Sunday, May 23, 2010

midnight dance lessons on Spadina

Friday, May 14, 2010


We went to Itaewon today, an area that my friends keep telling me to check out but have been avoiding because I don’t see a particular need to visit what is essentially Little America in Korea when I normally live in Little America (Canada), But my sister’s on a shopping mission, and her shopping comfort doesn’t really extend beyond Bayshore, so the best place we though to find her style and price in Korea was Itaewon.

Itaewon is where the foreigners in Korea seem to hang out. That’s where you'll find the Quizno Subs, the Hard Rock Cafe, the english-style pubs, and steak houses. Most importantly, that's where you'll find clothing in non-Korean sizes ("CLOTHES FOR BIG WHITE PEOPLE WHO EAT STEAK"). So many signs advertising "Big Sizes".

See what I mean? All this Western stores...and also a sign, if you can read it, that says "A&H BIG SIZE OUTLE". That's right, outle, not outlet. the clothes are so big, you don't even have room for that final T.

my sister didn't end up finding anything (strangely enough, she found her stuff at a stand in the subway station), but i was surprised to find the Shin Jung Hyun records i'd been searching for, at a sidewalk music stand. score for me! also, that's the only place in pretty much all of Korea that I saw black people. And a Jewish rabbi.

In the evening, we went for Korean buffet with Mom's side of the family, the Mins, where i got a glimpse of what i'll be like when i'm older, if the Min genes hold strong. My forecast seems to be lots of white hair and a cheerful disposition, which is kind of hard to believe if you know me now at my present (cynical) age.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

back in seoul

when i woke up this morning with the urge to claw out my own eyes, I realized I was going to have to take an allergy pill, although my hippie nature has avoided it so far. So now, although my itchy eyes and compulsive sneezing has subsided, I've been going through the day in somewhat of a drugged haze. this entry is going to be relatively short, therefore, because i was stoned all day and napped through a big chunk of it. that's my dilemma: either suffer mad allergies or sleep.

Pyeongchang - there's something eerie about waking up at a ski resort that is mostly closed because it's the off season. The beautiful and brand new hotel is minimally staffed right now to keep costs low during the off-season (meaning they opened up the gym just for me and my dad beacuse no one else was using it). The lack of guests and empty halls remind me uncomfortably of the hotel from the Shining, but I try not to think about that. I look at the snowless ski hills and try to picture them filled with people in the winter. Pyeongchang is trying a third consecutive time to bid for the Winter Olympics. I think they're going to run into some trouble with white people mistaking their city for Pyongyang.

This is also the first hotel in Korea that I've been to that doesn't feature a karaoke bar. They're going to have to install one if they get the Olympics - people have certain expectations, especially about Asia.

Today we went to Sorak Mountain (설악산) located in the Soraksan Nature Reserve, one of the most beautiful parks in Korea. It's just incredible to see: anxiety-inducing heights (especially for the acrophobic), heights at which the treetops look like heads of broccoli. So many chains of mountains...Also, Korea doesn't seem to have the plethora of personal injury civil lawsuits that North America has, so they have all sorts of tort-y trails up the mountains where schoolkids scramble all over the bare rocks at the mountain peaks, completely unguarded by any rails or any safety measure. it's kind of frightening and totally awesome. These mountains once served as a fortress against the Mongolian hordes, and are not easy to least I thought it was difficult since it left me out of breath, but there were a lot of halmunis scurrying past me, so either i'm out of shape or korean grandmas are wickedly in shape here.

We had lunch at a seaside restaurant called Dolsum in Sokcho, one of those places where they had all sorts of creatures swimming in the tanks in front, sort of like a tragic zoo. Although my own diet these days has been mostly vegetarian due to the fact that I don't eat seafood, my family has been overwhelmed by these rich five-course meals. I'm not sure how we're going to go back to single course, single meat meals.

What I enjoyed the most was watching ocean in front of the restaurant. My favourite science fiction author, Stanislaw Lem, wrote a novel about a planet whose ocean was a live being, a god-like organism. whenever i watch the ocean, whether it's here in Korea or in Newfoundland or Vancouver, I could see where someone could formulate that theory. there's something absorbing about watching the ocean pulse, moving in and out and in and out in a hypnotic rhythm....

well, we're finally back in Seoul, where we'll stay for the remainder of our trip here. It's nice to be reunited with the rest of my luggage, and Scary Bear (who is a bit squished and angry about being in storage again), and especially with our laundry machine. I've been wearing rice on my sweater for several days now, after I had a chopstick mishap and spilled my rice dish on myself.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

side note/postscript

um, wait, i think i figured it out. i'm in pyeongchang...i think? at a ski resort that is clearly in its off-season...or something...


