Archive for July, 2006

Dearest Derrick,

I want to thank you for nearly ruining my time in Busan.

When I invited you to go with me and my girlfriends for the three-day weekend, I was under the assumption that you’d grown up in the past six months. After our night out in Osaka, I thought of you often, worried whether or not you still drank and puked yourself to sleep.

K told me you had developed strong feelings for me, and even though we didn’t speak to each other again, I felt somewhat responsible for you.

But I’m not going to coddle you–You’re an ignorant, ungrateful, pathetic bitch.

Seriously. Your self-proclaimed “dry British wit” is as endearing as wet shit in the Californian heat. I hope I never have to see or hear from you ever again. And here’s why:

1) When you go to a temple (or any area of spiritual importance), it might be a good idea not to describe its followers as “a scary cult.” How is a room full of chanting Buddhist monks different than a church full of singing nuns?

Also, I found your opinions on Islam sooooo profound. One of your friends is beat up by a group of young men who happen to to be Muslim, and all the Muslims in England (and the world, for that matter) are violent, terrorist supporters? Even though the Muslim extremists have caused trouble in the Philippines for years, I would never stereotype an entire group.

2) If you want to get laid by hot Korean chicks (or, as you like to say, “anything but the white-fatties back home”–charming!), it might pay to get to know your target audience. If you’re just going to dehumanize the lot as narcisstic snobs, glued to their mobiles and addicted to plastic surgery . . .

And do not voice your in-depth knowledge of the entire Korean population out loud on the subway! Christ. I don’t care if this is Busan and people are less likely to speak English. Koreans still learn our language here, and while it might be in your nature to not care what others think, it is in mine.

Thus, when I politely tell you that I don’t like to criticise Korean people, food or culture in public, I would appreciate it if you would take my request seriously. Do not press the issue further by telling me how disgusting you find their table manners. Do not describe the well-groomed young men in Seoul as gay. They’re better-looking than you. Accept it.

If you knew the Koreans standing nearby understood us perfectly, would you still have said those things?

3) When we pass a homeless person kneeling in front of Busan Station in prayer, it just might reflect badly on your character if you laugh, jab your finger inches from his nose and pretend to steal his charity cup. Is this what you do in London?

(Just to be clear, that’s when I started to hate you.)

4) When I told you my friend made arrangements for us to stay at a youth hostel, she was not talking about one of those swanky hostels with a new, king-sized mattress, warm pizza on the marble counter and teenage hooker desperate to give you a blow job.

D goes out of her way to reserve a room for you, when you are clearly too intoxicated to do it yourself, and you walk out two minutes after you step in. To make matters worse, you told us the place was horrible, right in front of the adorable old hostel owner! Even if he didn’t know one word of English, I’m sure he got the point. I couldn’t apologize enough.

You had the newer, bigger mattress and a bathroom with working shower all to yourself. We girls split two small rooms that had no warm water at all. I’m the spoiled, Californian princess, and I was willing to put up with the accommodations.

It wasn’t like you were actually going to get tail in Busan. Face it, all you were going to do in your “horrible” little room was drunkenly beat your dick to sleep. Which is what you most likely did in your much classier room, just across the street from us, rented for an outlandish 20 bucks a night.

And yes, the four of us did talk about what a little pussy you are, the second we heard the door close behind you.

5) I made it perfectly clear that I’m a vegetarian. So when I ask everyone what they want for dinner, show a little respect and don’t insist on galbi. How are the side dishes at a meat house going to feed me adequately? Kimchi has no calories. Have you seen my arms lately? I need real food!

Now, I might be a little sensitive in this particular case, but at this point I was looking for any excuse to throw you under a bus.

6) Did I mention how flattered I was when you described the Filipino women in Busan as whores? Did you forget that I am actually a Filipina? And no, I’m not one of those self-hating Filipinos who tries to pass herself off as Hawaiian. I confirmed this at the temple we visited that Saturday morning–but clearly you were busy judging the monks to listen.

