Sunday, February 19, 2006

Lizards on the wall!

I arrived in Kuala Lumpur! On the 18th, met Moolz at the airport and took a cab to Regent Hotel, which was totally amazing. Had a view of the twin towers. My first impression of KL: "And I thought Korea was ghetto!" Theres tons of abandoned buildings and construction; they start buildings and run out of money to finish. We ordered some cheese spring rolls and chicken kababs with peanut sauce, cucumber and white carrot, for room service. Then met up with Ming and her brother Li Ern the next morning.

We walked around downtown, went to Penang market where all the fake goods are. Went to a temple, with multiple buddhist statues, kids splashing their faces with holy water, and a tortoise pond. Went to the museum and saw the bikes the Japanese army rode on to conquer Malaysia. Saw a bike race, and stood at the gate of the King's Palace. The current king is near the end of his 5 year reign. There are 14 provinces in Malaysia and the king rotates from province to province. We went for noodles at a small outdoor place that had lizards climbing all over the wall. Apparently their tails come off if you grab them, and they grow new tails. The food is the best I've ever tasted, and also the cheapest. The weather is also the bestest. I think I want to move here.

We came back to Ming's aunt and uncles' place and went swimming in the pool. Their apartment is more like a resort! It's next to a big tropical rainforest interspersed with palm trees. There may be an occasional monkey or two in it. After dinner at an outdoor patio, we came back in a tropical thunderstorm with huge pellets of rain. We watched from the balcony as the palm trees swayed in the sheets of rain below us and lightning lit up the city.

Everyone here speaks a mixture of 5 languages. They switch from language to language in mid-sentence! English, Mandarin, Cantonese, Malay and Fokkien. Julian can talk to locals here in Cantonese. It's a heavily Muslim city too. There are hoses in the public washrooms for Muslims to wash themselves before praying. Ming said the population is 60% Muslim, 30% Chinese, 10% East Indian. People are friendly here, and really forward salespeople. Gonna go shower now and climb 200 steps to see a cave with monkeys in them.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Weekend Report

This weekend, went to Korean class Sat AM. It was pretty advanced; I told the sungsaynim I will return on March 18th, when the new class starts. Went for bokimbap with some of the weigooks after, which was pretty ironic considering Brent wasn't even there (It's sort of a running joke that he's dragged them there so many times, he made them sick of bokimbap). Susan's in her late 40's and teaches in a remote village, I think called Changnyeong. It's an hour south by bus. Mora, in her mid 30's, teaches at Moondong, which is my school's competition. Daniel, who is 30, teaches adults. He mentioned that it's not quite as gravy as one would imagine. The students can be feisty; one girl argued with him and ran out. Or they can be quiet and shy and not want to participate at all. Today is the full moon festival. Susan told us about this mountain there that's currently on fire there today and all through the night. They are burning off the overabundance of azaleas, but Koreans also gather on the mountain to watch, eat snacks, and celebrate. They also eat a special '5-grain rice.'

Then Monica and I met up for shopping! We did some serious damage at Debec Department Store. I got a jean skirt, a black top and a camisole. They all look pretty basic for the amount spent, but they'll last a long time. Monica got this really nice beige pencil skirt from the same store. We share a really similar taste in fashion. After, we went for some dolsot beef and seafood udon. Then I went home and stayed up till 4 am watching episodes of Lost. Lost is probably my all-time favorite TV show. It is also F*D up, and that's why I like it so. I'd compare it to the likes of Memento and Being John Malkovich, two of my favorite movies.

Sunday morning (this morning) I slept in and was late meeting up with Pill Ku. He lives in Gyongsam, close to Yeongnam University, where he and his gf study. He has never been outside of Korea and has never had a foreigner friend... until I stopped him on the street for directions! Kim Pill made a traditional Korean lunch with lotus root, 3 types of kimchi, bulgalbi, good-health bean sauce, rice, chamchi (tuna), glutunous rice balls, and these really interesting nut-like objects that he said are good for your stomach, and also are part of the 5-grain rice ingredients.

We traded English / Korean lessons, did some norebang, and then rode his motorcycle to his dad's workplace (his dad manufactures window frames). It's cool because motorcycle laws are much more lax here; you can weave in and out of traffic, make turns that would be illegal back home, and pass cars on the shoulder. My knees were nearly scraped off as we squeezed through traffic. We went by some humungous, neatly stacked piles of shrubbery, some of which were being lit on fire, probably for the moon festival. People milled about, flying old-fashioned kites. Then Kim Pill stopped and asked if I wanted to go slow, or fast. FAST!!!!! I said, and we reached a nice healthy 147 km/h on an open stretch of countryside, with brown, sunny mountains all around. There was a small cat at his dad's company that was so docile, you could pick it up by the scruff of it's neck or pretty much any body part and it kept purring.

