Archive for July, 2006

Ja, Mata!

I probably won’t post too often in these next few days–Thank goodness, because God knows how much time I spend on this silly blog.

In the meantime, in case you’re wondering what you’ll do with the two minutes you spend here, may I suggest some outstanding travel literature?

My Travel Lit Picks

Beyond the Sky and the Earth: A Journey into Bhutan, by Jamie Zeppa

The Lady and the Monk: Four Seasons in Kyoto, by Pico Iyer

Zen in the Art of Archery, by Eugen Herrigel

Under the Tuscan Sun, by Frances Mayes

Good-bye, Chunky Rice, by Craig Thompson

Carnet De Voyage, by Craig Thompson

Feel free to leave your own recommendations in the comments section. I’m always on the lookout for a good book.



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“You don’t know how sexy you are . . . That mole below your eye? It looks like a teardrop.”

What bullshit.

I roll my eyes and take another sip of soju kettle, which tastes awfully sweet and lemony. It’s my fourth glass, and the only reason why I let these stringy foreigners practice their pick-up lines and come-hither looks on me.

This particular guy is the third. Canadian, aspiring artist who dreams of teaching in Latin America. Has a Korean girlfriend who he claims would just love me. Decided the best approach was a “Random Questions” game. I give in because a) I’m tired of pretending I don’t know English and b) it’s better than slapping hands off my ass.

Question number one: “What’s your ancestry?” Every guy asks me this within the first few minutes. “Really, Filipino? You’re mixed, right?” Gee, haven’t heard that one before. Why do people think this question is soooooo flattering?

Question number two: “What’s the most outrageous thing you’ve done?” From the look in his eyes, I can tell he’s hoping it starts with an A and ends with an L. “I ate dog,” I reply. “Twice.” I smile as he cringes a bit.

Question number three: “What do you want to do after Korea?”

“I want to be a teacher,” I answer, surprised at my response, because it’s the first time I really, really mean it.

Another Nigerian locks eyes with me and takes me by the hands. “One dance, pretty girl,” he says. I don’t mind the Nigerians so much, because when you shy away they just step back and laugh at you, whereas other Prince Charmings call you a stuck-up bitch, push more drinks on you and glare at you for the rest of the night.

This one maintains a respectable distance, so I indulge him with two or three more songs. “California Love” comes on, and I whoop with delight, because here in Itaewon, this is my jam. They can play it six more times tonight, and I’ll throw myself on the dance floor every time.

When 2Pac spits “So you know the row won’t bow down to no man,” I just shake harder, faster, because that dead black man speaks to me.

Then that KC and Jojo song, “Crazy,” comes on and I begin to back off, because I can’t stand this song. The Nigerian pulls me close and wraps my arms around my neck, and I’m okay with it because the Canadian is still watching us, and I hate myself for shielding myself from one bastard with another.

My dance partner is trying to catch my eyes, and I look away, past the swinging neon lights, and I see him. The Frenchman. Dancing on the speakers. His eyes shut tight, his arms in the air, mouthing along to the words, his legs spread apart. His hair is as glossy and black as I remembered; his beard hasn’t grown an inch.

For a fleeting moment, I feel a grin spread across my face, and I begin to tear myself away. You found me, I want to weep, you came for me. Just like you promised.

He opens his eyes and looks me over, smirking. I shrivel up and lower my eyes. Just another Muslim.

The resemblance is strong, but he would never stare at me like a piece of meat. That’s what I admired about him, that it just wasn’t about my looks or my innocence or whatever fucked up image men inflicted on me–He saw me for what I really was, for what I could be.

I wake up, stretched across several metal chairs. The girls are laughing. “You passed out for two hours,” M says, wrapping her arms around me and pulling me to her chest.

“I did not just fall asleep at a club in Itaewon,” I groan, holding my head.

“Don’t worry. We looked over you. We took pictures, but we took care of you.”

I lean into her side, safe and warm and full of so much love for her. I fall back asleep.

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School’s Out!

Well, for one week, anyway.

(I hate all you public school teachers with your three months paid vacation.)

I’m going to Itaewon with D, M and L and drink until alcohol’s pushing through my pores. Or until I start drooling in a corner. Whatever happens first.

Remember T, who tried to woo me with notes on New Year’s?


Do you remember that tall, handsome fellow from New Year’s Eve? Well, I know we were supposed to get together, and I know it’s a little late, well, six months late, but I’m free Sunday night if you’re going to be around…

“He was cute, right?” I asked M after reading his email.

“Would you seriously consider hooking up with him?”

“No!” I squealed. “I don’t like guys who are that aggressive.” Pause. “He was really cute . . .”

“He’s a player. And you ran away after he asked you to meet him in the bathroom, remember?”

“Please don’t remind me. Fuck, that was humiliating. Anyway, I’m going to Kyoto on Sunday, so I can’t see him.”

“You’re going to write him back, aren’t you.”

“M, I haven’t seriously dated since college, I’m surrounded by beautiful men who don’t speak my language and I am falling for my Taekwondo instructor.”

