Saturday, March 31, 2012

Ilsan Market (일산 시장)

Went to Ilsan Market for lunch a few days ago. I love the place!

It's an old-fashioned market, everything squished together, with pigs' heads reposing next to baseball caps and fake flowers. I need to go back and explore someday.


Monday, March 26, 2012

Hong Kong, Part 2

Though we went to Hong Kong for a shoot and a few meetings, we ended up having most of last Wednesday to ourselves, to explore the place and get some food that agrees with my finicky Korean traveling companions, the same guys with whom I traveled to Beijing.

Hong Kong has some similarities to Beijing, but more differences. I actually really quite liked Hong Kong (most parts of it) and because practically everyone speaks English, more or less, I felt quite comfortable there.

 The neighborhood of our hotel. Because Hong Kong has so little land, they've built up rather than out (much like Seoul). Lots of really tall, quite narrow buildings. Our hotel is in an area called Happy Valley (Wan Chai District, but all the cab drivers understood me when I said Happy Valley), which made me happy. Sometimes, it's the little things.
 The view from my hotel room. Somewhat like Korea, Hong Kong tries to keep things green, even if it's just a few plants or a couple trees. I most definitely appreciate that. I don't know if it's true, but my mother always told me that if my eyes needed some resting, I should look at trees or grass, look at the green of nature. I still believe it's true, because my mommy told me so.
Buildings outnumber trees, of course. Lots of tall, shiny buildings, lots of run-down, worn-out buildings, all kinds. It's kind of amazing that there's still room to drive around in Hong Kong. Traffic is similar to LA or Seoul-- it's almost comforting to know that people, no matter what their race, drive in pretty much the same fashion. Though Hong Kongians drive on the wrong side of the road, of course.
Construction is EVERYWHERE in Hong Kong. I'm not exaggerating, either- it was very rare for me to be able to see a clear view without the sight of cranes or skeletons of buildings. It's a city that's constantly renewing itself, it seems, with mini-facelifts and chemical peels.
Old buildings and new buildings, all jammed together in a small area. It's remarkable what small footprints some of these buildings have- I kept expecting them to sway a little when it was windy, but they managed to stay perfect upright.
Crumbling buildings with new buildings in the background. They co-exist peacefully, for the most part, with the higher-end shops in the newer buildings, while the fun, cheap shops are in the run-down buildings.
This building looked like it was once rainbow-hued, but the paint's faded and chipped. The weather was unfortunately cloudy the day I took this photo, and I didn't bother re-touching it, but you get the gist.
I like this building. It brought to me an immediate 70's flavor, with that avocado color and the panels of glass. I'm not up on my architecture, but I'm pretty sure 70's wasn't what they were going for. Oh, well.
Most of the newest buildings seemed to be made of glass and steel, all shine and no nonsense. Pretty in their own way. I have very dichotomous taste, and Hong Kong really gave me both extremes, in terms of architecture.
Last building picture! I think this was the Hong Kong Space Museum, which we didn't go into. Why get education when there are all kinds of much more interesting things to see and drinks to have??
We stopped in on the Hong Kong Filmart for just a few minutes, to see our company's booth and meet up with our CEO and the guy from Marketing that was manning the booth. Because we visited on the last day of the film market, it was pretty empty.
 I'm so mature, right?? This was the entrance to the hall where our booth was located. I look extraordinarily pale because I'm standing right in front of a glass wall. I'm not actually that white.
My traveling buddies! This is a crappy picture because it was texted to me. My CEO just sent it to me a couple minutes ago, so I'm including it. Don't we look happy? We always look happy in pictures, but trust me, we were exhausted by this time.

Next week, I'm going on a quick jaunt to Beijing (with different traveling companions, sadly) for a few meetings, then to Australia (back with these kids) for a shoot. April's going to be a wild and busy month! I'm going to try to moblog, since I'll have data roaming and all that. We'll see if I have the energy and time.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Hong Kong

Lack of posting lately is due mostly to work and somewhat to sheer laziness.

In Hong Kong this week for a shoot, a couple quick photos:

Teeny-tiny Cathay Pacific plane. I love traveling, usually, but this plane was almost antiquated. And so, so little.

Victoria Harbour, between Hong Kong Island (where our hotel is) and Tsim Sha Tsui, where we had dinner the past two nights.

