Archive for February, 2010

The fine art of doing nothing.

February 11, 2010

How do you stay busy at a time when there is really nothing to do.

I’d prefer to be working on something, but I can not. My new semester of classes starts on March 1st and as of right now I don’t even know what grade I will be teaching. Therefore, I can’t prepare any lesson plans. I have heard that it might be grade four, but we are getting new textbooks this year so I can’t even attempt to start preparing. I am happy that my school is not like most other schools in that they allow me to work at home during the winter break, and I’m not stuck at my desk doing nothing. I am now because technically school is in session. Today is the last day before spring break, and the last day at school before I leave for my trip back home.

In this office setting with five teachers and myself, I have to appear to be working, at least in my mind. Other teachers have no problems watching movies on a laptop in front of their principle or taking naps everyday. Hell, I ‘d like that too. It’s just not in my character though, sure maybe if I was isolated in my own office I would take part in such activities, but I would keep an ear out just in case.  Now to someone who might think this sounds like slacking, try sitting at your desk for 40 days 8 hours a day with nothing to do. All the planning for school can be done while school is in session, and for me it should be done while school is in session. What you expect to happen and what happens during school are two different things. You have to be able to adapt to learning curves and what is popular and what is not. If you waste your time preparing for the whole year and the activities are duds, what is the point? I need some pressure in order to perform properly anyway, otherwise it’s too hard to focus.

Throughout my 8 hour day I usually alternate websites. The most common are Korean news papers or Blogs about Korea. I figure if I’m not working I might as well educate myself on something relevant. As well I feel that the other teachers, who are pretty much doing the same thing I am, will at least see it’s a worth while activity. I bolster these readings with an occasional break to tumblr, facebook, gmail,  and hotmail. I’ve heard people say, how can you be bored, you have the internet. Well sure, if I could watch you-tube and download movies and watch those, I wouldn’t be bored at all.

Despite the fact that I don’t like sitting here and doing nothing. I will try not to complain about it, in that way. I do know that I am being paid and being paid to do nothing. This is definitely not a situation to complain about, as I know many other people do.   No one likes to “desk warm” but if they want us to, than we shall.

I only wrote this for something to do.


Macaroni Market

February 10, 2010
What makes a food critic? I will look that up when I finish this sentence. How do you become one? Do you just have to like food a lot because I do.  Okay, well I looked it up. As I figured, you should probably study journalism. Some other tips included co owning a restaurant, working in a restaurant, researching and reading about food all the time. Write lots of reviews.

Okay so I don’t have these important qualities, but my only jobs (until now) have been in the restaurant industry. In fact I’m not even sure I have read a full review on any sort of food. For me, I want to know how the food and service are and then see a picture of the dish. How developed is the regular persons pallet? If I eat something and think it’s average, did the person that wrote the review thought it was great, does he have some hidden insight or did I just “out taste” him.

My food review without any previous experience or knowledge on the practice.

Restaurant: The Macaroni Market in Itaewon

Food: Macaroni and Cheese

Price: 12 000 won

It looks as though this is a popular dish to review. A quick search on the internet for this restaurant brings up a number of reviews. Why do I have to write another one? Perhaps my take is a little different, I’m not sure. I didn’t read their reviews, but I did see key words which led me to believe it was a really delicious dish. After living in a small Korean city for a year, my cravings for western food have become a lot stronger. Even though I have lived in Seoul for almost five months I have still not eaten a huge amount of western cuisine. When I went to this restaurant I intended to review the food. The reason I chose this restaurant was because of the description and pictures of another food blogger.

I assume the recipe changed a little between the time that myself and the other blogger went to the restaurant, as the price and presentation were slightly different. As far as the restaurant goes, as a building, it’s nice. There is nothing to complain about other than being confused about where the washroom was, but that was quickly resolved with the help of the staff. The complimentary bread and balsamic and oil were a nice touch. Something I haven’t eaten in quite a while. From what I remember other people gave this dish a pretty good review, reading parts here and there.

