Banner design by Helena, portrait by Eva


Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I've been tagged! 8 Fun Eva Facts:

Recently, I was tagged by bloggers The Daily Kimchi and Lan-Anh. This is how it works:
- Each player must post these rules first.
- Each player starts with eight random facts about themselves.
- People who are tagged need to write about their eight things and post these rules.

At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to tag and list their names.
Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

The following bloggers should consider themselves tagged:

1. Paul - from Seoul Searching
2. Shawn and Mel - Suwon Expats
2. Jane - a Korean American lawyer in Seoul
3. Bobsama - ESL teacher
4. Kevin - an Expat in Suwon
5. Amy - another Expat in Suwon!!
6. Seasonal Nomad dude
7. Eric - from the Belarus blog

8. During my undergrad in Montreal I had a variety of roommates: Chinese, Korean, French and Indian. When I roomed with Chinese folk, I was so annoyed by the cultural/language barriers, kitchen thick with foreign smells, that I moved out. Yes I now eat the spiciest, smelliest foods Korea has to offer, and have all Korean friends!

7. Growing up my family owned an island on a lake, with a cottage on it and one of those gigantic trampolines. We sold it 6 years ago. I told my boyfriend I was sad he'd never set foot on the land. WELL, last summer we canoed to the island with plans to ask the current owners if we could explore.

We trespassed in the late afternoon. The door and windows were open. Were the owners out in their boat? After exploring, we cautiously entered the cottage and to my SHOCK the furniture and decor (going back to my Great Grandpa's time) were maintained, like it was a museum. Our food was in the cupboards, sailboat on the mantel, a poster in my old bedroom.

I phoned my Mother from inside the cottage, demanding to know WHY the owners would leave the door/windows open to the elements. The sun was setting and we were afraid to canoe the hour back to land under a black sky. Mom freaked, informed me that a police officer had purchased the property and we had better leave- immediately.

Josh and I were dead quiet as we canoed to land in moonlight. I got my wish! I was able to share it with him, just the way it was. Romantic huh?

6. When I was 10 years old, I got sick and had to be rushed to a children's hospital by helicopter. It had a glass bottom; the teddy bear the nurse gave me wasn't much comfort.

5. I was runner up for valedictorian at my high school because I was good at giving speeches. I also won the "best bum award." Yes, our Catholic high school had its sense of humor.

4. I've Googled the old Canadian TV show "Dear Aunt Agnus" 100's of times (for a VIDEO CLIP), and I've found nothing. Does anyone remember it!? I will love you if you do. It was so poorly written/produced it was good.

3. I have wavy/curly hair but straighten it.

2. I've been to The Bahamas, Holland, the East Coast, France, Venezuela, Florida, New York, and... drum roll... KOREA! I'll add Thailand (or India) to the list in December.

1. I brushed shoulders with the Leonard Cohen who gave a eulogy at Irving Layton's funeral. Yesterday bought a copy of Cormac McCarthy's The Road and can't WAIT to get back into it. It's amazing. He writes in a style similar to Trevor Ferguson: a Canadian author who was my favorite professor at Concordia.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Photos of Korea

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Conversations with Koreans

The more people I meet abroad, the less interesting my life story seems. But don't worry, I'm inspired!

Last Saturday a new student entered in my adult class. He was fresh from mountain climbing in Nepal. He has worked for volunteer organizations in South Africa (Cape Town) and Scotland, making milk and cheese on farms to feed the disabled. He has been on business trips to London England, Paris France, he once meditated with Tibetan monks.

Life is what you make it. Anyway, I want to digress. Talk of traveling and life's opportunities lead to a discussion about the workforce in Korea.

One of my adult students has worked 15 years at Korea Electric Power Corporation. My friend Hwan, an engineer in the making, said it's one of those jobs that's impossible to get; a dream job with security, benefits, big money and high profile projects. He did the planning for KTX and Seoul's Inchon airport.

In Korea, it's important to secure a job at a major company. Men are always name dropping. "I work for Samsung." "Yeah well I work for ...." It's important to hold a job for an extended period of time because the hierarchy of respect in the Korean workforce pertains to length of job holding. Age, usually the meter of etiquette in Korea, doesn't play much of a role.

