I have finally come to terms with this. I guess it took walking past numerous Korean teenagers for me to realize the grim truth: I'm short!
Now, I always knew that I was taller than some people. Even in my pre-pubescent days I managed to "tower" over a few of the other unfortunate kids, but now it's a glaring fact that I am simply shorter than most.
고 and I have been discussing my height recently. Anyone who knows me knows that I always claim to be 5'9. I am!!!
Well, today I have learned different. I recall one bleak winter day in college when my friends and I decided that we would measure ourselves. I was sure that my "claimed height" would be affirmed. I was wrong. A different height was discovered that day. It was a height that was not near what I always pretended to be.
I remember when I was younger, the doctor always told me that I was in the tenth percentile for height (and weight). He even said that I would only be 5'8. Mom always blew it off though. She would claim,"My father was over six feet tall." That was the mantra I got used to. I started believing it.
My drivers licence has said I was 5'9 since I was 15. That was a lie and apparently it still is.
So, how tall am I???
Friday, June 22, 2007
I have finally come to terms with this. I guess it took walking past numerous Korean teenagers for me to realize the grim truth: I'm short!
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
While American TV is polluted with reality shows, crime shows and 24 hour garbage like Fox News, Korea is doing their own thing. They have the kind of shows that people imagine when they think of Asian television. Something with the title of "Happy Smile Super Challenge Family Wish Show" or maybe the "Super Terrific Happy Time Hour" comes into mind.
Korea doesn't have these type of shows, however they do have shows staring out-of-work or under-worked actors, actresses, comedians and singers participate in these sometimes funny and oftentimes repetitive and overly simplistic concept shows. One is called 무한도전 ("Infinity Challenge").
무한도전 consists of six males who are always on there and the occasional famous cameo (Thierry Henry, Fedor Emelianenko, Maria Sharapova, and Michelle Wie). Each week these guys do 70 minutes of nothing and people love it. Some absurd challenges range from racing in a foot pedalled swan boat against a motor boat, to appearing live on stage at a public fashion show. It's funny, but the question to me is what the hell do they guys do? This is not work. Even Mr. Bean made a living by being silly and socially awkward in movies and TV, but these guys don't have anything special short of being good sports.
I must admit though, I like it from time to time. The host, 유재석 (Yu Jae-seok), made his television debut in 1991 singing a cover of the song Step by Step by New Kids on the Block.
And here's a little Christmas cheer...
I know you couldn't understand any of that (I couldn't either), but you get the point. I guess I wondering why these shows are so successful in Asia? I know China, Thailand and Japan also sport these kinds of shows. Why? Why are Asian viewers so interested in this? What are these guys going to do for work in three to five years?
In the end, I can kind of understand why they watch this. It's stress free fun. That is something that is not enjoyed by that many in Asia. Between academies, stress from school and fourteen hour work days, stress in all too common. It's a break.
I know this is a non sequitur, but the real question is why do Americans obsess over CSI and Fox News? Do we have nothing better to do than watch this false reality?
I think I trust the people who laugh at silliness more than those who get entertained by crime and lies...
Ha! Sorry for the rant...
P.S. Romney, Guiliani and Thompson can kiss my ass!
at 8:35 PM
Friday, June 15, 2007
고운 had been experiencing pain for the past couple of weeks. It turned out to be her bottom left wisdom tooth. When we first met, she had noticed that my mouth was small and that I didn't appear to have the same number of teeth that most people have. Ha! I don't actually. I was blessed with a small mouth that only allows 24 teeth. I've gotten eight permanent teeth pulled in my day. Between that and my other dental "opportunities", we can all agree that I'm not a fan of much that goes on at the dentist.
고 and I would tease each other about teeth and I would obviously lose because I only have 24 teeth and she had 31. (She had already had one removed.) I went to work this morning and she had mentioned getting it removed today, but I wasn't sure what she would do. About 30 minutes into the day she called and told me that she was on the subway and on her way to get it out. She was nervous about the shot mostly, but was really not anticipating much besides a simple extraction.
