Tag Archives: culture

111111

On November 11th, 2011, in Korea, it was known as Pepero Day in honor of Korea’s version of the Pocky sticks. They’re generally long and thin biscuits covered in some sort of sweet, sugary chocolate/frosting. Of course, there are several varieties out there and though Pocky hosts a lot more flavors, Pepero’s selection isn’t all that bad because it means I’ll eat less (or that’s the idea). There are the giant Pepero sticks the length of your forearm (this may depend on how long your forearm is but for the sake of visualising it, however long your forearm is is how long this particular snack is), the waffle-based kinds, the ones studded with almonds or peanuts, the strawberry flavored type, as well as Nude Pepero – which is my favorite. Nude Pepero is basically a hollow biscuit tube filled with chocolate.

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Khristmas in Korea

I wish I could say that it began to look a lot like Christmas starting from two months ago, as it would back in the States, but that was not so. I did, however, begin to see a hint of Christmas-themed merchandise being offered at the beginning of November at Costco, but that was essentially the extent of it. That’s not to say that Christmas was conspicuously absent. I’m just saying that you had to look for it and mainly focus in on the shopping malls. As for Christmas carols, I did see one “choir” made up of 3 people; they were outside singing for a church function. Oh yes, and one of the neighborhood coffee shops has a playlist of Korean-sung Christmas songs (some rather badly and one reminds me of a Korean William Hung). The truth of the matter is that Christmas was brought from abroad and even then, it’s seen as more of a couple holiday rather than a family-oriented one.

HOWEVER, let me give you my rendition of it through snippets of modified Christmas carols (two, to be exact) and pictures illustrating said rectified lyrics…

I’ve been dreaming of a White Christmas,
But it’s no longer a dream here!
Where the treetops glisten and couples are kissin’,
Amidst a sheet of snow…

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PC Bang: The Continuation

This is in continuation of my previous post on PC bangs.
You can say it’s a basic how-to/instruction post (with pictures) on how to register for an MMORPG game at a PC bang, focusing on Aion because that’s what I decided to play since after 4 years, I apparently forgot my log in information for WoW. >.>;

Since the first time I went to a PC bang, I went an additional two more times. I was so obsessed (I don’t want to admit it but that’s the truth) with playing a MMORPG that the second time I went, I spent a good hour trying to figure out how to register on a MMORPG to be able to play at a PC bang. it appeared to be a bit more complicated because I was foreign on top of how I didn’t know that much Korean. When I finally figured it out, I was in heaven. I had spent some time the night before registering on the Korean site for Aion because I was sure that I would end up playing on a Korean server. Before long, I got to the screen to download the game onto my laptop. Following my previous experience with WoW, I decided this was not a good idea for either my laptop or me. I decided to wait until my next trip to the PC bang.

I clicked on the MMORPG game icon on the main screen at the bang, and signed in on the pop up of Aion’s official page. Then, I saw this other button I could click. You’re supposed to register on another step with your registration number. No matter what, it wouldn’t accept my registration number, so I decided to do some googling. After all, there had to be other foreigners out there who encountered the amazing PC bang and needed to get their online gaming fix, right? Right. 🙂

I finally came across a post on waygook.org – a site/forum dedicated to foreign English teachers in Korea. (“Waygook” means “foreign” in Korean; “waygookin” means foreigner.) This helped me out a lot. I would tell you exactly how I finally got my Korean Aion account completely set up, but you can pretty much just click on that link if you want. All you need to know is that you need to (1) make an account on the Aion site (2) make another account on the I-pin site (3) have your phone handy because they’ll either call you or send you a text with the password/code that you have 2 minutes to enter [yes, they really do count down] and (4) you enter your I-pin log-in information into the Aion site under your account and you’re ready to go!

My third time going to the PC bang (which is, interestingly enough, the next day after my second trip because I kept on thinking about Aion), I decided to bring my camera and take some pictures of my computer station. I didn’t want to appear so obvious so I didn’t take shots of the entire establishment, but who knows? 🙂 Perhaps one day in the future… As it is, this is a good enough preview of what to expect.

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PC Bangs

I heard about these so-called PC bangs, or PC rooms/internet cafes, long before I set foot in Korea. I used to love playing PC games, see. Perhaps this was to make up for the fact that my parents never let me play video games so when I got my first laptop, I played the heck out of it. ^^ Not the point. Anyway, I also took a Korean popular culture class my last semester in college just for fun. ^^; Anyway, I guess I still love playing them but I have no time… but mainly because I get really obsessive over it. (I suppose I would have time if I could play for merely an hour or two.) Same with dramas – I have to finish it as fast as I can. I don’t know why because it’s not like there’s a life-or-death situation looming over my head if I don’t finish the 16+ episode drama before a certain day (usually the third), but if I don’t finish it, I literally can’t do anything else. Well, I can, but I’ll be rather distracted. Hence, once I got that full time job at the restaurant and now that I’m over here teaching, I haven’t truly played any games, whether they be MMORPG’s or strategy games.