Having a variety of experiences is more important in the West than it is here. 3 jobs that showcase a diverse skill set isn't as good as 10 years with your necktie caught in Samsung's conveyor belt.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Food Etc.

My new food obsession is 된장 , Doenjang Jiggae:

When you order doenjang jiggae, everyone in the restaurant knows. The soup leaves behind a foul odor as the waitress carries it to you. Korean friends thought I'd be put off by the smell but it is actually the most soul satisfying food I've ever had. It leaves me feeling good, full, happy.

The base is made of fermented soybean paste:doenjang (read more below) and ingredients like onions, tofu, clams, zucchini, etc.

"Doenjang is a traditional Korean fermented soybean paste. Beans are boiled and ground by rock into fine bits and formed into a block, which is called meju (메주). The blocks are then exposed to sunlight to be dried, during which mold special to soybean appears and the initial fermentation process begins. This sometimes produces an unpleasant fish-like smell. After the blocks have been dried, they are put in a warmer place to speed up the fermentation. Still later, they are put into large opaque pottery jars with brine and left to further fermentation, during which time various beneficial bacteria transform the mixture into a further vitamin-enriched substance, similar to the way milk ferments to become yogurt. Liquids and solids are separated after the fermentation process, and the liquid becomes Korean soy sauce (Joseon ganjang; 조선간장). The solid, which is doenjang, is very salty and quite thick, often containing (unlike most miso) some whole, uncrushed soybeans." - Continued at WIKIPEDIA.

A box of peaches for 20,000 W (20 USD) Fruit is a real treat in Korea. If I make it home for Christmas in Canada and find an orange in my stocking, I'll be grateful like it's wartime.

Kevin's drawing. Mrs and Mr. Chair are sad when their son falls over. The desk begins to cry because there's nothing she can do to help him up. Yes it's a sad story. Don't lose sleep over it. Dr. Elephant eventually comes to the rescue.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a favorite student. Enter Cindy. She's so beautiful, and does hilarious imitations that make me laugh. She's in ballet. She teaches me dance moves and whenever we go somewhere, she holds my hand like I'm her big sister.

I bought some new incognito sunglasses in Seoul this weekend. (To hide my tears about Damien Rice's cancellation.) Does the name Roberta de Camerino mean anything to you? Koreans are big on names. The sales woman kept repeating the designer's name trying to impress me but I had no idea who it was. With all the knock off brands in Korea, I'm skeptical anyway.

Have some candy from Korea's chain, Paris Baguette. Great for gifts:

Friday, July 27, 2007

Damien Rice cancels Pentaport Festival tour

Cancelled appearance for festivals in Japan & Korea - 26 Jul 2007

"It is with due thought and consideration that we are sorry to announce our decision to cancel Damien's appearance at festivals in Japan (Fuji Rocks Festival) and Korea (Pentaport Festival) this coming weekend.This years busy touring and traveling has taken its toll on Damien's health and due to exhaustation we must cancel our scheduled appearances at these events in the longer term interest of protecting his voice.Having never cancelled an appearance to date, we are really disappointed not to be making the trip and send warm wishes for a beautiful festival."

In December I'm going to Thailand. I haven't done much traveling. I have only 4 months left in Korea and need to decide which parts to see. Tough decision! I hear Jeju Island is a must. My year long vacation is literally 2 DAYS (yes 2 days) because the 5 days in mid-August include a weekend and a National Holiday.

Does anyone have a recommendation?

Today I got this offer from a Korean friend. Sounds good to me. Day/weekend trips can be the most fun. Have you been to Gang-Won province?

"hey~ when is your vacation? my vacation is next week (8. 2 ~ 8. 5) i don;t decide what to do exactly but maybe i'll visit mom' mother in gang-won province i told you she has villa there. you and kyle can come with me. you wanna in? it takes 2hrs (or 2and half hrs) usually to get to there by bus. i don't know how many rooms left yet. the villa is 2 floor bld. there are 5 rooms (3 are one bed room, 2 are two bed room) except grand mom's room. and there are barbecue grill, plot for vegetable, little shed, stream (tiny one) around villa. there are water park, ski resort, river around that area. " - Tae Hun

A Pressing Question!

Here is one of my coworkers teasing the kids, who are totally enamored- probably because the man himself is childlike. He's also a fantastic teacher.

