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Monthly Archives: August 2009

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Yesterday we went to the Seoul Grand Park Zoo. It was pretty awesome, especially to see the kids so excited. I don’t know how many times I was told how to spell ‘elephant’.

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There were many kinds of animals there, but the two most majestic to me were the elephant and the Bengal tigers. I actually think that I’ve never seen tigers before, so it was really moving to see them, although they were hiding under their shelter, and not too active in the Seoul summer heat. Those things could kill you with a single swipe of their paw.

Anyway, it was originally supposed to be a swimming day, but it was suddenly changed to a zoo outing. I literally got the message at 9:00am that the plans had changed. I was happy about that.

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After we toured the zoo for a bit, including seeing the monkeys mating (LOOK KIDS! IT’S AN ELEPHANT!), we had kimbap under a traditionally-architectured veranda:

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We took some pictures near the polar bear den.

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That image seriously personifies each kid perfectly. David with the stare of his glazed-over eyes, Barbie sitting pretty, Julie being like ‘… yeah? I’m here. So what?’ Man I’m gonna miss these kids 6 months from now.

The lunch veranda was near a pool-type thing, so the kids got a bit of a swim in. It was awesome…

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All in all, it was a good day.

Peace out, from Angelina.

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Photo on 2009-08-19 at 10.25 copy

Here are some cultural tidbits I’ve learned in Korea:

1) Do not toss something to someone who you consider to be a friend.
I learned this when I tossed a book to my friend at my apartment. In Canada (and the rest of the world, I’d presume), it isn’t out of the ordinary to give something to someone by tossing it their way. This is a no-no in Korea. You should place whatever it is you’re giving to the person neatly in front of them, preferably with both hands.

2) Give money to store clerks and other such people with both hands.
This is similar to the book tossing incident. Don’t toss the money on the counter. It’s even considered rude to give the money to the teller with one hand. I don’t really understand this one.

3) Do not hail a cab with your palm facing outwards.
I was always wondering why cabs were driving right past me. Maybe it’s because I look American. Nope. I found out from my neighbour’s girlfriend that you should not hail a cab with your palm facing out, as this is considered rude.

4) Do not beckon for someone to come to you with your palm facing outwards.
This goes along with the cab hailing thing. Koreans beckon someone to come to them with their palms facing down, which to me looks like the ‘go away’ sign. The logic is this: You call your dog or pet to come to you with your palm facing down, not humans (or those whom you consider to be human). I did this once to an older waitress at a restaurant, only to be given a deeply scornful grimace.

5) Do not turn down food offered to you.
I learned this lesson when at an old girlfriend’s family gathering. They offered me the tail of an eel, which is considered to be the most ‘virile’ part, which would apparently give me the reproductive fortitude of Caligula himself. I politely gestured ‘No, you can have it, thanks.’. Big no-no.

6) Give some consideration to your friends and hosts by learning the very basics of Korean.
Another lesson from an old girlfriend. I brought a cake to a family dinner. Her sister very politely said the friendly form of ‘thank you’, which is 큼어워. I think I spelled that correctly. It’s pronounced ‘Keum-ah woh”. I sat there confused. Finally I was told that that was an informal, friendly way of saying ‘thank you’, as opposed to the more formal 감사합니다 (kam sa hamnida). Had I learned the very basics, this situation could have been averted. Learning a bit of the language also shows that you are not ethnocentric, and that you regard their language as something worthy of your attention.

7) If you get a girlfriend, forget being able to hang out with any of your female friends.
This may not apply to every girl, but from the ones I’ve dated, do not expect it to go over well if you have female friends. I even had a girl get jealous over my 14-year-old language partner, a friend of a friend who I met in Canada while getting my TESOL certification. It’s quite possible that this is an extreme case (as this girl was fit to be put in a straight jacket and heavily sedated), but generally, when Koreans have a boyfriend or girlfriend, you should expect to kiss most of your ‘superfluous’ friendships goodbye, because you should be focused only on your partner. Sucks.

However, the most important lesson I’ve learned here is not cultural. Many people you meet in life will make you feel obliged to do what they want you to do, and for you to bow to their every whim. If there’s anything I’ve learned here, it’s how to say “No.” 아니. No. People will try to take advantage of my kindness and trust in others, but I won’t have it any longer.

I came here with infant eyes, trustful of others and open to society. I have learned the harsh reality that is the world, and have also learned some hard lessons in love. The number one relationship lesson I’ve learned is this: IF SOMEONE IS PASSIONATE, REMEMBER THAT IT SWINGS BOTH WAYS. I don’t use caps lock often, but this is one situation where it is pertinent. If someone suddenly and deeply falls in love with you, chances are they will be able to drop you like a bad habit just as quickly and easily. These people are toxic, and will make you question your own judgment, and the ‘self’ that you’ve come to know your whole life. Avoid highly passionate love affairs at all costs. Now, there’s nothing wrong with someone falling in love with you, or you falling in love with someone, but during your first fight, take note how quickly and easily that person gets angry and ‘snaps out of it’. This is a good method to gauge how mentally realistic this person is. There’s nothing wrong with passion, but remember that passion goes both ways.

I guess this should have been two separate posts, but I’ve had a lot on my mind lately, and no motivation to post anything. It’s been a tough couple of weeks for me, but I know that I’m stronger than the world around me.

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Tomorrow, August 2nd, marks my one-year milestone in Korea.

I’ve experienced some of the best times in my life here, and some of the very, very worst. I can’t say which I have learned more from. There have been times that I’ve thought I wasn’t strong enough to endure the pain, even this far into my time here. Some days are more painful than others, but one thing I’ve noticed every day is that I miss my family and friends. I don’t think that will ever change.

My personality is very unique. I am not like anyone you’ve ever met. To girls, I am the nicest guy who tries my best to please and understand them. I go out of my way to be generous, understanding, and caring. It is this kindness and generosity that has landed me in trouble in certain situations. I give too much of myself to others, and can be taken advantage of. Even when I know that I am being taken advantage of, I still don’t mind because I know that I am contributing to her happiness. While this sounds very good, and what every girl would look for in a guy, it has also proven to bring me a lot of pain and suffering.

This is one of the many things that I have learned about myself here.

From afar, I have watched my family change as well. My brother has become engaged to a great girl whom I love, and my family loves as well. My other brother has graduated and is on his way to flight school. Both of these people are very important to my life, and I am almost jealous of their successes.

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My brother Alex

My brother Matt and his soon-to-be wife

My brother Matt and his soon-to-be wife

Anyway, I just wanted to reflect on one year of being across the planet from everyone I know and love. The world can be a lonely place, but not if you’ve got a great family to support you no matter where you are. So remember this. Hug your parents. Love them for loving you. Tell everyone how much you appreciate them. One day you may end up very far apart, and no matter how long your arms are, you won’t be able to reach them for that hug that you so desperately need at times.

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