Friday, December 14, 2007

"It's Christmas in Korea – with all of the folks at home!"

Now that I’ve done a bit of a purge of some early December Christmas homesick sentimentality, I can be free to write a bit about what the Christmas season is like here in Korea so far.

As I said in my previous blog, I’m one of those people who mark things by the season. One of my favourite things about Christmas is being in places that I’m familiar with in another season – and seeing what the Christmas season does to change that place.

Usually, it’s as simple as how roof once warmed by the summer sun looks with a light blanket of snow. Coming to Korea in August, we had missed what was apparently the “heat wave”. Well, to us, the post heat wave time was hot enough. Our first day walking around Seoul with Bonnie and Ian could best be remembered as a day dealing more with humidity and jet-lag than actually seeing our surroundings.

It’s hard to imagine the shift. But coming from Calgary where we too have four seasons, I guess it’s not that hard to believe that it can be cold here too. Having spent nearly every weekend since we’ve been here exploring Seoul and surrounding area, it’s nice to have a bit of familiar context for how Christmas appears here.

This may be Asia, but Seoul is also a huge city with international flavour. It is probably safe to say that Seoul “does” Christmas maybe more than Calgary “does”, at least in some ways. I am speaking of course of the commercial aspect of the holiday. Okay – not just “commercial”, but the surface stuff – decking the halls and all that jazz. There’s a lot of money here: a lot to be spent and a lot to be made by the fortunate. The equals a lot of Christmas bling in every shop window and on every street corner.

This being my first time spending Christmas outside of North America, I was a little unsure how the Christmas season would play-out here. Before I left Calgary, I gave little more than a passing thought to what the Korean holiday season would be like. I figured that at best, there would be the obligatory mini-light displays and garish Santa statues in the subway stops. Oh, no – I’ve never been to New York at Christmas time or any other time for that matter. But I would imagine that aside from Macy’s Thanksgiving-Day Parade and Rockefeller Centre, Christmas in Seoul – at least in the busier shopping districts – is very much what it might be like in any huge city that celebrates the season.

Since we will be heading to Thailand for Christmas, we figured that we would do our best to celebrate the pre-Christmas season by checking out a few things. There’s more to come, but for now, in lazy point form, here’s part one in a selection of the Jing-a-ling-a-jing-jing that we’ve experienced in Korea so far…

1) Everland – A couple of weeks ago, Steph and I joined a few friends from school at South Korea’s largest theme-park. We figured that we owed ourselves a little R & R and decided to celebrate Shannon’s birthday with a trip to Everland. I read somewhere that the park opened in the ‘70s though it looks newer than that. Essentially, it is the Korean Disneyland, though having been to both the Florida and California Disney parks, I would say that there are huge differences.

Everland is no Disneyland, though there are similarities - seen in For all of my Disney nerd friends, I promise to go into full detail when I get home, but for now, just know that there is a ride called “Global Village” that is just as beautiful and frightening as “It’s a Small World”, an electric night parade that is just as electric as the Main Street Electrical Parade, and a plethora of shabby fast food stands – not to mention the rows upon rows of souvenir stands that look exactly like the Main Street Emporium, but sell “Aesop’s Village” characters that likely had no copyright at all.

What Everland had for us this year was a Christmas theme that was like The North Pole on Barry Bonds clear cream. It was crazy. I felt like Clark W. Griswold when we got to the gate and looked in to see a whole lotta Christmas stuff. I know that Christmas is about more than light on artificial trees, but who’s complaining? Sometimes you need a serious jolt of holiday to feel like a holiday is coming.

We had a blast and the night full of hanging-out with (relatively) new friends, riding some cool roller-coasters, and freezing our heinies off was capped-off by a truly amazing fireworks show, complete with a Santa Clause that spoke Korean and wore what was likely a 4000 volt suit – sucking enough energy with each “ho-ho” to power an entire North Korean village.

If you find yourself in South Korea, wanting to have a day and night of festive joy to kick-start your Christmas season, you could do worse than a day and night at Everland. The six of us were grinning like idiots and haven’t really stopped since. Though I wasn’t able to join my sister, her husband and my nephews in Disneyland this past October, Everland was the next best thing. Not a substitute or consolation– just something different. And it was nice to have the little buddies and their family in my thoughts.

Everland Hi-Lites? Being complete giddy twits with other full-grown adults while we watched the night parade go by, riding the “Eagle’s Fortress” – one of the highest-rated suspended roller-coasters in the world, and buying ridiculous souvenirs of our Everland trip on the way out of the park. My Sweet Carrot has become the stuff of legend.

With Christmas drawing near, I’ll be doing my best over the next week before we head to Thailand to comment on a few more Christmassy Korean things. Generally speaking, it does feel like Christmas here… as much as it can feel like Christmas when you’re away from home.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

December 8th 2007

Hello, there. So yeah... it's December 8th 2007 and while last year I was sitting in a lovely house I called home, just off 17th Avenue in Calgary, Alberta, wondering what next year would be like, I find myself a year later sitting in Korea, wondering what life is like at the place I called home a year ago.

It's December here in Korea, and yours truly is taking a Saturday Night time-out to recognize what that means to me, or what little it means, or how much – sometimes, it’s really hard to tell.

With Steph off to celebrate a friend’s birthday this evening, and me opting-out of that to celebrate shortbread cookies from home, here I sit with a small Christmas tree shining in the corner of our apartment, my 600+ Christmas songs on shuffle, baking from home thawing in the fridge, and some Cranberry tea steeping to my side. It’s all good. And with the recent weeks being as frantic as they have been, a night of Christmas relaxation is just what Santa Claus ordered.

We spent today wandering about Seoul looking for dress shirts for me to wear for online teaching over the next few weeks. We stopped by a store called “Bean Pole” which, to my friends back home, might sound like the ideal clothing store for a man of my build. But no – Koreans know Bean Pole as a rather up-scale outfitter which may be themed British (or early 19th Century America, it’s hard to tell) but is in actuality a Ralph Lauren style subsidiary of Samsung Corporation. Gwynyth Paltrow and the dude from Prison Break are their major sponsored celebrities so you see the billboards everywhere: Miss Paltrow and Mr. Miller, done-up in their finest Bean Pole finery.