7) After I hem and haw my way out of hanging out with you on Sunday, this in no way implies that I want to continue my friendship with you. This is my passively Asian way of informing you that one day of your bullshit was enough to test my small-town generosity, that I feel bad for threatening my girlfriends’ holiday by letting you tag along, that I would much rather be taken hostage by nuke-toting North Koreans than spend one more hour in your presence.

So do not call me at two in the morning, drunk off your ass and demanding to see me. Do not insult my companions–not after all you put them through.

Fortunately, we managed to salvage our time in Busan and make some sweet memories, no thanks to you.

Let me finish by saying that I informed the biggest gossip in our little expat group about your cute little shenanigans. Considering everyone already knew you were a loser to begin with, I didn’t have to go into great detail.

Sure, it was petty, but I’m willing to stoop to your level if I can avoid seeing you for the rest of my stay in Korea.

Hope you had a great time!



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Eight Days in Kyoto

I'm traveling by plane, actually.

I’d like to apologize in advance to family/friends/readers who are scared for me.

Originally I was set to go island-hopping with D, but our vacations fall on different days. There’s also the fact that I can’t swim, so it was a very poor plan to begin with.

If it makes you feel better, I’m not feeling very adventurous. That is to say, I don’t feel like hitchhiking my way from Tokyo to Okinawa, joining a convent or headlining a labor ring.

I’ll pretty much be based in Kyoto, which should satisfy my developing interests in Asian art, Buddhist temples and gardens. Tokyo would be nice, but I’m traveling alone, so I’m hesitant to travel very far.

I don’t think I’ll post that often in the next few weeks, due to travel plans and work. But you can expect more photos of my trip to Busan on my Flickr page.

I’m especially excited about showing the interesting cuisine spotted while strolling through fish markets. Seeing so much of it made me reconsider my vegetarian diet . . . although I still can’t imagine breaking it.

P.S. I’ve noticed some newer visitors to the blog are from Northern California–most likely relatives, since I notified them about this site a week ago.

Kumusta, dG and P clans! Feel free to comment on my horrid hair, questionable “writing” or troublesome consumption of cake. Family comes first, so I’ll answer your messages the minute I hit the keyboard.

(Just don’t list my real name.)

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Red, Hot and Bothered

Wearing Red in Busan

Sometimes I hate being an anonymous blogger.

(Hey, at least you guys aren’t stuck with another black oval and “witty” remark over my face. Next time I’m just going to paste Bugs Bunny’s head over my neck, or the Pink Power Ranger’s, whatever catches my fancy.)

D and I had been walking in the monsoon rain for two hours when the wind began to pick up. A man approached us, waving his arms wildly, offering to take us around the coast for five bucks each.

He led us to his dinky little ship. It looked terribly romantic, but a little more rain and it would have tumbled over. Still, D is a certified lifeguard and I’m good at sinking? flailing about, so we stumbled onward.

The driver jerked the ship out of the harbor and into the sea. D and I shrieked, holding on to each other as water whipped in from all sides. We were roaring so hard, I thought I’d lose the cheesecake I’d eaten for lunch. As the rocking subsided I let her go and took out my camera.

I knew I looked like shit–hair wet, skin white, limbs shaking, mascara pooling under my eyes.

But I longed to share this moment with the ones I loved: The white birds against gray skies, the peeling paints of rickety boats, the bright orange bridge, our weathered old coot of a captain smoking and cackling at our unrestrained amazement, the salty seawater on my upper lip, the beads of sweat on my arms.

My father had been stationed here when he was around my age. Had he taken a little cruise in the harbor with his dearest friend, smelling like fresh fish from the nearby markets, his eyes absorbing the upward slope of buildings and houses in the lush green mountains, laughing wildly in his fear and fascination?

Had he wished he could share this moment with the ones he missed?

I took almost three hundred photos over the three days and two nights in Busan, and this one is my favorite. Before the red touch-up, that is. You can expect more photos over this week. As well as more posts, of course.

(If you’ll stick with me, I think I will eventually post my picture on this site, for the very last entry.)

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Busan, Finally!

D, M, M’s friend L, Derrick (the British bloke I met in Osaka) and I will be in Busan for the three-day weekend.

