Sunday, May 30, 2010

South Koreans Beaten

The South Korean soccer team was handed a pretty big morale-buster of a loss. The Taeguk Warriors fell to Belarus 1-0 on Sunday.

The most devastating part of this defeat is that Belarus didn't qualify for the World Cup. The US lost to non-qualifiers the Czech Republic last week, but they were sitting ALL of their stars, and played with basically a B team that was trying to make the final roster.

The Koreans had their World Cup roster in place, and still could not score on Belarus. That's not a good sign. To make matters tougher, their next warmup game is against Spain. Yikes.

So Many Pictures

What a week. This week was full of nonstop action, and it was really good.

On Monday, Jeong Mi and I celebrated our 100 Days together. She made spaghetti and bought a cake. I bought two t-shirts for her. It was low-key and it was really nice.

On Tuesday and Thursday, I went to Sinchon in Seoul to get my costume for dance. Well, that's what I thought. First of all, I was on the bus Tuesday when my friends called me and told me the clothes weren't ready yet. Well, I was in Seoul and almost at the bus stop. I was pretty unhappy about that.

To make it worse, I had to go back on Thursday. Fortunately, this time, we made it to the tailor. But our clothes still weren't done. They did some more measuring and we tried the not-yet-finished outfits on. I'm sure that means I'll have to go back this week. Yikes.

On Friday, we had a Market Day for our Hambak after-school classes. Ridia got a ton of toys, games and food for the kids to buy. They used the stamps they earned for good behavior and hard work. They could buy up to three things. I think the kids really enjoyed. I think the teachers all had a fun time.

On Saturday, I skipped dance and Jeong Mi actually didn't have to work. Along with Popper and Jong, we went to Seoul Tower. Popper had been there before, but it was the first time for the rest of us. Jeong Mi and I bought a lock and attached it to the fence. It's a tradition that couples do there. The fence and the area around the tower had tens of thousands of locks hanging. It was pretty cool.

We all went up the tower, and happened to run into Schwaby, Josh, Bryan and Colton at the top. It was unexpected and fun.

After that, we walked along the stream that runs through the middle of the city. There were tons of couples there, and they even had a light show flashing along one of the walls.

I wrapped up the week by hitting dance class today. And bonus: I'm about to go get a couch for my place. One of the foreigners who's moving out is giving it to me. I'm super happy about that.

Our new semester starts this week and our competition is on Saturday. Looks like another busy week ahead. Check out all my pictures!

Seoul Tower

Market Day

Dance Outfit

100 Days

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

More More War War

That was probably an inappropriate title. Regardless, I'm sticking to it.

All the KBloggers -- among other things that used to be known as reliable news outlets -- are posting this stuff left and right. I'm no different.

Now, I know it's unoriginal, but those of you back home who are family and friends are curious about what's happening. And I'm putting the pieces up that I find most important or relevant.

So for today's stories, I'm throwing them all into one post.

Most of them have the same underlying idea. That idea is how are the Chinese going to deal with this situation.

Check the stories out here, here and here.

So our fate right now hangs on the Chinese, you say? Well, there is some truth in that. But most "experts" think the Chinese are about to back Seoul on the latest clash.

One story talks about the US being drawn into a new Korean War. Well, the answer is obvious. Of course the US would at least use the troops stationed here. That's their job, after all.

One of the stories discusses how the US and South Korea aren't looking for first strike, but are figuring out a plan to destroy all the North's artillery before it gets launched in one big ball of death at Seoul. That's 30 million Koreans down the toilet. I'm certainly close enough to Seoul to get launched at. Also, I'm much more popular and good-looking than any Koreans. That poses a problem for me.

But once again, let me elaborate that we are in no immediate danger. Yes, Koreans mostly hate each other, and have no concern for anyone around them. But they also have a major inferiority complex. The North towards China and the South towards the US.

The big countries will put the little guys at the kids table and work this thing out.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Ties Are Cut ... Sort Of

North Korea officials say they're cutting all ties to the South. Of course, they're still letting almost 800 workers stay at the still-open Kaesong complex.

This story claims relations are as tense as they've been in the last 10 years. While I can't speak for anything before last year in a firsthand sense, it certainly has an air or more tension and stress here.