I thought I’d give Bean Pole a whirl, but to no avail. Like most things I’ve tried on in Korea, the clothes were just a bit too short. Good thing too. Bean Pole can be a little hard on the pocket book. So, it was to the bargain bins for ol’ Bean Pole Davey. And guess what? Steph somehow convinced me to buy a thin black tie. Why? Because that’s what’s stylish in Korea right now. I’m sure that soon I’ll be fighting the urge to slow dance to “Love Bites”. Watchers of the latest online lessons are going to have to deal with retro Dave.

After that, it was a trip through extra crowded Myeong-Dong for a glimpse of those shoppers rushing home with their treasures. It was typical holiday madness, and I was thankful when Steph pulled me aside and without a word, lead me up a long flight of candle-lit stairs to a second and third floor coffee house where we could sit, sip coffee and look down at the muted hordes of shoppers below.

It might have been the first time in weeks that we had taken the time to just relax and just be us without a tight agenda of where to go. Now that I had my thin black tie, the day was really just about taking time – recognizing where we were, who we were there with and what we were doing. It too was good.

And now, while Steph is out with some friends, I thought I’d take the opportunity to blog a bit. I know that keeping this blog has been a lot more challenging that I had expected it would be. I remember reading a blog from a fellow Canadian in Korea when Steph and I were preparing for our trip. This guy updated every day. Granted, most of his blogs dealt with what he ate every day, but still – it was nice to get a sense of his daily news and life as a teacher here.

I realize that I haven’t been able to do that. And I wonder what the use would be to keep going when likely the only people who read this thing are my family members who I’ve been able to chat to on Skype anyway. Yet, here I am – typing-away, and realizing that there is so much I have missed writing about over the past two months. Yes – the work has been hard, but it’s also been full of good things that are plentiful enough to overwhelm the bad. I guess that’s how it is with most things here – most things in life. When I look around at some of the more unfortunate who pan-handle on the streets of Seoul, I realize how valuable it is to live a life where the good overwhelms the bad. It may seem like settling, but I’m realizing that it’s not.

I’ve also realized that some people have turned away from this blog because of my seemingly endless need to comment on the outward aspects of religion I encounter here almost every day. That’s cool. I get it. But somehow I can’t help myself. Yet, I am realizing that even in these encounters, the good can sometimes overwhelm the bad.

This afternoon on the train, after Steph and I had been accosted at COEX Mall by a Jehova’s witness mother and daughter tag-team, we had the extreme good fortune of running into Mr. An.

Mr. An reminded me of my Dad. He introduced himself at the Samseong platform and rode with us for about 15 minutes. He was well-spoken, generous and gracious. He was the kind of man who invited respect and then gave it back to you. He too was on his way from church – being a Seventh Day Adventist, he goes to Church on Saturdays. He took to time to ask about us, where we were from – what we were doing. He never once asked us to read from scripture or take a card. But he was kind enough to show us photos of himself receiving a military commendation at the age of 24 after the Korean War. He then spoke, when the situation seemed right, about why he believes what he believes, and he wondered aloud why not enough people treat each other fairly.

Between his true kindness the honest conversation we had between the three of us on a very crowded subway, I think I can honestly say that my little encounter with Mr. An might have been the single most moving experience I’ve had in a long time. I decided to tell him that he reminded me of my father. We got off the train and now I sit here by a Christmas tree in the apartment, wondering what Mr. An is going to be doing on Christmas Eve this year. If I weren’t going to Thailand, I think I’d be going on a Christmas Eve mission to find Mr. An and give him some of my mom’s shortbread form home. It’s the Macaulay Culkin in me.

But yeah, before I get too mushy…

Between the mad rush of life that seems to envelope everything in Seoul and surrounding area, I think the reason that I’ve been writing about religion so much in my blog is not just because of the in-your-face dogmatic ramblings of many, but because being here in Korea, being away from home, my senses to certain things are a bit more heightened than I thought they could ever be.

I remember reading another blogger’s thoughts about waking up in a foreign country and how when you do, you feel more invigorated than you ever have before. In the beginning, that is certainly true, but the same feeling continues to show-up from time to time. It’s like that new car smell – only different. You know what I’m saying.

But yeah – I wake up here still and I feel ready. Even things that scare the crap out of me seem to make more sense here. Perhaps the best way to explain it is to relate it to the way that I “forgive” a foreign language film. Watching Penelope Cruz in Volver a year ago was perhaps the perfect example. I understood through subtitles, though there was often an audience head obstructing my view of the words because they were near the bottom of the screen, and I had to keep jumping around in my seat to catch the meaning. Elements of magic realism in the story just seemed to make sense in a way because the voices were foreign. In a way, you just accept stuff more easily because it is all foreign, even if some of it seems to be so familiar. You sometimes forget where you are and other times, you area reminded with a certain smell or a certain alien feeling, gained simply because you are one.

Challenges seem endless, though I am starting to wrap my head around them in the only way I know how – by taking on more. For better or for worse, I’ve filled my weeks with perhaps more work than I need to (I say perhaps, Steph says “without question”) and the weeks are flying by. So here I find myself, on a cold day in South Korea – a country that judging by the summer heat should never get this frigid. This is perhaps the making of a new idiom, but a cold day in South Korea it is.

So much that we’ve seen over the past couple of months, but this is maybe the best way to deal with it – realize that my family reads this, and I need to get some thoughts out – to relax, and to give myself an excuse to enjoy Sandy’s shortbread and Mom’s gingerbread hot chocolate. Unlike Steph, I’m not watching my figure for Thailand.

Back to Christmas though. It’s coming.

I’ve always been one to mark things by seasons. Young adult relationships end, and my sentimental heart won’t be fully finished grieving them until a year has passed and I can look at the changing seasons and realize what a new fall might be without that person – perhaps what a new Christmas will be like without my Grandmother, who celebrated her own birthday on Christmas Eve – all Christmas Eve’s since her passing being a little more quiet with each year. But it takes a year to begin the letting-go. Something about me I’d be wont to change if I weren’t such an emotional masochist.

For Steph and I, this is our first Christmas without our families. For both of us, that means different things. I could go on and on about what I will be missing this Christmas, but for the sake of brevity, I will offer three suggestions. I realize that this is more for me that it is for any reader, but sometimes I just need to revel in sentiment. This is what I miss the most:

1) My other life. The kindest thing anyone has even told me at Christmas time came from another older man after seeing echo37’s first production of “It’s a Wonderful Life”. He was alone, and he walked up to me in the lobby after the show to shake my hand. All he said was: “You made my Christmas”, and he had been crying. Which pretty much set me off, but there it is. I was touched that someone could have been so touched by our simple little show.

