Awaken the taste buds!

I’m just about done with my time in Korea, and I’ve moved my blog over somewhere more location-neutral – http://planestrainsandchutney.wordpress.com/

Come see what I’m up to!

Toodles!

Toodles!

…and other things, of course. But this post is about the presents.

Chuseok is Korean Thanksgiving. It’s a time spent with family and paying respects to ancestors. It’s also one of the two major gift-exchanging occasions (the other being Lunar New Year). This differs somewhat from Western culture, where we mainly exchange gifts on birthdays and Christmas.

Now, whereas back home we’d hit the shopping centres and search for the perfect gift, in Korea you don’t have to go any further than your local supermarket.

I took a few photos of the Chuseok display at the local Homeplus. As you’ll see, all of the packaged gifts are hampers of foodstuffs or toiletries. They’re very practical gifts, and if you know the exchange rate, you’ll see that they’re rather pricey. (For SA, drop the last three digits and multiply by 9, e.g. 50 000 KRW ~ 50 X 9 = 450 ZAR.) Each hamper comes in a bag, which will have the same design as the lid of the box. The bags have a nifty handle, seeing as they’re usually quite heavy.

Toiletries galore. Gift boxes usually consist of shampoo and toothpaste.

Toiletries galore. Gift boxes usually consist of shampoo and toothpaste.

All of the Spam! Koreans luuuuurve Spam, so there's usually an entire shelf dedicated to Spam hampers.

All of the Spam! Koreans luuuuurve Spam, so there’s usually an entire shelf dedicated to Spam hampers.

Fruit hampers, nut hampers, or hampers with Korean sweets. Those big green things with the apples are Korean pears.

Fruit hampers, nut hampers, or hampers with Korean sweets. Those big green things with the apples are Korean pears.

Oil, coffee, or, well, anchovies. Lots and lots of anchovies.

Oil, coffee, or, well, anchovies. Lots and lots of anchovies.

Mushrooms in all shapes and sizes. The round box on the left costs R900. That's quite the mushroom!

Mushrooms in all shapes and sizes. The round box on the left costs R900. That’s quite the mushroom!

If you’ve been lucky enough to receive an endless supply of Spam, here are some fun ideas to help get rid of it!

At most public schools (and most hagwons, for that matter), the principal (or manager) will buy gifts for all the staff, foreign teacher included. One of my friends has been gifted Dettol hampers by her employer – twice! She has been handing out body wash and hand soap for as long as I can remember to anyone who’s happy to receive. I was given shampoo and toothpaste for Chuseok last year, and a year’s supply of cooking oil for Lunar New Year. This year, for Chuseok, I was lucky enough to get a box with three bottles of fruit juice.

Colo(u)r Me Rad and The Colo(u)r Run (can’t help it, my British roots won’t let me leave out the ‘u’) seem to have taken the world by storm. Taking their inspiration from the Hindu Holi Festival, both are un-timed 5 km “fun walks”, where at different points, participants are doused in different colours. The colour is just dyed cornstarch powder, so although it smells just like farm, it’s harmless and washes right out. My sports bra begs to differ, but I suppose it’s all in the fabric. Everything else was clean after just one wash.

Both are for-profit events, so don’t let their claims of helping local charities encourage you to participate. I mean, participate by all means, but do it for the fun of it and nothing else. (What they do is compensate charities for providing volunteers. I haven’t done thorough research, but it would appear that this compensation is very minimal. But hey, anything to get a charity’s name associated with your event and attract more people, right?)

Korea has had three events, all through Color Me Rad, and it was my turn to join in the fun on the 14th of September. It was a rainy morning in Korea, but thankfully the skies cleared just before the first wave of participants took off, and other than stepping in lots of puddles, the rest of everything was about as fun as fun can get.

Here are some photos from the event:

Ever heard of a band called Ylvis? Me neither.

Well, that was until three weeks ago, when my Facebook news feed was suddenly flooded with their music video, “The Fox”. I didn’t watch it; avoiding getting on the viral bandwagon is my lone act of defiance, so I generally try and stick with it for as long as possible. So despite countless shares, and posts in just about every ESL-related page and group I belong to, I resisted the urge to see what the fuss was about.

