Tag Archives: loves

Weird Shit on Korean TV: Movies that Inexplicably Speak to Erin

I would guess that most foreigners in Korea don’t spend much time in front of their Samsung TVs because our homes are little English islands full of English books, English music and English TV/movies on the internet. Sometimes, though, you just don’t want to lay in bed with your laptop resting on your stomach, the screen 6 inches from your face. (Read: you are hungover.) This is the critical time when you turn on your TV and hope to God there’s an American/British film on NOT starring Steven Seagal. (Although his website is the most amazing combination of martial arts, arrogance and energy drinks you’ve ever seen.)

Steven Seagal, pandering to his audience

It is this precise circumstance that has brought you this list – a list of 5 inexplicably overplayed English-language films on Korean TV. And why I can’t stop watching them.

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We Love You Long Time

This, friends, is The Wanderlust Diary’s 100th post. WOOOOOHOO! Now, this might not mean much to you (except that you’ve had to change your pants 100 times because you peed yourself laughing), but Megan and I are the sort of people who get an idea, get really excited about it, drink a bottle of champagne to celebrate it, then decide it’s too hard. Follow thru, not for the faint of heart. So this here blog is something of an achievement for two people who can’t finish a head of lettuce before it starts to liquify in the crisper.

To celebrate, I’ve made you a list of 100 best things you should know about Korea…

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Why Did the Megan Cross the Road?

ACT ONE

“They have fried chickens there.  Like whole ones. For $12.”

That’s how I got sucked into going to a baseball game. It was all about the chicken from the very beginning.

See, I don’t really like baseball. I find it a bit dull. Being a big hockey fan, I can’t help but compare the pace of a hockey game to the pace of a baseball game, and the constant excitement and momentum of hockey makes baseball excruciatingly boring. I know this sentiment offends most people, but I don’t care.

I heard a lot of positive talk from foreigner friends here regarding Gwangju Kia Tigers baseball. They had a blast last season going to as many games as possible and were all pretty pumped about spending the next four months at the field. Most of it I disregarded for the aforementioned reason. But then someone told me about The Chicken. She said it was amazing and cheap and special because it’s like, a whole chicken, fried right before your eyes. So I thought: Nice weather? $7 a ticket? Fried chicken? Alright. I’ll go.

Baseball Concessions: Look familiar? I didn't think so.

ACT TWO

From the moment I arrived and took in the scene that was “concessions”, it was all about The Chicken. Erin and I joined a group of our waygook friends, planting ourselves firmly in front of the chicken cart and giant bubbling pots of oil.

Friends: Hi guys!

Me: Chicken?

Friends: How was your day?

Me: Chickenchicken.

Friends: This is your first time at the baseball game right?

Me: Chicken?

Friends: Maybe we should buy tickets? And think about getting seats?

Me: Mm..Chicken.

Fixating on how awesome this super fresh, whole fried chicken for $12 was gonna be, we waited.

 

A whole chicken per pot.

And we waited and waited. And waited some more. When all was said and done, four boxes (a chicken in each box) and forty minutes later, we made it to our seats.

I surprised myself by opening a beer and enjoying a few sips before diving into the goods. Was The Chicken everything it promised to be? Pretty much (especially after I found the packet of salt at the bottom of the box). It was super crispy, with a tasty batter made all the more flavorful by the wholeness of the bird.

Glory

Would I return to the baseball game for a warm spring night full of cheering, beer and chicken? Indeed.

ACT THREE

This afternoon, I was jolted from my post-lunch coma by one of my favorite students asking me “Teacher, where you go yesterday?”

Yesterday was her birthday and I thought she expected me to have been at school, so I explained that I work at my other school on Tuesdays. But she shook her head and said, “Last night. TV. I see you!”

A look of surprise and recognition washed over my face and I started laughing. Again on TV huh? I’m pretty sure my giant waygook clan was featured on the soccer game a few weeks ago too. Ah, fame.