It’s been two years since we last had the good fortune to share so directly in that Christmas story. One year since we celebrated in on film with friends in an old theatre back home, and three years since our first production of it. Suffice it to say that I can’t shake the story, its themes, or the sense of family its given to all those who were involved in it.

I miss it – and I miss it in the way you might miss a house that you’ve lived in your whole life. It took me only two years to become comfortable in the skin of George Bailey and after giving him back to the silver screen last year, I don’t feel embarrassed to admit that I want him back. How fortunate was I? I got to run through falling snow shouting “Merry Christmas, you wonderful old building and loan!” I got to be there as my dad shared a boxing day glass of red wine with one of his hockey heroes. And, I got to be a part of collective – a patchwork of little pieces of happiness that were collectively fortunate enough to survive friendships lost and friendships gained to be a memory I’ll take with me forever.

In my real life, I’m going to watch Zuzus and Tommys grow-up, but I’ll allow myself to hold onto the memories that were made when they were my children on stage. Freezing those memories and letting other ones go completely. It’s what I can do and what I have to. It might have been the only time in my life that I’ve felt as lucky as George. There was, in moments, a magic for me that was tangible. The kind of magic that romantics assign songs, tastes and smells to. An overwhelming sense of thankfulness that gives me hope in finding it again.

2) My family. Being here at Christmas time might be harder than I had thought it would be. That’s why we’re going to Thailand. Not only do I want to see what Christmas is like with white sand instead of snow, but I’m pretty sure that the distraction will be welcome. In some ways, being in Thailand will be like not having Christmas at all. You see, I’m getting all of my sentimentality out of my system tonight so that I can just let the season go without clinging too tightly to the fact that I am going to be away from my family for the first time.

I know, plenty of people “survive” Christmas without their families. Others have no families to miss. I’m reminded how lucky I am a couple of weeks ago and then again this week when packages from home arrive and I get to share my mother’s and my sister’s baking with the Korean staff at school. There’s nothing like a pair of Christmas socks to remind you how much your mom misses you.

But I’m going to miss my mom too – and my dad, and my aunt and cousin too. I will miss my sister and her new family – and my little buddies. When I think of missing the “Santa Claus Years” of my two nephews, I am reminded of the insanity of being here. Again, the good overwhelms the bad, but when I allow myself to miss my nephews and my sister, I get dangerously close to coming home. It’s easy to start asking yourself: “Why the hell am I here?” when you know that your decision to live abroad means that you don’t get to spend time with your family. All years are good ones, but those Santa Claus Years are maybe some of the best. My thoughts and a big part of my heart are with them.

3) Our traditions. Not being a traditionally religious guy, it would be no surprise to learn that Christmas for me was always more about maintaining the magic than it was about church – though certainly church had its place in my life too. I’m one of those Christmas Eve church guys. I know the real church people don’t like that, but I’m comfortable feeling good about sharing little Christmas Eve church action. You really can’t go wrong with candles, kids in reindeer sweaters and “Silent Night”.

My childhood traditions are the usual ones and nowhere near as eloquently rendered as those of Dylan Thomas: shopping at Canadian Tire with allowance money so I could get my dad some golf stuff and my uncle some fishing tackle, tobogganing at the school hill with my sister and coming home to defrost our toes on the kitchen heater with a mug of hot chocolate at the ready, and watching the yearly Christmas specials WHEN they aired because we didn’t have a VCR until later years. Face it – The Grinch was infinitely more awesome when CBC showed it with the intended commercial breaks. On DVD, I wonder why the screen goes black just as the mean one’s about to slide towards Whoville on his ramshackle sleigh.

But though I’ve sacrificed basic mathematic skills to allow more room for my brain to remember certain aspects of my childhood, I might be able to narrow-down my copious amounts of Christmas nostalgia to one favourite memory – luckily for me, it was one that repeated every year:

While some have fond memories of the fresh scent of thawing pine, we used to have one of those artificial trees with the color-coded branches. We packed it into the garage every year and we brought it out again the next year in early December. It was tradition for Dad and I to get the box with the tree and the other boxes with the ornaments. I was so excited to open each box and see last years ornaments still faithfully waiting for us. Fueled by Rankin-Bass Christmas specials like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, I was happy to let my childhood imagination sensibilities stick around a few more years so that I could continue to apply a primary school thought process to an approaching adolescent lifestyle.

It worked for me.

If I am not entirely solid in my religious beliefs, I am pretty sure that I do believe in the idea of the sacred. But being a liberal guy, I’m also happy to believe that EVERYONE has the power to apply a sense of divinity or sacredness to whatever we felt justified in. It’s like the force before the bastardization of midichlorians (that one’s for the geeks). To me, my Christmas memories are as divine as it gets – the way the air smelled when my Dad and I wrestled coloured lights into the tree out front on a night so cold the bulbs would burst if they touched the snow, the way a fairly shabby Christmas tree can look beautiful when you squint a give the light bulbs star lines, and the way that a kid can feel a sense of loss at the idea of growing up when he suddenly reaches a Christmas that seems too familiar to him – lacking in something new and uniquely magical.

But it’s that familiarity that I’ll miss this year. I already do. And I suppose what I’m struggling with most is the wanting to feel sentimental and the necessity not to. I’m doing “secret Santas” in all of my classes and they are pretty excited about it. Steph and I have each selected a class to teach “Jingle Bells” to and we’re excited about being Christmas nerds and parading our kids up and down the hallways to entertain the other classes on the last day before Christmas break. I’ll find a way to celebrate and I’m sure that the beaches of Thailand will help to sooth the situation.

Still, I have decided that I will allow myself to miss the Christmases that I knew while reminding myself that I would have missed them this year regardless of time and place because those Christmases are gone and I can’t get them back. I can only hope that in a few years, maybe as early as next, I’ll be in a room with friends and family valuing them in person, and missing my time in Korea while I eat shortbread cookies at home.

I feel safe in knowing that Bedford Falls, like home, is a place that once visited can always be returned to – even as it changes.

Friday, November 30, 2007

The Biggest &#$hole in Korea

It seems that I just cant’ stop writing about religious stuff. Read along if you care to…

With the release of the new holiday children’s film “The Golden Compass” this coming Wednesday, it appears that Catholic Groups are up in arms in their view that the film (and the book series it is based on) is an attempt from a noted atheist author to “indoctrinate our children” into accepting atheist beliefs. I wonder if the phrase "indoctrination of children" was on C.S. Lewis' mind when he wrote about a certain lion hero rising from the dead.