He asks me ridiculous questions all the time because he has, "never known a foreign person." My eye color, skin color, hair, height, weight (I could go on) have all been scrutinized.

He's like a girl. If I wear a different color lipstick he wants to know why. I find myself inventing answers because there usually are none! My skin is pale. It just is. Yes you can examine it.

Today I said I don't like the crushed ice, whipped cream and red beans desert, with fruit from a can- although I'm sure it's better for me than a towering scoop of ice cream.

WELL he informed me, there's a Polish girl in Korea who enjoys red beans so much she eats a bean sandwich everyday- and she makes the crushed ice sundae a couple times a week. He said it really makes him happy she enjoys beans so much.

I asked how he knows her. Does she go to Ajou University? "I saw her on TV," he replied.

The girl and I are both foreigners. She's from Poland. I'm from Canada. It baffles him. Why does she like the desert when I do not?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A.B.C.'s of Korea

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C- CROWDS. Also see, "claustrophobia."

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This Hongdae area norebang (kareoke) bar is hilarious. The large glass windows allow exhibitionists to sing in front of an audience: people passing on the street. There are ladders in each room leading up to private bunks with pillows. I like it for 2 reasons. 1.) It looks like a doll house for big people. 2.) From the street it might appear that I have a decent voice!

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The night shot of Suwon, above, looks like an American painter's work. Can you guess whose?

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Korean Men: Forever haunted by their military training?

Tae Hun admits that he had a better military experience than most of his friends, but he regrets "wasting" 2 years of his life and he still dreams about it, like he did the other night:

Hi eva. today i had weird dream. i had to join the army again even i finished already. i said to a private first class soldier, "hey man, i finished mine already. i think there must be something wrong with military system. he said, "i don't care whether you finished your obligation or not. i just follow HQ's order." i had to join the army again! and you see me off to the main gate of boot camp. it was really weird.

I asked what my reaction was in the dream. He said I wished him good luck.

ASK EVA (and she will ask someone else...)

F.Y.I. I added a new foreigner in Suwon to the blogger list!

1. Interested in finding the red light district in Suwon? I am- but not for the reason you might think! give me a little credit. I want to take some great PHOTOS! A fellow Suwonite (Suwonite?) sent me these directions:
"Ahhh, the red light district. Do you know where the Paris Baguette is just outside of the station? My sense of direction is terrible so I'll describe it like this. As you are facing the Paris Baguette walk to the left and follow the main road. There will be several sides streets you pass. It is a block or two before you reach an overpass. It's about 3-4 blocks, I think, from the Station. I've just been there twice. Once by mistake and I took my husband to see it. It was a Sunday when I went with him and they weren't quite open for business. There was lines of really seedy looking men waiting. Yuck! When I went on a weekday, it was the only street with no one on it. The windows are all curtained so you can't mistake where you are and the girls were sitting on chairs in the entryway. If you have trouble finding it, maybe I could meet you at the station and take you. I think I would avoid Sunday. I wonder what it's like at night? I'm sorry my description is so poor, it is easy to just walk it then tell somehow how to get there. I'm so mixed up on my directions but I think it is north of the station."

2. "Dear Eva,

*This relationship-based question has been deleted by request.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Good Girl Vs. Bad Girl Behavior in Korea

