Sunday, July 31, 2011

Annoying K-Pop

      I'm sure that from the title you might be thinking that I'm talking about Korean cereal but I'm definitely not.  I'm talking about the pop music here known as K-Pop.  K-Pop is very popular and they have a couple of TV shows that are similar to American Idol and Star Search but there's one show that is the Korean version of American Bandstand.  Evidently if you're a Korean singer you want to get on that show for your big break. 
     The thing that's funny to me is just how many Korean pop groups, boy-bands, girl-bands and wannabe's there are but a couple of singers have made it big.  One guy called Rain is a combination of Usher and Justin Timberlake.  Another big star is a girl called Hyuna and I think that she's a Korean version of Miley Cyrus.  I hear her damn song "Bubble Pop" everywhere and it has been stuck in my head all week so I'm putting it up so you too can endure the misery of this super-catchy song.  The third video is from a younger girl named IU whose video, "Good Day" has exploded all over the country.
     These videos will give you an idea of what Koreans, especially the younger generation, thinks of as their "ideal" girl or guy.

Bubble Pop, Hyuna:

Rain, Love Song:

Good Day, IU:
The parrot at the beginning of the video says, "Oppa" which means "I love you."

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Lady Leaving Korea

       Well all good things must come to an end and The Lady has returned back to the States.  I was definitely bummed to watch her leave but I enjoyed every moment she was here and am excited that I get to see her when I return to the States. 
Eating at one of our favorite places, Cafe Lemon Table
Celebrating the 4th!
Eating lunch with the owners of our favorite cafe, Ji Hae and Young Chung.
Planning her next shot.
Owning the jumbotron and the Gryffindor section
Boryeong Mud Festival
Namgwangju Fish Market
TL hated the self-boxing too.
Teacher's lunch for my school.
Saying bye to Ji Hae
TL and I after a fantastic lunch.  Eight months and counting.
        However, after helping her pack up and seeing her off at the airport I realized that even though I would love to visit my friends and family back home I'm not ready to move home.  I have a lot to see and do  here and am excited to get started on doing just that.  One thing that I am going to start doing is playing some Rugby.  I've always wanted to do it and just before TL came here I played a backyard game, did pretty well and was offered to come and tryout for the foreigner team.  So I have that to prepare for, my birthday is in a month and then it's college football season! Can't wait to watch the Vols play and win some games! 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Playing In The Mud

      This past Saturday The Lady and I met up with Jonathan and went to the Boryeong mud festival.  The Boryeong mud festival has been going on for 14 years and started because the mud in Boryeong was used in cosmetic products and the sellers wanted to create some buzz so they started the festival.  It's actually a pretty big event here in Korea but it is especially so for us foreigners and particularly the military.  Since coming here to Korea I've been looking forward to going and was excited that TL was able to come with me.
      After getting up early, we headed to the bus station got our tickets and got in line for the bus.  Yup, there were some other foreigners already in-line and ready to go.  We hop on the bus and get on the front seats because we wanted the leg room and also Jonathan and I knew that the bus was overbooked and people would have to sit in the aisle.
People were lined up almost to the front!
      Once we got there we immediately bought our return tickets for the last bus to Gwangju just in case we wanted to leave since they would refund our tickets if we didn't take the bus.  I didn't get too many pictures because we were at a mud festival and I didn't want to ruin TL's camera so I've borrowed from some internet sites. 

No shower no problem.

The cleanest everyone was for the rest of the day.
By 3pm that stage was surrounded by thousands of mud-caked people.
     Overall we had a great time, the ocean water was pretty warm but the atmosphere was succinctly summed up by TL when she said, "It's Panama City done Asheville style."  It was a mixture of laid-back hipsters/hippies and army people.  So we had a good time but we didn't want to stay through the night as we knew it was going to get rowdy and we didn't want to stay in a hotel.

     For some great pictures of people in the mud festival check out these sites: 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

