the other teachers, and I've been pretty much doing stuff ever since I got here. It's nice, and she's paid for everything so far - it's like a pay it forward to the newbies - but I've had a total of maybe an hour and half to myself.

Anyway, I need to go to bed, as I'm still trying to catch up on sleep from the way over here. 12 hour flight, plus a two hour layover, plus a three hour flight, and then a half hour taxi ride. Yuck. I have a couple of pictures of random stuff that I'll post tomorrow if the internet holds.

Night. :)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Alright, I'm very bad at this whole blog thing. In case you missed that. I'm trying again though. ;)

Well, if you haven't heard, I am going to South Korea for a year to teach English. Why, as everyone keeps asking me? Why not? It pays well, I get to see Asia, and it delays the real world for another year. I found out this summer that what I thought would be my perfect career is...not. So I'm back at not knowing what I really want to do, and I couldn't find a job that I liked. After thinking about it, I figured why get a job that I don't even like while I'm applying for it, just because I'm broke, when I could go teach in Korea instead. So, there you have it.

I'm teaching at a private school, where I'll have kids from 5-15. They pay for my airfare, my one-bedroom apartment, and I get a month pay as a bonus at the end of the year. It's a pretty good deal, and I'm hoping to save a lot of money for those pesky student loans. I'm also hoping the year will help me see the light of what to do with my life and all.

Anyway, I'm in Los Angeles right now, waiting to leave. I had to come here for my visa interview, which was really dumb because the interview only lasted about 45 seconds, yet I had to come and do it in person. At least the school is paying for my hotel room because they wanted me to stay and pick up my visa as soon as it's ready, and then leave from here. My flight leaves at noon on Thursday, and I get into Seoul at 9pm on Friday. (Ick for time differences. On the upside, when I return, I'll get in two hours after I leave, by local times)

So that's it...expect pictures and more to follow!

Well, I'm going to try at least. :)