5/31/2010

City Strollin'

I spent a day strolling around Seoul with my roomie and these are things we saw.

**Creativity at its finest - it's a restaurant called The Restaurant (in Samcheong-dong) with little indication of the actual cuisine served. Loves it**

**A mother/son ping pong championship...so cute! Mama kicked his you-know-what!**

**This was a Muy Thai competition I believe...some type of martial arts. Very interesting because the guy in white was doing so well...then he got hit with a roundhouse kick/neck grab combo and that was the end of that. Womp**



**According to my roommate, this sign is protesting the closing down of this cafe, allegedly by the government. The reasons behind it are unclear, but I just liked the handwriting...lol**

**Graffiti in Insa-dong says "Ha Yu-rim loves Dylan Lee. All together now: Awwwwww!! **

**A 3-on-3 basketball tourney in Yongsan. I know what you're thinking and actually, the Koreans were killin' it. One of the black dudes was playing in JEANS! C'mon man, you can try a little bit. That's why yall got embarrassed. Shameful. **



**Lovely flowers near City Hall - I'm a semi-nature lover..**

**An artist's work outside the Seoul Museum of Art...**

**This is not an optical illusion....well sorta. These sculptures were intentionally built stunted and exaggerated like this...I kept blinking and rubbing my eyes because I thought my contacts had gone haywire. It's probably the coolest thing I've seen in a long time. If anyone knows the name for this, I'd be glad to know!**



**A whale and a pig...made out of kitchenware! There are pots, pans, spoons, etc....how ironic that a pig would be made of kitchen utensils because that's probably where he'll end up anyway - on my plate. Womp. **

**The exhibit on Rodin - he's most famous for "The Thinking Man". I explained to David (who went with me) that we joke he's actually on the toilet, thinking about why nothing will come out. He busted out laughing, embarrassed us, and was simultaneously shushed by the docent and glared at by serious art lovers. Classic!!**

**Interesting artwork outside the museum...stilettos with a horse attached. I bet Korean women would wear these actually...**

**A hen with eggs inside...and I believe those are lightbulbs so at night, this exhibit must look pretty cool**

**Aliens????**

Such a wonderful day just strolling around and capturing all the random things going on! Never a dull moment...luckily, this weather has been phenomenal. It belies the approaching monsoon season, but for now, I'm not complaining. Just trying to capture it.

One cute thing happened on the way home. I believe my hair grabs more attention than anything about me. So, on the way home, I was riding the subway with my roommate and this young teenage guy walks up to her and asks 1) if she speaks Korean and 2) if her friend (me) would mind if his girlfriend took a picture with me. I actually understood what he was asking so I said of course! The poor girl was sooooooooo shy and just kept giggling and putting her hand over her mouth as she got closer to me. It was the strangest, cutest thing though! This must be how celebrities feel when their fans have a really strong reaction huh?! Like if I ever met Will Smith, I would probably faint. Lol...I'm no Beyonce, but to that little girl, I must've made her whole day! So we took a couple of pictures and she went back to her boyfriend, fanning herself, blushing, and giggling all over again. Quite adorable! No idea what spurred that kind of reaction in her, but I'm certain it was because of my weird hair and brown skin. Outside of that, I'm at a loss.

Sorry for the lazy posting! I'm headed out to see Sex and the City 2 - FINALLY!! I realize the plotline probably sucks but I'm all about the outfits and in that department, I'm sure this movie will not disappoint. :)

Until then,

J

5/23/2010

Seoul of Korea, Heart of Asia

**the 63 Building**

**On the bus, headed through the city**

**my first night, hanging out with my friend Aeri and Choco!**

In the most wired country on Earth, your homegirl did not have internet for the past THREE WEEKS. Crazy, isn't it?!

It feels cool being back in Korea, almost like I never left. I still remember random things, like my favorite bag stores! I've seen several of my friends who are still here and I've met some new ones. My job is awesome and keeps me traveling a bit. Great co-workers definitely help. I've done a lot of walking so far because the weather has been perfect. I know the muggy monsoon season is around the corner so I am taking advantage of these opportunities to explore Seoul a bit. I'll try to recap the past few weeks; otherwise this post will be insanely long.

