Tuesday, October 19, 2010

추석와 난타! (Chuseok and Nanta!)

A few weeks ago was the Korean harvest holiday, Chuseok, which probably should be a post on its own, but I didn't actually do anything really "Chuseoky" except make 성편 with the nuggets at school. However, I did manage to harvest (not sure that's exactly the right word here) a visit from my little brother! More details of our week to follow in another post, but one of the highlights was definitely seeing "Nanta" in Myeongdong.

Nanta is a non-verbal comedy cooking performance. Seoul has several of these tourist friendly shows each housed in their own theatre ("Jump" is another one). I'd never seen any of them, so when brother expressed an interest, we couldn't miss it.

The show was energetic, exciting, and hilarious. Korean drum rhythms coupled with chopping knives and very showy culinary tricks are the staples of the show. Participation of the audience and jokes played at the their expense make it unforgettable.

The tickets are a bit pricey at 50 000 won per person, but if you can get into one of the open rehearsals where the tickets are cheaper, it's not so bad. If you've got the money to spare or a special reason to spend it (relative visiting), it's a pretty good way to spend 50 bucks.

Photography wasn't allowed, so all I've got is this crappy shot of the stage before the show. Please check this show out if you need a good laugh.

Oh yeah! And then we ate awesome french fry coated hot dogs after! I'm thinking about doing my top streetfood countdown soon. Stay tuned...


Saturday, October 16, 2010

고양이 카페 (Cat Cafe)

I love cats. A lot. If Boyfriend and I didn't have a strict no cat no smoking deal in our relationship, I would probably have about 300 cats. Or maybe just two. I don't think I can accurately explain the joy that kittens bring to my life, so here are some photos to help:

So yeah, I like cats.

Anyway, Boyfriend, knowing my love for the feline, took me to a cat cafe here in Seoul. You pay about 8 bucks to get in and there are about 25 cats just roaming around being adorable. You get a drink and you can snuggle, play, and photograph to your little heart's content!

I was basically in heaven. Boyfriend is not such a big fan, but one little outcast took quite the liking to him.

Isn't he mangy but nonetheless adorable?

If you want you snuggle adorable kittens too, cat cafes can be found all around Seoul, but the one we went to was in Hongdae.


Sunday, September 5, 2010

남이섬 (Nami Island)

I love my Korean boyfriend with all my heart. This summer has been quite different from last as Boyfriend has been busy preparing for the dreaded 취업 hunt this fall. Korean students can start applying for jobs at companies in their last semester of university. This heinous process of constant test-taking, stress, and self-punishment takes over the life of pretty much every unfortunate Korean college student at one point in their academic life. Boyfriend is no exception. He has been taking at least one test pretty much every weekend all summer, trying to improve scores by even the smallest amount to gain competitive edge in the ruthless Korean job market.

Personally, I'm not so worried. Boyfriend has a pretty solid resume consisting of ability in 4 languages, top grades, and experience in the Republic of Korea Marine Corps. A company would be crazy not to hire him, but I understand, it's hard to see it that way when you're inside.

Getting to the point, however, it's been kind of a sad, rainy, stressful summer. Boyfriend was supposed to take yet another test this weekend, but as if by some kind of Christmas miracle, on Tuesday he said:

"I canceled my test on Sunday. How about going somewhere to travel this weekend?"

So we did! We booked a pension and went to the 춘천 areaof 강원도. It was a much needed and totally fantastic weekend.

On Saturday we boarded a train from 쳥량리 to 가평. There was standing room only on the 1 and a half hour ride, but that meant a cheap ticket of just 3500 won. When we got to 가평, the 아저씨 from the pension came and picked us up. We borrowed bikes (for free) and cruised around the lakeside. Then we hiked for a bit, and went back to the pension to shower and watch 무한도전. After that, we had a gigantic barbecue dinner and got ourselves deep into a bottle of wine. Took a night walk and saw stars (impossible in Seoul).