Another very early shoot tomorrow, but I'm going to try to micro-blog or maybe mo-blog more, so my blog doesn't become dead space.

More soon-ish!


Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Girly Korean Nails

I've mentioned this before, but it bears repeating- living in Korea has made me much more girly than I ever was in the U.S. It really does alarm me a little when I think about how much more I maintain myself than I used to. Not that it's bad, really-- taking care of myself is a good thing, after all-- I just wish that I didn't love random things. One of those random things, which I actually loved even in the U.S., is getting my nails done.

One of the girls at work is very high-maintenance. Not high-maintenance in that way that men hate, where girls require a regular flow of presents, compliments, and whining, but high-maintenace in that she really takes care of herself. She gets massages, facials, eyelash extensions, manicures, laser treatments, all kinds of things. Some Korean women really go all-out, and she's one of them.

Thanks to her, three of us went out and got manicures at lunch today:

Crazy girly, right? And much more elaborate than most manicures back in the U.S., what with patterns and stripes and glitter and sparkles all over the place.
We were in a coffee shop, waiting for our coffees and admiring our nails when the girls snapped the photos above on their phones (hence the crap quality). It's fun going to a salon with girls, chatting and being way too shrill. Being a girl and having good girlfriends is great.
My manicure. I'm attracted to sparkles, like a magpie. Each of those teeny little sparkles were added one at a time. Painstaking, much like getting eyelash extensions. No matter what color our nails are, the boys at work always make some sort of comment about it. Korean guys are much more observant than their American counterparts, and can tell immediately when a girl got her hair trimmed or changed her make-up. It's a little unnerving, but I've gotten used to it.

So tired today. I need some coffee and some Red Bull (thank goodness Korea has Red Bull now), and I'll probably survive the rest of the day...


Racism Begets Racism

The internet has a lot of words about Jenny Hyun in light of her racist Tweets.

Here's how it appears to have all gone down:

- Linsanity, first of all, wherein a seemingly very nice Taiwanese-American boy named Jeremy Lin made a big splash in the NBA. I find the story very sweet and compelling, and I would probably blog about it if it wasn't for this whole Jenny Hyun thing distracting me.

- Due to Jeremy Lin being an athletic Asian-American, he's caused quite the upheaval in the social norms of America. This is all well and fine except that, with good press comes bad press. And in situations involving ethnicity, bad press comes with racism.

- Floyd Mayweather Tweeted: Jeremy Lin is a good player but all the hype is because he's Asian. Black players do what he does every night and don't get the same praise

- ESPN suffered a huge backlash when one of their editors ran with this headline: Chink in the Armor: Jeremy Lin's 9 Turnovers Cost Knicks in Streak-stopping Loss to Hornets, for which the responsible people were suspended and fired.

- And then comes Jenny Hyun. In response to Floyd Mayweather's Tweet about Jeremy Lin, she turned to her own Twitter account:

WOMAN. There are better, more constructive ways to express your emotions than via racist ranting on Twitter! I mean, really, most people don't want to read or see or hear racist ranting- don't you know that by now? Her people did some quick damage control by way of her blog:
The thing that really got me about this story is the fact that she's so typical of many Korean-Americans; at least the ones that I've met in Southern California. She was born in Torrance, California, where there are tons of Korean-Americans. She was raised in church, singing hymns, as are most Korean-American children. She wanted to be a singer, and most Korean-Americans these days seem to think that the cross-cultural leap into Korean celebrity will be quite easy (see: Henny, Daniel and Gomes, Jessica, examples of pretty people without an excess of talent or ability to speak Korean that somehow still made it quite big here in Korea).

Hyun is a songwriter and performer, according to her blog, and has co-written two pretty famous songs, one for Girls' Generation and one for ChoColat. Even I've heard these songs, and I'm quite far removed from the reach of pop music. Suffice it to say, she had a lucrative future ahead of her and no reason to go off on a career-suicide jump, which is exactly what happens in Korea when anyone remotely famous does something foolish (Joo Ji Hoon's drug use, leading to an early entry into the mandatory army service, or Ivy's sex-tape-fueled withdrawal from entertainment for a couple years).

