Tuesday, February 17, 2009


It's been two weeks since I arrived back in Canada. The surprise return for Lizzy's birthday and V-day went down perfectly (she yelled something obscene and then stood there speechless and stunned for a good minute or so as she absorbed in the shock). Needless to say, a scene was made.

So clearly, this is going to be the final post for the Korea blog. I am not going to continue blogging after this, because I think blogging is pretty narcissistic unless you have something fairly interesting that you want to preserve in your mind. Miscellaneous rants for the sake of it (as well as the 25 Random Things About Me fad that is plaguing Facebook at the moment) just annoy the hell out of me. However, there a bunch of little things that I haven't really written about so I'll try and list as many as I can here (and more may be added in time):

- Dog meat. Yes, they eat dog here. I was offered it numerous times but never actually tried it. In retrospect, I probably should have. Anthony and Taylor ate it and the concensus is that it is revolting. Served in soup form, it supposedly increases male virility.. my counter-argument being that if you told a girl you ate dog meat you probably wouldn't get the opportunity to test that theory.

- Korean taxis. Good lord, they drive like they don't want to live. Not only are there miniature television sets on the dashboard, I've had to leave a cab seconds after entering it because we could smell the alcohol on the driver's breath. Other cabs seem to enjoy the thrill of ignoring traffic lights and accelerating to alarming speeds. A taxi ride from Maetandong to Yeongtong, normally a 6,000 won expense, only cost me 3,000 won because the driver went at warp nine and ran five red lights. I can't fault their efficiency. Fun fact: it's a faux pas to wear your seat belt when sitting in the back (it offends the driver).

- Korean comedy television. There is a TV show that I always love to watch when I'm eating my chamchi kimchi bokeumbap or sundubu chigae in that cheap Kimbap restaurant I ate 80% of my meals at. It's basically Korean celebrities doing ordinary things or competing in ridiculous challenges, such as who can keep their arm submerged in ice water for the longest after being subjected to a wind tunnel fan in a freezer for several minutes, or who can break the most chopsticks with their butt cheeks using a specialised barbell-wedgie apparatus (see photo). Noh Hong-cheol was my personal favourite on the show, he had a little beard and a perfectly symmetrical bleach blond bowl cut and was known for talking extremely quickly.

- SPAM gift sets. For some reason, SPAM is considered to be a Western delicacy in Korea. During special occasions, HomePlus will always have aisles devoted to decorative gift boxes that contain twelve cans of varying flavours of SPAM. Toothpaste gift sets were also popular.

- Identical couples. In Korea it's customary for couples to dress exactly the same.. especially when they go on vacation together or to theme parks or something. It's pretty weird.

- Being a minority. When I first got to Korea I noticed that everyone who passed by me would stare for a bit and then look away. I didn't realise that when travelling to areas with even lower concentrations of foreigners, the locals' reaction to being white got correspondingly more ridiculous. On the ferry to Jeju Island Taylor and I were stopped by random Koreans because they wanted to take their photograph with us. However, during our numerous visits to Ingyedong we had a drunken Korean guy yell at us how much he hates Anglo-Saxons.. and several Korean clubs and karaoke rooms wouldn't let us in because they were "for Koreans only".

My last few days were very strange. The kids who had previously spent class after class ridiculing me and calling me "bad teacher" (or alternatively, "teacher bad") were a little taken aback when I said it was my last week with them. My K4F class surprised me with a chalkboard covered in balloons and "THANK YOU COLIN TEACHER" and promptly showered me with roses and doughnuts (and canned cold coffee drink.. thank you Kennedy). Although, another class demanded why we weren't having a pizza party. Teacher bad.

I took photos of as many classes as I could (some classes collectively refused to have their pictures taken). I also took photos of the Kim and Lee interior and some co-workers. Basically I'm going to post all the photos that didn't fit into any previous blog entry, including random outings with friends and various oddities I've encountered during my time here. Enjoy.


Friday, January 23, 2009

Lotte World

Lotte is a large corporation in Korea that has its own McDonald's-esque fast food burger chain and also makes the popular snack Pepero, more commonly known as Pocky in North America. And it also has its own theme park.

Anthony and a couple Korean friends of ours, Catherine and Carolyn, went to Lotte World last week. This was the most elaborate of previous Colin-being-a-wingman-for-Anthony adventures as Anthony did his best to charm Catherine, who speaks very little English. Interestingly, Carolyn lived in Surrey for a while, of all places, so as she and I discuss the pros and cons of living in Surrey, Anthony is given a golden opportunity to work his magic.

Lotte World is basically a smaller, indoor version of Disneyland. There is also a substantial outdoor section, but the day that we went it was freezing cold and standing in lineups out there was pretty unpleasant. The theme seemed to be let's-shamelessly-rip-off-Disneyland. Pharoah's Fury was a direct copy of the Indiana Jones ride, Comet Express was a rehash of Space Mountain, and The Adventures of Sindbad was alarmingly similar to Pirates of the Caribbean. The logo was identical to Disney, and when I saw the giant white castle that adorned the outdoor section I could tell that they were making no effort at all to hide their copyright sins.


This last photo is of Anthony tentatively entering a photo booth called "Sweet Holic", although I prefer to think of it as "The Chamber of Horrors" . Stepping into this room was like entering the mind of an eleven-year-old hyperactive Asian girl on drugs. Everything inside was pink or shiny. The video would scream instructions at you in Korean and allow a time limit for you to select one of dozens of awful backgrounds to embellish your photos. Then, you would go outside to another computer screen and adorn your creations with a number of twinkly images super-imposed onto the pictures to make them even more revolting. Anthony and I were stunned during the entire experience, especially when we noticed how immersed in the decorating phase the girls were. Unfortunately, there was no time limit to the finishing-touches stage. The grand result: miniature photo stickers that I keep for the comic value, but still cause me deep shame every time I see them.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Hwaesong Fortress & Calvin Harris

This is a very late update, mainly because I've been busy with the new school schedule for December, partly because I've been experiencing gastrointestinal horror for the last week. Korean cuisine has finally caught up to me, after seven months of what I thought was simply cheap dining.

Lizzy came to visit me over here in Suwon from Dec 19 to Jan 5, which was a FANTASTIC distraction from the frustrations of Korean living. Now I had someone to complain with! I think she liked her stay (apart from the vile affliction she got during her last few days, but luckily she was good to go for the flight home); we got a lot done during her stay. We had a look at the Fortress (which is the large wall that surrounds the centre of the city I live in) as well as Hwaesong Palace in the middle. To be fair, Hwaesong Palace is a smaller, slightly less impressive carbon copy of Gyeongbok Palace so it wasn't worth investigating.

This actually all happened after the highlight of my time in Korea so far. What I'm talking about of course is the legendary Calvin Harris concert we attended at Club Eden in Seoul. It was visually overwhelming, the sound was excellent and the crowd was composed of two main factions: Koreans who had no idea who Calvin Harris was, and die-hard Calvin Harris fans from all over the world. Such as myself. The best part, of course, was MEETING Calvin Harris as we happened upon him, casually walking down the street, as we were heading home the next morning. Unbelievable luck. The best part was that he was a very genuinely normal guy, not a pretentious Tom-Cruise type celebrity. I think he was mildly surprised to have a random Canadian guy chase him down in the middle of Seoul.