Thursday, November 29, 2007

Big White Barbie Does Daegu - Episode 2

The original plan had been to return to Busan on the last train, around 11:40 pm. I actually left for Daegu thinking that this was a really good idea. I was hung over as Hell, only slepy 5 hours, and didn't forsee myself lasting until the 7am train. I clearly overestimated my ability to make intelligent choices after a few drinks. My train of thought probably went something like this:

Rebecca turns to the people beside her "Wait... wait... you mean that people are actually going to go to the bar after this thing? What an idea! Yo, Ann! Want to, like, hang out here a while and stuff?!" I'm painfully predictable, really.

I would like to blame the entire thing on my friend from university (Rick), whom dropped at least two drinks my way when I wasn't looking. Sadly, they were not roofied, so I have to bear at least some of the responsibility here. Maybe next trip there will be roofies. Cross your fingers for me.

The first stop after the event for Ann and I was Rick's apartment. Rick had to stop off at his apartment prior to heading to the bar so that he could drop off his soap. You see, a lot of bathrooms here tend to use bars of soap rather than hand-soap dispensers. Needless to say, this is more than just a little fucking gross. I'd rather lick my hands clean than touch those bars of soap, but that's just me. Most people either suck it up and use the damn soap, carry their own hand sanitizer, or just don't bother at all. Rick takes things to the extreme by carrying his own bars of soap everywhere that he goes. He takes OCD to a whole new level. It's impressive, really. Almost as impressive as my ability to make up tall tales on the spot! Soap was actually one of the raffle prizes, which Rick happened to win 18 of. I haven't the faintest idea whether or not he usually carries around his own soap, nor do I intend on asking.

After making sure that the soap was safe and sound, the three of us made way for the "main street" near Rick's apartment in the hopes of finding a cab. This was quite possibly the lamest "main street" that I've seen in Korea so far. We had to wait 5 minutes for a cab! There is always a line up of cabs waiting just for me near Minam Junction, so this blew my mind. 5 minutes! For a moment, I thought that Korea was broken.

Our first stop "downtown" was some bar called Somethingorother. There were people in and stuff, but we didn't stick. I was too busy hugging posts outside or something to really care if we went to another bar, but Ann and Rick seemed to think that finding other people would be a good idea. Whatever. I was quite happy with my inflatable post (at least a couple of my favourite bastards from back home read that line and thought "some things never change!" Pricks).

Somehow I managed to seperate myself from the post just in time to end up in some bar called MonkeyswithSTDs, or something quite like that. I'm itching as I write this; probably just an unfortunate coincidence. Regardless, I decided that this was a good time to start feeding Ann beer. I'd already passed her my shot of Jag and watched her down vodka from a random 26er that a perfect stranger was carrying up the street... what was a little beer going to hurt? Her sense of balance, apparently. I later got a lecture on not going shot for shot with Korean women, as these sort of things tend to happen. If anything, I actually did her a favour. Thanks to her lack of balance, she took a break and got some fresh air! And she didn't come into work Monday sporting an uncomfortable itch. Coincidence? I think not. I'm a real pal. Always taking one for the team and such.

A couple of the people we were with bored of MonkeyswithSTDs rather quickly and wanted to jump. I would have happily contracted random STDs all night, much like I would have gladly stayed outside and hugged inflatable polls all night, but as I'm a team player and all, I decided that I fould follow suit and join the bar hop.

What followed MonkeyswithSTDs was, in order: random bar, kimbap restaurant, random bar, Burger King. Rick wimped out sometime around Kimbap restaurant time. I somehow managed to carry a drink from the first random bar, to the kimbap restaurant, and then to our final bar. One of the people that were with us was giving me a hard time about it. As I explained to him, I was comfortably rocked. I can't sully my reputation as an all-night-party-machine (now my favourite bastards back home are looking at each other in confusion and wondering how on earth I determined myself to be worthy of this moniker) by drinking beyond my limits! I am a responsible party animal, damnit! Drink until you're having a blast, then nurse the night away. That's my mantra and I'm sticking to it. Don't even think about offering me a shot of Soju.

Blah... then some other stuff happened. I'll post the rest tomorrow, damnit. I'm long winded and need to get out of here. The people at my PC Bang like to jack the heat every time I come in. I think that they're trying to get me naked. Apparently they didn't get the memo that coffee and a hot room are not the key to a girl's pants.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Big White Barbie Does Daegu : Episode 1

I figured that it was about time for a change. After 6 weeks in Busan I was getting comfortable enough with my surroundings that everything suddenly seemed less fascinating. That, or I suddenly became less fascinating and was unable to appreciate the awesomeness that surrounded me as a result of this...? Scoff! Impossible. There is simply too much awesome here for it to depreciate to that level!