Sunday morning we woke up around 10 and checked out of the pension around 11. We boarded a bus to take us to 남이섬. Nami Island is a famous man-made island. The scenery is really beautiful and some famous Korean and Japanese dramas have been filmed there. Before taking the ferry, we ate 춘천 닭갈비, one of my favourite Korean foods. It was a bit pricey, but we left with our bellies full and ready to cross the water to Nami. On Nami Island we walked around, checked out the exhibits and nature. It was lovely. About an hour and a half later, it looked like it was going to start to rain, so we headed back to the ferry wharf. A good call on our part; just as we got to the taxi stand to take us back to 가평 station, a thunder storm started. We were lucky to have such great weather the whole weekend, so without regret we boarded a train back to Seoul.

It was one of the best weekends in a long time, and I'm happy Boyfriend and I got to spend some time together before the job-hunt madness reaches critical mass this fall.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

한국 결혼식 (Korean Wedding)

Last weekend, one of my Korean co-workers got married. I've been in Korea almost 2 years, but I'd never been to a Korean wedding. Actually it wasn't much different from a western style wedding, but a few things were a little different.

Korean weddings these days almost always happen at a wedding hall. These are pretty giant convention style buildings with multiple halls where tons of wedding happen every day. I went with Boyfriend. When we got to the hall, we signed in our names and got tickets to the after-ceremony dinner. Then we went to the "Bride Waiting Room" and saw my friend and took a picture together.

After that, the actual ceremony was about 45 minutes. It was all in Korean (obviously), so my understanding was limited, but some of my other co-workers did a little song and dance at the end which was pretty cute. Then all the families and friend groups took pictures with the bride and groom. Finally, they threw the bouquet, a kind of funny twist on the western idea. The bride selects the woman who will catch the bouquet, and only that woman stands and waits for it. After she catches it, she's got three months to get married. Talk about pressure!

The reception was really different from most of the western wedding I've been to. The dinner is included in the use of the wedding hall. After the ceremony, all the guest pile into one of many banquet halls and chow down on free buffet and alcohol. The catch: instead of dancing and drinking into all hours of the morning western wedding style, you've only got two hours in the banquet hall. This seemed a little strange in the light of Korean social convention which usually involves long meetings and lots of alcohol. Anyway, the whole experience was pretty cool, and as Boyfriend said, it was "good experience" for me to see the Korean wedding process as that might be us in a few years.

Congrats to the bride and groom! They are living it up in Hawaii until next week.
결혼해서 축하합니다!


Monday, August 9, 2010

무의도 (Muui Island)

I have a pretty solid group of girlfriends here in Korea that I don't see nearly enough. Between boyfriends, jobs, and living in different cities, girl time sometimes gets pushed to the back burner. This weekend we took a much needed girls only trip to Muui Island off the coast of Incheon. It was loverly!

When we got to the island on Saturday afternoon, it was quite overcast but still warm. The tide was way out. We cracked a bottle of wine (or many) and barbequed our little hearts out with the sunset. Met some cutie Korean kids and of course a few new friends, foreigners and Koreans alike. Common to lady gatherings, we stayed up way too late, drank too much, and got too little sleep. Though the sleep issue may have been due to our cheapness. We squeezed 7 gals into a 2 person beach hut (and were proud of it). Sunday morning was met with delicious BLTs and loads of sunshine. We were back in Seoul with our femininity reenergized by nightfall. All in all, a wonderful trip.