For the first time in my 19 months here, Koreans are openly talking about North Korea and some are even expressing concern. Just minutes ago, one of my students said she's alittle bit afraid that the North will bomb the South. But she feels better knowing America will help.

It's certainly an interesting change from the usual lack of concern that South Koreans feel. The government is even discussing different retaliations.

That's my favorite. This story says they're planning on pumping Western music across the border. That's great. You know it'll be 80s tunes. So the big question becomes: Is the South about to Rick Roll the North???

Love That Confidence

North Korea's coaches and players believe they're going to get out of their group at the World Cup. Oh, yeah. That group includes Brazil, Portugal and Ivory Coast.

I appreciate confidence, especially in sports. Upsets happen all the time. And in soccer, one hot goaltender and one fluke deflection could make the upset of the century.

From the story:

'To finish in the top two of a first round Group G that also features Brazil, Portugal and Ivory Coast would be an even more impressive feat, said striker Jong Tae-se.
"Brazil will be first and we will win second place," said the Kawasaki Frontale forward, one of the few players in the squad who is a known quantity.'

Good. Good. Good.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Psychological Warfare

Apparently, South Korean officials are pulling out all the stops to punish the North. They're using psychological attack methods.

That's right, a country full of clones and people with brains ranging from blocks of wood to Commodore 64 computer chips, is forging ahead with psychological warfare.

From the story:

'South Korea's military resumed radio broadcasts airing Western music, news and comparisons between the South and North Korean political and economic situations late Monday, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The military also planned to launch propaganda leaflets Tuesday to inform North Koreans about the ship sinking.
In coming weeks, South Korea also will install dozens of propaganda loudspeakers and towering electronic billboards along the heavily armed land border between the two Koreas to send messages enticing communist soldiers to defect to the South.
The action, which ends a six-year suspension, is expected to draw an angry response from North Korea. The country's military already warned Monday it would fire at any propaganda facilities installed in the Demilitarized Zone.'

I LOVE this! loudspeakers playing across the border and leaflets. They must really be taking a page from the Korean Election Handbook. I actually hope the North soldier do shoot those speakers. The less speakers in the country, the less available to wake people up at odd hours to blast election messages of "hope, future city, education and culture."

A reminder to family and friends back home: Don't worry a bit.

South Korea Spanks Japan

I only got to watch part of the game last night, but South Korea tore Japan apart in Japan in a 2-0 spankfest. Korean idol Park Ji-sung scored the opening goal 6 minutes into the game.

Japan, who also qualified for the World Cup, isn't feeling too hot right now. Their coach even offered to resign. Yikes.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Why Elections In Korea Will Never Work

This isn't just a complaint about the loudspeakers going off from 8 a.m. to midnight every day, the 1920's-style platform cars and the mobs of people blocking up the most dangerous intersection in my neighborhood.

This is about spheres of influence and public persuasion.

We all know about the ship sinking in the Yellow see in March, and how the South is officially blaming the North.

President Lee Myung-bak is making a big grandstand about the North needing to pay for what it did.

Not related to an election?

Well, how about this news story that 134 public school teachers have been fired after signing up for a minor opposition party. Apparently, in Korea, teachers must maintain political neutrality. In a democratically elected government, how is it possible to ask people to remain neutral???

And that's the problem with the elections. The school teachers being fired is obvious, but why is the ship problem also related? Well, a lot of Koreans think this was some set-up by the government because it's election time. It certainly wouldn't be the first time in the history of the world that fear was used to accumulate votes.

So while I complain about those terrible election songs and speeches screeching through the air, at least I'm not losing my job or dying.

Long Weekend = A Lot Of Dancing and 100 Days Again

We had a long weekend thanks to Buddha's birthday. Because of that fat guy, Friday was a national holiday.

So Thursday night was good because my other friends all had the long weekend as well. A big group of us -- Popper, Looks, Schwaby, Geoff and Bryan -- all met in Yeonsu. We drank, played some basketball and darts. Jeong Mi came over after work. I had dinner with her and she hung out with the guys and me.

Of course, I had to be at the dance studio by 2 p.m. on Friday to practice. We danced until 7 p.m., and we even moved to another studio nearby for 2 hours because it is a little bit bigger. There's a section of the dance where all the couples spin together into a line, and we needed some extra room to work on it.