The author of the series, Philip Pullman, is an award-winning author who writes for children, young adults and adults. His trilogy entitled “His Dark Materials” (of which The Golden Compass is the first book) is a celebrated fantasy tale. The third book from the series (“The Amber Spyglass”) became the first ever children’s book to win Britain’s coveted “Whitbread Award” as overall book of the year, regardless of genre. This is a feat that not even Harry Potter was able to accomplish, but Seamus Heaney’s (Ireland’s Poet Laureate’s) widely celebrated re-telling of “Beowulf” was. This just gives you an idea of the impact of Pullman’s work. The simplest way to describe the plot might be to say that it is a modern fantasy re-telling of Paradise Lost. But you should read to book and decide for yourself.

From interviews I've seen, it would be difficult to describe Pullman as anything other than an extremely likable, literate, intelligent and compassionate man. Nowhere is this more clear than in his writings in “His Dark Materials” trilogy. So I find it amusing that Catholics feel the need to spout their propaganda of fear every time something in popular culture comes along – be it a Dan Brown best-seller or a brilliant film from Martin Scorsese that shakes things up a bit and dares to offer a new idea.

Now, religious fundamentalists want to scare conservative parents away from one of the best works of fiction this century has produced, if only so they can keep them focused on the one grand work of (at least partial) fiction that they feel comfortable with. “All other fictions be damned!” In a world of exclusionary religions, regardless of any universal truths that any of them might carry, to the Catholic League, “The Golden Compass” may as well be the Qur’an. For those keeping score, Bill Donohue, head of the U.S. Catholic league is openly condemning the books and the film. The Pope (remember that guy?) has said nothing.

So, being excited for the release of the film version of one of the best books I’ve ever read, I was, I suppose, not at all surprised to see the controversy surrounding the up-coming release. If you really want to have a laugh at angry right-wing clown work, check out the Fox News report from a few weeks ago. It still amazes me how Fox News pundits continue to make asses of themselves while being blithely unaware of the fact that they are making their “targets” look like Einstein.

I was also not surprised to see this guy standing on a street corner in Itaewon – literally (“Western Town”) so-named because of the US Military base nearby. It is a district of Seoul that you might like if you prefer the companionship of Phi-Gamma-Delta during the times of year when Daytona Beach is a little too cool. It’s pretty much a hole, or what other Seoulites like to refer to as “the armpit of Korea” because it is a district with little to no redeeming cultural value, but it more than makes up for this by the addition of such swell places as “Hooker Hill”, or any of the ex-pat frat-boy bars that draw the exact sort of clientele I used to try to avoid on my way home on the Red Mile back in Calgary.

But in Itaewon I found myself a couple of weeks back as Steph and I were visiting a travel agent to book our tickets to Thailand for this Christmas. As we crossed the street, I heard some dude strumming madly on his guitar – not a particularly unusual phenomenon here in Korea, but this time he was saying something different. Between versus of a song I’d never heard before, he had the generosity to stop and explain his purpose for being there, and I quote:

“Our great God calls upon all people: Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, to renounce their false God and accept the one true God – our Lord, Jesus Christ as your personal savior!”

…then it was back to the guitar strumming. I would also add that this man took the time to learn the same phrase in Korean, just in case any actual Koreans wanted to spend some time in Itaewon. Good on him for learning what little of the language he likely felt he needed to know. I was admittedly impressed, being that I’ve only taken the time to learn the necessities like “Thank-you” and “Hello”. Of course, my mission is much less divine than his. Perhaps all I need is more motivation for my cause.

I was, as you might predict, more than a little bit angered by this. Part of me wanted to go all Pete Townshend on his ass, or maybe treat him more like the Juicy Fruit guy. Smashing this joker's guitar would have truly been “sweet”. Another part of me wanted to hand him my copy of Richard Dawkins latest contribution to the literary world – at least that can be read in quiet. But the “better angels of my nature” prevailed.

I simply walked away from that place, into the National Museum of Korea. It was beautiful. We spend a couple of hours wandering the halls, looking at artistic and archeological contributions from all over the world – things passed-down from civilizations I couldn’t be further removed from. Some of these relics were of more interest to me than others. Some were pieces from times of violent conquest, and others were all about the opposite.

After walking through three massive levels of the museum, I finally came to a darkened room with only one piece inside. It was the Pensive Bodhisattva Maitreya, more commonly known as the Pensive Buddha. I sat in that room for half an hour. It was beautiful. It was peaceful. It reminded my how valuable other ideas are.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Classroom Bachelorhood

A favourite essay topic to assign here in Korean classrooms is "would you rather be married or single, and why?". There are always a few creative answers. So here, uncensored, are three representative favourites from one of my senior classes. Enjoy...

Essay #1 - "I want to get married!"
Jacob, a nice, considerate young man, expresses his romantic side...

"Many people are single or married. Today many people divorce because they are fighting for personality. So, they do a divorce notice. I think it is very terrible. But when I married I will be married because I will be not do lead a lonely life, I will be go wedding trip and do newly-married life.
I married I will be married because I will be not do lead a lonely life. Some people are fighting for personality. So, they are divorce. So, they do lonely life. But I married I don`t do fight and don`t do lead a lonely life. I think to do this like, it won`t be do a dicorce. It won`t to do a fight.
I married I will be married because I will be go wedding trip. The wedding ceremony is finished go wedding trip. It is fun to go married people. Some people go Hawaii for wedding trip. I think it is good to go wedding trip because it looks fun to go.
I married I will be married because I do newly-married life. The wedding trip are finished do newly-married life. It is no lead a lonely life. It is fun to live a newly-married life. I think it is fun to do newly-married life.
The married life is good. I will be married because I will be not do lead a lonely life, I will be go wedding trip and do newly-married life. I like to do married life. I like married life!!!!!"

Essay #2 - "Marriage sucks!"
Damian - a sassy young man, extols to virtues of life in a PC room, rebelling against his parents and the freedom to read comic books whenever he damn-well pleases...

