Archive for June, 2006

“I look at you and get so angry,” M’s husband tells me Saturday night.

“Why don’t you have someone?” he asks as I rest my head on his shoulder. We’re in the apartment after my dinner with Zach, reclining on the stiff orange sofa and eating sliced pineapple with chopsticks.

M had tucked in a while ago, most likely bored from our discussion on Catholicism in Third World countries. A World Cup match is on the telly but I can’t recall who was playing.

“I’ve seen so many bad-looking women here with boyfriends,” Y says as I turn my attention to the pineapple on his plate. “Some so ugly–you’d look at her face and wouldn’t eat from her hand.

“Really. You are such a pretty, innocent girl. What do you want in a man? Who are you looking for? Nationality, race, body type?”

“I’m not specific with the physical stuff,” I tell him between mouthfuls of fruit. “Especially with ethnicity. I pride myself on being an equal-opportunity employer.”

“I’m going to find someone for you.”

“That doesn’t sound very romantic,” I mumble sadly. Anyway, I’d heard it before: all my (taken) girlfriends want to set me up.

“You’re in Korea. Love is different here.”

He doesn’t have to tell me that. After only four months of dating, Y and M had married in City Hall a week ago, in an effort to speed up the paperwork for his green card.

The couple don’t consider each other as husband and wife, since a priest wasn’t involved. But Y is definitely happier as a newlywed.

“Excuse me for still being a pathetic romantic,” I tell him, pinching his arm. “But I’d like it to happen on its own. Spontaneously.”

“You don’t want a boyfriend?”

“Of course I do. I mean, at first I was all gung ho with independence and shit. I was really proud of myself for doing this on my own.

“But all my friends here are busy with their boyfriends and girlfriends, having these intense affairs and having sex and falling in love.

“I must be a real nut-job,” I concluded, staring at my empty plate, “because nobody wants me.”

Y shakes out my hair. “There is nothing wrong with you, sister. But you’re always so busy. You have Wonderland, you always have some mission in Seoul. You do Taekwondo most nights.

“And M tells me you’re in love with your Taekwondo instructor.”

I grin sheepishly. “I wouldn’t say love-love. But, yeah, I like him. He’s tall, and nice, and smiley, and sweaty . . . and, uh, sweaty–”

“Pia, you’re never going to get what you want out of a Korean man. A Korean man raised out of Korea, yes. But men are different here. You’re too Western for them.”

“But they are so beautiful,” I sigh. “Like, seriously? Sometimes my chest aches just looking at some of the college boys in Seoul.”

“You just need someone. You just need to date. I’d set you up with my boys, if I was certain they wouldn’t fall in love with you.”

“Maybe I want to fall in love.”

He eyes my face and considers this for a second. “No, you don’t.”


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Pink Meat

While dining with Zach at a new Thai restaurant in Itaewon Saturday night, all I could think about was how much I wanted to take pictures of my green curry.

Unfortunately, Buddha's Belly is far too posh for such behavior. I already stood out in my Wonder Woman t-shirt and flip-flops.

I released my trigger finger the next afternoon in Itaewon. My fellow expats know I loathe the night scene here–but I love its markets, compact streets and dirty little shops.

Most of Itaewon smells like frying meat.

This was the first time I asked a stranger to pose for me. He wasn't enthusiastic, but it was a slow day.

I should have repaid him by buying something, but I'm a vegetarian.

I wish I'd spent more time in here–the shot's off-balanced, despite my best cropping efforts.

Overall, a good day, but I think the area has more potential during the sunrise or sunset.

Click the picture above for more shots of Itaewon.

(And if you feel charitable, purchase a Flickr Pro account for me. I can't buy it with my Korean bank card, and I really don't want to touch my savings in California. I'll repay you with eight bottles of Hite beer.)

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I need to erase that game from my memory.

The players need to know that it is not okay to start the game in its final ten minutes. It was like they woke up after the second goal, but grew so frustrated that they couldn't focus on the ball long enough to actually kick at it.

And their defense blows. You would think that after their close games with Togo and France, they would step it up a little and start to get more aggressive. But noooooo, they were more passive than ever.

Their offense wasn't much better. The only two who seemed want the ball in the goal were Chun-Soo Lee and Jae-Jin Cho. The others just seemed honored to be there.

I'll continue to root for Korea and certain players in the future, and I can't see myself not following soccer after the World Cup is finished. But hopefully a stronger team will be assembled in 2010.

The hardest thing for me, I think, is the thought of not seeing Korea's fans on television. No matter how the players were doing, the Red Devils were never out of earshot. Is it possible to be fans of the fans?

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After their monthly tests, I let the kids draw whatever they wanted.

Only Advocaat isn't dancing. What a dick.

Look at soccer superstar Park Ji-Sung (7) go. Who knew he was so flexible? I think they're performing Korea's popular Vertex Dance. Coach Advocaat looks pissed here, but according to this, he's also a convert. (Click on the video link–I promise it will make your day.)

I'd like to learn the moves too, but it looks rather complicated. Maybe after a few beers?

One of my top students, Steve, gladly volunteered his prediction for Saturday's Korea-Switzerland game:

Switzerland and their sleeping bags.

As you can see, not only do the Swiss place too many players on the field, but they also lug around their sleeping bags.

To add further insult, they decide to show exactly how little they think of the Korean squad by falling asleep in front of the goal. Park (nice hair!) takes advantage of the situation, single-handedly scoring 30 goals. All within the first three minutes of the game!

If this actually happened, I'd seriously become a soccer fanatic for life.

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I have a fairly simple mindset.

So, this is my hundredth post. After the long stages of alienation and office dramas, who ever thought I would last this long. Had I kept to the original plan, yesterday would have been my last day at Wonderland.

But I can't say I regret extending my stay. And while there are times when I'm struck with loneliness and hate my job, my life has actually slipped into a simplicity eerily similar to the one I so adamantly loathed in the orchards.

Taekwondo, bookstore-hopping, pineapples, coffee, cake, blogging–who could have thought a high-maintence drama queen would be so content with so little?

And to my surprise, I managed to gather a tiny collection of readers–strangers from around the world who, for some strange reason, feel compelled to check on my mundane travel diary.

To those of you who left messages of encouragement, thank you for your support. To the lurkers–you are equally appreciated and I hope to learn more about you eventually.

As you can see, my garments and colors may have changed, but I remain a sentimental redneck at heart.

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Wow, what an incredible game!

I am so impressed with our boys.

They lacked energy for the first half, but towards the end they suddenly burst through. A tie against France–yes, I know they haven't played well, but they are the superior team.

We held them scoreless for the second half, and made a goal of our own . . . amazing.

I actually danced around the room, shaking my fists, my devil horns lit up, screaming. Oh, to be in Seoul right now.

Today will be wonderful–I can't go back to sleep.

Ah, what a beautiful game.

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Click here for more photos of World Cup Stadium/Park.

I have to check in early for tomorrow's Korea-France game, but I just wanted to share a few photos I took during today's afternoon at World Cup Park in Seoul.

It was a beautiful, sunny day, with the majority of visitors draped in red. I'll be sure to post more pictures tomorrow.

Good luck to the Asian Tigers and Red Devils. I have to admit I have uneasy feelings about this match, but let's hope our boys finish strong.

And even if they don't–well, there are other moments I feel truly blessed to be in Korea right now.

The future Park Ji-Sung and Lee Young-Pyo? Click here for more World Cup Park photos.

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