Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Disclaimer: I try to write gender-neutral posts whenever possible, but in this instance, I'm tremendously skewed towards the feminine side. I'm sorry, men. If you find yourself jittery reading this post, go obtain a beer, turn on ESPN, and try to breathe. Maybe watch this video a couple times. Or just X out of the window now. Consider yourself warned.

For those of you brave enough to still be reading, I got a much-needed hair cut for the first time in seven months over the weekend. I headed down to Gangnam Sunday afternoon to meet a shall-remain-nameless friend (*cough cough Zooms) who was running about 4 hours late. Typical. Having time to spare, and having spotted an H&M sign on my bus-ride in, I decided to wander around and explore. Maybe do some shopping. My wardrobe is kind of desperately in need of some spring-y additions...

So off I wandered until I stumbled upon a Juno Hair Salon on the main street. I'd avoided hair salons since my arriving in Korea for the simple reason that my hair is very thin and fine. Something not at all common among Koreans. I'd heard horror story after horror story of Waegooks like me going into salons, only to leave 40 minutes later with over-razored and layered hairstyles that felt awful and made them look kinda bald. These styles and techniques work well on thicker Korean hair, just not mine. So I stayed a safe distance away from all hair-cutting establishments, trimming my own bangs for seven months, and vowing to let my hair grow out for the year.

But then I found a Juno Hair Salon. Without exception, Juno is the only salon I've consistently heard good things about in terms of dealing with Western hair. I knew they had a branch of Juno somewhere in Bucheon near my apartment, but to be quite honest, I'd been far too lazy to go out looking for it. Having it there right in front of me in Gangnam, however, was incredibly convenient, so in I went.

Of course I had no idea what kind of haircut I wanted, seeing as my finding the salon was just a bit of spontaneous luck. As I glanced through the pictures in one of their hairstyle guidebook-things, I saw a curly style I thought was fun. I have wanted curly hair since literally the age of 7, but never had the guts to go through with it. Until now. My hair has been every color in the rainbow, why not curly too?

And so I got my first (gasp!) perm. Little did I know that I would be getting a digital perm, a perming technique invented in Korea (How culturally appropriate of me). The main difference between a K-perm and a normal perm is that Koreans use both heat and chemicals to make your hair curly, whereas a normal perm just uses chemicals. The resulting K-perm creates soft waves nothing like the gravity-defying spiral ringlets of the 80's. Which is good. The 80's had their place... in the 80's.

So it took years to build up the nerve to do it, but I finally have curly hair! Horray!

Oh, and Kimchi's hair is growing back nicely too. Did I ever mention, never shave a Yorkie?

- Christine -

Friday, March 25, 2011


After months of waiting, I would like to present you with my second official Korea List: Unfortunately Misspelled and/or Mistranslated Signs, hereafter UMMS.

UMMS are a part of daily life here in the ROK. The number of Koreans speaking English is steadily increasing, many children attending English-only pre-schools and kindergartens (raising questions about how much this next generation of Koreans is really learning about Korea, but that’s a rant for another day). English is chic, and more and more stores are showing their flair (and willingness to accept foreign business) by incorporating English words and phrases onto their signs.

Unfortunately, a good number of these well-intentioned English signs just arent’t quite right and could have benefited tremendously by a quick look-over by a native English speaker. Of which there are over a million in Korea. All of whom would be willing to spell-check such things for maybe the cost of a beer, tops. (If you are Korean, and about to put up a sign in English, please, please let me help you!)

Here are a few of my favorite UMMS from the past seven months, in no particular order:

UMMS #1. Hoers.

I discovered this gem at the Busan International Film Festival back in November. "Hoers" was a valiant effort by the festival's organizers to inform the foreign population in attendance about the schedule, but unless they intended to warn the audience that people would be ho-ing at certain times, (Operating ho-ers) the sign just didn't make sense.

UMMS #2. Origin.

More of a UMMM (Unfortunately Misspelled and/or Mistranslated Menu) than a true UMMS, but still a classic. In this particular pizza restaurant, they allow you to choose your own crust. Terrific, right? Sadly, their list of crust choices somehow got lost in translation, leaving you to select from Gold, Nude, Cookie, Origin, or Cheese Cap. I would venture to guess that Gold is a fairly normal, well-baked dough, cookie would be appropriate for a dessert-pizza, and Cheese Cap is the same as stuffed-crust. Nude, however, has me baffled. And Origin? Oh my. Any native English-speaking person could have added the essential "-al" in all of .25 seconds, helping this poor menu make much more sense almost instantly.

UMMS #3. Yoyr.

This grammatically incorrect UMMS comes from a design shop down the street from my apartment. To begin with, "yoyr" is not a real word. Sorry, Korea. Secondly, even the corrected "Drop your old design to the trash..." doesn't make much sense. The preposition you're looking for was "into" or even just simply "in". E for Effort, though.

UMMS #4. Moning.

I found this gem in the front of little cafe on the opposite side of Seoul. Kudos for catching their own spelling mistake, but their correction still made me giggle.