A friend of mine from the good ol' University of Guelph happens to be living in Daegu. A while ago he brought my attention to a charity event that was being held there this past weekend. My usual sarcasm and attitude aside for a moment, this event was held to raise money for two very good causes. To summarize, half of the money raised was going to support children in Kenya, and the other half was going to fund medical care for children in Korea who can't otherwise afford it. For more information, click here

Originally I was going to just donate a few bucks, but not actually go. "Daegu is too far, I'm tired!", was my working excuse. As it turns out this is a really crappy excuse; it needs even more work than I had thought. It actually takes me longer get to parts of Busan via subway than it does for me to get to Daegu on the KTX. In other words, the travel time is negligible. Of course, hardly anybody that I met that night seemed to realize this. Hence, I spent the entire night explaining to people that yes, I had in fact come alllll the way from Busan! Blowing minds is what I do best. Before this turns into another rant on how I'm so bloody amazing that I felt the need to spread the awesome around Korea, I'll point out that I only ever made it up to Daegu because my coworker really wanted to go to the event. Apparently I'm not quite as awesome as I thought, eh?

I have the misfortune of working early Saturday afternoon; as a result, my coworker (from here on out known as "Ann") and I could not depart for Daegu until about 3pm. Had time permitted, it would have been better to go earlier and take in some sights during the day. This is what I get for agreeing to tutor on Saturday.

Departing Busan around 3pm meant that we had about an hour of daylight left once we arrived in Daegu. It was vitally important that we used this time wisely. Hugging random statues that I found and posing in front of signs at the train station like an asshole were absolute musts. As was stopping by my friend's apartment in order to see if it was bigger than mine or not. It wasn't, natch. In case you've forgotten, my apartment is amazing. A fucking castle, fit for the princess that I am. I digress.

The event itself kicked off around 7pm; it was due to start earlier, but this is Korea. Among other things, there was a buffet dinner, swing dancing, fire dancing, belly dancing, a magic show, a round of speed dating, and not nearly enough free booze. Isn't it about time that charities gave back a little by liquoring people up? They almost made up for this by providing actual beef at the buffet. I had not eaten real beef since leaving Canada. I've had a McDonald's hamburger here and there, but who knows that the Hell that is made of. Everything else that I ate was just filler as my taste buds prepared themselves for, and then recovered from the wonderful beef. Ah, beef. How I miss you. I'm getting a bit carried away here; it's not that I can't buy beef here, in Busan. It's just that I'm a cheap bastard and pork is way, way, wayyyy cheaper. But not nearly as good. Sigh. Moving on, all of the dancing hooplah was enjoyable. The fire throwing lady and belly dancers weren't particularly fond of clothing. Neither am I, so I understand their angst. "Speed dating" was mildly entertaining. I thought that it would be a good way to practice my questionable social skills without actually having to deal with anybody for more than a few minutes at a time. I was correct. Overall, the event was pretty fantastic. More importantly, they raised something like $7000 CAN to share between the two causes.

I concluded from my experiences at the event that in my next life I should be a fire throwing belly dancer who can make birds appear from thin air and fly out of her hands. Is this asking a bit much, perhaps? Because I'm willing to just settle for the bird bit, as I'm almost certain that the key to everybody's pants lies in being able to make birds appear in and then fly out of your hands.

As there tend to be any time I decide that staying out the entire night is a good idea, there were some shenanigans to follow the event. Stay tuned for Episode 2.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Big White Barbie Misses Poutine

There aren't really many material things that I miss from home. Busan is a large city and there is very little that I have been unable to find for myself here. Nearly everything that I would have listed as either essentials or trivial desires prior to coming and then some are available to me, often for cheaper than they would be at home.

I was told prior to departure that I ought to bring a lot of deodorant as it's extremely difficult to find here. Now, I'm not sure where exactly this rumour took off, but I found deodorant without even bloody looking for it. It is a little bit more expensive here and there isn't as much variety, but seriously: How essential is it for you to have your favourite kind of deodorant at 4 bucks a pop? My having to pay an extra two-three bucks per pop every couple of months is hardly going to break the bank. Given how little it costs if almost everything else here, it's a fair trade off.

It was also recommended to me prior to leaving Canada that I bring a ton of my favourite feminine products. God forbid I not use Tampax! If I don't have my favourite blue plastic applicator with finger grips I will just die! Seriously? This just in: Korean women menstrate too! And sometimes they even use feminine products to stop the flow! Hence, it was grossly unnecessary to pack a four month supply of tampons. I could have used that space for cans of gravy, the one thing that I seem unable to find in abundance here.