Well, my cold is gone and now instead my allergies are in full swing. I’ve been doing my best to enjoy the rest of this trip anyway, even though I’m not quite sure where we went today. I kept asking my mom, but she just kept saying “East”. I thought at first she was being cryptic, but I’m thinking now that she doesn’t know either. I’m not sure any of us knows where we are or where we’re going, but the trip has been quite pleasant nevertheless.

We left Gyeongju, the 1000 year old city where the hotels have Buddhist readings instead of bibles in their bedside drawers, and visited the nearby village Yangdong, which reminded me a bit of Nova Scotia’s Peggy Cove, just in the sense that it’s quaint, quiet, historic, and tourists climb all over the properties of people who live there, people who must be tired of the tourists. It’s as though time stopped in this village – the houses are all old style, some of them like several hundred years old. Mom says she used to live in houses like this before she moved to Canada in the 70s. I imagine it must have been quite the changing, going from living in these old style Korean homes to…storefront apartments in downtown Toronto.

But they have modernized in some ways – like the power tools in the front yards. There is a sort of weirdness in seeing satellite dishes and outhouses in the same place.

There are some absolutely beautiful spots in Korea, especially along the coastline. I’ve been calling it Crabland in my head since I’m not sure exactly what towns we visited, and because crabs are the main stars around here – the oceanside snow crab restaurant we went to, the parks with all the giant statues of crabs, too bad I don’t eat crabs.

why i don't eat crabs: they stare at you.

We took a train from town I didn’t know the name of to another town I didn’t know the name of. We had a wonderfully scenic view, and I especially enjoyed it because I got to have some beer while looking at it, and we all know there’s nothing more delicious than train beer. We passed flooded rice fields after rice fields. We passed surfers in the ocean who waved to us. We passed by gorgeous beaches, including the one where they shot scenes from the famous classic Korean drama, Morashigae, which I remember vividly because when I was a kid in the 90s, my friends would sleep over at my house but instead of hanging out with me, they would watch Morashigae with my parents. We also passed a North Korean submarine.

My favourite sight from traveling through the countryside are the mountains. I love mountains and we all know that living in Toronto and Ottawa, I’m totally deprived of them. My dad says that the mountains here are different from the Rocky Mountains that I’m used to from the North American west coast. The Korean ones are older, and therefore not as tall or sharp, but just layered and majestic. I’m really going to miss them when I go home.

We eventually ended up in the city of Gangneung. If you haven’t heard of it, don’t worry - neither have I. It somewhat has the look of St. John’s, Newfoundland, in a way, just in terms of the candy stripe houses (is that the right term, Ryan?) and the lack of any substantial skyscrapers, and the oceanside feel of being a city without being one obnoxiously so – still friendly, still livable.

We ate dinner at this restaurant just outside of the city – seriously in the middle of nowhere, so there’s no way I’ll be able to find it again, but I do know that you have to maneouver a bus through ridiculously terrifyingly narrow roads with steep rice field ditches on either side. I wonder if this is why these buses have seatbelts. But the food, served in a house which apparently was built in 1721, was amazing. Full of mountain plants, picked by the owner herself at 5:30AM, grown organically in the adjacent fields with no pesticides – the owner called it “the stable served by the earth”. It’s going to be hard to go back home. I feel like here, so many things seem more real: the mountains are more magnificent, the vegetables fresher, the maguli boozier, the kimchi spicier…

so much banchan!

mom says all this can be turned to booze.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Korea road trip

Oh, Korea, the land of mountains and apartment buildings. The land where the most high-tech toilets – with electronic bidets – stand right next to the old school squatters in public washrooms. Where public service employees are unbelievably polite (airport security officers will bow to you before searching you), while the average pedestrian will show no concern for your personal space and will push you right aside on the sidewalk while they spit. We’ve been seeing a lot lately, and it’s so hard to keep up with all the cities we’ve seen in the past few days, but I’ll try to sum it up:


A cute small town where the waters are so serene they look like glass, with monuments and sights telling more stories about the Japanese invading Korea, which seems to be a favourite pastime of theirs (both the Japanese’s invading and the Koreans’ story-telling). The story told over and over again here is the one of the brave Nongae, a geiseng (Korea’s version of geishas), who during a battle against the invading Japanese, used her skills to charm a Japanese general down to the water before killing him by dragging him into the water, drowning herself in the process as well. That’s the kind of heroine that Korean stories like to feature – a woman who is patriotic and courageous in her self-sacrifice, but only in a manner that doesn’t challenge traditional conventions of femininity. There is a shrine here dedicated to her in the middle of a beautiful garden

Jinju also apparently has a lot of schoolgirls

Although not as populated as Seoul, this large city has a population the size of Toronto. We pass some seafront newly built oceanfront condos worth some three million dollars apiece. Despite its giant urban size, it’s the nature not so far from the city that I particularly enjoy. There’s a park around here that leads to Haeundae Beach. The trail here traces the coastline through the woods and cliffs, a bit like the Wild Pacific Trail on the side of the ocean on Vancouver Island. We walk along the rubber covered path overlooking the ferocious ocean waves and find ourselves ending up on a dock at the foot of the expensive condos where there are old men fishing nonchalantly next to the “No Fishing” signs. Nearby there is a picnic of old halmunis hallabujis who are drunk and singing Korean folk songs, so loudly you can hear them from the other side of the park. My mom wants to avoid them, but I kind of want to stick around and listen to them sing. Koreans sure love to sing.

some cute halmunis. these once weren't singing

Our hotel features a hot spring spa on top of the roof. I have to say, sometimes I love luxury, especially when that luxury involves being able to dip my body in hot soothing spring water while looking at the ocean below.

For dinner, we meet up with my aunt, who lives in Busan, and my grandfather, who is actually a Canadian citizen but is staying with my aunt for a while. We eat at a Japanese restaurant that does not serve any donkatsu or teriyaki anything, but does have California rolls for twenty-five dollars. Meanwhile, a flute/guitar/guitar trio plays Toni Braxton covers in the lobby. Odd place. My grandfather asks me how we’re enjoying our mother country. He asks us if we’ve gotten into the gaming culture yet, because that’s what we are good at. I am not sure if I’m understanding him correctly.

We hike through a wooded path along the oceanside cliffs leading to a famous rock under which, according to legend, an old king asked to be buried, so he could become a dragon and protect his homeland from Japanese invasions (you see, we have to worry about that sort of thing a lot). It’s a beautiful view, and you have to work hard to get to it – up and down the perilous steps, cautiously along the cliffs in the middle of the fierce ocean wind which blows so hard I’m worried it’ll carry me off into the sea. And yet there are men standing at the heights of the cliffs, chipping away at the stones with their tools, right in the middle of the wind. Either the locals are especially brave, heavy, and wind-resistant, or they don’t have very good labour laws here regulating workplace safety.

We stopped by one of facilities belonging to Hyundai, the name that white people love to mispronounce. There were more thousands and thousands of Hyundai cars lined up in the parking lot – a surprisingly incredible sight. The facilities also contained a sort of a shrine (they called it a memorial, but I found it awfully shrine-like) dedicated to the founder of the Hyundai corporation. People around here really like him. Not only was he credited with helping to transform Korea from a poor developing country to a First World country, but he seems to be everything that Koreans love about a national hero: a patriotic (check) patient (check) hard-working humble optimist (check check check) with a firm footing in capitalism (check) but enough respect for communism to tap into unconventional markets (like Cuba, the Soviet Union, and North Korea – check), who in whatever spare time he managed to have, pursued athletics (check), poetry (check), and taking care of his entire extended family with a strict but loving approach (emphatic check).

Our family seems to have a special connection with Hyundai. My grandfather apparently was one of the founding members of Hyundai’s automotive department, which shatters my belief that my family was working class in Korea. He was the manager over the entire department, dealing with auto maintenance at a time when Korea was still getting used to the idea of cars. Then our family moved to Canada where all that meant jack squat and my grandfather become a mechanic for Greyhound.

We also took a tour of the shipyard, which was not something I ever thought I’d want to do, but it was pretty crazy, these enormous ships being built up on dry land. We weren’t allowed to take photos, but there’s no way that I’d be able to fit the gigantic structures into my viewfinder.