Financial Breakdown:
subway to Incheon International Airport: around 3000 won each way
bus to Muui Island ferry: 1000 won each way
ferry to Muui Island: 3000 won round trip
bus from ferry to Muui beach: 1000 won
beach hut rental: 7000 won/person
food and alcohol: 20 000 won/person
Grand Total: 35 000 won (about $30 Canadian)

Getting to Muui-do is cheap, but it takes a while. First take the subway or bus to Incheon International Airport. From gate 5 on the departures level, take bus 222 to Muui-do ferry. The ferry ride takes about 5 minutes. Then you can take another bus from the ferry to the beach (about 10 minutes). The whole trip takes about 3 hours from downtown Seoul provided you have reasonable connections.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

그냥 농담예요 (Just a Joke)

학교에서 선생님이 공기가 뭐냐고 물어봤습니다. 학생들이 그문제에 때해서 잠시만 동안 생각했습니다. 드디어 학생이 대답했습니다. 공기가 그냥 공기이라고 했습니다. 선생님이 맞다고 했습니다. 그 다음에 선생님이 다시 물어봤습니다. "물이 뭐예요?" 라고 했습니다. 학생이 생각하고 대답했습니다. "물... 물은 셀프입니다!"

ㅋㅋㅋ 좋은 이야기예요? 미용실에서 이 농담을 들었어요. 5분 동안 실소했어요. 정말!

*English Translation*

At school, a teacher asked "What is the sky?" The students thought about this problem for a moment. Finally a student replied. "The sky is just the sky." "That's correct," said the teacher. The teacher asked again, "What is water?" One student thought and responded, "Water... water is self!"

Is it a good story? I heard this while getting my hair done. I laughed for like 5 minutes. Seriously.

Note: In Korean restaurants, there is usually a big water cooler with cups and you serve yourself. Most restaurants have a sign by the water cooler that says "물은 셀프입니다" which means water is self-serve.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

무한도전 (Infinite Challenge)

Saturday nights, Boyfriend and I usually make a point to be home at 6:30pm, ready with a pizza to watch our favourite show, 무한도전 (Infinite Challenge). For you Canadians out there, picture Kenny vs. Spenny times a thousand. Well, a little different, but stick with me here.

무한도전 is a comedy variety show where 7 famous Korean comedians compete in challenges and try to do crazy stuff. When I first started watching it, I couldn't understand very much, but a lot of their humour is pretty physical and now I can keep up pretty well with Boyfriend's help. This is the first Korean show I've tried to watch without subtitles. Yay me!

I don't know how explain except that its a bunch of middle aged guys trying to outwit and humiliate each other. What more do you need to know? The only thing that could make this program better is if there was some kind of embarrassing punishment for the losers (as in Kenny vs. Spenny).

The cast:

Usually sporting platinum blonde hair, he's nicknamed "crazy guy" or "psychopath."

The Leonardo (Ninja Turtles) of 무한도전. I think he's the kindest one and he's in a lot of ads.

Cute, fat, and awkward. A triple threat in my books.

He looks like a giant compared to the others, but I also think he's really kind.

The Kenny of 무한도전.

I don't know much about this guy since he was off the show for a while.

Not much to say about this guy either.

Check this show out. The humour definitely transcends the language barrier.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

내 사랑한테 8개 서약속 (8 Pledges to My Love)

I missed Korean class this week because of some stupid traffic. Guess I've got a lot of catching up to do before next week. Luckily I've got my secret weapon, native speaker Boyfriend!

Last week in Korean class we learned the grammar pattern "도록 하겠습니다" which is kind of like a formal promise of what you will or will not do. For homework, we were asked to write 8 promises to a love. So here are mine:

늦지 않도록 하겠습니다.
I will not be late.

화가 나오지 않도록 하겠습니다.
I will not be angry.

길에 걸을 때 오빠 손을 잡도록 하겠습니다.
I will hold your hand when we walk on the street.

오빠의 농담 때문에 웃도록 하겠습니아.
I will laugh at your jokes.

오빠하고 한국어로 얘기하도록 하겠습니다.
I will try to speak with you in Korean.

항상 오빠를 돕도록 하겠습니다.
I will always help you.

한국 문화를 이해해 보도록 하겠습니다.
I will try to understand Korean culture.

일이 생기면 오빠한데 말하도록 하겠습니다.
If there is a problem, I will tell you.

