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Archive for the ‘Friends and that Gray Area’ Category

“I have a new favorite British word!” I told my roommate last night.

“Oh no.”

“I’ve been thinking about how we have this huuuuuge communication problem, and how it affects our relationship in and out of the office.”

“What are you talking about?”

“So I figured that if we took some time to learn about our different languages and cultures, we’d share a stronger bond. So, you wanna hear my new favorite British word?”

“No.”

“It’s ‘besotted.’ How cool is that! ‘Besotted.’ I bet you didn’t think I’d heard of that before, huh? It’s so fancy, and it’s very versatile. Like, ‘I am so besotted with this muffin.’ Or, ‘I find this book very besottable.'”

Shelly lit a cigarette and groaned. “First, you’re saying it wrong. It’s besotted.”

“Besotted. Yeah, that’s what I said. Beh-saw-ted.”

“Er. Never mind. Second, you’re using it wrong. You only say besotted when you’re talking about a person.”

“Gotcha. ‘I am besotted with my mummy.'”

“Um, no. I mean, when you love someone in a romantic way.”

“That sucks. I’m not in love with anybody! Anyway, nobody except you and I know, so I can keep using it my way. Mmmmm, I am besotted with this ginger tea.”

“What? You can’t do that. You have to use it properly.”

“I am besotted with my bum. Look, I used two of your words! Heh heh, I am going to be so British when I get back to California.”

“I’m going to sleep now.”

“Don’t you wanna learn some kick-ass Californian vocab?”

“No.”

***

I spent so much time planning my trip to Thailand that I didn’t think about what I’d do (or where I’d stay!) when I get back to Korea. I’ll have seventeen days left on my vacation!

I decided against spending all of December in Thailand because I wanted to be with friends on Christmas and New Year’s Day. But what about the time in-between? Today I picked up Lonely Planet Korea and flipped through it, trying to come up with a ten-day trip.

Then I started to get a little sad, because apparently Korea is not something you want to do on your lonesome. There isn’t much to do in Busan right now. And while I would really like to go hiking, it’s too cold and I’d be scared to do it on my own.

I called Mark, a friend of mine who I met while temple-hopping in Gyeongju. He suggested I go to Jeju Island, but it would take me sixteen hours to get there from Seoul, because I’m sure the flights are taken up. I’m thinking about it, though. But ten days on my own–man that could be depressing.

A part of me just wants to sit back and chill, and not do anything except read and drink overpriced coffee. So I’m also thinking about Seoul. But man that would be so depressing, to go all the way in Korea, then go home and tell people you that you spent a year in Korea and just visited Seoul, Busan and Gyeongju. And seventeen days in Seoul??? I don’t know if I would die from the bliss of not working, or kill myself out of boredom.

A few of you gave me some super-duper advice on Thailand. So if anybody has any suggestions on what to do in Korea, I’d be happy to hear them.

Ugh, now I have to grade tests and write report cards. So unbesottable.

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Edited to add: The blog just passed 15,000 views, wooooooo . . . Happy turkey day indeed. Although I suspect my dear momma might have something to do with it. Should I do anything to celebrate? Might upload some more Japan pictures, if I need to procrastinate between grading tests, report cards and prepping for my Thailand trip–

I’m a lousy American. I would have not known it was Thanksgiving in the states, had my (Korean) co-teacher not reminded me yesterday afternoon.

Anyway, happy holidays to my family, friends and fellow bloggers–save some pumpkin pie for me, please.

Random things I am grateful for in Korea:

5) Cho Jae-jin. I’ve come close to buying this issue of Men’s Health, but I’m too embarrassed to actually do it. Sob.

4) Those little walnut cakes. I always crave them–I took a photo but I’m too tired, will post later.

3) YouTube, because I can download Korean soaps.

2) Canned lychee. My mom would buy this for us in California, so when I saw this at the supermarket today for less than a dollar I went a little crazy.

