Monday, December 5, 2011

observations about south korea, volume two.

1. respecting your elders is a crowd pleaser. having studied the japanese language and culture for years in both high school and college, the reverence asian cultures hold for their elders wasn't a new concept at all. so, when i went into seoul the other day i was able to grab a seat on the subway, but as we got farther into the city, it filled up. naturally, i offered my seat to an elderly woman who was going to have to stand. this apparently impressed several elderly people on the subway because they patted me on the shoulder and said something in korean to me and gave me a thumbs up. i was just being polite, and that's absolutely something i would've done back home too, but it was kind of nice to get that response. for all i know they were commenting on my hair or congratulating me for not being an asshole american, but i'm going to pretend they were pleased that i was respecting their cultural etiquette.

2. subways. i've only been on a handful of subway/metro rails around the u.s. -- la, dc, chicago, san francisco... but i'll be damned if south korea doesn't have one of the nicest and cleanest subway systems in the whole world. seriously. so. clean.

3. coffee shops are EVERYWHERE. like, i can't spit without hitting a coffee shop. however, this is not in any way a complaint. i think it is marvelous. because goddamn do i love coffee. it isn't so marvelous for my bank account, because it is now much easier to get coffee made for me than to make it myself... but that is my own personal struggle and i will overcome. but look at how adorbs their cups are!!!!

4. trash. some of you probably laughed when you read that. back in july-august, as i was getting ready to move away from austin and i was unemployed and spending huge amounts of my time reading blogs by people in south korea, i read about the color coded trash bags and how this is actually enforced/monitored. during one of my moving-stress induced meltdowns as i packed up my apartment in august, i'm pretty sure not being able to figure out the trash was one of my points as to why i was a crazy person for moving to sk. (becca remembers.) well, guess what i can't figure out? the fucking trash. haha, no, it's really not that bad -- it's just a matter of buying the right trash bags. luckily, i haven't had much food trash so far, so it hasn't been an issue. but one of the other new teachers, kara, totally had a run-in with the guy who monitors the trash and now we're afraid to just ditch our trash outside in the trash area without the proper bags... sidenote: there are no trashcans along the streets. at. all. why, korea? why?

5. i have superhuman powers. and by me, i mean my hair. also, i'm kidding, duh. but! i do have the ability to make large groups of teenage girls dissolve into giggles simply by looking at them. this went on for about thirty minutes on the subway the other day. they were being perfectly friendly and they were really dang adorable, so it was just amusing. definitely one encounter i'm going to attribute to my hair color. and definitely something that will take some getting used to.

6. korean kids are morbid. i mean, most kids are pretty damn morbid. every kid goes through a stage where they're fascinated with death. and honestly, these kids may be saying this shit just to get a rise out of me or to be funny. but seriously -- everything ends in death or violence...

"so this boy's mother wants him to take out the trash and he doesn't want to. what do you think will happen next?"
"she will hit him."
"oh! wow! then what?"
"...his mom hit him so hard he bleeds?!"

or there was this gem today...
"he just threw the stick to make the puppy go away, so what do you think he will do next?"
"like this teacha! *kid mimes a puppy running and then getting impaled with the stick thrown by the boy*"
"wait -- the puppy is going to get stabbed?!"
"yeah! and then he will kick it."
"he's going to kick the puppy?!"
"but why?!"
"then he makes dog meat soup!"
"you. are. terrible."

let me also add that the majority of gory details are supplied by the boys in my classes. so, yeah, they're definitely messing with me and being silly. and even though they were telling me about killing and eating the stray puppy in today's story, they were totally joking and everyone was laughing. (only one had actually eaten dog before, and that was on vacation in china. yes, i asked. he said it tasted like chicken and then proceeded to show me a picture of his golden retriever.) but still. dang, korean kids. why so morbid?


  1. Zannah,

    Wieslaw and I laughed our way through your blog this morning. Mrrbidity and dogs and young boys..You are a great story teller and should consider writing a book! I was wondering about your blonde hair, and the looks you would get...also the subway and the elderly, so sweet. Kindness and that human connection goes a long way!
    Have a good Tuesday?xxxooo Aunt D

  2. emma -- hahaha, yes, every single time i glanced at the "SO HOT!" on my coffee cup tonight it made me chuckle.

    aunt debbie -- i'm glad you enjoyed it! and thank you! i try to write the stories like i would actually tell them aloud... and i hope it comes off that way. :)

  3. We're enjoying your blog even when we already heard most of it on skype! It's true, you write the way you tell a story. I love your bloodthirsty little boys, but I think that's present in all cultures at that age. (Shocking girls,and pretty teachers is a high form of amusement at that age.) And I think (hope) sometimes the kids with the most violent imaginations end up being the tenderest hearts.