I haven't shown these to Boyfriend as he's the kind of guy who will hold you to it all the time.
"I thought you promised you would laugh at my jokes!"


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

중급4반 (Intermediate 4 Class)

Last month I decided I needed a more organized approach to studying Korean. Between working during the day and studying for my master's evenings and weekends, I started to seriously neglect Korean. You might say that's not so bad considering my full time job and grad studies, but Korean is important to me.

So I started taking a class at the Korea Foundation near City Hall. It's once a week for two hours and it's entirely in Korean. Just what I need (actually no sarcasm here for once!). I took a level test on my first day and got placed in Intermediate 3 which was much higher than I expected. I studied level 3 for three weeks and then took another test. By some miracle I passed and now I'm in level 4. Movin' on up!

I wasn't sure if I wanted to continue after level 3, since that consisted of a lot of grammar patterns and not much actual speaking practice. I haven't had a problem learning the grammar on my own. What I need is a chance to speak in an environment where it's ok to make mistakes so I can really get some practice and confidence.

Well I went to the first class of level 4 tonight and was happy to see a new atmosphere. My teacher is really funny. She continually picks on everyone to speak, and I've made some new friends that I can only speak Korean with (from Mongolia, Japan, and China). After just one class, I left feeling like maybe I'm not so hopeless after all. I always thought my speaking was really low, but I can keep up in the class, so I got a major boost to my confidence.

The only downer is that the class is on Wednesday evenings. Wednesday is my hell day at work where I work back to back classes from 9-6:30 with only two 30 minute off-periods. My Korean class starts at 7 and is on the other side of the river, so immediately after work I have to jump in a cab and fight traffic to get to my class on time. I'm usually 10-15 minutes late which I hate, but I really can't get there any earlier. My class runs for two hours and then I find my way back home, put some food in face, and pass out.

But I'm a nerd and I love it and it's worth it.


Monday, June 28, 2010

서울이 좋아요! (Seoul is awesome!)

My plan for this past weekend:

Saturday: Get visas for China trip next month
Dinner at the lovely Miss Mel's
World Cup (Korea vs. Uruguay)

Sunday: Trip to Ocean World

Things that failed this past weekend:

Saturday: Wrong pictures meant no China visas this time

Sunday: Weather was crap so no Ocean World

Things I never planned to do this weekend but happened anyway:

* 2000 won burgers in Gyeongbokgung
* visit to beautiful Gyeongbokgung Palace - the best palace in Seoul in my opinion!
* visit to an awesome exhibit, "The Story of King Sejong" in Gwanghwamun - seriously, check it out. Boyfriend and I got to write our names in hangul with Korean calligraphy brushes!
* 60th anniversary of the start of the Korean war photo exhibition in Gwanghwamun
* walking up and down Namsan and a visit to Seoul Tower
* Indian feast in Dongdaemun

I didn't have to make reservations or plan ahead to do any of this. I found all these activities just from wandering around. It cost me 3000 won to enter Gyeongbokgung Palace. The Sejong exhibit, Seoul Tower, and the photo exhibition were all free!


Monday, June 21, 2010

불암산 수락산 (Buram Mountain Surak Mountain)

I know. I know. I'm a bad person. I'm sorry! Every time I say I'm going to keep up with blogging, but somehow I always get distracted with something else. Anyway, I'm back again with two months worth of updates and another empty promise that I'll keep updating!

First up, mountains! Spring has come and gone here in SK, not surprising since it was only about two weeks long. Spring and fall are my favourite seasons in Korea. The weather is warm, but not stiflingly humid as the summer. In spring you can witness the transient beauty of the sakura trees. In fall, the colours give a close competition to the Cabot Trail. It's also the best time to go hiking. Boyfriend and I did Buram Mountain in late April and then Surak Mountain in late May when my dad came to visit. These are two peaks of the same mountain range north of Seoul by Nowon.