1) My “Samoan mommy,” who arrived in Seoul after visiting her family in New Zealand for three weeks! Our reunion took place in Itaewon’s Burger King, where we shared this tender little moment:

Me: So I’m getting really good at yoga, and my instructor says I should be a teacher. But I’m still not very flexible down there. My crotch is too stiff! It’s like concrete–it takes about ten minutes for me to warm myself up for half-lotus position, and even after that it’s still so hard, and my hips aren’t opening up. I work at it for ten to fifteen minutes a day, and all I’ve got to show for it are sore knees. What do you think? I’m wondering if I should see someone about it, you know, someone who can really get down there and–

M: You know what helps? Getting laid.

Me: . . . I hate you.

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Congratulations are in order for my baby sister, Marbs, who is one of three singles players on her high school tennis team with an undefeated record. 19-0, and this is only her second year playing the sport! (Like, seriously. She only picked up a racket last year.)

Her photo was in the paper today, and I’d link to it if I wasn’t anonymous. But she looks so fierce. I’m proud of you, kiddo.

With the AP classes, orchestra, college and scholarship applications and job, I don’t know how you have the time to do it all. Must be something in that NorCal water . . .

***

In other news, I posted more Japan pics on Flickr.

Can’t believe I was there just three months ago–it seems much more time has passed. I miss Kyoto.

Otoyo Shrine 7

Click on the picture above for more shots of Honen-In, Otoyo Shrine and a sad little tempura dish that set me back six bucks.

The latest batch (as well as the first, of Ginkaku-ji) were taken during my first day of sightseeing in Japan. I devoted that time to Tetsugaku-no-Michi, “The Philosopher’s Path.” The road, sprinkled with delightful little cafes and shrines, wasn’t too crowded–but I followed a few tourists when I got lost. And I did get lost.

Back then it was hot. I wasn’t dying like the other foreigners, yet it was hot enough that I lost five pounds of water weight by the end of my trip, in spite of a diet of waffles and green tea ice cream.

I spent the majority of the day on foot, and by nightfall I had blisters on my feet. My bright pink purse was heavy with my Lonely Planet guide, Japanese phrasebook, camera (with four spare batteries, and I still ran out of juice in the middle of the day), paper fan, water and five pounds of coins I wouldn’t be able to convert to Won upon my return to Korea.

I prefer the tiny shrines like Otoyo, because there are less visitors, which means I have more time to just sit down and take too many half-assed pictures. Anyway, as usual my pictures don’t do the place any justice. It was so peaceful, so unexpectedly quiet for a hot tourist spot like Kyoto.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of stuff I don’t know about Japan and their temples, so if you want to add notes or define stuff in my photos, feel free to do so.

On this particular night I downed sake shots (straight out of a carton!) with awkward Germans, a dueling Swede couple, a short-haired French girl I totally crushed on, some Canadians who were also teaching in Korea, and two Catalan siblings I’ll call “Lucy” and “Linus.”

I hit it off with Lucy and Linus right away, fascinated by how many languages they spoke with ease. Between them, they knew Catalan, Spanish, English, German, Latin, Japanese, Italian and I’m sure they were fluent in more.

I was starstruck, because I don’t even know Tagalog.

“In Spain, when we have drinks, we say chin-chin,” Lucy explained after pouring my third drink. “But when we said this in Tokyo, our Japanese friends were so embarrassed. Chin-chin means penis in Japanese! So for our first week here, we were yelling penis in bars, with no idea why people were staring so hard.”

“I loooooove you,” I slurred. “I never had Spanish friends before. Will you be my friends?”

“Yes, but you must know we are Catalan, and not Spanish,” Luis pointed out.

“Uh-huh whatever. Chin-chin!”

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peachykeen says: man, i got so drunk last night

peachykeen says: two shots of plum wine, three white russians

D says: u and ur usual 1 beer a month

peachykeen says: z kept coming on to me and i finally had to beat him with my umbrella. he almost cried, what a bitch

peachykeen says: i’m so pissed at him

D says: poor guy

peachykeen says: but i am so tired of boys right now

peachykeen says: i mean, doesn’t z realize i am, like, ten times more attractive than he is???

