Monday, November 19, 2007

Herb Doctor

Although this has been on my list of things to do for a long time, I just got around to going to a true Oriental doctor last Friday. By Oriental doctor I mean someone who practices Eastern medicine. Like acupuncture. What better place to visit one of these people than in Asia?

Anyway, a Korean woman I know and trust took me to him. She's been seeing him on a weekly basis for over a year now, and she swears that she's experienced marked improvements in her energy level and ailments. Sold. For approximately $25 per visit, I can swing that.

The first thing he did was take my pulse with his fingers. Then he asked me some questions and had me lay down on the table. After some poking and prodding on my stomach and back, he decided that my liver is a bit weak (ok, ok, no drinking jokes). I don't know how he deduced that from pushing around on my core, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. So here come the needles!

He's a special kind of acupuncturist. Not only does he stick needles in, but he also injects some kinds of herbs with the needle. So he chose only certain places (meridians--where the energy flows), about 3 points on my stomach and 3 or 4 on my back, and one right below my neck. The first needle in the back actually made me jump. And that area is still sore 3 days later. The rest of the insertions didn't hurt at all; the needles are very thin. Oddly, only one insertion left a bruise. On my stomach.

After the 5-8 minute treatment, he took my pulse again. On both wrists. He claimed to already notice a difference. Again, I'll buy that for now.

I haven't noticed anything different since the treatment. I was coming down with a cold when I received it, and it still turned into a full-blown cold. But I'm not throwing in the towel yet--repeated treatment was advised (maybe weekly) until I feel a difference. So I think I'm going to try it for awhile and see what happens!

My international Korean class

Me, Merek (my class partner from Kazakhstan, aka Borat) and the woman from India.
My teacher Ji seon Yang (Korean) in the middle, Guatemala and Venezuela.
Krystal (American) and my teacher salsa dancing to Julio's singing!

As it's been 2 years since I first came to Korea, I thought it might be a nice gesture to the country and my coworkers (who are all Korean) to try to learn a bit of the language. Currently I know bits and pieces; functional Korean, if you will. "How much is it?", "I'd like to order..." "Where's the bathroom", "Help me", "Turn left", "shut your f*cking mouth", know, just the necessities.

Now just so you don't think I'm an ethnocentric jerk, let me explain something to you: it's absolutely non-essential to speak Korean to get by in this country. I'm here to teach English, afterall, so my job does not by any means require it. And more often than not, I encounter people who would rather practice their English skills than allow me to practice speaking Korean.

Because I don't plan to live my life here (3 years max, I promise!), and because Korean isn't spoken in any other country, I don't feel that it's a great use of my time to learn to speak Korean fluently. The basics are just fine. So I sound like a cave(wo)man--so what? ME SHANNON TEACHER.

This leads me to my first Korean class experience. It's really cool actually. Only 3 American professors (like me) are in the class while the rest of the students are diplomats of various countries! They work at their respective country's embassy in Seoul. Let me just give you a sampling. We've got Guatemalans, Venezuelans, a Pakistani, Kazakhstanis, Indians, Filipinos, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Bangladesh citizens. (sorry if I didn't use the correct label- I really tried).
I sit by a guy named Merek. He's from Kazakhstan. Of course I've had the Borat conversation with him. Evidently their country at first hated that Borat claimed to be from Kazakhstan, but decided in the end that it was good for tourism. (Evidently it put them on the map).

Among all of these ethnicities, I feel decidedly un-exotic. That's surprising, because usually I feel pretty foreign being the only American among all Koreans. Let me give you an example. One night our Korean teacher told us to bring a food or drink native to our home country. The man from Venezuela brought a rum/brandy/congnac made in his country, a man from Kazakhstan brought these chocolate-covered dates with Russian writing on the wrapper, and I brought Dunkin Donuts.

Another interesting tidbit~ the man from Venezuela is actually a famous singer in his country! He brought in his album and let us listen to it. His name is Julio Ceasar Gonzalez. Cool. You should hear the stories I tell them about what I used to be in video just hasn't been released yet.

Anyway, it's pretty cool meeting and interacting with all of these amazing diplomats! How much Korean I learn is secondary...I'm here to socialize, not LEARN! The pictures are from a Korean culture cooking class. We learned how to make "Chap Chae" (a noodle dish). It was fun!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Korea's Britney Spears?

So I recently found out that one of the most famous Korean pop stars, Lee Hyori, attends the university I teach at. She's even a Communication major (my department). Exciting!

What does this mean for me, you ask? Perhaps a brush with fame. Maybe she'll see me and want a foreigner for her new video. Or a foreign friend. Or maybe she'll just walk past me. Whatever.

Last year when I arrived in Korea, one of her songs, "Anyclub" was really popular and I liked it, so I started checking out what else she sings. I guess you could say she's the Britney Spears of Korea. She even covers one of Britney's songs ('Get Ya').

Just thought I'd share some exciting news and a small part of Korean pop culture. Here's the video of "Anyclub", if you're interested. Culture yourselves, people! For the dudes who are reading this, watch the video. She's pretty hot.
And if I see her on campus, I'll give her a shout-out for you.
Lee Hyori. I'm pretty sure this photo wasn't taken in class.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Manila and Palawan

My trip to the Philippines was amazing in many ways. I think the best way to go about explaining it to you is in highs and lows.

We danced and drank all night with "little people" at the Hobbit House in Manila. It's a bar that's modeled after "The Shire" from Lord of the Rings, complete with a complete staff of "hobbits".

We were upgraded from a beach cottage to "the Villa" (one and only) on Sangat Island. Our 3-story villa was made out of all natural materials found on the island, had 3 hammocks on the porch, and our shower was a cave! Did I mention we had our own private beach?

We did in fact see monkeys. They even took over our porch for awhile. Geoff was surrounded by about 10 of them at one point, but luckily they were nice enough monkeys to back off.

Kayaks were included with our villa (since there are no roads or motorized vehicles on the islands-only walking paths and the ocean). We snorkeled, relaxed in natural hotsprings, took boat rides to neighboring islands (one of which had a freshwater lake!), and napped in hammocks. Truly paradise.

The weather in Manila was crap. It rained most of the time. Dirty, dirty rain.

Manila was very dangerous. The gap between the rich and the poor is astounding.

We all got sick at some point. I thought it could be malaria (there is a risk of that). But I was wrong. So technically, this could go in the "high" section.

We had some transportation issues. Almost missed our once a day island flight (14 row plane) and our jeepney (cross between a bus and a jeep) ride through semi-flooded dirt roads was terrifying.

Overall, the trip was fantastic. I would recommend going to Palawan, and specifically Sangat Island. It is very eco-friendly, and not overrun by tourists. There are only 11 cottages on the entire island, and the staff was amazing. Their motto was "Anything is possible". I don't normally say this, because there are too many places I want to travel to, but I plan on going back.

These were the boats that we traveled in. I'm the boat model. Yikes. That pose isn't going to sell anything.
Monkey business on our porch! (you may have to double-click and enlarge the image to see the little guys)
A view of our villa, private beach, and kayaks! This was taken from a stilted over-water walkway used to reach our beach.
Our villa up-close.
Dancin' with a hobbit...just another Saturday night in Manila.
Geoff and I showing off our mad kayaking skills!
Courtney and I taking a shower in our "grotto" after a long day of relaxing.