Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Kobarea: Music From the Motion Picture

Or: My Year in a Playlist

(Now with commentary!)

Part One: Getting Settled
1. Suicide is Painless [theme from M.A.S.H.] (Manic Street Preachers) [I couldn't think of a more appropriate song to lead into a year spent in Uijeongbu. Also note the theme of this blog. Cough cough.]
2. Welcome to the Working Week (Elvis Costello)
3. It's 5 O'Clock Somewhere (Alan Jackson & Jimmy Buffet) [True, Alan Jackson isn't singing about drinking on a Wednesday night so much as he's singing about drinking on his lunch break, but the sentiment is close enough.]

Part Two: The Hagwon
4. Hard Knock Life (the Annie soundtrack) [It is a pretty hard knock life if you're a Korean kid.]
5. Who Needs Sleep? (Barenaked Ladies) [Certainly not high school students.]
6. Fight For Your Right to Party (Beastie Boys) [These kids could do with a little more fighting for their rights to do anything except go to classes and lessons and activities.]

Part Three: The First Few Weekends
7.Heroes and Villains (Beach Boys)[I would say that Seoul is full of heroes and villains. Heck, even Uijeongu.]
8. I've Got A Feeling (Black Eyed Peas)
9. Fire (2NE1)
10. Woo Hoo (The 5, 6, 7, 8s)
11. Just Dance (Lady Gaga)
12. Gold Digger (Kanye West) [Korean women do have a bit of a reputation...]
13. Bublitschki (Gogol Bordello) [I can think of no song that's more aesthetically appropriate for the post-partying fatigued/semi-hungover English teacher bumbling their way through Seoul. I think it's the tuba part.]

Part Four: The Acclimation
14. I'm Afraid of Americans (David Bowie) [I still feel weird around white people. Unfortunate, considering my current location.]
15. (I'll Never Be) Far From Home (Tiga) [The sentiment of "As far as I go, as far as I know, I always got a place called home. I cross all the seas, it's fine by me, 'cause I'll never be far from home." is something I think I already knew about myself but confirmed while in Korea: home is something I create around myself, not just the country on my passport or the town where I was born or the area where I grew up.]
16. Damn it Feels Good to be a Gangsta (Geto Boys) [Well, it does...]

Part Five: The Departure
17. Changeless (Carbon Leaf) [Basically anything I have to say about this song, I already said here.]
18. Take This Job And Shove It (Johnny Paycheck) [Korea I miss, sure. But hagwon politics? Eh...]
19. Leaving on a Jet Plane (John Denver)
20. I Bombed Korea (Cake) [I did. And I have my beer, and my stories to tell.]

Fellow (ex) expats, what would go on your playlist?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Dear Year-Ago, Pre-Korea Self,

Don't worry, Korea will be awesome, but do bear these things in mind:

  1. Don't worry about the food. In fact, worry about the food when you come back. You will miss it.
  2. In fact, you'll probably like Korean food a little too much for your own good: JOIN A GYM RIGHT AWAY.
  3. The clothes you got were acceptable, but they weren't quite in step with Korean style. Or any style. You dress kind of terribly. Just invest lots of good pants and buy the tops in Korea.
  4. And just pack fewer clothes, goofball.
  5. Don't waste so much time in Shinchon/Hongdae.
  6. Be pro-active. Get off your duff and go do more stuff: Jeju, Busan, caves, templestays, etc.
  7. Buy a toaster oven.
  8. You should have started hitting the jjimjilbangs earlier. Much, much earlier.
  9. There's plenty of cool stuff in Uijeongbu, you don't need to go to Seoul every weekend.
  10. SPAM is really, really good. Yes, really.


This will much better prepare you for your year abroad, Self. Take this advice to heart.

Love,

Your Older, Post-Korea Self

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

East versus West

Never mind that I think the breaking down of cultures into hemispheres is, at best, dated, and operates on outmoded stereotypes of both "sides." Let's get some side-by-side shots going! Mostly for the benefit for friends in Korea who might actually give a crap about seeing where I came from and what I came home to. For anyone else this is just a bunch of self-indulgent narcissism. Nothing to see here, move along.

ROUND ONE: THE DIGS



Korea




America


Winner: America

ROUND TWO: THE COOKERY



Korea



America

Winner: America again. I made those muffins in that oven.

ROUND THREE: THE NEIGHBORHOOD



Korea



America

Winner: Tie. The scenery is nice but you can't get anywhere without a car (leaving me feeling rather isolated and frustrated when my stand-in car's battery died this morning). I could walk to nearly anything I might have wanted in the 'dong: the grocery store; countless restaurants, bars, and *bongs; the bus stop; work.

ROUND FOUR: WORK



Korea



America

Winner: Again, a tie. It's one of those things where you always want to be where you're not.


ROUND FIVE: PLAY







Korea



America

Winner: Korea. (Apologies to Steven Bost—trivia night is great and I have a lot of fun, but the bartenders don't breathe fire.)

ROUND SIX: FOOD







Korea









Winner: It's all so tasty. Tie.

ROUND SEVEN: CREEPY CRAWLY PESTS



Korea



America

Winner: Korea. Mosquitoes are infinitely more manageable than stinkbugs.


ROUND EIGHT: NEIGHBORS TO THE NORTH



Korea



America


WINNER: Korea. Canada's cool and all, but you guys aren't half as hilarious as Kim Jeong-il.

ROUND NINE: EAR CANDY



Korea



America

WINNER: America, though that was a close one.



ROUND TEN: EYE CANDY





Korea





America

Winner: Who doesn't win? Everyone does. Yum.

Apologies for shifting focus from my own REALLY VERY INTERESTING life into general culture commentary. But I ran out of pictures of stuff at home.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Still Not Like the ROK

Things I Miss From Korea
  1. Noraebangs
  2. Cheap, plentiful liquor
  3. Being able to say, "Team Awesome, FIGHTING!" without sounding like a jackass
  4. Billiards halls every twenty feet
  5. Not being able to understand inane conversations going on around me
  6. Jjimjilbangs
  7. Sitting on the floor at restaurants

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

An Attempt at Curing the Reverse Homesickness

Things I Don't Miss About Korea
  1. Tiny bath towels
  2. Terrible driving
  3. People horking snot rockets on the tile floor of my apartment building
  4. Not having a dryer
  5. Not having an oven
  6. Jackass students
  7. My nasty bathroom + unreliable shower


Things At Home That Have Me Pretty Stoked
  1. Food
  2. Upcoming adventures with Tesia
  3. The cave
  4. The Q-Mart
  5. Driving Yoda around again
  6. Having a piano
  7. HUGE bath towels
  8. Being able to find clothes that fit
  9. Being able to communicate with any given store clerk/bus driver/bar tender/etc
  10. Thrift Stores