For me the other pictures looked more appetizing, I was hoping for some cheesy, home cooked style macaroni. That is what it looked like to me. The thing that disappointed me when I got there was that it had changed, it wasn’t the same at all. I thought I ordered the wrong thing,but when I got home and checked the picture I realized just the presentation and perhaps the amount of bacon had changed. The reason I didn’t find it  amazing was that the noodles were swimming in a pool of sauce. I don’t think the sauce should be overindulging, it should just coat the pasta. I’ve noticed this trend in a few places that I have eaten. I did enjoy the dish to an extent, I felt the use of lemon peel interesting, but in the end overpowering. I agree with what the other food blogger said, share the dish and get a salad or something else to go with it. It’s a bit too much for one person to eat, sure I ate it all, but by the halfway mark it was getting kind of bland and repetitive. Overall I would give it 6 out of 10.

Conclusion: I would go back to the restaurant, the service was great. I wouldn’t get that dish again though, I would like to try something different. On a side note I arrived at 3:00pm just as Sunday brunch was ending. We got turned away and had to wait till 5 till it opened again. They said that we couldn’t order from the menu. I’m not sure why since the brunch had ended, and the staff would only be prepping for the dinner rush and the restaurant did not close till four.

Paul Ajosshi’s Photo

Jokbo *Chokbo* Korean Family Tree

February 9, 2010

Yesterday my co-teacher and I were talking about Korea and Canada. He would tell me about Korea and I would tell him the Canadian perspective, or equivalent on the subject. But I was interested in one thing in particular 족보.  My teacher told me that most people (his words were 50%) of Koreans have a book called Chokbo or jokbo.

Jokbo is the western equivalent of the family tree. This genealogy chart was first created during the Joseon Dynasty, which lasted from 1392 – 1910. This chart was created so that others could easily trace ones liniage to the Yangban. The Yangban were the ruling class of the the time.  What surprised me was that people still carry on this tradition. Today being related to the  Yangban no longer holds the same advantages, but it is seen as something of interest. Kind of like saying, “I’m related to Norman Bethune.” It’s interesting, but it doesn’t really help me.

I didn’t really find a lot of information about this book, I assume most of it is in Korean. From what my teacher told me, he said that the book is passed down to the eldest son. I’m not sure what happens if you don’t have a son, does your family tree stop? He mentioned that the girls are written down in the book when they are born, but when they are married they are erased. I would like to know if they get to stay in the book if they do not have any brothers.

He also mentioned that it is a very big insult to say that someones family doesn’t have a Jokbo as this would mean that they came from a lower class. This leads me to wonder whether most people are decedents of the Yongban or did the lower classes begin to create their own family tree, regardless of association.

Aegyo Sal

February 8, 2010

According to the Chosun Ilbo the rate of cosmetic surgery for women in Korea, is the highest in the world.

For whatever reason I am interested in Korea’s obsession with plastic surgery. Guaranteed most of the Korean celebrities have had some sort of  facial tweaking. I’m not certain of this point at all, but I am aware of some cases in which the celebrities become famous before they went under the knife. It leads me to wonder if the idea of surgery came before or after being famous. Most likely the idea was in their head long before their goal of fame came to fruition. Even some of my sixth grade students expressed what areas of their face they would like to have altered.

It can be said that most people would think you were attractive based on celebrity alone.  As many normal looking western people (who then become famous) turn into idols, creating something to be desired. I’m sure that female celebrities in the States face the same amount of criticism as Koreans do when it comes to how they look. The rate of plastic surgery could also quite possibly be on par for celebrities within Korea and the USA. I feel as though that Koreans are more open to talking about their procedures, where as other people try to hush it up.  However, the trickle down effect of looking beautiful seems to effect Koreans more so and perhaps this is because of the openness surrounding surgery.

In particular, 81.5 percent of women between 25 and 29 felt the need for cosmetic surgery and 61.5 percent of that group said they have already had it, suggesting that cosmetic surgery has become commonplace for 20-something Korean women.

This stat was taken from another site, but it comes from Um Hyun-Shin’s doctoral dissertation thesis from Kyunghee University, not too far from this blogs namesake, Jegi Dong. I’ve heard from some Koreans that parents have even suggested to their kids that they should change their appearance so they can attract a good husband. As well, it has even been given as a gift for high school graduation. Koreans getting plastic surgery is not that big of a surprise, and perhaps not that big of a deal. There is something to be said about accepting yourself for who you are, but is better to struggle through that pain, and perhaps never get over it, or perform a surgery and make yourself feel better? I don’t know, depends on the percentage of people that are satisfied after the fact, something tells me they will still have insecurities and will still need to work through their personal problems. One thing that I had considered or joked about was, once this good looking girl and guy get married and have kids, they will be left wondering why their kid is average looking. I wonder what cosmetic surgery does for the process of mate selection and reproduction. Moreover, are they setting their child up for an inferiority complex of their own. “I wish I was pretty like mom” or “I wish I had big eyes like mom.” I guess it’s a good thing there is an easy solution for that problem.

