Monday, May 29, 2006

Russia (and Korea) need more Faggotry.

"Russia needs some faggotry," writes Bryanboy, host of the token gay blog on my sidebar links, .

Indeed, I have just been eating my dinner tonight, minding my own business, when two anti-gay news news clippings coincidentally sailed my way. The first was this gem Ryan found in the Seoul Times. I normally don't write about political or human rights issues because they make people hate each other and argue, and make my head hurt. (I prefer to wrap my head around deeper, more pressing issues like what Victoria Beckham is wearing and what brand of Swiffers to buy). But this article is so blatantly... fabricated and bigoted, to put it nicely, that it deserves a mention.

"Some women who have a domineering father will only be attracted to those of their own sex because they have learned not to respect men. The same is true of some men who have a domineering mother. Others, should one of their parents/guardians not truly love them, from a very early age may unconsciously imitate certain masculine or feminine characteristics of the parent/guardian that they most admired."

Where are the footnotes to show what study these hailed from? Oh, right, Vincent Bemowski - Writer (U.S. Politics & World Affairs) & Webmaster of Catholic Messages USA - wrote the article. He is a Writer and Webmaster with capital W's, so those credentials alone should be enough to substantiate his hypothesis. Plus, with gays ' frequently attacking' the Catholic Church, I don't think Mr. Bemowski has time to commit to any formal studies as he busily dodges flying bullets.. and AIDS-filled syringes.

Next, I hopped over to Bryanboy's site to see that Moscow's first gay pride parade has been botched by "some 100 religious zealots and nationalists who, according to the AP, kicked and punched the marchers."

I guess the paraders should be glad they aren't in Iran, where they'd be hung from gallows. (Remember these boys from last year?)

Apartheid ended merely 51 years ago when Rosa Parks refused to sit at the back of the bus. Apartheid makes a great example, because the religious right was also very slow to denounce racial segregation. For example, my dad went to Bob Jones University in the late 70's. Almost 25 years after Rosa Parks had glued her hiney down to the seat, this university from the fundamentalist, religious right still forbade black people from registering as student. It also forbade interracial dating.

Thankfully, my dad didn't hold the same values. In 1982, the year my little interracial self was born, the Supreme Court ruled against Bob Jones University, but the university "refused to reverse its interracial dating policy, choosing instead to pay a million dollars in back taxes (Wikipedia)." It was only in the year 2000 that BJU reversed it's interracial dating policy, after a battle on Larry King Live. But only because it's moved on to newer battles.

"In October, 1998 the Associated Press reported that "Bob Jones University has a message for gay alumni: Stay away or be arrested." The administration partially retracted the ban after realizing that the policy could jeopardize the tax exempt status of its on-campus art museum (Wikipedia). "

Alas.. I hate to dredge this one out of the shadows, but it serves a point here: I also happened to spend the academic year of 2000-2001 at a religious university in Canada. Not only did I witness a ton of anti-gay sentiment (along with knowledge that a thriving, underground gay community existed on the campus- they would often butt heads with the religious right in the school paper via extremely long anonymous debates), but I also befriended one of the campus's only black students.

Her flatmates, about 5 girls from the U.S. - wonderful, shining Christians on the outside - were racist on the inside, making her do all the housework like a slave and at one point locking her out of her own house while they laughed inside. They called her a 'nigger' when they thought she was out of earshot. I met these people.. they are the lingering embers last century's human rights movement failed to douse.

So, as you can see, religious folk and the fundamentalist right will slowly catch on to things and grow accepting of others in due time.. one issue at a time.. but in the meantime, countless people will continue to be hurt, denied human rights, and killed.

For those who are hovering between both stances (pro-gay and anti-gay) I highly recommend reading The Chrysalids by John Windham, a book I read in grade 10, and which I'm re-reading now. It has nothing to do with the gay rights movement. Rather, it is a warning about what happens when humans create categories for groups of people who are 'deviations' from the 'natural, God-ordained' race. It can be applied to Auschwitz, Blacks, Homosexuals, The Disabled, The Elderly.. just about anyone who has ever been treated unfairly in history.

Okay, back to the regular 'Yay I ate kimchi' entries tomorrow, I promise.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Seoul and Pusan - Long Entry, Watch Out!

