Monday, August 30, 2010


I knew moving to Korea was going to change me, but I didn’t expect that it would make me into a more patient person.

Anyone who’s ever met me knows that I am very, very impatient, almost to a fault. I hate waiting in lines, waiting for exam results, waiting to meet up with friends. I even hate waiting for Christmas, I just want to know what’s so elusively hiding wrapped up in those little boxes staring at me for the entire month of December. I hate surprises, I just want, nay, need to know what’s being so sneakily planned! I hate everything about waiting and I suck at being patient. Or at least I did up until, say, 33ish days ago...

Korea observation #2. I'm coming to terms with patience.

I think part of my newfound pseudo- acceptance of patience comes from its suddenly becoming a truly unavoidable aspect of my life. I spent this past weekend in Busan, a really fantastic city I plan on frequenting now that I’ve visited the beaches there and remembered just how much I love just being out in the sun (when it’s not 35 C and muggy like it is everyday in Bucheon). The problem with Busan is that it is about as far in South Korea as you can possibly be from where I live. I caught a train out of Busan station at 7:50 pm, got off in Gweomyeong (One stop short of Seoul station) at 10:25, had to wait for a connecting subway until 10:53, got off the subway around 11:30 and finally made it through my apartment door a few minutes after midnight, a little over 4 hours later. What’s nice is that the distance is probably comparable to the Austinburg/Oxford commute I used to make, only I get to sit there and let other people do the driving. But unfortunately sitting get’s boring fast. Patience.

I had a Doctor’s appointment a few days ago, and even though I was there on time, I had to wait for the English speaking nurse to talk to the ladies at the check-in desk for me. The appointment itself lasted all of five minutes, and no English speaking was really required, I just had to wait.

I went to apply for my ARC card this morning (Alien Registration Card… In about a week I will be an official alien, cool right?). I had time to spare this morning and since I need this card to get my cell phone, pension, health insurance, and lots of other important things, off I went expecting to be gone maybe 2 hours or so at most. False. When I arrived, there were at least forty other people waiting in front of me. I sat in the waiting room for over 2 hours just to spend 3 minutes with some woman behind a desk silently checking my documents.

I met a couple friends at the nearest subway station Friday night. These shall-remain-nameless friends (cough cough Mary and Zooms) tend to show up at least twenty minutes later than they say they will every time we meet, so I decided to cut my losses and show up twenty minutes late too. This might have worked had they not decided to arrive 45 minutes late in this particular instance. Plan foiled. Still waiting.

I’m sure you get the point. Every day I find something new to wait about. Some of it is your every day waiting which I dealt with stateside too, like waiting in line at the local E-Mart, etc. Some of it is particular to my being a foreigner and my lack of speaking ability, (i.e. my recent experiences at the doctor’s and immigration offices). Some of it has to do with the fact my friends here live far enough away that I have to wait all week to see them on the weekends.

All of this waiting and needing to be patient would have made me so mad in the states, but for whatever reason I’ve become pretty accustomed to it here and just accept the waiting for what it is and move on. Time is going to keep going, regardless of what I’m doing, and pretty soon I’ll be at the front of the line, or I’ll be in that doctor’s office, or I’ll be walking through my front door after four hours of traveling. Everything will happen and everything will eventually pass. And for whatever reason I feel so much more comfortable with the wait here.

Besides, waiting provides a fantastic opportunity for people watching, which I find especially entertaining in this new country of mine ☺

But I digress into thoughts again. My entire weekend in Busan was quite fun. We went to the Lotte Giants game Saturday night, expecting rain and a big fat cancellation but the weather stayed clear and beautiful the entire weekend. It was fantastic, in the seventh inning or so they passed out these bright orange plastic bags, which of course left us very puzzled. Of all the things to pass out at a baseball game, right? We start people watching to figure out what we’re supposed to do with them, and low and behold, we watch the entire stadium of Koreans sitting around us tie the bags so they’re pumped up and filled with air, put them on top of their heads, and loop the dangling handles around their ears. It was one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen. I love Korea!

There was a group of at least twelve of us, so we busted out “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” a couple times. Everyone stared. It was fantastic.

We hit up one beach Saturday night and hung out at Haeundae beach for a while on Sunday. I forgot how much I enjoy sunshine. I’ve been avoiding being outside for the past month because it is just horribly hot and muggy every single day (and if not, then it’s raining and I’m falling on the granite sidewalks outside of the Hyundai Mall… I mean what?). Regardless it was a really beautiful and terrific weekend.

For the record, yes I wish I were still there now... I love weekends!

- Christine -

Friday, August 27, 2010


August 27th. It's official, I have survived in Korea for exactly one month! Yaaayyyyyyy!

Let's celebrate with some new pictures, shall we?