And yet, a career-suicide leap was made. Roboseyo was a little hesitant to post about Jenny Hyun, for good reason, mainly that this incident isn't really Korean (Hyun seems to be based in the U.S.) and Rob isn't Korean, Korean-American, or American. He blogged:
Is Jenny Hyun a typical Korean-American? No.
Is she a typical Korea-Korean? No.
Has she lived in Korea? Not that I've gathered so far.
Do her tweets say anything about Korea? No.
Do her tweets show us anything about how Korea Koreans feel about black people? No.
Do her tweets show us anything about how Korean Americans feel about black people? No.
Is there any reason I should care about her racist dumb comments more any other set of racist dumb comments? No. And hers even less than the other trolls racists and dumbasses, who are more likely to have been in control of themselves when they write their drivel.
Is this going to kill the Korean wave in America? No.
Should Girls' Generation or Chocolat continue to employ her? No.
Should Ms. Hyun have a twitter account if she knows this is one of the ways her mental condition manifests? No.
Last I heard, the situation is being explained as a possible schizophrenic episode... and should I get my knickers in a knickerbocker over words that are nothing more than the manifestation of an unwell mind? No.

Does she deserve to get off the hook if she really is sick? Not off the hook... but she clearly needs help here, either for dealing with racist attitudes, or for dealing with her condition. And she should have a few people around her who are filtering stuff like this.

If the schizophrenic thing is a line her agent or handlers are peddling to get her off the hook? That's just as bad as the stuff she tweeted (and her unapologetic response to the backlash), because schizophrenics and others who struggle with mental illness do NOT deserve to have their condition filed with "I was drunk" and "He's lived a hard life" as excuses for bad behavior that deserve to be met with jaded "oh yeah?" responses. Poisoning the compassion the unwell deserve is the most deplorable thing I can think of.

The final takeaway... probably the only real takeaway here:
The response to racism (Mayweather's comment) is not more racism.
The response to Hyun's racism, is not more racism, either (NB: people using this to say all Koreans or all Korean-Americans are racist, because of their tangential association with Ms. Hyun.)

OK I'm done.

Also... Jeremy Lin... Taiwanese-American. Intersects with the themes of this blog even less... though I like a good sports Cinderella story as much as the next guy, and it's really easy to root for him.
I concur. With everything, really. Since, though, I am Korean-American, and a Korean-American woman, to boot, I'll go into my reaction a little more. In no way am I going to defend Hyun; I unequivocally believe that what she did was wrong and stupid. I can't believe that anyone with an ounce of common sense would use such a public forum to spout such obviously inflammatory words.

However, I will say this: Koreans (including Korean-Americans) are very, very proud of their culture. I include myself in this group-- I've said it before on my blog, and I'll said it again, I love my heritage. I do not love my ancestry to the exclusion of all else, though. If someone insults Koreans, I try not to take it personally (unless that someone is deliberately trying to bait me, in which case, I can be mean). During the Olympics, I root for Korea and America. I love it when both my countries, both my cultures, do well. I love that Koreans embrace (most) things American, and that mainstream America is slowly starting to come around to Korean culture.

Floyd Mayweather was a jackass. I never, for one second, thought that he was insulting all Asians (and heaven help the person who manages to offend ALL Asians, because there's a hell of a lot of us in the world-- who's going to put together that iPhone for you if we all go on strike??). I though, Floyd Mayweather is being a jackass and boy, is he going to get it from Asians. I may have sighed when I first read about the Tweet, but I didn't see red. I didn't want to take to a public forum to put a curse on Mayweather. And I certainly didn't want to suggest a genocide of ALL black people because of what ONE jackass Tweeted.

I mean, really. What is wrong with people??

I have what I believe is a "normal" amount of racism. That is to say, I have the same ethnic expectations that most people (okay, most people I know) have: Asians are good at studying, black guys are good at basketball, Latins are good dancers, and white people are the only racial group that is acceptable to tease (kidding, white people-- but only a little, and you know it's true). I don't hate any one race. I don't begrudge the fact that I will never be taller than 5'2" or be able to dunk a basketball. I can readily admit when someone surprises my expectations- and, in cases like Jeremy Lin's, I cheer heartily for them. The kid really seems like a good boy with genuine delight about his unexpected situation.

So why, oh, why, are so many Koreans still bigoted? There are older Korean people that I meet in Korea in 2012 that still mutter darkly about "foreigners" and "tainted blood" and "dirty." These are the people that give me the side-eye when I don't know some word in Korean and so say it in English, instead. To my friends, mind you, but it doesn't matter. My pronunciation makes me one of those "foreigners," even if my blood is 100% Korean.

