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Archive for October, 2010

Another day, another free concert. Life is just too good sometimes!

I went up to Seoul with a few friends to attend the Asia Song Festival at Jamsil Olympic Stadium. It’s a huge venue suitable for hosting a concert of that scale. But, the festival didn’t run very smoothly. The ticket booths were disorganized and there weren’t enough signs to indicate where people should wait in line. There was too much cutting and pushing and shoving that could have been better regulated. Maybe they lacked volunteers or didn’t have enough money for signs. I think a lot of things can be improved for future years.

Program and ticket

Our seats weren’t bad. We had seats in the stands more toward the right side of the stage. They opened the doors around 3:30 even though the concert didn’t start until around 7. We just sat in the stands and had snacks.

Setting up the stage

Here’s a list of the performers:

  • 이승철 Lee Seung-chul (Korea)
  • 비 Rain (Korea)
  • 보아 BoA (Korea)
  • 카라 KARA (Korea)
  • 투에이엠 2AM (Korea)
  • AKB48 (Japan)
  • Jane Zhang (China)
  • Joe Cheng (China)
  • Michael Wong (Malaysia)
  • Bie The Star (Thailand)
  • 포미닛 4Minute (Korea)
  • 비스트 Beast (Korea)

Not a big fan of their songs but their performance wasn’t bad.

4 minute

At first, I made fun of their name as a ripoff of 2PM. But these guys really can sing.

2AM

Beautiful staging to showcase her sweet voice.

Jane Zhang

I assumed Jackie Chan would be there as the Chairperson of the Asia Song Festival. I hoped he would jump out of a helicopter and land on stage. But this is all we got. A 10 second video of Jackie Chan dubbed in Korean. To be fair, he reminded us that one of the reasons of hosting the festival is to to support UNICEF’s programs around the world.

Jackie's "appearance"

The strangest performance I’ve ever seen. Mega idol group AKB48 from Japan consists of 48 girls. I thought my head was going to explode from the combined assault of super pop music, pirate-y costumes, high-pitched voices and the spectacle of 48 dancing girls.

AKB48

KARA performed two of the catchiest songs of the year, “Mister” and “Lupin.”

KARA

Beast, once again. Though this performance seemed better than the one they gave at the Hallyu Dream Festival.

Every night I shock...

And finally…

It's hard to tell, but it's Rain!

It's really him!

Sorry I didn’t really take any good photos. I was too busy having fun! It was really touching to see Michael Wong perform one of the most famous Mandarin songs ever. It brought back memories of my EAP days! And, of course, I was so excited to FINALLY see Rain!!

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Today, the temperature dropped to about 5°C (41°F) in Daegu and it’s expected to drop to 1°C (33°F) tonight. It’s officially freezing. Maybe off by a degree or two but it’s pretty damn cold. It’s supposed to warm up again later this week, but I think we’ve seen the last of the warm days in Daegu. I am not looking forward to the rest of the winter.

So here are some photos to cheer me up/make me feel even more depressed:

Ah, why did I take all that for granted?

I want to enjoy the winter, but I’m too busy trying to survive let alone like the cold. The worst part is that there was no transition into the cold weather. It was still sunny and warm this past weekend, but then this morning the air felt colder than a freezer.

It's still October...

If the sudden drop in temperature doesn’t make me sick, then it’ll be walking from the bone-chilling halls into the stifling teachers’ office with the heater on full blast. Why does everything have to be polar extremes!

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K-Pop Checklist

I’ve become more and more familiar with K-Pop music and “idols” over the past few months. Since I’ll be going to the Asia Song Festival, my second (third counting Usher) concert in Korea, I wanted to make a list of K-Pop idols that I’ve seen or plan to see:

  • Rain (Asia Song Festival)
    BoA (Asia Song Festival)
    Super Junior
    Big Bang (YG Family Concert)
    2PM
    Jaebom/Jay Park
    2AM (Asia Song Festival)
    SNSD
    T-ara
    KARA (Asia Song Festival)
    2NE1 (YG Family Concert)
    FT Island
    4minute
    Se7en (YG Family Concert)
    SHINee
    Beast
    After School
    miss A
    Flower
    MBLAQ
    Seo In-Guk
    U-Kiss

Looks like the only idols I won’t have a chance to see will be Super Junior and Girl’s Generation. At least I got to see Heechul at the Hallyu Dream Festival. And I don’t care for SNSD so it’s all good. When I leave Korea, at least I can say that I saw what their best entertainers have to offer.

