Thursday, January 29, 2009


I mentioned before that I was going to eventually do a post on Engrish, and here it is.

To refresh your memory (we'll pretend you've read everything I've ever written religiously, of course), it is rather cool here, Japan, and probably other Asian countries to have things written in English. Think of the prevelence of kanji tattoos that people have in the US - same kind of thing. However, being that a vast majority of the population can't read what it says, it tends to not make much sense. This is known as Engrish.

(As an aside I read an article once on how a Japanese tattoo artist in the US was tattooing the wrong thing on people. On a girl's stomach he tattooed "Insert General Tso's chicken here" and on a big burly guy that wanted strength or some other macho man thing on his arm, he tattooed I like to wear women's underwear or something like that. Kind of funny, if you think about it. Internet people, internet. If you must follow this trend, find what you want it to say on several different sites, then take it to someone who knows the language and ask them what it says without telling them to make sure you've got it right. Geez.)

So I bring you my Engrish collection thus far. Some are better than others, and they're not all strictly Engrish - I added ones of signs and stuff that I thought were just written interestingly which could be Engrish or could be cultural. Oh, and the best Engrish of all time is at the end, so keep reading. I've retyped what things say in case it's not easy to tell from the smaller pictures - all quotes are, of course, exactly what the original says. ;)

First, we have a full wall sign outside a bar:

Can one ever remember love..It's like trying to summom up the smell of rose in acellar. tou might see arose, but never the perfume.

Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but look together in the same direction.

In the alley by my apartments:

After Childbirth & Fatness Clinic
I don't know if it's Engrish, or if they're just blunt like that.

On a shirt:

Celebrate Space will have opportunity talk with international
Yes, talk with international badly though. :)

The trashcan in my bathroom:

I was so happy when I knew that friend is very valuable mean.
Yes, and it makes me feel better everyday to throw my garbage into it.

Not really Engrish at all:

The n just wore off...but I thought the fact that something said "ew heaven" funny.

A pencil sharpener/eraser combo (that refused to take a decent picture):

I'm a good Magicion! I Can Make Happy Everyone~!! Like That~!!

In my subway station:

Warning: Steps Ahead
Not Engrish per se, but notice the location of the sign...I think at that point I'm well aware that there are steps ahead.

On a hoodie (taken with my camera phone. Must remember to always have camera when I go shopping here):

naughty Beagle
That naughty boy will be punished because he keeps camping about to people
Is there a beagle camping version of Mario I don't know about? Did I ever mention how copyright infringement really doesn't seem to exist here?

On a store window (also taken with my camera phone, which really doesn't help trying to read it):

BANC is producted in the early 2000. It is a fruit, which was made by the home playlists and from United states of Kingdom. and guarenteed by huge numbers of mania. and entertain cutter sense and a lovely colorful logo.

On the subway:

Seats for the handicapped, old, weak, pregnant woman, or accompanied with baby
Another probably not Engrish, but I like how they say those seats are reserved for the weak. Also, notice the really deformed shape of the pregnant woman's stomach. She should get an ultrasound.

And the best Engrish of all time, on a t-shirt someone bought (I would have bought one myself):

call-to-arms for all chunkily-penised boys to do her right and do her good - still mattered.
I think the pink ballet slippers really help to get that message across as well.

So that's what I have so far. Hope you have enjoyed. :)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Being 28 and 26 at the same time - Happy New Year!

Today (Monday) is the Lunar New Year...ah, four day weekend. :)

It's a big holiday here, and everything today is dead and probably closed. Being it is a big holiday, every teacher at my job got a nice gift from the school.

Isn't it pretty? I was excited to open it and see what was inside...

...and was surprised to see four cans of tuna fish and six cans of spam. Control your jealousy!

Did you know spam came in a blue and a black version? Perhaps it's a Korean thing. While my dad is a fond consumer of spam, in my impoverished little life I have managed to never have to eat it. Part of me thinks I should try it for the cultural experience - it's a common house warming gift here and I am curious as to what makes the black container different from the standard blue container.'s spam.

I'm also a little worried about the tuna. You would think it would be normal tuna, but it makes an impressive sloshing sound when you shake it and I looked and it doesn't expire until the end of 2013. That seems a little long for tuna, or any food really. It expires after the spam even. I may end up leaving the whole thing as a welcome gift to the next person who moves into my apartment.

Anyway, with today being New Years I figure it would be a good time to bring up Korean age. By legal standards, today I turned 28. Twenty-two days after I return to the US, I legally turn 27. Makes perfect sense, right?