This used to be the capital of the ancient Silla kingdom, also when Buddhism began to be all in the rage. We visit Buddhist temples and monuments and huge statues of Buddha made up of stone and sometimes of gold. Now it’s a lot of old style buildings and mountains everywhere. Really quaint – but a whole new world from Seoul and Busan. Roosters run randomly across the median, and I feel like every public bathroom here is a squatter. Also, there are ancient burial mounds all over the place, across the street from parking lots and bread stores. Kind of surreal.

Things became even more surreal when at a small roadside restaurant just outside of Gwangju, we ran into Sandra Oh’s relatives. My family is pretty close to her family back in Ottawa, so it was pretty random to run into her cousin in Korea, who happens to be the spitting image of Sandra’s father.

For dinner tonight we actually discovered a vegetarian restaurant. In Korea. This is unbelievable. When I told my family, ten years ago, that I was going to try being a vegetarian, they just did not understand the concept and kept sneaking fish in my food (which is why now I eat all meats except fish). Vegetarianism is not a modern Korean concept – we like to think that’s what white hippies do (no offense to my white vegetarian friend). I’m pretty sure even Buddhist monks eat fish. Anyway, apparently it does exist, and this restaurant was delicious and creative. Even if they did cheat a little and serve a bit of fish at the end of the 10 course meal.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

mother's day sightseeing

ughhh...having a cold and allergies at the same time is a deadly combination for your sinuses. i sound like the dead right now. still, we managed to see a lot today. being sunday, we first went to the English church service at Saemoonan, which was the first church established in Korea during the 1880s by the missionary Underwood. it was also the church that my mother's family attended in the 1960s, and it brought back a lot of memories of her and her grandmother, as well as the pastor who led the church at the time. we also got to pass by my mom's old elementary school, which was right around the corner. i tried to picture my mom as a little girl, walking down these streets, but it's hard to imagine the same person who constantly reminds me not to enjoy my vacation too much because i have bar ads coming up.

after church, we went to the Korean National Museum, which is something like the fifth largest museum in the world. it was pretty huge, and we only had time to explore a portion of it, so we focused on the history of korea. i have to say, it was pretty enlightening to learn about the thousands of years of Korean civilization, but the most interesting thing i learned today was that while i can't speak fluent Korean, for some reason i seemed to have picked up some Chinese.

ninja stars. korean style.

a ten-storey pagoda built, like, a thousand years ago. koreans are pretty amazing

after the museum, we browsed through the dongdaemun markets, particularly the pyunghwa clothing market, but i found that unless you have a burning desire to buy skull-printed suspenders or ridiculous hats, there wasn't much for vintage clothing shoppers like me. we did enjoy perusing through the various designer stands at Doosan Towers, which was amazing simply because of its sheer size - imagine a Bay Street skyscraper, filled with clothing shops.

by then, my cold had overpowered my excitement for fashion so we headed home, walking along the Chunggyechun stream. This is a particularly beautiful part of Korea, a stream that runs through the downtown core. it used to be a stinky place where people would dump their garbage. then the government filled it up and built a road over it. then the next government decided to open up the stream again, clean it up, and open it to the public as a nice canal to walk along. it sure beats garbage river or cement city any day.

look how ridiculously fat i've gotten on this trip. it's a wonder i didn't break the rocks i was walking on to cross the stream.

okay, going to bed now. i have some epic backpacking ahead of me for the next few days and there is a korean-war style battle going on within my body right now...

bathroom self-portraits: seoul and jejudo

washroom at Doosan tower (doota!), seoul, Korea.

this was a huge shopping complex where the washrooms had an extraordinary view of the mountains as well as the cityline, and the magnificent Dongdaemun gate, which is visible in this photo if you look closely.

public washroom in Jejudo, South Korea

another one of those weird washroom stalls where there was a child-sized urinal and child-sized toilet in the stall. i was fascinated. as i took the photo, a child whined outside the stall because he actually had to use it. i'm a horrible person.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

korean music

my little sister is the kind of generous individual who will gladly share many things with me - like chicken pox, when we were small children, and on this particular trip to Korea, her cold. despite delays caused by my nonstop sneezing and fever-induced ramblings, we managed to go out and explore more of Seoul today.

knowing my love of exploring local music, my dad bought us tickets to see a show at the National Center for Korean Traditional Performing Arts. originally i had been hoping to see some pansori, a form of traditional folk music where a singer tells a story while a drummer accompanies him or her along with verbal responses - hence sharing components of the call and response format of black gospel music as well as the simple yet tremendously expressive nature of the blues. i've been working on this theory that pansori is the korean form of the american blues, only centuries older.