I was exhausted by the time I got home on Friday. I just hung out with Popper. It was relaxing, at least.

On Saturday, it was back to the dance studio by 5 p.m. for practice. Jeong Mi and I then went to open dance that night. I only stayed until 10 p.m., because I'm pretty burned out at this point. There are a lot of things I love to do, but doing anything non-stop can get pretty annoying.

Schwaby, Geoff and I had a couple beers Saturday night and played some darts to wrap up the night.

On Sunday, I was at the dance studio again from 2 to 5 p.m. We had a really good practice. We worked on our line again and everyone is really coming together well. Leong sat us downa nd talked to us about not being afraid and having a good time at practice. he is worried that people were getting a little stressed, and wants everyone to have fun.

I told everyone I wasn't even a little bit scared. I'm just really excited. And that's true. I know the hard work my team has put in will pay off. I just want to get out there and put on a sweet show.

This week at school will be pretty busy, but will have a nice ending. We had to work on our monthly report cards today. We have to do all the level tests tomorrow. So I'll be doing about 150 short interviews. On Friday, we have a market day planned, so that should be fun for the kids, and maybe a little bit hectic.

I also have to go into Seoul tomorrow to pick up my dance outfit. I'm going with one of the other guys. He has a car, so hopefully we'll be driving.

Saturday will be fun this week. I'm going to check out Seoul Tower with Jeong Mi and her mom. Why is her mom coming? Good question. She asked Jeong Mi if she could join us, and I can't really say no. Jeong Mi and I hit our "100 days" today. This is my second "100 days" with a Korean girl. It'll be a little different this time. I'll get her a more low-key gift.

I was hoping to make Saturday at Seoul Tower kind of romantic in some way to celebrate, but with her mom their, there's not much I can do.

Jeong Mi is coming over and making dinner tonight. I certainly enjoy that. We'll see how it all goes.

That's an update on me. I hope all is going well with everyone else!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

South Korea Team Profile

Here's Sports Illustrated's profile of South Korea.

This guy clearly is doing a lot of work to put these together. They all have a nice amount of information, not just about the team and it's history, but about the country.

He rightfully describes kimchi as 'pungent,' and says this about the country:

'Modern Korea has yet to recover psychologically from the brutal Japanese occupation at the turn of the 20th Century and the partitioning of an already small country by the Korean War (1950-53).'
Spot on there. He just has one small flaw. He says that Korea's K-League -- the professional soccer league -- is the biggest sport here. He says it used to be baseball, but since the World Cup was held here and in Japan in 2002, the K-League rules.

Well, he must've visited the country directly after the World Cup, when soccer was on everyone's minds. While it's still very popular here, people don't think about it that much when it's not World Cup time, and they definitely don't pack the stadiums. Baseball is still king in Korea.

Of course, the sport of the moment will be on top no matter what. That's how clones think.

Anyway, he gives the Taeguk Warriors a 20% chance of advancing out of their group. They're with Argentina, Nigeria and Greece. Argentina is basically a lock, and Nigeria is playing close to home. Greece has been a mess lately, but did win Euro 2004, shocking the soccer world.

The big game, in my opinion, is their game against Nigeria. The winner of that game should advance as the second place team from the group.

South Officially Blames The North

Well, this has been a long time coming. The South is set to officially declare that the North is responsible for the sinking of the Cheonan in March.

New York Times

Washington Post

So what happens next? If I had to guess, I'd say not too much.

From the post:

'South Korea's conclusion underscores the continuing threat posed by North Korea and the intractable nature of the dispute between the two nations. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak must respond forcefully to the attack, analysts said, but not in a way that would risk further violence from North Korea, whose artillery could -- within minutes -- devastate greater Seoul, which has a population of more than 20 million. Lee is in his third year in office, and his party faces crucial local elections in June.
On Monday, North Korea for the first time directly denied that it was involved in the Cheonan's sinking. "We will not tolerate the confrontations and warmongering schemes of the puppet regime of South Korea," said Yang Hyong-sop, vice president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly.'

So if you're keeping track at home, the North officials are 'officially' denying it. Hey, shocker alert.