A reader responds: "My school has 3 native teachers: myself from the US, and female teachers from China and Japan. We have been told that I can't walk around the school/eat a meal/or do something with only 1 of the female teachers; it has to be both female teachers at the same time. It looks "bad" to Koreans when a single male teacher and a single female teacher do something alone.
The male students, well some of them are terrorists in training, but IF they get punished it is very light. If the female students do the same thing, they receive more severe and longer lasting punishment, ie pulling weeds outside for 3 days, being forced to kneel for 8 hours, etc.. The punishment should be the same, but it's not."
- A foreign highschool teacher in Korea.
Remember when Kevin, another foreigner in Suwon, wrote of a Korean girl who refused to be seen in public with him for fear of being perceived as a "bad girl?" People stared and gave them dirty looks. One even pressed his nose up to the restaurant window where they ate.
I first got a glimpse into the good/bad girl phenomena when I was warned to dress appropriately. I upset a Korean friend's Grandmother when I failed to place a pillow over my bent knees, playing yut nori, on the floor in a skirt.
I was also sternly warned to never label a child a "bad boy" or "bad girl." That's obvious to me; comment on behavior, not character. You're acting bad, not you are bad.
But appearances are of utmost importance in Korea. On the bus ride back from the Folk Village, an adult student discussed the Korean focus on being exemplary. For women this means being beautiful and kind with a "good character." Smart? Talented? That's a plus.
I've heard that Korean women occasionally go through a procedure to repair their hymens and fake virginity on their wedding night. Purity is glorified, and it may be a root of the obsession with white skin. Whitening lotions are pushed at every cosmetics shop in Korea. I was even given samples of whitening toners, when I bought mascara-- and I'm as pale as they get.
Although Korea has a big drinking culture, women who drink more than a couple of beers are often judged. The average Korean guy is not impressed by a girl who can hold her liquor, let alone one who can't. I've mentioned women's bathroom stalls filled with smoke on sunny days. Smoking speaks of a woman's lack of discipline and generally poor character.
Some male University students told me they preferred, "a lady," someone feminine and easy to talk to. Tae Hun described a willowy Korean girl with hair done up in a bun. Even in a developed country where one night stands happen and there's a motel every 5 blocks, traditions prevail.
A male coworker disputed the whole tomboy thing by writing, "Eva is a lady," on the white board. He meant it as a major compliment. He later said he was repulsed by one of our coworkers, a broad-shouldered and opinionated woman with a husky voice. She can eat a lot, she can play poker and pocket ball. Her strong character would be admired in the West. In fact, I aspire to be more like her.

More Folk Village Pics...

Beautiful, no? Visit Youngin's Traditional Folk Village, just outside of Suwon.

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A wealthy man's wedding, table adorned with candles and candied fruit.

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Don't the business men look about 5 here? I was proud of my students for being so gung-ho, the wind in their hair.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Traditional Korean Porridge

Also known as "health food," get well food, and food Korean men don't consider a meal.

I recently ate at a restaurant called, "Korea Traditional Porridge Restaurant," a couple minutes East of Hotel Castle in Suwon. I ate alone until a Texan business man walked in, and proclaimed he had been dining here on a regular basis because he can't handle the kick of most Korean food. Korean porridge is mild, and comes in various flavors like seafood (which is more like a stew, shrimp was his choice) and my favorite: pumpkin.

Remember when I was served pumpkin soup at a Korean family's home in Seoul? Click here.

The direct translation for Chuk is "gruel", which sounds downright unappetizing, so Koreans use the more palatable word, "porridge." The porridge is made by steaming grain over low heat until it thickens into a thick liquid ready for the ingredients. Pumpkin soup is sweet, hot and home to chewy rice balls and the odd pumpkin seed. It's definite comfort food, even in the heat of summer.

Pumpkin Porridge (with sidedishes and juice): 6USD


Friday, July 20, 2007

A Saturday in Suwon

These "breathable" clay pots store dwen-jang and kimchi:
fermented bean paste and cabbage.

The old heating system unique to Korea. Even today, the floor is the primary heat source -
by means of hot water pipes.

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This man was selling traditional honey candies from his trunk.

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A family fishing with nets.
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This is why they call it a "living museum." A Chosun Dynasty pottery mill recreated.

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My students enjoying cold Ginseng tea. Koreans drink cold tea in the summer, and hot in the winter. Mine is persimmon tea, it tasted a bit like apple cider with cinnamon. I fought tooth and nail with my student about paying for my own, but he insisted, "it's my pleasure."

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We shared a big pot of mushroom, beef and seafood soup. My students asked me to explain the sayings, "it could be better," and, "it couldn't be better," in relation to the food. I was so hungry from walking around that I said, "it couldn't be better."

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Enjoying the view with a student. He told me there that when he and his wife got married, they went horseback riding on Jeju Island. I told him about my frightening ride down a mountain in Venezuela.

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To SOULMATE bar, near Ajou University:

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I was good friends with this guy, Young, when I first arrived in Korea. He, Min and I hung out a lot, but he went away for work. Well surprise surprise, he got an engineering job at Samsung company in Suwon, and called me up to go for a drink. Since when do I have "old" friends in Korea? I've been here for awhile now.

Drink house food- A platter of fruit for 10USD. Beer and watermelon anyone? Help yourself.