I wished her luck and expected to hear back from her in about twenty minutes or so. Over an hour later I got a text message.
"Just finished. It was surgery."
She was still in high spirits, but I could tell it wasn't that great for her. I remember when I had mine removed I got to go home and be waited on. Poor 고 had to get on a subway and go to an empty apartment. I felt horrible for not being with her. I came home on my break and she told me the story.
The dentist had taken X-Rays and concluded that it would be no problem. That, of course, calmed her down. They gave her the unpleasant shot and started the extraction. They pulled and pulled, but nothing. That tooth would not budge. 고운 heard the tooth cracking and loosening, but nothing. After several failed attempts the dentist was becoming noticeably agitated. He called in four more nurses. Two to help him and the other two to hold 고운 's hands.
The dentist started vocalizing his frustration. He kept trying a scooping method that was just not working and with each failed scoop he verbalized it more and more. Finally, they brought out the drill and started drilling away at her stubborn tooth. Still nothing.
They had to get out the knife, cut back the gums and surgically remove that thing. They never put her to sleep though. She was up through the whole thing! What a brave girl! I'm so proud of her!!
She has been recovering well though. She's far from how bad Kristin was, but she did not have it as easy as me. Here's some of her favorite moments.
They gave her some weak medication that did not seem to do anything, so she took some Tylenol and seems to be feeling less pain.
The bad part about all of this is that she has an exam tomorrow and this, obviously, has hampered any attempt to get in any beneficial studying. She'll do fine though.
I'll let you know how she's feeling as the weekend progresses...
By the way, it was only 22 dollars...
I've added a few things to the site. On the right, you'll see some videos from youtube.com, some news from my favorite sources and some links to some sites that I like. I'll explain each to you now.
The videos are not actually selected by me. Rather, I entered in catergories that I like and they chose random videos that were related to those. I added Obama, Colbert and one of my favorite bands, Umphreys Mcgee. If you have any categories that I should add, feel free to let me know!
The news is nice as well. Headlines, stories and opinion from cnn, bbc, atimes, nytimes, seoultimes, latimes, npr and theonion are in there. However, today it seems that odd Korean news sources are showing up. Is that the case with you? Let me know so I can fix it.
The link are my favorites! Click on The Yangpa. It's a satirical look at Korean society, news and culture from the viepoint of foreigners. I don't agree with all of it, but it can be so funny. The Onion is a satirical look at all news. It's great as well. Asia Times gives news from all over the world and Asia, but the difference is clear: it is not geared toward Western readers. I love it. Then there is Talk Left which is a liberal blog that I check daily. It's wonderful and full of rich insight. Finally, there is Jambase. That is for the music people.
고 and I are trying to get this thing in shape again because we are going to be using it more and more to let everybody know what's going on with us and our world. I'm also going to try and give you guys more of a taste of everday life in Korea.
Also, poor 고 got her wisdom teeth out today. She was told they were not impacted, but when they began they discovered they were. She had to have surgery. I feel horrible for having to be at work when I should be taking care of her. She's so brave and is going to try and study until this evening. I'll take care of her all night tonight!!!
at 1:19 PM
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Let me start this post with something that is such a common sight here.
This is a video that one of my friends took. Notice the suit and tie. Notice the hai and the nice shoes. And now notice how drunk he is. This guy studied hard his whole life to get a good job. He worked and worked, but that only got him in the door. If he wants to climb the Korean Corporate Ladder, he has to show his face and make a name for himself in front of the boss... with the bottle.
That bottle is a drink that we will be bringing to some of you on our upcoming trip. It is called 소주 or Soju. I have written about many times, but still...
If you have a moment, I challenge you to look back at one of my earlier posts titled,"A Rainy Arrival". At the end of the second to last paragragh I mention seeing a well-dressed drunk man passed out face-down on the street. I had no idea what his story was, but now I can take a guess. He was on his way to being a CEO!!