And then she repeated, “I see you on TV. Eat fried chicken teacher!! HAHAHAHA!!!!”

Ah, shame.

I imagine my 11 year old student, sitting at home around the tv with her family. On the screen appears my greasy face, half masked behind a giant hunk of fried meat as I gnaw away gleefully. “That’s my teacher!” she cries. And her parents frown uncomfortably, embarrassed and concerned by the grotesque image in front of them.

I almost want to look for the video. Google search “Foreigner devours fried chicken at Korean baseball game”. But it would definitely ruin chicken and/or baseball for me forever.

The Best Part of My Day

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What I’ve most looked forward to about returning to school after five weeks of ‘vacation’ is school lunch. Don’t frown. I know it’s odd-for at least three reasons. First, who in the history of the world has ever liked school lunches? Second, I remember there being only one menu item that I loved in elementary school; it was called a ‘Fiestada‘ (party in your mouth!) and it was some bastardized form of frozen “Mexican” pizza (square bread with yellow cheese instead of white and maybe some refried beans?, yum). American elementary schools just aren’t known for their gourmet meal choices.

And the third reason it’s probably strange that I seriously love on my Korean lunches is  that there are A LOT of English teachers here who really detest the food in the school cafeteria. So much so that in refusing to eat it, they damage their relationships with their Korean coworkers by avoiding lunchtime altogether (everyone eats at the cafeteria in Korean schools). I pass only a little judgment on these people because if I still felt about lunch now the way I did when I first arrived, I might be myself in a similar position.

That is to say I HATED lunch at first because everything tasted like gnarly fish guts, especially stuff that didn’t appear to be fishy at all (kimchi, soup, salads). It was depressing and frustrating and I ate mostly rice for the first few weeks. But soon my body decided that after teaching little children all morning, it was damn hungry. And in being damn hungry, I was forced to adapt to the food situation. Two months later I realized how happily I was anticipating lunch everyday.

It’s exciting not to know what lunch might be, but to be sure that if nothing else, there will always be rice and kimchi. By 11:00 I start making bets with myself about what the cafeteria ajummas might serve and I’m rarely disappointed (save for Eel and Sesame Leaf Soup, which tastes like a fucking dirty tree, and Boney Fish Stew, because nobody needs that).

Some notable dishes are as follows:

Duck with Spicy Sauce: I had no idea duck could smell and taste like bacon. But evidently it can. And it does when served at my school. Then they add this super spicy, vaguely sweet, hot pepper sauce. It is probably my favorite thing to eat at school and I get visibly excited when it’s on the menu (which perplexes my coworkers but too bad).

Enoki Mushroom Soup: There’s something awesome about the consistency of enoki mushrooms. I’ve been underexposed most of my life, but they are everywhere in Korea. If you can’t tell from the pictures, they are the super skinny, string-like mushrooms often found in Korean soups. The texture when you bite on a little clump of them is so unique and pleasing that even if the flavor of the soup isn’t all that mind-blowing, it’s still delicious.

Dried Anchovies and Almonds: So this ‘salad’ is a little startling because it’s teeny tiny dried fish, all silvery with their eyes buggin out. But you don’t even notice what it really is until you get up close. Usually it’s tossed with some sort of vinaigrette and toasted almonds, lending the salty, chewy fish a bit of sweetness. I generally enjoy this sidedish, but if I wait until I’ve eaten most of my meal, the flavors are often too intense for me to finish the amount that I took. I’m learning to be less greedy.

Red Bean and Rice Noodle Soup: Quite a novelty to me, if only because it is so purple. Then again, Koreans eat more purple food than I knew existed. Also, this is usually served at my schools with brown sugar, which is kind of weird because it’s already sweet. I like this soup but always end up taking more than I can eat because I forget how profoundly freakin heavy it is. Liquid Bean + Rice Dough = a Fullness You Immediately Regret.

