Beautiful Korea

Beautiful Korea

Friday, October 29, 2010

Zombie Pirate Rabbit

I actually managed to find some Halloween stickers here in Korea this year for the first time. (Don't worry, Clarissa, there weren't even close to enough of them for me to use for my class activity, so the stickers you sent were needed and much appreciated!)

Korea's take on Halloween stickers is mostly pretty similar to America's: no Frankensteins, and fewer witches and vampires, but lots of pumpkin/jack o' lanterns, ghosts, and skeletons. There was, however, one that I'm not sure you'd see in America. So I present for your amusement, the Zombie Pirate Rabbit:
Zombie Pirate Rabbit

I think this may be my halloween costume for next year, if I can find the makings.

Halloween Decorations

Last year, I was too busy with the incredibly stressful preparations for the open class I had to do to have energy or time for finding or making decorations for my classroom at Halloween.

This year, the open class was much less stressful, and it was finished on October 19th. So I had a little time to look for decorations. I found a ghost garland and a glow-in-the-dark plastic skeleton at Home Plus, but had no luck at Namdaemun. Fortunately, I was able to find some printable Halloween decorations online, partly with the help of a friend. (Thanks, Clarissa!) Unfortunately, it was a lot of work to cut them out after printing them, so my classroom wasn't fully decorated until Wednesday this week. It really seemed a shame to start taking them down Friday evening!

Anyway, to get the most out of them, I thought I'd share them here.
Halloween decor 1
Halloween rats 1
Halloween rats 2
Halloween rats 3
Halloween sitting vampire
Halloween decor 2
Halloween decor 3
Halloween decor 4

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Audio books and the state of my apartment

What do audio books have to do with the state of my apartment? A whole lot, as it turns out.

My current audio book is an unabridged version of Dracula read by Robert Whitfield. It's excellent and I'm enjoying it very much.

The previous one was an unabridged version of The English Governess at the Siamese Court, read by Nadia May. There was nothing wrong with the reader or the production, but the book itself was another matter.

As you might guess from the title, this is the autobiographic work upon which The King and I was loosely based. While it had many interesting parts, I found it at times annoying, at other times boring and repetitive, and occasionally confusing.

That last is not entirely the fault of the work itself--were it in printed form I would have been able to check back and verify the names, but there is no easy way to do this with an audio book. Most of the confusion was due to my unfamiliarity with Thai names, and the great length of the names of people associated with the Siamese court, which combined to make them nearly impossible for me to remember. But the repetitiveness contributed to my confusion, as I wondered if she were really telling the same story about the same person again, or if a similar event had happened to a different person.

My greatest annoyance with the book was how poorly organized it was. It seemed to have been written simply as she thought of it, with no overall organization or structure at all, except a very, very loose chronological one which jumped around quite a bit, but did begin with her accepting the job at the Siamese court, and except a last bit about travels in Cambodia, ended with her resigning that position and leaving Siam. I can understand it being written in this way, but what I cannot understand is why it was not subsequently edited to tell the story in a clear and interesting way, and avoid the confusion and tedium of unnecessary repetition.

I don't mind, and even enjoy it, when an author plays around with the organization/structure of a work of fiction, especially when it's done effectively and for a purpose. But I rather resent nonfiction which meanders pointlessly and makes the true story it tells more difficult to understand, appreciate, and enjoy.

However, it was interesting to read about Siam during that period, and even more interesting to see how an Englishwoman of the time perceived it. The author seemed to be a courageous and genuinely good person, albeit one highly prejudiced in favor of (her version of) Christianity and against pagan religions, as well as possessed of a very strong sense of English superiority to the rest of the world. That said, she does, to her credit, attempt to present a fair picture, and doubtless believed that she had. If you have any interest in the true story behind The King and I and don't mind poorly organized nonfiction, it may be worth your time.

But given the title and opening line of the post, you may be wondering by now what all this has to do with my apartment.

Well, I'm not fond of cooking, cleaning, washing dishes, doing laundry, and other similar tasks related to taking care of one's home and oneself. So I reward and motivate myself to do them by listening to audio books for entertainment while I do them. This works extremely well when the book is good and I'm eager to listen. But this system breaks down entirely when I'm not motivated to listen to the audio book.

Until I finally finished The English Governess at the Siamese Court, I was not highly motivated to listen for the reasons mentioned above, and thus only listened to the book while I did the most necessary chores: cooking, washing dishes, and doing laundry. This meant both that the book took a long time to finish as I didn't listen to it that much, and also that all the non-necessary tasks around my apartment, like sweeping, mopping, dusting, straightening up, etc., were entirely neglected. Needless to say, my apartment gradually got into a pretty sad state.

After I, at long last, completed The English Governess at the Siamese Court, and moved on to Dracula, the state of my apartment began to improve dramatically. The only problem is that Dracula is not a particularly long novel, and soon it will be over. I fervently hope that the next audio book is as enjoyable, because my apartment still needs work after all the weeks of neglect.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Happy Birthday to me!

In the Hobbiton tradition of giving presents to other people on one's birthday, I'm spending part of today on things for all of you. I renewed my Flickr account after letting it lapse for five months, and I uploaded some new pictures which you will see some of below. And I'm writing this post, and I *hope* that I will be better in the future about posting regularly. (Yeah, don't laugh. It could happen!)