The system is chaning though. As more women are slowly entering the corporate workforce, this norm will change. Uncle John sent me this article...
June 10, 2007
Corporate Korea Corks the Bottle as Women Rise
By NORIMITSU ONISHI
SEOUL, South Korea — In a time-honored practice in South Korea’s corporate
culture, the 38-year-old manager at an online game company took his 10-person team on twice-weekly after-work drinking bouts. He exhorted his subordinates to drink, including a 29-year-old graphic designer who protested that her limit was two glasses of beer.
“Either you drink or you get it from me tomorrow,” the boss told her one
She drank, fearing that refusing to do so would hurt her career. But
eventually, unable to take the drinking any longer, she quit and sued.
In May, in the first ruling of its kind, the Seoul High Court said that
forcing a subordinate to drink alcohol was illegal, and it pronounced the manager guilty of a “violation of human dignity.” The court awarded the woman $32,000 in damages for the incidents, which occurred in 2004.
The ruling was as much a testament to women’s growing presence in corporate
life here as a confirmation of changes already under way. As an increasing number of women
have joined companies as professionals in the past half decade, corporate South Korea has struggled to change the country’s thoroughly male-centered corporate culture, starting with alcohol.
An evening out with colleagues here follows a predictable, alcohol-centered
pattern: dinner, usually some grilled pork, washed down with soju, Korea’s national vodkalike drink; then a second round at a beer hall; then whiskey and singing at a “norae bang,” a Korean karaoke club. Exhorted by their bosses to drink, the corporate warriors bond, literally, so that the sight of dark-suited men holding hands, leaning on one another, staggering toward taxis, is part of this city’s nighttime streetscape. The next morning, back at the office, they are ready to fight, with reaffirmed unity, for more markets at home and abroad.
Many professional women manage to avoid much of the drinking by adopting well-known strategies. They slip away while their male colleagues indulge in a second or third round
of drinking. They pour the drinks into potted plants. They rely on male colleagues, called “knights in shining armor,” to take their turns in drinking games.
Companies, too, have begun to respond. Since 2005, Posco, the steel manufacturer, has limited company outings to two hours at its mill in South Korea’s southwest. Employees
can raise a red card if they do not want to drink or a yellow card if they want to go home early. At Woori Bank, one of South Korea’s largest, an alarm rings at 10 p.m. to encourage workers to stop drinking and go home using public transportation, which stops running before midnight.
“My boss used to be all about, ‘Let’s drink till we die!’ ” said Wi Su-jung, a 31-year-old woman
employed at a small shipping company.
Ms. Wi, who was out enjoying the sun in downtown Seoul, said the atmosphere
began changing as more women joined her company in the past couple of years. “The women got together and complained about the drinking and the pressure to drink,” she said. “So things changed last year. Now we sometimes go to musicals or movies instead.
Kim Chil-jong, who was taking a walk on his lunch hour, said he owned a nine-person publishing company. In the last couple of years, he hired two women for the first time.
“We drink less because of their presence,” Mr. Kim, 47, said. “Before, I’d
encourage my workers to drink whenever we went out, but I don’t do that anymore.
Still, at least 90 percent of company outings — called “hoishik,” or coming together to eat — still center on alcohol, according to the Korean Alcohol Research Foundation. The
percentage of women who drink has increased over all as they have joined companies.
Over all, South Koreans consume less alcohol than, say, most Europeans, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a research organization financed by industrialized nations.
But Cho Sung-gie, the alcohol foundation’s research director, estimates that South Koreans rank first in binge drinking: the goal is to drink as much as possible, as quickly as
possible, so that co-workers loosen up.
Companies have awakened to the potential dangers of bingeing: health threats,
decreased productivity and, with more women working, the risk of sexual harassment.
The foundation, though financed largely by the alcohol industry, is considered
the authority on the country’s drinking culture. It runs programs on responsible drinking and
abstinence, and assists companies to organize outings not centered on alcohol. Chang Kih-wung, a manager in the education team, has even joined company outings to the movies.
