blogging because.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

so. not. into. it.

DISCLAIMER: this post is a rant. 
general disgust
Korea we have been playing a game of chicken for nine months now..."do I stand up to my administration today, or not" "do I smile politely as my close talking kids blow remnants of their seafood lunch in my face, or not" "do I accept the flem spit up in public, or not"  today I'm gonna bring it.

A fellow EPIK teacher posted a cry for help on our group page this afternoon. She revealed to us that her co-teacher is unstable and despite her pleas to the administration, BMOE and EPIK, none of our superiors are willing to go to bat for her and resolve it. Turns out that said co-teacher has already received a multitude of complaints and to this extent, was transferred. Not punished...transferred. Teachers in Korea cannot be suspended or fired, the kind of job security that threatens to supersede North America's flawed teaching unions. At orientation we were assured of many things, of which, that our rights as guest teachers would be represented and protected...because lets face it, irregardless of our best efforts, a lot still gets lost in translation. In this case, previous concerns were hushed and met with a band aid solution displacing the issue.  Like many games of chicken in Korea, the waygook (foreigner) ends up with the short end of the stick. This EPIKer has reached yet another stalemate, essentially backed into a corner and confined by the terms of her contract. I hope things work out for you.

And while I'm at it...

I really hate it when you point and stare at me. I know I am tall. Some call me 'Jumbo Jen' because that is how they package the only pair of tights that fit me in this country. My size is not an invitation for you to stop me in the street and take a picture with me.

You can't have my business unless I can try it on. Pssssst.

I love to grocery shop and even though this experience is finally becoming enjoyable here, please refrigerate the eggs. I only have time to eat eggs on the weekend and I am always weary of another face off with food poisoning...that $h*t is no yoke.

Paying my bills. This monthly task is even more despised in Korea then at home. I cannot read them. I cannot pay them online. I cannot go to the bank during business hours because I am at work. To take care of them, I must sign out for at least a hour, borrowed time from my holidays. Riddle me that.

OPEN THE WINDOWS! As the only waygook on my am bus route, let me say that summer is definitely here folks. Just because I don't speak Korean, I can see you gawking as I swing back and forth as the buses jerks down the road, glistening with sweat. What do you want me to do?

Hey you at the back of the class, I see you picking your nose and eating it.

- sigh -

Sunday, May 15, 2011

bridal busan

'bridal viewing' pre ceremony
Hyunhee and I

the colourful affluence of traditional Korean wedding garb

Yesterday I attended my first wedding, ever, the irony that it took place in Korea is almost too much for me handle. It consisted of two ceremonies. The first, I will say was western inspired...the white dress, the priest and the bouquet toss. Throughout the nuptials no one really appeared to be paying attention. Cell phones were answered, texts exchanged and children were running up and down the aisle as if they were the main event. What really put the icing on the cake, was when the groom piggy backed the bride's mother down the aisle as a 'thank-you' for 'giving' your daughter to me. When we left the hall, another bridal party was ready and waiting. Interval wedding, 1:25. From here, we moved into another room where we observed the traditional component of the day. Surrounded by their immediate family, the bride and groom exchanged personal vows and made various offerings that will hopefully bring them a life of wealth, happiness and a big family. I had my other co-teacher next to me, translating, filling me in on the purpose of this and that along with various superstitions. My favourite fact of the day would have to be the belief that if the bride smiled/showed her teeth at all she would be fated never to birth a boy to carry the family name. Aheeeeeem.

lotte lotte lotte

Saturday we went to the Lotte Giants baseball game in Busan to celebrate Bryan's birthday. As with all good sporting events, the energy was high and the fan fare was flying. Mid way through the fifth inning, orange plastic bags were doled out for your end o game trash...until then, you wear them on your head while shaking newspaper 
pom poms. Why am I ever surprised in Korea?

The cheer leaders were something else. We were there as the guests of the starting pitcher of the Giant's...some might argue the best seats in the house. Balling. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

beijing and back

Nin Hao!
I am  back from my final tour of Asia...this year! Beijing was awesome! I am not sure really what I expected, but I was a little caught off guard by the presence of the government. Hints of Communism lined the streets, parks and subways. To gain entry to any tourist site you had to go through security, a x - ray bag scan and a metal detector pat down. The whole 9 yards. We learned that these measures were not for show as some people were asked to open their bags for further investigation, then given the green light or for the not so fortunate ones, toted off somewhere else. 
not sure if that is your colour Obama?
eyes on Tienanmen Square
We (sort of) lucked out with weather. Saturday we walked around the city for 7 hours...a poor choice in hindsight as I returned to the hostel with shredded feet and a crispy face. We stopped at the Forbidden City, Tienanmen Square, the Peoples Labour Museum and the Olympic Village. The Forbidden City was built throughout the Ming Dynasty (1300s-1600s) to house the Emperors, the Empress (+ a multitude of concubines) and a full staff. No one was allowed to enter the city without formal invitation and once inside, you were forbidden to leave. With architecture and colouring indicative of traditional Asian design, I could not get over its seemingly endless walled expanse. I think it is a true testament to China's nationalism that they have preserved this site within a metropolis where space is limited. 
outside the wall of the Forbidden City