It must be obvious by the amount I talk about studying and movies, that I'm not the most athletic gal on the planet. Actually I'm not even an athletic girl on the planet, but I do enjoy a good hike Korean style. Deck yourself out in over the top hiking gear, fill your giant backpack with snacks, soju, and makgeolli, find a pal and you're ready to go.

I'll leave the rest of the explaining to the photos. The Buram hike is more challenging, but if I can do it, you definitely can. We didn't actually make it to the peak of Surak because of a shoe malfunction, but the path did seem a little more friendly.

To get to Buram, take line 4 to Danggogae and then walk for 15 minutes to the park. For Surak, simply get off at Suraksan Station and then follow the signs to get to the park.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

제 생일/화이트데이 (My Birthday/White Day)

My birthday was actually over a week ago, but the new job is still sucking endless amounts of my weekday time, so the recap is just coming now.

On March 13th, to most of the modern world, I turned 24. However, every time a Korean person asks my age, my response is qualified by their follow-up question: Korean age or Western age? Korea has a totally different age system than Western countries. Actually I don't know of any other country that calculates age in this peculiar way. I've had numerous Korean friends try to explain it to me several times, and I'm still not sure if I'm 25 or 26 Korean age. It works a little something like this...

So your mother carried you for about 9 months. All that time you were a living creature, so let's just round that up to one year. (Personally I think 9 months to a year is a bit of a stretch, but this seems like the most reasonable part of the equation so I'll let it slide).

Ok, so that means take whatever your Western age is now and add one to it for the year your mother carried you. Alright, makes sense. Here's where things get weird.

Every Korean person turns one year older on Lunar New Year. I don't know why, and I can't seem to figure out if you just get the year from your upcoming birthday early, or if you actually get a whole other year. The former would put me at 25, the latter 26 years old for someone born in 1986. I don't get it, but anyway, it was a great 24th/25th/26th birthday. I had a shindig at my new place, which was nice because it forced me to go out and buy some things to make it more homey.

March 14th is a kind of money-grab holiday in Korea called White Day. You thought Valentine's Day was bad enough at home; Korea has 3 Valentine related holidays! The first is February 14th, still named Valentine's Day, when girls give presents and candy to their boyfriends/husbands. The second is March 14th, White Day, when boys give presents and candy to their girlfriends/wives. The third is April 14th, Black Day, when single people go eat 자짱면 (Chinese black bean noodles) and mourn their singleness... Ouch!

Boyfriend and I had discussed that these holidays are stupid, but he still got me a gorgeous pair of earrings for White Day anyway. He's just that kind of super-lovin' guy!

As of last week yellow dust has plagued Seoul, causing folks to whip out their super-fashionable hospital masks. I actually didn't believe yellow dust was really a dangerous thing until yesterday when the sky was actually a sick, pukey yellow, apocalyptic colour... guess I better head to Family Mart and get myself a mask.


Monday, March 1, 2010

대한민국 만 세! (Long Live Korea!)

Today was Independence Day in Korea, which meant there was no work for me and no school for Boyfriend. Originally we planned to have a picnic in one of Seoul's many parks, assuming there might be some cool events going on as well because of the holiday.

Woke up this morning and of course it was cold, windy, and rainy!

Nothing can stop Boyfriend's unyielding patriotism though, so we packed our picnic and headed out to Seodaemun Independence Park anyway. Seodaemun Independence Park is home to the Seodaemun Prison and Independence Gate. Seodaemun Prison was used by the Japanese occupants to house and torture rebel Korean freedom fighters. Now it's a museum with lots of interactive displays and and a lot of neat stuff. There was face-painting and tons of Korean flags everywhere. There were also a crapload of little mini Koreas and one foreigner (me!). One little girl who was walking behind Boyfriend and I shouted to her mother: "외국인입니다!" (It's a foreigner!). One of the many times I'm glad I understand Korean. Hilarious.

Doing his patriotic duty.