The song came up in a discussion among some friends and I, and I wasn’t the only one who hadn’t listened to it, which prompted one of my friends to whip out her smartphone and pull up the video. And yes, I can understand what the fuss is about.

So, for those of you who’ve managed to escape The Fox until now, check out their official music video:

Here are the lyrics posted on their Facebook page:

THE FOX

Dog goes woof
Cat goes meow
Bird goes tweet
And mouse goes squeek

Cow goes moo
Frog goes croak
And the elephant goes toot

Ducks say quack, fish goes blub
And the seal goes ow ow ow

But there’s one sound – That no one knows
What does the fox say?

Ring-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding
Wa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pow
Hatee-hatee-hatee-ho
Tchoffo-tchoffo-tchoffo-tchoffo-tchoff

Big blue eyes
Pointy nose
Chasing mice
and digging holes

Tiny paws
Up the hill
Suddenly
You’re standing still

Your fur is red
So beautiful
Like an angel in disguise

But if you meet
A friendly horse
Will you communicate by mo-o-o-o-orse?
How will you speak to that ho-o-o-o-orse?

What does the fox say?

Tchacha-chacha-chacha-chow
Fra-kaka-kaka-kaka-kow
A-hee-aee ha-hee
A-oo-oo-oo-ooo
What the does the fox say?

The secret of the fox
Ancient mystery
Somewhere deep in the woods
I know you’re hiding

What is your sound
Will we ever know?

It’ill always be a mystery
What do you say?

Youre my guardian angel
Hiding in the woods
What is your sound
Will we ever know?
I want to know!

Now that you’re properly WTF-ing, listen to their explanation of the lyrics (now it all makes sense!)~

There you have it. Apparently, marijuana is the Norwegian word for fox. :-/ Smoking weed is, essentially, taking a fox.

And finally, what would a youtube search be without the discovery of endless parodies?

Annoying Orange~

A slightly disturbing Minecraft rendition~

Wolverine makes an appearance~

(This one’s worth watching past the 1 minute mark. Trust me.)

Ring-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding. Over and out.

Last Saturday, I had the unique and fortunate experience of attending a Korean game show. The 2nd Quiz on Korea was great entertainment and, well, about as quirky as all things Korea can get.

quizContestants were foreigners from all around the world with at least a basic command of Korean. They were asked a series of multiple choice questions, and if they got an answer wrong, they were out for a round. The last man standing over the course of three rounds went through to the final round. Here, there were no options, only questions. First person to get three answers right, won a car.

I quite enjoyed that for each question, a wee bit of background info was given, perhaps one or two facts. I can’t recall a single thing right now, but I remember thinking that a lot of it was interesting.

What made me frown, though, was the claim that those little instant coffee sachets, with the creamer and sugar already in there, were invented in Korea. I brushed it off as wishful thinking, and then I took to the googlez (as one does  for just about anything nowadays).

coffee mixAnd wouldn’t you know it, it seems that good ol’ 커피 믹스 (keopi migseu – Konglish for “coffee mix”) was indeed invented in Korea in the 70s. Coffee mix is very popular here, and there are several brands available. I should have known it’s a national pride issue. Although none of my friends like coffee mix, I’m quite the fan (I did a post on it last year), and when I visited South Africa over summer vacation, I got my mom hooked, too.

Turns out that we can thank Korea for quite a bit more than just coffee sachets. The most comprehensive list can be found (where else but) at Wikipedia.

If you’d like to read the full article, here it is.

Here are a few interesting ones that stood out to me:

Global brands Samsung, LG, Kia, Hyundai, Daewoo and Hankook Tyres all started in Korea.

BB Cream ~ well, technically. It was developed in Germany in the 60s, but took off on the global market after being introduced to Korea and Japan in 1985. After some celebrity endorsements it took off in the rest of Asia, and the West caught on in 2012.

Underfloor heating ~ We all know heat rises, so a wall-mounted air-conditioner isn’t the ideal weapon for temperatures that shouldn’t even be legal. The Koreans were the first to were the first to implement ondol heating.

Electronics ~

  • portable MP3 players
  • MP3 phones
  • touchscreen cellphones
  • LTE-enabled cellphones
  • Retina display (the technology used by Apple)
  • Coloring Ring back tone ~ you know how when you phone someone, instead of the normal ring-ring you sometimes here a sample of a song? That’s the one!

