Recent Blog Posts
by Pablo Harris
Doesn’t take long, living here in the ROK, before you get used to the same mundane questions from the natives. Before you just tune them out altogether. At least my first year, years ago out in the sticks, many brief interrogations/conversations went something like this:
“Ah, nice to meet you. Where you from?”
“Ooohhhh! But you have dark hair, dark eye?”
Yeah, well there’s many different kinds of people there from all over the world. Have you ever been to LA? There are many people there that look like you. And they’re Californian, many American too.
“Ah, Koreatown, LA. Good?”
Yeah, I like it.
“You can eat spicy food? You like kimchi?”
Yes. I like it very much.
“Good! Hmm, how old are you?”
“Why no marry?”
Uh, well, that’s a long story, I guess.
“Ah, ok! Playboy, one shot!”
Ha! Thanks. Gambae!
This year, though, over the last month there’s a new question that has popped up nightly. This time not from a local but from some friendly waygukin:
“Hey Pablo, hope you don’t mind me asking, I know you’re American but still. Got to ask. Who do you root for in the World Cup? What if USA is playing Mexico?”
No, I don’t mind . . .
* * *
TJB, a tall, tanned Polish gypsy who was a beast of a sous chef I once worked with before I left for Korea, came over to pick up some equipment leftover from a basement indoor farming project I once had in Sactown. TJB saw this picture on my fridge.
“That’s you, Slippery?”
Yeah, that’s me and my grandfather outside his house between Hanford and Corcoran.
After a high-pitched donkey bray and whistle, he howls, “Yeah, I know that dust! I come down sometimes for the midget car races out on the Kings County Raceway. That’s you, you little little? (Another donkey bray), I know that dust.”
There’s a kind of dust and desolation you only find along California 43 that connects the mighty 99 of the Central Valley with Interstate 5 from Vancouver to Tijuana. On the northern end just south of Fresno, William Saroyan country, The Human Comedy, veer right at Selma, the Raisin Capital of the World, down 98 miles to the west end of Buck Owens Blvd. and downtown Bakersfield. Right smack in the middle, exactly 200 miles south of San Francisco, 200 miles south of Sacramento, 200 miles north of Los Angeles, you’ll find where I’m from: Corcoran, California.
My first home was Corcoran. Now if it’s known for anything at all it’s just because of the maximum security prison there that’s been housing Charles Manson since 1991. But back then, it was called the Cotton Capital of California, a one-stoplight town of about 2000 people where at least 1900 of them were Mexican, where Ceasar Chavez is still both celebrated and reviled. Of those remaining who weren’t Mexican, Mojado, or Wetback, they were either the descendents of Dust Bowl Okies and Arkies or the progeny of the Boswells and Gilkeys who once owned all the water rights, all this land, owned all the pickers (both human and mechanical), and all the cropdusters and a couple of personal planes out at the slip and slide spit of an airport. Though it’s a good two and a half hour drive to the Central Coast, the dust is like sand from the beach: you can’t ever fully rinse off from it.
Fortunately, I grew up thirty miles east of all my Mexi-kin in, compared to the other valley towns, the posh big city of Visalia. Population of 50,000 on the eastern edge of the San Joaquin Valley in the windward shadows of sunrise below Sequoia National Park and John Muir Wilderness. It was a reversal of where I was born; everyone was white except for the Northside of town redolent with taquerias, panaderias, and wafting skunky schwag. But I’m not a Norteno.
Being on the westside in the new subdivision of Crestwood, there’s one question that annoyed me until my end of days there:
“What are you? “
“No, I mean, what are you? What kind of American are you?”
I’m American. Ok, really, I’m Californian.
“No, I mean, where is your family from?”
My parents were born in California. My grandparents were born here, too.
“No, I mean, are you Spanish, Mexican, Chinese, I don’t know, what are you?
Well, I guess, my parents and grandparents speak both Spanish and English but I can’t speak Spanish. My great-grandparents, grandparents, and, at times, even my parents have all had to pick cotton at some point. But I ain’t doing that. I had my baptism and first communion at St. Mary’s but I’m no longer going to Catechism. Sure, we eat enchiladas and tamales for Christmas but you’re never going to find a better turkey and stuffing for Thanksgiving than my mom’s.
“Hahaha, I heard that about your mom. I heard that she’s good for stuffing .”
Fuck you, Matt.