This is a little beside the point, for now I am interested in just “aegyo sal.”  Aegyo sal is a type of cosmetic eye surgery that will give you small “bags” under the eyes. (Click on the link to see an example of some before and after shots). Aegyo itself, means “sweet” or at least that is what it tells me when I type it into google translator. You can hear, mostly girls, speak in an Aegyo tone when talking to a guy they like or parents etc. It’s kind of higher pitched and more drawn out, a cuter way of speaking.

From what I’ve heard people think Aegyo sal makes the eyes look bigger, perhaps draws attention to them. I just thought it was a naturally occurring look, and for some people it is. But, the reason why I find it interesting is because although it doesn’t look bad, I just thought perhaps it wasn’t something to be desired. In fact, it isn’t really. Belpharoplasty is a type of cosmetic surgery that does just the opposite, removes the “bags” from under the eyes. I kind of thought, when I did notice it, that the person must be tired. It’s interesting to know that some people desire that look.

So far I haven’t been able to find the English word for the surgery, but I would like to know, just to see if other people are having this procedure done.


February 4, 2010

Well originally I wanted to write about Korea’s first hospital, which was located on Jeju island. I might find out about that later. Apparently there is a TV drama about it as well.  I was almost also swayed by an article saying that serial killings are on the rise in Korea. Anyway, stick to shamanism. I know nothing about this, and I am just posting what I find on the net. So if I’m wrong, sorry.

In Korean a shaman is called ‘mudang’ (apparently this is more of a derogatory term) or ‘mansin’. In my old town of Taebaek, there was a shamanic presence. From what I could tell, it was mostly situated near or on Taebaek mountain.  Taebaek is considered to be a sacred or holy mountain. There are many of these within North and South Korea. The goal of the shaman is to be possessed by the spirit of the mountain or “mountain God” (산신).

Why become a shaman? My first guess would be, beliefs. It also doesn’t hurt that they are generously rewarded for performing ceremonies.  Whatever their motivation may be, this takes dedication as the spirit of Taebaek is well sought after. In combination with this, Taebaek has some of the coldest and bone chilling temperatures in the country. I have been up their a number of times, a few of them being in the winter. While waiting for a friend at the top on new years day (shortly after sunrise) I felt all my exposed skin starting to hurt, and the other parts that were not so protected started to follow suit. That being said, no matter the weather conditions you can always find someone banging a traditional drum or giving an offering in one of the many alters.

One of the previous Taebaek shamans, after being possessed by the spirit, correctly predicted that the recently deceased president Roh would be elected into office.  After this prediction she became more sought after than the Taebaek spirit. Performing rituals and making predictions for celebrities and businessmen alike. In 2008 she was put behind bars for taking bribes from major corporations. The bribe that landed her in jail was somewhere between 300 – 400 thousand dollars worth. Makes you wonder how much she racked up leading up to 2008.

Leading a life in Korea.

February 4, 2010

I am living in South Korea. I have been for one and a half years. The first year was spent in a small town named Taebaek  (태백) in the Gangwon Province.  It was a great experience to live there and I’m glad that I did it before making my transition to Seoul. Despite the fact that most people want to live in Seoul, there is always a little jealousy and disdain for the people that do live there. At least for myself, being on the outside.

Living outside of the sprawling mass of apartments, restaurants and hofs that seem make up the majority of Seoul, I can’t help but think, I’m glad I don’t live here. I then take pride in announcing to others that “I’m from Taebaek, in Gangwon-do.” The usual response would be, “Where?” After this question a quick response should suffice, “Oh this small town of 50 000 people.” As no one really cares where you live, since most people haven’t had the chance to leave the big city in search of what the rest of Korea might be like. Of course, I’m generalizing. But, if you live in the countryside you want to believe you made the right choice, to land randomly in some province you didn’t know existed before coming to Korea. In the end, I do believe I made the right choice, despite the fact that other people might have been having more fun, meeting more interesting people, meeting girls and guys in the same age bracket, I still had adventures. Perhaps even more than I have had living in Seoul so far.