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In 1998 Blizzard released a video game titled "StarCraft".  It sold nine million units world wide.  One went to my friend Andrew who loaned me the game for a couple of months freshman year.  Four million went South Korea, a country of 50 million.  Two television stations are dedicated to professional video gaming with StarCraft being the big kid.  The game's cultural relevance is equal to the local delicacies or hit musicians.  I can reguraly start a conversation with my kids I talk about Rain or Big Bang, kimchi, and StarCraft.  Why and how a ten year old game will get normal 20 year old Korean to call it 'the masterpiece' is beyond me.  Don't be fooled, the game is truly great and I love playing it.  It's incredibly fun, has complicated strategy, and high replay value.  Colin, Anthony, and I have started playing it regulary.  We've never played a Korean yet because we are scared.  They are young gods of StarCraft.  I heard a story from a friend were he and six other foriegners on a team and were beat by one Korean.  

The goal of the game is to destroy your enemy's army and base.  There are 3 different races one can play: Terran (humans), Protoss (sleek aliens), and the Zerg (a bug-like swarm, think Starship Troopers).  Each race starts with a main base where they can gather resources.  From there the player constructs  building which allow different units to be built or upgraded.  In order to build the land and air troops each race must harvest resources.   Maps have several resource gathering points on  the map requiring the player to expand.  
Here's a game played at an extremely high competive level.  It's 35 minutes long and rather excited, skip to minute 20 if you don't want to watch it all.

Jan. 13th, 2009

The holidays are over already.  It doesn't feel like they ever really started.  I kept waiting and waiting for the christmas trappings to appear. On December 23rd, I realized they weren't coming. Korea's Christmas season is as underwhelming as America's is overblown.  I saw maybe 10 Christmas tree, 20 different light shows, and no Christmas sales. Like most holidays here, Christmas is a couples holiday.  Couples spend time together.  One fellow I met, who was Christian, said he was going to be lonely because he didn't have a girlfriend. 
    All this might make sense because the country is only 25% Christian.  However, Korea is 100% capitalist.  This is a country where a company invented a holiday 5 years ago in which lovers give each other candy that the company makes.  It's now a required gift for all lovers.  So if a company has enough marketing savy to create this Peppero day from nothing, surely they can bloom Christmas into a cultural phenomenom.  Christmas seems to be a ready made marketing bonanza for Korean companies.  Yet, the companies are telling everyone to buy there lover a present.  

Also, no candy canes.

 Here is a brief list of Korean technology that embarrasses it's American counterparts.  

1)Cell phones - TV's with antennas are quite common on cell phones as are built in speakers for music.   This commercial does not give you any idea of the level of technology we're dealing with.

This video doesn't really show off phones, but it gives you a good feeling of what it feels like to be a foriegner.

2)Taxis -  Also come equipped with TVs
3)Tables- Many tables are fitted with little buttons to call your waiter or waitress.  Probably the most beloved thing by foriegners in Korea because we feel awkward yelling out "yogiyo" (here) to the wait staff.  Other tables have metal holes in them to put your beer mug in.  Then the holes get cold.  Amazing.
4)  Cane Dancing-  Sorry Fred, your magic jumping cane won't cut it anymore.  You're behind the times, old man, Korea makes water flow upwards. 


Digital (minute 4:35 if you want to skip a sweet song and go straight to the magic stick) 


 Pictures of the Suwon BlueWings soccer game from my new camera with annotation.

Click Here.Collapse )
Last week Gemma, one of the Korean managers at Kim and Lee, asked me if I wanted to go to a dog restaurant with her.  Of course I did.  She'd never eaten dog either. 

Most people here don't eat dog that often, maybe once a year.   I think most Koreans have tried it but restaurants aren't common.  There's no McDogalds.   Asked my boys if they'd eaten it, they both said they eat it maybe once a year.  So it's not too common, not that men shouldn't eat more of it.  As stated in an earlier post, dog gives stamina and man energy.  The specifics of stamina and man energy are fuzzy.  However, it's obviously good stuff.    How seriously they take the virility aspect is up for debate.  They always chuckle a bit when they tell you this.  I don't think it's an ironic, what silly beliefs, chuckle.  More of a "Isn't man energy a funny topic" chuckle.