Other technology ~

  • contactless smart transport cards (swipe cards for the subway and buses)
  • Digital Mobile TV, which is made possible through…
  • Digital Media Broadcasting
  • WiBro (Wireless Broadband), a Korean-developed Mobile WiMAX system
  • Samsung provided the world’s first LTE service in Stockholm
  • If you ever find yourself at Seoulleung Station in Seoul, check out the world’s first virtual store, which lets consumers do their shopping using a smartphone app from the subway station, for delivery at their homes.

Internet-related stuff ~

  • Internet cafés
  • LAN gaming centres (PC Bang)
  • Question-and-answer sites (which Yahoo! Answers is modelled after)

Other interesting things ~

  • Taekwondo
  • A specific (and really nifty) method of finger counting, called chisanbop
  • Thundersticks (those plastic tubes used at sporting events to make loud clapping noises)

baseball

Well, now you know.

Many months ago, my friend Trevor and I went in search of Gusto Taco (and now I’m fighting the urge to tell you just how good the food is there), and on the way we came across a theme café called Mustoy. It was already late in the day, so it was decided that we’d return another time. And so we did!

It took me ages to decide on a design, which I then changed completely as I went along. Here’s some shots from that day:

Mustoy is a theme café where you, well, paint porcelain dolls. For 15 000 KRW you get a doll (which can be a “boy” or “girl” shape – the only differentiation being that the hair either points up or points down), a whole variety of markers, a planning card, and a drink.

So more recently – on my birthday last Saturday – some of my closest friends joined me for an afternoon of arts and crafts. And although some of us started off reluctantly, proclaiming our inability to come up with a good idea or draw it well, all our dolls turned out wonderfully. So wonderful, in fact, that I asked each of them to stretch their imagination even further and come up with a little story to accompany their doll. There were no clear instructions or guidelines, and I so enjoyed what they came up with.

FLTR: Cindy, Me, Trevor, Sarah, Thomas
FLTR: Cindy, Me, Trevor, Sarah, Thomas

 

THOMAS

Kusakabe Satsuki from the film ‘My Neighbor Totoro’ (1988)

‘My Neighbour Totoro’ is an animated film by the Japanese company Studio Ghibli which was released as a double feature with ‘Grave of the Fireflies’ due to the moroseness of the latter; it became extremely famous due to its accessibility and, for many, nostalgic nature; eventually becoming the mascot of the studio.

The story deals with 2 sisters, Mei (5) and Satsuki (11) who move into the country with their father to be closer to their mother whom is in hospital. Whilst there the younger sister finds a secret hollow where 3 ‘Totoro’ (Mei mispronounces the Japanese for troll) live. The girls keep meeting the largest Totoro. When Mei tries to run to the hospital when she finds out her mother can’t come home Totoro and his friend ‘The Catbus’ (never realized how insane this movie was) help Satsuki to find her.

I decided to Draw Satsuki as the blank figure’s hair reminded me of her.

SAM_2795

SARAH

PSY was happy (mother-father-gentlemanly happy, actually) but it wasn’t enough. He wanted more out of life. While flipping idly through his Twitter feed one evening, one Tweet in particular stood out: “@psy_oppa u shuld cum 2 Canada lol.” “Hmm… Ka-na-da…” PSY placed his hand on his chin and his other hand on his elbow and, swaying back and forth, thought it over. The next morning, he had booked a ticket to the Great White North, and two days later, he had enrolled in the RCMP Academy, also known as Mountie School (it’s a real thing – look it up). PSY Oppa had finally found his true calling: a job that required that he had a horse to dance with. What’s more – he looked exquisite in red.

1082701_546706405469_297680181_n

CINDY

Привет!  My name is Stephanya, but my friends call me Stesha.  I live in Moscow, but love the summers I spend at my families дача (summer home) in the country.  My favorite meal, голубец мит сметана (stuffed cabbage roll with sour cream) is made by my бабушка (grandmother) every Thursday night!    I’m most excited though to visit all my Mustoy friends at our international convention this August!