“Haha, Paul, come on, it’s a joke. Speaking of jokes, I got one. Why do Mexicans eat tamales for Christmas?”
I don’t know.
“So you have something to unwrap.”
Fuck off, Scott.
* * *
Come middle school, high school, there’s a different kind of awareness and identity that I was confronted with on a daily basis. Outside the boys bathroom was an intimidating wall of bussed-in vatos and cholos that made us evade their gambit and their epithets, such as pocho (English-speaking Mexican), maricon (gay),or joto (faggot), just to take a leak. Later in college, girls from La Raza would call me a coconut (brown on the outside, white inside) or a Mexican’t (can’t speak Spanish, can’t play soccer, and certainly cannot dance).
* * *
With the U.S. hosting the 1994 World Cup, my identity and rooting interest was definitely questioned. Do I root for my home country with the presidential looks of Captain John Harkes and a footballing version of Grateful Red Alexi Lalas (who I swear I once got two ganja gooballs and a miracle from outside of Shoreline Amphitheater before a kind Touch of Grey opener)? Or do I root for Mighty Mouse in goal in Jorge Campos and the cagey veteran of Marcelino Bernal, especially with Bernal being a family name? I chose to don the jersey of El Tri. Tired of the insults and somehow being an inferior American because of my skin, I wanted to see some brown people victorious over the honkies. Before Jorge Campos, all we had as Mexican-American or Mexican heroes was Pancho Gonzales and Fernando Valenzuela. Though Mexico was certainly better in soccer, we still feel like an underappreciated, undervalued, underdog versus America, especially on their home turf. Therefore, Viva Mexico!
This continued on through the Campos, ‘El Matador’ Luis Hernandez, and Rafael Marquez (a true captain for life). But really, at an English pub on Koh Samui there to watch the 2009 Confederations Cup semi-final of U.S. against Spain, the switch was flipped.
A local who saw me watching the game with great interest (me being a Tim Howard/Everton fan) approached me and asked,
“Where are you from?”
Uhh, hmm, I guess I’m Mexican but I’m from California?
“Ah, hmm. Ok. But where are you from? Are you from Mexico?”
Uhh, no. I’m from the States.
“Is your passport from Mexico?”
No, I have an American passport.
“Well then, that’s it, you are American.”
* * *
Growing up, somehow, I could never feel American. Or Mexican, for that matter. It wasn’t until I got to Asia did I truly feel American. Now, I’m perceived and understood as American. What’s your passport? American. No more questions asked.
Furthermore, as Mr. Motgol has described the plight of many, some of us wash up on these kimchi shores looking for something better, something they just couldn’t find in their hometown, or (for many) just an opportunity to start over after all the shortcomings, failings, and inability to cut it back home. But I don’t know about that. For this California Vato in King Joseon’s Court, I simply no longer have to answer the question what are you? I’m American. Love it or leave it. Or maybe some of both.
Also, being from Red-State California, it wears on you and I knew I had to leave from a very early age. I knew there was a whole different country out there, different world, out of the valley, back then when all that mattered was Pop Warner football or Future Farmers of America. Hard Rock Cafe t-shirts, Wranglers, or Guess Jeans; it was all about Soashes and Shit-kickers. Perhaps I just wanted to go someplace where status is not determined by how big is your ranch, your ski cabin in the sierras, or the size of your speedboat. That it really doesn’t matter how many acres, horses, pick-ups, or Mexicans your family owns.
There’s also the fact that I’m allergic to dust. Right between Waukena, population 108, and Corcoran, is the cemetery. My great-grandparents from my maternal side are buried there. My grandparents from both sides rest there. There is also my Uncle Larry, my nino (Godfather), my Uncle Fernando, my Aunt Cecelia, my Uncle Ee-Dee-Wah (a name he picked up from the Korean War), my cousin Racquel who is even younger than me, other Mexi-kin I’ve only heard of but don’t really know. I’m allergic to that dust. But one day, I probably will return there. Should return there. I hope to return to that dust. But Inshallah, God willing, not today.
Being enough of an idealist to want to instil a sense of empowerment in my students, along with ownership of their own learning, I’ve been carrying out periodic learning reviews during this semester. These have basically asked students to reflect on their learning and my teaching and the results - whilst undoubtedly valuable - have also been apt to bring me down a peg or six at times. There was the kid who just scrawled TOO DIFFICULT all over his paper, or (worse) the one that wrote ‘I’m so sad I can’t speak to my friends in your class, because your class is too hard to me ㅠㅠ’. ‘ㅠㅠ’ are characters in the Korean alphabet used to represent crying eyes, and in this particular instance they initiated the appropriate response in me.