Once upon a time, I was an avid WoW player (Yes. WoW.) and I even dabbled in Starcraft for a while. This was back in 2007, the second semester of my first year in college. Or was it the end of my first semester in college? Either way, it was back then. I only played for a month and a half, after which I stopped because I didn’t want to pay the $15 per month, but it still nagged at me. Also: it consumed my life. My laptop’s video card couldn’t take the graphics of WoW, but that didn’t stop me. My roommate would let me borrow her laptop to play (she had gotten me into it) into the early hours of the morning and then even a mutual friend would let me borrow his on campus to play. If I wasn’t in class, I would head straight back to my dorm to continue. At the end of my 6-week stint, I had 3 characters under my account with the maximum level of around 23 for all three of them. It could have been worse, but it was bad enough.

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Eyes in Korea

Along with the stereotype of how Asians are good at studying – I’m beginning to see why and how this came about, living and teaching here – Asians also tend to need visual correction. I, myself, needed the aid of glasses to see perfectly in the third grade. I got my first pair of contacts in the sixth grade because I got tired of my glasses slipping down or needing to take them off or put them on while changing for gym. Approximately 87% of my coworkers that I share a room with need glasses as well, but most opt for the visually-pleasing contacts.

With Halloween coming up, I wanted to dress up but since I’m the school’s first foreign teacher from North America, I’m the first one to bring up what they plan on doing for Halloween. It seems like they never had this happen before as their previous native teachers were from New Zealand and South Africa, respectively. Apparently, Halloween isn’t very big in either of those countries. Either way, I’m American and I like Halloween. The fact that I get some fun out of this doesn’t hurt, either. 😉 However, since this is somewhat of a new concept – though the after school department at my school’s also trying to do a little Halloween celebration – I decided to tone down my dress a little and so I wanted a little something extra to spice up my lack of festive clothing: colored contacts.

Today, I took a trip to the local optometrist to get my first pair of colored contacts. This was what I got (just guess how much  I paid for it):

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I finally did it!!

Today, I took my first ever sick day ever since I arrived in Korea. 🙂

This may seem like such a small matter – you’re sick, you take a sick day, period – but not here. I also addressed this previously, as I’ve gone through this dilemma of whether or not I should take advantage of the handful of sick days I’m privileged to because the truth is that people here don’t really have this luxury. I’m sure they might, but so far, the only time I’ve seen a teacher absent is if they’re on official business or they’re on pregnant leave. Teachers here generally don’t have substitute teachers and on top of that, there’s this idea of showing to everyone else what a hard worker you are. Hence, after you see your Coteachers so sick that they don’t put on make up (trust me, this is a big thing) or come to school after they sliced open their thumb and got stitches at the nearby hospital, you begin to feel bad for taking a sick day because you’re sick.

It still baffles my mind but the truth is that my body cannot deal with this. I usually only get sick once a year, but in Korea, it’s as if I get sick once every two to three months. It’s ridiculous but the truth and I don’t think my body can undergo this constant beating against my immune system for much longer without a proper day of rest and low-key activities. As a result, I told myself regardless of how bad I would feel for taking advantage of my sick day (as odd as that sounds), I would take it because I didn’t want it to draw out an additional week or two.

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Gwangju for Chuseok

This post has taken a long time to be written, but I finally found the time!

For Chuseok, the Korean version of Thanksgiving, my friend and I decided to take a day trip to the fourth largest metropolitan city in Korea, with Daejeon being the fifth largest. If you didn’t know, it’s Gwangju. The city’s to the southwest of the country and when my Co’s first heard of it, they told me it was a horrible idea. Why? Traffic sucks during Chuseok, when families tend to get out of the cities to visit their families and have huge get-togethers, especially if you’re traveling south. In fact, this was what my head Co told me:

Last year, my brother came down from Seoul to visit and he fell asleep on the bus. When he woke up, he was still in Gyeonggi-do*! It took him almost six hours to get to Daejeon**.
* Gyeonggi-do is the province surrounding Seoul
** It normally takes around 2 hours by train to get from Daejeon to Seoul

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Mid-year Crisis

I’ve always lived my own way. Perhaps that makes me somewhat selfish in a way, but in truth, everyone’s selfish in some capacity, shape, or form. I once read somewhere the people choose their friends through what they believe they can gain from said potential friend. Anyway, this goes into how I pretty much listen to what I want to do. This isn’t completely true, though, as some people have told me I needed to be more opinionated, but I essentially make the big decisions for myself.