Just opposite the FC, Tienanmen Square stands strong. Like the FC, it is massive and can hold 1,000,000 people at once. It is hard to describe how I felt here. Aside from several statues, the square is empty. Thinking back, this seems most appropriate, a solemn memorial, silently acknowledging the message of the 1989 protests. 

Sunday we rented bikes and bombed around the cities parks, most notably the Imperial Gardens and Bei Hai Park. Beijing puts Busan to shame when it comes to its greenery. Mid afternoon the heavens opened. Kym and I were keen to hit the infamous markets. You can see for yourself...we looked absolutely ridiculous haggling prices with various shop keepers. 
but can you rock a poncho?
Monday we visited the Great Wall and the Ming Tombs. Stretching as far as the eye could see, over the sharpest peaks and valleys, the view was as magnificent as promised. As with all of the worlds wonders, there are so many unanswered questions pertaining to its integrity and construction. That said, I was more than happy to bounce around at my own pace while concocting the 'Jennifer Savory' version of how the wall came to be. We had two more 'ah ha' moments here. First, as made our way through one of the towers, we bumped into the Waymann's, a fellow Kingsway family. I went to LKS with Kim back in the day and Kym went to Queens with three of the Waymann sisters. What are the odds!? Second, you don't have to walk up or down the wall to get a stellar view. A gondola/chairlift and/or toboggan option have been installed. Because time was limited (ahaha) we opted for the chairlift ride up and the sled ride down. Terrified of heights, the chairlift was no fun for me. However, I cannot remember a time when I have laughed harder than I did speeding down the Great Wall.  

After the wall, the Ming Tombs were a little underwhelming, unfortunately our visit landed right in the middle of widespread reconstruction and a lot was closed off to the public. 

Its been quite a trip visiting four countries on this side of the world. With many commonalities (especially in relation to Canada) I have taken something different away from each. I am so grateful that I have had the opportunity to explore these places to the extent that I have, especially as the world continues to globalize. 

As Asia becomes an even more competitive player in the international arena, I feel like I can move forward with an enlightened understanding of its history and its role in the twenty-first century.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Cinco de Mayo - imnida

In the past I have written about the hardship I have had living abroad when a holiday rolls around. Yesterday was Children's Day in Busan, a day off work just in time to celebrate Cinco de Mayo
tequila sunrise
handy crafts
 This holiday, not of particular symbolic value to me, holds a lot of meaning and fond memories for some of my friends here. In order to honour the day, they put together the most colourful rooftop fiesta for us. 

fiesta favours pour pa vour 
Complete with homemade tortillas, guacamole, margaritas and quesadillas. Warmed by friendship and the summer sun, my heart swelled with appreciation. It is so thoughtful when people take the time to include you in their traditions. Thanks for an awesome day Texas. 

and she said, let them eat cake

chocolate envy
4.29.11 - Princess Party, invite on
We all know that the last Friday Wills and  Kate tied the knot.

There has been great debate regarding the hoopla surrounding the royal nuptials. Did April 29, 2011 cost the British economy too much? Was this royal display 'too chauvinistic' considering the ongoing unrest in the Middle East? A commoner marrying a royal - how taboo? Too be honest, I think that all these questions are a waste of breath and energy. At the end of the day, a wedding should symbolize the coming  together of two people and their friends and family. In my opinion, the royal wedding did just that. It was a ceremony tinged with with personal touches and priceless moments between those closet to the couple. Unfortunately the promised happily ever after only exists in fairy tales, when in actuality their relationship will forever be on display for us to chronicle and berate. The fact that until their coronation, the future King and Queen are leading a seemingly normal life, tucked amidst the rolling hills of the English countryside makes them an even more lovable pair. So, lets cut the cynicism and celebrate the fact that two people found each other and fell in love.

Our running commentary revealed:

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

the best flippin in town

There is nothing like a good ol' round robin game of flip cup and so, Saturday Busanites ollehed all afternoon. 
My team, 'special cocktail, pickle, ****, best in town' preserved Canada's game glory with a respectful quarter final finish.
Cheers. Roll on summer, roll on.