What I want to know is how does a country respond forcefully to a military attack without it turning into a fullscale fight?

China, apparently, isn't ready to choose sides. The US, meanwhile, has officials considering putting the North back on the terrorism list, giving them even more sanctions. I'm not sure how this would hurt them any more. They're already starving. Giving more sanctions won't hurt Kim Jong-il or his higher-ups. It's the common people who will just die more quickly.

It's a sticky situation for sure. One thing I can tell you now, though, is that we're all safe. Don't worry, mom and dad. ^^*

Poor Translation Issues

Right in your backyard in the USA, the Mexicans are quite embarrassed because their translator totally screwed up a speech by their president.

Here's what the translator said:

'"We can do so with a community that will promote a dignified life and an orderly way for both our countries, who are, some of them, still living here in the shadows with such laws as the Arizona law that is placing our people to face discrimination."'

Here's what the president said:

'"I know that we share the interest in promoting dignified, legal and orderly living conditions to all migrant workers. Many of them, despite their significant contribution to the economy and to the society of the United States, still live in the shadows and, occasionally, as in Arizona, they even face discrimination."'

Ah, yes. That's a little more clear.

President Felipe Calderon

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Hope Through Sports?

Once again we're reminded of the never-ending tensions between North and South Korea. But this time, it's because the World Cup -- the sporting event in the world -- can offer some hope between two governments with officials with wooden heads.

This AP article certainly doesn't say they'll be best buddies, but because both squads are in the World Cup, it offers a unique chance to cheer for each other and maybe bond in some way.

With all the junk from the recent ship sinking, hopes are slim, but Korea is in a unique position. People of the same race, living in different countries can support each other. It would be like if the USA were split in half, and both those teams made a big sporting event. We could cheer on our fellow East/West or North/South American brothers.

At the 2000 Summer Olympics, athletes from the two Koreas walked in together under a unification flag.

Sports can be dumb and pointless, and filled with a-hole athletes who are greedy and basically a drain on the world's intellect. But they also offer the chance for hope and peace. That sounds like a real hippie thing to say. Except hippies only play ultimate frisbee. Think about it.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Feeling Bullish

Time released their Best of Asia 2010 list, and Cheongdo, South Korea's bullfighting made the list.

Bullfighting in SK is different from that of Spain and Mexico. Bulls don't go against men and are NOT killed. They go against each other. It's basically a wrestling match between bulls. The winner is decided when one of the bulls gets tired and disengages from the fight.

This is either going on right now or happened just recently. I haven't been to it yet, but it's very high on my list of things to check out in Korea. It looks like a really fun time.

Get A Haircut, You Hippie!

This article is from back in December of 2009, but it's still fun.

If you live in North Korea, Kim Jong-il has strict regulations regarding hair length for men and women.

So get a hair cut, or he'll kill you. Just joking ... but seriously.

"I'm so ronery."

Navies Continue To Fight

In yet another "smallest surprise ever," the South Korean Navy fired warning shots at the North's patrol boats on Saturday.

One North Korean patrol boat crossed the Northern Limit Line on Saturday and retreated after a radio call. Shortly after, a second boat came and ignored the radio warning, so shots were fired to scare it off.

There's a reason the North so blatantly crosses the NLL.

From the story:

'The North has never recognised the NLL border drawn by the US-led United Nations Command after the 1950-1953 Korean war ended in an armistice. But the South has maintained it as a de facto inter-Korean border.'

Well, that makes sense.

South Koreans Have Another Good Warmup

The South Koreans took it to Ecuador with a 2-0 win. Ecuador is not slouch, and the Koreans were clearly on during the game. This is another confidence booster ahead of the World Cup.

Lee Chung-yong

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Your 2010 North Korean World Cup Team!

Other idea for the headline: "Who?"

North Korea released their 23-man roster for the World Cup today. It includes the two Japan-based players and the one Russia-based player. Other than that, it's all NK guys.

Check out the hopefuls here.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Munnam Students Visiting Again

Here are some shots of Geoff and I teaching some of the Grade 5 students from Munnam Elementary School. Our big topic was 'occupation.' Our three subtopics were 'jobs,' 'people,' and 'buildings.'

Check out all the pictures here!