“Usually, a company decides to do something about drinking after a guest, often a foreigner, visits and makes a comment like, ‘Man, people drink like crazy here!’ ” Mr. Chang said.
“So they’ll invite me for a lecture or organize a single activity — then they forget about it and go back to drinking.
Traditionally, this corporate culture often began at the job interview itself. Asked whether they liked to drink, applicants knew that there was only one correct answer.
“If they said they didn’t drink, we’d think that we couldn’t work closely
together,” said Lee Jai-ho, 40, an engineer at a paper mill that was bought by Norske Skog of Sweden in the late 1990s.
Mr. Lee said he was asked whether he was a good drinker during his job interview in 1992, and he asked the same question of job candidates later. The company’s hard-drinking
culture changed, however, after it changed to foreign ownership.
It is this fear of not being accepted as full members of the team that has led
many women to drink to excess. A 31-year-old lawyer for a telecommunications company, who asked that her name not be used, blacked out during a company outing shortly after she became the first Korean woman to serve as a lawyer in the legal division three years ago. “During my studies, I always competed against men,” she said. “So I didn’t want to lose to men at hoishik.
She drank so much during dinner at a Chinese restaurant that she remembered
nothing past 9 p.m., though the outing lasted until 1 a.m.
However, as more women have joined her division, she said, the emphasis on
alcohol has decreased.
“Before it was always grilled pork with soju followed by mixed drinks,” she
said. “Now, I can suggest that we go to a Thai or Italian restaurant.
Not all men were so flexible, though. In the case of the 29-year-old graphic
designer, when she was interviewed at the 240-employee online game company in 2004, she was also forced to submit to an “alcohol interview,” according to the court ruling. She could drink only two glasses of beer and no soju at all, she said.
Her boss, though, liked to go out with his 10-person marketing team — six men
and four women — at least twice a week until the predawn hours and brooked no excuses.
One time, he told her that if she called upon a “knight in shining armor,” she would have to kiss him. So she drank two glasses of soju. Another time, after she slipped away early, he
called her at home and ordered her to come back. She refused.
At the trial, the boss said he was so intent on having his subordinates bond
that he sometimes used his own money to take them out drinking. He called the woman a weirdo and said of the lawsuit, “I’m the victim.
We all know that laws will not change a thing. The ones who go out and drink with the boss will move up faster than those who chose to go home. They might not be fired, but they will not see much mobility. Time will tell...
I will say though, it is funny to see a couple of old suits stumbling down the street hand in hand three sheets to the wind.
It's time for 고 to be graduated from her University!!! She will be a graduate of 한국 외국어 대학교 or Hankuk University of Foreign Studies. http://www.hufs.ac.kr/eng/index.jsp
I'm so proud of her for her dedication to language and her drive to use it as a vehicle to international business which she also studied. She's actually in exams this week and next, but soon it will all be over and the world will quickly open up to her.
I always love these posed pictures. It reminds me of my Ensworth picture. I was too young to understand at the time, but Uncle John referred to me as a "young Republican." I take great offense to that at this point. I think I've done a pretty good job shaking that insult -I mean title...;)
So, before you start firing questions to 고 about what's next and where does she want to work and so on, just relax... She's got a solid plan.
So, if you want to say congratulations or wish her luck, please feel free to do so under the comments! She worked real hard and is about to feel the freedom that we all felt when it was our time. We're going to have a little party for her next week and we'll post some pictures from that as well.
Congratulations! I'm so proud of you. I know how hard you have worked and I know you are going to great things for the world. Here's a little thing for you. We listen to it all the time and I know it's "our song" so to say, but why not.
I love you 고고!! 사랑해~!!!
at 7:00 PM
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
We got our tickets today! I really appreciate Wonderland for being so flexible and open to my vacation request and buying the tickets. In general, it is a great hagwon and such a respectable employer. Coming to Korea was just a great idea and not one day goes by that I don't recognize how much this little Asian country has given me.