SAM_2796

TREVOR

Damia’s a gigantic fan of Dexter’s Lab. Insists on going by ‘D’, just to be that much closer in spirit to the show. Unfortunately, D’s sister doesn’t exactly fit the bill for Dee Dee very well. It’s an ongoing dilemma. Not that there’s not plenty else to discourage D in this fandom endeavor – the D in Chemistry (thanks a lot dilation lab!), the dying drive with the archive of the show, and the deleterious effects on sleep and vision that obsessive rewatchings at 3am produce. The situation isn’t dire yet. After all, the cosplay’s worked out well. No, the big problem for D was much more dreadful than these. D spent days daydreaming: if only D’s Dexter’s Lab’s Club’s Directive’s Designations of Design and Durability of Fan Displays was more direct.

1374814444772

LEANA

As creative as I’ve been in convincing teenagers that Maths is not the enemy (and for the record, I succeeded far beyond my wildest expectations!), I find that I’m painfully left-brained when it comes to actual crafts.

So really, my inspiration was a new take on primary colours (I do love them brights!). Naturally, I incorporated a rainbow (I don’t particularly like the things, they just keep coming up wherever colours are involved – check out the pants of my first doll). After creating my first doll, I knew that I wanted the next one to be more about colourblocking and simplicity.

The shop assistant told us that the facial expressions on our dolls revealed our personalities. I’m not so sure about that, but my doll’s happiness most certainly reflected my feelings about going home for summer vacation the very next weekend!

SAM_2803

Thanks to my friends for being such good sports! 🙂

Well actually, not just one airport. They all kinda sucked.

But we’ll get there.

Mid-February marked travel time. And, as described in one of my previous posts, this trip was long-anticipated and well-planned.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Travel day! Trevor and I headed for the airport in the afternoon. We were both freezing our butts off while waiting for the bus (and also during subway transfers) – we wore the least amount of warm layers we could brave, as these would just become unwanted extra luggage for the next 10 days. By a little after 21:00, we were on our plane and headed for Manila.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

We arrived in Manila just after midnight, and joined the many other passengers who settled all over the terminal to catch some shut-eye. Our next flight was at 7:00. There was some floor napping, after which we headed to the massage suite, where we had mediocre, but relaxing massages before dozing off in the comfy lounge chairs. When it was time to check in, we realised that the domestic terminal was in a whole different part of town! So in our exhausted states, we headed outside, only to be bombarded by taxi drivers. I’m not even kidding. People say that that’s what happens, but you don’t know what to expect until suddenly they’re all fighting over you and grabbing your bags.

Anyway, without any further thought, we got into one of the taxis and set off to the next terminal. Long story short, this guy saw some suckers coming, and made bank. We spent as much on the 10 minute taxi ride as one would to take a taxi from Hongdae to Paju at midnight – more than ₩60000 (a good R500). I was completely unprepared for this and didn’t think to ask how much he was going to charge until we were moving. But such is life, and I’ll never make that mistake again.

The domestic terminal was not what I expected, but very similar to places I’ve seen on The Amazing Race. I was most amused by the sign above the check-in counter with, get this, the “estimated time of departure” for our flight to Kalibo. This was over 90 minutes later than the time on the tickets. Sigh. It was hot and sticky, there was no air-conditioning, and there were people everywhere. It was more intimidating than I’d anticipated. We were hungry, but there were only kiosks with snack-type foods available. None of our devices could pick up the wi-fi that was advertised all over the waiting room. The seats were so uncomfortable. Urgh, it was a less than ideal situation all round.

Eventually, after a delay of more than two hours, we set off for Kalibo. From the flight, we had to still take a 90 minute bus ride to the ferry terminal and board a 30 minute ferry to the island. Thankfully we pre-booked with a charter company, as the bus/ferry booking procedure seemed even more intimidating than getting the taxi.

And then the tipping started. As soon as we started moving, someone would grab our bags and carry them to wherever we had to be next (the bus, then the ferry, then the shuttle), and then these guys would hover and wait for a tip. We were handing out banknotes like it’s nobody’s business. I think we just lost track of the exchange rate and we were too tired and overwhelmed to care. Living in a first world country can spoil a kid! Thankfully, I managed to sleep through most of the busride, which made it feel much shorter.

I’m glad I’m not scared of water or being on it, as the ferry would then have prevented me from ever reaching Boracay. But we were on it, and in almost no time (y’know, compared to every other leg of the journey so far), we were on Boracay. We made it onto the shuttle and got dropped off at our accommodation.