Just Ducking Around

After having some really good beef on Saturday night, Jeong Mi and I decided to really treat ourselves. So on Tuesday, we went to the next neighborhood over in Songdo and got some duck.

I've been to this duck restaurant one time before. When I worked at Jungchul, we went there as a group and it was the best meat I've had in Korea yet.

We ordered a different style then what I had the first time, so I didn't like it as much. But it was still on par with the beef from Saturday.

Sincerely good meat does cost a bit more. One portion of the beef costs 9,000 or 10,000 won. That's roughly $7.85 to $8.75 per portion. Jeong Mi and I split 3 portions between us and were definitely stuffed.

The duck could be ordered for 16,000 won per portion. That is about $13.95. We went a different route and got one of their specials. It was 38,000 won. That's about $33.22. That also comes with all the side dishes. The one special portion of duck we got was bigger than the three portions of beef. It was great. We managed to finish it all somehow.

Nothing lifts my spirits like having good food in a country where it's very hard to find.

Check out some pics here!

Israel Foreign Minister Blames NK

Back in December, a plane leaving North Korea was held in Bangkok when officials discovered a huge weapons cache aboard.

Well, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman says those weapons were bound for militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah in parts of Syria and Iran.

Sanctions are imposed forbidding NK from exporting any weapons. But then how will Kim Jong-il feed his people (get it?)?

From the story:

'The U.N. imposed sanctions banning North Korea from exporting any arms after the communist regime conducted a nuclear test and test-fired missiles. Impoverished North Korea is believed to earn hundreds of millions of dollars every year by selling missiles, missile parts and other weapons to countries such as Iran, Syria and Myanmar.'
Oh right. They get the money by ... continuing to export weapons.

Lieberman described North Korea, Syria and Iran as the "axis of evil" and a terrible threat to the whole world.

Israel is known for causing trouble and running to the big boys for help, but their intelligence service is pretty solid. And certainly, rumors that sound this juicy have an air of truth in them, don't they?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Two Korean Soccer Clubs Progress

Suwon and Seongnam both advanced to the quarterfinals of the Asian Champions League with convincing wins. Seongnam's win came over 2008 champion Gamba Osaka, a perennial Jappo power.

I'd love to cheer for Incheon in this competition next year. Chances aren't great, but let's go UNITED!

Young Korean Pitcher Signs With Ruthless Agent

Seventeen-year-old high school pitcher Han Sung-hyuk has signed with MLB super-agent Scott Boras.

Says the boy's father:

'``The fact that the Boras Corporation is systematically organized in terms of marketing, promotion and rehabilitation led me to think the agency would be beneficial for my son's future career,'' said Han, formerly a national team volleyball player.'
That and he stands to make a boatload of money, of course.

Congrats to the young South Korean. I hope he has a lot of success in the future.

Soccer and Politics Mixing Again

Again ... I understand that soccer and politics are more intertwined than peanut butter and jelly. But I will NEVER be pleased about anything involving that mix.

Check out how the South Korean government will try to leverage its exclusive broadcasting rights when dealing with North Korea:

'Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS) said Tuesday that it will not provide the feed unless Pyongyang signs a written promise to help its journalists cover certain issues in the North.

The conditions reportedly include allowing its reporters to cover how North Koreans react to watching certain games of the world's most watched sporting event.

``Our policy has been consistent from day one. No free transmissions,'' said Yang Chul-hoon, a deputy director of the network's news department.'
Alright, I certainly understand not giving free broadcast. That's how broadcasting rights work. But asking for journalistic freedoms from a country where freedom can't even be found in the dictionary is just foolish.

To make this issue harder on the North, they got used to having a free feed.

'North Korea received a free feed from the games of the 2006 World Cup in Germany during the Roh Moo-hyun administration, which practiced a more engaging policy than that of incumbent President Lee Myung-bak.'
I know North Korea's policies on basically every single issue are terrible, but this might be one of the few escapes a handful of people up there could have. South Korea officials: don't be dickheads.

Wonder Girls Not Quite Slaves

A story came out in many of the English-language newspapers today with information from the guy who was the Wonder Girls' English tutor while they toured in America.

Daniel Gauss goes through a laundry-list of bad care for which JYP's agency is reponsible. From minor things like small ailments not going treated to major ones, like having no health insurance and not getting proper treatment when one of the member's fathers went into a coma.