1) Picnic in Yeouido (pronounced Yo-EE-doh)

My first weekend back, I stayed in Itaewon with one of my girlfriends. While I was waiting for her, this small group of Korean students walked up to me and asked for an interview about living in Korea. Then they wanted a picture. Ah, it's good to be back! Anywho, my friend lives up a crazy steep hill so just imagine me dragging two suitcases, a computer bag, and a backpack up this thing. Nearly broke my neck. And I'm sure no one would have batted an eyelash at some crazy foreigner tumbling down a hill. But she has a cute little Yorkie named Choco so I got to kick it with them. Later that day (Saturday was it?? May 15th I think), we met up with some of her other friends and had a little picnic in Yeouido. This area is sort of the financial hub of Seoul, with a lot of banking headquarters nearby. But it's also near the Han River and prime for picnicking! I basically roasted and the jetlag hit me pretty hard in the middle of the afternoon but good times all around.

**SNACKS!!**

**me and my girl Lu**

We also headed to Hongdae that night for some grilled meat! I surely missed Korean prices. For $35 bucks total, the five of us gorged ourselves on side dishes and roasted cow. Lol. It was pretty packed in Hongdae that night. I had my fun clubbing in Hongdae back in 2008, but I definitely can't hang like that anymore. But I do love their cafes and artsy stuff. I'll be back for shopping though!




2) Wandering near City Hall

Buddha's birthday is a national holiday so I decided to just wander around City Hall. The Lotus Lantern Festival is a popular event and I went last time I was here with Meeka and some other folks. It was great, but I did not partake this year. But there were still plenty of people roaming around the city and I enjoyed my own company! :)


**little kiddies playing in the water**

**a palace...wish I remembered the name. Sorry!**

**Seoul - World Design Capital 2010 Building**

**triangle kimbap! that's crunchy seaweed (called kim) on the outside and the inside is stuffed with rice (bap), kimchi, and tuna...yum!!**

**Usher's coming to Seoul! Probably won't go though...**

**ummmm, it looked pretty? Not sure what it is though!**

**floating lanterns down the river**

**a giant sneaker made of Asics**


3) Back to Busan

For work, I got to travel to Busan for a conference. The first time I went to Busan was with my girls. I had a wonderful time because of them, but overall, I wasn't crazy about the city. Besides, I'd gone over Chuseok holiday and it was pretty barren. But this time around, it was wonderful and lively. I wished I could have spent more time there because it was totally different. There's still nowhere quite like Seoul, but Busan is a pretty cool place...and who can argue with the beach?! :) Plus, riding the KTX high speed train in first class was quite a treat!








Even though Korea is much the same, a lot is different. Seoul is hosting this year's G20 Summit in November, which is a huge deal. Preparations are apparent all over the city. With over 1 million foreigners (in a country of 47 million), it is changing and I think it's for the better. Some people might begrudge this foreign presence, but if Korea's ambitions to be a global power are to be fulfilled, this transition becomes a necessary step. It must accept and accommodate different types of people and so far, I think the government is making a strong statement. Now, it is up to the citizens to either follow its lead or not. As a testament to that growing diversity, when I was in Itaewon for an hour, I heard Urdu (from the Pakistani guys at the cell phone place), French (from the Cameroonian ladies who braid my hair), Turkish (at the kebab shop), and of course English and Korean. It's really interesting. Not saying I couldn't hear all of those languages and more in DC, but it's really noticeable here now. There is a beautiful convergence of cultures and it's only going to grow. In my opinion, Seoul is really the heart of East Asia. While Tokyo still keeps its cool, Seoul is roaring into the spotlight and for me, it's just nice to have a front row seat for the show. :)

Until then,

J

5/11/2010

Eating Myself Silly

Seoul in 3 days.

But for the past week, I've been engaging in decidedly destructive behavior - continuous eating and drinking. Now, I loooovvvveee food. There is no hate relationship with food, just love. And that love is starting to show up around my midsection. This is one reason why I can't wait to get back to Asia and shed some pounds. With the end of finals, it's been all about eating, celebrating, and drinking around the clock and I AM TIRED. I feel like that very hungry caterpillar who ate everything. I've been trying to do damage control and you know I'll be searching for a gym upon arrival. All of my friends in America want to send me off with well wishes and all my friends in Korea want to welcome me with soju. And I have no problems with either of those!!

