Tuesday, February 17, 2009

꽃보다 남자

Lately, it seems I have become a bit desperate for indoor entertainment. I shouldn't complain, because Seoul definitely has a lot to offer, but the cold has made me lazy. 
My newest addiction is a Korean television series called 꽂보 다 자 (Boys Before Flowers). Normally, I don't get sucked into television series, because I find it hard to focus on them. I usually use movies or TV shows as background noise while I do other unimportant things, but I am completely sucked into this show. I haven't been into a show like this one since The O.C. I don't know how this has happened.  However if you are looking for a G rated show about rich kids, love triangles, scandals, and very sexy Korean men, then I highly recommend this show. The best way to describe it is a combination of Ugly Betty and Gossip Girl. 
The main plot is about an average Korean girl who gets into the elitist school by chance and somehow befriends the school's richest bullies. The show is pretty awkward- just how I like it. 
The show's major downfall for me are the three songs that they play over and over in every episode. Not to mention they play them at the most inappropriate moments. 
The show is very popular here in Korea- everyone from my seven year old students to their mothers watch it. 
Here is a little snippet of my students explaining the show a bit and then singing two of the three songs.  My kids randomly break out in song in class. I love it. 

To watch the show with English subtitles, go to www.mysoju.com/boys-before-flowers
Currently, there are only 13 episodes as the show is just in its first season, but there are two new episodes each week. 

*picture found at 


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Noraebang 101:Sing.a.long Songs-Korean Style

Noraebang is one of my favorite forms of entertainment in Seoul. Noraebang, which literally means "song room," is where you get a group of friends together to sing karaoke. When I first went, I was actually nervous, because I am completely tone deaf and I don't have the pretty singing voice- not to mention, I would actually have to sing the appropriate words since they would be flashing across a screen. With the help of a few beers, I belted out a "special" version of "Mmmbop" and I was eventually fighting people in order to pick out the next song. Now I can't get enough of it!

Note to all: Some noraebangs can be known to have a bit of sketchy actions that take place in them. I have been warned to avoid the noraebang across the street (in the back alley next to the love motel that used to be my temporary home) past 10 pm, because it is notorious for hosting old business men who bring in women that they pay for. There are really nice noraebangs located in Hongdae. My personal favorite is Prince Edward, because it feels like you are in a Victorian doll house.

At school, I am in charge of teaching my group of students (four classes total) Kids Pop. This is what I would like to think of as Noraebang 101. Its an elementary course designed to prepare kids to sing songs at a noraebang. Ok, so maybe that isn't the initial intention, but we sing pop songs that are only appropriate for karaoke. I wanted to touch on this, because this month we are singing ABBA songs, due largely in part to the great popularity of the new release of the movie "Mamma Mia." This movie, mainly its soundtrack, is impossible to escape. The songs have flooded the radio waves of supermarkets, taxis, buses, cafes, and now my preschool.

One of my students, Young Seong, has been quite educated on the soundtrack (I think his mother has a lot to do with this), so he knows all the words. . . well at least he knows what all the words sort of sound like.

For the first part of class, I sing the lines and have them repeat after me. Then, we sing the song together without the music. After a few rounds of this, I have them sing along with the music. If I feel like they get the hang of it, then I incorporate a few dance moves (yes, this is probably really funny too since I am pretty uncoordinated). Then we wind down and color. It gets pretty rowdy and entertaining. For instance, one of the supervisors had to come into my class to tell me to tone it down just a bit, because their little voices carried through to the conference room. I can't help it if they get excited though ^^

Today, I joined classes with my friend Danielle, and it was a party. We brought out the tambourines and had kids dancing around the classroom. Its so much fun! I recorded a bit of the kids singing, but I think they were so mesmerized by my camera on my computer, they sort of froze. Also, one of the students decided that he would be the cameraman, so it moves a bit. Enjoy just the same.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Come Away With Me. . .

Are traffic and herds of people getting you down this winter? Is it getting harder and harder to breath from the dense pollution that lingers in the Seoul air? Why not take a holiday to the luscious countryside of Boseong in the winter.