The reviews led to me jigging and re-jigging lesson plans to match the hugely varied needs of classes that include bilingual students, those who struggle to string a sentence, and those of every ability between. I definitely felt, as the weeks rolled on, that this was having an effect but suffice to say my last review of the semester had me girding my loins. However, I stuck this on the board and held my breath:
The first one handed in looked like this:
Then there was this one, complimenting me on my characteristics (which are apparently ‘very gay’) and asking me to please stop one of the other teachers shouting at them because it scares them and ‘harms class’s happy mood’
This one demonstrates both my attempts at the teaching of grammar and its limits, and also pulls my heartstrings til I ㅠㅠ:
Then there’s this…just..ㅠㅠㅠㅠㅠ:
I’m giving myself precisely two more hours to leaf through them and ㅠㅠ a bit more before I hit the planning for what is cruelly termed ‘summer vacation’ and is in fact a space of time between school semesters during which students stay at school and go to extra lessons. Though Korean culture shock hasn’t been anywhere near as tough as its Chinese counterpart, I’ve had my struggles with it and I’ve certainly questioned my decision to return to East Asia at times. This makes it better, and (gushy teacher moment) reminds me precisely why I chose this job, in this place, and why I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Wanderings and Ramblings of an ESL teacher currently based in a tiny mountain town near the North Korean border.
But with so many brands and products to chose from, it can be overwhelming to know which are the best, particularly when living overseas.
Enter Memebox, a Korea-based cosmetics company that is allowing the world to experience the wonder that is K-beauty one delivery at a time.
Similar to other beauty box companies like MyGlam and Birchbox, Memebox offers shoppers a grab bag- er, box- of 4-8 sample and full sized products that are all sourced, packaged and shipped directly from Korea to over 45 countries worldwide. Although the products you receive are a surprise (with the exception of a few spoilers), the cool thing about Memebox is that you can pick from a selection of fun themes like "Traveler's Beauty Kit", "Girls' Night Out" and "Hair & Body." This helps to ensure that you receive the types of products you want.
After coming across the Memebox website recently, I knew I had to give it a try. Now, you may be thinking why would I do this when I live in Korea. I love getting mail, I love surprises, and I love trying new things so the Memebox concept is just as awesome for me as it is for all of you outside Korea.
And let me tell you how excited I was when the deliveryman rang my doorbell last week. It didn't take me long to rip open my Memebox: Scentbox #3 Grapefruit and oooooh and ahhhhh at the products inside.
The first thing I noticed was the packaging. The products were neatly placed in a girly pink box and included was an English description of each item and how to use it.
What did I get, you ask?
The first thing I opened was the Mimi Lauryne's Dress Perfume Mist de Grapefruit by Evas, a citrusy mist infused with grapefruit, lilac, orange flower, violet and must fragrances that is to be used on fabrics. At first, I was a bit confused as to why a fabric spray was included in a cosmetics box but I quickly tried it out on my bedding and hanging clothes in my closet and it instantly became my favorite item of the lot. I really love the light, refreshing scent and although I wasn't expecting a product like this, I'm sure I will use it more often than something like a hand cream. The bottle is quite large- 150ml- so it will also last me a while.
The bright pink lips on the packaging of the Sun Smile Hydro Gel Choosy Fruit lip masks caught my eye next. These gel-type lip packs are enriched with collagen, vitamin E and jojoba oil and are perfect for moisturizing your pout.
Next up was the Happy Fam Deo Fresh Grapefruit. These wipes are meant to "allow you to quickly and easily refresh your sweaty, smelly under-arms throughout the daytime," or at least that's what the description promises. Although I dare not forgo my regular deodorant in the heat of the Korean summer, these wipes are nice for freshening up on a hot day. They came in especially handy on a recent hiking trip and since their grapefruit fragrance doesn't linger, I wasn't nauseated by the smell. Also, the package is fairly small (20 wipes) so it's convenient for traveling.