End Of An Era-Harry Potter

       So the The Lady and I went to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows conclusion today and let me tell you it was fantastic to watch!  If you haven't seen it, don't worry I won't give away any spoilers but if you want to have an in-depth discussion about the movie please email me and I'll be happy to go through it point by point. 
       I do want to talk about how this movie is the end of an era for many of us and how I felt about watching it in Korea.  For people around my age the Harry Potter franchise is something that we've read and watched as we grew up.  I can remember I first heard about Harry Potter when I was 14 and I wasn't impressed.  I didn't think it sounded all that cool and I really didn't want to read another British take on how a magical world should be.  However I did finally read the first book and was instantly hooked, devouring it and the second in mere weeks.  When the first movie came out I was eager to see how it was, carefully checking to see what was omitted from the books and if I still enjoyed it, and I definitely wasn't disappointed.  
        Moreover, Harry Potter was more than a movie adaptation for me because it was the first thing that my mother, brother and I could all actively talk to one another about, while having fantastically spirited discussions about what each character's role was, what J.K. Rowling was planning for the next book and if Harry and Ginny or Harry and Hermione ended up together.  For example I can remember coming home late one summer during college and seeing my mother's bedroom light on, knowing that she was finishing the newest book, and waiting until she had her coffee the next morning before asking in-depth on her opinion.
       The only comparison that I can think of that created the same buzz and excitement was Star Wars and Indiana Jones.  They were incredible trilogies but neither were books first and their unity is that Harrison Ford starred in both of them and George Lucas produced them.  Whereas the Harry Potter films maintained their unity in all of the major and minor characters and I was able to read the newest book before the next movie came out.
        But I'll finish how I started and share with you my experience of watching the last Harry Potter movie here in Korea.  We get to the theater and there wasn't anyone dressed up like they were going to Hogwarts, and as I watched the movie TL and I were the only ones getting pumped when the characters, major and minor, finally had their shining moments.  There wasn't any spontaneous applause, laughter or loud sobbing and I left the theater feeling cheated.  Cheated that all those years of enjoying every Harry Potter movie and the last one I watched was the one I wanted to enjoy with everyone else in the theater and instead it felt like I watched it on my living room couch. 
       I'm going to go back to the theater and I'm going on a Friday or Saturday night just to make sure that I got the authentic Korean experience and I hope that my first impression is the wrong one.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Gwangju FC Soccer

      On Saturday TL and I met up with Jonathan to go and watch the local professional soccer team play.  Now the team is called Gwangju FC, and it's their first year in the K-League, Korean Soccer League, and they're not at the top of the division but it's fun to watch and hang out.  We met up with TESL Korea, which prints the foreigner magazine here in Gwangju, and I also met the guy who got me my ESL job here, Dan Henrickson.
       Even though it was pouring rain the entire day we had a great time since you can bring coolers, yes coolers, into the stadium without being checked or paying an extra fee.  I'll go through the pictures and show you how it went.

Everyone sat on one side of the stadium because the rain kept most people from coming to watch the game.

Supporting the team!
That little kid wanted my scarf so bad and he kept yelling at the ref all game long.
Dan and I were definitely on the right page.

The FC supporters lit the flare..

And then they burned their sign.  Amateurs.
Our fellow Southerner we met at the game by way of Baton Rouge.
After missing some easy chances we finally got the first goal!
Everyone was pumped but our section was just a little bit louder than the rest of the stadium.
I tried to get a picture showing the rain but trust me it was a downpour.
He was finally escorted out for being so loud and obnoxious.
TL zoomed in to show the guy proposing and she said yes!
Korean cheerleaders without rain gear and it wasn't cute.
Goal number two!
Because TL was one of the three blonds in the stadium we got on the jumbotron!
One Korean family dared sit next to the foreigners and who was the polite liaison, this guy. Well done sir.
Ok ok I'll stop yelling in English at the Korean ref but he deserved it.
First time in my life I went to a sports game and didn't hear a rap song.
Many thanks to Brooke and Darrell for setting the event up!
We waited 45 minutes for a taxi after the game in the horrendous downpour. TL wasn't digging it.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Blogger Editing

I have no idea why some of the widgits on the side of my blog are not showing but I'm working to get them back up and improved.  If you have any suggestions I'd certainly listen!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Lady In Korea Part Two

            After we finished our drinks we went decided to go to Bubble Bar.  Now you know how much I despise that place but I wanted TL to experience going to a dance bar where green lasers hit your eyes on your way down the stairs and after you recover your vision you then see K-Pop videos on the giant projector screen.  So we went straight to the dance floor and proceeded to burn it up!  After dancing for a good bit I went to use the restroom and came back to see TL being slowly surrounded by a group of Korean guys.   
            Now when I say surrounded I don’t mean like in Mad Max where the guys are swinging chains and riding motorcycles but more like some cowboys trying to figure out how to rope the wild stallion.  It was hilarious to see because TL doesn’t even see it happening since they were a couple of feet from her but I went over to her to start dancing again.  Right when I get there a Korean decides to make his move and tries to cut me off.  I laugh, grabbed his shoulder and pulled him away while pointing at TL and politely say, “My girlfriend.”
            Well I don’t know if this guy was Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer reincarnated but he clearly was full of some serious hubris or liquid courage because he waited a full 60 seconds before he decided to try and flank me and get BETWEEN TL and I again.  I didn’t need Crazy Horse to back me up but I did put two fingers on his chest, the full hand push would just be excessive, and pushed him off of us and kept pushing him back to the bar.  At that point his boys realized that his drunk ass had went after the one foreigner girl who was off-limits and they quickly pulled him back so they could hold hands and hug or do whatever it is Korean guys do when they’re alone together.
Bubble Bar
The Lady.
Who's awesome? This guy! But where's your gold chain UM?
            After that we danced a bit and then headed home.  The next morning we got up and met Jonathan and his friend Rachel to go and hike Mudeung Mt.  We went to the base and started up the trail taking our time and enjoying the scenery as we made our way to the top.  After reaching the Pagoda we took in the incredible view, despite the haze, and relaxed.  Now remember Jonathan, TL and I are still dealing with all that soju from the night before and the three of us all looked like we jumped in a swimming pool but Rachel barely broke a sweat.  Damn you soju, damn you.  So we headed back down and went home to clean up.
Heading down to the subway so we can climb the Mt.