UMMS #5. Interrior.

Another example from Bucheon. Exactly how many r's does the word "Interrior" have?

UMMS #6. Chiness.

The Chiness restaurant is infamous in Bucheon. Not only did they write "Chiness" (perhaps a combination of Chinese and Chess?) on their sign above the window, but also directly on their window, and even behind the window on some decorative wall installation. They're absolutely rocking the misspelling thing. It's such a blatant and ridiculous misspelling that I would go to the Chiness Restaurant just to say I'd been to the Chiness Restaurant. Brilliant.

UMMS #7. You baked my mother?

This final UMMS comes from a cute little cafe I pass with Kimchi everyday on the way to the park. I understand what they're trying to say. Homemade pies baked with Mom's heart and soul. Sadly, however, this particular translation sounds quite gruesome and a little like they baked my poor mother into a pie :(

In conclusion, Korea, I love you. But please, please let me help you spell and translate things!

- Christine -

Monday, March 14, 2011

Puppy Cafe

In case you're feeling all gloomy about the situation in Japan, let me take just a few minutes to cheer you up.

Last weekend, Kimchi and I (and Mary and Zooms) went to the Puppy Cafe in Hongdae. This was our second time visiting, our first being a rather traumatic experience of meeting new people, new puppies, and dogs the size of small bears. For most of that first visit, my then-furry puppy hid behind me, afraid to venture out and meet anyone new (human or dog). This time, however, she did much better. And here are the pictures to prove it...

Dogs pretty much own the place. This guy was just sprawled out napping on the windowsill as happy as could be.

Oh yeah, this guy too.

Mary with her new puppy friend...

And I made friends with the "giraffe dog"... apparently a greyhound?

We named him Bubba. He really was just as crazy as this picture makes him look...

Kimchi made new friends too, mostly with this adorable little girl (Yes the hairless little thing in the middle is Kimchi...)

The cute couple at the next table made friends with lil Kim too :)

But I finally got her back

Zooms and her chocolate poodle, take 1

And take 2

And by the end, somehow Mary ended up with not one, but TWO puppies! Lucky...

In summary, puppy cafes are awesome. Now go hug a dog and feel better about your life.

-Christine -

Sendai Earthquake

Like the last time I documented a major current event that had everyone at home worried about my safety and tsking about my decision to move to Asia (“I toooold her not to go…”), I wanted to wait a couple days and figure out what was happening myself before passing on my thoughts to you.

Friday afternoon at around 2:30 pm, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake occurred about 131 km from the eastern coastal city of Sendai. Although Japan is no stranger to earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis, seeing as it marks the border of several tectonic plates, Friday’s earthquake is the largest ever reported in the region and the fifth largest ever recorded since people started recording these things. To make matters worse, the earthquake triggered tsunamis that extended not only across Japan, demolishing cities with 10 meter waves littering debris, wreckage, and even boats all across the country’s costal regions, but it also triggered tsunamis as far away as Ecuador and Peru almost 10,000 miles away!

Seoul is maybe 700 miles away from Sendai, and somehow the earthquake and ensuing tsunami didn’t impact us one bit.

Friday was a completely normal day for me. I got to work at exactly 1:59, and promptly started calculating how to afford a new camera, a new laptop, and Photoshop before my contract ends in July. (It’s technically possible… if I don’t eat for the next 4 months) At around 4:10, I finished my number crunching and ran over to the bank to send some money home. In the bank, there was a big plasma screen tv flashing images of some natural disaster happening behind the tellers’ heads. It looked like a flood, these strong waters plowing over towns carrying trees, homes, debris, and even boats. As I watched the waters moving further and further inland, I kept expecting it to stop somewhere, to reach a point where there was just no more water left, but it kept going. I pieced together in my broken Korean that it was Japan, and when my transaction was finished, I headed out to obtain a much-needed Friday latte, blissfully unaware that there had been a 9.0 magnitude earthquake merely 700 miles away…

Luckily Korea, unlike Japan, lays tucked away from and not directly on top of 4 different tectonic plates (intersections of such plates being the direct cause of earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis). In this case, the Pacific plate subducted under the Okhotsk plate, and actually pushed Japan about 5 meters closer to Korea. This pushed water in all directions, but Japan shielded any of that water from reaching Korea. Moral of the story, Korea’s location is awesome.

My heart goes out to Japan, the record-magnitude earthquake combined with the smattering of tremors and a 10 meter tsunami that engulfed the eastern coast of the country in a matter of minutes is just unimaginable, or as my coworker Elly would say, "Unbelievable!" I keep picturing the flooding I saw in the bank, watching boats destroying trees and houses as they washed further and further inland. I just can't imagine! I wish there was something I could do, but given the instability of several nuclear reactors and the intentional leaking of radioactive materials into the air (to decrease the pressure in the chambers and prevent a Chernobyl-type explosion), I think it better for me to stay my whole 700 mile distance from the wounded nation for the time being.

So keep Japan in your thoughts. (And don't worry about me.)