The dog restaurant crowd ended up with Gemma, Hong, another manager, Jamie, the owner and head boss, Kevin, Jamie's husband and co-owner, Anthony, an Englishman, and me, a sweet person.  I didn't realize it until Anthony pointed it out, but we would be going with all the heavy hitters.  So dog meat and pressure. 

The place we went to was, according to Hong, famous for their meat.  Apparently, some dog places serve disgusting food (Surprise!).  When we walked in we got a chuckle from the women running the place.  I was always told you usually get dog in a soup.  Mentally, I imagined a red soup with small chunks of dog among potatoes and spinach and stuff.  Wrong.  Seven minutes after sitting down, there was dog on a burner in front of us.  It was in strips with spinach.   Before it arrived it was all 'haha let's eat dog.'  In front of me though, and Anthony concurred,  it was was a bit shocking.  I'm not  a pet person but I have mental parameters of what a dog is.  This didn't fall into those parameters.  I just thought of dogs, nice dogs.  The soup came too.  Potatoes, no. Big chunks of dog, yes.

Maybe it was from being tired, maybe it was how fatty the meat was, or maybe it was some sense of morality, but I was queasy after eating some meat.  Fortunately the upset stomach passed.  Though, after a couple peices I realized I didn't want a full dog meat meal, which was unfortunate because the owners brought some more dog out for free.   Anthony and I didn't want to say so to the bosses, since they paid for it and it was rather expensive and they were doing this for us, but dog meat isn't very good.  It's really unbelievably fatty and kinda bland and chewy.   We didn't ask for a, wait for it, doggy bag.

Lunch was a lot of fun though.  We were all laughing, having a great time, eating dog.

 I played a game with my kids on  thursday.  One would face the board and one would have their back to it.  On the board I wrote three words which the kids had to describe in english to the other kids.  Matine and Da-een did it so fast, unbelievably fast.  Faster than I could with an English speaking partner.  In fact, it was done at the same speed of writing down three words.  CHEATERS!!!!!!!

Canadians are Creepy

 Brandon is a cool guy ready to get the heck out of Dodge.  He has a month or so before he vamooses to Busan to teach for another year.  Unfortunately, his replacement is totally, totally lame.  Easily the creepiest person I've met in real life.  He's 50 years old, has been in Korea for 5 years (I think), and doesn't know Korean.  That doesn't really make you creepy, just a loser.  The creepiness comes in what he was saying.  Again and again he was telling Shannon how beautiful she was, that she has lips made for kissing, that it was sexy when she put her hair up.  Several times he would take her picture with his cell phone without asking and then say what a beautiful picture it was.  I even started acting like I was Shannon's love interest, our plan to get him to back off. No dice.  Eventually, Shannon and I went to the ATM and I hatched a plan (it was brilliant, like me).  We'd come back arm in arm and say we're going to get out of there for some alone time, give Meredith some money for the food and drinks, and then leave.  Then the non-creepy people (everyone else) would meet up with us.  It worked perfectly.  Hopefully creepy guy got the message.

Lessons learned from creepy:
1) Be married by 50 or at least widowed and heartbroken.
2) Wear undershirts, because chest hair is gross.
3)Don't flirt with women half your age (a rule I follow now).
4)Take hints.
Paulina is my Nana's real name.  The one on her birth certificate: her Christian name.  Paulina Maria Castro.  For 25 years my mother thought she was Mary Lucille Castro/Bradley.  This Christmas, Nana revealed it was Maria Lucia, she just anglicized it like her siblings.  Then Rose, Nana's sister, told us all it was really Paulina Maria.  Lucille\Lucia was her confirmation name.  Huh.
When I flew over I was making around 2,100 U.S. Dollars a month converted from Korean Won.  That's legit.  I'd be able to back school loans and save for next year.  In  2 months the won has dropped 40%.  That means I've gone from 25,000 a year to 18,000 a year.  The lesson I've learned is that I need to read more Korean news.  Because whatever is going on over here must be some scary, scary shit if it makes the world say the U.S. is doing pretty solid against Korea.  At this point it would take an army of Merpeople to attack all trade coming in and out of the U.S. or maybe Dutch ghost pirates pillaging New Amsterdam for the financial markets to devalue the dollar against the won.

Update: The won has dropped to 1237 Won for 1 dollar, bringing me back up over 20,000 a year.   How's the battle against the Merpeople going?