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Excuses, Excuses!

I blame fatigue and life in general for keeping me from blogging! I’ve had a lot of things on my mind lately. Mainly, if I’m going to stay another year in Korea or go back home. Many of us have this on our minds right now. I’ll save that for another post.

Here are my excuses:

  1. I have to go to academy! I started taking Korean classes again. Two different ones. And I actually have to study for tests and complete homework. But this is the best way for me to learn Korean. Self-study just doesn’t cut it ever happen.
  2. English Buddies. It’s this new program the DMOE is trying out. I meet with two Korean English teachers twice a week and talk with them on the phone 3 times a week. Kind of like having BFFs except I get paid for it. My English Buddies are super sweet!
  3. After School Class. We’re working on recreating scenes from Harry Potter. This is proving to be an almost insurmountable task. The students have a hard time focusing since I’m having them work on different things. I feel like I’m running a circus.
  4. Sleep. It seems all those years of denying myself have finally caught up. I still have insomnia occasionally but I have never felt fatigue hit me so hard! It’s not even that I work harder than before. I must be out of shape.
  5. Lesson plans. Neverending. If I could just get myself to plan out the last two lessons for each grade… but I also have to type out the formal lesson plan, which I’m two weeks behind on. For each grade.
  6. Decision-making. I think I’ve finally settled my decision for next year. To stay or not to stay. My final answer will be revealed in a later post.

I think those are enough excuses. I’m going to upload some photos onto wordpress so I can write the posts at school tomorrow. Happy Monday everyone!

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The 15th Pusan International Film Festival was held from October 7-15 in Busan. Though a bit short on funds (I blame Chuseok), I managed to put some money aside since I decided long ago that I wasn’t going to miss it. And I’m so glad that I didn’t!

Outdoor Venue

At 3am, my friends and I took the slow train (even though I said ‘never again’) because it goes straight to Haeundae. Busan Station is pretty far from the PIFF venues so we decided it’d be better to do it this way. We got to Haeundae Station right before 6am and we took the subway to Centum City. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to buy tickets in advance, so we had to show up early to wait in line.  Luckily, they reserve 20% of tickets for sales the day of. There was already a line in front of the ticket booths even though they weren’t going to open until 8:30am.

 

The line for the ticket booth at 7am

We were only able to buy tickets for movies playing at Centum City, so I decided to buy 4 tickets since I wouldn’t have the chance to go to other venues. So that meant 4 films!

 

Ticket booth

One of my friend’s friends also bought us tickets to the outdoor movie playing at the Yachting Club, so that brought my film count to 5. Each film was between 2-2.5 hours so I watched around 12 hours of films on Saturday. I hadn’t slept much the night before (3am train ugh) so by the end of the night my eyes were bloodshot. I also got up early the next morning to watch one more film. I was delirious by the end of it but it was still worth it!

Here are my thoughts about the films that I watched:

