Sunday, February 14, 2010

Seollal Weekend

We got a three day weekend for the lunar new year celebration, Seollal, and Nora and I came out of our cave for dinner and/or drinks Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and on our own on Sunday. 

Thursday we ate at our local barbecue joint - there are some pictures a few posts below of chicken on a grill in the middle of table from last time we ate there.

Friday we went out to Kundae with some of our friends after work for dinner.  This was a new variation on 'chicken ribs' - cooked in a pan with vegetables and oil, rather than grilled on a barbecue.  But it was equally good, and afterward you order a plate of rice and seaweed and make a quick, spicy chicken-fried rice.

Here's a picture of it all going into the pan

And here is what it looked like after it was finished cooking:

Very tasty

Afterward we went to a bar in the area called Woodstock, where they have pretty much every song imaginable.  It's where we found a condom dispenser with this advertisement:

I'm not sure exactly what the message is supposed to be.
The bar was cool for other reasons as well.  Nora licked a turtle, I lost at darts, and we all got Rick Rolled
I had a video of the rick roll, but apparently YouTube has "voluntarily disabled this functionality on because of the Korean real-name verification law," so I was unable to upload it.

On Saturday night we went out for our friend's birthday in Hongdae, which is basically a hipster hangout for people with money who like mixed drinks.  OK, it's a little more than that, but I'm not a big fan of Hongdae.  Still, we had fun, and I got to have a kebab made in the back of a pickup truck.  It was advertised to me as the "best kebab in Korea" by our friend Nathan.  While I can't say that for sure, it was a really good kebab.

Finally, on Sunday we went to the national palace, Gyeongbokgung and the National Folk Museum to take a look around at some of the festivities for Lunar New Year.  We were led to believe they would be really cool, and while they were interesting, they weren't all that exciting.  I would choose to spend the Seollal celebrations in some other Asian city if I had the choice.

But we did get to see a drum troupe, which basically involves the players wearing colorful outfits with long streamers on their heads.  As they play, they dance around and twirl the streamers.  It's really cool, but then it gets kind of old after the first several songs.

Here's a shot of some of them in motion:

Afterward we travelled to Gwangwhamun, the largest plaza downtown.  For the occasion, they shut it off to traffic (which they didn't even do for the international snowboard competition held a month ago), and had traditional Korean games, including: throwing sticks at a jar; whipping spinning tops with leather straps to keep them going; slamming folded paper on the ground to get it to turn over (similar to Pogs, if you remember those); rolling metal hoops on the ground; and flying kites.

Needless to say, Koreans used to be really hard up for fun. No wonder they're all so obsessed with computer games.  But the kites were kinda cool, especially seeing dozens and dozens of them flying over downtown.

Monday, February 8, 2010


You know how sometimes you get a TV theme song stuck in your head?  You know how sometimes you are at work, bored, surfing the internet?  Here is my result for those two scenarios today, in two parts:

Part One: The Fresh Prince of Seoul

Now this is the story all about how
My life got flipped, turned upside down
I’d like to take a minute, so put your life on hold
I’ll tell you how I became the prince of a town called Seoul
In Middle Tennessee I was born and raised
On the campus is where I spent most of my days
Chilling out, maxing, relaxing, slightly odd
Three degrees and unemployed, still hanging round the quad
When a couple of guys who were ugly and hairy
Started making trouble by the library
I got in one little fight and my mom grew cold
She said ‘you’re moving with your girlfriend to teach English in Seoul.”

I whistled for a cab, and when it came near
The window said “translation available” and there was gimbap on the mirror
My best guess was that this cab would do
So I threw caution to the winds, “Yo home to Mangu.”
I pulled up to the high rise about ten or eleven
And though it smelled like hell thought I’d make it my heaven
Looked at my kingdom, though I wasn’t yet sold
Till I tried the kimchi, became the fresh prince of Seoul.

Part Two: Ignition - Seoul Remix

Now, usually I don’t do this but
Go ahead and break em off with a little preview
Of the remix...

Now I’m not trying to be rude
But I can’t speak it just like you
The way you say the things you do
Sounds like you’re whining, baby boo
And now I’m all up in your grill
Trying to get a cheap fresh meal
I find it hard to understand
How you can give me such a deal

So ajuma give me that gimbap
And let me get some kimchi
Running her hands cross that seaweed
Making a tuna roll just for me
Watching variety shows on TV

It’s the remix to ignition
Hot and fresh from Seoul’s kitchen
Ajumas rolling those gimbaps
Got every man in here wishing
Sipping maekju and soju
I’m pretty drunk how bout you
It’s the freakin weekend
Baby I’m about to have me some fun

Now it’s like a cooking show
Except I’m sitting on the floor
There’s so much food that I don’t know
What to do except eat more
Girl you think that I don’t know
You want my pale face to up and go
I’m about to take 4,000 won
And say “annyong haseyo”

So ajuma give me that gimbap
And let me get some kimchi
Running her hands cross that seaweed
Making a tuna roll just for me
Watching variety shows on TV

It’s the remix to ignition
Hot and fresh from Seoul’s kitchen
Ajumas rolling those gimbaps
Got every man in here wishing
Sipping maekju and soju
I’m pretty drunk how bout you
It’s the freakin weekend
Baby I’m about to have me some fun

Rice wine popping
In the nore-bong later
So much food everywhere
You’d think this singing room was catered
We’ve got
Koreans to my left
Foreigners to my right
We bring em both together
We got drinking all night
Then after the nore-bong
It’s the street food vendor
And after the vendor
It’s time for the next damn bender
Yeah around about seven
You gotta clear all the clubs
And go to sleep until noon
Cause haegwons have no subs

So ajuma give me that gimbap
And let me get some kimchi
Running her hands cross that seaweed
Making a tuna roll just for me
Watching variety shows on TV

It’s the remix to ignition
Hot and fresh from Seoul’s kitchen
Ajumas rolling those gimbaps
Got every man in here wishing
Sipping maekju and soju
I’m pretty drunk how bout you
It’s the freakin weekend
Baby I’m about to have me some fun

Now we off in a cab
Rolling windows down
Annoying the cab driver
As we drive across town
Sliding round and round
Every turn in the back seat
To the remix
We just bumping the beat


Saturday, February 6, 2010


Just returned from Costco.  Aside from playing bumper carts with pushy old ladies, there are a couple things of note.