When we finished walking around the complex we came out into a courtyard where they were handing out Korean flags and everyone was shouting "대한민국 만 세!" which Boyfriend explained means "Republic of Korea live for 10 000 years!" Everyone was shouting and waving flags together and we all made a parade down to Independence Gate. At the gate, some little kids in traditional costumes held a gigantic Korean flag and we took a big group picture for the newspapers. When Boyfriend and I were walking away from the crowd, a lady came up and asked Boyfriend if she could take my picture since I was the only foreigner there. Who knows? Maybe you'll see me in the papers tomorrow.

Who brought that waegookin?

By this point there was no way I wanted to eat the picnic outside; it was so wet and cold. So we found a convenience store, bought hot chocolate, and ate our picnic inside along with a family chowing down on some Independence Day ramyeon. Then we went to see "Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief" (you know, just the usual Korean independence celebrations), and now I'm trying to muster the energy to leave my house to get some Chinese fried pork from the place down the street.

Oh yea! Funny language barrier story relating to Independence Day... Yesterday Boyfriend and I were walking and he pointed out a man on a bus-stop ad.

BF: "Do you know who that is, Ash?"
Ashu: "No, I don't. Who is it?"
BF: "Ah, he's a really famous Korean hero because he was a terrorist."
Ashu: "Sorry? He's a terrorist but a hero?"
BF: "Yea, he threw a bomb at the Japanese king during occupation."
Ashu: "Oh, you mean he was a rebel?"
BF: "No, terrorist."
Ashu: "In English we usually say someone who is good is a rebel and a bad person is a terrorist, even if they do the same thing. To Koreans that man is a rebel, to Japanese he's a terrorist."

And if you want to go to Independence Park, take subway line 3 to Dongnimmun Station and you'll come right out into it.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Why Ash is a Big Nerdo

I learned a hard lesson after returning from my Southeast Asia trip last fall: if you don't use a second language, you lose it. Devastated by my loss of competence from just three weeks off of studying, I vowed I would keep at my Korean after I returned to Canada.

I bought a new Korean book just before leaving Korea, and my goal was to finish the nine chapters in the 3 months I'd be home. Sadly, I won't realize that goal, but I should be able to finish seven of the nine before I go back to SK in two weeks.

Anyway, this is a story of my greatest strength and weakness as a language student.

I love grammar.

Yea, I said it. When I'm studying, it's absolutely important to me to understand what every word is doing in a sentence. Parsing and deconstructing sentences is the only way I find I can actually understand and use what I've learned.

Good Side: My Korean writing is very good. I can make good sentences, and most of the time I feel confident in what I know.

Bad Side: If I don't understand a particular grammar point, I don't have a real teacher to explain it to me. I can ask Boyfriend, but sometimes he just has to tell me what I've told many students before: "It just is." If I don't have a lot of confidence in my understanding, I'm less likely to try to speak, which is kind of the whole point of learning a language. Though personally I wouldn't mine conducting all of my Korean exchanges through note passing. One can dream.

This issue became especially apparent last week when my Korean book attempted to teach me three verbs: 되다, 돼다, and 데다. These three verbs all sound exactly the same, but have slightly different uses and meanings. Anyway, one sentence in my book changed a 돼다 to a 되다 when using future tense. Even though the pronunciation is exactly the same and I understood the meaning of the sentence fine, I just couldn't allow the grammatical change to go unexplained. So I called Boyfriend. Turns out 되다 is some kind of abbreviated form of 돼다, but in the end he told me to just accept that that's what you do in the future tense, since it doesn't make any difference to speaking at all.

A troubling conclusion, but I guess I'm going to have to let it go. I feel more acutely now the frustrations of my students when I can't explain something to them.

Conclusion: Ash is a NERD-BOMBER!


Thursday, January 28, 2010

실미도 (Silmido)

So I still haven't finished watching "친구." I talked to Boyfriend about it. Since he's Korean and all, I thought he might be able to justify my feelings of dissatisfaction with the film. Our conversation went a little something like this:

Ash: So I watched this movie, "친구," the other day.
BF: Oh yea? What did you think?
Ash: Well, actually I thought it was pretty boring. I didn't finish watching it.
BF: Yea, I guess that might be boring to you cause you're not Korean, but it made Busan guys look really cool.