Spaghetti: There’s nothing really notable about the spaghetti (tastes like a sloppy joe, actually), but I wanted to point out how it is ALWAYS served along with rice. Which is just too bizarre for my Westernself to handle. TWO STARCHES?! What are you trying to do me Korea? But Koreans load up on the noodles and the rice and don’t bat an eye. How these people are toothpick-sized will remain a mystery.

So at the risk of sounding really bloggerish, I’m super curious about what other people think of their school lunches. Y’all should post lots of comments and tell me what you love and what you hate. I just have a really big food boner and need to discuss it.

 

Relapse: Oops, I Went Home

So I went to America. Saw some things. Ate some things. Drank some things. Made a few observations that I will now share, along with a few awesome pictures for your visual stimulation. I’m quite generous you know. 

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1.) Americans overall are not the most attractive people on the planet.

I recall thinking the reverse when I first arrived in Korea, that Koreans are all super beautiful (hello, their cheekbones are only 18 stories high). But back then I didn’t consider what that meant for Americans. To be fair, this particular observation was first made hanging out at LAX and as everyone knows, airports are full of seedy and unfortunate looking characters, but I also thought LA was supposed to be teeming with beautiful people. If this is where are the pretties go, America should remove itself from the international beauty contest immediately because it’s sort of embarrassing. We as a people do not age well (see #5 for why) and we’re mostly quite flabby (also see #5 for why). Ew.

2.) Americans are also pretty frumpy.

Again, I remember arriving in Korea and being mortified by how well dressed and put together every Korean and his mom looked. I already consider myself rather fashion-challenged at home, but Korea made me look like a homeless person, complete with hole-ridden garments and scuzzy footwear. I made sure to blend in at home again though, happily donning my sweats all the way to my final destination and then some (shut up, it’s bad enough to spend 31 straight hours in a bra, screw jeans). But I wasn’t the only one. Lots of velour track suits (apparently I flew all the way back to the 90’s?), lots of thongs sticking out of places no one wants to see, lots of really big t-shirts with stupid things written on them. I mean, I felt right at home, but it was hard not to notice why there are so many American television shows devoted to improving our appearance.

3.) Bathrooms CAN be clean. Even public ones.

I encountered one disgusting bathroom in California. Wasn’t at the gas station or the airport, but at a diner in San Francisco. I was pretty drunk and it was like 3 in the morning, so the circumstances didn’t call for me to freak out. But in another time and place, I would’ve refused to eat at this particular establishment. That said, I seem to enter bathrooms like that all over Korea and can’t do anything about it but vomit in my mouth and ask God why he is punishing me this way. All the American bathrooms I met were clean and didn’t smell like pee and were well stocked with both toilet paper and paper towels. Why is that so much to ask, Korea?

4.) Californians (Americans?) are really friendly.

I think I’ve been deprived of ‘stranger’ conversation: Chitchat with the person at the checkout counter, witty exchanges with someone else standing in a long, stupid line, that sort of thing. I didn’t know I missed it until it kept happening in America and I would get in the car with a warmish, satisfied feeling about the awesomeness of humankind. Koreans may be this nice too, I just don’t know because when I talk to them I sound like a drugged up toddler and they stare at me with a mixture of fear and pity. I was sort of expecting to find the opposite of my fellow countrymen, especially in and around LA. I thought I would be snooted back to Korea very quickly because after living here for five months, I’m awkward in Korea and America now (half bows to cashiers are not acceptable). But it was not so and I made friends with many a bar patron, hairdresser and checkout guy. It was fun.

5.) AMERICAN BEER IS AS GOOD AS I’VE BEEN REMEMBERING.

