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.