Intrepid Girl Reporter

Tuesday, 7/8: to the winner go the spoils

A good rule of thumb for shopping in Korea is, “Did I own this in 1993?” If the answer is “yes,” which it often is, the clothes are best left in the store and on Shannon Doherty in “Mallrats.” This is apparently a rule I did  not regard once this entire year, as I discovered to my chagrin during my packing, when I pulled out item after item that was either a) consigned to a box for the after-school program or b) donated to HM. HM has never seen “Mallrats,” which is probably for the best.

Such packing is part of how I would like to account for my lengthy blog absence. I also spent a good deal of the time fielding letters from my students (to be reproduced here later) and receiving a touching and bizarre array of gifts. These included:

  • a Rubik’s cube
  • five different cell phone charms (a lollipop, a rabbit in a hanbok, half a fake stone heart, and two that said “Love,” once of which came from PopSongBoy#1)
  • a bag of junk food from Family Mart
  • a snow globe with a teddy bear wearing a crown that says “King of King”
  • cross-stitched models of kids wearing traditional Korean clothing
  • a $65 purse from Fila (!!!)
  • a planner that says “I ❤ NY,” followed by the subtitle “It’s clean, and it’s easy to find everything”
  • some beautiful photos of Jeju that I think my student actually took
  • perfume from a boys’ class that is borderline unwearable
  • multiple packs of gum


I also, of course, spent a lot of time saying goodbye, which is something at which I’m pretty good by now, having had lots of experience. HS cried when I left. HB disappeared, so I didn’t actually say goodbye to him, but I’m scheduled to call home on Friday night, so I should be able to figure it out then. HM kept looking up words that translated to things like “among the missing” and “lost in a sea of doubts.” Perhaps I should have studied my Korean a bit harder.

Now, of course, I am home. The Program, instead of routing me through Seoul to Atlanta and Johnson City, sent me from Seoul to Narita to Detroit to Johnson City, which makes a lot more sense, obviously. I was concerned about culture shock, but fortunately for me I spent FIVE HOURS in the Detroit airport, which – although it almost gave me a seizure – accelerated my culture shock and helped me get over it pretty quickly. Like shock therapy. I forgot how fat we are in America.

Also, I would like to offer a hearty non-recommendation to Northwest Airlines, which made me yearn for the halcyon days when I spoke broken Korean to the understanding clerks at KoreanAir. I tried to ask them to help me get my backpack, which I couldn’t reach, from the overhead compartment and they told me to get the guy next to me to help. For a moment, I wondered if I had made the wrong decision in coming home.


PS. I would like to plug my favorite two stores in all of Seoul, if I may, one of which I visited on Sunday in an attempt to assuage my loneliness (no, really). A-Land does not seem to have a website, even though I know perfectly well that it must, but it’s like a discounted and expanded Anthropologie, with more recycled products and stationery. I’m no design expert, but I do enjoy a good one, and the products they carry never cease to amaze me. It’s near American Apparel in Myeongdong.

My second favorite store in Seoul is mmmg (millimeter milligram), which makes the most brilliant paper products in Korea, bar none. Bizarre usage of English has its place, of course, but mmmg’s stuff is genuinely cool, fun and innovative. I have spent a lot of money there. Their products are available in the store below the Kyobo Bookstore in Daegu, and there are several stores in Seoul as well; there’s one n Myeongdong that I can never find, and an easier one to locate next to the Anguk subway stop, on the edge of Insadong. There’s a list of locales if you can go to their website, which used to work for me and does not anymore.

Monday, 1/21: Singapore, without a soundtrack
January 21, 2008, 12:38 pm
Filed under: Apple, host brother, looks like, travel

hi (IGR)! you are really go singapore… but I’m never lonely!!! because you are not here I can’t hear your noise and you are not disturb me. so now Iam very happy …… hope you are having a good day~~

(Host Brother).

(. .)

If I could review Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport as a place to sleep, it would compare favorably with (God forbid) Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson. Actually, I believe I will review it.