There you have it. If you're from Busan, check out the film. Otherwise... meh? Of course, Boyfriend is from Busan.

I still feel like I should finish watching it, but alas, I've already moved on. A friend noticed my interest in Korean movies and kindly recommended "실미도." He prefaced this recommendation with "It's not awesome, but it's watchable." More proof that I have have terrible taste because I really enjoyed it.

실미도 is the name of an island that belongs to Korea. The film, which is apparently based on a true story, tells the story of a group of convicts and death-row inmates who are sent to this island to become an elite Kim Il Sung assassination squad. Their identities are erased, but they have a chance to redeem themselves by becoming the greatest heroes to their divided country. In a twist of fate, their assassination mission is terminated, and the government decides to terminate the team as well. The men must fight against their own government and the officers who trained them to preserve their place in history.

Terrible reasons why I like this movie:

I like any story when bad guys are rehabilitated and become awesome ass-kicking heroes. These days we're seeing a lot of films that explore possible "uses" for convicts and law-breakers, but they always seem to be in some kind of death game for the average person's viewing pleasure. I like this movie because it treats the bad guys like real characters who grow and change.

The exploration of identity issues is really cool. All of the men essentially lose their past identities when they are "executed." They must all painfully redefine themselves. One character is the son of a traitorous communist. He must find a way to escape his father's legacy. The best scene in the movie for me is when the men finally realize they are doomed to die. Their biggest fear is that their nation will believe the lies that they are communist soldiers instead of heroes. They end up all screaming their names and writing them in blood on the inside of a bus before committing mass suicide. Very John Proctor. "You have taken my soul. Leave me my name!" Totally badass.

I find the idea fascinating that there are things in our history which have been kept secret and are slowly leaked over time. The ending of the movie is really cool.

I guess that's all. On a side note, this movie is pretty long, so if you plan on watching it, make sure you have a good couple of hours.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

친구 (Friend)

I'm not a particularly subtle lady, so when I want to know about something I usually just come out and ask it... or in most cases (let's be real) I just google the shit out of everything. No surprises then that most of the Korean movies I've seen I heard about by google searching "top Korean movies." This method has not failed me yet. It may be the fact that I have terrible taste (or just no taste at all), but it takes a lot for me to not enjoy a movie. I consider it a blessing that I can be entertained so easily. Well, I had enjoyed every Korean movie that I had seen until yesterday when I attempted to watch "친구," known as "Friend" in English. I found this film listed on some rando's top 10 Korean films. In the company of "Sassy Girl," "Old Boy," and "빈집," I thought it might be good for a try.

I did not enjoy it.

Not that the movie is utterly terrible, cause even then I might have enjoyed it for it's utter terribleness. I just didn't care. Not a single character or situation was able to elicit any feeling at all from me, a sad experience for someone as easily delighted or enraged as I am.

The film is the story of 4 childhood friends as they grow up, lose their innocence, etc. I'm all for a good coming of age story of friendship, so I really have trouble pinpointing exactly what did not do it for me in this movie. Maybe it's simply the fact that I'm a woman and so I felt alienated by isolation in the male friendship world of the film. Maybe that's why I didn't care. I certainly hate to think that's why. I like to think I could appreciate an honest look into male friendship, but maybe that's not true. Honestly I'm still processing.

I didn't actually finish the film. Frankly if a movie doesn't make me feel something in the first 45 minutes, I don't feel guilty about abandoning it mid-watch. I'm going to try to give it another go this week, for fairness alone. I'll let you know how that goes. Perhaps there's some fantastically redeeming ending that will make me eat my words.

I hope so.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

꽃보다 남자 (Boys Over Flowers)

In addition to the hideous amount of movies I watch on a regular basis, I've also sadly become obsessed with a certain Korean TV show. It began through a quest to find something to watch while I'm exercising and has just gone from there.