  • Udaan, Vikramaditya Motwane (India)
    This film is about a boy, Rohan, who reluctantly returns home after getting kicked out of boarding school. His domineering father has no interest in his son’s happiness and orders him to give up his dreams of becoming a writer to pursue an engineering degree. Rohan wants to break free from his unfulfilling life, but his sense of  responsibility to his younger brother keeps him at home. Udaan is a beautifully told coming of age story that made me feel like I was at Rohan’s side cheering him on. My only criticism for the film is the lack of any significant female presence; though, I recognize that the story focuses on Rohan’s struggle for independence.
  • Bleak Night, YUN Sung-hyun (Korea)
    This film left an impression on me. At first, it was difficult to understand what was happening because the film jumps right into the story and swiftly transitions between the past and present. My mind kept jumping to conclusions while I was trying to piece everything together. The film begins with a father trying to shed light on his son’s mysterious death. He visits the school to talk to some of his son’s classmates, but they all seem reluctant to talk about their dead friend. The film shows bits and pieces of the past through different characters’ points of view, but the circumstances surrounding the main character’s death are still unclear. The true story gradually unfolds in the last few moments. I expected this film to be a thriller for some reason, so I felt that the pacing was a bit slow at times. But overall, it was a well-told story and the acting was impeccable. I left the film with a heavy feeling thinking about the troubled relationships and the haunting isolation the main character hid from the world.
  • Blood Ties, Kim Homer Cabagio Garcia (Philippines)
    This film begins with a funeral and closes with another as it follows one family’s struggle to cope with the traumatizing events. The film engages different themes such as social class, violence, and corruption, but the underlying theme of family emerges with the message that ‘family is everything.’ I will write more about this film in a later post.
    Here’s an interview I had with Kim Homer Garcia, the director of Blood Ties.
  • Here Comes the Bride, Chris Martinez (Philippines)
    A highly entertaining romantic comedy about a bride who experiences an unfortunate turn of events on her wedding day. Lots of famous stars were in this big budget film produced by Star Cinema, such as Angelica Panganiban, John Lapus, Jaime Fabregas, and Tuesday Vargas. And the guy who played her fiancé was hot (had to say it).  The film was screened on Saturday night at a large outdoor venue. I was surprised to see so many people watching a Pilipino comedy because when I was growing up, these movies were only available as VHS rentals at the local Pilipino video store. I really enjoyed this film and recommend it to fans of Pilipino movies or anyone interested in seeing a light-hearted comedy.
  • Zoom Hunting, CHO Li (Taiwan)
    I really liked this one! Zoom Hunting shows the consequences of spying when it’s taken too far. One day while snapping pictures on the balcony, photographer, Ruyi, accidentally captures a couple making love in one of her photos. She tells her older sister, writer Ruxing, about her discovery and the two become engrossed in the couple’s secret affair. The sisters spy on the couple to inspire their work, but they must navigate the uneasy balance between creative expression and ethical conduct when their curious act of spying takes a dangerous turn. The film explores the techniques of gaze and perspective from the female point of view by putting the women (as photographer and writer) in control of the narrative.
  • Chassis, Adolfo Alix Jr.(Philippines)
    This film was amazing. I read the synopsis and expected it to primarily be a critique on poverty, but the film goes beyond socioeconomic issues to tell the story of a woman’s transitory yet unchangeable life in the delivery docks. I’ll write a separate post on this film later.
    Go to Vimeo to watch the trailer

Three films from the Philippines? Trust me, I wanted to see them all. I wanted to watch Ways of the Sea but I ended up watching Udaan instead because they didn’t have seats for 4.

Going to PIFF was a great experience. I love films and I’m so glad I was able to attend a film festival in Korea. I totally recommend it to anyone who will be here next year!

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As a Southern Californian, I’m not accustomed to (reliable) public transport. Actually, I’m not accustomed to riding in something other than a car. One of the biggest changes for me was learning how to use public transportation and how to navigate it in Korean. My descriptions are overall pretty positive because I think that public transportation in Korea is relatively convenient and reliable. But I’ve experienced problems, as well.
  • City Buses – I have to admit, the first time I got onto the bus I was freakin scared. The bus starts moving before you even get on. I think the average time the bus stops at each stop is between 1-2 seconds. So once you’re on, brace yourself! It took me a while to get on the bus again because I didn’t want to fall on my ass. But, the buses are really convenient since there are only 2 subway lines in Daegu so they don’t cover many areas. They come about every 12-15 minutes. Also, it’s super easy to sleep on the bus. Somehow people here (myself included) wake up in time to catch their stop.

 

  • They usually announce the name of the stop in Korean and in English. FYI: This stop – it means the stop coming up. Next stop – it means two stops away.
  • In Seoul, you have to scan your card before you get off because it calculates the distance. Not the case in Daegu.
    UPDATE: As of February 2011, buses in Daegu now have card scanners for transfers.
  • Transfers are free! If you transfer between any combination of subway lines or buses within 1 hour (up to 3 transfers), then it will only charge you once. Unless you’re coming back the opposite way on the same line/bus. It’ll charge you again.
  • Intercity Buses – These buses make traveling in Korea that much easier. Most foreigners in Korea don’t own a vehicle, so taking the bus is a good option. In the major cities, there are buses that go everywhere. Some smaller cities aren’t accessible by train and sometimes the bus takes the same amount of time as the train to get somewhere. There are plenty of times to choose from and it’s easy to show up at the bus station to buy tickets on the same day you plan on traveling (unless it’s during a holiday). Bus tickets are pretty affordable. The price depends on the destination. It costs about 4,000won to get from Daegu to Gyeongju, but it costs about 12,000won to go to Jeonju and 23,800won to go to Seongnam.
  • Airport Buses – In Daegu, there are buses that go straight to Incheon, Gimpo and Gimhae airports. The bus drops off passengers right in front of the Departures terminal. It’s much more convenient than taking the train since the train stations are far from the airport. It’s also cheaper to take the airport bus than buying a train ticket. They load luggage on the bottom so you have plenty of room on the bus. Also, seats are reserved. Buying tickets in advance is highly recommended (up to 1 week in advance). The only downside is that the last bus going to Incheon leaves around 3pm, which isn’t very late.
  • Subways – Riding the subway makes me feel like a true urbanite. The subways in Daegu, Seoul, and Daejeon are relatively new, clean, reliable, and pretty speedy. I feel like the subway in Busan is slightly older and slower. But places are more spaced out in Busan so that could be the reason it feels slow.