I'll be leaving Korea on the 26th of July and returning on the 7th of September!!! Nice, huh? One thing to mention though. When I come back, I'll be replacing Rhett. This is huge. Rhett has been a driving force at Wonderland for 5 years. He's transformed the curriculum and made his name there. He has gone to bat for so many teachers not because he always cared for them or agreed with them, but because he is fiercly loyal. His dedication to the school, ESL teaching, and his fellow teachers will be missed in the office and around town. He'll still be here in Korea. Here's to Rhett:
Rhett and me in Cambodia on Christmas Day!
Suzanna, Rhett and Joel at the Itaewon scavenger hunt in September 2006.
Rhett right after a shave and a haircut.
Rhett cooking food for us at Deok Jeok Do last October.
Rhett on the Han river. This was my second day and he helped for a smooth transition. Thanks!
We have tons of videos of him, but I think those will stay on facebook.com rather than the public blog. He leaves Wonderland at the beginning of September. I will post about his triumphant exit then. This was just a tease and a the first glimpse at a new direction for Rhett in Korea. Good luck, buddy!
Now, onto the tickets. Here's the time table...
Seoul (Incheon Airport) 10:05am
Flight Time: 2h20m
Tokyo (Narita Airpost) 12:25 pm
Layover Time: 1h45m
Tokyo (Narita Airport) 2:10pm
Flight Time: 11h27
Chicago (Ohare Airport) 11:37am
Layover Time: 3h12m
Chicago (Ohare Airport) 3:25pm
Flight Time: 1h54m
Tulsa (Tulsa Airport) 5:19pm
Total Time: 20 hours and 38 minutes
아이고!!!! (That is a frustrated expression, not 고운)
So, that is the trip on the way there. I'm happy that I will get to be with 고 this time. 고 did a lot of work finding these tickets and all of us should thank her. Thanks 고고!!!
I know Kristin, Trey and Hattie wanted to be there to welcome us, but we'll be waiting for you instead!!!
The flight back isn't as exciting to write about, so I will stop here!!
Fun times await!!!!
at 10:16 PM
Sunday, June 10, 2007
고 will be posting on here with me and her posts will be in yellow. So, keep an eye out for her! 안녕!
I am excited to write on here from now on with George and keep you posted on what's new in our lives in Korea and everywhere in between! Good bye till next time! Annyeong!
June 9th, 1951 was the day for this guy. Wow! I can't believe you're actually 56. Do you feel that old? Haha! Sorry...
However, I remember a five year old Mark Wheeler who innocently said, "Coach Hogan! You have gray hair!"
That was so classic. Since then we've seen the beard, the stache, the sideburns, the gottee and even the bald face. I think you've settled on the George Carlin look for now. Nice!
Happy Birthday John! I hope you have a great time! I can't wait to meet you guys. I hope I can handle the heat in Arizona. I don't think I have ever experienced that high temperature in my life. Happy Birthday again! Bye!
So, Happy Birthday Dad. I know you and Kathy had a nice day and I'll let call you about the tickets as soon as we buy our tickets to America!
at 9:08 PM
Saturday, June 09, 2007
As you all know very well by now, 고 and I are coming home for all of August plus a little more before and after. In honor of the upcoming trip I decided to add a couple videos...
Here's a 1967 Simon and Garfunkel from Monterey.
And here is the famed concert in Central Park.
I thought that those were appropriate. When I was on my way here last July, I remember being on the plane and listening to my Ipod when Homeward Bound came on. I turned it off right away as I thought it might make me homesick. I figured getting homesick on my way to Korea was kind of lame. However, I thought about how nice it would be to be listening to that on my way back home and now that time has come. I know I have seven weeks left, but it will go by fast and then 고 and I will be on our way.
We're so excited and are in the process of buying our tickets home. They are expensive though, but we'll make it!
Here's the plan...
- July 27th: Fly from Korea to Oklahoma.