The fourth and final product was the Sun Killing Grapefruit Gel (270ml) by Kael28, which is said to contain more than 16,000mg of real grapefruit extracts, functions as an all-in-one toner, emulsion, cream and sleeping pack and is suitable for both facial and body use. It's soothing properties are supposed to relieve and moisturize sun-burnt skin. Because of my ultra-fair complexion, I have to be extra cautious in the sun, but despite using sun cream, I still get burned quite frequently. So, I was happy this was included, as I'm fresh out of after-sun products. However, I found it to be slightly sticky and not necessarily as soothing as my go-to aloe, but I'm certain this product will still be a lifesaver this summer.
All in all, I was pleased with the products in my Memebox and loved the grapefruit theme... a perfect scent for summer. Also, I hadn't heard of any of these Korean brands before so it was nice to be introduced to some lesser known companies and know that if I choose to do so, I can re-order the products individually from Memebox's Memeshop. Finally, the value of the Memebox is excellent.... the combined price of all four full sized products is $52 USD so my order was quite a steal at $15 USD.
Memebox is perfect for those living abroad interested in trying out Korean cosmetics for the first time as well as for K-beauty fanatics looking to expand their collection with new brands and products.
Fortunately for Seoul Searching readers, Memebox is hooking you up with a $5.00 USD discount from now until July 31, 2014. Just use the code J0G4UJ at checkout and you'll be all set.
Although my Memebox was free in return for this post, all opinions are, of course, my own.
Words and photos by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized.
We went beach camping at DaDaePo Beach! 다대포 해수욕장으로 캠핑 갔어요!
If you’re a music lover coming to Korea, your in luck! Seoul’s music scene is alive and well. Known worldwide for K-pop, you don’t have to be a fan of this genre to enjoy the music Seoul offers. Eastern and Western talent can be enjoyed all around from venues as large as international music festivals held at huge stadiums housing tens of thousands to small dive bars found throughout the city.
On July 9th, I attended a concert at the National Theater of Korea during the Yeowoorak festival, a month long event that is reinventing traditional Korean music. This year the festival is presenting Korean music in four themes Opening, Crossover, Sensation, and Choice. The concert I attended was a crossover performance, which combined three musical acts, DJ Soulscape (Disc-Jockey), Second Session (Jazz), and SC Yun (Alternative/funk) into one performance with the underlying theme of Korean Music. Each performer is independently extremely talented. Combining their music and incorporating traditional Korean music created a show like nothing I have ever seen before.
Held in the Youth Hall, the small circle building was an ideal environment for the performance that was accompanied by a light show and video footage.
There was a constant steady beat that got audience members clapping along and dancing in their seats. The pianist of SC Yun was great fun to watch as he switched from a grand piano to synthesizer and even ran through the crowd using a melodihorn. The music at times seemed psychedelic as DJ Soulscape created new sounds, and the light show and video matched each beat. SC Yun’s unbelievably talented xylophonist performed using several mallets in each hand as Second Session’s drummer and guitarist combined Jazz music to her melody.
When I think of traditional Korean music, the first song, and one I personally love, that comes to mind is Arirang. I’ve heard this song countless time at events in Korea but never like I heard it before as the trio tackled the song first with DJ Souscape introducing the melody in the traditional form and then speeding it up to be combined with SC Yun’s synthesizer and eventually adding in Second Session’s Jazz beats. It was a show I won’t soon forget.
Prior to this performance two music events have really stood out to me. One of the first weeks I was in Korea I attended an Ecological Peace Festival at the DMZ. We stayed at a temple in Gangwon. The second night, musicians from the National Theater came and gave a performance. They used traditional Korean instruments to play both Korean and Western Music. The spring night was warm and lanterns were strung along the entirety of the small stage. As the musicians played their instruments I was absolutely blown away by their talent. Dancers came out from the temple in traditional dress and danced along the grounds, their silhouettes bounced off the temple wall. It was enchanting. My jaw dropped and eyes filled with happy tears as the sweet music echoed from the surrounding mountains. Wow!
On the complete opposite spectrum I have enjoyed Ultra Music Festival in Korea for the past two years. This two day event is held in Olympic stadium on multiple stages. World famous DJ’s showcase their talent as summer days turn into night with some of the most unbelievable mixes.
These two events were both independently amazing, and some of my favorite memories in Korea. If someone told me they could combine the performances into one spectacular show, I’d be skeptical to say the least. I was proven wrong last week when I attended the Yeoksam Music Festival at the National Theater of Korea. It was a completely new and exciting experience and I look forward to seeing the Korean music scene continue to grow while keeping it’s heritage alive.