SLEEPING IN AIRPORTS: Bangkok Suvarnabhumi

The first thing to note about Suvarnabhumi is that it’s brand new. The second is that it’s full of backpackers who have the same idea you do, unlike certain other airports we could mention, which are full of homeless people who accuse you of nonexistent offenses. This means that there can be fierce competition for the cushioned benches – unsurprising considering the facts that the airport is also quiet and free of ugly carpet (are you listening, Atlanta?), has restaurants and Starbucks open 24 hours, and doesn’t smell. Aside from the absence of free Internet access and a few issues with climate control, Suvarnabhumi makes a fine place to nurse a 4AM Tazo Shaken Black Lemon Tea (Iced) before eventually passing out on a chair while you wait for your budget flight.

Singapore is humid, but thanks to the kindness of Hallim’s friend from college, we have a very comfortable place to stay, one in which Hallim is passed out right now. This is probably due to the fact that our flight left at 10:15 yesterday morning. We had some time to kill in Seoul, so we met Soccer, Quagmire, and another Program friend of ours I’ll call Earthy Fellow in Itaewon, a district in which I have no desire to ever, ever set foot again – it reminded me of Bourbon Street with a dash of colonialism, except much larger. At any rate we went to some place called Foreign Restaurant, which, as one might guess, was not any good, really. But the company was excellent. We tried to go see a movie, ended up browsing in some weird supermall, and took the metro back to Incheon, which was not, I discovered too late, the same as Incheon Terminal. Incheon Terminal is actually 40 minutes away from Incheon. We had to get on a bus, and then we had to tell the bus driver to hurry, and we ran through customs, etc., and then we discovered that the boarding time had been delayed. (Note: this was my fault. I should not attempt to navigate anywhere.) So we made it to Bangkok around 1:20, got our stuff, had some SB and crashed. Our AirAsia flight left around 7:30, and we were at Hallim’s friend’s apartment by 12.

We spent the afternoon in the Arab Quarter, which was lots of fun, aside from the fact that we ended up eating Malay/Indonesian food, which was good, but now I’m fiending for some baba ghanouj. At first I was being a bit too guidebooky, dragging Hallim to this street of hipster stores, before she pointed out that while they all differ, such boutiques can be found anywhere, and the kitsch was sort of what made the area unique. So we ate some baklava and found this place that sold telephone-shaped oil lamps and bags of old photographs of Singapore “ago,” as Host Fam would say. They bear a pretty strong resemblance to the photos we have of my father’s family in Saigon, and on vacation, and in Cali. So I picked up a few of those and wrote letters on the back, and then I found a Slurpee (!!! – yes, I am aware that these are not native to Singapore, but they are both hard to find and delicious), and then we went home.

The only downers so far: Rain jacket came out of outside of Scooter’s loaned backpack, i.e. is lost forever in AirAsia’s luggage claim, was rather expensive and more importantly a gift from Miguk Oma, and iPod seems to have stopped working. I’m going to try a few things with it, but I don’t think it’s under warranty, which means purchasing a new one, eventually. I had downloaded some Dengue Fever and White Shoes & The Couples Company, which I thought would be suitable travel accompaniments, but now I am forced to sing in my head.

Sunday, 12/16: they don’t love you like I love you
December 16, 2007, 3:09 pm
Filed under: host brother, host fam, host sister, life progress

HB is acting out in the way that only a sixth-grader can, standing in my room and declaring that he will “never not talk to me,” then staring in my mirror and refusing to leave. His ire is understandable in a sense; he’s mad because I’m spending time with HS that HS never had before. On the other hand, I offered earlier to play with him and he said he wanted to wait until after I was done with HS, and now we’re out of time. What he’s also been doing is waiting until it is obviously inconvenient to play (ex. HS says she’ll be ready in five minutes, HB wants to take that time) and then getting angry when I can’t do it. I suspect that Oma and Apa have already talked to him about not being jealous, so he’s drawing attention to his concerns in the only way he knows how – making it look like I’m not paying attention to him. Also, by making fun of my Korean, which he has never done before. Understanding is exhausting sometimes.

