Thursday, December 27, 2007

I hear the Philippines are overrated.

So my friends have left me in Suwon for the hot, sunny, tropical landscape of Malapascua island in the Philippines. Last minute deals are excellent, and if you know you have vacation coming up you should always, always put aside major purchases in case you get a sweet deal the last minute. In my case, the purchase was a computer, and I will never be that stupid again. Still though, it works out since one of us had to watch our pets, so I've taken the dog, Fozzie, for a few days while my friends lie on the beach. A fair trade? Well, for Christmas Fozzie ate all the cat's food and then threw it up on my bed! You do the math. I'm really not this bitter in real life, though, and can see the humour in this whole situation... seriously.

I took him for a very long walk today and we wandered around a park in Suwon several blocks down the road from my neighbourhood, near Ingyedong. I'm so flaky, I always forget to write down the name of these places I visit, but honestly, it's pretty much the only park near Ingyedong with an amphitheatre and cool statues (including a war memorial or two) everywhere. I had a lovely walk, everyone I passed either smiled at me and the crazy poodle or looked genuinely frightened. I understand completely; Fozzie may be small, but he is ferocious. Not.

Enjoy the pictures!

The park is on quite a large hill, and has a surprisingly good view of the South end of the city!

I really enjoyed the sculptures; however this particular piece confuses me. I guess a frog in a coffee mug is a regular occurence or something.

This is the amphitheatre where once my friends and I stumbled upon the finale of a free concert. As we arrived, everyone turned around and stared at us. I felt sorry for taking all the attention away from the musicians and we left; the whole time feeling the burning stares and hearing the girly giggles. I doubt I'll go to another performance in Suwon.

Fozzie didn't know where he was going, but he was on a mission to pee on anything that struck his fancy. Better outside than in my apartment, I always say!

This tree still had green leaves. It's as if we skipped winter completely and went straight onto spring (I wish).

As I said, there were beautiful statues and memorials everywhere. It makes me feel more patriotic than I ever felt in Canada, even. Well that's a lie, actually. I am a very patriotic Cape Bretoner!

This memorial monument was really grand and beautiful. I suppose the war is still fresh in the minds of many Koreans. I often see older men in wheelchairs and wonder if they were maimed or wounded during the war. Very sad when you think about it...

The proverbial game of cat and mouse, with a carelessly forgotten jacket as an accent. I like.

This old couple was so cute. They gave me a big smile and an "anneyoseo!" and said something about Fozzie. Gad love them.

More war memorial monuments. Really well done, in my basic opinion. I'm no art critic!

It took some getting used to, seeing these Buddhist symbols all over Korea. I didn't realize that this is where the Nazi's got the idea for their swastika. In Buddhism, it symbolizes good fortune and as I hit my five-month mark in Korea, it no longer has a bad meaning for me- not that I would ever have it tattooed to my body or anything, but the symbol itself is not a symbol of hatred or facism and many people in the world don't know that. I sure didn't!

Taboo Korean graffiti. No doubt the work of some no good teenager! I love it.

Maybe I'm going too far with this, but the Korean obsession with all things White even goes back to Jesus! I'm sure Jesus would have loved Korean children too, so why not paint a picture with Korean kids in it? Maybe more would convert...?

This is the jjimjilbang I sometimes frequent! Yeah, it's awkward being naked in front of a gazillion staring Korean women, but you get used to anything. I love the saunas, and the mineral baths are to die for, and it costs less than 10 bucks for 24 hours (if you want to stay 24 hours... it's entirely up to you). You can also get the traditional Korean "scrubdown" which is too invasive for my liking, or you can get a vigourous massage by the women who work there.

Ah, the Centreble. The only place I know of where I can use my Canadian bank card. And the name is to die for! Only a Korean could have come up with such a great combination of English names for potential shopping buildings.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

My Korean Kristmas

Morning attire: sarongs and socks (thanks Mom and Dad and Matt and Margret)

Evening attire: Merry Christmas Janine...

Love, Janine.

There was turkey at Now Bar!

And Mrs. C (the bar owner) was looking festive and cheerful! Gad love her.

Fozzie and Ker at Christmas morning brunch.

Drew's little Christmas Tree. Too cute.

My parents sent 2 lbs. of my favourite Fair Trade coffee and I made cafe mochas for everyone!

Fozzie is so noncholant.

And he looks like he hates me in this picture.

My presents, sent from home with loving care.

And of course, my mother filled my stocking and sent that too.

Somi had too much catnip.