Been a little slow uploading pics, but better late than never!

The first set is here. Sera is a friend from Vancouver who has been studying there for 4 or 5 years. She comes back to Seoul every year to visit, so we met up for a long weekend. It was especially interesting to stay with a Korean family and see Korea through the eyes of someone who grew up there.

One of the coolest experiences was going to the wholesale clothing locations near Dongdaemun. Sera's mom runs a men's wear retail store in a mall, so we met up with her at 3 am and spent several hours following her around and carrying stuff while she bought thousands of dollars worth of summer clothing. Some of the wholesale buildings where overwhelming, with store owners haggling prices and checking off long lists. Business moved much more quickly than in retail stores, and clothes were taken outside in garbage bags and left unattended in long lines, waiting for buses and trucks to take them to smaller cities. Equally fascinating was how the wholesalers slept on small pieces of wood and mats, amongst their clothes. They had TV's, water, bright fluorescent lights shining on them, and an old lady came around selling kimbap. They would never get a full night's sleep, as the wholesale buildings are open 24 hours, and retailers would wake them up for service.

Lady sleeping amongst her clothes. Unfortunately we woke her up laughing about something unrelated:

The next day we went to Everland, Seoul's biggest amusement park. We were the biggest kids there, and I think we did just about everything.. popcorn, cotton candy, safari busride through lion and bear infested areas, seal show, ferris wheel, bumper cars, roller coaster, Europe-land, etc etc.

Later, we drove an hour and a half north to the mountains in Chil Cheung, to visit Sera's parents' hobby farm. Sera's dad is a chief of police in Seoul, but he spends his weekends developing the farm with plans to retire there. When they first bought the land, it was nothing more than a side of a mountain. They cut down the trees and created three layers; the top for a house, the middle for a pool, and the last for the garden. Sera's dad planted many pine trees, which are dug up and sold for $50,000 when they are big. We had pork (galbi), beef (sulgogi) and eel, barbequed on some rock slabs on top of a barrel, overlooking the valley. "Every Korean's dream," said Sera's mom via translation, "is to have their own piece of land to farm."

I used to think Sera was feisty, but her mom is even feistier. When she's not busy pumping merchandise out of her shop, she's off hangliding in Thailand while her husband scuba-dives. She even taught us how to play a Korean gambling game called Go Stop. We took this game to the local Jim Jil Bang (a public bathhouse/sauna/massage/gym with a giant TV room where people all sleep communally on the floor on mats), and played for a few minutes until the staff made us fold it up (apparently it's illegal for Koreans to gamble).

The Jim Jil Bang was a neat experience. Basically, you change into some prisoner garb and then sit in one of several saunas. Each sauna is different. The first one was dome shaped and had amethyst and other semi-precious stones completely blanketing the walls. You feel like Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves, when they discover the pile of loot in the cave... the whole room sparkles in the dim light. White rocks of salt are on the ground, and you can bury yourself in them for extra heat induction. The next sauna had straw mats and different rocks on the walls, and the last one, a 'traditional' Korean sauna, had a clay floor and clay walls with etchings, and red lights. Then we had some cooling barley drink, and sat on the floor amongst the dozens of sleeping people, while the TV played a documentary on bullying.

Overall, I was sad to have to return to Daegu, but hey, at least Daegu is in between Seoul and Pusan. This weekend, several of us headed down to Pusan to sit on Haeundae beach, check out a casino and stroll though downtown. Pics here. Also checked out Poetry Plus at the Monk Jazz Club again.

One guy told this story of how he was Nirvana's #1 fan and went to a zillion of their concerts. One day, he was in the supermarket and Kurt Cobain was nearby. He and his friends acted nonchalant and as musicians themselves, ignored Kurt as a common courtesy. Then Courtney Love came over and said to the guy "I'll pay you $5 if you go over there and ask Kurt if he's the lead singer of Alice in Chains. Meet me in the produce section." So he did. Kurt looked at him with big blue wounded eyes and asked "What's your name?" The guy told him, then ran off to the produce section, where he recounted Kurt's reaction to Courtney, who laughed her ass off. The guy felt he had done a horrible thing, especially when he really thought Kurt was God. Two weeks later Kurt committed suicide, and the guy wondered, "How many other people did Courtney pay $5 to f*** with him?"