an example of pansori - starts at 37 seconds

it's cool enough to make me want to learn korean just to put on interesting pansori shows in Kensington Market.

as it turned out, pansori wasn't being featured today. instead, we saw other traditional performances: we saw court music (byeolgok) performed with five instruments i had never seen before (except the drum. i know what drums are). then there was a salpuri a folk dance that was put on originally to exorcise evil spirits in the shaman tradition. i have to admit i know a lot more about music than dance, so although the female dancer with the white scarf was quite expressive, i paid a lot more attention to her accompaniment. the music was disturbing, simply haunting. aspects of it made me think of the darker pieces of Godspeed You Black Emperor, only with centuries more suffering and brooding behind it. it was weird and abrasive and a very foreign sound to our Western-trained ears, but i found myself irresistibly drawn to it. i wish i had been allowed to record it, so i could, i don't know, learn the zither to replicate it, or something.

an example of salpuri. slow and haunting music - kind of like godspeed you black emperor

the final act was a sanjo featuring the geomungo instrument. Sanjo, from what i understand, is a folk music performance where one musician solos. it seemed like pansori, only with an instrument telling the story, rather than a vocalist. it was kind of like two friends from the deep American South, sitting on a porch on a hot day, with one man playing banjo and the other guy the washer, one man singing "my baby done left me an' i got the blues" and the other guy responding "amen!", only here these men were wearing traditional korean hanbok, not overalls, and they were playing the zither and the barrel drum. same sort of feel though, if you get what i mean. and the audience members, especially the older ones familiar with the sound, were equally moved by the music, and i heard some of them call out responses along with the drummer. it was quite the sight.

the whole show was pretty enlightening. Korea has such a long rich music history, and we are so lucky that so much of it is still preserved, especially when the Japanese invaded the country and forbade the expression of any Korean music for decades - it's a wonder that people were still around to remember how to tell it, Korean-style. i would love for elements of traditional Korean music to seep into mainstream music, like the way the blues, reggae, and even bollywood sound has. of course, i don't think i could really bear it if Avril Lavigne started belting out pansori, so maybe there is some blessings in obscurity.

Also, due to my inability to tell the difference between chun (a thousand) and man (ten thousand), i now own a thirty dollar, authentic bamboo-carved recorder.

after the show, we went to the Kangnam Express Bus Terminal and explored the many shops around there. i picked up some priceless gifts for my friends, but my favourite find was the record store where i picked up some of Korea's more contemporary musical treasures that i'd been searching for: some Shin Jung Hyun, known as the godfather of Korean classic rock, Park Ji Yoon, a pop singer turned introspective singer-songwriter/actress/photographer, and the Rock Tigers, who call themselves as the pioneers of Korean rockabilly - and are possibly still the only Korean rockabilly band that i've ever heard of anyway.

Friday, May 7, 2010

jeju island: so much better than being stranded on the LOST island

We’ve finally returned from our island adventure in Jejudo. And what an adventure. Jeju is sort of a cross between Korea’s Hawaii (a tropical vacation spot) and Newfoundland (where people speak funny). With all the palm trees, mountains, and ocean scenes, it reminded me somewhat of Vancouver Island’s Tofino, only with a lot more Korean restaurants than fish taco stands – but equally expensive. It’s a magical land where orange trees line the roads, all the cars are white rented Hyundais, the weather changes suddenly without warning, traffic lights are completely illogical, tractors ride along the highway, and Buddhist temples appear majestically out of nowhere amidst the forests of palm trees.

We really like white cars

The surreal feel of the island was confirmed one morning when I sat on my balcony, facing the Pacific Ocean, and while I sang a song on my ukulele, birds flew towards me and perched on the balcony railing. They were looking at me, as though they were listening to my music. It was a magical Mary Poppins moment. And then one of them pooped.

We spent our days driving and hiking around the island to see Jeju’s beautiful nature scenes and also the spots where famous scenes from Korean dramas were filmed. These sights are like nothing else I’ve ever seen: mists hugging around bridges that hang over impossible heights, the signature black rocks on a white sand beaches that stretch into bright blue waters, hidden waterfalls, and my favourite combination of mountains and oceans and palm trees and mountains and oceans and palm trees.

Giant pineapples?