I was going to go shopping downtown again tonight for the trip next weekend, but I was too tired, and by the time I woke up the stores were closed. So I'm just staying in to pack and watch more Lost. Brent just got back from Seoul with his gf. They went to club M2 and danced on the stage all night! Woo!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


Success! Korea as a collective is teaching me how to salsa! This adventure is definitely worthy of a blog entry. About 4 months ago I made a post on Dave's ESL cafe asking if anyone knew of places offering salsa lessons in Daegu. Someone responded with info on a few clubs, but due to a repetitive barrage of sickness the past few months, I had to keep postponing investigation. Lo, I am well now. So after my last class at 7:30 today, I beelined over to Kyungpook National University via subway for the 8:00 salsa lesson. When I got there, I called the nightclub's number for further directions, as they supposedly could speak English. Nada... the guy eventually hung up on me. So I wandered outside looking for the major intersection, resigned to the fact that I might not find the club for a while. Then I started asking random passerby. They were very helpful, and one of them even offered to escort me all the way to the club.

On the way there, I found out my kind escort's name was Kim Pill Ku, and his nickname/English name was 'Feel Good,' as it sounds like Pill Ku. Feel Good is my age, and a Seoul resident currently studying at Yongnam University here in Daegu. We had a good laugh about how he was giving me the 'Feel Good Tour.' Feel Good even called the club and asked them in Korean how to get there. We exchanged #'s and are going to meet up to exchange language lessons this weekend. So I got to the club, and it was a cozy little thing in the middle of nowhere. I peeked in the room and saw a couple clusters of older Koreans (Age 30-40) standing around. It looked pretty dead.

Of course, they all stared as I walked in, wondering how on earth a lone weigook got so lost as to find her way into such a remote club. I wasn't sure if the class had already finished or hadn't yet started, as it was so dead. But I waited around, twiddling my thumbs, and then a few more people trickled in until there were maybe 25 in total, and dancing commenced at 8:30. A cool lady in her mid-30's named Genie grabbed me and started coaching me on the forward/backwards basic. Holy crap, was I ever off! What I've been practicing on my own has been devoid of a whole bunch of little nuances.. so much so, that what they were doing looked completely different.

I can tell that they are very good dancers though, as they pay attention to every little detail. They even corrected me on the exact same problems that Diego (salsa instructor in Vancouver) tried so hard to fix. For example, when I do the forward/backwards basic, I don't put enough weight onto the feet moving forwards and backwards. After Genie left, another guy, 'glasses guy,' grabbed me, and tutored me for an hour, mostly on doing the underarm turn. I couldn't sit down for long without somebody else pulling me up to dance. Some of them even danced meringue with me. When I went to Mesa Luna last year, this old Latin guy had danced meringue with me for the first time. I thought he was a crazy weirdo, because the dance basically consisted of rapidly shuffling your feet in one spot, and doing multiple twists and turns in slow motion.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the exact same dance exists 9000 kilometres away on the other side of the world, so Mr. Old Guy at Mesa Luna, I'm sorry I doubted your sanity. The dance is still ridiculous though. When I left at 11, everyone was still dancing.

On the way back home, on our block, I ran into one of the ladies who serves us Galbi. The really nice smiley one with curly long hair. She came over and said hi... I discovered she lives pretty much across the street from us! Anyway, I'd say it's been one successful night! Salsa lessons are Tues / Thurs, so I might just head over there again this week.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Two-headed baby

This two-headed baby got me thinking. I printed out the article and gave it to my oldest class to read today. Basically, the baby was born with an extra head that could smile, suck a pacifier and blink independently of the other head. But it was taking a toll on the first baby's heart so the surgeons chopped off the 'parasite' head when the baby was around a year old, to give the original baby a better chance to live. Did they kill a second person in the process? I think they did. It had no body, but I'm pretty sure it was still a person. How sad and horrifying for the poor bodyless head.

Itinerary - SE asia

Here's the fairly finalized itinerary for our Malaysia trip, which has changed a lot since it's initial draft, so much so that it now includes a 3-day package tour to Thailand.