In the meantime, I’m writing my CV, and at this point I’m starting to wonder if I can include things like “crochet” under my skills category.

walking in the air

So I downloaded The Snowman, which is only THE BEST CHRISTMAS MOVIE OF ALL TIME*, for use in my classroom, during these last two useless weeks after exams. Playing it, I noticed that this version featured a live action introduction with a narrator who looked oddly familiar. Google reveals that this mysterious fellow is, in fact, DAVID FUCKING BOWIE. Perhaps more importantly, his presence does not improve the movie at all, aside from the fact that you get to see David Bowie.

Moral of the story: The Snowman > David Bowie > the rest of us

I’ve had the past three days off, effectively creating a five-day weekend, which was nice to say the least. “Nice” might not even be the best word for Saturday, where Aewol’s co-teacher’s boyfriend proceeded, at noraebang, to rap along with popular artist G-Dragon, as well as 2Pac. Also, his name was Steve Son. As in, “My name is Steve, son.”

Of course, five free days without drama is an impossibility for the Jeju Crew and for my host family too, I think. We can’t help it, really; being thrown into this immediate closeness, spending so much time together, it’s almost inevitable that we’re going to make mistakes sometimes. When you finally start to know people, it’s so much easier for you to hurt each other. I got in a massive fight with HB; I got into another fight, not as large but just as difficult, with Scooter. I didn’t want either of them to happen. But these things, they feel like fires: you can avoid them, yes, but the brush collects and blazes later. And I’d much rather burn them out now.

But later HB told me that he likes me, although he doesn’t love me, which someone told me means that he does, really. And Scooter and I went suit shopping on Tuesday and had just a good friend day – we ate pizza, and Christmas shopped, and made fun of the guy at Zini’s (who is now – if you are interested – featured on the poster outside the cafe. He is reading earnestly), and split a chestnut 빙수 (sundae). Then today I had lunch with Oregon and Transy, and went to the five day market with HM, and she told me to sleep in the car as the Weepies played in the background. Then we went out for 갈비 and 냉면 to celebrate HS’s finish with finals, and I know it’s such a tired theme, how lucky I am. What should I compare this to, my favorite pair of shoes?

Speaking of shoes: I went into Athlete’s Foot this morning to try to get a pair – I currently have NO shoes that protect me from the rain – and I asked the guy if he had my size in these shoes, and he was like, “Yes.” Silence. After an uncomfortable pause, one that went on far too long, I was like, “…Can I try them on?” Then he seemed to take it as a personal affront when they were too big. As it turns out, they’re for men. Who knew? (Not Korea. Take that, gender stereotypes!)

Now I have a personal statement to finish – I have, rather suddenly, decided to apply to what the Koreans call 대학윈 now that TFANY is out of the picture. I’m applying to Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), which is quite a long shot, but it’s also the only program I’m pretty sure I’d attend sight unseen. I don’t know if I’ll get in this year or not – if I don’t, I’ll just apply next year, although getting in this year would be pretty much unbelievable. It’s so terrifying to think that This Is What You’re Going To Do With Your Life, but as Miguk Oma (in her infinite wisdom) pointed out, one has to make some sort of choice at some point. And as the life of Miguk Apa has proven, you don’t have to stick with it.

In two weeks I’ll be home. But the days here feel so bright sometimes.

Finally, someone found my blog by searching for “burnt toast poem,” and I feel obliged to provide.

Eating burnt toast or kimchi –

The decision seems easy to me.

Beautiful it is not,

But toast don’t smell like rot.

I sure hope that this breakfast is free.

I’ll be here all week, kids.

Today IGR Recommends: The Snowman, and concurrently, bittorrenting. I cannot actually share a copy due to filesize, but I can direct you to Azureus, and from there recommend that you Google “the snowman” + torrent. And realize just what has been missing in your life all these years.

*I do not make such statements lightly.

he ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

IGR: When you go to America, we will have a party for you, too.

HB: Yes. All of America.

IGR: All of America will have a party?

HB: Yes.

IGR: Like a holiday?

HB: Yes. When I come, it will be a national day.