I didn't bring a computer or phone to Korea, nor do I intend on purchases either for a while yet. I'm driving my friends and coworkers here mad by refusing to foot the bill for a cheap phone. I'm cheap, okay? It's how I roll. Eventually I'm going to realize that this is dramatically impacting my social life, but right now I like that I can only be found when I want to be.

I could drag this post out... but I'm tired. My throat hurts. This morning I was in such a funk that I thought I was snapping. Again. Then I remembered that I just get horrible bouts of PMS. That is more than likely all it was, given that it went away shortly after I remembered that. Regardless, I don't really miss anything material from home at all. Everything I need to buy can be bought here.

The lack of cheap, abundant deodorant options is not to blame for my sleepless nights in Busan.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Big White Barbie Lacks Inspiration

When I first arrived, I simply couldn't find the time to record all the ridiculous things that were floating through my head. A few weeks later and I find myself with very little to write. Perhaps establishing a routine has inhibited my creativity? Maybe I'm just becoming less of an asshole? Nah. Better make that nah, nah! I'm finding that I've picked up the obnoxious habit of repeating myself over here in LaLaLand. Generally I limit the repetition to short words, which makes it even more ridiculous. I no longer say "Yes", "Thank you", or "Please". It's "Yes, yes!", "Thank you, thank you!", and "Please, please!" You see, this might be necessary if I were using more advanced words and speaking to individuals whom aren't fluent in English when doing this... but I actually seem to do it more when I'm speaking to other foreigners here. Conclusion? I'm a trifle thick.

As an aside, I'm posting photos for those who don't have facebook here

Many of these photos beg further explanation, but I haven't gotten around to captioning them on photobucket. One of these days...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Big White Barbie Loves the Internet

I love the internet. I love it so much that the kids at my local PC Bang no longer even get excited when I come in the door. It's almost like they've forgotten that I'm a fucking celebrity! They still bring my free coffee at least, so the love-fest lives on. The day the free coffee stops is the day that I cheat on my local PC Bang.

I don't have my own computer here in Korea, so I spend a good deal of time in my PC Bang. Hence, I try to make valuable use of my time here. Among the extremely important things that I attend to while here are:

1) Online TV. It is absolutely essential that I get my fill of Heroes. And, when it starts up again in January, Lost. Now, I won't ramble on too much about Heroes. Doing so may either spoil those who haven't seen the new episodes, or bore the piss out of those whom have no idea what they're missing. I'll sum up this season by just saying that I'm glad Peter got a haircut and the producers have realized the importance of creating excuses for him to not wear a shirt. Now, if only the same can be done for Kensei/Adam. Oh, my ovaries!

2) Keep in touch with you bastards! At least, I presume that the people who are reading this know me. Frankly, I don't see why anybody not aquainted with me would be all that interested in reading a running commentary on my life.

3) Bitch! Given that I don't have as many people to speak to on a regular basis as I did back home, I need somewhere to vent. Voila!

4) Talk about myself. As with number 3, I need to find an oulet where I can make up for not having friends who will pretend to listen to me as I talk about the trivial details of my life for hours on end. I miss you poor bastards!

5) Socially network! Thanks to my friend the Internet, I've been able to connect with old friends here, as well as make some new ones. This weekend alone I have two outings planned, thanks largely to Sir Internet. The first is a meeting with a French teacher here in Busan. I went on to pusanweb looking for a French tutor so that I could improve my spoken French. It turns out that there is a French teacher here in Busan looking to improve her spoken English. Score, or score? After that I'm taking a run down to Seomyeon for a Euchre game that I'm trying to set up. Thank you, Madam Internet! How I love three!

6) Porn! Just kidding. I get more than enough Asian Porn on TV here!!!

7) Music and Movies! Life without stealing is a life unlived.

Big White Barbie Teaches Values

During class today, I took the liberty of copying down the text from one of the dialogues that my students are required to study at the opening of a new lesson. I was stunned to discover that while the curriculum may be rife with errors (I correct the textbooks on an almost daily basis), that it redeems itself by teaching this generation of Koreans some very important life lessons. Below is an excerpt of the dialogue:

Katie: Blah blah blah. I'm not as smart as you! Sad face!

Freddy: Your marks are better than Chloe's, you're not the worst student in class!

Katie: It's alright for you. You're the brightest student in the class. More sad face!

Freddy: That's not true. You're the most popular student in the class. You always help others. Everybody likes you. That's more important.