Here's how it works. In Korea, China, Vietnam, and potentially all Asian countries (I haven't looked), you are born at one year old instead of zero, like we are. Then everyone in the entire country becomes legally one year older on the New Year. This is where I think the main problem lies - you turn a year older regardless of when you were born.

Let's take the screaming baby I live next to. (I think it must be teething or has colic, because it has been hollering non-stop for the last week). The baby was born not long after I got here, around three or four months ago. Today it turned 2. So after being alive for three months, s/he is two years old. However, a baby born today is one, and will turn two next year on the New Year. So we'll have a 1 year old that is two and a 1 year, 3 month old that is three.

I had this in my kindergarten class. It was a class of six year olds...which really meant five year olds. One of the kids was one of the late year births though, so he was really only four. He was expected and taught at the same level as the other kids, because they are all seen as six. He, understandably, had the worst handwriting of them all, since he didn't have as much motor skills as they did.

It's odd, and I don't quite understand why they do it, but another reason why the holiday is such a big deal.

So today I'm 28, and in two months I'll be 27. Now there's something I wasn't planning on experiencing in my life. ;)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Holy frozen hair follicles, Batman!

Normally I take a shower at night and sleep on my hair wet. It takes the least amount of effort, and I'm not big on wasting valuable sleep time with personal grooming in the morning.

However, I didn't take a shower last night and so had to take one this morning. It happens. I walked to school with my wet hair, since it's a five minute walk, no big deal.

Well, I'm right at the building and I go to tuck my hair behind my ears, and it is crunchy and feels like I put a bunch of gel and/or hairspray in it.

My hair froze!

I didn't think hair could freeze, but it was a toasty 19-20˚ on my way there, so it makes logical sense, but still. I tried to take a picture of it standing straight out when I lifted it at the base, but it defrosted before I could get a good one. It only took about a minute to defrost at least. :)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Almost being deported, Round 2

One of those days became one of those weeks. I give you the aftermath:

Ramen and chocolate. Gets me every time. Considering I told my coworkers Friday I wish I drank because I would have me a stiff drink after work, this isn't that bad. Both of those piles are from more than one sitting, so not bad at all. :)
Okay, story time.
I told my boss Tuesday that I was planning on leaving at six months, since it seemed relevant since they could be potentially firing me and all and I figured it would be pretty bitchy to spring it on them in a month after all of this.

So they said that I could maybe go home February. That's the end of the school year here and parents expect new teachers in March, so it works out better for them. They said I wouldn't have to pay back my plane ticket here, which is the only reason why I was saying March myself. I'm not complaining.

Well, Thursday I get a call from Mr. Park, the hubby of the lady I worked for. He said that immigration would like to talk to him and all the foreign teachers at 10. This really confused me because he had woken me up and it was 10:15, but it turns out he meant the next day, on Friday. He asked if I would come and I said I had to ask my boss, and he just said okay. The whole thing seemed like an optional request.

I told my boss about it when I got in to work and she said I didn't have to go. At the end of work she told me I did have to go and to meet her at 9 the next morning. -sigh-

I hear from my American boss that night that Tina (my Korean boss) told her that not only was it not optional, but if I didn't go I would be arrested. If I went without Tina, I would be deported, as it shows the school doesn't want me anymore, so I should grovel a bit the next day. (Why are they giving her more details than me, is what I want to know.)

I leave my apartment and get a call from Tina that she's having car issues and will pick me up at 9:30, so I got to kill a half hour at school. We get to immigration at 10:15 and this time got to go to the adjudication unit. There's one other foreign guy in the waiting room, and so we wait. (As a side note, I would expect to see a lot more foreigners in the immigration building. I see more when I go to Itaewon, but then again there could be foreigners from other Asian countries I suppose and I wouldn't know the difference in passing. They don't quite have the beacon the rest of us do.)

The guy goes back first, and it's in this cubicle so I can overhear a good amount of what is being said. He was alone, and I heard him tell them that he didn't have a job right now. He also worked for them a month or longer - I couldn't quite make out how long but much longer than me. I then hear them talking about his exit order and how he has to leave within a week. They call us back while he is getting his stuff together and the guy hands him his penalty fee, that he has to pay today before he can leave the building, of which he said he didn't have the money for. I'm not sure what's going to happen to him, but his total punishment? Deportment and a ₩2.4 million fine. (Current exchange rate has that at $1,783, but to give you an idea my original monthly salary was ₩2.1 million, and is currently ₩1.4 million. After all the bills and stuff are taken out, I get almost exactly ₩1 million a month. Which is about $750. Sadness).