D says: u didnt just say that!!!!!???

peachykeen says: no, i didn’t tell him that, but if he tries to come on to me again i swear i’m going for the nuts

peachykeen says: he kept trying to hold my hand–like whoa, i am SO not into you like that

peachykeen says: dumbass. i’m never drinking with him again

D says: lol you’re such a bitch

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Had a great time at my first wine and cheese party. It wasn’t as “adult” as I feared–everybody brought their own coffee mugs.

I donated a beautiful, plum-colored, fruit-covered cake from Crown Bakery. I should have taken a picture of it, because everyone was sorry to cut into it. We ate it on paper towels. Such is the life of an expat here in Korea.

But just because it was low-key didn’t mean I was going to show up in my yoga clothes. I wore a white, knee-length dress with blue print, a white braided belt around my waist and coral slingbacks. My mother’s diamond earrings (a gift from my father on one of the anniversaries, which I had shamelessly swiped prior to my departure) hung from my ears. I felt young, chic and eager to meet new people.

It took only one glass of fruity wine to loosen me up, as I pressed the virtues of country music to Canadian hipsters, big-city Americans and bewildered Koreans. “Like, the Dixie Chicks just speak to me,” I drawled after the hostess downloaded a few of their songs. “Play ‘Sin Wagon.’ Shit that’s a sweet song.”

I spent most of the night speaking to a young Korean man, who was particularly interested in my views on his country’s pop scene. Or maybe he just wanted to hook up. Who knows–but the more T watched me, the more I talked, my hands flying, my grin growing, my head swimming until I was sure I was going to pass out.

Parties always exhaust me, because I tend to get claustrophobic in large groups. I prefer small gatherings, in groups of four (at most) at familiar coffee shops or restaurants, where I can nibble at food if I don’t feel too charming or interesting.

A little past midnight I suggested we hit a karaoke bar. T stayed behind to catch some sleep. I belted “It’s Raining Men” with all my guts, swinging my arms about, rocking my hips, shaking the the tambourine. “I’m gonna go out,” I wailed, “I’m gonna let myself get / Absolutely soaking wet!”

After the song finished, I sat back and swung back a beer. “T’s a pussy for missing out,” I told Z.

“He has a date tomorrow.”

***

“Motherfucker!” I shouted the next morning, wrapping a new autumn dress around my waist. “The guy says he won’t give up on me, and then he gets a Korean girlfriend.”

M and Y snuggled on the sofa and laughed as they watched me step into my green heels, bounce on my toes a little, slip into my sandals, bounce again, kick off my shoes, shriek and throw myself between them. “Why am I so fucking short.”

“My poor darling,” M cooed, hugging me.

“How long has he been seeing this Korean girl?” Y asked, picking excess threads from my dress.

“Two or three weeks. Z introduced them. I guess T likes her a lot. Mothahfuckah!”

“You haven’t been very nice to him,” M reminded me.

“But it is good, you’re getting over that Korean,” Y said. “I just don’t know if you should be with a white boy who is weak for the Asian girls.”

“I don’t think I like him-like him,” I mused, leaning against M’s shoulder and resting my legs across Y’s lap. “I just like that he likes me.”

“Why do you have to hate on the white boys?” M asked her husband. “They’re in Korea, who else are they going to date. Besides, Pia isn’t even Korean. She’s a white girl who looks like a Chink.”

“True. But I’d like to talk to him before anything happens between him and Pia.”

“Oh, Dad,” I groaned, rolling my eyes.

“Don’t ‘Dad’ me. If you don’t like him, why are you getting dressed up again?”

“Don’t be too tough on me. I didn’t get that much sleep . . . All that cheese gave me diarrhea.” I laughed, raising my arms as they swatted at me. “Ah, not too hard, I still have gas.”

“You’re lactose intolerant, why did you eat so much cheese?” M asked.

“I always eat too much when I socialize. And, I have my period.”