Katie: You really think so?

Freddy: Yes. You are my best friend.

Noting the important lessons that my students could take away from this short passage, I ensured that each student had a chance to read each part. It simply wouldn't have been right had my students failed to miss any of the following points:

1) When in doubt about your own abilities, comparing yourself to somebody slightly less fortunate is a totally appropriate way to restore your pride.
2) People who don't have the exact same problems as you will never be able to properly understand the difficulties that you have to endure.
3) It's okay if you're a fucking moron, so long as you somehow still manage to get everybody to like you. Popularity is the most important thing in life.
4) The fact that everybody likes you somehow refutes the assertion that you're a fucking moron.

While you may think that I'm kidding, I take my role as Life Advisor very seriously.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Big White Barbie Pops a Squat

My lack of posts lately can be attributed to the time that I've been spending mastering the art of the squat. While I spent many a drunken night in university becoming an expert speed squatter, I am a few years removed from those days. Somehow between then and now I determined that I was too classy to be peeing in an alley at 3am; I'm a bit of a snob that way.

More on this later, I have to go find a squat right now and practice up.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Big White Barbie Eats Out

Prior to idiotically deleting my former blog I had detailed how I managed to score a free kimbap meal. This required little more than my being a complete moron. Sort of the same way that I manage to score in other aspects of my life. For some bizarre reason, people seem to find my idiocy endearing! That or they actually think that I'm functionally retarded. Either way, I get free stuff. Sweet deal!

I'd been out to eat a few times since arriving in Busan. The first time was to some spot in Haeundae for raw fish, octopus, and some other random blah with The Boss on my very first full day in Korea. I wouldn't dare touch any of that stuff back in Canuckistan, but it was actually not that awful. Note to self: Raw fish is not only suitable for other fish. The second time was with an acquaintance in PNU, where we had some incredible stuffed chicken. Note to self: go back there soon. The third time to Duckcheon for some rice-chicken-spicey-something-or-other with my adult class. It was fantastic tasting and fantastically cheap. Note to self: remember what the Hell that dish was called and go have it again. Aside from these events and a wonderful meal at my apartment last Saturday which was prepared by two of my coteachers, I've shied away from venturing out to eat on my own. Somehow I managed to be brave enough to get on a plane and come all the way to Korea in the first place, yet I struggle to enter a foreign restaurant by myself.

After nearly a month of being a complete puss, I decided to suck-it-up Sunday night and find a restaurant in my neighborhood that looked suitable. I knew from my ventures about that there were a few on my own block. I wasn't looking for seafood, so that ruled out half of the available options. After meandering about for half an hour I finally decide on a place that is just a stone's throw away from my apartment.

I paced outside the restaurant for about two minutes before nervously making my way up the stoop and swinging open the vast double doors to enter. I was greeted by a table of four whom all smiled at me and called Hello to me in Korean. I smiled and nodded on my way towards the back of the room, where I took a seat near a window. I fidgetted restlessly until one of the women from the table came over to bring me a menu and a bowl of peanuts. I love peanuts! Apparently this woman has one of those sweet "jobs" that enable you to spend down time sitting around the table boozing it up. And I thought that what I did was sweet. Sign me up!

When my server arrived at the table, I stopped figetting and prepared myself to communicate my message of hunger and food to this woman. Thankfully my semester of Grade Ten drama was not lost on me and I'm still a fucking star at using my body to communicate. I was clearly an actress in a former life. The waitress initially offered me a beer or a soju. For those of you not in The Know, soju is a really cheap, extremely nasty Korean alcoholic beverage that tastes like absolutely terrible vodka would if you watered it down significantly, put it in a bag, wiped your ass on the bag, let it settle for a while, and then bottled it. Needless to say, I did not want a soju. And I wasn't really feeling like a beer either. I wanted dinner, damnit! Communication expert that I am, I express my desire for food instead of drink by rubbing my stomach then briefly pretending to eat off of an imaginary plate and saying "food!" Sometimes my brilliance is astounding, even to me. The good news is that she got the message. The bad news is that apparently I hadn't wandered into an actual restaurant, but a bar that doesn't serve full dinners.

The waitress, who clearly also excels in the performance arts, looked at me sympathetically, held her arms in front of her in an "X" and said: "no dinner" I quickly realize my error here, apologize by nodding and thanking her for the peanuts, and then start to gather my belongings. The woman gestures at me to indicate that she's going to show me out. I smile, feeling like a bit of a dumbass, and accept the gesture. The next thing I know, she's actually walking me down the street. She's going to show me where to find food! What a doll. We stop in front of a restaurant a few stops down from her and she says to me: "kimbap?" I nod, rub my stomach and say "kimbap good!", because I'm The Communication Expert and this is How It's Done.