First, I returned with a half a kilo of smoked squid and a whole rotisserie chicken, among other assorted things.  A good outing, in my opinion.

Second, and completely unrelated, I was reminded on my walk home of an excellent, humorous blog, Black Out Korea  Basically, in case you were not aware, Koreans love to get really really really drunk.  You often see all manner of Koreans, from men in business suits to old men with ratty hair to ajumas with their bright red lipstick, all passed out in various places in public: subways, buses, sidewalks, benches, even supermarkets.  I was reminded of this because on the 2 block walk from our apartment to Costco today I saw 3 different patches of vomit on the sidewalk.  This was remarkable only in that for a Saturday afternoon, that was a low count.

Enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


Korean pop, or the Korean Wave, as it is sometimes called, is not only popular in Korea, but has swept over much of Asia and even into America.  Korean pop singer Rain recently starred in the Korean film Ninja Assassin, which had a Hollywood release.

 To help understand the K-pop phenomenon, I've selected one music video from my students' favorite groups.  Be warned, the songs are pretty catchy, even if you only know the random English word or phrase that is thrown into every single song.

First, 2ne1.  They are a very popular girl group, who's hit "I Don't Care" was the number one song for Korean students back in the fall.  Saying the words I don't care in a classroom will always be followed by a round of giggles, then a rendition of the chorus by one or more students.

Next is a boy group that has torn the K-pop fans into bitter camps - those that like this group, 2PM, and those that like the other most popular boy group, Big Bang.  I'm putting this first because the song is decent, and the video is actually interesting.

The next group is huge right now, especially with the guys, as you'll see.  Girls Generation has 9 members, though apparently there are 5 that everyone likes the most, including their own publicists - an image search for the group will often show all 9 together, but occasionally you'll see shots of just 5 of them.  Sort of like with the Pussycat Dolls, the others just seem to be filler.  This video is full of choregraphed cute-ness, rapidly shifting scenes and lots of bright colors.  It's a really good indication of the M.O. for K-pop.

Up next is Big Bang, the other boy band competing for top spot on the charts and in girls' hearts.  They are led by the self-named G-dragon, who has also branched off to do some controversial solo work that shocked Seoul audiences a few weeks ago - it involved simulated sex on stage, which is an interesting choice considering most of the fans are girls ages 10-15.  Anyway, there are other Big Bang songs more popular than this one, especially a song called "Lollipop," but it is a duet with 2ne1, and I wanted to give BB their fair due on their own.

This next group, Wonder Girls, actually has seen some extra-Asian audiences, with a debut in the US recently.  This video is their music video debut in America, and probably their most popular song here in Korea.  It's an interesting video, pulling on motifs from the Jazz Age, from variety shows (which are huge in Korea), from Hollywood - from just about everywhere that has ever been successful in music.  It's a heavy handed attempt at pandering to the largest possible audience, but they actually pull it off quite well. 

SHINee is another boy band that is really popular with middle schools girls, and you'll see why below.  They use the same airbrushing, dyed hair, "arty" styles, and rapid camera movements/cuts to juxtapose with their very, very repetitive chorus and overdone choreography.  In short, they are the pinnacle of K-pop achievement.  After watching a lot of videos from a lot of bands, it becomes difficult to tell them apart - and no, I don't mean the actual performers.  The songs (lyrics and beats), the set designs, the cinematography, especially the choreography - it all is rehashed again and again, and eaten up by Korean teens.

One last group not to be forgotten: TVXQ!  They aren't as popular as other boy bands in terms of sales, but every middle school girl can tell you who they are, even who all the individual members are.  Their fan base may not be as astronomical as some others, but they are just as die-hard, if not more so. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Finally February

Here's N Seoul Tower, and no it doesn't stand for North. We went here when it was warmer- and although it looks a little ugly from the outside- the view is spectacular. We also saw it at night and there were lights all over it- gorgeous. Korean's compare this to the Eiffel Tower though, which I think is a bit of a stretch. Can't wait for it to be warm again!
Here's us before I let Ashley cut all of my hair off. Before us is a typical Korean meal that everyone shares-I'm not gonna lie, it's not my favorite thing to do.

I figured I'd go way back and show some pictures of our apartment. Now, since it's so cold, we have moved our bed into this room also. It's cozy.

Man the time is flying. In just four weeks we will be done with our second semester; which means we're almost halfway there! I can't believe it's going by so quickly. We have a break set up in April, and we're going to Jeju Island. It's supposed to be the "Hawaii of Korea." Can't wait. Our trusty Mr. Lee (or mystery as we like to call him) is setting up all the arrangements. In just two weeks is the lunar new year, which is the one the Korean people celebrate the most. We have no plans yet, but hopefully there will be celebrating. Other than that, the extreme cold has continued to damped our desire to be outside. We've been out to eat several times-Korean meat is the best. In class I'm finishing my book this week, with three weeks to go after that-uh oh! That's about all the news from me!