Most of people have married. Marry is some activity that we have to. But my guess is little big different. It's okay to don't have married. If we don't do married we just have no babies. I think they do married because of their parents. Their parents are yelling at them they are scared of them so they do married. I want be single because it is my life, I can't do something that I want and don't have pay much money.
It is my life. Why do I have to do married. I can choose my life not for parents. If I want be gagman I will and if I want be soccer player I will. I want live that I want. Any one can't stop my life.
I can't do some thing that I want. If I'm leader of my family I can't play game and can't burrow the comic books. I don't want that is not free. My creed is live that I want. If I don't I can't live because it is not my my way to live.
I don't have to pay a lot of money. If I'm not single and leader of the family, I have to pay food, clothes and otherthings. Then, I will burrow from oter people and parents. I don't want married because I don't know my future. I can be nice or worse.
We can choose our life like me. If you want to live true life, don't do what do your parents said. You will be always not good because you live in a lie life. Please don't think what do your parents said, just live what do you want. I want be single because it is true life.

Essay #3 - "Woman - where's my soju?!!!"
For anyone interested in a more old-school approach to Korean sex roles, check-out Patriarchal Jeff and his rosey approach to life with the old "ball and chain" - my apologies to feminists everywhere...

"Some people did marry and some people didnot marry.I think the marry is better than single. Because, if marry, the wife help me. Also if marry, we`re not lonely. Also, the spn or daughter make happyme.
I want to married when I grow up because, the wife help me. The wife do chores,and many thigs. Ithink wife is need person.
If I grow up but I don`t married, I will very lonely.However if I have wife, I am not lonely. I don`t want lonely, so I will married if I grow up.
If I married, my daughter or son make happy me. If I single, I will spend bor ing time.
I want spend happy time, so I will married.
Married is better than single. I see inthe newspaper, Man can have long life if man married."

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

My Halloween

I hope that this isn’t a sign of things to come…

My first Halloween in Korea was very much a low-key one. This past Saturday – you know, the one that falls before Halloween – the ones where everyone parties, does the “Monster Mash” and drinks to excess? Well, for me – a guy getting over a shabby cold – those things just were not options for me. While some of the other teachers headed into Seoul for a cool costume party, I stayed at the apartment under layers of clothes and a blanket – reading, playing Zelda on my DS, and reminiscing about Halloween’s past.

No party for me. Though I did find myself wishing that I had found room in my suitcase for my Jack Skellington costume. It needs to be resurrected and this would have been the prefect place for it. Like most Asian countries, Korea is bonkers for The Nightmare Before Christmas. I missed out on a great opportunity to get sick amounts of candy ☹

So, yeah… my Halloween kind of passed without notice in a lot of ways. I can’t accurately speak to how Koreans handle Halloween in a traditional sense. I get the feeling that they don’t. What I have seen here and have read about here are many westernized versions of Halloween – trick-or-treating and the like. I even saw a large elementary school nearby with a large professionally-printed banner that was promoting a trick-or-treating night. So, who knows? Maybe people do get into it a little bit more than I thought.

There are also, of course, the obligatory bar parties in Itaewon where the majority of foreigners can “get their Halloween on”. Right or wrong, I might have actually gone to Itaewon for the night, just for Halloween – only if I could have been Jack for a time. Sigh… it wasn’t to be.

My Halloweens past have been filled with family and friends and weird as it is, I loved how the street my parents live on was transformed by the simple addition of glowing pumpkins, child-made paper cobwebs, and the odd house that went all-out by creating a graveyard and putting spooky things in the front yard trees. Everything just looked, felt and seemed different that night. I have great memories of Halloween parties – in houses or at bars/pub crawls – dressing-up as Eric Draven and Jack, and loving it when Sandy would do a dead-on version of Dana Scully from the X-Files.

I also loved the few years that my friend Ben, and I got to help our friend Michelle decorate her parents’ place to the nines – a full graveyard, a 9’ tall Grimm Reaper with glowing eyes. It was a good time. If Halloween is only really about fun, and perhaps the fun in being scared, then there’s really nothing wrong with a few decorations, trick-or-treats, scary movies, partying with friends, and gathering around to watch an old-school classic like “Dracula” with your friends while you munch on pumpkin seeds and eat far too much candy - just because it’s there.

This Halloween was a little bit different for me. October 31st was to be the first day of online lesson filming for me. I was to deliver the online lessons in front of a camera for a “Senior 5” level course theme that focuses on “Voices of the Revolution” – a unit devoted to children’s stories about the American Revolution – no, not the one that is currently orchestrated by voting machine fraud, but the one that happened in 1776.

Truth is, the night prior to Halloween, I had one of those nights where I lie awake for hours, grinding my teeth and thinking non-stop about the day ahead – what I need to do, what I need to remember. It didn’t help to know that I would be teaching a story about Paul Revere and I couldn’t sleep for the horse-hoof noises my brain was creating, or for the strains of “Yankee Doodle Dandy” that wouldn’t leave my subconscious.

So, after three hours of sleep, I head off to Bundang – the nearby city where you can find the head office of our school, as well as the online lesson studio where we film. This involves getting on the bus by 8 am at the latest, 30-40 minute bus ride, transfer to the subway for four stops, then about a 20 minute walk to the office. So, about a 90 minute one-way trip. Not entirely a pain in the ass actually – it gives you a chance to relax on the bus, listen to some music or podcasts, and just see a little bit more of Korea as it rushes by your window at 80km/hour.

But on a morning when I was suffering from lack of sleep, and a distinct fear of that I can really only classify as stage fright or performance anxiety, the bus ride was more like torture than anything else. Truth be told, I wouldn’t have been at all disappointed had the bus had a flat tire, causing me to cancel filming for the day. It was a bit of a throw-back really, I hadn’t been that nervous about anything since my first days of University, when I was so shy and terrified of public speaking that I would withdraw from a class that mentioned anything about oral presentations on the syllabus. I was kind of enjoying the remembrance of my young adult fear, when I found myself at the studio and just tried to live in the moment – do my best, and all that jazz.

The lesson was actually okay… I think. I ended-up doing a couple of them on the first day, with more to be filmed in the coming weeks. Basically, online lessons consist of teachers using a “teachers guide” to the story being covered and using the medium to enhance the story lesson by focusing on key study methods, examining finer points of the story, as well as reminding students how to critically look at the text so as to get the most out of the reading. It actually sounds pretty simple and you are given a lot of simplified resources to use, but, as in most things surrounding school, I tend to over-prepare to the point of losing my focus on the big picture. I think the end is result is okay, though I am sure I could do without the excess time I spend studying for the lessons, or the lack of sleep that happens as a result of my misguided, school-centered OCD.