Yeah. Not gonna spare anyone’s jealous feelings here. American beer is fucking amazing and tasty and buzz-inducing. Everything a beer should be. Happily, I went to California where Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (the best non-IPA beer there is) is on tap at like every establishment. I also went to the Sierra Nevada Brewery where I had sixteen “tastes” (giant shot glasses) of different beer. And boy were they delicious tastes man. If I could’ve smuggled beer back here, I would’ve totally ditched my shopping spree loot and the cases of Dayquil I managed to get past customs. Beer. BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEER.

6.) America is America the Beautiful.

Coming from the midwest, I have, most of my life, failed to understand how beautiful America is. In the midwest it’s farm after flat, stinky brown farm and the scenery can get a little dull. Then I lost my California virginity and spent two weeks repeating, “It’s just like on tv!” and meaning in the best way possible. I was lucky enough to see a good deal of northern and southern Cali on this trip and some of it was just so beautiful I don’t even understand how it’s possible. Driving up and down the coast you go from one spectacular setting to the next. Not only is there wonderful variety, but each landscape itself is magnificent. I’m jealous of every lucky bastard that calls California home.

Think of the Children

My resume prior to teaching in Korea was a list of lame pre- and post-collegiate fuckarounds. Aside from having been in school in some capacity for 20 years, I didn’t have much commending me to this position. Not only was I not the most qualified individual in the EPIK applicant pool, but I hadn’t really been exposed to children since…I had been one? Which would explain why more than one person reacted with open horror when they learned I’d be teaching elementary school. (“But you don’t like kids….do you?”) Oh, naysayers. I ADORE kids. In particular, the kids I teach here.

examples of things I like

The last few weeks have been an experiment in “what would it have been like to come to Gwangju alone?” The answer is: pretty quiet and oddly productive in the confines of my apartment. But it’s been the random run-ins with students in the wild that fill me up with the warm fuzzies* and give me a sense that I’m actually part of the community here. (Cue this.) Also, no one has ever been so freaking happy to see me as some of these kids. For no reason. I could be walking to the bus stop, heading home, taking garbage out, and then all of a sudden there will be an overjoyed child from out of nowhere beaming up at me. It’s kind of like God parting the clouds, looking directly at you and giving you a thumb’s up. I mean, do you need anymore reason to come and teach in Korea?

And they’re smart. SO SMART. And really funny. And young enough not to have had the personality drilled out of them from intense Korean schooling. And though I want to throw a bajillion examples of their brilliance at you, I won’t. I’ll just give you one.

In some tangent of a 3rd grade lesson, I showed students a picture of an alien. I repeated the word a few times for them. Murmurs from the back. “Eh-leen? Eh-leen?” Pointing at the screen, pointing at me, giggle giggle. Eh-leen might be a shot at pronouncing “a-lee-en”, but it’s also the way my name sounds in the mouth of  Korean child. This was awesome because: A) the kids were making a joke/pun in a language they don’t know, and B) they were unintentionally using the word alien (as in, outsider) correctly. I was thus moved to give them candy.

Of course there are good days and bad, but I promise not one day will go by without one kid making you glad you’re here. In conclusion, come to Korea for the good pay, the free apartment, the multicultural experience. But stay for the way hanging out with kids relieves you of your adult cynicism. And the ice skating in helmets.

sure, let’s be safety conscious here, but not outside where we use hoses to clear snow off the street that then leaves a sheet of ice. Hilarious double-standard!

*blah blah blah yes, Erin’s heart grew three sizes today. Go away. *fart noise*

My Love Affair: 비빔밥

What is that? It’s bibimbap. Pronounced “pi-bim-bop”

Is that a real word, Megan? Of course it is. I would never invent a word. Especially one that already sounds like a bad guy side kick from Ninja Turtles.

What is that then? It’s a famous Korean dish that is served in a single bowl and literally translates to “mixed meal”. It has rice and veggies and is super tasty when done right (which is often). There are tons of variations and that is what makes it my current (and very serious) addiction.

Bibimbap

If it’s just vegetables, why are you all in love with it?Well because like I just said, there are eighty katrillion variations on bibimbap Continue reading