Ha Jin tore my apartment apart

First thing Christmas morning! Dishevelled kitty and dishevelled Janine.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 21, 2007

My Sweet New Song

As I previously posted, I recently found a guitar outside to be picked up by the garbage collectors. Koreans will throw out anything. Of course I took it home with me, cleaned it, and am now in the midst of trying to pry the bridge clips out so I can put new strings on it. Anyways, I don't quite have it up and running yet. I DO; however, have a song all ready for when I have it strung (stringed?). This is how it goes so far (think of the tune "These are a few of my Favourite Things" from The Sound of Music- and NO making fun of my bad Korean spelling!):

Ou hwey ja, Cha hey ja, chikchin-yo and yogi-yo
Are words that I say to tell cab drivers where to go
Maekju is beer and water is mul
These are the words that I know in Hangul...

Chingu is friend and kimchi is... kimchi
The taste is quite strong and it might make you flinch-ey
Soju is soju and honey is ggul,
These are the words that I know in Hangul!

That's all I have so far. Feel free to add a verse of your own!!

In other news, my camera has been... stolen. That is the real reason for the infrequent posts and lack of recent pictures. I was just ashamed of the fact that I let my precious camera slip between my fingers like that. Also, it's a little embarassing because whoever the theif is, he or she is now in possession of pictures and videos of me and my drunk friends acting like idiots. Oh well. When I get paid next month that will be my first purchase. For now I'm going to steal photos from my friends. It's very frustrating because the theives, I am sure, are not Korean but are fellow foreigners and I've had the most trouble with foriengers, not Koreans. It just plain sucks.

But I shouldn't be sad, it's my last day of school before Christmas vacation! I got little gifts for my kids and we're playing games all day, and then I get ten days of absolute and undisturbed freedom! Nice.

Until next time.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

And the winner is...

Lee Myung Bak! Called it.

Now, I should tell all of you that although I did not necessarily want this Conversative to win the presidency, he DID come up with a sizable majority of the votes at around 48%! This is impressive, and it is also the largest majority won in the 20 year democratic history of Korea, so maybe I shouldn't gripe too much. Also, since the campaigns of all of the candidates were based more around bashing their opponents than promoting a platform (sound familiar CANADA?), he hasn't lied a lot so not much will be expected from him, aside of course to continue to be "at war" with North Korea.

Oh, and I saw him the day before the election! Kerri and I went to Paldalmun Market after school, which is a neat market near Hwaseong Fortress, and we went to see what the commotion was about up the street. There were all these storm troopers (?) holding hands and forming a barricade in the street, and in the middle of the street there were a lot of handsome men in business suits, and THEN a campaign bus bearing our new president came slowly down the road. Of course, being white, Ker and I stuck out like sore thumbs and he gave us a big smile and wave, being the savvy politician he is (also the fact that I was standing on something and waving crazily and smiling like an idiot might have made him notice us... it went to my head, just like the time I asked Paul Martin to hug me).

Well Korea, there ya go. Don't come crying to me when corruption occurs... and it will, mark my words!

PS: I'm sorry and I'm really going to work on being less of a cynic.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Merry Christmas!!!!

From Daniel...

and Tiger...

and especially Ha Jin. LOOK how enthused this child is about christmas!

And Nina, who made the lovely wreath on top of the Christmas tree (which we made from hand cut outs!).

And even squirmy Lily...

And finally May. Possibly the sweetest child in the world.

Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Chillin and Illin

Wow, it's been awhile since I last posted- I'm sorry!

I've actually been flat on my back with the flu and laryngitis this week. I'd post some pictures, but they wouldn't be pretty- I haven't showered in awhile. Anyways, I finally feel like I'm on the mend and I'll be able to make it to school for the kids' Christmas Concert on Monday! They are all so cute, we've been having practices and they are so enthusiastic. Very sweet.

I thought since I had my first experience being really sick in Korea I'd give you all a run down on what hospitals and doctors are like here. On Thursday my neck was sore and my throat was killing me. The pediatrician in my neighbourhood didn't examine me or anything, he just looked at my throat and said "common cold". He gave me a prescription for three days- they only give you three day prescriptions here which sucks if you're ill for more than three days. Anyway, I thought nothing of it and went to bed.