I don't know when racism in Korea is going to become taboo. Because that's the real problem- racism is accepted and expected here. In L.A., people were shocked to come across examples of racism, and friends expressed racism, even jokingly, only in private settings. In Korea, blatant racism is not only accepted but a very typical characteristic in middle-aged and elderly people. Yes, I know about the whole Japanese occupation; I have family members that suffered during that time. That does not mean that I hate Japanese people now. My best friend is Japanese, and she had nothing to do with what my great-aunt went through during the occupation.

All I can do is hope that, at some point, perhaps by my children's generation, Korea will be a more diverse and less racist place. No, I'm not advocating that Korean people go around marrying foreigners willy-nilly- I just want Koreans to give foreigners a chance. Stop being terrified of strangers and talk to them, for crying out loud. Given that people like Jenny Hyun, people in my generation, are still flaming bigots, I don't hold my breath. The fact that she's Korean-American makes it all the worse- educated in the States and still THAT racist? Really?

I've been keeping myself distracted by working a lot, getting facials, manicures, and massages, and generally becoming more girly. I wear make-up every single day, a concept that was foreign to me in L.A. Plus, a close family friend is coming to Korea tomorrow (yay!) and spending the weekend with me (yay!). I'm sure I'll have photos to post of the fun-filled (and hopefully rain-less) weekend.


Sunday, March 04, 2012

Wangfujing, Beijing

A couple weeks ago (at least, I think it was a couple weeks ago ... days are beginning to blur together for me), two co-workers and I went on a business trip to Beijing. Rather than Wangjing, which is the area in Beijing that I traveled to last year, we went to Wangfujing, which is in a much nicer part of Beijing.

There were loads of high-end shops, huge malls, and luxury car dealerships all over the place in Wangfujing. We didn't have all that much time to wander the (clean) streets, since we were there for a series of meetings with a prospective client, but I managed to take a few shots (on my phone, so forgive the crappy photos).

The first day, we went out and walked down the promenade, passing by three enormous malls. The weather was overcast, making for really uninteresting lighting, but I took a photo of this mall (which we didn't go inside) because it's marked "Lotte," which is a huge Korean and Japanese conglomerate. Touches of home, even in China.

We managed to find a Starbucks for our caffeine fix (one of the guys is a complete coffee junkie) and wandered through the mall, the boys doing some price comparison with Korea (we went into a Nike store, a Gap, an Adidas store, and walked past countless others). I asked the guys to buy me a watch at Cartier, but had no luck (one of them told me to wait a hundred years and he'd buy it for me).
That mall on the right side is the one that we actually wandered through. We chose to go into that mall because it had a big Starbucks sign on the exterior, and everyone needed some coffee (our flight was at 8:40 in the morning, which meant we met at the office at 6:30 in order to get to the airport).
Exterior of the hotel, which was also conveniently where all our meetings took place. It was a funny little place-- not super nice, by any means, but livable. I can deal with livable. My Korean co-workers worry about me a lot because I don't seem very outdoorsy, which means that they think that I'll die if I'm in less than four-star accommodations. I'm not that bad, geez.

Our first night, a couple people took us to dinner. They decided that we should experience hotpot, Chinese style, which is quite different from shabu shabu, which Koreans took and modified from the Japanese. There are shabu shabu places a-plenty in Korea, but no hotpot places. Who were we to argue with new experiences? So off we went.
As it turns out, I don't mind hotpot. I'm not the biggest fan of lamb (though I really, really liked the lamb skewers that I had had in Beijing last year), especially over-cooked lamb. I prefer my lamb to be a large portion, like a leg, and cooked medium, so it's still pink in the middle. Neither hotpot nor shabu shabu are really conducive to cooking thin slices of meat to anything except boiled to death, so the lamb wasn't all that great. The beef wasn't that great, either, so maybe I'm just a picky meat eater (actually, I really am).

Hotpot wasn't the best thing I've ever eaten (not even the best thing I had during this trip), but it was okay. The boys, on the other hand, couldn't handle it at all. They didn't like the sauce (some sort of sesame-ish sauce that had the look of peanut butter but the viscosity of Thousand Island salad dressing), they didn't like the tofu (it was a little strong and pungent compared to Korean tofu), they didn't like the herbs (no idea, but similar to cilantro), and they couldn't really deal with the lamb (Koreans don't eat much lamb). It was hilarious (I am a mean person).