She patted me on the back. “Send T my best.”

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Sweet Swag

I probably don’t write this enough, but I love my kids. And my kids love me. (Well, most of them, anyway. I can be a real hard-ass.)

Today Ebony’s mother gave me presents!

Sweet Swag

There’s a Dior Whitening Program, which is a bit odd considering I’m pretty light for a Filipina . . . but I’m grateful for freebies anyway. The kit includes sunscreen, “Mattifying Emulson,” face mask, cleanser and nail polish.

More important, there’s cookies from Tous Les Jours! Nothing melts my heart like sweets. This particular bakery’s pastries are a bit too dry for me, but I enjoy their pumpkin muffins, green tea bread and corn loaves.

She also gave the whole staff cheesecake. I love love love cheesecake.

While the kids can drive me nutty most of the time, there are moments when they can break my heart. A few weeks ago, some of my kindergarten students scribbled their names on the wall.

“Pia Teacher” is listed on the bottom.

“Did they write something bad about me?” I asked my supervisor as she attempted to wipe it off.

“No. The girls wrote all their names, then they put yours on the bottom. It means they admire you.”

The marker was permanent. Since then, whenever I begin to despise my kids, I sit on the stairs and gaze at the “cool kids list.”

It’s stupid to care about whether or not I’m hip enough for them, but I’ll take the compliments when they come my way.

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busan subway 2

A few more pictures on Flickr.

Unsurprisingly, I’ve reached my limit and can’t upload more photos until August. (Mommy?)

Also, I’m sick again. Must have been all that walking through the rain in Busan. Or five hours of sleep a night. Who knows. It’s hell trying to give lectures with phlegm sliding down my throat.

Got a shot up the bum on Tuesday, will most likely get another today. I always get freaked out when I see needles, even though I know they don’t hurt. I would at least like a lollipop with these injections . . . treats would make visits to the doctor more bearable.

Goddamn it’s pouring outside. What’s the weather like in California? I’d rather melt in 110-degree weather than waddle through this again.

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I Hate Making Plans

I just made reservations at a really cheap youth hostel . . . the problem is that there isn’t any AC. And, according to lao-ocean-girl, the weather’s sure to work up a sweat.

So I’m waiting for another hostel to email me back. I’m also emailing two guesthouses–they’re out of my budget, but this is my vacation, and I won’t buy souvenirs this time.

I hate making plans. When I first bought my tickets, I thought, Wow, I’m really spending my summer vacation in Japan . . . I am so awesome. But now there’s all this print and online research, getting shot down by hostel owners, worrying about whether or not I can get through eight days without eating meat, worrying whether or not I bought enough batteries for my camera, worrying about whether or not I’ll get lonely . . . now worrying about the heat, and if my hostel has a shower.

Did I just reserve a bed in a single room or mixed dorm? I don’t know . . . I’m tired. Just pat me on the tush and send me on a plane already.

When I was interning in London four years ago, I was never stressed. Maybe because traveling around Europe is easier than it is in Asia. Most likely because I don’t have Mama and Papa footing the bill this time.

On one summer holiday I visited Paris and didn’t even have a place to stay. Fortunately, my friends had told me about a youth hostel in Montparnasse. I walked right in and got a room in five minutes. I bathed by splashing water on my armpits, straight from the sink near my bed. Sat at the window, gazed out at the people below, clad in my underwear, fanned myself with my tourist brochure. Wandered around, ate almond croissants for four days.

For my 21st birthday I took a bus to Scotland. This time I actually reserved a bed in Coldingham. But when I arrived in Edinburgh, there was an international film festival taking place . . . I got so excited that I decided to stay for one night. The travel agent at the bus station couldn’t find any rooms, but at the last minute someone canceled. So I had one night in the capital and got to watch dirty films with subtitles.

I guess I was too impulsive, or lucky, or stupid–call me what you find most appropriate. Now I’m older and don’t believe in luck as much.

Yet I do miss the days when I was reckless–when I could afford to get lost, call my parents, cry a little, and eventually get back on my feet.

UPDATE: Found a hostel with AC! Yes! Have booked, and feel loads better.

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turquoise bowls

The first set of my pictures from Busan can be found on my Flickr page. This particular lot was taken at Jagalchi Fish Market, near our youth hostel.

Feel free to add notes to the pictures, because I don’t know the names of what I shot.

Do not click on the picture above if you don’t like phallic-looking seafood. I’m warning you!

I’m actually considering taking up fish again. I can’t imagine myself eating it, but due to my vegetarianism and strenuous Taekwondo classes (my martial arts instructors turn on the AC for only five minutes, during our breaks!) I’ve lost about 2 kg, despite eating fried egg-and-cheese sandwiches from Isaac’s everyday and treating myself to cake every weekend. Four pounds doesn’t sound like a lot of weight, until you consider I’m five-foot-two and was pretty scrawny to begin with. My arms look gross.

Also, I’m going to Japan, and don’t want to be stuck eating ramen for eight days.

New pictures will be uploaded later this week.

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