Sunday, November 29, 2009

"Hangul mal mulah-yo"

Chris: Before my last entry there was a four-month gap between posts. This was probably due, in part, to the fact that my little discoveries have become littler and littler. I increasingly feel at home here. But my Dad keeps asking me to write, so....
(The movie "Meet the Spartans" is on the TV in the background. Holy shit! Aggressively unfunny. I'm so astonished by its awfulness that I just can't change the channel.)
Months ago my boss gave me a Korean name, just for a laugh really. I wanted to be called Min Gyu. I don't know why, I just like the name. Instead he gave me Gil Su. The "G" sounds a bit like the "k" sound, and the "l" is very subtle. So it kinda sounds like how my students say my English name, ie. "Chris-su" or "Chris-uh".
I'm not about to adopt this my Korean name for real any time soon but lately I do feel as though I'm blending in a little here. My Korean-style gestures have become so automatic that I do them amongst my fellow foreigners. When handing something to them I touch my right arm with my left hand. My Korean is still terrible but if the conversation is familiar and basic I can often get by. I even find myself automatically using Korean exclamations such as "assah!" and "aish!"
My Korean would improve exponentially if I put in a real effort, but being a lazy sod is not the only reason I don't know more of the language. I don't mind wandering around not knowing what is going on around me. In fact, I often prefer it that way. Things seem more wondrous and magical this way. For example, when I see my elderly landlady talking with her friend on the sidewalk whilst drying chillies or seaweed or some mysterious vegetable/herb that I can't place, I can imagine them debating the tenets of Confucianism or swapping vivid war-time stories full of pathos. I don't want to know that they're really comparing ailments or bitching about the music volume from the round-eye tenant.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Chris: Last Saturday I saw snow falling for the first time in my life. I was drinking with friends at a bar when at the time. Instead of the usual fare of Korean beer, we were downing cherry soju and makgeoli. For the uninitiated, soju is a Korean spirit made mainly from rice. It tastes kind of like a weak, sweet vodka, and it has an alcohol content of about 20%. It's sometimes mixed with flavours like kiwi, lemon, yoghurt, or in this case, cherry. Makgeoli is a Korean rice wine. It has on off-white colour and tastes a little like a sweet milk. It was served in a battered, old large metal bowl and ladeled into smaller individual serving bowls. Is your mouth watering yet? Well what if I told you that both these drinks (particularly makgeoli) provide you with a hangover whilst you're drinking? No need to wait for the next morning. But don't fret, you'll have a (monster) hangover then too. Okay, so maybe it doesn't sound all that appetizing, but you'll be sold when I tell you that I spent only 10,000 won (AUD$10, USD$9) and got all the makgeoli and flavoured soju I could drink (this price includes the relatively expensive appetizers we bought).
Aaaaaanyway was about midnight when it started snowing. It was only a light dusting, my Michigan friend assured me. Nevertheless, it was pretty cool, I thought ...even magical, dare I say. I ran outside to catch a few flakes on my tongue. Not even the nearby violent expulsion of vomit by the young lady rushing out of the bar could spoil the moment (clearly she had had a little too much of the aforementioned drinks). Incidentally, you'd think that Koreans could handle their soju/makgeoli, but no.
The obligatory snowball fight ensued. My friends, I would like to say that I won this battle. I would at least like to say that I held my own. But these would be lies. Morally speaking I have no issue with lying. My only issue is with being caught lying, and my snowball adversaries might read this blog and post nasty, truthful comments. To my more experienced snowball-fighting opponents I say this: the Korean winter is long and I'm a quick learner.