Oh, well… it was nice to have the first day of filming over with. I know now that the future lessons will go smoothly and I will not be as over-prepared as I had been for the first one.

I had been looking forward to the bus ride home, ever since I had gotten on it in the morning. It was a sense of something accomplished, but now I had the rest off the day to look forward to. The rest of my day was to consist of three classes that I hadn’t properly prepared for as a result of my online class preparation. One of these classes was to be an “open class” – a time for the parents of my students to sit-in and see what was going on in the classroom. They would silently observe the class and then there would bee a portion when the kids would bee busied with some other stuff so that I could talk to the parents in the other room and answer any questions they had about their child’s progress or lack thereof.

So, I run into class after getting back into Suwon. Steph graciously takes care of lunch for us both. I run around like mad trying to prepare both my room and my material for the open class, as well as the two classes the open class is book-ended by. And when the “open class” arrives… one parent shows-up. I ask my students why their parents didn’t come and they tell me it’s because they didn’t know about it. I ask my counselor why there was only one parent and she tells me it’s because the parents were sent a text message about it that afternoon. Hmmm…

Instead of feeling completely pissed-off and disappointed, not to mention regretful of having spent so much crazy energy preparing for the open class, when I really didn’t have any energy to spend. I decided to shrug it off. There – look, I’m learning. My last class went well, and like the two before it, we finished-off with some tootsie roll lollipops and a viewing of Disney’s animated chase sequence from “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”. The kids had never seen it before and they were laughing and shivering in all the right spots.

So, despite the lack of sleep, the lack of organization, and the lack of costumes t was a good Halloween, all in all. Earlier in the day, I had forgotten to mention, I came across a parade of cute by the community centre / daycare close to the apartment. It was on my way back from Bundang, and they were having a costume parade with their teachers. Suddenly, I remembered what day it was.

Still, I missed my friends and family and I really missed seeing my nephews as dinosaurs and lions.

I am going to go to extreme measures to make sure that Christmas doesn't come and go in my Korean life without enough fanfare.

Palaces, Lattes and A Public Nuisance

I'm playing catch-up here, but I'm okay with it. Last weekend Steph and I headed in our separate ways so that we could catch-up with some friends from home. While Steph drove out for a Saturday night in Itaewon and surrounding area - eventually making her way to a pig roast, I opted for the more traditional Saturday afternoon outing.

My day began with a trip to Insadong - one of our favourite little Seoul districts so far. There are good segments of it that are quite touristy, but it's worth it - small, cobblestone streets and lots of tea houses, coffee shops, art galleries and museums. I met with brother Ian for a nice long coffee at where-else? Starbucks. It is sometimes nice to get a taste of home while you're here. It was great to catch-up. It seems like it's been a long time since we were room mates back in Calgary, but meeting for coffee made it seems as though we were back there just waiting for Rob and Nav to come over so that we could play a little Halo online. Ah... the memories... we then went for a short walk to a music market that is the equivalent to Youngsan, only instead of electronics, this place is all about musical instruments. It makes me tempted to buy a guitar so that I can finally learn to play something other than "hot cross buns". Perhaps I'd better master the tin flute first.

After a coffee, we went for a stroll around the largest palace in Seoul: Gyeongbokgung (one of many English spellings that I have seen since I've been here). Insadong is also nice because of its close proximity to this and other worthwhile heritage sights. Like the palace that steph and I saw in our second week here, Gyeongbokgung is beautiful, huge, and majestic. Well, of course it is - it's a palace. But what makes the thing even mor impressive is the fact that it is one of the many that has been destroyed by occupying forces throughout the centuries since it was built in the late 1300s. It's a pretty sweet place to walk around. The grounds are huge, and though I would say that Changdeokgung Palace is in some ways a bit more picturesque, Gyeongbokgung is still a beautiful place to spend a couple of hours. We didn't have too much time to walk about, though I would like to return some day. There is a lot more to see there than time would allow.

After saying goodbye to Ian, I headed back towards Myeong-dong to visit with Joe - a friend I had know through the theatre community in Calgary who had been in Japan the past couple of years, teaching English. After a quick return to Calgary, Joe is back in Asia (Korea) teaching again and pursuing his masters in TESOL. It was great to catch-up with him and to wander around some of the madness for a while. Even better was having a plate of nachos and a giant jug of beer to ourselves. Better still was spending an evening chatting to a guy who missed theatre as much as I did, but was doing something equally important to him. That was very reassuring to hear.

My way back home on the subway provided me with my first truly strange experience with a Korean. How strange? It was really a beyond-the-realms-of-all- that-I-knew-“strange”-to-be, kind of strange. I was standing on the subway reading my new Richard Dawkins paperback when I was witness to a near religious experience! Well no – not really. What actually happened was I saw an older man – perhaps in his 70s though here it seems to be very difficult to tell someone’s age.

He was not a frail man though. And he was trying to chat-up a nice lady who happened to be the unfortunate one that chose to sit beside this man. He was pawing her a bit – not in an inappropriate way necessarily, but just in a “listen to me” or a “look at me” kind of way. For anyone who has ridden public transit before, this guy would be familiar to you. He was either inebriated or just plain wacky! Either way, I would, every now and then, glance over at the poor lady who would catch my eye and give me a pleading look as if to say: “please, freckly pale man… please get me the hell out of here!”

I could only comfortably reply with a knowing glance and a quiet shared laugh. But then the lady got off the train and it was my turn. The man decided that it was me who needed to be prodded next. So, he rose from his seat and approached me. He threw his arms around me and kissed both of my cheeks. This seemed to please the majority of the other people in the car who were either delighted at my discomfort or embarrassed as all hell for my predicament. I am hoping it was the latter.

Dude guided me to sit down with him where, through the assistance of a nearby surly and reluctant university student, I was able to understand most of what this man was saying, while the student was able to translate for me too. All was fine – even positively memorable at first. But then he wanted me to start singing with him. He tried to conduct me along with his Korean song, but I couldn’t understand the words or the song at all. At this point, I was also feeling the pain of realizing that I was in a subway car and I was the modern day discomfort equivalent of William Wallace on the cutting table. I simply needed my freedom. He suddenly developed an angry look on his face when I wouldn’t sing. I asked the young man nearby why this man would be mad, and he said “he thinks you should learn Korean.” Fair enough.