The next morning I could barely get up- my whole body was just in so much pain, and my throat was so sore I couldn't even talk. I lasted about an hour at work before going home to bed. The next morning I felt even worse and decided it was time to go to the hospital. In Suwon, we have a great hospital that has a clinic especially for foreigners- all of the doctors speak English, and it makes for a less stressful visit for sure, since when you're sick and so far from home all you want to do is leave Korea (I won't lie! I was worried that I had meningitis or something, but I'm neurotic like that). Anyways, I didn't have an appointment so I wasn't sure if I would get seen... but they took one look at me at the foreigner's clinic and said if I waited I would eventually get to see a doctor. Fine by me, since I spent the whole time sleeping anyway. First they sent me to the community health section, where I waited for half an hour before spending 30 seconds with the doctor who then sent me to the ear, throat, and nose specialist, where I waited another half hour before seeing the doctor. He took one look at me and said "laryngitis"... literally two minutes later he had written me a prescription and had me on my way. Again, I was super worried because he didn't even examine me, but there was no reason to be. He was totally right.

Time for another nap. I've never gotten winded typing before!

Monday, December 10, 2007

It's Crunch Time

These very long posters are now everywhere I go. Frankly, there are too many people running for president... I couldn't even get the entire poster in the picture! There are 12 potentials, I believe, but about 9 or 10 of them don't matter anyway- it's still pretty much down to Chung and Lee. From a non-partisan perspective, my money's on Lee. Just watch him win the election. I would still love to be proved wrong, he's too much of a righty for my taste.

Anyways, I would just like to rant a little bit about how the Korean people are royally screwed over by having too many political parties and too many guys running for president. Yeah, everyone has their favourite, yeah, everyone's going to vote for the one they like the most, yeah, democracy is great, yadda yadda yadda. The point of the matter is, there won't be a true majority winner because everyone's votes will be scattered all over the place and while maybe 20% of the population wants one guy to win, there's another 80% that does not want that guy to win. It doesn't seem fair. I know there's the same deal in Canada, but it's on a smaller scale- a larger percentage is guaranteed (not that I'm giving Canadadian political parties a pat on the back; I dislike all of them). Anyway, we'll see what happens in a week when the people go to the polls. At least Lee's name has been cleared (conveniently) in the fraud scandal he was involved in. Sigh. I shouldn't care so much.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Fry Place

You can have a beer or two... or seven...

And enjoy the ambience. The writing's on the wall...

Timeless. Too appropriate.

Someone has an obsession.

Straight outta 1992.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Gimme a Head With Hair

Kim got the extensions she's wearing for her wedding shipped in today, but we wouldn't let her put them away until we had a little fun first.

Wrong colour, right length! I want my hair to grow, stat.

For Enda? Right colour, but so, so wrong in every other way.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Lunch in Super-Cool Hongdae

Last Sunday, while shopping around for Kim's wedding dress, we failed to find a place to eat near the Wedding Street (although we found out later that if we had walked a mere block towards the university we would have found a really cool neighbourhood with TONS of places to eat). Since we were only two subway stops away we thought we would go to Hongdae where we were certain we would find whatever we were looking for food-wise.

Hongdae, as I'm sure I have mentioned before, is definitely one of my favourite places in Seoul. If you're young and you like to go out on the weekends, Hongdae is the place to see and be seen. Countless clubs, bars, restaurants, and excellent shopping abound and everything has a very young and hip feel to it. If you feel like having a party outside, there's a park where people gather just to drink (there are vendor's around the park that sell beer and soju). If you feel like dancing, there are about a zillion danceclubs on the same street. If you just feel like chillin' there are other more relaxed establishments. I guess what I'm saying is, I love Hongdae.

Oh, and there's Honguk University, too.

But back to Sunday. We went to a sweet pasta place near the Hunguk University stop and enjoyed our lunch thoroughly (even if they put mustard on their garlic bread).

Imagine five young women sitting at the same table, waiting for their food, and taking pictures of themselves to pass the time. We all had our cameras out and we went a little flash crazy. Very lame? I think so.

A shot of Kerri checking out our waitor as he brought our drinks to the table.

Everyone, minus moi (someone had to take the picture).

Rachel and Amy

My lovely pasta, swimming in sauce. Just the way I like it.

Did I mention there are a lot of young adults in Hongdae? I really wish I had gotten a video of this, but I was afraid of being singled out. These young men and women were dancing like crazy, and were dressed like idiots. Do you see the Adjima's in the background? They're all wearing Grand National Party tee shirts and are there in support of Lee Myung Bak in his presidential campaign. The dancers are a chunk of the young voting population who enjoy their wealth and lifestyle too much to let someone too "liberal" run the country, and they ferverently support Lee. To make him look more appealling to the young population these kids danced in this crazy getup and there were anime versions of Lee everywhere to make him look cutesy and cartoonish.