Take a luxury bus through the scenic hillsides of South Korea. . .

Stay at the luxurious Boseong Tourist Motel and feel like you are staying in this castle all by yourself.

Looking for a romantic getaway? Look no further. Boseong is the perfect place to fall in love again with your special someone. Long walks on the beach are so passé when you can have a long walk along the frozen green tea plantations. Sooo romantic !
Hungry? Don't look too far, because one of the tastiest treats is actually in your backyards or just 5 minutes away. Ah... enjoy some fresh cabbage from the organic Boseong cabbage patches!
With so much beautiful architecture, it would be hard to get bored in such a town. Just wander around the neighborhoods and you will find plenty of inspiration. Not to mention ancient history. . .check out these ruinsYou can also find the lovely fabric collections for your home

Gardens, you ask? Of course! This is just a sample of one of the many delightful thorn gardens.

Most decisions for me are made spontaneously, especially when it comes to travel, so when Chandra and Aim invited me to Boseong for a weekend getaway from Seoul, it was easy to say yes. I knew very little about Boseong, but I find that it is best to know less about a destination, because you have fewer expectations which also means fewer disappointments. I did know that the area is known for its lush emerald green tea plantations and that it took roughly 4 and a half hours to get there by bus. I was just excited to get out of Seoul for a couple of days. We nearly missed our bus, because we all woke up late.

We arrived in Buseong at about 1:30 lost and confused. Problem number one- because we woke up late, we left in a hurry, leaving behind our English/Korean dictionaries. Luckily, we are good at making hand gestures, because we were definitely not in Seoul anymore and the chance that anyone spoke or understood English or Thai were pretty slim. We were confused because the Boseong that we were dropped off at definitely did not look like the pictures from Google Images. This Boseong was a ghost town and it was definitely not green like the pictures. Winter had killed everything pretty. Well, we were there and couldn't go anywhere else, so we went to our hotel, which looked like it was haunted. I think we were just about the only guests in the hotel besides maybe two other people. The hotel itself looked like it had been through some stress on the outside, but maybe when it was first built, it could have been pretty.

After we settled, we wandered the empty streets in search of food. Unfortunately, everything was closed. It was Saturday afternoon and every restaurant was closed. Soo weird. So finally after an hour and a half walk around the entire town, we followed the chicken delivery bike and found food. We entered the chicken restaurant and pointed to two random things on the menu... it was better to keep it a surprise in order to add a little excitement to our trip. Then we started taking soju shots and mixing it with beer. After an hour of our fun, we decided it was best to leave before we got drunk and stashed the remainder of the Soju in my purse.

It was now almost 5pm, and we wandered back to the hotel, getting stared at along the way. At the hotel, we played drinking games and then took a nap until 10pm. Then when we all woke up, we watched television and asked the desk attendant to order us pizza. Back to bed. The next morning, we missed our bus, and I nearly freaked out. Everything worked out, but instead of getting home at 1:30, we got home at 4:30. I am well rested and so happy to be back in Seoul!

This was a sign in our hotel room. hahaa I almost had to use it... If I had to stay another night, that emergency kit would have been open and I would have jumped out.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

La Petite France (à Seoul????)

A few Sundays ago, I went on a search to find 서래마을, Seorae Village. A French friend informed me of a French neighborhood in Seoul, so of course I couldn't pass the opportunity to go on a mission to scope out the new territory. Seorae Village is located at the Express Bus Terminal, just below the river, but after reading several websites, I decided that it would be tricky to find it, so Chandra and I jumped in a taxi and made our way to Little France. We were dropped off at the bottom of a small hill expecting to actually be in France. Since Korea is pretty homogeneous, I wasn't surprised to actually feel like I was still in Seoul. The only thing that made this street different than most Korean streets was the tricolore sidewalks; bleu blanc rouge and the drapeau française on every pole.
One other characteristic about this Little France that was beared resemblance to the country where I once resided was that many shops were closed on Sunday. In Korea, I don't have a hard time finding something open on Sundays, however in France, Sundays were never pleasant if I wanted to go do errands. The only thing that we could really explore were the restaurants, which I was completely fine with. We entered a small French restaurant in hopes to eat some French onion soup, but we were informed that they were closed for break. Ah, typical. So the next place available was a cute little sandwich shop run by two older Koreans. The sandwiches were satisfying enough and then we wandered further up the hill, where we found a lycée française (a French high school). It was pretty frigid outside, so we set foot to the local Starbucks (you would hardly see one of these in France) and people watched.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Live from Seoul. . . *updated with video footage*