Daegu's 2 lines

  • Navigating the subway system in Seoul is kind of a headache. I recommend learning how to use the subway map on your cell phone, or if you have an iPhone/iPod, download an app called Jihachul (only in Korean) that relieves you of the hassle of having to navigate the best route. Also, if you are telling someone what stop you need to go to, say it and spell it right!! Saying the line number and what exit to meet at are also very helpful.

    Seoul's bajillion lines

 

  • 무궁화 (slow train) – We like to call it the ‘slow train’ because it’s much, much slower than the KTX and it takes a windy route that stops every 10-15 minutes. It travels so slowly, I feel like I could drive faster in reverse. It also plays the “We will be arriving in _____” music really loudly. I took it twice to try to save money. Never again. I had to take it like 3 more times since other trains were sold out. Never say never.
  • KTX – By far, the best way to get from Daegu to Seoul. The KTX is fast, smooth, and usually on time. I’ve missed the train twice because they’re so on time (and I’m not). KTX is the most expensive form of public transportation, costs twice as much as the slow train, but it’s worth it for those long trips from Seoul to Busan.
  • KTX 1st Class – Costs 15,000won more than a standard ticket for a little more leg room and a little more silence.

Some useful tips:

  • Buy tickets early. Especially for the trains and airport buses. Especially during weekends and especially during holidays.
  • Plan on being there early. You might have trouble finding the bus or train or you might have a really slow cab driver. Things happen!
  • Discounts. Find 3 friends and buy the family seating tickets on the KTX. Even ifyou can only find 2 friends, it’s still cheaper for 3 people to buy family seating than to buy their own individual tickets. Family seating sells out earlier so plan accordingly.
  • Get a transit card. It beats having to buy a single ticket coin every time or digging for cheon won and some loose change. Each city has its own transit card that also provides a discount on the bus and subway. 
  • Check the websites. You can look for trains, intercity buses and city bus routes, etc. The info is out there somewhere! 
  • Have a map handy. Or at least try to memorize which direction you should be taking on the bus or subway.

 

Downsides:

  • Crowded. During rush hour, buses and subways get crazy packed. The pushing doesn’t help either.
  • Bad timing. I seem to have this problem when I’m in a hurry (Murphy’s Law??). Just missing the bus, subway, or train is the absolute worst.
  • It takes long. Sometimes the bus or subway just doesn’t cut it. Driving might be faster in some cases, when the roads aren’t too jammed. There are always taxis around.

I have to admit that recently I’ve been getting frustrated with the public transportation system. Having to wait so long for the bus (especially the express bus) I feel like I waste a lot of time just waiting. Even though I think public transportation is usually very good, I’d prefer to drive or at least have it as an option.

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Back from the abyss!

I’ve been MIA from the blog this past month because I’ve been busy at school, had the bf visit, went to Seoul for Chuseok and I couldn’t log into WordPress at school for some reason. But now I’m back!!

Look forward to some posts about:

  • Traditional tea ceremony
  • Hallyu Dream Festival in Gyeongju
  • Davis Cup Tennis (Korea vs. Philippines)
  • Trip to Jeonju
  • Chuseok in Seoul
  • Panmunjeom and DMZ tour plus a view into North Korea
  • More food updates
  • More lesson materials and ppts

Students have midterms next week so I should have plenty of time to work on these posts! I’m also open to ideas from anyone. What do you want to know about Daegu and the ROK??

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