I understand not treating minor things. After all, they're Koreans. If they sneeze, they want to go to the hospital. Someone across the room could sneeze, and the non-sneezer will want to go to the hospital.

But no health insurance in an overpriced country like America is ridiculous.

And here's the father incident:

'Gauss further wrote that after the group acquired a sponsorship deal with Sony Ericsson, JYPE had Sun-ye perform in Sanya, China, for Sony Ericsson executives, shortly after her father was rushed to hospital in a coma.

He wrote that Sun-ye had told him “her father had stopped breathing and had to be rushed to the hospital. In the ambulance, (Sun-ye) and her family had to decide whether the father should be given treatment to be kept alive since he had lapsed into a coma. The family chose to keep him alive and I was told by the girl that he was never going to come out of the coma.”

“Very shortly after that trauma, she was performing for Sony Ericsson executives in Sanya,” Gauss wrote. “I did not have the heart to ask her whether it was her idea or JYPE’s idea for her to perform.”'

Obviously, JYP's reps are denying all these things. They have confirmed that this guy was the English tutor, however. His response is that he isn't asking for conpensation, but is just concerned.

The entertainment industry here is notoriously unkind, especially to young women. I'm sure it's like that in Hollywood in many cases as well. But anytime people are put at risk in order to sell their cds for "$1" so they can boost themselves on performance charts is pretty terrible.

No surprises from me if these are somehow found out to be true.

Korean Economy Remains Strong

South Korea's central bank kept it's key interest rate at 2%. That's a record rate and it's been there for 15 months.

What does that mean? Well, I can't tell you exactly, but I can give you a slight idea.

While countries like America and groups like the European Union are running the money printing presses constantly, South Korea is avoiding such activity.

You see, Korea has weather this financial storm quite well compared to other major economies, and is improving much faster as well. South Korea has 5 straight quarters of growth.

South Korea bases its economy on exports. The country has huge global exports in the form of cars (Kia, Hyundai) and electronics (LG, Samsung) among other goods. They even put a freeze on borrowing.

All this while the US is seemingly signing off on new stimulus packages every month, and Greece is begging for $1 trillion from the EU.

So I guess making my living here is beneficial for yet another reason. Thanks, Korea!

Monday, May 10, 2010

North Korea World Cup Profile #2

Here's another glimpse of a profile for North Korea's World Cup squad. Not much hope here. In fact, the writer actually gives them 0% chance of moving on. That's pretty low, huh?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

"Clues" Suggest The North

Apparently there are "clues" that suggest the sinking of the Cheonan was done by the North.

From the obviousness of the story:

'Evidence collected so far indicates a torpedo hit the Cheonan, killing 46 sailors, and suspicion is growing that it was launched from a small North Korean submarine. That scenario would make it the most serious attack on the South Korean military since the peninsula's war ended in a truce in 1953.
"While the North Korean submarine force reflects dated technology by Western standards, North Korean submarines during wartime would present significant challenges, particularly in coastal areas," according to the Arlington, Virginia-based Global Security think tank. "North Korea has placed high priority on submarine construction programs, which are ongoing despite its economic hardships."'
While the story tells us what kind of blast may have caused it, and that the likely source of that blast could be a torpedo, I wouldn't necessarily say there's any evidence that it's from the North. Oh, except that they're still at war today.

I love in this story how all the experts pan the North Korean subs. They even give some great examples at just how terrible they are.

The crappiness of the North's subs make it even more embarrassing for the South to have lost a warship and not to have even detected the submarine, if one did sink the ship.

Here's a fact: The North Korean subs are still made out of wood. Here's another fact: So are 99 percent of South Koreans' heads. Lawyered.

Vacation Over

Well, I haven't written or posted any news in awhile, but I have a good excuse. I was fortunate enough to have Wednesday through Sunday of last week off for a little vacation.

We got Wednesday off for Children's Day, Thursday because it was our school's anniversary and Friday as a bonus day. Of course, being Korea, it didn't work exactly like that. We were supposed to simply have Friday off. The vice principal filled us in on Thursday that we weren't going to have to work, but we would have to use a vacation day. So there's that. I certainly don't mind though.