Fun robot statue in Itaewon (essentially the American equivalent of Chinatown in Seoul)

"Fantasia Bucheon"... A lot of the cities in Korea have these amusing English slogans, like "Dynamic Busan" and "Nice Jeochan", but sadly mine isn't so much grammatically correct...

I love love love the juxtaposition of nature and urban settings... Central Park, Millenium Park, and this one just a few blocks from where I live. I think it's just wonderful!

Adorable stone bridge in said park...

Stage in the middle of the park... I've heard rumors they play free movies there every Saturday night, but I have yet to spend an entire weekend in Bucheon to test this out

More juxtaposing... pretend it's artsy ;)

Street about a block from where I live... Just try and tell me you don't want to come visit!

In conclusion, I love Korea so far! Here's to another successful 11 months! Cheers!
- Christine -

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Week 4

I had every intention of writing again sooner, but I suppose nothing particularly noteworthy happened in the past two weeks…

Today is my four-week anniversary of working at my school. Gasp! Friday will be my one- month anniversary of living in Korea. Slightly larger gasp! We started a new semester Monday, so I’m getting new classes and a fresh start, which is fantastic. I really, really enjoy my MWF classes already! Wednesday’s are newspaper day, so everything’s a lot more laid back and we get to have fun and talk about current events/whatever random articles happen to appear in the newspaper that week. Today I spent time trying to explain the concept of a Kindle to eleven year olds, and then we talked about decorating and colored. It was fantastic! We were coloring rooms, right, so one kid turned his entire room into a giant face with a nose-shaped chandelier, an ear on the wallpaper, and an eyeball hanging on the door. Creepy, yes. Creative, absolutely! So many students were fascinated with the idea of using different contrasting wallpapers for every wall (and in some cases additional different wallpapers on the floors and ceilings), which would probably be frowned upon in real life, but was so damn cute! I will definitely be using the coloring technique in the future!

(If you’re into the whole creativity and schools thing, I was recently introduced to this video by a pretty fantastic kid in Busan and kind of loved it…)

In other news, I am quite frustrated at my listening/speaking books this semester… I swear they’re trying to make my children into, like, ohmygod, valley girls! For the past two days I’ve had to play this dialogue about a couple of classmates meeting in a mall, and there’s this one line that makes me cringe every time I hear it. There’s a short pause between lines, then this girl goes “SOOOOoooooooooooOOO, where are you going? *Insert painfully annoying valley girl twang”. It’s so frustrating! I know people in the States talk like that (admittedly maybe even me…), but I don’t want my untainted Korean kiddies to pick that up! The concept of the valley girl just makes me angry! Dumb should never be “in”, especially in a society already built on gender inequality. So frustrating! The very next dialogue is all about this girl who has a huge crush on this new transfer student from Sweden who has beautiful blue eyes and blonde hair. Awesome. Because 12 year-old’s aren’t already boy-crazy enough, I’m glad my textbook legitimizes their obsession even more. Grrr. End rant.

I spent last weekend in Daegu and will be going back to Busan this Saturday for a Busan Giants game. I’m pretty excited about the game and hanging out with people, less so for the three-hour train ride there. I’ve actually gotten pretty good at the public transit system here, though and made it to Daegu last weekend all by myself, complete with transfers and all. Win! Fun story, so after I met everybody in the Daegu station last weekend, Mary handed me her box of leftovers since I hadn’t had lunch yet. There I am standing with this half sandwich and two onion rings in a takeout box, and this really short man walks straight over to me, reaches up, and takes my onion ring. No words, no please, thank you, no nothing. He just reaches up, takes my onion ring, and walks away like nothing had happened. We all stared at him for a good twenty seconds, wondering what had just happened, and what exactly you should say to a tiny man who steals your onion ring. It was fantastic! Reason #534 I love Korea!

Anyways, I’m settling in quite nicely and getting used to the quirks of living in Korea. And I figured out my Internet situation, so should you want to skype/email me (which I’m sure you do!), feel free.

안녕히 가십시오

- Christine -

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


So I’ve introduced you all to where I live, what Bucheon’s like, how I’m adjusting to life in Korea, and so forth. But let’s get down to the nitty gritty quotidian aspects of my new life.

Observation #1. I get stared at. A lot.

This isn’t just your accidental stare or the uncomfortable stare of some love struck young man, oh no. This is people visibly turning their heads to watch you standing at the crosswalk as their bus drives past. Little children pointing at you as if you’re some kind of rare find. The man next to you at the bank looking over at you literally every ten seconds to make sure his eyes aren’t deceiving him – yes, it really is a foreign white woman sitting next to him opening a bank account.

Now, these aren’t covert stares, either. These stares are blatantly obvious and don’t stop even when I meet eyes with the initiator of the stare. Yes I see you, congratulations I look different, now will you please stop!?!