After dinner (during which the boys ate about eight bites), our companions excused themselves, as they had to go back to work, and I was left in charge. What a crap idea. I speak about five words of Mandarin, the most useful being "cold water," because in Beijing (or maybe all throughout China?) restaurants bring glasses of tepid water. I learned how to say "cold water" on my first trip to Beijing last year, when I couldn't handle drinking the body-temperature water.

Since I speak English and the boys speak even less Chinese than I do, I was designated speaker for the entire trip. We decided to "explore" Wangfujing, which means that we walked about three blocks. Directly in front of our hotel was a very long row of government-managed street food carts. The boys decided they wanted to try something, since their dinner was less than satisfactory.
These carts just stretched on and on and on. It was amazing how well-ordered and clean they were. The boys later found out that Wangfujing is kept very clean and neat because a lot of tourists visit and spend a lot of money. Most of the non-Asian people seemed to be Russian, which makes sense, geographically, but is frustrating, when one doesn't speak any Russian or Chinese.
I tried to get one of the boys to eat something slimy or creepy-crawly, but had no luck. I kind of wanted to try scorpion, just because it's something to try. Plus, I feel like they would be crispy and hollow, and not really taste like I'm eating a bug. I absolutely cannot bring myself to try 번대기 (bundaegi) in Korea (silkworm larvae) because they are plump and squishy-looking. Shudder.

We actually had Korean food from the street carts, tteokbokki (떡볶이) and mandu (만두), then went to a convenience store to buy bottled water (do not drink tap water in Beijing!) and snacks. It was an early night, leading into a post-lunch meeting the next day, so I got plenty of sleep- a first for me in China!

After meetings all afternoon the next day, our last night in China, we went out to a big dinner with a whole bunch of people. It was actually an amazing dinner. We ate at Nobu, then went next door to the Ritz-Carlton and had champagne and cigars at the Davidoff Lounge (I had champagne and tried one puff of one of the boys' cigars).
That would be the cigar that I tried, and the guy that I swiped it from. I don't smoke cigarettes, so I don't really get the smoking thing in general. I have a weird, sexist opinion that I can't seem to change about women who smoke- I'm pretty sure it's the Korean blood in me, because while about 99.99% of Korean men seem to smoke, it seems like less than 10% of Korean women smoke. Ah, general inequality in Korea, it comes up in the most random ways.

On the other hand, another gender inequality moment for me was the fact that during the entire Beijing trip, I never once carried my own bag. I had a laptop bag and a carry-on, and in the hours that I was in airports or airplanes, I never once saw my carry-on. The boys even took it through security. It was a little bit bizarre, but typical of Korea- men in Korea carry their girlfriend or spouse's purse for them. Not like in the U.S., when the girl's in the bathroom or trying on clothes- dudes in Korea carry their woman's purse constantly. Like, walking down the street. Entering a restaurant. In movie theaters. I used to think it was so weird, but I've gotten used to it.

When I commented that American chivalry is totally different, the guys asked me to explain. So I told them how guys in the U.S. don't carry purses, but they do open doors and seat ladies first and all that jazz. The concept of "ladies first" is foreign in Korea, as evidenced by men always sitting down first, entering through doors first, ordering first in restaurants, and so on and so forth. Once I said all that, one of the guys unfailingly opened all doors for me (the guy whose cigar I tried), but not in a sarcastic way- in a rather sweet way.
I didn't know the two guys very well before we went on this little trip together, but we became much closer, and I was very pleasantly surprised. There's something about going to a foreign country together, where nobody speaks the native language, that brings out the true colors in people. I'm glad I was stuck with two genuinely nice boys (I keep saying boys, but they're both older than me) that made the experience more fun than I expected it to be.

Hopefully we're awarded this film, so that I can work with these two for the next few months! Crossing my fingers and holding my breath. Should hear back this week.

Was slightly sick over the weekend, and am trying hard to get over it. Overdosing on echinacea was helpful, I feel much better today than yesterday. Need to get better before the weekend, since a friend is visiting Korea from San Diego and staying at my place this weekend!