“You are getting too comfortable around me,” Y sighed, distancing himself and shaking his head. “Remember, you are a lady.”

M and I grinned at each other and rolled our eyes.

***

Z and T met me in front of my favorite Mexican restaurant in Seoul, eating chocolate. “That is one huge chocolate bar,” he said, taking it from me.

“They sell them cheap at this Indian market near What The Book. Do you want some?”

Looking a little surprised, he shook his head.

D joined us later, as we sat near the bar, chowing down burritos and slurping large glasses of lemonade. “Who’s the girl?” I teased, glancing at T and licking my fingers.

He wrapped one arm around the back of my chair and cleared his throat. “She’s nobody.”

“You’ve been seeing her for three weeks and she’s nobody?”

“What I mean is, I don’t like her that way. We’ve been on a few dates. It’s nothing.”

I scoffed and turned to Z and D, who were watching this exchange and looking exhausted. “You don’t have to act so cool around me. You’re crazy about her.”

“I’m not here to date. I’m here to work and travel.”

“And if you get laid, that’s a bonus, right?”

He laughed and removed his hand from my chair. “She’s okay. She doesn’t mean anything. I mean, we can’t really talk about anything. And, I want someone, but if I can’t talk to her, it isn’t going to amount to anything.”

“Wow, that’s so . . . nauseating.”

“Then join us today, if you’re so sure about how I feel.”

I smirked into my glass. “No thanks. Nothing would make me gag more than the sight of you acting like a lovesick puppy.”

***

“If I’d known he was coming, I wouldn’t have joined you,” D sighed after we sent the boys off in a taxi. “You are so mean to him.”

I was surprised by how disappointed I felt. When he’d invited me to come along, I was hit with the idea that this new girl was taller than me, better-dressed, smarter, funnier, nicer, prettier. I didn’t want to see him hitting on another girl, paying for her ice cream, trying to make her laugh, and trying to impress her with random cinema trivia.

Also, I was disappointed in myself.

I linked arms with D and rested my head on her shoulder, biting into my chocolate bar. “I know I’m a bitch to him. But I can’t help it. When I’m with him, I want to hit him, but at the same time, I don’t know . . . I guess I’m starting to like him a little.”

She rested her head against mine as we headed back to the station. “You scare me sometimes.”

“Yeah.”

“You’re still hung up on your Sabunim?”

We stopped at the station, and I let go of her. “It’s great that T’s seeing someone,” I said. “I don’t think I’m ready for anyone.”

“Nobody’s ever really ready for a relationship. I wasn’t ready for L,” she said, referring to her boyfriend. “I mean, we met on Myspace. I didn’t think anything would happen, and well, look at us now.

“I just think . . . Maybe you have this idea in your head,” she said after some hesitation. “About who you’re supposed to be with, and how it’s supposed to happen.” Pause. “And maybe you’re just going to end up hurting yourself.”

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Z invited me to a wine and cheese party. I’ve never been to one before (I’m a 25-year-old ghetto child from the sticks, remember), and I don’t like wine.

But I do love cheese.

Today’s agenda:

1) Clean the apartment. At this point, it’s so caked with dirt and dust that I have to douse the whole place with gasoline and set it on fire.

2) Get a manicure and pedicure. Earlier this week, my yoga teacher gave me a foot massage while I was in the corpse position, and all I could think about was how gnarly my feet are. After all those years in the martial arts, all I’m left with are feet that feel like sandpaper.

3) Is it appropriate to bring Guinness to this party? No?

4) Buy new shoes, because my green, pointy-toe heels need some rest. I’m in love with the idea of stacked, red pumps, which are supposedly the rage right now.

Aside from all that frilly, over-sized pink crap that most young Korean women wear, shopping in Korea is awesome (if you can find your size–I’m petite but still refuse to go jeans shopping here), because if you take the time to look around you’ll find good deals for cute stuff. Sure, they’ll fall apart after a few washings, but they’ll be out of vogue in a few months anyway.

