Banner design by Helena, portrait by Eva


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Smoking and High Salaries, for MEN?

One week ago my adult class of 2 discussed feminism/ the workforce in Korea.

The Ajou University student feels equal to her male classmates, but the business woman feels otherwise. For one thing, Korean men automatically earn a higher salary than women in the same starting position because their two years of military service is considered experience.

There was an article in the Korea Times today about female employees at big companies paid 22.2 million won ($23,845) less a year on average than their male colleagues.

My student is outnumbered as the only woman in sales and she believes she has less opportunities for travel and advancement than her male colleagues. In her words, "I'd say it takes a Korean woman 5 years to get the same promotion a man could get in 2."

There's still the perception in Korea that men have to provide for their families. I have met a few women who say they will quit to be a housewife when they marry, but they are becoming a minority.

The woman told me the story of another female who entered the company: a smoker. Even on sunny days in Korea, womens' bathroom stalls are filled with stale smoke. It's considered an undesirable habit, something a "bad girl" would do. (I will discuss this 'bad girl', ' bad boy' phenomena soon.)

The woman was forced to quit her job due to gossip concerning her unladylike addiction. Meanwhile... the men blew smoke and counted their bills outside?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Colors of Suwon

Prescription Refills in Korea

Ajou International Health Care clinic, Suwon

Moving to Korea isn't like spending a summer in Switzerland. Chances are your skin and hair won't flourish in the new atmosphere.

At first sight of a cloud, Koreans hold up an umbrella to protect themselves from acid rain. Many wear face masks to avoid the polluted air, and worse: yellow dust.

My skin has broken out because of the daily kimchi and bad air quality. You can't drink tap water in Korea, so it probably isn't doing my skin much good either.

I was in for a shock today. I went back the the pharmacy to retrieve my second of 3 tubes, and was told that there are NO refills in Korea- for any prescription. When I purchased only one, the other two were cancelled via phone with the dermatologist's permission- but unbeknownst to me!

To see the doctor at Ajou it costs 15,000W, but it's the futility of returning to retrieve prescriptions already prescribed. This is a warning to all of you re-fillers out there!

Also, aesthetic meds. aren't covered by insurance, in Korea. The topical medication was reasonably priced, though, at about 20 USD a tube.

When I see a doctor next week, at least I'll have an excuse to get a short Coffee of the Day, at the in-hospital Starbucks pictured above. It's the cheapest drink, running at about 2.50USD.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

A Sunday Picnic, Suwon

These boys have entered the police force for their two years of compulsory military service. They are taking a break, cross-legged in the gazebo.

This family plays a lighthearted game of badminton. I bought rackets and birdies on the weekend (10$ USD) so we could join in on the fun. The park was full of older men and women exercising or engaged in a game. Their children, I'm guessing, were at home.

Great shot, Tae Hun! I love the complimentary colors. We had a picnic in the shade of an orange tarp. Fruit is very expensive in Korea. The apples and oranges were 1,000W (1USD) each. The bottle is Bek-Se-Ju ("100 Year Old Wine.") Delicious, with the aroma of ginseng.

I told Tae Hun's fortune on the blue blanket. He is going to travel by Cessna, live in a shack in Peru, have 7 children, be a programmer, collect match boxes as a hobby... and marry our friend Kyle. (It was something along those lines. He wasn't exactly pleased by it.)

No, I'm not looking at that guy's butt. I'm searching for a bunny rabbit that hopped into the bushes.

There he is! Brilliant, I know; I try to lure him with a leaf when he has an unlimited supply.

He takes from me anyway. What a sweet baby. His fur was like silk. That concludes my magical Sunday. The reason I haven't posted much is my camera is broken, and I've been working 6 days a week. I'll try to get back into the swing of it. Thursday is 부처님 오신 날 (Buddha's Birthday) so I have a 4 day weekend ahead.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

DVD Bangs, Korea

I had the idea that DVD bangs were like norebang: friendly rooms with bench seats around a table. Not quite! The rooms at DVD bangs are very, very cozy. Why do you think teenagers pay up to 12USD to watch a movie in a private room? Let your mind wander down a dark, dingy alleyway. That's ri-hh-ight!

Koreans live at home until they get married, so even a 30 year old Korean man might not have the privacy he wants. The rooms have a curtain to pull tight but the doors don't lock and, when the movie's over, you're outta there!

Luckily the guy I went with is a good friend, so I wasn't uncomfortable when presented with a tiny leather couch. There's no movie theatre nearby my house and I can't play Korean-region movies on my laptop, so we sought out a local DVD bang. Although our outing was platonic, the guy at the counter got a huge, goofy smile on his face when we (Korean guy/ Western girl) entered the room with our movie of choice: 200 Pound Beauty- a Korean romantic comedy with English subtitles. It was cute and had funny moments, but I can't rave.

Some photos (enjoy):


Happy Mothers Day Mom. Happy Mothers Day Nana. You are the two most important people in my life and I have really missed you these past 6 months. You've both made so many sacrifices for me and I feel lucky to have you.