Of course we'll have several stops along the way. Our options so far are Korea to Japan to Chicago and then to Tulsa or Korea to Japan to Detroit and then to Tulsa. We'll be tired, but drinking banana coladas and martinis by the pool won't take too much effort. The jet lag might take a slight toll on us as well.
- July 27th - August 5th: Tulsa, Oklahoma
I imagine this time will be spent sleeping, eating, drinking, swimming (고 will learn) and playing games. We're going to try and hike with the dogs, hangout with Joyce and Luis, get to know Hattie, check out some Native American sites and rock out with the family. That'll be nice. It has been a year since we last hung out and I need to have a good political spit with Dave.
- August 5th - August 11th: Phoenix, Arizona
Now, it's time to hang out with Dad. Usually when we visit Dad, we have several things planned and this trip is not different. Besides seeing the new house and drinking and talking by the pool, we plan to check out the Grand Canyon and even head down to Nogales, Mexico. We're not too sure what to do down there as I have not ever been either, but maybe this will help you guys.
I'm not sure what we'll do in Mexico. Presumably we'll eat the food and drink some stiff margaritas.
Besides those two things, I'd really like to float the Snake River and get a massive sunburn like always. Maybe even ride a horse??
- August 11th - August 17th: Ohio and Tennessee
This week will be spent traveling around visiting people mostly. We'll start in Cincinnati and get to know Hattie some more and catch up with Kristin, Trey and Sadie. We'll hike around the creek, go to a Red's game and I'm not sure there is anything else to do in Cincinnati. Oh yeah, we'll go to the ONLY Korean restaurant which in actually in Covington, KY. From Cincinnati, we'll go to Knoxville where we'll spend the rest of the week with family and my great friends. We'll drink, dance, camp and do what we always did. Most of the people have moved on, but there are still a few left. Get ready!
- August 17th - August 25th: Family Vacation in the Adriondacks
This is going to be wild. We'll be up there for the week. We'll grill out, canoe, hike, swim, fish, sleep, play, drink, relax and enjoy being together for the week because soon after, I'll be heading back to Korea for one final run...
- August 25th - September 2nd - 6th
This will be our time to relax and tie up any loose ends before we cruise out. I know that I need to renew my Tennessee drivers license at a fictious address. I have not lived there in a couple years, but I don't want to have to take the written drivers test again. I will sometime, but not now.
The whole trip will be a nice break. I will miss Korea though. Korea is my home. It'll be strange driving my car instead of filing into the crowded, but nice, subways of Seoul. It will be weird ordering food without incident. I'm not sure if I remember what it's like to be in a house or feel carpet under my feet. It'll be hard to use restraint when making fun of people because I'll run the risk of people understanding what I'm saying. I'm not going to even comment on how odd it will be to see white people. At least I'll have my favorite person with me reminding me of our home...
If you want to do something special with me and 고, then let me know now...
at 1:25 PM
Thursday, June 07, 2007
Martial Arts and other forms of fighting are very big all over the world, but especially here in Asia. Korea would never claim to produce the world's greatest fighters, but when it comes to this guy, they do have some legitimate right to stand tall.
His name is 최홍만 (Choi Hong Man: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Choi_Hong_Man ). He's huge and besides being one of the best K-1 (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K-1) fighters, he is quite the celebrity in Korea.
First, here's a compilation of him fighting. He's lost only once...
He also does a few other things though. Note the size difference.
And you can even catch him doing this...
We're actually watching him fight right now. I was inspired to share it with you guys at home.
고 and I didn't do too much, but the day before my school went to the War Memorial Museum.
Not too many pics of the museum, but here's an album with me and students.
As you know, Colbert did a satirical skit where he "reined in Rain" and made his very own Korean pop music video. It was so funny! However, the humor was lost on the Korean media and they viewed it as an attack on their international superstar, Rain. I understand it though because they simply do not know his humor or his TV persona.
Regardless, it made for a funny clip. I really like the incorrect translation of Korea. That's classic.
Here's the video from Comedy Central. (Click on the link and it will take you to the video after a 10 second plug for the station.)
at 9:04 PM