18 Feb Arrive in KL, stay at Regent Hotel.
19 Feb Kuala Lumpur- Ming's aunt's house
20 Feb Kuala Lumpur
21 Feb Fly to up to Phuket
22 Feb Phi Phi
23 Feb Fly Phuket back down to KL
24 Feb Kl, drive up to Penang by car-4 hr scenic drive ;)
25 Feb Penang to Alor Star (aka Alur Setar aka Ming's hometown) back down to KL by flight

Penang is the little island off the coast of Kedah, under the 'Alur Setar' script.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Latin moves, Hangul grooves

I've been constantly dreaming of doing salsa again ever since I picked it up briefly a year ago. I miss it SO SO SO much. Salsa is mesmerizingly beautiful, evocative, and highly addictive. So I found a cool website with animated gif's to dust off those rusty moves.

So far, I tackled:

1. Forward / backward basic

2. Sideways basic

3. Underarm turn

4. Backbreak to inside turn - I had trouble with this the first time I learned it as well as when relearning it. Basically, you do a sideways basic and then pivot two times, first, 45 degrees, and then 180 degrees, so that you are facing you are facing to the right of where you where facing when you first started.

5. Cross body lead - this is one of the easiest moves, it starts with a forward/backward basic, and then you pivot 180 degrees on your left foot to end up facing the opposite direction (trading places with your partner).

On Tues night I'm going to check out this place called Babalu's that apparently has salsa lessons. I called them on Lunar New Years and they were, of course, closed, but said lessons were on Tuesday. But on Tuesday I had to fill in an extra lesson for an absent teacher (gahh that's one thing I won't miss about Korea.. unpaid short notice overtime!) and I missed the lesson. So hopefully this week I'll be able to get to the club.

Brent, my new roommate*, is currently creating an awesome loop of music that is facilitating the salsa-relearning process. He basically took an ugly sounding tune, played it backwards so that it sounds like space-age middle eastern music, made the volume fade in and out, and layered it on top of drums. I think he's adding vocals now. Sounds really neat.

In addition to picking up salsa again, I also officially started Korean classes. On the way there, an ajoshi (older Korean man) fell on me going up the escalator, bruising my knee, but thankfully he chose my buff biceps to fall into, and we all escaped relatively unscathed. The classes are definitely worth getting up early on Saturday mornings for. The ratio is 3 teachers for 7 students! I learned a lot about numbers and we acted out buying/selling scenerios. The classes are so helpful, I'm a little disappointed I'll have to miss three weeks worth of them coming up!

Anyway, back to to check out some more moves.

*Ryan and Brent switched places so the former can live with his best friend, Richard, who has been summoned to teach at our school.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Say Bong Mani Badosayo! (Happy Lunar New Year)

Hello loyal blog readership of two! Yeah, I guess nothing big enough to warrant a blog entry has happened as of late. Last weekend was Lunar New Years, though, and two interesting feats were accomplished. First, I ate bundeggi (silkworm larvae). It was actually more tasty than not, and I ate about a dozen! For the curious-minded, they didn't taste 'insecty' like other foreigners have mentioned, and I didn't notice any 'gooey bubble-gum' texture either. They simply tasted like mild nuts or tofu marinated in soy sauce.

I think they were good because everything else on the table wasn't that appetizing.

In the top left is the ultra-hot dukbulgi (you can tell by the ultra-red sauce). In the bottom right is some kind of weird egg custard jello that isn't sweet. In the middle are boiled mussels. They were okay. The other dishes were like cold seafood cakes. We also went hiking up the mountain behind my coworker's house, and did some tight-rope walking near buddha. Pics in flickr.

And the second big feat was.. *drumroll*

I learned the Korean alphabet in under 4 hours! Now I can pronounce (in a heavy Canadian accent) almost every Korean word in print! It's really quite thrilling to be able to read every sign out there. Of course, I don't understand what most of it means, but I can pick out some words. I never imagined that it would be so easy to read an asian language.

Yeah, work has been a bit of a drag the past few days. Due to the oversight of a sister school which let three teachers go without finding replacements, some deal between the educational gods (ie. various directors) has been cracked, which involves pimping me out to said sister school for three days this week. Due to aforementioned oversight, I've had to do lesson plans at my own school, then take a 45 minute cabride over to the sister school, do lesson plans there, and teach their classes. Today, my first four classes were great, but the last two were devil spawn. They made me want to break things. Instead, it is just my voice that is breaking, like a 12 year old boy's. :|

At least the weather here has been phenomenal. It's been mostly sunny (as sunny as a smoggy asian city can get), and I think it's rained a total of 4 times since I arrived! Best of all, it's been around 5-10 degrees in the daytime. No more -10 degrees. BLISS.

<3 Peace and Love, Daddios.