“Which Korea is the Best Korea?” and other facepalm inducing questions

February 4, 2013 § 10 Comments

The cocktail-sipping, little-plate full of assorted cinnamony things balancing, small-talk over Christmas this year went a tad more tumultuously than normal.

“So what are your plans for after graduation?”

The answer, “Well, actually… I’m moving to Korea,” as far as I can tell, might as well have been:


Which, I suppose, is understandable.

It’s the follow-up question I did not see coming. “Oh wow. …Which one?”

North. Kim Jong Un and I go way back.

To be honest, though, I can’t point fingers too emphatically.  My own cultural education is pretty shoddy and based more on the countries that catch my personal interest than anything. But still. This seems to be a bit of an epidemic.

Evidence #1

Picture 8

Seriously though. Which Korea IS the best Korea?

I don’t mean to keep being an America-downer of sorts, but it’s too much of a vacuum sealed mason jar up in here, perspective/awareness-wise. It’s odd though; I don’t think the problem comes from a “We’re better than the rest of the world” or even a  “we don’t need the rest of the world” mentality as much as it is “Wait. There’s a rest of the world?”

Yes. Yes there is. And while we aren’t all called to soujourn as goats in Nepal, we probably should explore it to some extent.


And the award for “Cutest Kid in Korea” goes to…

January 31, 2013 § Leave a comment

You can go to Korea after you finish your broccoli.

January 29, 2013 § 4 Comments

In this case, broccoli is graduate school. They’re quite similar, really. Both supposed to enrich you somehow, both causing you to fume until you wail against the cruel, irrational human constructs that force this kind of suffering upon any individual and to declaim to the masses the apparent meaninglessness of life. (I don’t know about you, but I had traumatic experiences with vegetables as a child). I digress. The point is, despite my best efforts to somehow imaginarily bring Korea closer by completing all of the paperwork I could get my hands on, well… I just have to pout at the table until May.

waiting game


Gorgeous Traditional / Modern Fusion

January 26, 2013 § 1 Comment

I stumbled across these modernized Hanboks in recent webventures.

Aren’t they beautiful?


These are not your grandmother’s hanboks, (I’m fairly certain that wearing the bottom two would get you the stink-eye from most adjummas, what with that scandalous shoulder-baring and all), but the fact that these dresses exist with a modern twist just reminds me again of how vibrantly alive tradition is in Korea. Even in the midst of rapid forward motion, there are constant, reverent nods to the past– a web of traditions pointing to unitive national heritage that goes back, apparently, forever. And I have to admit that I’m jealous. I tend to feel that Americans are deprived in that regard–not just because, as a young country, we don’t have that much tradition to speak of– but because of this nagging feeling that that little body of tradition we have doesn’t technically belong to all of us. I’ll have to explain that one. When I was in second grade, I dressed up, as all good American second graders on Thanksgiving are wont to do, as a pilgrim. And I participated in a relatively politically incorrect skit with my fellow students about how America came to be. But… those weren’t my ancestors. My ancestors are French, German, and Italian fellows who popped  up in America a couple hundred years ago to farm, farm, and participate in the mafia respectively. So, maybe I should visit their home countries? But there was no sense of belonging when I wandered around France, Germany, or Italy during my abroad semester. In fact, I’m pretty sure that no one despises French Canadian Americans quite as much as the French do. Sigh. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot that I admire and love about this great melting-pot country of ours, I just reserve the right to look on longingly when Taecyeon dresses up in traditional clothing to wish his countrymen a happy 추석.

Longingly because he is participating in traditions he actually belongs to.

Traditions, I tell you.

Westerners and 한국어. Probably not a match made in heaven.

January 8, 2013 § 11 Comments

We’re not required to learn Korean for this job. We’re not required to do almost anything, really, except be born and bred in an English speaking country (yes, my hard work really paid off on that one), and carry any degree from any university. Like Bowling Chasing Management at VU (an actual degree, not kidding).

But the idea of plopping down into another country without a clue about how to communicate was never really too appealing to me. And, on a more serious note, I think it is important to understand the ins and outs (at least in part) of a native speaker’s language if you’re going to try to teach them another one.

Korean is so… different, though. It’s exciting and fascinating and weird and challenging… but so different to a western mind and tongue. “Engrish” is everywhere here, but something we don’t really think about is that it goes both ways. I’m not sure how long I’ll last before the Korean police are after me for numerous counts of murdered pronunciation.

But anyway, here are some great clips of westerners and korean together. Some fails. Some wins. and some… Jim Carrey.


This is a delightful clip in which Emma Watson attempts to disuade (in a friendly manner) Korean speaking people from seeing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Rather than saying “안녕하세요 (Annyeonghaseo– hello), please go to the theater and watch my film,” Emma says 아니오 하세요 (Anniyo haseo — something to the effect of ‘don’t do’). So, Don’t go see the film. If you speak Korean. Love, Emma.



It’s not all a hopeless cause, though. Here’s Johnny succeeding at “안녕하세요” during an interview.



There is not much I can say to introduce this one. Jim Carrey speaks Korean for “Yes Man.” All goes as expected.


December 9, 2012 § 1 Comment


Why on earth are you going to Asia?

This one’s relatively straightforward. South Korea, Japan, China, and other Asian countries want native English teachers so badly that they are willing to pay for your flight, your apartment, and your salary if you will just come and teach. Their requirements: a bachelor’s degree in anything. This is really such an insane opportunity. I don’t even think I grasped how good it was until one day I had an accidental office meeting with a representative for the Fulbright scholarship program at the school. (Long story. Wrong office. Good times were had by all). He was trying to get me to apply, because if I was somehow able to win this prestigious award– I could go to ANY country I wanted and teach. He gushed about how I would be able to live in that culture for the year and have all these great, enriching experiences, all while shaping peoples’ views of America and Americans.

Guys, this is like having a Fulbright scholarship just dropped on your head for no good reason. And I’ll be darned if I’m not going to run with it.

So… Why Korea?

1. Taecyeon 

(jokes, jokes). (No, but seriously).

Well, Why not Korea?

This one is a tad less clear I guess. The main reason is just that Korea happened to be the country that got to me first. I stumbled on Korean media one day (a late night hulu escapade led to beginning a Kdrama that I honestly wouldn’t have gotten through if I didn’t have a weird need to finish movies once I start them). The culture differences were so intriguing to me that I just started researching and researching and getting more and more involved in this whole different world. Maybe it could have been Japan. It just wasn’t.


December 8, 2012 § Leave a comment

So, here is a blog. It is going to be a blog about Korea, and the many magnificent adventures I hope to have therein.

There are three real reasons I want to write this. The first is just for me. I have one of the most atrocious memories known to… Well, it’s not bad enough that I ever forget to breathe, but I did forgot how old I was the other day. For real. If this allows me to jar up a few memories, it will be worth it.

The second is for my family and the friends who might be curious and/or paranoid about my imminent death.

And the third is to give back to the Korean ESL teacher community. My decision to go to Korea has a great deal to do with a blog I read last winter. Since then I have read at least eight blogs cover to cover, and dabbled in so many others. They’ve been so entertaining, informative, and ultimately irreplaceable in this bizarre decision to set up shop on the other side of the world. I don’t plan on “promoting” this blog anywhere, but if anyone stumbles on it the way I stumbled on others, I hope it will be helpful.

I’m not leaving for a while yet, but there’s a whole lot of “Korea” going on between now and then, so I figured I might as well begin near the beginning.