Tuesday afternoon, sky blue body bags filled the SLP foyer. The culmination of screaming children running around the school and the stress from the Christmas concert, made me want to zip myself in one of the bags and hide from it all. Unfortunately, I didn't have time to take cover, nor was there enough room to conceal me from the whirlwind of anxiety swirling about in the office. Instead, I had to organize the contents in the bags. I pulled royal blue tutus lined with silver sequined rick rack out and examined them. They were so precious. We didn't have time to do a dress rehearsal, so I could only hope that they fit everyone. The next day was the Christmas concert. Changing into costumes was such a pandemonium with the children running shouldn't be a problem. We tacked and pulled straps up, but they still beared resemblance to the bikinis that body builders wear. The situation was hopeless, but at least we weren't exposing our students anymore.around, costumes flying in the air, and lights flashing from the door way. If I hadn't known better, I would have thought that we were planning some huge event with celebrities. Finally all twenty of my ballerinas were dressed, but there just a few problems. The first problem was that the tutus did not fit like they did in the catalogue. Instead of looking like darling little ballerinas, they looked like Las Vegas show girls. The V neck on the bodice went down entirely too low for 6 year olds, not to mention, there was a nude colored panel that gave the illusion that the V neck dragged all the way down to their belly buttons. Think Jennifer Lopez in her infamous green chiffon dress. Thankfully, I have some experience in fixing such problems from working at David's Bridal. If I can make a size 16 wedding gown fit a size 20 woman, then this shouldn't be a problem. We tacked and pulled straps up, but they still beared resemblance to the bikinis that body builders wear. The situation was hopeless, but at least we weren't exposing our students anymore.Rock, Paper, Scissors: The boys played games to keep them entertained before going on stage.

It was so painfully cold. I felt so bad for them.

Lined up and ready to go!

The second problem in our wardrobe change started with the foul smell that crept into my olfactory organs. At first I just ignored it, thinking that it was just a stink that was lingering from former performers. I realized later that my hypothesis was wrong when I was trying to organize all the students' clothes. M's (we'll keep his name a secret) clothes were scattered about the room and he was gathering everything. I noticed that as he was trying to decide what things were his, he was sniffing them. At first I just thought that this was his way to find them, because some people's belongings do tend to have a distinct scent. This was not the case as I quickly learned when I lifted up a white turtleneck that had a disgusting brown stain on the sleeve. EW and M quickly claimed it and I asked him what it was. He looked shocked and froze. Putting all the facts together, I came to the conclusion that he had an accident. My partner teacher informed David, one of the only men on our staff and we cleared the situation up. Apparently, M was really sick Tuesday night, but his parents insisted that he come to the Christmas concert. Poor guy.

After four months, spending about everyday with my students, they have started to take on my personality. They are free spirited, creative, random, and clumsy just like me. This mixture doesn't work so well with big events. Practice has been hard. In choir, I was always the one who stood out the most at concerts. This was not because I had the best singing voice, but because I am tone deaf and I have a squeaky singing voice. My family would always pick on me after the shows, leading to future self conscience problems. I am surprised that I actually had enough courage to muster out any song in front of my students in order to teach them, and on top of that, I teach Kids Pop (aka music). haha. Those poor kids who have been subjected to my singing. Well, I was actually impressed. My students did very well with their song, minus a few students who completely froze from nerves. Ballet, however, is another story. This is where my lack of coordination rubbed off on my students (actually thinking about this now, I don't know if this is actually possible). First, June Seo was the first in one of the lines and completely misled the students, nearly running them all into the giant inflatable backdrop of a neon pearlescent winter wonderland. In practice, they always had a hard time getting the turns the same. Eventually, this was a detail that I soon failed to notice, because it was so difficult to get them all to turn Right. So for the performance, the turns were, well, special. Then the best part was when Sung Min ran straight into the microphone. A description won't do this mishap any justice, so you just need to watch the video (SCROLL DOWN TO THE BOTTOM OF THIS ENTRY-the funny part happens just after the one minute mark) if you want a big laugh. My friend Amber was doing commentary for the performances and her response to their dance was "Wow, that was dramatic!"
So that was the Holly Jolly SLP Christmas Concert.This is my director with the opening speech. I am in loooove with her shoes!