The packing isn't going all that great because I am being lazy. For one, there will be no frantic unloading and repacking of bags at Dulles this time around. That was horrific. I mean, I packed 12 sticks of deodorant before!! What a waste! So, I know what to pack and what to buy when I arrive and that's considerably less stressful. I will be bringing a separate bag for shoes though....and purses. I can't wait to hunt for purses again!! Anyway, I'm rambling. Just wanted to update and share pics from my friend's birthday dinner. Love her!

By the way, if any of the other Black bloggers in Korea would like to have an official meetup, I'd love to help organize it! I feel like I've either met or emailed with a large portion of you and I'd actually like to get all of us in a room and do one big blog (perhaps a video blog) about what we've all learned and loved about Korea. Anyone down???? :) Let me know!

Until then,
J









5/03/2010

Alone in a Room

I just submitted my last final for the semester and I immediately poured myself a glass of wine. What a relief to be finished! Now I can focus on getting ready for Korea. To get myself into that frame of mind again, I attended a lecture today at The Brookings Institute, a local think tank here in DC. It was the 4th Annual Seoul-Washington Forum and this year's topic was Korea's global role, Northeast Asia, and, of course, North Korea. Not surprisingly, I was the only Black person in a room of roughly 60-70 people. I felt instantly catapulted back to my first time in Korea. That sense of exclusion, of being foreign, was palpable. To make matters worse (or perhaps it was just my perception), no one sat next to me! I had an entire row to myself while many rows around me were filling up. Someone eventually did sit down....a young, Korean man. But he sat at the very opposite end, as far away from me as possible. No one really even looked at me. In fact, one older gentleman basically stepped on me trying to talk to someone else. Also, a lot of the people in attendance were older...MUCH older. These folks were most likely around when Korea was divided 60 years ago.

But my larger point, and one that was brought home once again, is that there appears to be a mutual disinterest and disconnect among these two cultures beyond the level of music and martial arts. At the policy and governmental level, there is a marked absence of people of color. Korean issues are dominated by Whites and Koreans. From what I can tell, there are no [visible] Latinos or African Americans or Southeast Asians with their hands in Korean issues. Now, to be honest, had I not lived there for a year, I'm quite certain you could have counted me in this demographic as well. But now that I have, it bothers me that there are so few people of color dealing with Asian issues in general. I'm sure that China and Japan have more of a following among blacks, but in general, the attendance is sparse. An older black gentleman arrived late (lol) and I kind of sighed with relief because I was no longer alone representing my race. The atmosphere was the same when I attended another conference at the Korea Economic Institute here last December. I was the only black person. At least a nice, older lady sat next to me and we chatted a bit. But it can be rather intimidating. It's a strange feeling and one to which I've yet to grow accustomed. Overall, I enjoyed the forum and it was a good primer for the breadth of issues I'll be dealing with this summer. However, I would like to see a little more "representation" on Asian issues. :)

I've been pretty busy over the last few weeks. One of my best friends had her bridal shower held in our hometown. It was like a mini-reunion for all the bridesmaids and the mothers. I'm not even going to tell you how much crap I ate, but I had to loosen up my pants later on.


**Bride-to-be and her mama***



**my momma and bride-to-be's mama**


**Bride-to-be and the bridesmaids...well, most of us***

One day, I snuck off to meet up with some friends who I hadn't seen in a long time. We had drinks and let off some steam at the W Hotel's rooftop bar. Then we headed over to a dingy, basement chicken bar with horrific service (our waitress had a lip ring, a deep voice, and a funky attitude). But it was still a lot of fun because I love these people!





Two weeks ago, I went to Pittsburgh for another best friend's graduation from business school! She was awarded a plaque in honor of her outstanding service to the school, which was a nice surprise. Another not-so-welcome surprise was her ex-boyfriend, someone I had purged from my mental Rolodex a long time ago. He claimed to be "supporting" her, but whatever. I was cordial. I rarely give people the cold shoulder, but it was very necessary in this case.


Then last weekend, I was in NYC for about 7 hours. I was only there for Jar and dad's birthday party and still had a lot of ground to cover on my finals. I hopped a train and got there in time to start celebrating around 11. I stayed out til my train came around 630am and guess where I ended up?? Koreatown! Hahaha, go figure.




Anyway, good times all around. Now that finals are over, I have my freedom back! Even if you go to the same place, no two journeys are ever the same. I can't wait for this new one to begin! 9 days and counting....

Until then,
J