Some of these stares are funny, cute even. My kids tell me “Teacher, you’re eyes are bluueeee!?!?!?!?!” and “Teacher, is that your reeeeeal hair color?” and “Teacher, our other Teacher says you’re very pretty.” Others say less flattering things like “Teacher, your nose is so high!” And others just say obscure things, like “Teacher, did you get plastic surgery?” Regardless, just from my first two weeks of working at my school, I have a pretty good inkling that my kids are to some extent at least using class time as an opportunity to stare at the white lady standing in the front of the class. Awesome.

Some of the stares I encounter are less than adorable, however. I encountered a number of particularly un-adorable stares today when I walked out of Burger King with my first (ok maybe second…) American cheeseburger since I got here in hand. Even the people working in the back corners of Burger King came out of hiding to sneak a glance at the Western chick buying a (gasp!) Western burger. Walking out of the Burger King and back to my apartment, the stares I got were so smug, as though I’d just confirmed all their worst assumptions about Americans. Until that moment I’d assumed I was a fairly harmless specimen of whiteness for their staring pleasure, but in that moment, just wow…

It’s not like they’ve never seen a white woman before, either. I live across the street from a pretty substantial mall and I’ve seen the giant poster of Giselle in the window facing the street. I know that there are pictures of white women in their magazines, modeling their clothing. It actually struck me as weird at first how many pictures of white women there really are here. The Korean women I’ve met here are beautiful and take great care to make sure they look flawless (unlike me in this humidity…), so why wouldn’t you put pictures of them on display instead? Why bother with these white models at all? And how much worse would my staring predicament be if there were no white women in magazines for them to look at?

I can’t help but wonder why it is I’m so intriguing for people of all ages to look at. Why it’s so acceptable to openly stare at me in public while I’m just going about my business. But then doesn’t the same thing happen in the United States too? How often do we stare at someone who looks different, who doesn’t look like someone we’d expect to see in a given place? A white woman in a Korean bank, A Korean woman in Austinburg, Ohio? Something so seemingly out of place violates our expectations and in that becomes an oddity to gaze at.

In Korea, I’m finding myself in the racial minority. And it’s a really, really strange feeling.

There was a series of pictures in the Chicago Museum of Art I saw right before I moved here which I think is relevant to my staring/gazing predicament. In these pictures, a photographer in the museum took pictures of patrons viewing paintings which gazed back at them. A gaze met with a gaze all being gazed at by the lens of a camera. While not aesthetically special by any means, I immediately connected with the gaze inversion happening in these concept images. Call it one too many film theory classes in college, but I find this entire “politics of looking” as I’m calling it fascinating. Had I never really been cognizant of such staring in the U.S. because I was a member of the gazing masses, because I was white, and not an object to be gazed at (well skin color-wise at least)? Do I have a right to gaze back now that I am the obvious minority in one of the most racially homogenous cultures in the world? Or is the right to gaze one that I unknowingly lost as a part of my move?

Now obviously I am no expert on Korean/American race, looking, and location politics, but these are just my initial thoughts on the whole situation I’ve found myself in. I will definitely be thinking more about this issue in the next twelve months, so stay tuned…

Moral of the story-- Please don’t stare at people. Any people. Being constantly on display blows.

In other news, I went to the hospital today for my required health tests and learned than I am 167.3 centimeters tall. Surprisingly useful information, my kids have been asking me for a while now…

Finally, I will try this new thing called actually being on skype when I’m in my apartment. If you live in Ohio, remember I live 13 hours in the future, so plan accordingly when trying to connect with me :)

- Christine -

Monday, August 9, 2010

Bucheon Pics

As promised, here are some pictures of Bucheon!

These are from just a tiny radius around where I live, but since there's so many cool places around here I have yet to document, rest assured there will be more pictures soon... especially since one of my coworkers told me last night that there's a mountain you can climb about a mile from here (What?!?! Sign me up!)

The local bar street... It's bright and crazy and fantastic :)

More crazy neon lights on my street.

View of the city from the love hotel I stayed in for the first couple days. E-Mart, that little yellow sign on the left is basically my new Korean walmart :)

Fun statue... there's crazy art all over the place and I just love it!

A building a block down from me which is covered, absolutely covered in signs and advertisements and I don't even know what else!

You're welcome. Sorry for the wait!

- Christine -

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Weekended out!

I survived my first full week of teaching and spent a fantastic weekend visiting new people and places all over Korea :)

Let's start with the teaching part.

I work with mostly elementary school kids, and they're really really adorable. But they're absolutely exhausting, especially since I have so many different classes and so many kids' names to learn in the next two weeks. It will definitely take me a little time to get used to this whole working world thing. These kids just have so much energy it makes me feel old! They're fun though, and I already have most of my classes talking to me, which is really a big part of my whole job as a foreign teacher, so I think I'll get the hang of teaching pretty quickly.