Today's post: Shopping in Seoul

Yesterday I went shopping in Seoul. Here is the first area I went to: Myeongdong. To save on loading speed, this picture is much smaller than the original version, but if you really want to see what it's like, you should head over to Flickr and have a look at the original. (Myeongdong-large)
This is one of the main thoroughfares of the most popular shopping district in Seoul. It continues well beyond where the tree blocks the view. And it's just one of several square blocks of stores and street vendors. I've never seen it when it wasn't packed with people. And yesterday was no exception.

As you can see in the picture, there are not only many tall buildings filled with stores (and/or restaurants, and/or coffee shops) on every floor, but many street vendors selling everything from sunglasses, shoes (in the foreground), to stuffed animals, jewelry and hair accessories (middle ground), to food, clothes, DVDs--undoubtedly pirated, to cell phone accessories of all kinds, which are hugely popular here. (Someday I should really write a post about Korean cell phone accessories.)

Skin care seems to be particularly popular these days. I lost count of how many such stores I saw: Nature Republic (which you can see in the foreground on the left in the picture above), It's Skin, The Face Shop (also in the picture on the middle left), Skin Food, and Innisfree all have multiple storefronts in Myeongdong, and I saw The Body Shop as well. Supposedly Lush has a storefront there now as well, but I didn't manage to find it and had to resort to the one in the "Home Living" section of the Shinsegae department store.

I wandered up and down and around, looking for sandals and hair accessories for me, and gifts for a friend. I failed on the sandals--partly due to not many looking like they'd be comfortable, partly because the ones that did look cute and comfortable weren't available in my size. I *did* find hair accessories, though.

And more importantly, I found the gifts for a friend that I was looking for.

I also wandered into the new H&M, which had cute clothes at reasonable prices (though not as low as they would be in the US). They did not, however, have anything I wanted enough to wait in the LONG line for dressing rooms. There are also a couple of Zara stores that I didn't make it into, but may try next time I'm in Myeongdong.

After giving up on finding the Lush storefront, I headed for Shinsegae. By this time it was almost 3pm and I hadn't had lunch yet, plus my feet were killing me and I was on sensory overload from hordes of people, items crammed into every nook and cranny, and pop music playing in every store. Also, it was warm and humid and I was desperate to spend some time in an air conditioned place.

First I had lunch at the Japanese Udon restaurant near the top of the Shinsegae building (I had tempura udon, about $7). Greatly refreshed, I headed one floor down to the "Home" section and stocked up on products from Lush.

I had come to Myeongdong partly to shop for pants, purses, and sandals, but I didn't do any clothes, purse, or shoe shopping in Shinsegae because Korean department stores are woah! expensive! This came as a great surprise to me the first time. As the average Korean income is only 60% of the average American income, I had assumed that Korean department stores would offer Macy's quality at Mervyn's prices. Boy was I wrong! They're more like Neiman Marcus prices! They sell t-shirts for $60. So I never shop in department stores here.

Instead, I headed to Migliore. Initially, I'd thought that places like Migliore, Doota, and AM/PM (not the US convenience store!) were department stores, but they aren't. They're more akin to shopping malls, with many different vendors sharing one building. The difference is that they're not a collection of separate stores, each with four walls and their own dressing rooms, but more like a lot of large alcoves with all the vendors on one floor sharing dressing rooms. Which means they trust you to walk off with their clothes to a dressing room that may be all the way on the other side of the building. You wouldn't see that in America!

Unfortunately, despite four floors of women's clothing and one floor of shoes, bags, jewelry, etc., I didn't find what I wanted, which was a loose-fitting pair of pants that would be cool and comfortable in hot weather but professional enough to wear to work. The style these days is all for skinny jeans and short skirts, so it isn't easy to find anything loose-fitting. And I was looking for a backpack purse, but all the ones I saw were either too big (true backpack size, though very nice looking) or made of fake leather (which will last all of two months before it looks like crap).

So I gave up and headed for my next destination, Insadong. Insadong is the district in Seoul dedicated to traditional and modern Korean handicrafts, and to selling them to tourists. I went with the goal of buying a mother-of-pearl inlaid lacquer box. I've been envying everyone I've bought one for, because they're beautiful and I don't have one of my own. Until yesterday, that is. This year I decided that my birthday present to myself would be a lacquer box.

Behold my selection:

And because I've bought many boxes from them, they also gave me this:
(If you're not sure, it's a compact mirror.)

Then, exhausted from crowds and shopping and walking and heat and humidity, I headed for the subway to go home. After subway and bus, I didn't get home until nearly 9pm, and after dropping off my purchases, I immediately headed back out--to buy milk and birthday cake! I was good, though, and only bought two pieces of cake, one cheese cake which I ate last night, and a double chocolate for tonight. Happily, these were available at a convenience store and a bakery within a block of my apartment, so this errand only took about 15 minutes, and most of that was waiting in line to pay for milk at the convenience store and then deciding what kind of cake I wanted at the bakery.

And now you know what a shopping trip to Seoul is like! Sort of, anyway.