The Yeowoorak festival is in its 5th year and runs during the entire month of July. A night at the National Theater of Korea is a real treat and the Yeoksam Music Festival has performances that can suit almost any kind of music lover.
Last year audiences filled performances to standing room only with an average seat occupancy of 121%. Generally a night at the Korean Theater comes close to breaking the bank but during the festival tickets are only 30,000 won. The deal gets even better though! As an effort to educate foreigners about Korean music a 50% discount is being offered for foreigners making the tickets just 15,000 won. So with just a few weeks left, do as I did and grab some friends, dress up and have a fun night at the National Theater! It will surely be an unforgettable experience.
For more information: www.ntok.go.kr
We have AWESOME news everyone! We have hit a milestone on our Youtube channel! If you can’t guess what it was from the title, then watch the video below!
WE HIT ONE MILLION VIEWS!
Thank you to our awesome viewers!!
We know that it doesn’t mean too much to other youtubers (I don’t see them making videos like this about a million views—it’s usually about getting a million SUBSCRIBERS), but we think it’s important to set realistic goals every year and achieve them.
Our Youtube goals for 2014
At the beginning of 2014 we set goals for our channel, and reaching 1 million views was one of them!
Also on the list:
- Reaching 5,000 subscribers
- Vlogging every day for 2 months of the year
- More collabs with fellow youtubers
- Pull the trigger on big project ideas
So far we’re making amazing progress on our yearly goals and we still have over 5 months left in 2014!
Our Most Viewed Videos
Since we’re celebrating a view count milestone, I’d like to highlight some of our most viewed videos here.
#1 Eating Live Octopus – 108,330 views
This is our most-viewed video! It’s not for those with weak hearts (or stomachs)!
#2 Clouds Timelapse – 70,599 views
Evan loves making timelapse videos. This one is from NM, and we didn’t expect it to get a lot of views at all!
#3 Street Food in Hongdae – 62,159 views
Also an old video, with our old first into! So cute! Street food + Hongdae is a golden combination, obviously.
It’s so much fun to look back at old videos and see how far we have come. We definitely couldn’t do this without you guys, so thank you again to our loyal viewers!! Here’s to another million views and many more adventures to come!
A Portrait of the monk Jinpyo.
Hello Again Everyone!!
This is the eighth installment about prominent Korean monks. This time, I thought I would talk about the famed monk, Jinpyo. Jinpyo was a consciousness-only doctrinal scholar who lived during the Unified Silla Dynasty (668-935) during the 8th century. And Jinpyo’s name, in English, means “symbol of truth.”
Jinpyo was originally from Wansanju, which is present day Jeonju. He was both a good archer and hunter as a child. According to the Goseung-jeon (“Old Monks’ Tales), and while out hunting one day as a child, he tied a frog’s legs together before heading up into the neighbouring mountains. While hunting, he completely forgot about the frog that he had tied up. A year later, he heard something crying, so he went to see what it was. Amazed, he discovered the exact same frog still tied up. As a result, and at the age of 12, Jinpyo decided to renounce the secular world and become a monk. He became a monk at Mt. Geumgangsan, and he later studied under Masters Shandao and Sengji in Tang China.
When Jinpyo finally did return to the Korean peninsula, he underwent a strict regimen of Buddhist monastic training. He did this in the form of forgetting the body. And he underwent this form of repentance at the famed Geumsansa Temple at Mt. Moaksan. Through visions of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) and Mireuk-bosal (The Future Bodhisattva), he became a devout follower of the two. He is also said to have had an encounter with Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) in 740 on Mt. Odaesan. This was then followed by an encounter with Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha) at Yeongsansa Temple after years of meditation.
After this last encounter, Jinpyo was invited to the Silla royal court. While there, he was given money to distribute it among the various Buddhist temples in the kingdom. Specifically, Jinpyo led the Beopsang school of Buddhism that focused on strong devotional practices, as well as belief. In addition, and not so surprisingly, he placed an emphasis on repentance.
Through his influence, as well as his disciples’ actions, his beliefs were passed down to Wang Geon, King Taejo, who was the founder of the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). And to the present day, his teachings have had a long lasting effect on Korean Buddhism.
A Portrait of King Taejo, who Jinpyo helped influence.