"꽃보다 남자" or "Boys Over Flowers" in English, is one of several TV incarnations of a Japanese manga by the same name. It follows the life of 금잔디 (Jan-di Geum), a middle class high school student who miraculously ends up attending a super prestigious high school for rich kids. Picture all the trash and ridiculousness of "Gossip Girl" without the sex. Sounds lame, right? It is, but for some reason I'm still watching it. The show is a veritable gold mine of cliches and bad acting, so I'll just highlight my favourite parts.

Over the Top Messages of Consumerism and Class Culture: Poor Jan-di is just the outcast of outcasts at Shinhwa High. Man, does she have a hard life. She takes a lunchbox to school instead of eating at the 5 star restaurant cafeteria, she has to work a part time job after school, she's not even going to inherit a multi-million dollar corporation from her parents, WTF? The amount of shopping and conspicuous consumption montages in an episode alone is crazy. Of course Jan-di's humble roots make her a target for her rich and bored classmates who constantly refer to her as commoner and dry cleaner. Which brings us to...

Slow Motion Bullying Scenes: I know I shouldn't laugh, but they're just too funny. Jan-di is regularly the victim of somebody's evil plan. She gets beat up and humiliated constantly. For some reason these scenes are always delivered in slow motion. I don't know why, but it's awesome. Add the fact that Jan-di is a glutton for punishment and ends up shouting "Is that all you got? More!" every time she gets beat up. Pure magic.

Wide Open Plot Holes: Jan-di goes to this prestigious school on a swimming scholarship, yet somehow on tropical vacation in one of the episodes she ends up almost drowning in about 4 feet of water because of "leg cramps."

A Chance to Learn Some Korean Slang: Since most of the characters are high school students, you can learn a lot of useful Korean phrases such as 죽을래? (Do you want to die?).

All in all I can't tell why I continue to watch this show. It really is awful. For some reason I think it was the most popular drama in Korea in 2008/2009 though. Bizarre. Worth checking out if you're desperate for entertainment.


Monday, January 11, 2010

빈집 (3-Iron)

I watch a lot of movies. It's a sad reality of my life. These days I'm watching a lot of Korean movies in an attempt to a) find movies that I haven't already seen, and b) pretend like I'm practicing my Korean. Last night I watched "빈집" or "3-Iron" as it's known in English.

The movie poster is kind of lame, but take my word for it; it's worth watching.

빈집 means empty house. The story follows a young man who breaks into people's houses while they're away on vacation. He stays in each house for a night, fixing things that are broken and taking pictures with the family portraits. One night the home he thinks is abandoned is actually still hiding a battered housewife. The young man ends up injuring the abusive husband when he returns home and running away with the wife.

The most interesting thing about this film is the lack of dialogue between the two main characters. The young man does not say one line for the entire film, and the woman's lines can be counted on one hand. This exploration of silence and intimacy is reason enough to seek out this film if you haven't seen it already.

The silent hero ends up spending some time in jail where he becomes totally badass and masters something similar to Bagua kung fu. The ending is quietly tragic and yet somehow still satisfying. Definitely check this movie out if you're looking to get into Korean cinema or just searching for something far from ordinary.


Something New

So I've decided to start something new, not unusual for someone who has as much free time on their hands as I do. My old blog kept you up to date on my daily/weekly/monthly goings on, but I've since realized that's a little boring. Seeing how little I care about the daily ins and outs of my life leads me to believe you care even less. But I know how much you love reading my small works of genius, so I'm not giving up on blogging altogether.

My solution: you've found it! This is where I'll talk about stuff you might actually be interested in, mostly Korean stuff since that's where I live, but pretty much anything is fair game. What I like, what I don't like, what baffles me and amazes me, you'll find it here. And let me know what you like, what you don't like, what baffles and amazes you.

Here's to a new start.