We called these stone statues found all over the island “Jejududes”.

The food was something else. At first we had a little bit of trouble finding a place for dinner – the first restaurant we checked out (which for inexplicable reasons featured a tyrannosaurus rex on the front lawn) turned out to specialize in malgogi, horsemeat. When you go to Korea, you need to learn the names of animals just to make sure you don’t accidentally eat it.

But we found that the restaurant in the hotel was actually fantastic, featuring both western and Korean food.

Talk about a mixed table: My dad here is eating a seafood stew, I’m having kimchi chigae and my mom and sister are eating spaghetti.

The breakfasts at the hotel, however, were the most amazing. It also featured a buffet spread of both Western and Korean food, and that’s where I came up with my brilliant (and patent pending) concept of doing both: bibimbap & bacon, or as I’d like to call it, bibimbacon.

In this bowl you will see: bacon, kimchi, bulgogi, a cheese omelette, mandu (dumpling) and ketchup.

Besides, horsemeat, Jejudo is also famous for its hukdaeji, pork from black pigs. My parents were never too keen to have the stuff however, although they never explained to us why, until one day my sister announced that she was going to use the public washroom, and my father cryptically said, “Watch out for the pigs!”

“What pigs?” my sister asked.

“The pigs they used to raise under the toilets.”

That’s where the black pigs are from? “I’m going to become a vegetarian,” my sister declared.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


We’re on beautiful Jeju Island right now. There is so much to write about, but they charge for Internet here (they charge for everything here) and I just don’t have enough time to talk about all the things we’ve seen…

The other day, we met up with a family friend S. in Yongin yesterday to visit a traditional Korean folk village. The bus drive into town was something. I didn’t quite see Seoul ending at any point – it just seemed to meld into and become other cities. There is just so much urban sprawl all over Korea. My aunt was telling us how nobody can afford to buy a house in Korea because there just isn’t any space – so everyone just builds up. I swear, I watched out the window for half an hour and there was not a single break in the rows after rows after rows of high-rise apartment buildings. All nestled among mountains. It’s really like nothing else we’ve seen in spacious open Canada. Korea is just so densely populated.

Korean totem polls

Korean farmer making straw mats

If Dalton McGuinty was Korean, this would be his office. And these would be his torture instruments in front.

DSCF 6303
I’m wanted.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

there's an ocean in my bowl

Yesterday, we went down to Suwon, my father's hometown, where my great uncle took us on a hike around the magnificent ancient Hwasung fortress, a sort of Korean answer to the Great Wall of China, stretching all around the city. the creation of the fortress is a sad story about a king who built it in memory of his father, who was tortured to death by his own jealous father. out of such sadness and suffering comes this beautiful monument, which i think pretty much defines the Korean spirit: suffering, sadness, strength, beauty.

in the evening, we met up with the Shin clan, my father's various uncles, aunts, and cousins from his mother's side. since they spoke no english and we spoke little Korean, there was a lot of smiling and nodding on the part of me and my sister, as our great-uncle recounted wonderful stories about my father when he was younger, stories i definitely wished i could understand to use as blackmail against him later. i did, however, know enough Korean to understand this conversation between my aunts about me:

AUNT 1: in Korean "How old is the eldest daughter?"
AUNT 2: "She's twenty-five."
AUNT 1: (pause) "They sure do marry late, nowadays, don't they?"

She then assured my mom that she made a good choice in raising her kids in Canada - raising daughters in Korea is expensive because you have to pay for the plastic surgery.

Things i learned from my long lost family members:
1. My Korean name is actually Japanese (!!!)
2. My appreciation of soju is genetic.
3. So is, unfortunately, our (lack of) height and, more unfortunately, my neanderthal eyebrows that make every esthetician shudder in horror.

apparently one of my relatives, on the left, is actually a ghost

dinner was at a (Koreanized) Chinese restaurant, a banquet of multiple courses, most of which consisted of seafood. so many tentacles in one sitting! i basically had the entire ocean in my bowl. come on, gloria, eat around the eyeballs. luckily the final dinner course was chajangmyun, my favourite noodle bowl, wonderfully seafood-free. and i really shouldn't complain about my tentacle-triggered gag reflex: on our way home, we passed a restaurant that specialized in boshintang, as in, stew made from dog. when my mother told me this, my sister and i both instantly turned green in the face. thank goodness our family decided to go chinese that night instead.