So then it is my turn. Tina has to fill out a statement saying that the school still wants to keep me as a teacher, which I believe is the only thing that kept them from deporting my ass. My penalty is much smaller, since I worked a whopping six hours. My fine? ₩1 million. Yup, a month pay for my ₩200,000 I earned.

Same deal as the other guy - I have to pay before I can leave the building. After I do though, the whole thing is done with and it is expunged from my record. I asked my boss if I could get an advance on my paycheck, which we were getting paid the next day (or maybe Monday because it's a weekend, but close enough) since I took all my cash out of my bank account Monday in case Immigration decided to seize all my assets. She called her boss to see if they could, and then gave me an odd answer.

She pointed out that I was leaving in February (of which I had to provide a letter to the school that morning saying I would be leaving then and I'm wondering if they would have hung me out to dry if I hadn't planned on leaving soon, since she asked me if I had the letter when she was writing out her statement). The penalty is a whole paycheck, and then I wouldn't really have any money left and I have to pay my flight home. Yes Tina, I know and doesn't my life suck? Then she told me that I had an option of not paying the penalty and instead choosing to be deported, in which I would only have to pay my airfare. I would not be able to leave the building and she would have to go home and pack my stuff for me, but that was an option.

Which required pondering. The plane ticket is a paycheck unto itself (why are one-way flights nearly the same as a round trip???) so the difference of staying and working the extra two months would be one additional pitiful paycheck. I called my American boss and my mom (can't wait to see that phone bill this month from that). The thing that bothered me the most was that I wouldn't be able to pack my own stuff, and the fact that my money was very well hidden in my apartment...and Tina's English is not the best in the world.

Obviously, I decided to stay, but there was a few moments of serious debate. It probably didn't help that I was low on sleep and then after all this still had to go teach for six hours. :)

So that's it. The fine is paid, I'm not getting a paycheck, or at least nothing worth noting, this month, and Immigration and I should be over and done with.

On a plus side, my mom spent her panicking hours waiting for me to get home from work and give her a call looking for plane tickets, and found me ones cheaper than I had found myself. Congratulations Mom, you have now officially become a full internet user. May I recommend, where I have booked a ticket home for the grand total of $409. (My best previous was over $900). That helps a lot.

So I officially leave on March 1st. The really funny part? I leave at 6:45pm and get in at 9:15pm, with two layovers. Gotta love the time difference. :)

Sadly, this officially means no Japan though - that was going to be a whole paycheck at least. Actually, the yen is over the dollar right now so closer to two paychecks. Which is probably a good thing because I really want to see Japan, so I'll go when I can really see it instead of a week of an uber-budget trip. I do still get to do my overnight stay at a Buddhist temple, so that's cool. Plus with not budgeting for Japan means I don't have to live like a pauper for the next month and a half...and get to buy cool souvenirs too. :)

So, there is my interesting experience. I've now worked in a foreign country, been questioned by Immigration in a set-up similar to a bad cop movie, and almost been deported two times in a week. It may not have been exactly what I was expecting, but coming to work here has definitely been an experience.


Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Dogs and Deportation

Monday marked the end of my week of vacation and the return to work. Blech. It also turned into one of those days.

Just before I left for work I got a call from my mom - her dog got hit by a car and died. She lives alone and is on disability, so it's not just a dog, it's a full on member of the family. I'll miss him, he was cute, if a little "special" at times. Bye, Chance.

Then I get to work and find out I might be getting deported. Yup.

Here's what happened: I went looking for additional employment, because with the decrease pay from not wanting to teach five year olds and the exchange rate dropping like mad, I'm pulling in at most $1000 a month before bills. Sucky. So I have been told that while private lessons are always illegal, you can work a second job if your first job says it is okay.

I found a job online, sent my resume, and they called and set up an interview for that night. I went and they asked me to work the next day. I did for a couple of hours and then again the next day tutoring some kids in math who want to study in the States. I was supposed to work two days later, on Sunday, editing and helping a kid with college admission essays, but emailed them and told them I couldn't work for them anymore. The place felt really sketchy and didn't sit well with my instincts, as well as it took me an hour and a half to get there and the woman was a really demanding shrew.

I get a call from the company on Sunday out of nowhere - I worked for them mid-December - and they tell me that immigration came when they weren't there and took a bunch of documents, including the one I had filled out. They told immigration I had never worked for them, just came to see it and left, and to tell them the same or I would be deported. So when I got to work the next morning and my Korean boss told me immigration called and asked me if I've ever worked for this place and I said no. I talked to my American boss soon after that and she agreed to keep denying it since the company lied to immigration and I was paid in cash and all.