For a city of over a million people the subway is incredibly clean and cheap

The pool of water is from Jonathan, TL and I sweating. Not really but it felt like it.
Incredibly hazy and humid.

Different day but no haze, humidity or smog and the Pagoda we were at is on the first peak.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Lady In Korea Part One

      Last week my girlfriend, who from henceforth will be known as The Lady or TL for short, flew over from Tennessee to visit me here in Korea.  It's been a lot of fun having her here and showing her all of the sights, smells and tastes of Korea.  I'll go through the week and show you what we've been up to.

Picked her up from the airport and on the bus to Gwangju!

     Before I could pick her up from the airport I had to get there first and that was a bit of an adventure for me.  I bought my bus ticket to Icheon thinking that it would take me to the airport but I didn't specify to ride the bus that would take me to Icheon International Airport.  While I was on the bus I got the usual stares but there was a kid in front of me who had on a soldier's uniform and it wasn't a Korean uniform.  The uniform he had on was a Chinese uniform and I know that no matter how out of place I might feel here it will never match how uncomfortable he felt.  
     Anyways, I realized my mistake in not specifying taking the Airport bus once I got to the bus terminal.  I quickly ran in and asked the concession lady where the closest subway terminal was.  Fortunately it was right next to the bus terminal so I ran down to the subway and quickly figured out the route to the airport and prayed that I got there before TL landed.   The last thing you want is for your girlfriend to fly halfway around the world and have to wait for you to pick her up.  But I made it in time and actually had to wait for her to get through customs and the baggage claim.
     After being THAT couple in the airport we had a quick bite, got on the bus to Gwangju and made it home without anymore hitches.
You would be able to see Icheon except for the haze, smog and rain.
     The next day I showed TL around my apartment, where my school is and we went downtown before heading back so she could nap and try to sleep off the jet lag.  I know that I talked her head off but it was great to finally show her the stores and shops that I've been telling her about!
     The next night was Friday and we got ready and went out for some fun together.  The first thing she noticed once we were downtown was how incredibly humid it was.  She now understood why I cut my hair off and how astounding it is that Koreans wear white pants without worrying about the sweat stains.  The first place we went to was German Bar and we hung out before Jonathan showed up from his work party.
TL is looking nice!
TL was impressed by the insulated beer pitchers which are a must with the humidity here.
     After meeting up with Jonathan we went to Wow bar for some Lemon Cap Soju.  Yes I wanted TL to experience the power of the Soju; which should never be underestimated.  She liked how smooth it was and that it tasted like Sprite but you remember what happened the first time I had Lemon Cap Soju.  While there we talked about Jonathan's prowess with the Korean ladies, watched some K-Pop videos and paid our tab.
Yes they serve popcorn as a drinking snack here.  Pure genius.
     Next we went to Mix lounge which has a great rooftop patio and after getting our seats I went to get some drinks.  The last thing TL says to me is, "Don't you dare give me a virgin drink!"  Ok a bit of history is needed here as I'm known to buy TL drinks that she thinks has alcohol but is actually just a soda and lime.  I only do it once I see that she's had an extra drink or two and she never complains in the morning when she wakes up without a hangover but it's a tricky maneuver because she will unleash Thor's Hammer on my skull if she realizes what I'm doing.
     So once she said that I knew she was going to test her drink but I knew that I had one advantage:  I have experience drinking Soju.  So I went to the bar bought myself an LIT and a Jack and Coke for TL.  But I told the bartender to pour the Jack in first and only half a shot.  I'm sure you're following me but if your not I was betting the bank that she would test her drink, taste the Jack at the bottom and then not pay attention to the rest of it.  I knew it was a smart move and went up to see if it played out.  I put the drink down, she stares me down, sips her drink, tastes the Jack and says, "Good job baby." Yes, good job indeed darling.
     Stay tuned for Part Two.