My Nana is in her 80's but she is vibrant, involved in her church, and a world traveler; she has been to France, Egypt, the Dominican Republic and Alaska in the last few years. I think it's safe to say she knows more about current events, and has a more active social life, than I do! She's incredible- and so giving. My Mother is beautiful, acutely talented and, as my friend Rohan would say: "an angel- openhearted and kind." She has the ability to put anyone at ease, and she's perpetually happy, like a flower always in bloom.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Stephen Colbert Korean Music Video

For a laugh.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

A University Engineering Campus- Photos

Eva: You're engineering students.
How hard do you work at University?

Kiju: He doesn't work at all!
Random bar guy: It's true.

Min and Young: Tough question.
... Let us ponder.

Min: Not nearly as hard as I should.

Over-schooled girl: I wish I was a University student.
Then I'd have more time to play "Maple Story!"

This guy was occupied and had no comment.

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to a University in Youngin to tour the Structural Engineering campus. I met a grad student who gave me a tour of the facility- as well as his office, and the closet (yes, closet) he crashes in a few nights a week. He was too embarrassed to let me photograph it, but there was only a pillow and a thin blanket folded in a corner.

He works at the University 7 days/week and sleeps on average 5 hours a night. His office was very lived-in, cluttered with cracker boxes, soup mix, slippers-- and stress balls!

To come: His daily schedule, to make you feel as guilty as I do.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Kids in Korea

Cell phones are toys. This girl even has a pink, plush holder for hers:
"The statistics office says that teenagers between the age of 15 and 19 send more than 60 text messages every day - almost four times as many as the national average of 16.9. They also spend 14 hours a week on the computer while 20- to 24-year-olds spend 19 hours." - The Korean Herald, May 3 /07

They write revealing stories like this one. Eraser hates Pencil because she is different, and dirty. But when Pencil writes Eraser a love letter, he falls for her. "Even though she misspells the words, the letter is beautiful." They move into a pencil case together and are happy. But in the end, Eraser's Mom and Dad say, "her body is dirty. We don't like her." Then their love is over.

They come to class with English print on their clothing, and are confused when I say it doesn't mean anything.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Seoul Shots

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Korean/English Language Exchange

My adult class was cancelled Saturday morning because it was a National Holiday in Korea: 어린이날- Children's Day! I threw a party for my elementary school students on Friday, complete with Scrabble and Korean snacks like dried octopus & squid, shrimp chips and chocolate pies.

Children's Day seems redundant to me. I think the Canadian mentality is that every day is "children's day," but after a bit of research I found out that the holiday is celebrated in 27 countries worldwide, including India, Venezuela and Congo.

Every Saturday after my adult class, I meet an engineering student for a language exchange. The lessons can be tedious because his level of English is quite low, and my Korean is that of an infant: "Uhmunie! Ohh-you jusayo!" "Mother, I want milk!"

I always bring a newspaper with me and ask him if any headlines spark his interest. I thought we could discuss the Nigerian kidnappings or something topical, but he chose 'University soccer.'

Here he is at Good Coffee, a coffee shop in Suwon:

A Korean Speaks Back- Culture

Q: You've been living in the US since the late 90's. What is your relationship like with your Korean American friends? Do they treat you any differently because you grew up in Korea?

A: I really started hanging out with Korean Americans when I was in grad school in Boston. Before that, I had no Korean friends. It was interesting to hear their experience as second generation Koreans in the US. I think most of them have pretty deeply seeded identity crises which they don’t like to admit. They’re not quite Americans, but not quite Koreans either. At least, I can pretend to be both since I speak both languages fluently. They make fun of a person like me by calling me a FOB (Fresh Off the Boat), but I know that deep down inside, they wish they could be more like me who understands the both cultures so well.

Q: One day last week I was tired, so I brought a book to work and read between classes. 3 coworkers came by my room to ask if I was alright! Why is it socially unacceptable to spend time alone in Korea?

A: Koreans tend to be very social. I’m not surprised that your co-workers think there is something wrong with you or you are going through some kind of depression. Have you noticed that you never see a Korean person eating or drinking a coffee alone in a restaurant or café? We all do have a certain urge to feel a sense of belonging, but Koreans tend to stick together and always socialize together wherever they go.

Q: I am a 50/50 split the bill kind of girl, but men are usually adamant about paying in Korea. Now that you're living in the US, do you still insist on footing the bill?

A: When it comes to paying for food, I am still very much Korean. I cannot let a woman I like to pay for the food. Having said that, I will most likely pay for the house when I get married, which is an old Korean tradition; the man buys the house and the woman pays for the furniture.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

My Students' Freudian Slip...

This is what I saw when I walked into the classroom after break time. I couldn't help but laugh. Maybe I'm not the best disciplinary figure but the bum transformed into (their Mother's breasts) was pretty creative. They looked so darn proud of themselves.