So then it turns out I had to go to immigration that day and could get deported. I went with my Korean boss, who didn't speak to me at all for the half hour drive nor for the twenty minutes we were waiting for a parking spot. Then we go in and the floor we got off on says "Investigation Unit." They lead us to this room that has a heavy metal door with a bar across it that can bolt me in, bars on the windows, and the overhead lights aren't on. (There was enough light from the windows to see, but the atmosphere was a nice set up). The translator they gave me has English about as good as my boss at best, which is not much better than my Japanese...that I studied for two years about eleven years ago. This helps the situation, of course.

They ask if I recognize the picture of the lady, and they were shifting through an inch thick pile of papers off all these other foreign teacher's paperwork. Then they asked if I had taught mathematics, and I said they wanted me to but I didn't. (Technically, true). Then I'm told that if I'm lying I will face confinement (I assumed prison) and deportation, and that the lady told them I worked for them on these two days for two hours each day. So I told them that they called me on Sunday and told me to lie to them about if I had worked for them or not and then came clean. I then had to write out a statement and was told that I would not have to leave the country but would have to pay a penalty and could not leave the country until I paid it and the investigation was over. Now, this other guy talked in Korean for a good half hour and that was the extent of what I was told, so who knows what the hell is going on. I asked my boss when we got back in the car if that meant I wasn't getting deported and she said she didn't know, and then didn't talk to me again. It would have been nice for her to tell me what was going on.

On the plus side I made my decision a week or two ago that I'm coming home early, so getting deported didn't worry me as much as it might have other people. I really hate teaching and loathe going to work everyday, and this has been a very long three months. I think I would suffer through it if I was making more, but I made more than this while a student and working part time, which is not worth staying in a job I hate. I was planning to come back at the end of March at six months, but now who knows if it'll be even sooner.

It's been an interesting experience at least, right? I'll keep you guys posted.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Korean Folk Village

Greetings to anyone who's stumbled here via Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. By far my favorite blog - glad to know I'm not the only person who loves me some trashy romance novels, and the cover snark makes me bust a gut every time. (And I won a book this week, so bonus.)

Anyway, today I went to the Korean Folk Village. Sorry, probably not as entertaining as Penis Park, but hey, there's not much of that around here.

The Folk village wasn't too far a way - six subway stops and then a free shuttle bus to the park with a paid ticket. A frickin' plush shuttle bus, I must say, as you can see to your right. (More pictures and videos over on Flickr).

The village itself is set up just like an old village, with not an excessive amount of order to it - life-size replicas of houses with other replicas or demonstrations inside them. A good portion of the signs were in Korean, English, and Japanese though, so that was nice. Most of the rooms in the houses were blocked off, so you looked in but didn't go in. Some of them you could go in and they had people in them, such as a woman spinning thread. The thing that really surprised me though was that we had to take our shoes off to go in the replica houses! I get taking them off in houses and restaurants, but these aren't even real houses. There were also some gazebos and platforms you could climb ladders onto and they had signs that told you to take your shoes off as well. The fact that it was probably at most 30˚F all day made the shoe removal seem even more illogical.

(Yes, I am frozen. I felt like I did when I went and played in the snow the first time last year - numb yet painful all at the same time).

There were also shows. First was a Farmer's music and dance, which included drums and guys with ribbon hats. The farmers seem to have been pretty spry in the day, and the whole thing was pretty cool.

Then there was a seesaw performance, where these two girls jumped on either end of a seesaw and propelled each other a good ten feet in the air. This was followed by a tightrope guy, who seems to have been very funny as everyone kept laughing. It also means he talked a lot which made it kind of boring, but he would walk and then jump down and bounce off the rope on his butt and stand up again, kind of like you would do on a trampoline. He was also probably at least fifty, so pretty impressive.

Next were the equestrian feats. Now, as someone who has fallen off a horse every time but once she's ridden one, I found these quite impressive. They were bouncing off the ground and back onto the saddle, they were flipping upside down, they were getting off, running alongside like the horse was getting away, and hop back on.

Typically after that there would be a traditional wedding, but it is only done March through November, so no such luck. It would be interesting to see the place during March, when I'm not getting frostbite and everything isn't dead and the streams aren't frozen. It was cool, but it made life back then seem a lot more depressing than it probably normally would. There was a lot of the park that I didn't see, so I might go again when things are alive.

My next specific cultural outing probably won't come until February, when I'll be doing an overnight stay in a Buddhist Temple. I'm really excited about that one...well, minus the 3-4:30am dawn devotional chanting. Is 3am dawn anywhere? Crazy monks.