I’ve bought some summer dresses in the past few weeks, and I have this cute blue, button-down number that I bought from a small shop near my school for 30,000 won (almost 30 American dollars). When I wear it I feel like a tourist going through Africa for the twelfth time.

Ooooooh, but what I love the most is this straight, black pencil skirt that came with this really smart, chocolate brown belt. And even though I never wore sunglasses in California (too SoCal), I now own two pairs that nearly engulf my entire face. My mom and sisters would be so proud . . .

Pieces I’d like to buy in the fall:

a) A fitted vest.

b) A balloon skirt.

c) Anything in a deep purple or red shade.

d) White pumps. The higher, the better.

e) A chocolate, woodsy fragrance with hints of grapefruit. Back to Sephora’s website . . .

But anyway . . . back to today’s schedule. 

5) Catch up on my worldly news. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not the best conversationalist. To make it worse, I get all of my updates from MSN.

Think that sucks? Consider that I only visit because Hotmail sends me there after I sign out of my account. Then consider that 90 percent of my reading is based in the Celebrity gossip section. Well, that’s not totally accurate. Last night I spent two hours taking online quizzes to determine if I should buy a woodsy or fruity fragrance. And I’m still undecided!

I have no idea of who’s fighting who, what books to read or what movies to watch. At this point, I can’t tell the difference between a Democrat and Republican.

I have read the latest on the North Korea crisis, but I couldn’t give a shit. Really, I’m straddling the DMZ right now and no one is scared in the slightest. It would annoy me if my parents were freaking out, which they aren’t. My mom sent me one news item about a shooting incident near the border, and the next day she forwarded an article on bed bugs.

Anyway, it’s almost noon and I haven’t eaten anything but these taffy-like candies covered in soy powder. (Believe me when I tell you they’re to die for.) Time for brunch at my new favorite fruit restaurant, and then to cleaning. Maybe I can fit in some yoga before dinner.

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One day after meeting my supervisor’s friends, and one has already sent me six text messages and an email.

I tell myself that giving him a chance might be good for me. I can’t do this lovelorn shit anymore.

So I pined and mooned and it didn’t work out. Whatever. The Instructor doesn’t speak English and I don’t know that much about him anyway.

I need to go out.

On Sunday night I meet Z, T and their coworkers at a bar in Itaewon. I spend most of the night sipping imported beers and chatting up his lady friends. To my delight, there’s a Filipina among them. I haven’t met any since I left Busan.

I knew Maria and I share the same ethnicity when she smiles. Ask anyone familiar with Pinoys and you’ll hear the same thing–we have the same smile. Wide and warm. All teeth.

She’s from Cebu and darker than I am, with bigger eyes and thinner limbs. Like the other Filipino women I’ve met, she works at a bar, as one of those women you pay to sit next to you, drink with you, smile at your stories, let your hands wander and pretend you’re actually interesting.

“I dance too, baby,” she says. “Shiny bra, little black shorts, high boots. Thank god, I don’t have to get naked.

“Before I come to Korea, I can’t dance. When my manager sent me here, I thought I was going to sing. Then the asshole tells me I have to dance. So I learn the sexy dance. Now I dance real good, but shit I hate my job.” We laugh.

“And before Korea,” she adds, “I don’t drink. Really, I was a bad girl in the Philippines, but I never drink there. Then I work and my customers buy five bottles of booze, each! They want me to drink with them and I can’t say no.

“I used to get sick real bad. Now, I can’t work without five drinks.

“I’ve been in Korea for a year. Before, I work in Busan. Boring! Every day I have to work and dance and drink. Then this one girl from Manila gets raped, and my manager gets scared and sends all of us to Seoul.

“I’ve been here for how long, and this is only my second night out. And now I have a boyfriend,” she says, nodding at her Canadian companion. He greets me in Tagalog and tells me has Filipino friends back home. He’s far more pleasant than the usual foreigner who tells me he just loves the Philippines. I approve.