After they were finished, they finally got to relax and enjoy the show.

The video above is the one I was telling you about in the story

And this is their Christmas song- they froze a bit and were sort of confused ^^

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Closet and the Ajishis

Well, the last time someone from my apartment building actually came in, it was incredibly embarrassing. I will quickly write about it, in case you haven't already heard this one.
A sweet old man came in my apartment to perform a window check. He had bad timing, because at that same moment, I was also potty training a puppy (I would delve into these details, but it is still pretty painful to discuss) and my apartment was a mess. So I let him in and he went straight for the utility closet. As he opened it, about four empty water bottles tipped over. He checked the window in the closet, and the whole time I was holding back from laughing. Chandra was sitting on my bed gagging and cracking up, because the puppy, who was in its kennel, was now eating its own product and the gentleman examining my closet also witnessed such a grotesque act. The man was also trying not to laugh as he left and we shook hands.
So this brings me to the second story of the closet. On Friday night, I had a friend and her three friends stay at my apartment, while I stayed with Chandra. I did a quick cleaning, but realized I was too lazy to go downstairs and put my trash in the dumpster, so I shoved five small bags in the utility closet in an attempt to conceal them. My apartment is pretty safe, so it was fine that the key was left inside and the door was unlocked for the day. Saturday evening, I start walking into my apartment building and my security guard stopped me and asked "You 6-1-9?" I corrected him and told him 609, and he said "Yes, ok, door open!" I thought he meant that the door was unlocked. Yes ok, ok. I remembered that my door has a hard time closing on its own. I should have explained this to my guests, but I didn't think to. Anyhow, I jumped in the elevator and he followed with me. We got to my apartment, and he came right inside. Luckily my apartment was clean this time and I didn't have a puppy to do anything embarrassing. He rambled on about the door some more and noticed the key on the counter. aaah... I kept trying to assure him that everything was ok, but he decided to check for me. He wandered around and I saw him getting closer to the closet, but I was too late, He opened it and saw the giant tower of trash bags. I must really seem like a slob. I was so embarrassed, but it seemed to not even faze him, because he started for the door and turned around and I told him thank you, and he said something under his breath about me and grabbed my hand and kissed it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Baaaah Humbug

At night, Seoul is radiant. I don't know if I mean this in a good way though. In a country where "beautification" is pretty much their motto, sometimes decorations can get a bit out of hand, especially during one of the most overdecorated and commercialized holidays of the year.

Fluorescent lights flood the streets, screaming for attention. I am starting to get used to the blinding lights, but now that Christmas is quickly approaching, things are starting to get a bit out of hand. The best image that I can give you is from "National Lampoon's Christmas."
Chestnuts roasting on an open.... wait, that is actually the bush with a ridiculous amount of red lights. I have never really been a fan of the red lights- they've always seemed a bit scary to me.

For the past month, my walk home from work has been distracting. Something out an extremely scary Tim Burton film on LSD. The trees that line the streets are now coated with Christmas lights, but it can't be a simple as stringing the lights on the trees, but to completely cover the limb with the lights ensuring that nothing is left exposed, almost as if the decorators thought this would protect the branches from the harsh Siberian winds. Unfortunately for the tree, only the branches are shielded. They look like giant deformed hands reaching towards the sky. Almost artistic. At the bus stop, just a block from my apartment, there is a Christmas tree. I can't really say that it is beautiful though. It is a mass of lights in the shape of a cone that plays Christmas songs sung by Korean children. I can't help but think that it is an oversized cat toy.Goldfinger: So here are the trees I speak of. You be the judge.

