Sunday, May 22, 2011


I would like to begin by giving you fair warning - this post is really just me venting about Korea. If you are not interested in reading about the (literally) second qualm I've had with Korea, you should maybe X out of this window now. Furthermore, if you are outright disgusted by the idea of having a video thrust upon you featuring, say, an eight-month old Yorkie puppy I happen to know (yes, a video this time!), then you should really, really consider getting away from this website now. Maybe even closing out your browser, turning off your computer, and running frantically with arms flailing into the nearest bit of nature, as far away from all technological devices as possible, just to be safe.

As I briefly mentioned last time, I'm having some difficulties with Kimchi versus Korea.

Flashback to Monday night. I came home from work to find a poorly translated note on my door from my building administrator. It said,
"Complaints came in on my dogs do not look. If you encounter this problem in the future will be deported."
Poorly translated, like I said. But scary. Deported? I started pacing around my apartment, wondering what exactly the note meant. Was Kimchi making too much noise? Was I being an inadequate Puppy Mama? Was this like the Korean-dog version of child services? And if so, where were they for this guy? I took Kimchi out for a long walk, determined to get her tired enough that she wouldn't start barking. I did so the next morning as well, to the point that she needed me to carry her the last stretch of the way. No barking out of that one, for sure.

At work, the next day, one of my Korean co-teachers pulled me aside to discuss the situation. Not only had my building administrator left the poorly-translated note on my door, but also called my supervisor to let him know that my dog was being obnoxious. I asked her what details she knew, since I had none, and she told me that Kimchi was apparently behaving really badly. The complaints stated that it sounded like not one, but many dogs along with giant parties coming from the apartment. She looked at me gravely, and warned me that I needed to be careful.

Many dogs? Giant parties? Really, me?

I had some doubts. Unlike many of the other Korean dog-owners I've met, I have put in quite a bit of effort to (gasp!) train my dog. If I say, "SIT," Kimchi sits. If I stop walking, Kimchi stops walking. I know it seems almost unfathomable here, but yes, I decided to train my $500+ puppy, and that has included teaching her not to bark.

In addition to taking her on twice-daily walks, I began checking on her multiple times during the day (no barking). I stopped leaving her alone at home if I could help it; if I was heading out to sit at a cafe with a mocha and learn Korean, then Kimchi sat too. If I was going out to get galbi with my coworkers, then Kimchi got galbi too. Even sitting on an open-air patio amidst loud music and drunk people staggering by our table, Kimchi didn't bark once. Despite my growing doubts that she was really the one causing all this ruckus, I started feeling paranoid making any kinds of noise in my apartment, for fear that they would complain again and deport her right then and there. For goodness sakes, I turned off Animal House halfway through because I was afraid someone would hear a "giant party" coming from my apartment. It has not been a fun week at all.

But here's the kicker. Friday night, I left my apartment to take Kimchi on our second long walk of the day, only to hear a party coming from the other end of the hall. Like door wide open, 6-8 loud Korean voices emanating from within, party. Awesome, Korea. If you want to complain about noisy neighbors that sound like they're having a party, maybe complain about the ones actually throwing a party. In a language I don't speak. That would be great.

Furthermore, Korea's not exactly a quiet place to live in to begin with. I live nine floors away from an elementary school that often has these "announcements" which are about as far from quiet as possible. I'm not exaggerating that they're really just a man screaming into a microphone for hours at a time. Sometimes it sounds quite militant, like he's rounding up the students to go march on the North, and other times it just sounds like jibberish. Even more jibberish than Korean already sounds to me. In short, they're super annoying and should really make anyone think twice before complaining about any other noise violation they could possibly have.

So here it is. Dear Korea, My puppy is not the obnoxious one.

At this point, I am almost that certain Kimchi's not to blame for these complaints, but at the risk of deportation, I may try to switch apartments in the next couple weeks to assuage the situation. Even though deportation would mean I save money on shipping her back to the US (kidding, kidding) this Puppy Mama's not about to let that happen. Wish me luck!

- Christine -

Friday, May 20, 2011


Remember me?

I apologize for yet another blogging hiatus, but oh man, I've been busy lately! We're nearing the end of another semester at work, so I've been stuck doing extra paperwork, grading, and classroom management which leaves me just drained at the end of the day. Add to that the TEFL certification class I've been working on, and a recent custody battle I've been thrust into over this one for apparently barking too much and throwing crazy parties (진짜!?!) while I'm away. Which is almost certainly not the case, seeing as I, unlike many of the Korean dog-owners I've met, have trained my dog to do things like sit, stay (and not bark). Let's just say it's been a frustrating week...

But you know what makes frustrating weeks all better? Burger King, and Korea Lists. Assa!

Now when I was in college, I took a class about Intercultural Communication. Without going into too many specifics about any individual cultures, the course as a whole taught us to be aware of the fact that different cultures are, well, different, and that crazy as they may seem to us, they really do work out just fine.

Obviously, Korea and the USA are fundamentally different in a number of ways, and that my friends, is the theme of today's third official Korea List. USA v. ROK.

In the USA, if you go to a baseball game, you will probably expect to find hot dog and peanut vendors walking up and down the aisles of the stadium. In the ROK, you can expect to see them selling dried squid.

In the USA, if you are dashing onto a subway and the doors start to close on you, they will probably stop. In the ROK, they will crush you. K-doors are merciless.

In the USA, women can wear cleavage-showing tops, and no one will care, but if you wear short shorts and heels, people will think you're a slut. In the ROK, short shorts and heels are no big deal, but if you show any more cleavage than Hilary Clinton, watch out. They'll think you're Russian.

In the USA, we try to save energy by turning off unnecessary lights at night. In the ROK, not so much.

In the USA, at least half of young Americans can't find Iraq on a map. In Korea, my students can not only find, but also spell Liechtenstein.

In the USA, coffee shops open early in the morning, so you start caffeinating before the sun comes up. In the ROK, the bars are still open at that time, why in the world would you have a coffee shop open before 10am?

In the USA, Boy Bands stopped being popular in the 90's. In the ROK, they're still going strong.

In the USA, candy and flowers might be appropriate gifts for a favorite teacher. In the ROK, designer socks are acceptable.

In the USA, the -> <- elevator button is really just there to make you feel better, but never actually does anything. In the ROK, the button works every time, and is great for not only barring creepy people from getting into your elevator, but also crushing them. Remember, K-doors are vicious.

In the USA, people make fun of Cleveland almost as much as they make fun of Detroit. In the ROK, people think Cleveland is awesome and wear Cleveland gear proudly. Thank you Choo Shin- Soo. Sorry, Detroit, they still haven't heard of you...

In the USA, you do your makeup and hair in the morning, and then maybe check it once or twice throughout the day. In the ROK, you should carry a mirror and comb around with you at all times, just to make sure you're always looking good. Classrooms and crowded subways are especially good places to do this.

In the USA, we mark the start of a new school period with a bell/annoying buzzer. In the ROK, they play a little song.

To be continued... Have I ever mentioned I still love Korea!

- Christine -

Monday, May 9, 2011


"Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do,
I'm half crazy all for the love of you.
It won't be a stylish marriage -
I can't afford a carriage,
But you'd look sweet upon the seat
Of a bicycle built for two."
Ahhh bicycles built for two. Or tandem bicycles, whatever you prefer to call them. Can you think of anything more darling than a long ride along a scenic river on a beautiful spring day surrounded by blossoming azaleas on a two person bicycle? Yep, neither can I...

This tandem bicycle ride has some extra sentimental value for Zooms and I though, thanks to the good old days at Miami University...

So once upon a time, we were RA's. The job was great actually, we got our own single rooms, we were paid to live with and watch over Freshies, we got to make super awesome RA videos, and we were exposed to a boatload of fun ResLife quotes, the most infamous being the Tandem Bicycle Metaphor. In case it's not immediately apparent, the Tandem Bicycle Metaphor goes a little something like this:

"Advising at Miami University is similar to riding a tandem bicycle: advisors sit on the back and guide while the student steers from the front seat. This approach allows students to take ownership of their educations. At times advisors are faced with resistance from students, and sometimes parents, but they work through the resistance by asking questions and getting to know the individuals better".
Sounds pretty good, right? Why not test it all out on a REAL tandem bicycle? Taking the advising position on our literal tandem bicycling adventure, (although I should probably admit we had our roles confused during our ride...) I just had to sit back, guide, and provide emotional support while Zooms, our metaphorical resident steered us along from the front...

Now in case you've forgotten, I have a terrible fear of falling, especially so for bikes, off of which I've been known to fall repeatedly during, say, 24-hour scavenger hunts. Like face planting off the front of them. Multiple times. I'm always a bit of a control freak anyways, so when it comes so bicycles, go ahead and multiply my general control freak-ness by at least 400. Yeah, it's that bad. And somewhere along our journey, I came to the realization that tandem bicycling can be downright terrifying!

To start off with, directing/guiding/providing emotional support from the back seat was a challenge. Now Resident Zooms has a number of wonderful, wonderful qualities, but directions are maybe kinda sorta not one of them... Zooms, Zooms! We need to turn left here! Oh left? WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSH!.... Oh wait, now we're not in the bike lane anymore! Oh really? WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOSH!

(*Insert nervous twitch here)

Successful in terms of Resident Zooms taking ownership of the situation, but turns out I'm the one in need of emotional support.

Additionally, our ride took place not in some remote riverside park with just us and nature, but in the Han River Park. On a Sunday afternoon where half of Seoul was out there riding with us. And I thought driving in Chicago was bad...

Weaving in and out of cyclists and roller bladers, our metaphorical resistance if you will, I found myself asking many questions to get to know Resident Zooms better. WHY ARE YOU TRYING TO PASS THIS GUY?!?! Oh, don't worry about it. DO YOU SEE THE ROLLER BLADER COMING STRAIGHT FOR US?!?!?!?! You need to calm down. WHY ARE YOU STILL PEDALING, WE'RE ALREADY GOING FAST ENOUGH!?!?!?! Oh look a puppy. AAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGGHHHH!!!!!!

I suppose in my final assessment of the Tandem Bicycle Metaphor, it only works if the person filling the advisor role is not afraid of flipping off a bicycle. Or something like that. For the record, it was actually awesome and I would do it again in a second <3

- Christine -

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


After writing a fairly substantial novel's worth of material about my recent trip to the DMZ and North Korea, I am going to keep my thoughts about Osama Bin Laden's death succinct.

I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

(Kudos to MJF for finding the perfect quote to eloquently sum up everything I'd been thinking already, even if it's not really MLK. Whomp whomp)

- Christine -