The accommodation, sadly, was a disappointing experience. A friend of mine recommended The Lazy Dog Bed & Breakfast, and that’s where we booked. Because the smaller rooms were booked out, we even shelled out to get a family room. However, when we arrived to check in, we had been moved to a self-catering lodge across the road. This was both disappointing and endlessly frustrating, but what can you do?

Trevor and I settled in, and in the evening, we headed out to explore D’Mall, an outdoor shopping complex on the beachfront. And finally, the weekend picked up! We had burgers, arbed around the little shops and found White Beach.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

This was the only full day we’d have in Boracay, and it was an easy decision to commit to spending a lazy day on the beach.

The morning started off with some souvenir shopping, after which we grabbed our beach gear and reading material and headed for the beach.

First, we took to exploring Bulabog Beach, which was practically right where we stayed. Bulabog Beach is on the “windy” side of the island, and it is famous for windsurfing and kiteboarding. After some photo ops and oohs and aahs at the impressive abilities of the surfers, we set off for White Beach, which is the quiet, white-sand-palm-trees-perfect-for-lazing-all-day kind of beach, over on the other side of the island (like, an entire 10 minute walk away!). On the way, Trevor was really amused at being able to find bottled Coke at one of the kiosks.

At White Beach, we walked along the shoreline until we found a spot further off that was a little quieter and less bustling. Many of the beachfront lodges have reserved areas on the beach, with deck chairs and umbrellas and lots of guests. These areas were busy, and noisy, and just not “island beach”-y enough. Now, if you haven’t figured it out yet, White Beach is named after the endless stretch of white sand, which perfectly complements the crystal clear waters. Once we found a spot, Trevor settled into some reading under the palm trees, and I worked on my suntan. I had no intention of swimming, but I couldn’t exactly go to a beach, on an island, in my swimsuit… and not test the water! And it was lovely. Even though it was hot out, it was nowhere near the sticky humidity I so enjoy complaining about in Korea. The water the ideal temperature to provide relief from the sun. And yes, of course I napped under the palm trees! Would you have it any other way?

Throughout the day, I was overcome with a sense of… happiness? comfort? invisibility? at the sight of all the different cultures, ethnicities and languages represented on the island. On a superficial level, it felt good to not be stared at for not being Korean, but on another, deeper level (one that I didn’t really consciously know I possessed), it felt… right. Coming from a “rainbow nation”, I’ve evidently taken for granted just how good it feels to be a part of something bigger. For the first time in almost a year, I didn’t feel like “the foreigner”, and it was a welcome feeling.

At the end of our beach day, we hung around long enough to watch the sunset (totally worth it!) and headed back to shower and change before finding some food.

Food. Of course, a big part of this vacation was about escaping Korean cuisine, and we made good on this. We had a buffet breakfast (thankfully the B&B still made good on feeding us)  and after much deliberation decided on pizza for lunch. And I hear you saying, “but there’s plenty pizza available in Korea”. Well, we wanted the good stuff, not the sweet, corn-laden Korean version. And we weren’t disappointed. In the evening, we opted for Spanish Tapas and lamb chops. Yum! (Who knew that during my time in Korea and surrounds, I’d try more different cuisines than I ever had at home?) In the course of the day I also tried some mango from a street vendor (I’m not a fan of mango, but this was something else!), and after discovering a bakery that sold ensaymadas, I ate as many as I possibly could. You would too at something ridiculous like 5 pesos a pop! That converts to roughly 125 KRW (1,10 ZAR).

Monday, 18 February 2013

I’d like to pretend this day didn’t exist, because it was just tiring and an entire non-event. We got up, got ready, ate, packed, and waited for the shuttle to come fetch us. Shuttle to ferry to land to bus to airport to some more delays to being cashless in a tiny airport with no card facilities to booking in at the airport hotel to braving downtown Manila after dark in search of food to sleeping to waking up to some more terminal confusion to freaking out when I thought I’d lost my bank card to yet another delay to finally (FINALLY) being on our way to Singapore.

So to get back to the title. There were beaches. There were ensaymadas. And there were some sucky airports (or more accurately, airport experiences, but whatever). As a newbie traveller, I made all the mistakes, but I’m ready for a redo. Next time, I’ll know what to expect, and I’ll have only good things to say. And that’s a promise!

Click on the photo below for a collection of photos from the weekend:

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