Thursday, November 8, 2012

The U.S. Election and 4th Graders in Korea

Who voted for this clown?  Doh!
So, this week was a big'un.  The US had it's presidential election and, turns out, Obama won his second term.  Now, I'm not huge into politics (even though I wish I was), but I feel more comfortable with this guy than Romney.  I just agree with his stance more than the other guy on most issues.  If nothing else, he brings with him an understanding of a middle class existence, one where nothing just gets handed to you, and one where white privilege doesn't play a part in your success.  More than that he is giving a voice to populations that have gone unheard for far too long.  Truly, before we vilify presidents, Democratic or Republican, don't we need to take a look at the broken system they're trying to function in?  I mean....seriously.  Ok, ok...but it's not about me or my teacher/middle-class/immigrant-supporting soap-box.  It's about fourth graders in Korea.

Yesterday, we did a brief overview of the US election process, watched some clips of the campaigns and Obama's victory speech and then did some journaling.  Here's a few of the things that made me smile.

"Obama was the best choice for president because if Romney won, he was going to shut down PBS."  Nearly 1/4 of my students mentioned this.  I did not ever talk about this in class.

"I learned that if you want to run for president, you need to have a lot of money, you need to be over 35 years old, and you need a really good speech."

"The process of becoming elected president is extremely complicated and costs a mountain of money."

"I'm glad Obama got elected.  He seems really nice."

"It's good President Obama won.  The other guy was going to get rid of Elmo."

Yeah, that's pretty much it in a nutshell.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Double Eyelids and Double Ds

Beauty.  It's something that humans are fixated on, but define differently.  In this post, I'll limit my thoughts to female beauty standards: an endlessly fascinating topic for my brain to muse over.  Mostly for the reason that on the one hand, female beauty can be so easily pigeon-holed by social and cultural norms but on the other, preferences can vary wildly from one individual to another.  The ideal beauty for one person might be a tall, fit, ginger Brit while for another it's a short, solid, spunky blonde.  Looking sexy and risque is also done differently in different places.  I've never seen as many mini mini mini skirts and short shorts as here in South Korea, but that's acceptable and not considered overly immodest.  However, to show bare skin of the shoulders, back or chest is quite rare.  Tank tops, even on the hottest of hot days, are not found.  I dated a guy once from Uganda who told me they couldn't care less about breasts and that legs were the ideal body part, but as such they were generally covered up.  Back home....well, the sky's the limit.  You wanna dress sexy, you can show top body skin, lower body skin, or even side body skin and call it good.  'Merica.

Double eyelid surgery before and after
Here in Korea, I have recently found out about something called a "double eyelid" that is one of their standards of beauty.  Basically, it is the visible crease above the bottom of your top lid when your eyes are open.  I had never even acknowledged the existence of this small fold of skin before, but here it is a big enough deal that it is a common plastic surgery and there are a crap-ton of cosmetic tools you can use to create it.  Check out the video below to see a wide variety of beauty supply fixes.

I suppose it's along the lines of the U.S. obsession with tatas that results in rampant implant surgeries and also *confession* the uber-padded bras that I have in my top dresser drawer.  Instead of eyelid tape and glue guides, we have YouTube tutorials on how to make boobalicious cleavage pop out of your shirt (it includes two bras, a safety pin, bronzer and socks).  Jenna Marbles, the gal in this video is hilarious...but is also crass and curses like a sailor.  You are warned.  Also, start the video at 6:30.  She talks about pretty much nothing until then.  Wow, the lengths to which we humans go to in order to look "hot."  Funny.  Or...sad??

Maybe it's human nature...we just will always want what we don't have.  The grass is always greener and all that jazz.  But fun stuff to think about on my first official day of vacation, nonetheless.  I will end this one with an oldie, but a goodie.  "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."  Nothing could be truer.  Everyone is beautiful to someone.  And you, my friends, are beautiful to me.

Go peacefully and have a warm-and-fuzzy today.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Toddling Around in Seongnam

Ever wonder what it was like being a baby: helpless, confused, lost and dependent on some caretaker?  Well, all you need to do is pack up your life in two suitcases and move to a country with a new language, culture and organizational system for a couple of years.  Boom.  Welcome to baby-land.

My first two months here have been quite similar to learning all the basic skills of survival in learned in childhood.  I'm learning how to say "hello", "goodbye", "yes", "no", and "I want/like/don't want/don't like..." and it is HARD!  I use sign language for much of my communication.  I walk around, mouth hanging open, eyes peering hard all around me, trying to make sense of the skyscrapers, never ending crowds, and multi-story buildings covered in Hangul (Korean alphabet).

The view from the top of my apartment building, the trail
and river that run by aforementioned building.
I endlessly stare, trying to visibly absorb cultural nuances, the slightly different ways of doing things like: talking in quiet voices; NOT talking on the subway and buses; taking and giving things with two hands as a sign of respect/etiquette; the lack of apology or even acknowledgement as people bump into each other and sometimes shove each other out of the way; but the extreme politeness shown towards elders by deep bows in greetings and farewells and the immediate seat that opens up for a gray-haired traveler.  My ears are busy too, listening intently for words I recognize from my studies, trying to make sense of the FIVE politeness degrees added to verbs and other words in the language, trying to sort out the speedily spit syllables in my mind.

I know I will always be stared at here, sometimes smiled at and occasionally the recipient of a snarl.  I'm an assimilator at heart, with no qualm about trying out a new way of life in order to better understand it.  I'm happy to bring my book on public transport, add -imnida and -yo to all my words in order to show the proper respect.  I'm already looking for places I can buy the fashionable and conservative dress worn by most people in my neighborhood.  But, I know there's a few things I just can't change.  I will be doing CrossFit workouts by the river and in the gym....panting, grunting and straining while people stare and wonder what the heck I'm doing while completing their sweatless movements on their machines.  I can't help but dance/lipsync/strut to the sound of my music, even in public.  I will wear Lulu while working out.  It's going to happen.  But, hey, what can you expect from a toddler in Korea?

Until next time, well.