My knockoff Tommy Hilfiger backpack includes the following:

1) Five sleeveless t-shirts, ranging from skanky (see through lace–I’m gonna wear something over it, Ma!) to nerdy (my Wonder Woman shirt).

2) Susan Choi’s The Foreign Student.

3) A lavender bikini I bought from Target. (I never had the guts to wear it until now.)

4) A small journal, so I can write recaps without heading for a PC Room.

5) My new digital camera!

You might have noticed I have a lot of close-up photos on my Flickr page. Last weekend, I bought a Konica Minolta DiMAGE X1. I had an Olympus, but I wanted something with more megapixels, and the battery lifespan was awful (to be fair, it was an old camera from my parents).

Anyway, I’ve been studying photography these past few weeks, and while I’m still learning how to use the focus and flash properly, I’m really happy about my purchase. It’s pretty high-tech from my perspective, and my skills are as limited as my Korean, but I think I’ve taken some worthwhile photos so far.

I paid more than I wanted–the plus side was that I got a 100,000 won discount from a shop in Yongsan, plus a 1 GB memory card, extra battery, cleaning kit and carrying case.

“Service,” the store employee said, handing me my goodies in a bright Sony bag. “You are a woman.” Then, after a pause: “You are a beautiful woman . . . If you are ugly man, I not give you cheap price and presents.” His brother then proceeded to hit on me.


Anyway, I need this time away. Work’s a lot easier, but I need some distance from The Instructor. Since I told him of my plans to finish my contract here, our feelings have become more apparent, and I don’t know what I’m going to do about it.

On Thursday I was sweeping my hair into a ponytail when I caught him watching me through our reflections in the mirrors. After I fastened my clip, he approached me and began babbling, laughing as he clasped his hands in prayer.

“Sabunim like Pia hair down,” C said, looking embarrassed from participating in this exchange. “He say, every day, he see hair up. He want hair down for one minute.”

“Please,” he said, still laughing, his fingers curling around mine. He spun around and asked the class a question. The students shuffled, looking uneasy.

Finally, a bespeckled student said, “Beautiful. You are beautiful.”

I looked down at our clasped hands and worried. How did we get here. What are we doing. What do I want–Shouldn’t I know better by now.

What could ever come out of this.

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 Is it possible to have feelings for someone you barely understand?

Last week I told The Instructor I would not leave my job after all.

“Sabunim,” I said, as his younger students made kissing noises behind his back. “Me, Pia, no go Ca-li-porn-nia.

Pointing at the ground: “Here–yogi–yes.”

I hooked my thumbs together, made flapping motions with my hands, then unhooked them and made an X with my forearms. “Ca-li-porn-nia, aniyo.”

His eyes flickered with recognition and his jaw dropped. “Pia, yogi?” he exclaimed, pointing at the ground.

“Ne!” I exclaimed, clapping. “Korea, yes.” I gave him a thumbs up.

“Pusan?” he asked, mimicking my bird hand motion.

“Pusan, no,” I said, making another X sign. “Yogi, yes.”


“Wonderland, yes.” I made puppets with my hands. “C Teacher and Pia Teacher, talk-talk. Wonderland good! Pia . . .” I gave another thumbs up. “Happy.”

He spun around and told the boys in rapid-fire Korean. I got teary-eyed as their faces lit up. I hadn’t realized they cared so much.

He pointed to my belt. “Pia, red belt.” He raised one hand, and lifting fingers, counted: “July, August, September, October, November–black belt!” The boys recited the months to themselves and nodded. Yes, yes, five months would give me enough time to train for my black belt.

I wrung my wrists. “Black, no.” I bit my lip, wondering how to convey this. “Chun-bee, aniyo.” I’m not ready.

The Instructor and students squinted in confusion for a moment, before a young boy said, “Chun-bee. Ready.” After all these months, my pronunciation of basic words was still awful.

“See?” I said. “My Hangeul, not so good.” More puppet motions with my hands, then a descending thumbs-down.

I locked eyes with my teacher. “I don’t understand you,” I said weakly, and he nodded, his mouth firm.

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This Town

Quote from Craig Thompson’s Good-bye, Chunky Rice

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