Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Korean eHarmony?

The other day, I went for a late dinner at a local place I frequent. The proprietress asked me why I was so late-- had I been on a date? The question was all in Korean except for the word "date," and I was impressed she knew it.

But, just now as I sit here studying my Korean textbook, I find that 'date' is the same word in Korean! 데이트 (deh-ee-tuh). This actually happens a lot, like with the words 'shopping' 쇼핑 (syoh-ping) and 'computer' 컴퓨타 (coem-pyew-tah). So, you can almost say this in Korean without knowing any Korean: "shop for a date on the computer!"

You can lead your lovely horse to yoga, but you can't make it plank

'Namaste' was the only word I understood in my yoga class.

It made sense to me to purchase a gym membership in tandem with my scooter (newly dubbed 애마, "lovely horse") because I'll be walking so much less. So, after school I rode my lovely horse down to the local gym, and I fumbled my way through the signup process. I had a short session with the personal trainer, and he put me on some machine that's supposed to read my BMI and such. I was really afraid the machine had Korean parameters and was going to tell me I was fat. But, R2D2ard Simmons was kind enough to consider my American waistline within the normal range.

Later in yoga class, I just copied what everyone else was doing, which meant I had to peek from time to time when we were supposed to have our eyes closed. I said that namaste was the only word I understood, but that's not entirely true-- at one point I was downward dogging when I was supposed to be planking, and the instructor came by and meowed at me: "plaaaaaank-uh!"

The gym runs jointly with a sauna/jimjilbang, so after you work out upstairs, you can go to the jimjilbang, shuck your club-issued clothes off into the hamper, and nakedly use the steam room/hot or cold tubs/sitting or standing showers. The showers were full of the bendy ajummas I had just yogad with, though, so this time, I bowed out. Namaste ("I bow to you").

garsh golly gee that sure is nice

Have you hugged a Korean today? They do some nice things.

Typically you won't get a Korean insisting you go Dutch. When you go out to eat, it's customary that one person pays the bill; it's assumed the other person will repay the favor if and when the opportunity presents itself. This rule holds true with the exception of when an older and younger person dine together. The older person will treat the younger, and there's no expectation for eventual reciprocation. As it was explained to me, this is because the older person received the same generous treatment from their elders, and they are paying it forward to the next generation, who will pay it forward to the next.

In a similarly unselfish fashion, when fortune smiles upon you, you are supposed to share it with others. On occasions of birthdays, job promotions, marriages, etc. you treat the folks around you. My Korean friend had a birthday a while back, and I asked him how he was going to celebrate. I was expecting that we as his friends would take him out and ply him with drinks and shenanigans, but he had no such rowdy plans. He said he was taking his dad out to lunch and thanking him for making his life possible. Aw.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Cool Not Cool

Not cool: Currently, when I arrive to school after my hike up a steep hill in the intensifying Korean summer heat, I look like I was just jazzercising in a sauna in business casual. I arrive on campus to see all the students clustered around the entrance of the building changing from their outside shoes to indoor shoes, so each morning I awkwardly navigate the barricade of bodies as unobtrusively as possible in hopes they don't notice how sweaty I am. And apparently I believe lack of eye contact makes you invisible. If I don't look at you you can't see me. But it's not like my eyeballs are sweaty, and the ungazed upon adolescent can still spot backsweat, so maybe I should take another look at this belief.

Cool: Puns!

Cool: I am the proud new owner of a scooting vehicle. This is my sauna jazzercise counter move. Starting next week, I will scoot to school, and as I enjoy the wind rushing by my face I will look back superiorly at the girl who used to struggle up that hill, and I will chortle.

Not cool: My anticipated first week of gleeful scooting coincides exactly with the predicted onset of monsoon season. Looks like I'll be jazzercizing my way up that hill in acid rain.

Cool: I got a good deal on the scooter; I bought it used off a good friend of mine.

Not cool: This awesome friend of mine is returning to the States next week :( Most expats in Seoul I know aren't here for the long haul, so naturally there's a lot of turnover, and it's sad to connect with people just to have them leave. Why can't the cool people stay exactly as long as I do? I will start a campaign: Stay with Meeeeee.

Cool: Team Korea won the big Shanghai tournament! We beat Beijing in the semis and Manila in the finals to win one of the largest ultimate tournaments in Asia. I'm told it is the first time Korea has won a big title on the international scene. Manila's Sunken Pleasure was a talented and spirited opponent, and props go to them for developing an entirely home-grown team. Our Korea roster, admittedly, is lacking on the native Koreans and boasting many a US college/club player. The count was: one true blue Korean, one Korean raised in Japan, two Koreans adopted as children by US families, and my Korean half, making for an unconvincing total of 4.5 Koreans on the team.

Cool: The Filipinos posted this recap of our matchup: "Unfortunately, we ran into a brick wall aka the squad from Korea. Fast, skilled and athletic, this latest reincarnation of the Korean team was unlike any other team we've faced before. Pinpoint hucks, perfectly executed set plays and really good handling accuentuated their game. Not to mention the fact that their tallest girl was taller than our tallest guy and that their tallest guy was at least 6 inches taller than Heyman."

Cool: At the tournament I won a stuffed Haibo (the mascot of the World Expo).
Not cool: Someone stole him.
Cool enough: That someone turned out to be a three year old, so I let it go.

Cool: The day after the tournament I went to the World Expo with an awesome couple from Hong Kong who kindly shared their photos with me since my camera died after taking my second photo. The Expo itself had its neat parts but on the whole was underwhelming. There was little evidence of international attendance, with barely a non-Chinese face there, and people were waiting in hours-long lines for entrance to the country pavilions, so we line-fearing unambitious folk were relegated to country pavilions the likes of Bulgaria. We got alot of amusement, though, out of watching the Chinese people obsess over getting stamps from each country in their "Official World Expo Passports." We'd see people bypass the exhibits and rush the poor clerk doling out the stamps. I don't care about your olive production-- just stamp me! *foam at the mouth*

Cool: I like this alot.

Not cool: The demand for whale meat is growing in Korea, encouraging the "accidental" catching of whales in fishing nets for a non-accidental auction price of about $15,000 per whale. I thought I'd include some current events to show off that I'm reading stuff. I read! I'll do it again...

Cool: USA and Korea advance to the next round of the World Cup! And if they both win their next games, they'll face each other next Friday, in which case, for whom shall I root? Torn I'd be. Speaking of torn, my buddy the North Korean scholar says the World Cup has been beneficial for South/North Korean relations because on the world sports scene, it's easy to cheer for each other. Despite rumors that Kim Jong-Il would only allow heavily censored and edited coverage of North Korea winning, my friend says North Korea aired losses as well as South Korea games.

Funny: excellent source of sparkles!