Here's what English teachers do on their free time.. they insult each other using the most grammatically incorrect English possible:

On Haeundae beach, we happened upon some surfers, whom I asked whether there was a surf school nearby. Apparently there is, so I think I will be heading back to surf. Thank goodness! :D

Monday, May 15, 2006

Happy Teacher's Day!

Two holidays we don't have in Canada are Children's Day and Teacher's Day. Today was Teacher's Day, and also coincidentally Mother's day back home. We didn't get the day off like most of the other schools, but we got spoiled with tons of gifts from the kids. My loot included:

+ starbucks travel mug and coffee gift cert
+ 14 k gold earrings (!!)
+ mother of pearl letter opener
+ cake, rice pastries
+ box of exquisitly decorated little heart-shaped cakes
+ darjeeling tea
+ socks
+ hand lotion
+ pantyhose
+ Pepperidge farm cookies
+ cutely scrawled notes and cards from the preschoolers (aww!)

Not too shabby!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Mr. Mole and the Pile of Poo.

Koreans seem to have quite the obsession with poo. We took the preschool kids on a fieldtrip to a local bookstore last week. Many the books seemed to be about poo.

This is my favorite one.. I returned today to buy it for a friend's upcoming birthday, as we both enjoy discussing poo from time to time. For example, did you know that sesame oil is a natural laxative? Anyway, check it out:

>> By clicking this link heeeere <<

Thursday, May 11, 2006

World Cup Stadium

Went to World Cup Stadium in Daegu for a preschool fieldtrip and I got sunburned today!

Maaaan. One of our coworkers, Richard, is in the hospital hooked up to I.V. now, with pneumonia. I totally didn't see that one coming. I'm still polishing off my 10-day dose of antibiotics for my own infected tonsils which are doing MUCH better. I had to beg the doctor for a 10-day dosage.. he originally gave me TWO days! I don't understand Korea and it's insistence on short doses of antibiotics.... Ryan's in Japan now, and with Richard gone for a week, it's just Brent and I holding down the fort at work(with a lot of help from the Korean teachers too).

These cartoons by a guy on Dave's ESL cafe crack me up:

(FYI: 'Waegook' means foreigner)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Cuteness and not so cute.

Check out my cute new student! Just kidding. Who he be? He be cuteness personified! Here's a story to go with the pic:

Moolz grew up with his grandma, who doesn't speak English. So he learned Cantonese before he learned English. On the first day of kindergarten, he didn't know what the heck anyone was saying, so he got up and walked home. That's Moolz.. taking no BS, since kindergarten!

Last night, I found this on the wall by my bed.

I put my heroic roommate to work catching it. They have this uncanny feature whereby they let a few legs fall off when you try and catch them. The legs wiggle wildly on their own to distract you from harming the centipede. I didn't see, but Brent said the legs were sticking on my wall, wiggling more than he's ever seen legs wiggle. :( Needless to say I didn't sleep much last night.

PS. Goat farm ideas postponed till I'm a rich middleager. I think I will start fashion design!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

I need a new career!

I need a new career. Part of the intended purpose of coming to Korea was to think seriously about what career path to take. Well I have been thinking seriously the whole year, reading books and googling jobs, asking around and starting over from scratch. I want to for once wake up in the morning and be EXCITED about my job, not just be able to tolerate it. And not even just 'enjoy' it. Right now I enjoy my job, but I'm definitely not EXCITED to go do it.

Here is the list of stuff I've considered this year:

Bath and body product retailer
Fashion design
Mini landscape design
Human Resources
Graphic Design
Park Ranger
Children's book author
Elementary school teacher
ESL college teacher

This is only the tip of the iceberg of things I've considered. And right now? I'm reading up on organic farming, particularly starting a goat cheese farm. It would be perfect.. I like goats, I like goat cheese, I would prefer not working with people, I like working outside, and I like making stuff. The downside is, there aren't too many goat cheese farms in Vancouver to practice on before I save up an inordinate sum of money to start my own.

This is ridiculous.. 3.5 months left and I still haven't decided what I want to do when I return. I don't want to end up doing some boring office job I hate again. :(

I want to do something challenging, preferably in the great outdoors! :)
Any ideas? Then.. please for the love of all things fuzzy and cute, leave a comment.