We live, as Ric is fond of telling people, at the corner of Drunk and Stupid, on a street where one or another of our neighbors is always getting in a drunken shouting match or fistfight with someone, usually on the street beneath our window. While these incidents are highly prized for their entertainment value (after all, one can only watch Transformers 2 being replayed with Korean subtitles so many times), the real gems are the folks who live in our new but fairly shoddily built apartment building. There is no insulation or soundproofing of any kind in our apartments. And by “no”, I mean the wallpaper is laid directly on top of the concrete walls that make up the structure we live in. Couple this with all hard flooring and a stairwell in the center of the building that acts as some kind of megaphone, and you don’t even have to TRY to eavesdrop. Like, we can hear our next door neighbor’s phone ring–when it’s set to vibrate.
Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t seen Frozen yet, crawl out from under your log and do it, or read on at your own risk.
“Is it ‘Do you want to build a snowman?’ or ‘Do you want to make a snowman?’,” my hapkido instructor asked me last week, genuinely interested in the grammatical intricacies of Disney’s newest blockbuster, Frozen. At that point I knew that if my 관장님 (Master), a forty-something man with no small children, had seen and loved the film, that it had taken a firm hold on the minds and imaginations of the Korean public.
An article here from Euromonitor proclaims South Koreans the world’s heaviest drinkers, nearly doubling the amount of hard liquor Russians consume weekly. Having lived here, I totally believe it. Drinking,especially after work drinks with the boss and colleagues, is super-common here, and there is almost no stigma attached to public drunken behavior. Last week, we rode the bus home next to two twenty-something women who were already pretty pickled–at nine o’clock at night. I don’t know how they had even been off work long enough to get drunk, but they had managed somehow.
In an effort to wrench ourselves away from the digital glow of our television screens, we decided to take advantage of the early spring weather we had last weekend and head out on an excursion of some sort. After blindly picking Tongdo Temple out of our plethora of Korean guidebooks and retrieving my camera from the shelf where it had sat for far too long, we ventured forth into the world.
Tongdosa is one of the oldest and largest temples in Korea, having been hallowed ground since some time in the seventh century A.D. This temple is often referred to as the center of Korean Buddhism because it houses sacred relics from the Buddha, including a piece of his jaw bone, his begging bowl, and his robe. The actual artifacts are enshrined in the Diamond Steps, located at the heart of the complex of temple buildings. Visitors can walk around the stupa where the remains are enshrined, but they aren’t allowed to take photographs.
The cliche rings true, y’all: it IS the little things. In this case,it’s the little things that drive you absolutely crazy and make you want to hop a plane home early. Over the past couple of months, a small collection of tiny inconveniences has reminded us that it’s definitely time to leave Korea when our contract is up in July. Here are some of them, in no particular order:
1) We used to have a really awesome little locally owned market about a block from our house. It has been torn down and replaced with a 7-11,which carries nearly nothing we use.
2) Korea (as a nation) has blocked Grooveshark, which was what made the fact that Korea didn’t have Pandora tolerable.
3) The super-delicious shabu-shabu restaurant near our house has closed.
4) The three grocery stores most convenient to my life no longer carry my brand of soda.
About a year ago, my supervising teacher leaned over to my desk and said nonchalantly, “For January, you will teach a Crafts class. You know, making stuff? OK?”
Stunned, I nodded my assent and stared balefully at the pitiful array of art supplies my hagwon kept. We had some origami paper squares, a dozen or so pairs of scissors, a couple of nearly spent glue sticks, and about 65 crayons. Not 65 packs of Crayolas, 65 individual, heavily used crayons. I shook my head in dismay. I had very little experience with crafts and even less with teaching children to do them, let alone children who don’t speak very much English. How was I going to manage all this chaos in my pitiful 8×15 classroom?
During the winter, Ric and I pretty much turn into a couple of semi-hibernating couch potatoes who are really only interested in popcorn, napping, and superhero movies. Thus, we have no new adventures to record this week. However, in the interest of keeping you entertained, I am going to post some photos from our trip to Seoul in October. Hopefully these will tide you over until we conquer our holiday-induced lethargy.
Photos are one thing we have in abundance over here in Korea. We see so many interesting (and sometimes puzzling) things that it’s hard not to photograph everything. So, it seems fitting to recap our year with a photo or two for each month. Here’s what 2013 brought us.
January: We went ice fishing in 기장 (Gijang). We also received a host of awesome Christmas goodies from our wonderful families.
I’m not gonna say it’s been easy, folks, but it sure has been instructional and pretty edifying. The Year of No New Clothes is almost halfway over, and I am pausing to recount the successes and one failure of this project so far, while also sharing with you what six months of not shopping has done to the way I think about clothes and retail in general.
As you’ll remember from my post here, I allowed myself two specific occasions whereby items could be purchased, and I have, in fact, added some items to my wardrobe in the last six months. Since July, I have purchased the following: