Monthly Archives: April 2005

Halmoni and me


P1110034
Originally uploaded by sarahhyunah.

Thought I’d start posting photos with a particularly great one . . . this was taken during my first visit with my grandmother (in Korean, “Halmoni”) in January 2005. Next month, this phenomenal woman turns 80-years-old. I’ve decided to give her a framed print of this photo as a gift. Somehow, she managed to raise seven children mostly on her own (my grandfather died over 45 years ago). Every time I see her, she always holds my hand and kisses me on the head while speaking to me in a long stream of Korean. She knows I don’t understand, but this doesn’t stop her. The basic gist is what matters–that she is happy to see me, she misses my mother, she worries about my health. I love her very much.

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Books, books, books

I finally finished reading Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri!! It’s a fabulous collection of short stories–perfect for me these days, given my currently limited attention span. I tend to go through reading phases. Ever since I escaped from the grind of academia, I’ve been particularly lax about reading. Usually, I find something else to do: vegetate in front of the TV, read magazines & newspapers, write e-mails, talk on the phone, run around in circles. I also think that the abnormally large volume of books I read during my youth is due to my living in the middle of f*cking nowhere (hello? Cleveland, Missouri???) for so many years–given more access to stimulation, I probably wouldn’t have been such a bookworm. Now, I find myself reading “it” books only years and years after they made a splash (Lahiri won the Pulitzer in 2000; I also finally read White Teeth, The DaVinci Code, Girl With a Pearl Earring, and Life of Pi just this year.)

Anyway, I really enjoyed how Lahiri lovingly describes Boston (most of the stories are set in or around the city). She gets all of the details right–waiting for the T, braving bitter winter winds, going to Cardullo’s in Harvard Square. Even though I’ll most likely never live there again, Boston was a memorable year for me with lots of good times, good eats (most of my memories involve food–Taiwanese & late-night Chinese dining in Chinatown, the Barking Crab on the Waterfront, Italian food and Mike’s Pastries in the North End, Darwin’s in Cambridge, Anna’s Taqueria, Mul’s on Broadway, random bar in Fields Corner where we watched the NBA playoffs during a blackout).

I’ve still got the last 1/2 of Al Franken’s Lies . . . And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them to finish, so I’ll probably hit that next. It’s a little depressing to read, however, knowing we have to endure another term of W. I also have H.’s copy from KoRoot of Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude taunting me. Finally, I recently ordered two new books: What’s the Matter With Kansas? by Thomas Frank and Somebody’s Daughter by Marie Myong Ok Lee. The former is supposed to explain how the heartland became brainwashed by conservatives into voting against their best interests, and the latter is a novel by a Korean-American woman about a 22-year-old Korean adoptee who travels to Seoul and ends up searching for her birth mother. Two books right up my alley!!

Bill Clinton’s autobiography continues to serve as a nice bookend on my shelf. I have a feeling this is going to be another Katharine Graham autobiography for me–meaning that it will probably take me 2+ years to finish reading (K. Graham book, by the way, is fantastic!! Don’t let my laziness deter you from picking it up!!). Also have the newest novel by the authors of The Nanny Diaries on my shelf. I’ve been avoiding reading it, b/c it’s set in Manhattan, and I’m not in an NYC-state-of-mind right now.

Let me know if you have any good suggestions for future reads. . .

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Biding my time . . .

. . . until I’m on the plane to Hong Kong!! Just a few more days. Make a few appearances at work, you know the deal.

The JEL camping trip went about as expected, in fact, it was much more enjoyable than the one I went on last fall. They spent Saturday dragging us around to several different places (beach–3 quick games of dodgeball w/ Korean rules, not Ben-Stiller-rules; forest/garden; various photo ops). It was cool, except we all would’ve preferred to stay at one place longer rather than constantly being on the move.

It was surprisingly cool in the evening, but we had a great time gorging ourselves at dinner–kimchi jigae tastes even better when you’re chilled by the sea breeze. Had clams on the grill. Afterwards, we all did a gift exchange, and then we retired to our segregated (per our director’s wishes) quarters: foreign female staff upstairs, foreign male staff downstairs, Korean staff next door. The Koreans stayed up late playing Korean poker and getting wasted (our director was miffed when they were hung over the next morning–what did he expect???). The guys watched sports and played cards. And the women . . . well, we played cards, too, or rather I listened to them play cards as I dozed due to my beer- & soju-induced drowsiness. It kind of morphed into a weird, post-post-adolescent slumber party, as we gossiped about work, braided each other’s hair (believe it or not), and actually played MASH (do you remember this game??? Come on, you know you know . . . “Mansion,” “Apartment,” “Shack,” or “House.”). I know this was not my first choice for weekend entertainment, but you can’t really refuse an invitation for these “camping” trips at the risk of offending our boss. And you have to play by the rules (even the married couples had to sleep separately). Anyway, I had a good time, although I’m looking forward to cutting loose and having more age-appropriate fun in Hong Kong.

The clam-digging was both fun and a disappointment. It was fun, because the views were spectacular, and I got to try something new. It was a disapointment in that we didn’t come back with the bags and bags of clams I envisioned us lugging onto the bus. In fact, between the 13 foreign teachers, we found, oh, maybe six clams. Woo-hoo. It’s pretty difficult, actually, b/c you have to dig quickly enough so that they don’t escape, but you have to be careful not to destroy them in the process (I think I sliced up a few in this way).

Anyway, I came back on Sunday and did my first, real, spring-cleaning of the new apartment. It feels really good to be “caught up” in all areas of my life right now. So of course it’s nice to have that sense of calm, but as usual I’m over it and now I’m itching to move on to the next thing. Hong Kong!! This morning, I was fantasizing about going to NC for B. & A.’s wedding next month . . . I really, really, really, really wish I could be there. It seems like only yesterday that the wind was making me eat my hair while we posed for pictures at S. & T.’s wedding on the beach.

Ahhhh . . . there are many things I often consider posting and then don’t for fear of it becoming public record. I guess that’s for e-mail and my journal. I have some hilarious, hilarious stories, however, from the past week of me trying to be a good listener. Mmm, just ask me sometime and I’ll spill. 🙂

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Friendster and lonely men

I joined Friendster last month. It’s always intrigued me, but I just never got around to joining. So I finally put up my profile, messaged a few friends who are already members, invited some new people to join. It’s been really awesome for getting me in touch with some good friends I haven’t heard from in awhile (I love you, S.L., R., & L.L.!!), and I’ve also caught up with some acquaintances I’ve made over the past few years.

I’ve got a lot of pending “friends,” mostly from people I know who joined a few years ago and haven’t logged back in since, oh, 2003. So I’m guessing I won’t hear from them. 🙂 Also, I tend to notice that Friendster is a young singleton’s domain, and a lot of my good friends are more adult than me (married, engaged, in grad school), so they naturally don’t have as much time as I do–occasionally–to fart around on the internet.

There’s the option that only people closely connected to you can read your profile, but I haven’t selected that, because the messages I’ve been getting from complete strangers are FAR too entertaining at the moment. I think eventually I’ll tire of them, but for now, it’s providing me with a lot of amusement. Per H.’s request, I’m going to post a “best-of.”

Basically, the messages from strangers fall into 2 categories:
1) men living in Seoul (subcategories– a) army, b) Korean men with artsy fartsy profiles, c) English teachers)
2) men living in totally different countries who want someone to “talk” to

I’ll give you some from the 2nd category first, since those are the funniest:

  • hi dear. like yr dancing pose [my photo on my profile was taken by Santoki during a drunken evening in Hongdae], very eloquent, like to have you as my friend, me single and working in spore, looking for more overseas friends to broaden my social life, cheers

I found out that “spore” was actually “Singapore.”
Here’s another one that I think is the BEST of the best:

  • i love you sarah. Hi, when i saw ur profile i fell in love, my name is emmanuel 25y of age nigerian but study in philippine, incase you want to know more about me call my number ********* , bye 4 now.

I also had an equally strange one from a man in Pakistan. He’s quite handsome, though, actually. Hmmm, Pakistan . . . Korea . . . I suppose love really does know no bounds.

The army guys all look like meatheads (I’m being stereotypical, I’m sure some of them are very sensitive and read Sylvia Plath before bedtime), and their messages are wholly uninteresting, so I won’t post any of them here.

Anyway, I did actually respond to one guy who’s teaching English here to whom I’m connected via Santoki. He caught my interest b/c he actually remembers reading Bunnicula as a child and knew one of the sequels, The Celery Stalks at Midnight. I’m also considering messaging someone who claims to be a part-time model (yum!). 😉

In all seriousness, this is just a funny social experiment for me at the moment. I have heard of serious couples who met through Friendster . . . but I don’t think that will happen for me until I’m back in Seattle. Anyway, it’s addicting, so it’s probably a good thing my web browser at my apartment can’t support it–so I can only look at it at work!

**UPDATE–I did message the alleged model, and I noticed on his profile that he’s a Florida State University alum. So I mentioned that my dad was a Seminole . . . and pretty-boy messaged me back incredulously, “Wow, you’re part Korean/part American Indian?? That’s cool . . .” Oh, lord.

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Recovery

So I haven’t posted in almost two weeks . . . mostly because things continue to be just really insane around these parts. Each time that I start thinking, “Okay, it’s going to be chill for a bit,” that’s when the rug gets pulled out from under me. Oh, well, c’est la vie.

But I’ve found enough time to clean out my e-mail inboxes, which is always a fun thing for me to do. I really miss so many of you back in the States!!! As I’ve told a lot of you, I’ve been nurturing this fantasy of having some sort of big reunion in Vegas when I’m back. Well, it’d be a reunion for me–if my fantasy came true, there would be many people there who don’t know each other. I always love it when friends from different areas of my life meet and greet. The ultimate will be if S. and K. make it to Seoul to visit me this summer. I can just see us now . . . I can take them to my favorite lounge in Hongdae, we can shop ’til we drop in Myong Dong. If they had ovens in Korea, I’d have K. make one of her famous loaves of banana bread, which we could then devour in honor of the old days in Boston.

This weekend, I have to go to the west coast of Korea with my co-workers in a kind of retreat, which they call “camping.” I went on a similar trip last fall, which was torturous since I had a sinus infection, and there was a karaoke machine in the house we were staying at. (In all seriousness, I love karaoke and noraebang, just not when I’m sick. I did, however, sing a fabulous rendition of Wham!’s “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” with my roomie, the recently-fired B.) Anyway, it’s not really camping, per se, because we don’t pitch tents or have to pee in the bushes. Last time, we went to this really, really nice country house. This time, I believe we’ll be in the Korean version of a time-share condo. It’ll be on the beach, and we get to go clam-digging. It wouldn’t be so bad if there wasn’t so much “scheduled fun.” Meaning, they don’t let us just sit around on our asses, they way we’d want to. We have to do various things such as three-legged races, charades, etc. BUT–they do provide us with free food and alcohol, which is a plus. I used to really love and enjoy retreats during my AmeriCorps years and wondered about people who bitched about them, but now I understand. The thing with me back then was that all of my friends were also in AmeriCorps, so I would’ve hung out with them on the weekend anyway. Now, all of my close friends live in Seoul, and I never see them during the week, so my weekends are that much more precious to me. I’m going to be missing out on a very cool fundraiser on Saturday . . . but it’s all good because . . .

I’m going to HONG KONG next weekend!!!

N., H., and I will travel from Korea to HK and meet up with K. & N., this really cool couple I met last winter who are currently finishing up a year teaching in China. It’s going to be a blast being in a different city, eating some authentic international food (the Indian and Thai restaurants in Seoul, well . . . they suck). I can’t wait to enjoy some warm weather, have some great conversations, and not be surrounded by screaming children (they are cute little devils, though, and I will post pix asap).

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Roommate fired!!

Just when I start feeling sorry for myself, there’s a reminder that things could always be worse . . . . So my roommate, B., got fired today from our “hagwon” (private English academy in Korea). He’s been on the shit list at work for a while, however, so we sort of saw it coming. Or at least my other co-workers and I did. B. has a bit of the absent-minded professor thing going for him. He’s a really kind, intelligent, caring guy, but let’s face it–he can be flaky. I do think he got scapegoated a lot for nit-picky things, since there always seems to be someone at JEL that they’re trying to fire. BUT, I do think he left himself open somewhat for attack.

It really sucks for him, because he needs to find something to do before he begins his MBA program at the University of Hawaii this fall. Also, he recently started seriously dating a Korean girl that he’s known for over a year, and I know that his intentions with her are very long-range. So this kind of f*cks everything up there. One of the worst things about working for hagwons is the constant threat of being fired. I guess, theoretically, this could happen anywhere, but here it’s somehow worse, due to the minimal communication between yourself and your superiors and the very sticky visa situations. Hagwon work is stressful, although even with all my friends and I have had to put up with this year, we agree that it’s been worth it for the experience of living here in Korea.

All in all, I think B. is a stand-up guy. Even though we disagree on certain social issues (he’s more “morally” conservative than me), I find him overall to be really open-minded, intellectual, and down-to-earth. Plus, he always offers to buy me snacks on 7-11 runs. Some of you may find this really weird, but all along I’ve been thinking it’s been a blessing in disguise for my roommate this year to be a white American male. It puts a human face on what often gets dehumanized as “the oppressor.” So even though B. will never experience what it’s like not to have white privilege, he is definitely conscious of its existence and what it means in society. And that means a lot.

So I will be getting a new roommate. Or . . . they will ask me to move apartments AGAIN. To which I will say, “HELL, NO!!!” (But only on the inside; on the outside, I’ll have to smile, nod, and say, “Sure! Sounds great!” while gritting my teeth. B. wasn’t so good at being submissive, which is part of why he’s getting canned.)

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Postings Setting Changed

Some of you have e-mailed me saying you had difficulty posting, so I just wanted to let you all know that I changed the settings for posting on my blog. Originally, it was set so that you had to be a registered user in order to post, but I went ahead and changed that. So now you can choose “Anonymous” without having to register with Blogger.

I’m currently sitting at upstairs at KoRoot (one of my most favorite places in the world).
I’ve decided not to go out tonight in order to catch up on some much-needed rest.

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