After I looked around at the other faces that were now too terrified to laugh or even offer a sympathetic glance, I realized my stop was next, took out my camera, snapped a quick photo of my new friend for this here blog and got the hell out of there. There is nothing like being ostracized in public in another language to really make you feel like an outsider. But – lesson learned: try to learn more Korean so to avoid similar occurrences in the future. Either that, or just realize that Korean Rail crazies are just the same as C-Train crazies back home and move to the next subway car.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

In today's news back in Canada...

Just to show that this was apparently a hot button issue all over the world this week, here's a little piece from the CBC. Just copy and paste the following into your address window and hit "enter". Enjoy...

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Back to class...

Just a quick update and explanation for my lack of blogging recently. Work (school) is kind of kicking my ass lately. There are certain times of the month where us teachers here seem to share a certain survival instinct. There's a lot to do, in a very short amount of time and it involves a lot of hard work, compromise and plain old bending to suit the needs of others, even if those needs aren't always understood by everyone involved. It should be something I would have gotten used to through my past work experiences. I am learning to play, it just takes me a bit longer.

I care about my kids - even the ones who create a situation where I am tempted to throw small (or not so small) children out the window of a windowless classroom. It's a challenge to know that maybe only 25% of my kids are reachable and the rest simply have varying degrees of not caring. It's a tough position to be in - to see how one student could be positively affected through change, and then recognizing that I am powerless to affect that change through the consequence of actually being honest about their work in my class. Sometimes it just isn't the school's idea of the "best policy".
Oh well, it's time to turn the corner and see what I can do within these rules. I love these kids - even the ones who are determined to be a pain in the ass or who try to convince me that they couldn't possibly care any less. Little magic moments for me are found in places like giving more comments that necessary on a book report, to find a few weeks later that the child's writing has actually improved a great deal, they've read what I've said, and they seem to get it now. There's nothing like seeing the reaction of a student receiving his or her first truly earned "A". That's worth it to me. But, yeah - sometimes it's about survival, and survival through compromise is often the only viable option.

A Little Store and a Huge Nerd

I know that most people will stop reading this after the second sentence, but I’m okay with that. I bought my first video game here in Korea a couple of weeks ago and I thought I would blog about it.

…still there? Good. So yeah, it’s been a long time since my last post – mainly because I had hit that part of the month when essay marking and report card writing takes precedence over everything else in my life, including eating and sleeping properly. So blogging had to take a back seat to the bare necessities. Plus, my last topic seemed to have generated some heat so I thought I’d take the opportunity on a Sunday night to showcase my nerdish self, and to promote a local business as promised.

I haven’t owned a game system since the good ol’ Nintendo 64 and to tell you the truth, I had missed geeking it up on that, or previous systems with my friends back in the day. So, with my Korea trip on the horizon a few months back, I decided to pick-up a Nintendo DS – a cool little hand-held system that has a very fun, unique and interactive game library to choose from. I picked-up a couple of games for it before I left and in Calgary it was a fun little pick-me-up before bed or just nerding-out on a Sunday afternoon. The coolest feature is the wireless capability of the thing which allows you to play against people from all over the world – via the internet. There’s nothing quite like racing in Mario Kart against some kid in another country, who is likely 6 years-old and kicking my ass soundly.

Here in Korea, I have whipped-out the DS on the subway a few times without shame – since it is a normal occurrence to find couples not only wearing the same clothes, but also sitting close together in subways or a coffee shop, playing their matching pink DSs. It’s all good.

Imagine my chagrin however when the most anticipated game of the year, save for maybe Halo 3, was coming out on the DS this October and I would have no way to get the game in English. A true tragedy in the making.

But fear not, fair readers – Steph found a fine little establishment down a side-street here in Youngtong where we live called “Hyperbook”. It appears to be owned and operated by one of the nicest men I’ve met so far here in Korea. The store deals in portable video games and DVDs mostly, as well as random stuff from various anime films and tv shows. A true mini nerd Mecca. I asked if the guy would be able to order me a copy of the game I was wanting in English, and sure enough, he texted me the next day to let me know he could.

The game was here three days later and I’ve been a satiated nerd since. The game is “The Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass” and it’s a pretty damn cool little game, for those that are interested in that sort of thing. For Steph – not so much. But that’s okay, I can disappear into my own little world of Hyrule for a few minutes here an there and I can bask in the glory of a pretty great little game. Steph can visit Hyperbook whenever she's in the mood for a new Peek-a-Pooh. Just ask Steph what those are...

For anyone who is reading this blog and is interested in getting English Language games for their DS or PSP while in Korea, feel free to drop me a line and I’ll pass on the phone number of Hyperbook to you. I’m sure he’d appreciate your business and he might even throw in a free “Eagles Live” DVD as he did for me.

I plan on picking-up the DS version of the Korean / English touch-screen dictionary next month. It works like a charm and it’ll be about and eighth the cost of the other electronic dictionaries I’ve seen here.

So, head to Hyperbook and satisfy your inner (or outer) nerd. I’ll be reminiscing of hanging-out with Shaners, finding the master sword and kicking some Ganon heinie!
It’s true – I still have a girlfriend.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Women are from Venus, but They'd Rather be from Mars.

I have learned this little tidbit of information fairly recently and I learned it from the young. For anyone concerned about body image issues solely in North America, they should perhaps take a gander at the culture of thin that exists in Korea.
While teaching my middle-school kids about the nine planets in our solar system this past week, I discovered that the girls were particularly excited about Mars and Mercury.

Why? I assure you it has little to do with the Gods after which the two planets are named. It does, however, have everything to do with the fact that their gravitational force is less than half that of Earth. Ergo, a 100 lb person would weigh only 38 lbs on the surface of either Mars or Mercury. When I told my class this, there were murmurs and whispers and looks of longing. I asked what was up and they offered to tell me that they'd like to live on Mars instead of Earth. They said that they would prefer to live there so that they could weigh less. These girls are maybe 15 years old.

You might expect that they were saying what they said with an acknowledged sense of irony, yet there was a certain resignation in their voices and faces. Then the discussion began. I found myself somehow remembering what Professor Rebbecca Sullivan said in my only option of Women's Studies during my brief dip into post-secondary introductory feminism, and I started letting them know that weight should always be about health, and never about they way we look.
But then they let me know that that is not how things are - at least where they are living.