The kids say the funniest things, so I've decided to keep a list of my personal favorites, updated weekly...

Top five student lines of the week:
5. Student: "Teacher, your voice is so high it's distracting!"
4. Student: "Teacher, you're making my life miserable."
Me: "Good, you're making my life miserable."
3. Student: "Rain is the greatest artist ever."
Me: "Really, Rain's better than Michael Jackson?"
Student: "Yeah!"
Me: "Better than the Beatles?"
Student: (thinks for a minute) "It's a tie."
** I promise I will do my best to make her see the error of her ways**
2. Student: "I wake up in the morning feeling like P. Diddy..."
**Paper about what they would do if they won the lottery, "Sixth, I buy Eric, and make he my slave. He do many thing. He buy food. He massage me, he wash dishes, he clean rooms, he throw balls and I catch it and he do homework (mine)."

Good times at school. On to the weekend...

Thursday night I went to trivia night at a local bar. Even though I was a little worthless (we're talking I knew maybe two or three answers tops), we won! Yay team! Will definitely be going back in the near future :)

Friday night I met up with my lovely friend Zooms and some of her Korea crew in Seoul and headed out to Daegu. I finally got to spend some quality time on the public transportation system and got hit on by some random older men getting off the train. Awesome. Business cards are a kind of a big deal here and older guys are pretty willing to give them out to cute foreign girls, so after Zooms found me and saved me from the awkwardness that was this man, we decided to start a contest to see who can collect the most business cards over the next year. It's settled, August 6, 2011, someone's winning a hot fudge sunday :)

Daegu itself was fantastic and I'm very excited to go back! Obviously I forgot to bring my camera (along with my chapstick, contact solution, hair ties, extra cash, you know the basic things to remember when traveling around in Korea...), but it was a really fun city! Lots of restaurants, bars, neon lights, typical Korea. We went to this one place that specializes in a game called BilliBow, basically bowling with a pool stick, and I was persuaded to give it a try. Now I'm terrible at bowling, and I'm even worse at pool, but I definitely scored around 120 and won! :)

Saturday we met up with some crew people and did lunch at a western restaurant in Daegu. After lunch we headed back to the train station and hopped on a train to Busan, a major city on the far southeast corner of the country. We got in pretty late and were originally planning to go to this big music festival on the beach, but after seeing the masses and masses of people already there, we decided to head to a western bar instead. We were up in the 14th floor or this building looking out over the beach, and I swear these beach-goers were still sitting there at two in the morning even though the music was long over. Crazy.

Sunday morning we met up with peeps again and did lunch at a Mexican restaurant in Busan. Apparently avacados are a rare find in Korea, so we all loaded up on our guacamole and oh it was delicious! After lunch we decided to go sit on the beach, but it was so hot and sticky and smelly and crowded and gross that we stayed for maybe fifteen minutes tops. It was so weird, the water was roped off after just a couple meters, so there was really no way to go swimming at all so everyone was sitting under these rows of umbrellas trying to stay out of the sun. We're going to try visiting again once the tourist season is over, so I'll be back in Busan sometime in September (and will maybe remember my camera then!!). We went on an extended search for air conditioning, did second lunch at an adorable Italian place a little ways out of town, and took the KTX train back into Seoul. Whew.

I'm so glad I got the chance to see some of Korea outside Bucheon finally, and had a really fantastic weekend. But oh gosh am I worn out! Time to catch up on some zzz's before starting this all over again...

- Christine -

Monday, August 2, 2010


I survived my first day of teaching!!!! Horray!!!!!

I had three classes today, two elementary and one middle school group who were frustratingly non-responsive. Of course the kids are going to be shy and intimidated by a "New Teacher" situation at first, but I was able to get the kids talking in both of my elementary classes pretty quickly and painlessly, just not so much the middle schoolers. I thought trying to talk residents into going to MegaFair at MIami was hard, but wow. Korean middle schoolers honestly might be the death of me...

Regardless, it was actually a really good first day of teaching :)

After work, I came home to the most amazing first teaching day present ever, a much needed freshly cleaned apartment! Hallelujah! I truly can't even begin to describe how badly this place needed a good professional cleaning... but now that it's done, you get to see pictures...


Bathroom. The room I am single-handedly the most grateful for the cleaning people's help...

Living room

View from my window. Really fantastic, right?

Looking back at the kitchen/stairs up to the upstairs loft

I'm happy with it anyways :)

I know you're probably hoping for pictures of, you know, actually Korea, but I promise you they're coming soon. Bucheon looks cool during the day, but at night it just looks like a giant smattering of color and signs and neon and craziness, and it will blow your mind (or at least it will once I actually photograph it...) . So stay patient, dear readers, I promise I will post such pictures soon :)

- Christine -