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.


Sunday, 2/9: in which the IGR gains a new appreciation
February 10, 2008, 8:43 am
Filed under: books, IGR Recommends, music, Seoul, U S of A


  1. Queen
  2. American breakfast foods
  3. Feist’s “The Reminder”
  4. dryers
  5. salad

I live within Itaewon now, which is disgusting – full of foreigners and knockoffs and garbage. It smells of badly cooked eggs. I am, however, quickly learning to enjoy the rest of Seoul, although I still don’t know it well enough to feel truly oriented or settled. At least not yet.

I have a tendency, anyway, to not appreciate things for their full value at first glance, which means that I’ll probably love Seoul more later, just as I love Queen now more than I ever did as a child, when my father used to play their albums (and air guitar along) for me. I went with a group of Program Kids over to the Seongnam Arts Center, on the far end of the Yellow Line, to see “We Will Rock You” last night – a musical I had specifically advised my family not to see during their time in London, due to poor reviews. The reviewers were wrong. I was wrong. My family is not happy. I never thought a hybrid of “Rent” and “Rocky Horror” set three hundred years in the future could be so very successful.

Other highlights of the past few days: headed over to Butterfinger Pancakes in Apgujeong…twice. Didn’t realize how much I missed pancakes. Also, have clothes that are not stiff and cold. ALSO also, took advantage of the library on base, finished The Emperor of Scent, about Luca Turin, a scientist working to create a new theory on how we smell. Although Soccer points out that “you would think we would have figured it out by now,” the book is well written and a fascinating exploration of both the politics of science and the things we smell every day. It also had the effect, at least for me, of making me want to go to the perfume counter at the nearest department store.  IGR RECOMMENDS, for sure.