On a recent trip into Gangnam - a fairly busy and fashionable district of Seoul, we came across this aptly-named store. Can you think of anything more true than this name? At least it's honest. Though I wonder of the ladies and gentlemen who frequent it recognize the truth in the idea that false beauty is only borrowed, and eventually, someone's gonna come collecting. We went into the store and found crazy amounts of cosmetics and skin creams - among them: "whitening creams" for men and women so that they can closer approach the western ideal of what it means to be beautiful.
It made me a little bit sad, and it made me a great deal more than thankful to count myself among the apparent minority who could give less than a rat's ass about taking beauty out on credit.

Age gracefully, eat healthy food, and tell the haters to piss-off. Their only getting deeper in debt anyway and when that bill comes, they're going to be some pissed. I'm going with the freedom 55 plan, and I'm sure I'll look like James Cromwell with love handles by then, but at least I'll be happy and prepared for it. I will probably also have traveled around the world twice with the amount I will have saved from lack of plastic surgery. There's beauty in living that shows.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A Paycheque, a Swan, a Sweater, and a Man-Purse

Saturday, October 6th marked our last weekend sans paycheque. Thank the maker! Though we always had enough to get-by, it’s been a bit of a struggle to go through the weekends (and weeks for that matter) seeing things you’d like to do or like to get (such as food other than kimbap from time to time) and having to walk-away because of A: lack o’ funds, B: the W120,000 you spent on concert tickets, and C: the start-up costs that one needs to pay upon arrival – things like cell phones, groceries, bedside tables… you know, the whole nine.

Still, we headed into Seoul for a little trip to Yeuido Island with our friend, Amy. I had been longing since we arrived to head to the Han River. It’s a combination of wanting to see more space around me, and wanting to be a huge nerd and see one of the filming sights for a cool Korean flick I saw in Calgary before we left.
It turned-out to be a very relaxing day indeed. We headed into town on the bus in the early PM and went straight to Yeuido which is one of many downtownish-type areas in Seoul. Yeuido is actually an island in the middle of the river. For those Calgarians reading this, think Prince's Island, only the size of the Downtown core. The Han is also a kilometer wide in parts so it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the size of things here. Yeuido is also very upscale, though it wasn’t very busy at all on this particular Saturday afternoon. We ended-up getting off at the wrong stop, though we found our way to the river’s edge after only a short while.

There are about a thousand parks along the Han river within the city limits and they seemingly stretch on for ever. It almost ends-up being more like one huge riverside park with a few breaks in-between. The parks on Yeuido are relatively full of families and people who just want to hang-out by the river, fly a kite with their kids, eat some BBQd squid with their sweetheart, or maybe board a giant swan paddle-boat for some cheesy watery fun!

So that’s what we did. It was nice to be a giant tourist and do something just for the hell of it. We nearly got rocked by some vicious school girls out to play bumper-swans, but we survived and had a good time just the same.
Yeuido also holds one of the bigger tourist attractions in Seoul. The 63 Building is a pretty gold sky-scraper with slanting lines. It houses an aquarium and some other goodies too, though I couldn’t convince the girls to walk that far after leading them around Yeuido for half an hour already.

The walk along the waterfront was great though and it was cool to see some of the sites from the filming of “The Host” – the Korean monster movie I mentioned before. After walking around though, I am pretty convinced that a number of locations were used to stand-in for one. Being a film geek, I am sure that I’ll be checking-out more riverside parks in search of giant mutated amphibious beasties hanging from bridges. I just want to see it all.

But yeah – back to the paycheque. Let me tell you, a fridge sure looks different when it’s full! It’s just better knowing that you can stick to a budget while still being able to buy food that isn’t all the same, every damn day ☺. I’m sure though that I will return to the land of Kimbap from time to time… check that – I already have. But yeah, it’s cool to cook more here at home and I look forward to using Janos’ Korean cook book as soon as possible.

Getting paid also afforded us a couple of cool things this past weekend when we headed into DongDaeMun and NamDaeMun in search of stuff that we’d wanted to pick-up, but could only stare at. Steph got all clothes-happy shopping with Amy and Melissa. I tried talking down the flea market guy on an Arcteryx jacket. Had the jacket been real (it wasn’t), it would have run for somewhere between $600.00 and $700.00 Canadian. He quoted me W130,000 and I got him down to W70,000. Noticing the cheap zipper and poor stitching as well as the hastily sewn-on label, I tried talking him down to $50,000. He got pretty pissed, and I walked-away satisfied that I didn’t get suckered into buying something that would have likely fallen apart in a month.
Then I did something that all Korea-living men eventually break-down and do. I bought a man-purse. Oh yes!!! You see, I always thought it unfair that women should be able to carry all their shite around al the time, while us men only have access to our wallets. As Jason “Recognize” Villanueva would say, “That’s whack!” Especially while I’m in Seoul, I want to be carrying my camera, maybe an umbrella, a book, a guide-book, my ipod, and maybe even my DS. In other words – Davey needs a man purse. So that day, this past Saturday-after-paycheque day, I began my quest.

But first, I had to get into the vibe of what it means to be in Korea and be comfortable with one’s sexuality. I have to say, I’m still not digging the pink (sorry, Rob), but even I have me weaknesses, and my weakness this night manifested itself in the form of a crazy cool dark grey cardigan sweater at a shop by the name of “Teeny Weenie” – yes, that’s correct. TW is a Korean brand that’s pretty upscale and popular judging by the storefronts and interiors that we’ve seen so far. It’s kind of like Ralph Lauren with Teddy Bears instead of polo players and the design is kind of American Collegiate style. Not that I care about any of that, but I do care about the fact that the Fred Rogers in me just needed to try one of these bad boys on and when I did, it was love at first feel. I really don’t care that this makes me look like a grandfather. I’m also comfortable about my age. Dig?

After my sweater purchase, I bid the ladies adieu in search for the man purse, and I would stop at nothing short of perfection. I don’t want something that screams “too hard” or “too soft”. I’ve never been a leather man, and I’ve got book-bags for my laptop etc. at home. No – what I needed was a man-purse that didn’t make me look awkward or desperate. After wandering about the near-deserted streets of Namdae-mun, breathing in the over-powering odor of steaming silkworm pupae, I found it – a subtle little number just perfect for those trips into Seoul. I talked the guy down from 30,000 to 20,000 and I was a happy camper. I’m going to give the little baby a test-drive this weekend, in fact.
Look-out, Seoul, because this weekend there’s going to be a Teeny-Weenie-clad giant nerd wandering your streets, brandishing the meanest Pandora’s-box-of-sass man-purse you’ve ever seen!

In other news... how about those Flames?