Lights, Camera, Action: Behold, ladies and gentlemen, the mass of lights. It looks almost like the view of the city from Chandra's rooftop view.

Although the lights are very pretty, I don't really get the whole Christmas vibe that the Hamilton Hotel was probably going for. I am sensing "waterfall" from a backdrop of a senior prom.

Wandering past the shopping centers are perfect places to find bizarre Christmas decorations. When shopping or even walking around the city, it is common to see shirts with "English" on them. Oftentimes, they either don't make sense or there are random grammatical errors. I will post more on this later when I photograph my evidence. My favorite Christmas one that I have seen thus far is a giant sign on the shopping mall that screams "What are you doing Christmas!" Ah... the mistakes. I can't help but nitpick since I have been teaching English. I just want to take a red marker and fix it. Were they trying to say "What are you doing, Christmas?" or "What are you doing FOR Christmas"? I guess its one of those things.

While my coworkers and friends are planning their escapes from the city to sunny destinations, I am planning my time that will be spent in Seoul. At least I get a break from work and screaming children for a while. I desperately need a break from work. Its getting harder to wake up in the morning and I have been waking up with only ten minutes to get ready. Also, I know I need a break because my students have been making comments about me like, "Teacher, you are starting to be crazy scary teacher!" This comment came from JiSoo, my favorite student. She studied the crazy look in my eyes, noting the pink sparkly heart sticker placed just at the corner of my eye and my fuzzy bird hair that I tried to conceal by sticking a teal feather flower in the corner. I will admit, I do dress to entertain my students, but I think I am getting out of control.

I am becoming more and more exhausted and confused as to why I am at work. Lately, we have been preparing the kids for their Christmas concert. For the past month, my students have been singing and dancing for at least one hour each day. Our lesson plans have been pretty weak and mainly consist of coloring random pictures, cutting out the random pictures, and gluing them on another random picture. . . everyday. I am pretty sure I have ruined the once favorite past time for my students. Learning is replaced with practice. Everything must be perfect. I now know why my music teachers would make us practice over and over for these things. I just thought we were being punished, when in fact, my teacher was probably being tortured just the same. I can't handle Christmas carols anymore. My head hurts and I can't help re-experiencing the same teeth grinding "grrrr" pain that I had when I once accidentally scrapped my finger on the cheese grater every time I hear the song "I'm gettin' nothin' for Christmas." I don't want to practice anymore. Practice is now having a reverse effect. Instead of getting better, they are getting worse. I can see it in my students' eyes. They are worn out just like me. The next few days are now dedicated to group rehearsals. I think it is a bit extreme that such a big deal is made out of this. They are only five and six year olds and it isn't like they are at a prestigious performing arts school. This is English school. The signs, the props, the countless hours spent, and not to mention the intense wardrobe changes... aaah the pressure.
In Living Color: Ah the kids doing another coloring activity.

Winter Curiousland: Ah my students. Santa broke his leg (aka the inconsiderate afternoon students ripped off his feet), so I replaced one of them with a cast as my lame and passive aggressive attempt to make them feel bad. Now Santa has to hobble around on a candy cane. I don't really think anyone feels bad. I think they are probably wondering why Santa is wearing two different shoes or that he forgot to put his other shoe on and he is wearing a sock. Broken Christmas Spirit: Sung June hardly looks thrilled to be at school and he is usually the merriest of my students. I am pretty sure I was getting the kids to line up to go practice for our group rehearsal. He refused to smile...even next to Santa.
The Cabbage Patch: So, the plants have been replaced by cabbage. Who says Christmas has to be filled with sweets and other glutenous foods. Not to mention it's nutritious and pretty!

Here is a video of what we have been practicing. It is also a taste of what I listen to. . . all the time