The waitress from the bar walks me into the kimbap restaurant and indicates that I should take a seat. She walks over to the women who run the joint and speaks to them for a moment before returning to me and she indicates to me that I ought to stick around until my meal is ready, and that when it is: "no money. I pay". She then waves some wan at me and points it at the ladies to indicates that she's already paid for my meal. My mind at this point was just completely blown. I wandered into this woman's bar like a jackass, expecting to order dinner, and she rewards my idiocy by talking me to another restaurant and buying my meal.

Unbelievable. This tototally made up for my incident with Soju Man (another story which got deleted, which I will rewrite another time) a couple nights earlier. My faith in the kindness, rather than creepiness, of stranger has been restored! For this week, at least.

The kimbap was great, by the way. It's nothing really special; it's quick, easy, cheap, and covers your basic food groups. But it's not McDonald's and it sure as Hell hit the spot. Oh, and it was free, which makes it twice as good as it actually was.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Big White Barbie Goes to Work

Rumour has it that I actually have a job. Given my state of affairs prior to departing for South Korea, this likely was met with a good deal of shock from some of you. Before I leave my beloved internet cafe this evening with my reputation as a lazy pain in the ass completely in shambles, I'd like to dispel this speculation before things really get out of hand. Big White Barbie does, in fact, have a job. Given how much time she has to spend at internet cafes writing about herself in the third person, exactly how serious a position she holds is entirely yours to judge.

I teach English as a Foreign Language (EFL) at a small private institute in Busan, South Korea. Such institutes are known as hagwons. My loosely worded one-year contract calls for 30 teaching hours per week, which I'm fairly compensated for. The rent for my apartment is paid for by my boss, as is the airfare to and from Toronto. Hence, my actually pay check is essentially a hefty spending allowance, given the cost of living here.

Based on the stipulations of my contract and the expectations set by my recruiter, I arrived in Korea expecting to work 8 hours per day, 6 of which would be spent in a classroom with a Korean coteacher. I learned quickly that that in Korea, contracts aren't meant to be taken literally and recruiters are never to be trusted. Fortunately in my case, this worked to my advantage. One teaching "hour" is, in reality, 45 minutes. I "teach" 4.5 hours per day. I spend 6-7 hours at the institute. The time not spent teaching is spent talking to coworkers, preparing for class, and generally just sitting around with my thumb up my ass.

I teach students at all degrees of fluency and ages. My youngest student is 5 and my oldest is in her 40's. Some of my students can carry on entire conversations with me. Others, I lose at Hello. Some are wonderfully kind. Others are intollerable brats. I will detail the benefits and drawbacks of my different classes in subsequent posts.

When I'm sitting in a classroom with my students, I take my role seriously. How I define my role is quite different from how I would define the role of a teacher back home. I am not paid to be an educator. I'm paid to be a native speaking English face. While my being white and female is a bonus and certainly prefered, it's not a necessity to finding work here. University educated native English speakers are in high demand here; there are more jobs available than can possibly be filled. Some of these jobs are a scam, but others are quite good. I have been fortunate enough to find the latter. Yet, I'm still not truly and educator. The students don't respect me as they would respect their Korean teachers. Given that my Korean coteachers seemingly put in far more work than I do, perhaps it would be wrong of me to expect the same respect. My unofficial job description is merely to show up on time, go to class, look presentable, and be the Canadian English Speaking Puppet for 4.5 hours a day.

This is how the moniker Big White Barbie came to be. It rolls of the tongue a little better than the former.

So, those of you fearing that I've become a mature, responsible adult need not worry. I'm still a lazy, entitled prick. And I've actually found a place willing to pay fulltime wages for partime work which asks nothing more of me than what comes naturally.

Big White Barbie Deletes Her Blog

In a moment of confusion, or possibly sleep-induced stupidity, it appears that I deleted all of my posts. I'd always wondered what that button meant! You see, the computers I'm using here have the Korean version of Windows on them. This results in websites such as Blogspot showing up in Koreanm rather than English. Now that I know how to delete my entire fucking blog, it's probably not going to happen again. Unless I get really, really, bad PMS. This will probably happen. Either way, never fear! Big White Barbie has a lot of time on her hands and will either reproduce what was lost or come up with something better. What else has a Big White Barbie lost in Busan got to do with herself? Besides, this PC Bang serves good coffee. Free coffee. If it's free, it's gotta be good!