1G (boys) – fun vs. funny

  • had to cut some material to keep their interest
  • probably best behaved ever but still kind of noisy
    • good behavior probably due to the presence of Scooter in the back of the room after I had told him how horrifying my students can be
      • way to make me look bad, kids
  • WotD: “hilarious”/quiz: “What holiday was last week?”
  • no worksheets – printer issues

1H (boys) – fun vs. funny

  • tolerable
  • same work as 1G
  • no worksheets

1F (girls) – fun vs. funny

  • surprisingly bad (My Best Student told Visiting Co-Teacher that they had been rough all day)
  • didn’t get to scared vs. scary but did hand out worksheets for the first time
  • TBB did some work again, which was good

1E (girls) – fun vs. funny

  • okay
  • got to scared vs. scary but not to board races

2D (girls) – movie reviews intro

  • probably the best I’ve seen them in a while
  • lots of mid-level girls in low-level class (like that girl with the angular face in the back)
  • dialogue with Short Jeong went surprisingly well; he is unexpectedly expressive and the girls ate it up

Today I got up early to go see Scooter’s advanced morning class at his school; his boys were adorable, even though they had no desire to talk about the given topic, only about me. Which was fine, as they were much nicer to me than my own students tend to be. Both at his school and at mine, of course, I had to go through the “NOT my son, NOT my boyfriend, like my brother” spiel, which they seemed to accept (which was good, because I wasn’t inclined to share any further information). How they would ever get the idea that we were parents of each other is completely beyond me. As he left, one of my students came up to me and told me to tell my father that he was very handsome.

The most exciting news about today, however, is that Host Sister is FOR SURE coming to America – she passed her visa interview. !!!!!

Today, IGR Recommends: getting your visa.

sweet child o’ mine
November 28, 2007, 12:54 pm
Filed under: actual transcripts, host brother, host fam, host mom

“You should learn to play the game called ‘How to Use Chopsticks.'”

– HB

HB also just bought some silver sneakers with gold accents and they are super fly. We went to get his yearbook picture taken and I mistakenly thought I had to get it taken with him, but really they just wanted me there for moral support, I guess. The students here seem to get their yearbook pictures taken at studios, which gives them an oddly poignant air; the majority of the pictures are…I don’t know. I have to figure out a way to share them without violating my students’ privacy. I have NO IDEA how that is going to happen.

Oma loves Cadbury chocolate. Bringing gifts back from the States will not be very hard.

wired and phoned to a heart of glass

There is a single 모기 (mosquito) who, despite ample opportunities to escape, has been flying around my room for the past few nights, biting me when I’m asleep. Essentially, this mosquito’s entire diet, at this point, consists of my blood. I can’t handle that much commitment. Also, these bites itch. I forget about it until it flies by my ear, its whine causing my blood to slowly boil. </haterade>

Recaps: I FINALLY got 1K to behave, totally by accident. This kid was making fun of the way I talk to the class – and I do hate slowing my speech down, even though it is rather necessary – so, in a fit of pique, I taught them at approximately 80% of the speed I speak to my friends. Which, to put it in layman’s terms, is around 110% the speed of the average American speaker. They listened. The whole time. They weren’t exactly angels, but they did pay more attention than they have for weeks. Maybe they’re really smart and were just bored? I guess stranger things have happened.

Also, I’d like to deliver a short ode to HBBFF, or Host Brother’s BFF, who showed up at our door yesterday around 45 seconds after my family called him to invite him over for ddeokbokki. HB and HBBFF have a sort of Pinky-and-the-Brain-esque relationship, wherein HB is the Brain and HBBFF is the hapless Pinky. For example:

IGR: HB, would you like to play a game?

HB: I will kill you.

IGR: Right. HBBFF, do YOU want to play?

HBBFF: Of course!

HB: Shut up, no you don’t.

HBBFF seems to like a few things, like me, and HB, and computers, and eating. I.e., he is the sort of person to whom one can offer food and have him show up 45 seconds later.

Tomorrow: Seoul for a number of exciting things, including an interview for an internship and dinner with my Korean teachers from The Program. Today I skipped out on the afterschool program – I have GOT to organize my time better on Thursdays, because as it stands I have five classes and RIGHT after the last one I have to head down to City Hall or I’ll be late, even though I’m exhausted. In retrospect, Thursday wasn’t the best day for me to volunteer, but it’s too late now. I wasn’t feeling well and I was running late and, unsurprisingly, I found myself trying to rid myself of a headache, lying in bed and watching “The Office.” (Side note: I ❤ Creed.)