“But now my boyfriend’s contract is finished and he must go back to Canada.” She lowers her voice and leans into me. “Baby, I think I love him. I only had one boyfriend, in the Philippines, and he had to go to the States because his mother hated me, because I was poor.

“Now maybe I lose another boyfriend.”

“I’m sorry,” I tell her. “Maybe you’ll have a long distance relationship.”

“I don’t know. Come on baby, let’s dance.”

Her experience shows: she swings her hips, she touches the floor, she wiggles and grinds. I bob my head, shake my hands and shuffle my feet, struggling not to look too self-conscious.

“No!” Maria cries when a guy places his hands on my hips. “Don’t touch her. Don’t. She is a good Filipino girl. You must dance our style. Filipino style, no touch.” She says this to every guy who tries to paw me, and it’s hilarious and I think I adore her.

We exchange numbers and promise to see each other again. “I will teach you how to dance sexy,” she promises. “We Filipinas gotta stick together.”

She reaches over and runs a hand through my big, wet hair. How does hers stay so smooth and straight? “Remember, baby,” she chides. “Only Filipino men can treat a Filipina right.

“The rest, they all think we’re whores.”

***

I’ve managed to avoid T all night. Just as well, because he’s been talking up some chipper, clingy Australian. Or he’s just sitting there while she’s stroking him and cooing about everything that’s wrong with Korea.

I feel him watching me. Soon our group has dwindled down to four: myself, Z, T and his admirer. I bring everyone bottled water and he reaches over to touch my wrist. I swat him off like a fly, smiling wryly.

What is so appealing about him tonight? He looks nothing like The Instructor. He’s too tall–six-foot-four–too jock-ish, too big city. And for a while I’ve only been attracted to Korean men. He looks nothing like Sabunim, he doesn’t act or talk or laugh like him in the slightest.

I want to kick him.

At half past four, security asks us to leave. Z wants to go to a PC room until the buses start running. I’m grumpy and hungover. The nightlights annoy me for some reason so I stand on the bar’s stairwell as the four of us talk about what to do next.

“I would invite all of you to sleep at my place,” the Australian giggles, looking up at T, “but my apartment is really small. Like, it’s the size of a closet.”

I blink and nod and smile. “But how nice of you to consider us!”

She chooses to ignore my sarcasm and turns to T. “The ATMs aren’t working. I have money at my place, though, would you mind spotting me. I’ll pay you back tonight.”

I turn my back to her, face Z and jab my tongue against my right cheek twice. He tries not to laugh.

“What are you going to do?” T asks me and Z, sounding a tad bit embarrassed.

“Eat pie,” I tell him.

“Pie sounds good.”

“You can’t find pie this late,” the Australian insists.

“You know, she might be right,” I tell him. “We could always have pie in the morning, after we’re all so well-rested.”

She hails a cab, and T lingers with me and Z, grimacing.

“You should go,” I tell him.

“Well . . .”

“You’re such a slut.” I immediately regret the words as they leave my mouth.

The men stare at me blankly. “Excuse me?” T asks.

Laughing, I tell him, “Oh, don’t worry, I think the world of her. She’s cute and oh so charming. It’s you I’m wondering about.”

Z edges away, babbling about the PC room in the next building. T blinks, confused. He ducks into the doorway, takes my hands and raises them to his chest.

“But I haven’t spoken to you all night. You owe me a dance.”

I stare at him for a moment.

Then I take my hands back and cock my head to the side. “Listen. If you do her, you’re a slut. If you don’t, you’re an idiot.” I pat him on the chest with both hands. “Happy fucking!”

“Oh my god,” he says, shaking his head.

She calls for him from the cab. “The driver’s getting angry!” she sing-songs.

I walk past him and out of the building. As the cab drives past, I see him look back at me from the backseat. She’s curled into his side. I grin brightly and wave.

After he’s gone I sit on a bench and watch people stream past. Have I just shamed someone into sleeping with a girl he doesn’t care about? What’s wrong with me?

And I know right away.

I want to spar.

I need to spar.

I smile to myself and cross the street.

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