As a result, the Korean society in which people care more about their reputation seriously tires and annoys me. However, I can’t ignore the ‘importance’ of reputation because honestly speaking, the notion is prevalent in varying degrees throughout the world, but especially in Asia. Because I’m currently living and working in Asia, I can’t just ignore it, especially when it’s at the root of a number of past misunderstandings between my Coteachers and I. This is a bigger problem when I’m trying to find the ultimate answer to the question of, “Will I stay here another year?”

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Something in Everything

When some of my friends found out that I would be coming to Korea for a year, I had several reactions that may be summarised through the following:

Envy: OMG. I want to go! I’m so jealous~~

Pride + Second-hand Happiness: This is going to be a great opportunity for you. I’m sure you’ll learn a lot!

Sadness: I’ll miss you!!!!! >.< …DON’T GOOOO!!!!!!!!!

Worry: What if you’re there and North Korea decides to bomb South Korea????

Confusion/Incredulity: …wait. What’s in Korea, anyway? Why Korea??

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Korean Grapes

Yes, I know. It’s a strange concept that I ate fruit here willingly, but in my defense, grapes are one of the safe fruits that I’ll eat on occasion, unlike other fruits that leave my lips, mouth, and/or throat tingling. Plus, coming to a new country, you’ve got to try new things, right? I’ve had those weird yellow melon-fruits the Koreans here love eating (with the seeds) and I decided that I didn’t like it. However, these grapes are something else. Literally.

At first glance, it looks like your normal bunch of grapes, but then you take a closer look and you realise that the grapes are a bit more rounder. However, the taste is where you can really tell the difference from grapes back in the States. The first time I had them was with my coteachers during school lunch. Like regular grapes, I just popped them into my mouth, chewed it, and spit out the seeds – yes, Korean grapes contain seeds. Then, I started noticing something strange: the Koreans around me made the grape eating process a lot more complicated:

  1. Using a thumb and forefinger, they bring one plump grape to their lips and they start sucking on it while lightly pinching the other end. Interestingly enough, the flesh will neatly pop out (I’ve had instances where some juice squirted out the other end, though) and into your mouth.
  2. Discard the skin.
  3. Spit out the seeds and proceed to process the grape or lightly chew the grape flesh without breaking open the seeds and swallow.

It took me the third time I encountered the grapes to try this new method of eating the little guys because, well, my taste palate isn’t picky. As long as it’s edible, I’ll put it in my mouth, chew, and swallow. However, I did taste something off — the skin of a Korean grape is rather thick, for one. The flesh itself is sweet but it’s also has a slightly slimy texture to it that isn’t found in the grapes I’m used to. It’s nothing big, but it’s present. The seeds taste like, well, seeds. Plus, this trying of local mannerisms is all a part of learning about the local culture and people, right? And so I tried it.

The first time I tried sucking out the flesh from it’s skin in order to consume it “properly”, there was a small explosion of grape juice coming from the side of the grape not in my mouth. Once you get that part down, however, it’s fairly straightforward as long as you’re familiar with the idea of mastication and swallowing. Then after several more tries, these successful, I decided I liked the method better because (1) I’m in Korea now, (2) it’s a bit more hygienic since I’m not actually directly touching the food I would be ingesting, and (3) I like the feel of when the flesh schloops into my mouth. Oh yes, and how could I forget about how utterly beautifully they’re packed? I only got two bunches for a little over 2,000 won  nestled in their own special packing paper on top of a styrofoam dish. They were absolutely pleasing to look at and none of the grapes looked to be remotely bruised or anything.

It was perfect.

Plus, I decided that I needed to branch out from my occasional banana buying; I needed a larger variety of fruits in the apartment and they seemed reasonable priced. You can also buy them in big boxes, that resemble potential gift sets, starting/averaging from around 14,000 won each – or 10,000 won on the streets. There’s just the problem that I’m only one person, so I opted out.

Anyway, with these grapes, you have people who love them and people who don’t. And then you have people who love them and also did their research. From that, I found out that these grapes actually hail from the States (or at least some guy in the States bred them) even though they’re more popular in Asia and that contrary to popular knowledge and belief, they’re not actually called Korean grapes at all. They’re actually Campbell Early Grapes (I’ve also seen it as “Campbell’s Early Grapes”) and they’re in season at around now (September/October).

…I prefer calling them Korean grapes.