Because I'm flying home for my sister's wedding in August, I'm being a bit stingy about travel this year. That would have been a fine time to hit a new country, as my co-workers did by traveling to China, but I decided to just get some rest.

I needed it, too, considering the amount I've been putting in at salsa while preparing for the June 5 competition in Seoul.

On Wednesday, we practiced for 5 hours. My legs were already tired from playing basketball the night before. Of, if you're curious, I kept my undefeated streak against Koreans alive. It was close though, with a 20-18 victory.

On Thursday, I did almost nothing and it was awesome. I did go to Shinsegae to say hello to Jeong Mi, but that was only about an hour out of my day.

On Friday, I had dance class in the evening, then Jeong Mi came over to hang out. Unfortunately, we couldn't go out because she had to get up early due to a schedule change at her job. She was originally supposed to go in late Saturday. Once again -- that's just Korea.

On Saturday, I practiced dance for 2 hours, then met Jeong Mi in Guworldong. We went out and got beef galbi, which makes me never want to eat pork galbi again. When you eat the beef galbi, it's just such a wonderful taste. You realize then that while comforting, fast food can never really substitute what we eat so commonly back in the US. Of course, it comes at a price. The beef galbi is easily 3,000 to 4,000 won more expensive than a portion of pork galbi.

Jeong Mi treated for dinner, and we followed it up with me treating at a noraebang. Now, it's no secret that I love the singing rooms. It's fun to go in a big group, but it's also a great time to just go as a couple. We even got to sing some Korean duets when she picked the Korean "oldies" she knows I like.

On Sunday, it was back to the dancing grind. We went to the studio in Bucheon to practice. I didn't mind practicing Sunday, but I hated going to Bucheon for it. It's just a little too far away. Getting to the Ganseokogeori studio is a hassle in itself which takes about 45 minutes total, including walking to the subway.

It's only about 5 minutes walking to the bus stop for the Bucheon bus, but you can wait up to 20 minutes, and then have possibly an hour of driving, depending on how bad traffic (always) is in Korea. I got there Sunday in 1 hour 15 minutes, and that was making good time.

We only practiced for 3 hours, so that was a relief. Also, Fafa bought pizza for us on both Wednesday and Sunday, so that was very generous.

I'll definitely take a little break from dance after the competition. It sucks having almost no free time right now, but this is just a build-up to the show. I'm committed to the cause and I'm the one who so blatantly said I'm doing this to win.

So until June 6, I'm focused on salsa and salsa only.

Maybe starting tomorrow, I'll post some news stories that I've found interesting over the past few days. Nothing monumental has happened, so it's not a big deal.

But I'm back at work and back on the old schedule. Boy, that break was nice.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Sick Of Konglish? Give Chinglish A Try!

The native speaking English teachers make jokes all the time about all the Konglish around here, even though they have terrible spelling and grammar as well (but I digress).

An article in the New York Times discusses the annoyances the Chinese government is facing with their own combo language known as Chinglish. For example, make sure you get some fried anus when you're checking out the urine district!

Check out a slideshow of fun pics here!

This article gives a couple perspectives on what to do. Some language purists are put off by the Chinglish they see on signs not only because it's utterly useless, but because it's also slightly embarrassing when foreigners think you're an idiot. I don't think Koreans share that sentiment. Haha.

The other side of the coin is offered in that the mixed up phrases offer a unique cultural perspective into the way Chinese people think.

For a long time, I HATED Konglish here in Korea. But then I started taking the opposite side and understanding that things get translated a certain way not only out of ignorance, but out of the way a certain group of people think and say things in their own language.

A simple one, and not really humorous in any way, is how Koreans use the word "almost." They'll say, "Almost people like barbecue." In America, we'd say, "Almost all people like barbecue." Koreans leave the word "all" out of sentences like this.

I used to think it was a lack of undertstanding, but now I know better. The reason they say it like that, is because that's the way they use the word "almost" in Korean. You don't need the modifier of "all." It's just part of their thinking that by saying "almost," you mean "almost all."

It's something interesting when learning another language from such a vastly different culture.

Monday, May 3, 2010

World Cup Kits

Now the teams can win in style. These are some of the best kits I've seen in years.


South Korea